Nondrick's Non-adventure

Day 17: A Quested Development

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.

Nondrick's Non-adventure

Day 15-16: The Grind

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.

Nondrick's Non-adventure

Day 13-14: Mortar and Pestering

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.

Nondrick's Non-adventure

Day 12: Shafted

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.

Nondrick's Non-adventure

Day Ten and Eleven: Grapes of Wrath

A bright orange sphere signals that it is morning, but it’s not the sun. It’s Sir Dion of Beta-Carotine, the guardsman, standing in my room.

I’m kind of annoyed. What kind of scumbag walks into someone’s room while they’re sleeping, wakes them up, and has a little chat?

Oh, right. Right.

Anyway, Dion is kind of a dick. He warns me that Glarthir is crazy, and tells me to report any strange behavior to him or another guardsman. Then, he leaves.

It is at that moment I realize something truly awful. Before I went to bed last night I was rifling through my inventory and outfits and stuff, I guess I accidentally put on my stupid fur helmet and never took it off. So I was wearing it the whole time Dion was having his dramatic and pressing conversation with me.

That’s just great. He must think I’m an idiot.

At any rate, it’s somewhat satisfying to have this game, this world, so completely desperate to provide me with adventure that it’s actually breaking into my room while I’m sleeping in a stupid furry hat to offer it to me. And yet, I resist, as I plan to spend today strolling around doing nothing.

Which turns out to be pretty easy, because after the Dion incident, Oblivion seems to have given up on me. Instead of adventure, it feeds me a steady diet of grape-related anecdotes. Everyone I stop and talk to just can’t shut their goddamn yaps about grapes.

Okay, there’s a little adventure in there, but it’s mostly grapes. The exceptions are Dion, who I run into again, and who tries to pressure me into suggesting that Glarthir be arrested, and Glarthir himself, who is angry with me for not meeting him behind the chapel.

While I’m finding these Skingradians alternately extremely dull or fairly annoying, I’m still interested in seeing what sort of house might be for sale in town. After all, I don’t want to live in inns forever. I want a place for myself, to display my treasures, such as… well, I’ve got that wolf-fork, anyway. It’s a conversation piece!

I pick up a tip that I should visit the castle and speak to an Orc named Shum gro-Yarug if I’m interested in a house. I track him down and engage in the usual mode of chit-chat, in which I watch his face carefully to determine if he prefers being threatened, joked with, admired, or bragged to, and then engage in some combination of the four. Which is odd. I mean, if I know the guy hates jokes, why would every fourth thing out of my mouth be a joke?

It takes a lot of talk, and one cash bribe, to even get him to trust me enough to even mention the house for sale.

Well, okay, fair enough. I can accept that, but I think I should get my 12 septim bribe back, at least. Plus, walking slowly everywhere really eats up time and the day is almost over.

I head up to the bridge to see if I can catch a glimpse of Imperial City’s famed tower, which is said to be visible from every city in Cyrodiil. Just as it did in Anvil, the weather conspires against me. Fogged in, I can’t see far at all, in any direction. Especially the wrong direction.

Suckage. Depressed, I go buy myself another outfit. For clubbing.

I head to the West Weald Inn to show off my new duds, which appear to be flats and a dress. There I meet a woman named Else God-Hater. As advertised, she hates the Gods.

So noted. I also overhear a conversation between Else and a heavily armored elf regarding the hottest topic in of all of Cyrodiil. It’s on YouTube here.

Fearing Dion may burst into my room at the Two Sisters Lodge again tonight, I shell out a bit extra for a room at the West Weald. It’s a small room but it’s on the corner, which would mean something if I could see out the windows.

The next morning I’m up and sporting my fancy blue duds. I grab some breakfast (an entire watermelon, just for a change) and I decide, what with all the chatter about grapes, I’d better check out the vineyards before someone kicks down my door and demands I visit them. The vineyards, as it turns out, are not only full of grapes, they’re full of people who want to talk about grapes. It’s a real grape town, this Skingrad.

I notice a bit of a traffic jam as well. Looks like a bunch of travelers from the Crowded Roads mod I installed have gotten stuck behind a fence. I also spot the dead naked pummeled wizard lying in the road — dead and pummeled courtesy of Toutious Sextus, naked thanks to yours truly.

