First of two back to back session posts for Tembriel in Morrowind! Which I’m doing in separate posts rather than combining them, just because everything in Morrowind is new to me! So plenty of commentary to go around. Main highlights of this session: clearing Arkngthand to get the puzzle box so I could get new information for the Blades, which gave me a notable milestone in the main plot! Then I went and collected a debt for the Fighters Guild.
- Play date: 8/23/2022
- Session number in this run: 8
- Picked up in Balmora
- Hoofed it over to try to confront the bandit on the bridge near Arkngthand
- He killed me once, but second time through worked! He did eventually run out of magicka and try to come at me for melee combat, at which point I took him out, fuck yeah \0/
- Also killed on the way into the ruin: a couple of cliff racers, and a wild guar
- Found the crank that operated the revolving door entrance; had to have run mode turned on to make it to and through the door after turning the crank
- So this was my first Dwemer ruin in this game! (See commentary below)
- NOT familiar: Dwemer coins! :O
- Also found of note: raw glass and raw ebony
- Took several Dwemer goblets and pitchers as they were pretty valuable as well
- Had to remind myself to not loot the various bandits i fought with, because mostly they just had their clothes and whatever weapon they attacked me with, which was almost always a dagger, and I already have better
- Investigated all the rooms I could get to without a key, and finally found the boss bandit after finding the slope that led up to the level he was on; found the puzzle box in that same room
- Got out of the ruin and headed back to Balmora
- Sold several of my finds to Ra’Virr, and then to Dralasa the pawnbroker across the square
- Then reported to the Fighters Guild and got Hasphat there to fess up about the info; he gave me info about the Sixth House to take to Caius, and advice to speak with Sharn next door in the Mages Guild about the Nerevarine cult
- Reported back to Caius with this update; he confirmed I should go talk to Sharn
- But first, got in some training of Restoration, Enchant, and Mysticism with the mage Blades trainer
- And Medium Armor with the fighter Blades trainer
- Headed back towards the Mages Guild
- And was stopped by a creepy “Sleeper” on the street who ranted at me about the Sixth House
- Returned to the Mages Guild; asked Sharn about her info, and she set me up with a new favor quest to run, gave me an enchanted blade and a couple of scrolls
- I am to get a guy’s skull out of an ancestral tomb!
- Then went over to crash in one of the nearby beds–and had a bad dream about the aforementioned creepy cult, but at least I leveled up to 5!
- After that, attempted to hoof it down to the tomb with the Mentor’s Ring in it
- Killed assorted critters, and spotted an NPC by the side of the road that I didn’t recognize but didn’t engage with him (more on this guy later)
- Finally found the Samarys Ancestral Tomb, but was killed by skeletons in it 🙁
- Thrown back to the Mages Guild
- Spent most of my current gold on training up magic skills; also practiced casting Bound Dagger and Bound Longsword
- Then went out to go to Suran to try to deal with the Fighters Guild debt collection quest
- Found the person who owed the Guild money inside a place that was clearly a brothel or at the very least a strip club
- Owner was insolent about the debt money and I couldn’t persuade her into it, so OKAY THEN taunting it is
- This took quite a few times, mostly failing, until I succeeded enough times to piss her off and make her attack me
- Nobody else in the place seemed bothered by this, so off I go!
- Took the silt strider to Vivec because I didn’t want to spend all of my money and get under 200 gold
- Tried once to go after that alchemical formula but nope, got fried by the alchemist again
- But I’d taken a save just before entering the Foreign Quarter so not thrown back too far
- Stopped at that point for the night
Started off this session by trying to enact the advice I got from the folks on the Skywind Discord: i.e., to keep in mind that the bandit on the bridge near Arkngthand could be forced to expend all his magicka, and that once he did that, he’d stop trying to fry me with lightning bolts.
All I had to do to pull this off was stay the fuck out of his way.
And here is where I got to deploy some strategy learned from Skyrim. My reasoning: if I could get the hell out of the bandit’s line of fire so he couldn’t even hit me with his lightning, then I could snipe him in relative safety. (Advantage of playing an Archer!)
This worked well. There was a small rise right by my end of the bridge, so I got him to chase me there and ran quickly up to the top of that rise. First time I tried this the bandit actually killed me–but I discovered in the first attempt that quaffing a Fortify Speed potion and also a Lightning Shield one gave me enough time to make it safely to higher ground.
At which point I was able to snipe both the bandit and the skeletons he kept trying to summon to throw at me. He didn’t follow me at first, because presumably for the sake of trying to fry me from afar. Only when he used up his magicka did he then actually follow me up the rise and try to come at me in melee.
This did not go well for the bandit.
From there, it was a pretty smooth sail right into the Dwemer ruin, aside from a couple of cliff racers and a wild guar.
