Harrowhark Playthrough,  Skyrim

In Which Harrowhark is Revealed as Dragonborn

Harrow’s second session is still holding pretty well to my usual startup of a Skyrim playthrough, just for the sake of getting through the parts that are absolutely required to get a game going. So in this session, I finished Bleak Falls Barrow, returned to Whiterun, killed Mirmulnir at the Western Watchtower, and was made thane of Whiterun.

Also, observed a lot of things that were a result of the mods!


  • Play date: 11/24/2022
  • Session number in this run: 2
  • Ran this session on the Deck specifically after getting it up to date with the same mods I had put on the VM
  • Found one mod I’d missed for the VM, even: the Rustic Animated Potions one, so got that installed on the VM as well
  • Headed from the first tower near Bleak Falls Barrow over around to the barrow itself
  • Tried to be a bit sneakier this time and found a path to get up to the entrance to the barrow without the more obvious steps; the bandits still found me, but I got a lot closer to the door and had more cover to fight them, and they all fell quite quickly when I threw Flames in their faces
  • Started running the barrow and it definitely looked different, a lot of the passages looked more ruined and rocky; also a lot of new ambient sounds, some of which were quite spooky
  • Difference in skeever behavior when I reached the spiral staircase, killed one of the three skeevers that attacked me, but the other two freaked out and ran off
  • Snuck a lot through the barrow and got several Sneak points
  • Took out several draugr by archery
  • Made it up to level 5 by the time I got out of the barrow; mostly took bumps to Magicka; dropped perk points on One-handed, Conjuration, Illusion, Restoration
  • Got back out of the barrow with the Dragonstone, but also, of course, overloaded by that point with loot
  • Tromped off towards Anise’s Cabin; marked it for the map and got her usual “don’t mind me dearie” greeting
  • Just after her cabin, got attacked by a random Redguard and threw flames in her face; she actually threw off lines screaming about being on fire, ha!
  • Tromped across the river at a narrow point to get back to Riverwood, and nabbed a brook bass while I was in the water
  • Reached Riverwood and got a courier, who had two letters for me, one of which was for Forgotten City
  • Sold a bunch of armor items to Alvor
  • Then went into the trader shop and returned the Golden Claw; noticed that Faendal was also in the shop
  • Sold Lucan a bunch of other things, and bought him out of all his spellbooks, including Raise Zombie; bought Leather Scout Gauntlets off of him as well
  • Went back to Whiterun; saw Bjorlam again not sitting on his carriage, but hanging out nearby on a rock and reading a book, nice
  • Stopped to talk to Adrianne at Warmaiden’s; she had a Leather Scout Helmet so I bought that; made boots with what materials I had on me, which gave Harrow a full set of Leather Scout Armor
  • Went to Belethor’s to sell a few more things (and noted that LOL, he actually had the Leather Scout Boots); noticed other NPCs in his shop, too
  • Spotted the Dunmer who is probably the owner of the new stalls? So yay there’s a confirmed new Dunmer NPC
  • Also spotted Danica Pure-Spring in an unfamiliar blue robe
  • Made it up to Dragonsreach; gave the Dragonstone back to Farengar; cue Irileth showing up with word of the dragon attack
  • This was the point where I discovered a problem with the female guards mod, there are no female equivalents of the script guard lines in the Dragon Rising quest, this caused this to be very bumpy for me, more on this below
  • Managed to play through Dragon Rising nonetheless, so will have to see if this causes any further problems
  • Aside from Dragon Rising being bumpy, noticed another new building on the way to the watchtower, which turned out to be a tavern; will have to check that out
  • Returned to Whiterun, and had the Greybeards’ summons fire off as usual
  • Went back into the city; spotted the Alik’r warriors for the In My Time of Need plot on deck at the gates
  • Noticed a new Argonian NPC in Whiterun as well
  • Went up to Dragonsreach to check in
  • Noticed Proventus had a new bit of decoration on his sleeves, i need to take a better look at that and see if it’s a hold sigil or a steward thing or something?
  • Conversation played out as per usual, Balgruuf told me to go see the Greybeards, and made me thane
  • Got Lydia into follow mode, then went outside Dragonsreach
  • Saved until next time

More about the mods

I ran this session on the Steam Deck specifically, to doublecheck that the set of mods I wanted to run was in sync with the ones I’d already set up on the Win11 VM. And it was a good thing I checked, because I found a mod on the Deck I’d neglected to install on the VM–another of the “Rustic” series, Rustic Animated Potions and Poisons, so I also made a point of getting that one installed on the VM. And I wanted to confirm as well that adding all the mods I was missing wouldn’t break me for picking up where I’d left off on Harrow’s playthrough.