I do a little ingredient gathering, though I don’t pick any grapes. I could, easily, as there are tons of them and it wouldn’t technically be stealing, but as an NPC I am bound by a different code. Anyway, I don’t want grapes. I’m tired of seeing them and tired of talking about them. I head back into the city, kind of grouchy.

Oh, for fuck’s sake. This doesn’t help my mood at all. This douche is not only wearing the same outfit as me, he’s wearing the same hair.

I stomp away, back up to the bridge, to take one more stab at seeing the distant spire of Imperial City. Despite the weather being fairly clear, I still can’t see if from the bridge. Night is approaching, so I start back, but decide to climb a nearby hilltop not far from the bridge.

And there, in the fading light, through a gap in the lush trees, I finally spot it.

The White Gold Tower. The center of Imperial City, the meeting place for the Council of Elders.

You know, I don’t think I want to live in Skingrad, or even stay here much longer. I want to be there. In Skingrad, I’m a big dork in a little city. I want to be a little dork in a big city.

At the same time, I’m not sure I’ve got what it takes to make it there. Not yet, anyway. One thing’s for sure, I’m a little bored with walking around hearing about grapes. And I got an idea this morning, while I was preparing to stuff an entire watermelon down my craw.

The woman I bought the watermelon from also sold boar meat, and for a pretty penny, too. While I haven’t seen any boar, and probably won’t until I’ve gained a few more levels, maybe I should try my hand at harvesting something other than weeds.

Yes. Tomorrow, a hunting I shall go. A hunter… I shall be.

Nondrick's Non-adventure

Day Nine: Man About Town

It’s a lovely yet somewhat hazy morning in a new town.

I stride purposefully through the streets of Skingrad, looking for a place to empty my bulging pockets. It’s been a long, troublesome trip, but it’s about to pay off.

I find Colovian Traders, a shop toward the north end of Skingrad. There I meet Gunder, a plump, leathery merchant, and through a careful combination of joking (“What’s the deal with all the wolves carrying forks, anyway?”) boasting (“Seriously, I’m the guy who found a fork inside a wolf”) threatening (“I will stab you with my wolf-fork!”) and admiring (“With hands like that, I bet you could put a lot of forks inside a lot of wolves”) I manage to make him like me more than he really should. Then, I sell him a bunch of crap.

I’ve got weapons and armor stripped from dead people, I’ve got tons of collected ingredients, a pearl I pried from an oyster, a silver pitcher, wolf pelts, imp-vomit… and he buys up every last bit of it. When we’re done, I’ve got a record 478 septims.

Almost 500 gold! Holy cow. Nondrick’s ship has come in. It hasn’t even been ten days since I stepped of the boat in Anvil with a dagger, a vest, and a couple of coins, and now I’m virtually rolling in dough.

Even better, I don’t have to immediately rush right back out into the wild, braving wolves and wizards, to collect new wages. I can take a few days off. Get to know the city. Make friends with the locals. See what it’s really like to be an NPC.

If I’m going to play the part, though, I think I’d better look the part. I’m a merchant now, a businessman, not some armored brute who makes his living with a blood-stained sword. Luckily, Gunder has a few outfits for the well-to-do merchant out for a casual stroll.

I buy this elegant blue number.

Hmmm… maybe a little too fancy? I don’t want to come off like a snob. So, I purchase this red outfit as well. Damn, I cut a dashing figure!

How Do I Look? Of course, I will have to venture outside the walls again someday, so I also buy an iron bow and arrows, which I’ve wanted since day one, and a fur helmet to match the rest of my stinky fur armor. It’s also pretty damn stylish on its own.

Hello, ladies!

With my purchases, I’ve still got 325 gold, enough for Nondrick to not have to sweat the small stuff for a long, long time. So, let’s strut his stuff on the streets of Skingrad for a bit.

The streets are pretty much empty with the exception of a beggar, so I decide to be proactive and simply start walking into people’s houses. The first home I find with an unlocked door belongs to a fellow named Lazare Milvan, who seems less than thrilled to find a velvet-clad ugly dude in his foyer.

