Infernal is an in-your-face demo of a game that’s all about kicking ass! Even the menu screen will kick you in the ass with your own face! In fact, the hero of the demo, the guy you play, is named Jake Asskicker. I know, it sounds like I’m making that up, but I’m not — that’s his actual name. Jake. Asskicker. I am not lying.
Before I leave Weynon Priory, I poke my head into Jauffre‘s office, where he’s reading a book.
Sup, Jauff? To simpler times, my friend. To simpler times.
Actually, these are simpler times, and will remain so. With my lunkhead NPC wandering about refusing to get into adventures, there will be no adventure. Jauffre will be able to live out the remainder of his days in peaceful meditation or reading or whatever the hell he does when he’s not helping adventurers save the world.
In fact, by not beginning the main quest I actually have saved the world. Uriel Septim sits unmolested in Imperial City, and will remain there. The Oblivion Gates will never open. The world will remain in a state of static peace. I’ve saved the world from ending by avoiding the beginning of the end altogether. Nondrick is a hero simply by trying not to be one.
Well, whatevs! It’s time to check out Chorrol!
Chorrol is an brownish town west of Imperial City, its main export being fighters and main import being, apparently, bald dudes.
I should fit right in here.
I’m in the Oak and Crosier, a local inn, with affordable rooms (10 gp). I buy every cheap ingredient the Khajiit barkeep has, and continue my alchemy grind, making crummy potions just for the experience. Just up the road I find a shop called Northern Good and Trade, run by an Argonian, and sell my collected loot, which isn’t really very much except some wolf pelts and a couple pearls. It’s while I’m chatting up the shopkeep that something magical happens — my speechcraft odometer turns over and I’m prepared to gain another level with the coming night’s rest. Gosh! Level three, here I come!
First, though, gotta scope out the local scenery.
Oh, I see what I want, all right. Heh heh heh. Heh. Heh heh.
With that bit of creepery out of the way, I visit the chapel, and eavesdrop on a couple of conversations — one predictably about mudcrabs, and one about goblins, for a change [both YouTube links]. I enjoy how the dude shoots me a look as he shoulders past me in that second clip.
I meet the local beggar, named Lazy, and give him a coin for good karma, then run into an orc on the street named, well, let’s just say Something gro-Somethingelse. Something starts talking about someone named Reynald. Something ran into Reynald in another town, Cheydinhal, but Reynald acted as if he’d never met Something before, apparently, and this is so interesting to Something that, rather than just asking Reynald about it, he’s decided to tell me, a complete stranger, all the details.
And just like that, the game gives me a quest just for listening to Something’s boring blather. Great. Looks like Chorrol is just like every other town, just packed to the rafters with intrigue.
Maybe I’m taking the wrong approach. Maybe instead of starting off with Nondrick and having him avoid all the quests, I should have one character go through the entire game and complete every single quest possible, and then somehow load up Nondrick in that world, a world where all the adventure has been exhausted. Though that in itself sounds exhausting.
For now, I keep wandering around. I get my armor and weapons repaired, chat with some more locals, and wind up at The Grey Mare, a dive bar and inn. I walk around, talking to the various patrons.
And then. Something terrible happens. Something truly awful. Something that every NPC knows about but never thinks will happen to them.
There’s a man sitting in the corner, drinking, and I walk over to him before I realize who he is. He’s Reynald, the guy Something gro-Somethingelse was talking about. I talk to him.
I just talk. Nothing else. I don’t lead him on or tease him or anything. I don’t act like I’m looking for adventure. This is not my fault. Do you understand me? I did nothing wrong. I did nothing no other NPC wouldn’t have done in my place.
Still, unknowingly, just by speaking to this man, I’ve… I’ve updated the quest I didn’t even want to accept in the first place, the quest the orc gave me.
I can do nothing as this drunkard spills his story and then forces — forces — fifty gold into my inventory.
I feel so violated. I’ve been quest-molested. I’ve been quolested.