I did have to do a couple other steps, too:

  1. Point the steamtinkerlaunch Ui at the SKSE loader on startup, so that Skyrim would actually launch properly with the SKSE running, and in turn let all the mods that need it load correctly
  2. Disable the first of the two parts for the SSE Engine Fixes mod, since the Deck reproed the behavior I’d seen on the VM, with that thing bitching about not loading a DLL–I don’t think it likes the 640 build? But turning it off didn’t seem to cause any issues

Once I got all that set up I was able to play.

Running Bleak Falls Barrow

in terms of actual actions taken while running Bleak Falls Barrow, just to switch it up a bit, I attempted a slightly different path up to the barrow’s entrance. I wanted to see if i could get up there all the way by sneaking, partly for variety, and partly because I figured it suited Harrow to be cautious about it, rather than just charging up the steps.

This worked, mostly! I did make it up to the barrow entrance before the bandits noticed me, which gave me a bit of an advantage. Three bandits did notice me, but since I’d made it up to the entrance, I had a pretty good amount of cover and was able to mostly avoid their attempts to shoot at me. Only when they got close enough did I engage them in combat, and then it was Happy Fun Flames to the Face time.

Inside the barrow, these differences stood out for me:

  1. Lots of additional ambient sounds, some of which were creepy and cool and I liked that, kind of appropriate for running a barrow
  2. Different behavior out of the skeevers on the first spiral staircase I reached, I killed one, but the other two freaked out and fled from me
  3. Overall appearance of the barrow was different, in terms of looking more ruined and rocky, not sure if this was a result of Noble Skyrim or Rustic Reliefs or both?

Character-wise, I’m envisioning Harrow as being very much on the cautious end of the characters I’ve run. But also, given the backstory I’m setting up for her, running a barrow would I think hit her differently than the other characters.

For one thing, the memory of what she did to the guy who attacked her is sticking with her. I think when she hit the barrow, she perhaps found it strangely soothing and peaceful. And while she’s not yet to the point of actively wondering if she could control the dead, I bet that started pinging in the back of her mind the instant she saw draugr rising to fight her.

It totally occurred to her, I think, that she will have to see if she can replicate what she did before. But I don’t think she thought to try it while running this barrow specifically. Partly because she had an explicit job to do, and she had arms and other, actually known magic to defend herself. So she didn’t want to take the time. Yet.

As is common, I leveled up quickly running the barrow, and made it up to 5 by the time I got out. So far I’ve dropped perk points on One-handed, as well as activating the “cast this school of magic for half the cost” perks for Conjuration, Illusion, and Restoration. I figure Harrow is going to be a more magically dominant character. But I’ll also have to work on her Sneak perks, that’ll be critical too.

Returning to Riverwood

I toyed with the idea of confronting Anise to claim her cabin. But even given that Harrow is going to wind up being a darker character, I still couldn’t quite bring myself to break into Anise’s cellar, the trigger point to turn her hostile. (I may have to consider a visit to her later, though, once Harrow is a vampire.)

Once I was past her cabin, had a random Redguard run up to attack me. She got Flames to the face. And, notably, actually started screaming about being on fire–a thing which was surely due to the Immersive Citizens mod? Mind you, this didn’t stop her from attacking me. So I kept throwing Flames in her face until she keeled over. At which point, I took all her stuff. Because fuck you lady, that’s why.

Crossed the river at a shallow point to get back to Riverwood, which gave me an opportunity to nab a fish.

And when I came into Riverwood, I was greeted by a courier. I was kind of expecting one, because I’d just hit level 5 and this is the trigger point to get the letter in the AE that begs for your help to stop a necromancer ritual. But this time through, I also got a letter that apparently kicks off the quest for Forgotten City!