He doesn’t actually throw down, but I decide to leave anyway. In the street I run into a city guardsman. Glarthir, the oddball elf who stopped me in the street last night, comes up as a topic of conversation, as the guard feels that he’s acting a bit strange.

That anachronism aside, I’m a little torn by this whole thing. The Glarthir issue, as you may already know or by now have guessed, is a bit of an… adventure. It’s part of an elaborate “quest” called Paranoia, which can have a number of different outcomes depending on how you handle it. When I played through it with my other character, I seem to recall it ending with, shall we say, the streets running red with the blood of a number of innocent townspeople.

While my other character reveled in the bloodshed (he was not a nice fellow at all), this is something I’m pretty sure Nondrick would like to avoid. Still, I’m trying to be an NPC here, and one things NPCs do a lot of is gossip. About news, about mudcrabs, and especially about other NPCs. It doesn’t really seem like I’m breaking my own rules by engaging in conversation with another NPC about Glarthir. Does it?

I decide to proceed cautiously. If he comes up in conversation, I may talk about him, I may not. But I won’t take any chances. I won’t get involved in anything exciting. This is my promise to you.

I stroll into Hammer and Tongs, have my shortsword and armor repaired for four bucks (a bargain!), and talk to the proprietor, Agnate the Pickled. As she is a drunk woman, I figure I’ll chat her up a bit, which pushes my speechcraft skill up a notch and thus, amazingly, prepares little old Nondrick P. Cairk’tir to gain a level. Level 2! Now I’m wealthy and experienced. Things are definitely going my way today.

I’m so happy I give a coin to the regrettably named Foul Fagus, a beggar, just before meeting a regrettably orange guardsman named Dion.

Uh-huh. Sure. Start out by suggesting I check out the wine and cheese, and then try to slip in some intrigue as to why the Count won’t be seen. Nice try, Dion, but you’ll have to do better than that to get me wrapped up in some adventure.

Then I run into the man who saved me last night, Toutious Sextus.

Well, I dunno. We could probably chat about that wizard you pimp-slapped to death last night in the course of saving my life? Guess not.

At any rate, since I’ve already met the guardsman and the beggar, I take the rest of his advice and visit the cathedral, to see if the priest will be my friend. The priest doesn’t seem to like me much either, and passes me off to a healer named Marie Palielle, who I find asleep in her bedchamber on the lower level.

This isn’t creepy or anything, is it? After staring at her for a while, I wake her up so we can have a chat.

She’s very pleasant to talk to and not as unattractive as most people in the game. She kindly suggests some activities I might partake in that don’t involve me standing over her leering at her while she’s sleeping.

But she’s nice about it, and I think she’s perhaps the friendliest person I’ve met so far in Skingrad. Things do get a little ugly when I end the conversation, wherein she threatens to call the guards if I don’t get out of her room, but as an ugly guy who barges into people’s homes, I’ve got to expect that kind of reaction from time to time.

I continue my wandering, chatting with a few more NPCs I run into, then head back to the Two Sisters Lodge for the evening. It’s a little lonesome for a bit.

Things pick up, though, and how could they not, with a handsome devil like me around? I simply sit motionless in bar for five hours and then the chicks come flocking in. Agnate, the drunk from the weapons store, and a woman from the Colovian Traders, Enja. Plus, the lady orc behind the bar. I’m swimming in girlies.

Drinks are imbibed, conversations are repeated, dispositions are boosted, and midnight finally rolls around, so I retire for the evening. First, though, it’s time to ascend to the second level. This is how it shakes out:

With my face, I’m gonna need as much personality as I can get, and with my fighting skills, I’m gonna need speed. To run away with. I’m not sure why my intelligence is given a boost, but it could be because of all the eating I do. Testing (eating) alchemy ingredients can help you become a better alchemist, and though I’ve only mixed a few potions, I am eating a few times a day, so that may be why it has such a high modifier. I am now more skilled at eating. I am a level two eater! Watch out, cheese!

And with that, I set my internal alarm clock for 8am and drift into satisfied slumber. It was a good day. I made money, I made friends, I gained a level, and I did it all without any excitement or adventure.

