Big crunchy session, in which I ran the entirety of the plotline called The Cause–featuring an attempt to resurrect the Mythic Dawn cult of Mehrunes Dagon, and reopen an Oblivion Gate! I’d been looking forward to running this and am pleased to report that it did not disappoint. 😀
- Play date: 7/10/2022
- Session number in this run: 35
- Started in Breezehome
- Boinged to mage college; did training with Faralda (1), Drevis (2), Phinis (1) and Tolfdir (1)
- Boinged to Heljarchen; dropped off a few building materials, and also picked Rulnik back up as a follower
- Came back out and found a giant by the house, so had to take him out
- Boinged to Lakeview to drop off other stuff
- Boinged to Western Watchtower to head for the Shrine to Stendarr
- Encountered en route:
- Dunmer Dark Brotherhood assassin
- A mammoth bouncing down out of the sky in the distance 😆
- Near the shrine, a giant and mammoth not too far off, but far enough away that they didn’t get pissy at our proximity
- Discovered when i arrived at the shrine that the dude I was supposed to talk to, Skorvild, was dead
- Attacked by Mythic Dawn assassins; took them out and found their orders, as well as Skorvild’s journal; this directed me to go find an excavation camp near Ivarstead
- Boinged to Alchemist’s Shack to get to that
- A few more Mythic Dawn cultists there, took them out and found the additional journal pointing at a ruin called Rielle–and okay this is where the locale at Arcwind Point comes in!
- Boinged first to Tundra Homestead to drop things off there as that was my nearest home
- Then boinged directly to Varlais Cavern–but since this landed me at Arcwind Point I also got a pissed off Ancient Dragon
- Called up a Golden Saint Archer a couple of times but ultimately took down the dragon with my crossbow
- Heard draugr in battle but none of them came at me, unicorn and/or Rulnik might have gotten them?
- At that point, found the nearby entrance into Rielle and started running the place
- Neat architecture, presumably Ayleid?
- Started spotting dead Mythic Dawn cultists
- And undead wights—which turned out to be basically draugr but elves instead of humans, and wielding elven weaponry
- Found a few Ayleid urns, reliquaries, and caskets that turned out to have good loot, enough that I got pretty overloaded
- Got an objective to collect four elemental shards once I started looting the bodies
- Started summoning in the pets to have them carry stuff out for me
- Finding the shards took a little doing as the place was gigantic and getting into certain spots was tricky
- Finally found a dead named NPC Janus; read his journal to get the clues about where the shards go in the holders and in what order
- Shard holders were in a chamber accessible past a nasty spiked floor trap that I had to evade by jumping over the corners
- Placed the shards and opened a secret chamber where I fought Norion the Undying, looked like an elven version of a dragon priest?
- Had to find the way to the final clues about where the gate was, which necessitated figuring out that a switch I found actually triggered a gate I needed to get through
- That led me back out to the chamber where I found Janus, and I overheard combat between Mythic Dawn cultists and Vigilants of Stendarr; found a few dead members of each faction
- Swiped a set of Vigil Enforcer armor off one of the Vigilants once I realized some of them were Enforcers (featured in different AE content, LOL)
- Also got the journal describing their side of things with pointers towards where the gate is supposed to be
- Tromped back outside to Swift Wind
- Couple of surviving Vigilants were out there; conveniently, they didn’t seem to realize that I’m carrying Mehrunes’ Razor 😆
- Got on Swift Wind and boinged back to Tundra Homestead
- Started bringing the pets back to me to get the stuff I’d given each, and add to the loot stash there
- Popped outside briefly and overheard more Vigilants vs. an Ancient Vampire
- Got the whole loot stash and rode over to Whiterun to sell as much of it as I could
- Boinged to Lakeview after that to drop off more things
- Tried on the Mythic Dawn robes to prepare to sneak into the cultist lair
- Then finally boinged to Fallowstone Cave to get within range of the target for getting to the gate
- Encountered en route:
- Spriggan with a cave bear and a sabre cat
- Ice wizard vs. fire wizard, fire wizard won the fight
- Stormcloaks vs. imperials, Stormcloaks won that fight
- Got to the target cave, Red Scar Cavern, by a bit of roundabout riding
- Guard outside saw us coming and picked a fight with Swift Wind
- However, having the robes on let me go past just about all the cultists inside the place until I lockpicked my way into the temple
- At which point Vonos and a few of the other cultists were GAME ON; took them out
- Searched Vonos, got his journal, and–motherfucker! This entire thing was a setup to get me here to open the gate!