Which was interesting for a few reasons:

  1. The letter didn’t just launch on screen for me to read, it also had a spoken track playing while I looked at it, with a female voice narrating the text–which was cool
  2. But it also gave me a prompt to take the letter, which turned out to be buggy; when I did that, I wound up with two copies of the letter in my inventory
  3. And I gotta giggle a little over how the letter writer, Cassia, apparently had heard a bunch of good things about me? Lady, what the hell did you hear and how? I haven’t had time to build a reputation yet!

Once I was back in Riverwood, I noticed the first sign of mods having another new impact on the game, i.e., letting NPCs actually go into the shops. Because when I went into the Riverwood Trader, I also saw Faendal in there! I’m not sure if this is Immersive Citizens having an impact, or maybe Dawn of Skyrim, but regardless I really like this as an addition. If you have shops in a city or town, it absolutely makes sense that the NPCs should periodically go in there.

Harrow bought Lucan out of all of his spellbooks. Including Raise Zombie. Which is the one she was most actively interested in, but I see her playing it totally cool and not letting anything on here.

Returning to Whiterun

On the way back into Whiterun, I saw Bjorlam once again not actually sitting on his cart. He was sitting on a nearby rock, reading a book. Nice! I’ll have to see whether the other carriage drivers have similar additional activities in this run.

Finished out a full set of Leather Scout Armor by buying the helmet (which is actually a hood, but close enough) off of Adrianne at Warmaiden’s, and then making the boots.

And I saw when I went into Belethor’s that a couple of the NPCs were in his shop, too! Ysolda and Saffir, clearly doing some shopping.

I spotted the new Dunmer who’s very likely the owner of the new stalls I saw with Dunmer wares. And I’m pretty sure he’s an addition courtesy of Dawn of Skyrim. Likewise the Argonian I spotted later in the session!

First actual mod problem: the Dragon Rising quest

Once I made it back to Dragonsreach and returned the Dragonstone to Farengar, I ran into the first actual breaking problem of this playthrough. Namely: Female Imperial Guards and Soldiers.

This mod adds in female guards to the Imperial-controlled holds, and this includes Whiterun. Which is great!

Except for any part of the game where the guards actually have scripted dialogue that never got female versions recorded. Like “Dragon Rising”, the part of the main plot that plays out when you return to Whiterun from Bleak Falls Barrow, and get asked to join Irileth’s guard force to fight the dragon at the Western Watchtower.

There are three places where this caused me a problem. The first was when Irileth first comes to Farengar to bring word of the dragon attack, and then asks the player to come and listen to the briefing about it. On my game last night, the guard bringing the report of the attack spawned as female. So she had no lines to actually give to Jarl Balgruuf, and I could not proceed with the conversation to get to the part where Balgruuf asks the player to join the detachment going to check out what’s going on.

I tried a couple different ways to solve this, both in the game’s debug console:

  1. Changing the sex of the spawned guard, but this didn’t help, and I think that’s because doing a sex change on an NPC doesn’t actually change their voice
  2. Setting the stage of the Dragon Rising quest to just past the point of this conversation; that didn’t seem to actually reset the NPCs to appropriate states

How I finally got past this point was just reloading from the autosave that happened when I first entered Dragonsreach to talk to Farengar. I did this a few times, until I finally got that guard to spawn as male.

But then I hit the second problem point, which is when Irileth briefs her detachment of four guards about what’s going on. One of those guards spawned as female too, and therefore couldn’t utter necessary scripted lines. This point, however, seemed a bit less of a problem. I noticed that after a few seconds, I had a quest marker expecting me to go on out through the gate–the part where I’m supposed to rendezvous with Irileth and her guards at the point near the tower. So apparently the game thought that conversation played out even if I didn’t actually hear it.

So I went on out through the gate. Irileth and the guards didn’t seem to follow me properly, as I was alone when I got to the tower. But a few seconds after I showed up, the guard inside who yells about “oh shit the dragon is coming back” did spawn correctly and throw his line, so Mirmulnir showed up. And the fight was on.

At that point Irileth and the other guards caught up. And we were able to take out the dragon. My part of this was archery, pretty much.