Or did I? Because I am awakened much earlier than 8am. In fact, it’s just past four in the morning when my eyes snap open unexpectedly.

There is someone in my room.

Nondrick's Non-adventure

Day Eight, Concluded: Off to Beat the Wizard

[I apologize, in advance, for the lack of and quality of the images in this entry. This all took place in the dead of night where I could barely see my health meter in front of my own face. In order to see anything in the screenshots, I have to really tweak the levels up which leaves them looking real poopy. Plus, some things happened so fast I didn't even have time to snap a shot.]

Here I am, a stone’s throw from Skingrad, and once again I’m being hunted by a female bandit. This time, I’m not going toe-to-toe if I can help it. I’m determined to reach the city without shedding any blood or risking my life.

Dropping into a crouch, I hope she’ll just give up on me, but this time, bending over, even in near-total darkness, doesn’t hide me from her keen bandit senses. She knows I’m there and calls for me to come out. I don’t, instead slinking into the bushes to the south of the road, hoping to slowly circle around her. It works — she loses me in the night and I spot her moving further down the road, away from the city. I take off my fur boots, hoping it will make me move even more quietly. I climb a small rise and peer down at her camp.

That’s when I hear another voice calling for me to show myself. A male voice. Dammit, there are two of them now.

He knows I’m there, but he isn’t climbing the rise to get me, possibly because it’s much steeper on the other side. Still, he’s not going to just let me go. I’m not sure where the woman went, but I don’t hear her anymore. This could be good or bad. Fighting multiple enemies in Oblivion is never really a picnic, no matter what level you are, especially in the dark, and especially if most of your skills can only be applied to picking onions. It’s time for plan B.

Ruuuunnnnnnnnnn! I tear through the camp and back out onto the road. The male bandit gives chase, but there’s still no sign of the female. I can see Skingrad ahead of me in the gloom. I’m very close but he’s not letting me go. I know if I can just reach the city gates, he won’t follow me inside. Plus, there’s a chance an armed guard might help me.

Behind me, I hear some yelling, and the sound of a spell being cast and the sound of blows landing. I turn around in time to see two figures engaged in combat. One is the bandit, the other is someone I’ve never seen before. He appears to be unarmed, and he strikes the bandit with, I think, only his fists. The bandit, amazingly, falls faster than a fleeing NPC can take a screenshot.

My savior this time is a fellow named Toutius Maximus. I’m a bit stunned. I have no idea where he came from or how he took out a bandit, who, on closer examination, was a Bandit Hedge Wizard. Being a wizard who hides in the bushes and robs people, I guess. That’s how Dumbledore got his start.

Toutius seems pretty nonplussed about killing a man with his bare hands. I ask him for some rumors, as one naturally does after witnessing someone pummel someone else to death, and he encourages me to join the local Fighter’s Guild. That’s not a bad ad campaign, really — punching a wizard to death is a pretty convincing demonstration of the benefits of signing up with the Fighter’s Guild. Do you want to brutally club a wizard to death with your fists? Sure, we all do!

Well, once again I’ve been saved by an extremely violent stranger. I thank him by stripping the dead wizard of all his stuff, which includes a Poison of Frailty. I’m plenty frail already, thanks.

I made it, though. Skingrad! I even get an escort to the gate. By a bunch of sheep. I quickly find my way to the Two Sisters Lodge, but before I can enter some whackjob Bosmer named Glarthir stops me in the street with some odd babbling:

Um, yeah, how about not? How about you go behind the chapel, wait until midnight, and then pound some Imp Gall up your ass?

Inside, I talk to one of the two sisters who run the lodge. She’s an orc (presumably, the other is as well). She’s got a room and it’ll only set me back 10 gold. Honestly, right now, I’d have paid a hundred. It’s been a long day.

The room is very sparse and there’s no food or towels to help myself to, but I don’t care. It’s almost two in the morning after a long trip that’s introduced me to imps, bandits, goblins, wolves, and wizards… it’s been a real adventure, and that’s precisely the sort of thing I’d like to avoid.