The only actual challenge getting into the ruin was that the door was a revolving thing, that I had to trigger with a crank. And it also kept going, so I had to time getting through it exactly right. I have bitched repeatedly about timing-related puzzles in Skyrim, and I wasn’t entirely thrilled to find one here. But fortunately it wasn’t too terribly difficult to toggle running so that I could make it through the revolving door fast enough before it closed.
(Note to Future Me: Add the Caps Lock key to my controller mappings so I can toggle running without having to interact with the keyboard!)
So this was my first Dwemer ruin in this game, and like much of what I’ve seen in Morrowind so far, it felt familiar. Just simpler! It was about as dark as I expected, and had various bits of familiar Dwemer-themed clutter. And certainly, having bandits camping out in its initial rooms was familiar as well.
What wasn’t familiar: finding Dwemer coins in some of the containers. I really like that as a detail, because it kind of stands to reason that of course older cultures in Skyrim would have had their own coins, prior to the creation of septims. And when the Dwemer vanished, those coins would have stayed around with all the other detritus from their disappearance. They turned out to be valuable, too, worth 50 gold apiece. Awesome.
I also found raw glass and raw ebony in a couple of containers. It was weird to find these–because they weren’t smithing ingredients, as I’m familiar with in Skyrim. In Morrowind, they are alchemy ingredients. And valuable ones, too.
Successfully retrieving the puzzle box from this ruin meant I was able to return to Balmora, and report back to Hasphat at the Fighters Guild to get him to fork over the information Caius wanted. Of which he only forked over half, because of course he did, that’s how these things worked in this kind of game. 😀 He, and then Caius as well, directed me to speak to Sharn at the Mages Guild for the other information about the cults Caius wanted to know about.
And after getting a little training with Rithleen and Tyermaillin, I actually had a bit more of the plot find me. Because one of the townsfolk, now tagged as a “Sleeper”, stopped me and started ranting at me about the Sixth House and Dagoth Ur.
Gosh, how could this possibly be relevant to that information I just found out about the Sixth House? And however could it be relevant to a simple Bosmer mercenary working for the Blades, a stranger in these strange lands? 😀
This did, I figure, creep Tembriel the hell out. And her player, meanwhile, detected a very strong smell of Welcome to the Plot. Muahaha.
Nor was the game done creeping out my poor Bosmer. I made it back to the Mages Guild and had a chat with Sharn about what favor she wanted me to do to get her to fork over information. Then I rested up in the nearby beds–and had a disturbing dream about the aforementioned creepy cult!
But hey, I leveled up to 5, so there’s that. 😀
Next action of note in this session: going to Suran, to collect a debt for the Fighters Guild. Suran in general, even though I showed up in the middle of the night, gave me a general impression of being a hive of scum and villainy, for two reasons:
- It had an area of the map marked as a slave market, and yeah, I know slavery is supposed to be legal in Morrowind, but, well, ew, and
- The place I had to go to collect the debt was the House of Earthly Delights.
Gosh, I wonder what kind of an establishment the House of Earthly Delights is!
And now, a digression.
About Desele’s House and the game’s gender expectations in general
I have a few parallel reactions to running into a place that the wikis describe as a “gentleman’s club”, and in which there are women clearly intended to be erotic dancers.
One: this is the second thing I’ve run into now that makes this game a little more risqué in flavor than Skyrim, and I’m not sure I like that even if it makes some intellectual sense to me that these kinds of establishments probably are appropriate in some portions of Tamriel’s various cultures. Certainly, off the top of my head, what I know about the society in Morrowind suggests to me that a place where a lot of its citizens worship Mephala–a Daedra outright associated with sex–would also have establishments where lust is celebrated.
But that said, it’s not necessarily a thing I want to engage in as a player. Particularly if…
Two: …the game is presenting an erotic situation that’s clearly expecting that its target audience is straight and male. By which I mean not only the in-game clientele, but also the player character. And presumably also the player, by extension.
As a queer woman taking my female character into this place, I couldn’t help but immediately feel a little salty about how the only semi-naked characters in sight were women. Where the hell are the pretty boys?
If you’re going to have this kind of establishment in the game at all, at least try to present it in a less gender-skewed way. Put a pretty dude on the stage with the women. Add a couple of female customers. Boom, instant better gender parity.
Not to mention that I should think that a society where Mephala is widely worshipped would limit itself to having only one gender be the focus of erotic attention. Or one species, for that matter. You really want to have this place venerating Mephala? Put a Khajiit or an Argonian dancer on that stage, you cowards!