- RIGHT THEN, c’mon Rulnik, let’s go to the Deadlands and fuck with Dagon’s plans, shall we?
- Went through the gate and found a few new creepy ingredients
- And also Flesh Pods that had loot in them, and I don’t want to think too hard about what those used to be
- The plants, Harrada, Bloodgrass, and Spiddal Sticks, seemed dangerous; the Spiddal Sticks spit out poisonous fumes
- And the whole area in general looked a lot like Mordor, with burning lava pools and ominous architecture in the distance
- Spotted a Daedric horse from afar
- Overloaded so had to tromp my way over to beat up the two dremora I had to take out; they killed me the first time but the second time through I made sure to summon a Golden Saint Warrior to help me out
- Spotted some disturbing looking red structures with what looked like a beating heart in the middle, called ‘the Punished’–again, not wanting to think too much about exactly what those used to be
- Then Team Dragonborn prevailed
- Looting the pods and the Punished at least got me some tasty loot including more amber and madness
- After I killed the second dremora and the Daedric horse which turned out to be his, I got the Summon Daedric Horse spellbook; tested it out a bit and then tromped back out through the gate back to Tamriel
- Found that the Vigil of Stendarr had shown up and was fighting with the cultists, so time to tromp my way out and throw Golden Saints in a bunch of cultist faces
- Looted a bunch of the cultists and got a boatload of jewelry items
- Made it all the way out and found two more Vigilants–and a fucking FROST DRAGON, which then killed both of the Vigilants while Team Dragonborn was trying to take the dragon down oh wells
- Also, no sign of my unicorn, because I’d ridden the Daedric horse in Oblivion, so Daedric-horse’d my way to Whiterun and sold a bunch of stuff
- Got unloaded enough that I could quaff a potion to get to the mage college, because the unicorn had gone back there
- Sold assorted things to assorted mages, mostly by buying soul gems to get them enough money to buy jewelry off of me
- Leveled up to 47 while selling things to Faralda; took another Magicka bump, Magicka still showing red on my skills tree; took Corpus Enchanter perk for Enchanting
- Took training with Faralda (1), Drevis (3), Tolfdir (1)
- Bought Ironflesh and Telekinesis and Waterbreathing spells from Tolfdir
- Reunited with Swift Wind <3
- Boinged to Lakeview to drop off a bunch of things
- Did some enchanting to burn through stock of soul gems and jewelry
- Saved for the night
This. Was. COOL.
I’d been looking forward to this plot, as I said at the top of this post, and was delighted to find that it was every bit as cool as I was hoping for. Some things I really liked about it, in no particular order:
One: A lot of the AE content I’ve found so far has very stilted dialogue, whenever you’re expected to interact with an NPC in a way that hadn’t previously already been set up. I’m assuming this is because the creators of the various Creations that became the Anniversary Edition didn’t have access to the same voice actors, so they had to cobble together bits of new dialogue from previously existing lines.
And in several cases, situations where you would normally be talking to a living NPC to learn what’s going on get addressed by the NPC going “It’s all in this note” and handing you a thing to read. Which doesn’t feel natural at all, particularly given how there are plenty of more detailed conversations all over the original Skyrim content and DLCs.
This plot, however, was structured in such a way so that you didn’t actually have to talk to anybody to get new information. All of the plot details you need are written down in journals–by characters who are already dead, either at your hand or by the hands of others, by the time you get to read them. So that made the gathering of necessary information feel smoother.
Two: Nice use of the Vigil of Stendarr! I snark on them a lot, but it’s actually kind of cool to see them actually being effective. I’m used to thinking of them as fairly useless, just because their headquarters gets destroyed as soon as you hit level 10, and several more of them get killed during the events of Dawnguard. But here, you actually get to see several Vigilants in battle with the Mythic Dawn, and you see evidence of the Vigilants’ side of the activity in the journals you gather.
