Nondrick's Non-adventure

Monster Mashed

So, here’s my plan for the next few days.

Anvil was pretty disappointing for adding to my meager fortune or even practicing my chosen profession of alchemy: the land around the city was mostly barren of ingredients and even the city shops were pretty empty of stuff to buy, mix, and resell. I feel like I need to make up for lost time and do some real hardcore gathering before I return home to Imperial City. I don’t want people just noticing my stained fingers and how they attest to my diligence in mixing potions and learning their secrets. I want people gawking at my stained fingers and how they attest to my diligence in mixing potions and learning their secrets.

The most fertile place I’ve ever seen in Cyrodiil was the area around Skingrad. There were pick-tastic plants everywhere, and I made some good hauls the last time I was in the area. So. I’ll head along the Green Road toward Imperial City, but when I reach the river I’ll head due west, making straight for Skingrad. There, I’ll set up Beaker in the stables, and spend a couple days picking the landscape bare. That way, when I get back to Imperial City I’ll have a bit more to show for my multi-city tour. I know it’s a little dangerous to leave the road and head straight through the unclaimed wild, but I feel a little more confident dealing with wolves and imps than I do bandits and highwaymen.

And so, we’re off in the early morning light. It’s not long until we encounter our first opposition of the day: a bandit bowman. Luckily, he’s already dead, lying face-down by the side of the road, folded up like a cheap hotel towel. I strip him of his weapons and fur armor — and why is he in fur armor, anyway? I’m level six, now, shouldn’t chain-mail be making an appearance as the standard light armor? I’m tired of my leather duds and the iron armor proved too heavy and noisy. I want to get all blinged out in chain links, but I’d prefer not to have to buy it.

Soon after, another bandit appears, this one alive, angry, and wielding a hammer. Did actual warriors ever really carry giant hammers? Seems like a really exhausting way to kill someone, by hitting them with a huge honkin’ hammer.

This bandit goes straight for Beaker, ignoring me to wallop on my poor horse. Seems like an iffy strategy: I’ve already climbed down to the road and I’m the one with weapons, spells, and armor. Beaker just stands there, taking the hits, while I dig into the bandit’s back until she’s dead. She, too, has fur armor. I strip her, pause to take a spiritual bong-hit off a nearby wayshrine, then continue up the road.

Speaking of the road, I suddenly notice that my Crowded Roads mod is once again taking itself a little too seriously. It’s supposed to add a little extra foot traffic, but this is ridiculous. It’s more like a parade.

While I don’t mind all the extra company, the only wildlife I’m seeing along the road is dead boars. I’m assuming the boars have been attacking the mod-added travelers, and the travelers have been punching the boars to death. I don’t really want to fight boars, because they kind of scare me, but having every boar in the game being killed for me by a crowd of randomly generated wanderers just feels a bit like a cheat. Well, I’ll be off the road and on my own soon enough, I guess.

Beaker and I soon reach two lodges, The Inn of Ill Omen (that sounds ominous!), and the Faregyl Inn (that sounds faregyl!), and I briefly pop into both for a visit. I meet a Khajiit (cat-person) named S’jirra who tells me she’s lost some of her jumbo potatoes, without which she cannot make her “famous” potato bread. Zounds. After Anvil, which tried to tempt my adventurous impulses with ghost stories and multiple disappearances, the game seems to be lowering its standards a bit here to see if I’ll bite.

Normally, I wouldn’t even pose any follow-up questions about anything that smelled remotely like a quest, but, jeez, we’re talking about some missing potatoes. It’s not like she’s asking me to close an Oblivion Gate or save Bruma from demons or anything. What the hell. I can at least ask her about them. She tells me she put her potatoes outside and someone ran off into the woods with them. Well, I’m not going to go actively search for the crook, but if I spot anyone with potato-sized lumps under their coat, maybe I’ll stop them and ask a few questions.

After buying all the food in both inns, churning it into potions, and selling it back at a mark-up, I head West, and almost immediately spot a large, burly, mostly naked figure running through the trees. Ogre. It’s an Ogre!