As I prepare to stand next to my bed all night and get some rest, I find myself hoping that Skingrad will be more accommodating than Anvil was. Traveling is too damn dangerous for a level one NPC, and I don’t plan to do it again anytime soon.

Nondrick's Non-adventure

Day Eight, Cont'd: Hard Out There For An Imp

An imp! Interrupting my relaxing swim! He’s got some gall. Ha ha. That will be funny in a minute.

There’s nothing worse than being confronted by a winged hellspawn while wearing sopping wet underpants. Luckily, when I stripped down I neglected to remove my short sword (somehow it’s clipped to my enormous manties). There’s no time to get my armor back on (okay, actually, there’s all the time in the world, since bringing up the inventory screen pauses the game, but I’m roleplaying here, dammit), so there’s nothing to do but draw my weapon and fight for my life.

It flaps over and swipes at me with its talons, drawing blood on the back of my leg, uh, somehow. I swing at it spastically, like a child too uncoordinated to even get a hit in tee-ball. I finally manage to connect a few times, and despite having no shield, I keep most of my health and soon the disgusting creature flops into the pond.

I gotta say, the little guy is positively ripped. Look at those abs! He must do a lot of crunches. It doesn’t make me gay to admire his dead cut little body, right?

I search him for loot and find that he’s loaded with Imp Gall, which is like bile or barf or something gross like that. Imp gall can be used in alchemy — plus it’s worth about 15 gp on its own. I also spot an oyster in the water under the corpse, and open it to find a pearl worth 2 gp. Finally, I found an oyster! Screw you, Anvil.

I quickly get my armor back on, and just in time, because another imp comes flapping over looking to start some static. He’s dealt with, and his body plops into the pond like the first.

Well, gross. Now there’s a bunch of bile-coated strangely muscular dead gross imps floating around in my lovely little swimming hole. Kinda spoils the enjoyment. Ah well, I don’t have a pool skimmer, so I’d best be moving on.

Rather than heading back to the road, I cut straight east toward Skingrad through the wilderness, quickly stumbling across some extensive Ayleid ruins called Miscarcand. With all this imp-slaying and ruins-finding, it’s hard not to feel a bit like an adventurer. Just look how brave and badass I’m looking in this shot. Except for, you know, the horrible face and all.

I poke around a bit, finding some ingredients (including a sack with some fish scales in it), and fling a fireball at another far-off deer. I springs away unharmed. Something tells me I shouldn’t tarry here too long, however, though I can’t put my finger on what it is.

I sure don’t want to see my huge misshapen skull on a pole. Besides, I’ve spotted something by the far end of the ruins:

I’m pretty sure it’s a goblin. Imps are one thing, but goblins have berserker rage, armor, weaponry… and a lot of friends. I’m out of here.

The problem, of course, with wandering through the wilderness is all the wild things, and it’s not long before I’m attacked by yet another wolf. This one goes down easily enough, bad sadly isn’t carrying any gold or kitchen utensils.

It’s getting dark. I finally reconnect with the road around 8:30, and while I’ve still got a bit of ways to go, I’m getting close to Skingrad at last.

As I plod down the road, I hear a voice call out ahead. “Who’s there?”

I drop into a crouch. Through the fading light I spot a woman with a shield, her weapon drawn. I can barely make her out, but Ye Olde Photoshop’s image adjustment sheds a little light.

Another bandit. It looks like I’m not out of the woods yet.

Nondrick's Non-adventure

Day Eight: Treading Water

Dawn arrives at Mortal Camp, finding a very sluggish and sleepy Nondrick P. Cairk’tir. Still, there’s a long way to walk today, and those flowers aren’t going to pick themselves.

I should be able to reach Skingrad today, provided I don’t have to wander too far from the road or have to set any women on fire. Time to get moving!

Not far up the road, I spot a wolf sniffing around. Eager to avoid a confrontation, I hunch myself over, thus becoming harder to see or at least convincing anyone watching that I have painful bowel cramps. The wolf wanders about but never leaves the road, so I decide to engage it at range with a fireball. I miss, but hit it a couple times as it races over. Weakened, it’s not difficult to finish off with my sword.