Notably, a bunch of the Vigilants I saw were in fact Vigil Enforcers, which are featured in an entirely different AE plot I still need to run. So I got a look at what the Vigil Enforcer armor looks like.
Three: The Rielle ruins located at Arcwind Point.
My one quibble about that location is that it was tagged initially on my map as Varlais Cavern, but the name of the ruin was Rielle. I think, but am not sure, that the intention here was that the cave system was supposed to be Varlais, and the Ayleid ruin you get into from inside those caves is Rielle. But the access into the cave system, the exit from outside at Arcwind Point, was tagged ‘Rielle’.
Now that said, once I actually made it into Rielle, that was really cool. I liked the overall look of the architecture, which I’m assuming was based off of content from earlier Elder Scrolls games? I spotted several delicate-looking gates and other architectural details that to my eye were very Tolkien-esque. Which was not a bad thing. <3 In particular, I spotted a couple of gently glowing tree designs that very much reminded me of the Tree of Gondor.
Likewise the wights that were running loose in the place, which basically acted like draugr. But unlike draugr, these seemed to be undead elves, carrying elven gear.
Plus, the background music came out of the Oblivion soundtrack, according to the wiki. Which gave the entire soundscape of the place a different flavor than the rest of Skryim. I very much liked that part as well.
Four: The Deadlands were also very cool.
It had a fire-blasted, poisonous landscape, which again kept reminding me of Tolkien, and specifically Boromir’s line in the movie version of The Fellowship of the Ring:
It is a barren wasteland, riddled with fire and ash and dust. The very air you breathe is a poisonous fume.
The plants contributed to this, three different types of plants that were harvestable, but also dangerous, doing damage to me when I approached them. The Harada plants actually slapped me, while the Spiddal Sticks (which looked like wilted sunflowers) spat out a poisonous cloud that set me coughing.
And two things in particular were actively creepy: the Flesh Pods and the Punished, two different types of lootable containers I found that creeped me right the fuck out. Not only for their general appearance, but also for what details were not given as to what they were. Just thinking about them being the remnants of some poor souls tortured by Mehrunes Dagon, without any actual explicit details given, added some nice heft to the threat of Dagon’s forces opening up an Oblivion gate again.
Which brings me to…
Five: The revelation of the true plot once you get hold of Vonos’ journal. I.e., that the entire thing is a setup specifically to draw the Dragonborn to the site, and have Vonos voluntarily sacrificing himself so that his spilled blood can combine with the Great Welkynd Stone to throw the gate open.
Which is a great big pile of “Motherfucker! I’ve been played!” Well done there, plot, well done.
What makes this even more amusing to me is that I’ve also already played out the museum plot in Dawnstar, so I’ve got Mehrunes’ Razor. And I explicitly took the dialogue choices of telling Dagon to fuck off and that I’d use the blade however I damn well pleased.
Which suggests a narrative where Dagon is exacting his revenge here for my repudiation. (You can handwave the timeframe here, as you generally always have to do when dealing with the flow of events in Skyrim.)
But of course I do have at least a few quibbles
And these are purely a narrative kind of thing, as opposed to any actual real complaints.
First up: up until the Cause Creation was released, the only sign of Mythic Dawn activity we had anywhere in Skyrim was Silus Vesuius in Dawnstar. This man clearly venerates Dagon to some degree, enough that he’s willing to go to Dagon’s own shrine to pray for the restoration of the Razor.
Which is a big flashing alert light right there. There’s no real indicator that Silus is actively malicious, or that he actually wants Dagon to take over and destroy Tamriel, or anything of that nature. Mostly, the vibe I get off this guy is that he’s desperate for personal validation and/or glory, and he’s seizing upon his family’s infamous history as a way to try to make his mark on the world. I’m willing to cut him a tiny amount of slack just because I know that assuming you let him live, he takes the pieces of the Razor back to his museum and settles the fuck down.
But at the same time, this also means he’d be highly open to manipulation by Dagon himself. Or by additional cultists. I should think that if other cultists were springing up in Tamriel, they’d be real interested in getting the pieces of the Razor from Silus, if not outright recruiting him.