Now, I really don’t know what to do. I don’t want to go on this quest, I want to pick herbs and mix them with bread and cheese. But I’ve been forcibly paid already — am I now obligated to at least see it through? I can’t give the money back. I can’t reload a previous save, because it’s against my rules and plus I honestly can’t remember the last time I saved the game. I’m screwed.
Here are my options, as I see them.
1) Forget it. I didn’t want the quest, it was just rammed all up in me. I’ll just keep the gold and ignore this jerk and his stupid jerky crap.
2) Continue it. Look, I’m probably going to visit Cheydinhal at some point anyway. He’s not asking me to storm some vampire lair or slaughter a bunch of party guests one-by-one in a deadly game of cat and mouse. He just wants me to look for a dude who looks like him in another town.
3) Return the money. Very tricky, as I can’t just give it back to him. The best I could do is buy something worth 50 gold and reverse pickpocket (ie: plant) it into his inventory. This would satisfy me as refunding his quest advance, but it’s risky. Nondrick’s stealth isn’t much to speak of and if I get caught fiddling around in Reynald’s pockets I’ll get arrested.
Ach. Damn it. If I find myself in Cheydinhal, I’ll ask around. But I consider the day ruined.
To make myself feel better I visit the castle. There I find Countess Arriana, who seems a bit self-centered.
I hate people who refer to themselves in the third-person. Sadly, even after some chatting and a bribe, she won’t discuss the idea of selling me a house. Again, Nondrick is simply not famous enough. Guess Chorrol will never be home.
She leaves a moment after dissing me, so I take advantage of the opportunity and plant my butt on the throne… I even put on my furry crown.
That little bit of frivolity marks the end of the day, and I head to bed at the Oak and Crossier. Of course, bedtime means it’s time to level up! Here’s a look at how our lad has grown:
Looks pretty good. The mixing, chatting, and selling have given me some nice modifiers for personality and intelligence, both of which I need to be a good alchemist and salesman. I gotta remember, though, that the rest of the outside world is leveling right along with Nondrick. If I’m gaining levels, so are all the beasties roaming around guarding those ingredients I’m going to be picking. And I’m pretty sure the monsters aren’t putting their points into personality.
I might be getting smarter and more charming, but they’re getting deadlier. The world just got a little more dangerous.
It’s ironic that the day after I decide to become an alchemist, I finally bring down my first deer. To be fair, though, the alchemy helped.
I’m out gathering far north of Skingrad, and I spot a deer nearby. I’d just picked up some nightshade, a deadly little flower, and I’d gathered some peony seeds earlier as well. Both share an alchemical attribute: damage health. I cook up the poison brew, dip an arrowhead into it, and creep as close to the deer as I dare.
My shot flies true. The deer is dealt double damage by the surprise hit and springs away, as they always do, but the poison works quickly. I see it drop a moment later.
Finally! I even get my arrow back. The venison isn’t worth any more than rat meat, which seems strange, but it’s more about the accomplishment and actually progressing in skill. Plus, I do need to eat. Look at me, living off the land. I’m all grows’d up.
I continue north, far north of Skingrad now, finding some new ingredients, mostly mushrooms. I slay a few lone wolves, pass some Ayleid ruins, and realize that I’m so far north that even by turning back, I won’t reach Skingrad until morning. I decide to press on. There’s got to be a camp or town or inn somewhere out here.
It’s nearly midnight by the time I stumble across a small settlement called Hackdirt. I find Moslin’s Inn, but it’s empty. Odd. Innkeepers usually don’t stray far from the front desk. In fact, most of them sleep right next to the bar in case they get late visits from adventurers or dorks in furry hats. The houses are all locked, so I wander over to the chapel. There I find a crowd of people. Midnight mass?
They are… less than polite.
I head back to the inn as instructed and wait around. Eventually, the innkeeper arrives and I rent a room for what’s left of the night, which is nothing, because it’s about seven in the morning by now. It’s pretty big, a suite, in fact, and I sleep until noon.