Along with the usual 10 gp pelt, this wolf was also carrying a fork. It’s not worth anything in gold, though it does provide a nice mental puzzle, namely, why the heck is a wolf carrying a fork around?

My plan to stay on the road derails shortly thereafter, but with damn good reason. INGREDIENTS.

Holy handpicked hordes of herbs! Lookit all this primo shit! The woods positively come alive with things I can gather and sell! Flax seeds, Columbine Root Pulp, Lady’s Smock leaves, Motherwort Sprig, Elf Cup Cap, Nightshade… the list goes on and on! It seems like every few feet there’s a new cluster of flowers. It’s like wandering into a field of cold hard cash. I wasted my time paddling around Anvil harbor and wandering in the dead grasslands to the north — this is the place to be.

Forgetting about my schedule, I wander off the road, first to the south, then to the north, grabbing double-handfuls of everything within reach. Eventually, I stumble upon a small dwelling named Shetcombe Farm. Well, I could stand a break for lunch, or maybe some company, so I head inside the farmhouse. I walk in and a sudden thought pops into my mind.

Hm. Yeah, I guess I could— Oh, no no no no no. No, no. Nice try, game brimming with adventure, but you’re not roping me in that easily. I’m not searching around for nobody. I’m not doing nothing. I’m leaving.

I exit the farmhouse, annoyed. Active quest? Clue to whereabouts? That’s not my idea of excitement.

In fact, I stumble upon my idea of excitement a few moments later, in the form of a small swimmin’ hole near the farmhouse. You know, it’s a beautiful day, I’ve gathered a ton of valuable ingredients, and I haven’t had to murder any attractive women… maybe I’ll have a little dip in the pond!

I strip down to my skivvies and slip into the water. Yes, that’s right, I removed my armor and clothing before entering the water, just like one would do in real life. Lookit me, maw, I’m roleplaying! Man. You’re not gonna find shit like this on other blogs.

I paddle around a bit, enjoying the warm sunlight, the cool water, and the gentle wind blowing through the trees that brings to mind the sound of ungodly leathery wings flapping.

Wait a second… ungodly leathery wings?

Nondrick's Non-adventure

Day Seven: Girl Trouble

Off to Skingrad! A large town in the West Weald, divided in two by a rolling valley, Skingrad is home to the finest vineyards in all of Cyrodiil. It’s also really, really far away for an NPC who doesn’t fast-travel or own a horse.

Still, I’m determined to reach it. It’s definitely more than a single day’s walk, possibly as many as two or three, especially if I’m stopping to pick flowers, which I probably will. I won’t have time to fully explore the area around the road, but Cyrodiil tends to pull you off your intended path pretty regularly. I’m guessing there will be some inns or camps along the way so I’ve got somewhere to sleep when night falls.

[Why not stop at Kvatch, which is a fine midpoint between the Brina Cross Inn (on the far left) and Skingrad? Well, I'm running the Main Quest Delayer plugin of the Oblivion Modular Enhanced mod, which means Kvatch has not been sacked yet, as it is in the un-modded Oblivion. However, you still can't visit Kvatch because, well, it only exists in-game as the sacked version. Look, let's just pretend there's no such place and it'll be easier for everyone.]

I sell everything non-essential to Christophe before leaving the Brina Cross Inn. Ingredients I was saving for potions, spare clothing, and food I don’t plan to eat. With all my assets turned to cash, I’m starting the journey with 127 gp. I wolf down some bread and cheese, and step out onto the long winding road east. I’m more than a little sad to leave the lovely Arielle Jurard behind, but frankly, we’ve run out of things to talk about. Besides, Nondrick isn’t a one woman guy, especially when that one woman seems more interested in discussing mudcrabs with the locals than getting busy with his fine self.

I have the good fortune to run into a traveler headed in the same direction [thanks to the "Crowded Roads" mod I installed, which gives the world a little more foot traffic].

Okay, she’s not as armor-plated as I’d like, but just having someone else out on the road with me makes me feel a little safer. If I trail her by a few dozen years, any wolves or bandits are sure to go after her before they go after me.