Of course, they can’t do that in the plotline, because this plotline was constructed long after Skyrim was released, so it’d have been a major undertaking to integrate them seamlessly. Which suggests in turn a reasonable plot explanation for why the cultists didn’t recruit or kill Silus themselves.
The obvious explanation is “because I killed him first”. But if I hadn’t, that suggests an alternate path of Dagon deciding Silus was too weak to serve him. Which would certainly fit in with the dialogue you get during the museum quest, in which Dagon outright orders you to kill Silus, because “he and his family have served their purpose.” So I could totally see a situation where, if I’d spared Silus, Dagon would have sent the new cultists after him to claim the pieces of the Razor in his name.
And hell, I could also have seen an entertaining story if Silus had wound up being the leader of the new cult. A situation of Dagon deciding to give him a second chance to prove himself, maybe.
Or, he could also have been one of the sacrifices to open the gate! There are possibilities here, is what I’m saying.
Second quibble I have here is, I’m slightly disappointed that nobody actually acknowledged the fact that i was standing right there with Mehrunes’ Razor. Neither the cultists nor the Vigilants of Stendarr gave the slightest sign of that. And you’d think that either faction would find me having that dagger in my possession significant! Shit, I’d think that if Dagon were specifically trying to fuck things up for the Dragonborn, he might have deliberately revealed to his followers that “this child of Akatosh carries my Razor! She profanes it! TAKE IT FROM HER AND KILL HER”.
Likewise, I’d think the Vigilants would take issue with me wandering around with the Daedric artifact in my possession. According to the wiki, there is unused code in Skyrim’s code base that would in fact have had them doing that in general–giving you shit if you encountered any of them while carrying a Daedric artifact around. And if you didn’t turn it over to them, turning hostile and attacking you.
So given the structure of this plot, I’m slightly disappointed there was no opportunity for the Vigil to even notice I had the blade, much less take issue with it!
Last but not least, the plot ends with a frigging Oblivion Gate standing completely open. And there’s no way to actually shut it down again. Mind you, as I understand it this was a deliberate choice–to give the player access to the Deadlands if for some reason you want to go back and harvest the ingredients available there.
And also, I expect that creating an ending in which you’re able to actually shut down the gate might have been tougher to implement. Because it took considerable effort to get the thing open and active in the first place–so I expect actually destroying it would also take considerable power and effort? Possibly too much to have easily implemented well in a Creation. This strikes me as more the kind of thing that would have been implemented as part of a main game plotline, really.
(I see by looking on the wiki that you are able to close Oblivion Gates in that game, but I also assume that because the game was set up that way to begin with. Skyrim wasn’t, so the Creation would have had to account for whatever mechanisms are used in Oblivion to close gates, to make it continue to be lore-friendly. So that would have been additional work to implement, I’d guess.)
I do at least like that the plot attempts to account for this, by setting up that the Vigil of Stendarr takes it upon themselves to station a bunch of Enforcers at the Gate to guard it. And presumably to make sure nothing comes through that gate alive.
I sure hope that plan doesn’t backfire on them!
A girl’s best friend is her unicorn
Last but not least, let me note that this was the first time I actually took advantage of the pets to try to keep my inventory from getting even more out of hand than usual. And that did in fact seem useful. So maybe the Pets of Skyrim content just finally demonstrated its interest to me?
I think I’ll have to try this again and see about giving Hilda and Skritch some packs to let them carry more stuff.
Also, while I was pleased to get the spell to summon the Daedric horse, I did feel slightly guilty about losing track of Swift Wind! Because the game’s horse mechanics mean that if you change horses, whatever horse you rode before, if it’s still alive, returns to whatever it considers “home”. In my unicorn’s case, that meant the College of Winterhold. I felt like I had to make a specific point of returning to get the creature! I couldn’t leave him alone even if I can summon a Daedric horse now.
‘Cause yeah. Give me a mount that will actually survive the game with me, I’m going to get attached. <3
After that big burst of adventure I’m kind of in the mood for a lower-tier plot. So I’ll see what’s still active on Shenner’s journal. Getting close to a point though where I’m feeling like I want to send her off to Solstheim. We’ll see!
Editing to add
- 11/22/2023: Restored missing gallery and corrected a minor formatting error.