He spots us and approaches, and we’re a little too close to do anything but fight. This is kinda scary: I’ve never fought anything remotely this big or dangerous before. Luckily, I’ve got a couple things going in my favor. First, I’ve already poisoned my blade. Second, the Ogre, like everyone else lately, seems to hate my horse a lot more than they hate me. Is it my high personality score making enemies decide, “You know, he seems like a decent fellow. I’d like him to die last.” Or, is it just that a paint horse is more obvious a threat than a fish-faced guy who can barely lift his own sword?

The Orge wades in, punching Beaker repeatedly. I ready my frost spell, then plunge in and touch the Ogre with a bunch of magical coldness. Then I hit him with my sword, both hurting and poisoning him. Already, I can see his health diminish to almost nothing.

He’s still swinging, though, and now he’s swinging at me.

And then, I am saved! Beaker, driven by his extreme love of me (or more likely he’s just tired of being a punching bag for every violent creature we meet), rears up and starts kicking the Ogre. The Ogre falls back into a bush, and Beaker charges him, sort of nudging him with his head. I don’t know if it was my poison or Beaker’s semi-ferocious charging that kills him, but the Ogre drops dead.

Attaboy, Beaks! My hero.

I lay some healing magic on Beaker’s wounded butt, then retrieve the Ogre’s teeth, and also find the cat lady’s missing jumbo potatoes in his possession. Well, since I’ve got them, I might as well bring them back to her. I am not really happy with having completed a quest, but this didn’t feel so much like a quest as a coincidence: she mentioned her potatoes were missing, and my horse and I happened to poison and head-butt an Orge to death, and the Ogre happened to be the guy who stole the potatoes.

Cat lady is happy to have her potatoes back, and even offers to kiss me, but I’m not really into cat people. I just like her as a friend. Cat woman gives me some bread she made out of potatoes. Funny. When I mix potatoes and bread I just get wet potato mush. She’s got mad skills.

Television

I Watched Some TV For A Change

I’ve gotten a little behind on my TV watching (gasp!) but I caught up this weekend. No, I’m no hero. Just a guy who can bravely sit on a couch for hours on end.

There have been a couple of new shows popping up lately, and the return of a couple of my favorites. Here’s what I’ve been watching:

Louie: I don’t know how to put into words how great I think this show is. It’s an oddity in that when you start to watch you really have no idea what you’re going to get: something funny, something depressing, something touching, something rude, and often, all of the above.

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Lady Business | Movies

Lady Business: Broken Hearted Edition

Chris and I got home from a family visit Tuesday night to a blinking answering machine. My nephew, Shane, was killed in an accident. He was a talented artist, a bicyclist, a drummer and the only person I ever knew who could pull off suspenders. He was 27. In the last few years, he’d been sending me little pieces of art out of the blue. In April, he sent me a small owl necklace made of metal that has moving wings. I’m not sure how he knew that I love owls. Perhaps it was a lucky guess.

I’m usually into comedy, but days like this draw me to sad movies. Here are some of my favorites:

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Nondrick's Non-adventure

Dope On The Water

Having spent the night standing next to my bed, meditating on what I’ve learned about making potions and bragging to Counts, I’m up early to reach Level Six. Cool. I choose to upgrade my Intelligence and Personality, as I use them more than anything else and yet they still feel a bit lacking. I also upgrade my Strength, for those instances when thinking and boasting must give way to slashing and stabbing.

 

Did the game just call me ignorant? I see it’s been paying attention.

Now, I’m off to track down Varon Vamori, a local who I’ve been told can train me in Speechcraft. I check my map and sure enough, his home is shown, which means I walked by it at some point yesterday and magically harvested his name and address. My map is like a precursor to the Google Street View van.

I arrive at his house just as he’s stepping out his front door. I talk to him, but he doesn’t offer to train me. It’s possible he’s off-duty: not everyone’s services are available 24/7. So, I decide to follow him, shadow him at a distance, slyly, like some sort of detective from another time period with a name like Cole Phelps. (That’s the detective’s name, not the time period’s name. The time period’s name is Frank Walters.)

Vamori walks to the Mage’s Guild and stands at the top of a staircase, staring at a locked door. Hoping to not distract him from his important door-inspecting activities, I crouch directly behind him and wait for a bit. An hour passes, and I speak to him again, but he’s still not offering me any training. Hmph.

Great. I’ve wasted a couple hours staring at some unhelpful dude’s butt. Still, it doesn’t mean the day is a complete loss. I throw on my armor and head out of town to check out the surrounding area. If it looks like a good place to regularly harvest plants, I might just think about settling down here in that affordable dump that’s for sale.