This is the latest thing in a growing list of ways I’m finding that the game’s clearly assuming I’m a dude, my character is, or both. So far that is is:
- The prophecies about the Nerevarine are explicitly using male pronouns
- The text in the opening cinematic uses male pronouns
- Dialogue I had when I spoke to Maurrie several sessions ago about the hot Dunmer bandit she wanted to find had me address her as “girl”, which struck me as a very masculine-defaulting dialogue choice, I have a hard time believing a woman would call another woman “girl” like that
- Various rank titles in the factions I’m in end in “-man”, such as “Oathman” or “Swordsman”, and no, “-man” is not a gender-neutral suffix
- And now, having to go into an erotic club where the performers are ONLY all women
Also, I looked up the dancer characters to confirm that yes, the three of them are all women. And moreover, one of them has unique dialogue depending upon the player’s race and gender. If you’re playing a male, she’ll hit on you. If you’re playing a woman, she says if you’re looking for a job, you’ll have to go talk to the owner.
In short: booooooooo.
Let me emphasize: I don’t even necessarily object to an erotic club being a locale to visit in this game. Again, I can buy it being culturally appropriate in a society where Mephala is widely worshipped. I do object to it being weighted towards assuming that all its clientele are men, and furthermore assuming that the player character is straight and/or male.
As it stands, the way the club is presented, it just shows women being objectified to me for no particularly good or interesting reason. Which is not pleasant to me as a player. I’m playing Elder Scrolls games because I enjoy plots where I have to work my way up to fighting the game’s big bad. I enjoy traversing a richly varied world, solving quests, and battling monsters.
Women get objectified enough in real life. In a game I’m otherwise enjoying quite a bit, I’m disappointed to see it happening there too. In this respect, so far Skyrim definitely wins out over Morrowind.
I’ll have to see how this kind of thing keeps up as I continue this playthrough. It may ultimately impact how replayable I find this game, I don’t know yet. Or at least, it may impact what choices I make on future playthroughs. It may be simply that the correct answer to “I don’t like the House of Earthly Delights” is to just not go into the place.
And to be fair, I’ll also grant that while I’m playing a woman in this game, so far nobody’s actually given me shit about that. I have been hit on by a highwayman (more about this in next post), but nobody’s gone “oh, you’re a woman, you couldn’t possibly become a good warrior/mage/etc.” So I’ll give it that. And this so far is helping me keep playing.
Also, for the record:
- Yes, I know this game is twenty years old and it’s a little unfair of me to be judging it by 2022 social standards, but I wouldn’t have enjoyed this aspect of the game if I’d played it when it came out in 2002, either.
- Yes, I know the Morrowind team has since said that making the game assume you’re male was a bad design call on their part, I’m not actively angry at Bethesda about this or anything, in no small part because Skyrim is right there as the evidence that they learned how to to handle this better later. So I feel like there’s only so much pique I can muster about this.
- This is just a matter of pique, not even to the level of my being actively pissed off. This is not me saying “oh this is horrible, nobody should ever play this game ever just because one part of it makes me cranky”. This is purely me getting a little cranky about one aspect of a game that I am, otherwise, actively enjoying.
“But Anna,” you might say, “this is an awful lot of words for something you’re saying you’re only piqued about!”
Hi, have you met me? I’m a writer. I’m verbose. And after all, the whole point of having a playthrough blog is that I can comment in great detail about my experiences playing Skyrim (and now also, Morrowind). So this is me commenting in great detail about my experiences!
We now return you to your regularly scheduled commentary.
So about that money you owe the Fighters Guild
Right then, the entire point of my going into the House of Earthly Delights to begin with was to confront Helviane Desele about the money she owed to the Fighters Guild.
Trying to get this money out of her, unfortunately, didn’t go very well. I couldn’t do the same thing I’d done with Sottilde–a mix of bribery and admire. Her Disposition to me dropped hard, and fast. So she soon got to the point of refusing my money, and basically telling me to fuck off.
Which left me no other option but to taunt her into attacking me, so that I could kill her without incurring a bounty.
This took me at least a couple dozen tries. Mostly it got her to tell me I was pathetic–but every so often it did actually provoke her. And once I’d provoked her something like five or six times, she did finally attack me!
Given that she was a scantily clad, unarmed woman on the opposite side of a bar, this didn’t exactly make much logistical sense. It wasn’t really a fair fight, either. I was standing there in Dark Brotherhoood armor and carrying multiple weapons. And I basically just stood there going “does this bug you?” multiple times until she finally went “YES GODDAMMIT IT BUGS ME” and tried to punch my lights out. Running her through was not, I feel, really an appropriate response to this situation!
But then, Morrowind doesn’t appear to have an equivalent of Skyrim’s Brawl mechanic. This confrontation, I think, was very much one Skyrim would have handled by letting me brawl Helviane rather than kill her.
That said: I still totally killed her. Lesson learned, lady. You should have just paid up what you owed rather than making the woman in armor stab you to death.
I’ve already played the next session after this one! So preview of that: clearing Andrano Ancestral Tomb and moving up in the ranks of all my factions, and also finally getting that alchemical formula!
Editing to add
- 11/23/2023: Restored missing gallery.