I visit the shop, which sells nothing but arrows and bear pelts, a little odd since the room is filled with crates and chests and should be teeming with merchandise. This Hackdirt is a strange town. Someone more adventurous should really investigate.
If they’re not selling, at least they’re buying, so I mix up what potions I can, sell the rest of my gatherings, and depart with about 100 gold to my name. Another settlement shows up on my radar shortly, someplace called Weatherleah. It’s a large farmhouse and it’s been trashed. The furniture is destroyed and there are human bones strewn throughout the place. This is kinda oogy, but as an alchemist I can gather bonemeal to use in my potions.
Even though there’s a bed in the place I can use, which makes Weatherleah an attractive free alternative to paid lodgings, the bones and skulls and dead roasted human body in a fireplace make this a non-option for the cowardly alchemist. I decide to leave. I take a skull, though. If I ever have a mantle, it might be cool to have a skull on it.
It’s quite foggy as I stumble upon some ruins named Wendir, though at least one thing is clear: I’m not going back to Skingrad. At least not for a while. There’s no house to be bought, I’m tired of the grape-centric conversations, and, for a boring alchemist Nondrick still has a bit of wanderlust. I’m close to the city of Chorrol now, it’s not far north of here, so I’m making that my destination.
I fight two wolves in Wendir, and win. And look, one even had a bone. Aw. Now I feel bad. I wonder if there’s a mod where I could have a pet wolf.
The fog turns to rain, followed by strong winds and thunder. Miserable weather. This YouTube link fails adequately to capture just how gross it is out. But you get the idea. Trudging along in the darkness, I come across Odiil Farm, but it’s locked up for the night. Luckily, there’s a Priory just up the road.
There are a couple monks inside. I bet a sopping wet alchemist banging on their door in the middle of the night is the most exciting thing that ever has or ever will happen at this totally boring and inconsequential monastery, huh? Poor dopes. Anyway, there are some beds I can crash in for the night for free.
Tomorrow, a whole new city beckons. Chorrol. Here’s hoping I’ll like it enough to stay.
Before I can become an alchemist, I have something to attend to.
I head back to Colovian Traders, and sell my fancy duds back to Gunder. I let my brief success picking flowers go to my head. I’m not some wealthy fancy-pants merchant. I’m a simple dork with a bag of rapidly dwindling gold. I buy a simple brown shirt, some pants, and cowhide shoes to wear around town.
There. Simple, humble, and ready to start my career. I wander around the Mage’s Guild, hoping to buy a few things for my new start-up, but no one is selling anything other than spells. I eventually find my way to a shop called All Things Alchemical, run by the necrophiliac elf I met the other morning. I spend most of the rest of my money on a Novice Albemic and a Novice Calcinator, giving me two more tools with which to practice my new craft. It also leaves me with a mere 29 gold to my name. But, you’ve gotta spend septims to make septims.
I check out the rest of her mechandise, buying an apple, some beef, and a blackberry, all of which share the “Restore Fatigue” property. They each also cost 2 gold, so I’m down to 23. I already have an ear of corn, which I think I bought at the inn for lunch. I mix them all together and voila! I have a potion! That probably tastes horrible! And it’s worth 3gp. Okay, that was a loss.
I try again, with a couple of items I picked yesterday and one purchase from the shop, and mix up two “Restore Intelligence” potions. These are worth 6 gold each. I also decide to start haggling over the prices, and manage to sell each potion for 4 gold. I’m up to 30 again. I buy some Spiddal Stick to match some Nightshade I picked yesterday, which gives me a Damage Health potion, which I sell back at just a slight loss. Down to 29 again.
Well, buying, mixing, and selling doesn’t seem to pay off just yet, and gathering, buying ingredients to match the properties of my gathering, then mixing only works sometimes. I have an idea, though, of how this all might come together, but to put it into action I’m gonna need some cash. Time to hit the fields again.