First things first: I check on my faithful, patient horse Beaker. I’m not going to ride him today, I just live in a state of constant, crippling fear that he’ll eventually wander off, and I want to make sure he’s still alive and standing where I parked him.

Sup, Beaks? Who’s a good horsie? You is! Yes, you is!

Oh, right! I nearly forgot. While mixing up potions last night, I discovered I’d made an interesting one: Water Walking. I decided not to sell it, because who could resist the chance to walk on water if they had the chance? Not me, certainly. Since I’m on the waterfront, I chug it down and go for a watersprint, just for kicks.

Wheee! This is actually pretty cool, running around on water. I don’t think I’ve ever actually tried it before, as my other Oblivion character was mostly interested in mixing up poisons and Nondrick is mainly interested in mixing up boring mush made of carrots and bread to sell at a profit.

I’m in the middle of the river when I realize it’s running out, so I hightail it back, reaching shore at the exact instant the effects wear off. I’m greeted by a mudcrab, who demonstrates just how impressed he is with my brief godlike abilities by attacking me. Pff! A crab? I eat enemies like you for breakfast!

That’s not an idle boast, I do literally eat him for breakfast, since I’ve got that mod installed that requires me to eat regularly.

It’s actually quite lovely in the hills surrounding Bravil, but for all the fields of grass and flowers, there’s literally nothing growing that I can pick for potions. Disappointing, to say the least. I stroll around all morning, not finding a single ingredient, unless you count… danger!

Oh yes. Though the hills are barren of plants, it turns out Nondrick is not alone after all. In the near distance, a mysterious figure lurks. His motives unknown, his intentions unclear, this figure stands silently, motionless, his dark gaze fixed with purpose on okay, look, I’m just being over-dramatic to make this encounter seem more exiting. It’s just some dude from town, Jean-Pierre Lemonds.

I’m not sure what he’s doing out here, standing around, but we don’t have much to talk about. I seem to remember from reading the Oblivion Wiki a couple seconds ago that he’s a former Arena champion, now retired, who spends his time drinking in the Bravil pubs and hunting on the weekends. He doesn’t appear to be hunting, though, just standing around staring at grass.

Unlike Jean-Pierre, the local wildlife is getting some exercise. A short while later, a wolf runs up to attack me, and I swing my sword at him. And, um, the fight is over. Wow, a wolf hacked down with one blow. A single blow! That extra strength I invested this morning in is already paying off.

I walk a bit more, getting a nice view of Imperial City and really, nothing else. No plants, no roots, nothing to pick, nothing to make. Hm. Since there isn’t much in the way of ingredients out here near Bravil, and the town itself is kind of a bummer, I think I’ll be heading back to my hovel in the Big IC. No real point in subjecting myself to the depressing, drug-riddled city of Bravil if it’s not going to pay off.

As I head back to Bravil for the night, another wolf approaches, intent on killing me for daring to intrude on nature. Pff! I eat enemies like you for breakfast! Oh, wait, I can’t eat a wolf. I can only sell their pelts. Okay, then: I sell enemies like you to Innkeepers and use the proceeds to buy breakfast! Which I then eat! For breakfast!

My revised (yet still scathingly clever) battle-cry turns out to be inaccurate, however, as this isn’t a wolf, it’s a Timber Wolf, and even with my increased strength it takes several blows to chop him into merchandise.

Not a whole lot else happens for the rest of the day. I find a dead boar, and before I can even threaten to eat him — for breakfast! — I discover someone has already eaten him, possibly for breakfast, as his inventory contains no meat. As it gets darker, there’s some brief excitement as I’m double-teamed by a couple lightning-bolt throwing imps, though my super-heal spell and a some frenzied hacking and slashing whittles them down to their component parts.

That’s it for the day. I re-rent my room at the lodge, planning to get up bright and early so I can invent the rear-view mirror and put this town in it. Tomorrow, I’ll set out for my hovel in Imperial City once again, though this day spent gathering zero ingredients has left me feeling bothered and restless, and I already know I’ll be making a slight detour before I get back home.

