To get the full NPC experience out of Oblivion, I need to set some rules for my character. First and foremost, my character will have to eat and sleep.
Sounds pretty basic, but Oblivion ain’t exactly The Sims. Your character isn’t required to do either of those things. You can do them, there’s nothing stopping you, but there’s nothing making you, either. However, there are some mods that penalize you if you don’t, for instance, by lowering your stats (like Strength and Fatigue) if you skip meals or don’t get enough sleep. I think this sort of management would be incredibly annoying if you were playing the game for real, as many dungeon crawls and fort invasions can take days of game-time, and who wants to look around for a place to nap when you’re plundering Sancre Tor? However, as a mild-mannered NPC, I think I’ll have enough free time to manage my eating and sleeping. After all, I’m not going to be spearheading any assaults on Oblivion gates.
Luckily, unlike The Sims, at least I don’t have to worry about finding a place to take a dump.
There are some mods that make drinking water a requirement, too. You can buy a waterskin and fill it at a well, and then you have to drink water to survive. It’s a neat idea, but I’m aiming for NPC realism, not real realism. The game’s NPCs do drink, mostly in taverns, but don’t have to fill up skins at the well. So, neither will I.
I’ll obviously need some sort of job to make money. I can’t just walk into the Copious Coinpurse and ask for an application, and even if I could, no one would ever show up to buy anything, as the shops are only there for the player’s use. Still, there’s money to be found by collecting alchemy ingredients from flora and fungi, or hunting animals for meat, and selling the goods to merchants and innkeepers. If you have alchemical equipment you can also use those ingredients to make potions, and sell them. You can dive for pearls, too, and sometimes you come across forgotten treasures in the wilderness. If things get really rough, there’s always flat-out theft, though that’s dangerous, and stolen goods are hard to move without a fence.
Anyone who plays Oblivion knows that joining a guild is a great way to make money, because, in the case of the Mage’s Guild and Fighter’s Guild, as soon as you join you can run around snatching everything off the tables and bookcases, and sell the loot back to the guilds or any other merchants (it’s not considered stealing if you’re a member).
I won’t be doing that, though. No legally looting the Guilds. I’m not saying I’ll never join a guild (though I’m not planning to), but it doesn’t make realistic sense that they’d stand there watching me stuff my pockets with books and armor and silverware, and then pay me to have it back.
Granted, it doesn’t make realistic sense that I could fit books, armor, and silverware into my pants to begin with, but let someone else do a website for that sort of realism.
I’ll have to live somewhere, naturally. If I can make a decent living I can stay at an inn, though that’ll be pricey for a guy who collects fungus and crab meat for a living. You can’t just sleep anywhere — you need a bed or a bedroll, and you can’t carry either of those around (there are mods for portable bedrolls, however). I think finding an easily accessible, inexpensive place to sleep could be a challenge. Again, a guild would provide me with a bed, but then I’d feel obligated to perform a few dangerous and exciting guild assignments — and who the hell would want to read about that?
No Fast Traveling. If I want to get somewhere, I have to do it the old-fashioned way, by holding down W (or toggling Q) and letting my legs do the walking.
So, I have to eat, sleep, work, and live somewhere, and walk everywhere. Escapism? What the hell is that?
One last rule, and this is the biggie… this is the real biggie… there will be no reloading.
No reloads. No going back to saved games if something I did didn’t work out the way I’d hoped. No second chances, no revisionist history. If I pick a pocket and get caught, then I get caught. If I try jumping a ledge and miss, then I miss. If I die… I’m dead.
It’s tough. It’s potentially tragic. I’ve died many a time in my other games. But I’ve gotta really commit to this NPC thing, and (aside from the Adoring Fan’s remarkable powers of resurrection) when NPCs die, they stay dead. And so shall I.
…to a degree. I’ll overrule this rule if some real-life mistake affects the game. For example, if I’m attempting to talk to a merchant and my cat puts his big fat ass on my mouse, which makes me accidentally click one of the merchant’s items, thus stealing it, thus summoning the guards, well, that’s a do-over (this has happened). That’s not my NPCs fault. In life, you don’t go into Crate & Barrel and try to ask a question but accidentally pocket a silver vase. Generally.
Also, if a glitch occurs in the game or a mod causes some problem, I’ll reload. But that’s really it. Otherwise, my NPC will live his boring, pathetic life as if it were the only one he has. Because it is.