After the dragon was dead, I had the third bumpy bit of dialogue breakage. Because that’s the part where one of the guards goes “holy shit you’re Dragonborn!” And then Irileth and the guards have a conversation about it, the guards are all in awe, and Irileth is more practical. That conversation did not play out correctly.

But I did get the quest prompt to go back to Whiterun to report in, so I did that. And had the Greybeards’ summons fire off as expected.

The takeaway from this, for Future Me as well as any other modders who might read this: I need to be sure to read all pages about a mod thoroughly, to find out if there are issues like this. It turns out that these missing lines are a known issue with the Female Imperial Guards and Soldiers mod; there is a discussion thread about it on the mod’s page on Nexus. In theory this should be fixable if somebody generates new female versions of the lines and plugs them in. But this mod hasn’t been updated since December of 2020, so it seems kind of unlikely that the original author might update it?

There are a few other mods that purport to do the same thing, i.e., allowing for female guards in Imperial-controlled Holds, and female Imperial soldiers. Investigation of these to see if any of them have addressed this problem properly is called for.

All that said, I’m pretty sure this should be the only part of the game where this mod is likely to be a problem. This is about the only part of the game where any guards actually have scripted, plot-relevant lines, and which occur only in an Imperial-controlled Hold. (Or at least, in this case, a neutral one, since at this point in the plot Whiterun has not yet committed to the Imperial side of the war.)

But I’ll keep an eye on this and see if it causes any further problems.

One more mod note: new buildings noted

On the way out to the Western Watchtower, I noticed another new building put in by Dawn of Skyrim, I think: a new tavern, a short ways to the west of the stables. I am not entirely sure what I think of yet another building being there! Partly because I’m used to the exterior of Whiterun being open plains for hunting purposes, and now there are multiple new buildings right around the stables. Makes it feel more crowded.

But I’ll have to pop into that tavern and see if it’s cool.

Likewise, there are multiple new shops inside Whiterun, apparently. I saw the enchanter shop which is between Breezehome and the inn. And I’m pretty sure I saw a bakery/food shop in the screenshots on the Dawn of Skyrim page! I am clearly going to have to explore all of Whiterun just to see what else is new.

Next time

This is going to be, at least at first, another of those situations where my character really doesn’t know what to make of her sudden visibility in Whiterun–to the point of being made thane of the place. This, I expect, is going to drive her into being extremely cool and reserved until she can get a better handle on what’s going on.

I have not yet decided for sure whether she’s going to seek out being made a vampire deliberately. I’m currently kind of leaning towards a scenario where it happens to her as part of a vampire attack, as opposed to a thing she deliberately seeks out. And then maybe having her take up Harkon on his offer once I get to the point of running Dawnguard.

And I’ll definitely need to think of how to play this in regards to whatever follower I have at the time. I’m feeling like this’ll be a situation where Harrow will get infected during a fight and won’t realize it at the time, so Lydia or whoever’s following me won’t clue in. Only later, when Harrow starts realizing she’s showing symptoms, is she going to have to decide whether to keep it to herself.

There are also questions here of which vampires might be best to have this trigger. Immediate options that present themselves:

  • Bloodchill Cavern
  • A Daedra’s Best Friend quest
  • Laid to Rest quest
  • Shriekwind Bastion

I will have to think about all of this.

As to what I’ll do next plot-wise in the meantime… hmm. First thing I want to do is explore the new stuff in Whiterun! And then start looking around for work and plot leads. Getting the Bow of Shadows feels super critical. 😀

And I suspect that even if I mostly went “meh” about that plot in Shenner’s playthrough, going to check out that necromancer ritual note she received is in character for Harrow. So I may do that too.


Editing to add

  1. 11/25/2022: I thought I had no screenshots, but I was mistaken, as I discovered when I doublechecked my Deck. I only had two, but I have now included those in this post.
  2. 11/24/2023: Restored missing gallery.

As Angela Highland, Angela is the writer of the Rebels of Adalonia epic fantasy series with Carina Press. As Angela Korra'ti, she writes the Free Court of Seattle urban fantasy series. She's also an amateur musician and devoted fan of Newfoundland and Quebecois traditional music.