I armor up and head northwest, finding flax, water hyacinth, peony, sacred lotus, alkanet, and even a couple pearls in some clams in a pond. Plus, I come across a weird stone that wants to give me something.
Sure. Why not.
Magicka bursts forward from the stone, enveloping me. I feel tendrils of unnatural energy claw at my flesh, snake into my veins, and clutch at my heart. I open my mouth to scream and the ancient eldritch power pours into my lungs like blood-red smoke and clouds my eyes with visions of a barren, blasted land ruled by a scowling Daedra Lord perched on a massive throne of charred, splintered bone. When the darkness passes, I find myself clad in brutal black and crimson armor, holding a massive spike of a sword in my two shaking hands.
I continue picking flowers. Yeah, I know I’ve got magical Daedric armor on and am carrying a deadly four-foot double-edged Oblivion-forged blade, but that’s no reason to change my plans for the day.
Not a bad day of collecting, either. It’s dark and raining as I head back into the city gates. (The magical armor and sword have since poofed back out of existence.) I mix up some potions from my collection, get a cheap room at the Two Sisters, and get some sleep.
In the morning, I’m back to the alchemist’s. I sell the potions I’ve made, and all my spare ingredients, and use the profits to buy her out of apples, grapes, onions, blackberries — everything cheap that shares the very common Restore Fatigue property. I mix up a ton of two-ingredient potions, and sell them to her. My alchemy skill goes up several times as a result, and I buy a Novice Retort, the fourth and final instrument of the alchemist.
I think I’m on the right track now. It’s not about profit so much at this point, it’s about becoming a more skilled alchemist. The more skill I have, the better my potions will be, and the more I’ll be able to sell them for. It’s not time to make money, it’s time to grind. Quantity, not quality — only two ingredients per potion instead of three or four.
Plus, all the buying of cheap ingredients and selling of mass amounts of potions will increase my mercantile skills, and boosting merchants’ disposition through conversation will increase my speechcraft skills. I’ll become a better alchemist and salesman, and more likable guy, all at once.
I head over to Colovian Traders, and do the same with Gunder, buying everything cheap he has, mixing up as many weak potions as I can, and selling them back to him.
I dash over to the West Weald Inn, buying them out of carrots, cheese, ham, pears, rice, and everything else they’ve got that I can afford. I slap together a huge amount what must be some truly awful tasting potions, and finally, for real this time, voila!
I’m still pretty broke at this point (54 gp) but I’m an apprentice alchemist! Now each ingredient has two properties I can use, which will make it easier to mix and match ingredients, and it’ll unlock more potent drinks, which will in turn sell for more money.
There are still a lot of questions in Nondrick’s life, but finally one has been answered. I’ve got a real, workable plan. Major in Alchemy, minor in Sales. This is how I shall make my fortune.
I awaken at 5am. It’s dark, quiet. The wealthy merchants who strut smugly around the city dressed in red or blue velvet are still fast asleep. This… is the time of the hunter.
And I… am a hunter.
Dressing in my armor, I ready my bow and a quiver of arrows, and depart, slipping through the silent streets. Stealthily. Like an oiled snake. Like a hunter. Because I am one. Then, well, I have to hang around the aforementioned silent streets for a few hours because it’s so early, the armor shop isn’t open yet, and I really need to buy armored gloves and leggings.
While I’m loitering around the streets — loitering the way only a hunter can — I notice a female
high dark elf named Falanu peeping over a low stone wall around the corner. I go talk to her, like, in a real huntery way.
I don’t, but I do know where she could find an attractive single dead bandit hedge wizard.
The armor shop finally opens, and while they don’t have fur gloves they have fur greaves, which are like armored leggings. I fork over sixteen bucks, but in a way that is very much like a hunter. Finally, at half-past eight, which is a little late for being the time of the hunter but still, and I stress this, the tail end of the time of the hunter, I stroll out the front gate. To, uh, hunt.
I walk east, finding a graveyard or, as Falanu would call it, a singles club. I collect a few ingredients as I’m poking around in the woods, but it’s a few hours later before I spot my first prey, a deer.