Television

Falling Skies: History Repeats Itself (A Lot)

With The Killing done for the season, I’m looking for a new TV show to write about weekly. I decided to check out the two-hour premiere of Falling Skies on TNT. Falling Skies is about a group of survivors six months after the earth has been invaded by hostile alien forces. It’s based on an idea by Stephen Spielberg.

I kind of love the implication of a show based on an idea by Stephen Spielberg. It paints a little picture in my mind. Like, there’s a bunch of guys who work for Spielberg, and they’re all sitting around a conference table talking about whatever projects they’re all involved with or whatever, and Spielberg has been real quiet for a couple minutes, and then he says suddenly: “Hey, what if aliens invaded earth, and instead of a show about the invasion, the show takes places months later when the resistance is already underway?”

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Television

The Killing: Soaking Wet

I haven’t bothered with spoiler warnings thus far in these The Killing episode recaps, but seeing as how this is the last episode of season one, I just want to issue a warning:

SPOILERS. THERE ARE SPOILERS BELOW.

Now. Normally, at the end of these recaps I’ll lay out a little suspect list. I’ve been sold on Gwen being the culprit for the past several weeks, and as we’ve gotten closer to the end of the season, I’ve been asking Kris who she thinks is the killer. She’s been pretty noncommittal, thinking the killer wouldn’t be revealed in the first season and imagining the mystery would spill over into season two. I just couldn’t believe that: how could a single-season murder mystery show not lay all its cards on the table at the end of the season? “Who Killed Rosie Larsen?” was the question posed to us, and surely, while every plot thread might not be addressed in the finale, they must at least answer that question.

Well, Kris was right: though the finale shows the detectives finally making an arrest, another last-minute twist springs itself on us, and it looks like we’re going to have to sit here and wait for season two to find out what really happened.

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Nondrick's Non-adventure

Bravillage People

So! Before we were rudely interrupted by the passage of sixteen months, where the heck were we?

Oh, right. Nondrick. That guy. He had been winding up his tour of Cyrodiil, headed for Bravil, suffering from a series of wolf-born diseases, and having no luck finding the ingredients needed to cure them. After entertaining dark thoughts of the theft of a Shepard’s Pie, he stuck to his vaguely defined principles and was rewarded in true karmic fashion, finding a wild herb that allowed him to brew a potion that would cure his wolf-cooties.

That brings us roughly to… now! Bravil! An ugly, dirt-poor city on the Nibeny Bay. Having spent the night in the affordable and aptly named Lonely Suitor Lodge, he decides to spend the day doing what he always does: mixing and selling potions, walking around slowly, and talking to everyone about anything that won’t lead to quests and adventure.

That last part isn’t exactly easy here in Bravil. While their main import is poverty and the color brown, their leading export appears to be intrigue. Almost everyone in town wants to talk to me about something called The Forlorn Watchman, which I’m guessing isn’t just a city guard who can’t find a date.

In the Mage’s Guild, an Argonian named Kud-Ei wants me to help her find her missing friend, Henantier, insisting I am the only one she can trust with the task despite the fact that I just walked in the door ten seconds ago. The other mages are passive-aggressively chatting about someone named Aleron Loch, who is also missing, hoping I’ll overhear and lend my questionable investigative skills to the case. Don’t these people ever go to the cops when someone disappears? There’s also more talk about The Forlorn Watchman and a few chat to me about Necromancers. The only thing positive I hear is someone recommending that I steer clear of mudcrabs. Can do!

Wandering around outside, I start to see why people don’t go to the cops: many of the citizens are drug addicts, and probably don’t want the narcos snooping around in their business. A door advertises itself as a “Skooma Den”, and two dudes are feverishly chugging down the drug right outside in broad daylight. I sort of wouldn’t mind Nondrick getting his hands on some Skooma (he’s no square), but the door to the den is locked and these two won’t share. Guess I’ll have to stick to wine.

Popping into the Fighter’s Guild for a moment, I watch two members hacking away at each other in a friendly sparring session, taking a break only long enough to tell me that The Forlorn Watchman is a g-g-g-g-ghost! So, ghosts, missing persons, necromancers, drug addicts… I figure real estate can’t be too pricey around here. Maybe I should inquire about a house.