And so, bravely using an unarmed woman as wolf-bait, I set off into the cool dawn. Shortly after departing, we run into an Imperial Legion Soldier, those iron-clad swordsmen on horseback who make ideal bodyguards, but he’s heading in the other direction. I think it might even be the same one who saved me from the Khajiit bandit, but he doesn’t mention it if he is. He’s so modest.

Other than flinging a fireball at a far-off deer and missing (I’m determined to bag me a deer one of these days), it’s an uneventful morning. I discover I was right about finding places to stay along the road to Skingrad, as I come upon Gottshaw Inn, a homey little cottage just north of the road. Good news: rooms are only 10 gold a night. The bad news: well, it’s not night. It’s not even noon yet. I’m not really ready to stop. I’m maybe halfway to the road that leads up to where Kvatch would be if Kvatch were there.

I’ve barely made any progress, so the Gottshaw, as charming as it looks, is more or less useless to me. I decide to press on.

By now I’ve lost the other traveler, so I’m alone. Not for long, though, as I come across a quiet young man. He’s dead, which explains the lack of conversation. Face-down in the road, his mace and shield lying nearby, I can’t even tell what killed him, or why, or even who he is. A random traveler? A bandit who robbed the wrong person?

All I know is, he deserves a decent burial, which is a bit of a shame because all I’m gonna do is take his stuff and leave him naked in the road.

For the next few hours I walk alone. I wander off the road now and then to pick some ingredients. I reach the road that leads toward Kvatch, accidentally wander up it a while, get a little lost, then find the main road again. It’s getting late, and I haven’t found anything like an Inn. It doesn’t seem at all worth it to backtrack to the Gottshaw, so I keep heading east. I suppose I can walk through the night if I really have to.

I seem to be missing all the action today. I come across another corpse, this time a wolf. I skin it, as is my way. It’s now nighttime, and the moon (or whatever planet that is) has come up.

I’m a little nervous. Nighttime is no time to be out wandering alone. The roads are dangerous, and you never know who might leap out of the bushes and attack you. Adding to my anxiety is that I still don’t know where I’m going to sleep, plus, someone I don’t know leaps out of the bushes and attacks me.

A bandit! I swear, Cyrodiil has a bandit-to-citizen ratio of about three-to-one. This bandit also happens to be quite an attractive young woman. Hello, sweetie!

Oh, right, you’re trying to kill me. Fine. Have at thee, sweetie!

She slams her axe into me a couple times as I backpedal. I don’t know if she’s got a magic axe or if she’s coated the blade with poison, but my endurance starts to drain. Bandit’s sappin’ mah endurance! I take a few swings with my sword, hurting her but not badly. With my health down three quarters and my endurance draining, I’m going to have to fall back on my spellcasting if I’m going to survive this.

Blammo! A point-blank fireball lights her up like a Christmas tree that’s on fire. I fire a few more into her, keeping my distance at the same time. Finally, she goes down with a cry, and the battle is over.

Man. My health almost dropped to half, making this my most dangerous encounter to date. Normally, a bandit fight isn’t going to be much of a big deal, but with Nondrick, I’m playing with no reloads. If he dies, that’s it. Game over. It adds a bit more excitement to these little skirmishes, I gotta say.

Well, I don’t know what drove this pleasant looking young woman to a life of crime — frankly, I blame mudcrabs — but she messed with the wrong mushroom-picker. Again, as my religion dictates, the dead are to be honored by yanking off their clothing and leaving them nude in the road. So I do.

Nearby I find Mortal Camp, the bandit’s base of operations. Being the scavenger I am, I go through the sacks and crates, finding a silver pitcher worth 4 gold, some food, a few bottles of beer, and some other odds and ends. Plus, it’s a camp, which means I finally found a place to sleep. And for free!

Or, is it? Is it free? Was not a price paid, a dear price, that of a mortal life? Nondrick has killed crabs and wolves, but this was a person, and frankly, he’s contemplative about the whole thing. See, look at him being all contemplative. Or maybe he’s just staring into space with his stupid fish face. Whatever.

It’s just after midnight, and there’s still a long way to go tomorrow. Bedding down, I set my internal alarm clock for five hours, crawl into a dead woman’s sleeping bag, and get some shut-eye.