Dropping into a crouch, or as I call it, a hunter’s crouch, I nock an arrow, take aim, and send my missile directly into the deer’s face. Even with my surprise attack doing twice the normal amount of damage, the deer springs away. I give chase, peppering the woods with arrows, but never score a second hit.
By noon I’ve traveled pretty far north and east, and haven’t killed anything. I’ve collected some mushrooms, but that’s not very hunter-ish because they’re pretty easy to sneak up on. I slip into a mild depression — call it a hunter’s depression — as I consider just giving up and heading back along the road to Skingrad. This hunter thing doesn’t seem like it’s gonna pan out. Rats.
No, seriously, rats. One leaps out of the grass and attacks me. This must be a rat cranked up on skooma because it’s throwing itself against my shield at a rapid enough rate to increase my block skill. Still, it’s just a rat, and one good swipe of my sword brings it down with a squeak, and I harvest the nearly worthless meat from its corpse. A few minutes later I come across a small pond, where I sneakily dispatch a second rat at range with an arrow. There, that at least made me feel more like a hunter.
I come across a wolf, wound it with a stealth arrow at range and finish it with my sword, then kill another rat, then come across some more deer, which I injure but fail to kill. They are really wily, those deer. And that’s pretty much the day’s hunting. A couple rats and a wolf, and there’s a deer with an arrow in its face somewhere. The ingredients I’ve gathered along the way are worth more than the animals I’ve butchered, and the hunting leaves me a few arrows short and my weapon and armor quality down a few pegs. I suck as a hunter.
Still, the day isn’t a total bust. On my sullen clomp back to the city, I meet another female
high dark elf named Undena Orethi. I chat her up and she reveals a little something odd. (And she does have eyes, she’s just in mid-blink in this picture.)
I like stuff like this. There are tons of NPCs in the game and, like the necrophiliac and this tomato hunter, many of them have little personality quirks that keep them from just being another automated drone, walking their predetermined paths and saying their scripted lines. I mean, they are, but at least they have their own lines, and someone took the time to make this NPC stand out a little. It gets me thinking about what makes Nondrick stand out, apart from his giant stupid head. Not much, when you get right down to it.
I check the Oblivion Wiki, which has this to say about Undena: She is not involved in any quests and does not offer any services.
But I say nay to thee, wiki, for she has indeed provided me a service. She has inspired me. She is in search of something, she is on a quest, not one that involves clearing ancient ruins of monsters or finding lost artifacts or slaying vampires, but a personal quest.
While I’m keeping Nondrick away from the game’s formal quests, I think I’d like him to have a personal quest, something outside the boundaries of him just making a living and trying to find a home. Sure, he’d like to get freaky with one of these female NPCs but this isn’t going to happen due to the limits of the game, just as Undena will never find her perfect tomato because all of the tomatoes in the game are the same.
So, I want to come up with a personal quest for Nondrick, one he can accomplish or at least spend his free time pursuing. He needs his own grail. Nothing dramatic or adventurous — something more like a hobby. But, he needs something to go along with his non-adventure. He needs a side-non-adventure.
For now, he heads back to the West Weald, his hunting days over. Even if I do manage to bring down a deer or two, it’s time consuming, their meat doesn’t go for much, and I’ll probably lose several arrows in the process. Rats are easy to kill but their meat isn’t worth a lot, either. Wolf pelts go a decent price, but wolves attack me when I’m out collecting ingredients anyway, so there’s not much point in specifically trying to track them down.
So, a new plan is formed, or rather, a variation on an old plan I gave up on too quickly. The ingredients will be the key to my success, but not merely picking them and selling them. I shall combine them, mushing them up together in a little something the ancients called Iron Chef.
Wait, they called it Alchemy. And it’s time for Nondrick to be come an alchemist. A proper one. It’s time to put down the bow and pick up the beaker. And that’s the most exciting hook I can think of for the end of this post.