I stroll over to the castle to talk to the only real estate agent the city has: the count. Naturally, he doesn’t want to sell a house to someone who he just met: the guy who oversees a town full of junkies and ghosts doesn’t trust just anyone with his valuable real estate. Luckily, I’m pretty good at winning people over, and after quickly divining that he loves a braggart and hates being admired, I convince him I’m worth selling to.

After poking my nose down in the jail, just to see if there are any interesting prisoners (there aren’t), I get lost in the castle for a bit, somehow winding up in the servant’s quarters and then the dining hall. When my slow pace finally leads me back outside, it’s dark, so I head back for the night. I check out the other inn, which is a little expensive, but chock full of interesting looking company.

I’ve got a couple things planned for the next few days. First, someone mentioned there was a Speechcraft trainer in town, so I’d like to track him down and see if he can give me a boost to my already impressive conversational skills. Second, after charming the innkeeper with my aforementioned silver tongue, Nondrick’s odometer turned over and I’m due to level up while I sleep tonight. Wow. I only started this blog in 2007 and Nondrick is already on the brink of Level Six! Amazing.

Finally, the Count told me the house for sale only cost 4,000 septims, the cheapest residence I’ve found besides my hovel, and I’ve almost got enough coin to afford that. Of course, the town is full of spooks and scumbags, and I’m entirely not sure I want to live here. To make my decision, I’ll need to explore the area nearby and see if the landscape is littered with enough plants for an ambitious, level-climbing alchemist like Nondrick to survive on.

Movies | Netflix | Television

Stream Cuisine: All Out Of Bubblegum

Some selections on Netflix Instant you might want to watch, or re-watch (probably only if you’re in the U.S.):

They Live: What a weird, terrible, awesome movie this is. Horrifying “acting” by Rowdy Roddy Piper, hit-you-over-the-head social commentary, outstandingly poor production values, but still somewhat of a landmark sci-fi film, somehow. The long, quiet scene where Piper tries on the glasses that reveal the alien infiltration is still one of the best sci-fi scenes ever put to film, and the alleyway fight scene between Piper and Keith David, which goes on for about twenty-three minutes, then ends, then continues for eighty-six more minutes, is just hilarious. The rest is pretty much garbage, but highly watchable garbage.

(Just a note: I once saw Roddy Piper in an airport buying bottled water in a gift shop. After he left, I went up to the little Asian woman behind the register, and said excitedly, “Do you know who that was! That was Roddy Piper! Roddy Piper!” She looked at me, confused, then offered me a notepad and said “Writing paper?”)

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Television

The Killing: Nothing Beats Dead Indians

As if to make up for weeks of lost time, The Killing ratcheted up its pace in the penultimate episode. The show began with the current Evil Mayor’s campaign apparently coming to an end, because the waterfront restoration project he’s been touting has been stalled because some Native American remains were found on the construction site, which means he can’t keep building, which means suddenly no one in Seattle will vote for him. That’s how elections work, right? Voters will all suddenly abandon their candidate because his construction project hits a snag, and they’ll all vote for the other guy instead automatically. Buh.

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Interludes

Still Living

Oh, hello.

With The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim coming just around the corner (okay, it’s half a year away, but it’ll be here before you know it), I’ve decided I should, you know, maybe bring some closure to this little blog that has been dribbling along intermittently since 2007 (!!!).

Sorry for all the delays, once again, and thanks to anyone who is still hanging in there.

Last night, I reinstalled Oblivion, and restored all my Nondrick saved games and mods (I’d uninstalled everything a while back to try out some sort of full-conversion mod thing that I wound up never playing). It crashed regularly for about a half-hour, but thanks to some inspired tweaking and the incredibly useful Oblivion Mod Manager (Thanks, OMM, you’re a damn miracle), I finally got everything running, loaded up my last save, and once again peered into the ugly face of Nondrick P. Cairk’tir.

He’s still there, waiting patiently. Beaker, too. They’re both fine and ready to continue, and so am I.

Here’s a picture from last night.

So. The blog will ride on again, picking up wherever it left off. Not sure when the next real post will be, but maybe in a week or so. I will guide this experiment to some sort of ending, and I will make an effort to do so before the release of Skyrim in November. That is my goal.

Thanks again for sticking around (if anyone has indeed stuck around), and I hope to continue the non-adventure shortly. Meanwhile, my wife and I are doing some pop-culture blogging over at my new(ish) site, Screen Cuisine.