Skyrim,  Skyrim Together Playthrough

In Which the Dragonborn Trio Joins the Thieves Guild

Dara, Mel, and I convened for another session of Skyrim Together Reborn this past weekend. We had all the same STR shenanigans we’ve observed before in previous sessions, but this time it was with the added fun of joining the Thieves Guild!

Play by play

  • Play date: 12/10/2022
  • Session number in this run: 4
  • Dara, Mel, and I picked up again in Whiterun
  • I spotted Belethor in “leaning against his counter” mode but actually over by Breezehome
  • We all spotted a random guard dead for no apparent reason in the Wind District, near Heimskr’s preaching spot; several other guards gathered around him, with Idolaf Battle-Born kneeling by the guy checking out what happened
  • Also, Lucia was levitating over the bench nearby!
  • Mel got Farkas to stand down as follower, so we tried to get Lydia following us, but none of us could actually get her following us properly; I saw Lyds briefly phase in and out just outside the Dragonsreach doors, but she never actually came out to follow us correctly
  • So we decided to head to Riften on foot, by road rather than cart
  • Found M’aiq the Liar near White River Watch, then also found the Aspiring Mage NPC
  • Mel failed the Persuade check to get the staff from the Aspiring Mage, so she just went ahead and killed him–and got scolded by M’aiq! LOLOL
  • Dara pickpocketed M’aiq and stole his skooma, also LOLOL
  • Passed Valtheim Towers again but we’d already cleared the place
  • Fought assorted critters but noticed a distinct trend of them not registering as the same kind of critter for us
  • Passed an Orc skooma dealer, and while Mel was talking to him, Dara pickpocketed all the skooma off of him too, and and then Mel killed him
  • Reached Fort Amol and explored it, killed a bunch of necromancers and other hostile mages, although we’re pretty sure we didn’t actually clear the place fully; all three of us were fried by mages at assorted points
  • Continued to follow the roads and killed assorted creatures, including a trio of wolves, one of which did some deeply creepy looking wibbling of its legs in Dara’s POV of the game, so she recorded a few seconds of creepywolf
  • Passed the steps leading up to Northwind Summit (dragon lair) and Northwind Mine, but we didn’t explore them, not for now
  • Passed Shor’s Watchtower and reached Shor’s Stone
  • Found the NPC Azadi at Shor’s Stone who was the trigger for the Remnants quest
  • Mel brawled with him but local NPCs reacted in weird ways to this, so really not clear if the brawl here was being parsed correctly by the NPCs? Mel did get the guy to the point of saying “we’ll be in touch”, at which point I saw him clipped into the ground
  • We proceeded south to Riften, and chose the path that took us straight through Fort Greenwall; killed a bunch of the bandits there, but again, pretty sure we didn’t completely clear the place?
  • Khajiit were on hand, so Mel and I stopped to talk to them; Ahkari was rendering weirdly, her face was showing up pale
  • Mel and I both failed the Persuade check to get past the guard at the gate giving us the shakedown for the “visitor tax”; Dara however got through, and once she did that, we were able to get into Riften okay
  • Dara also triggered the initial conversation with Maul
  • Dara also took a break at about this point, so Mel and I derped around Riften a lot
  • Mel got various side quests queued up, including talking to Brynjolf in the inn so we could get the Thieves Guild started
  • Mel robbed the Temple of Mara XD
  • A bunch of the guards rendered as naked; I spotted one of the women who had warpaint on her face similar to Mjoll, with one half of her face unpainted, the other half dark
  • Saw Mjoll and Aerin near the forge and Mjoll was acting like she was trying to improve armor at the workbench, but not actually at the workbench
  • Hadn’t really appreciated before that Madesi starts selling stuff at 6am?
  • Dara snuck down to the lower level of the city and broke into all the apartments, including Beggar’s Row where Madesi lives with the two beggars (and this is possibly why Madesi is that anxious to sell his jewelry?)
  • Mel got the show running with Brynjolf; pickpocketing achieved! And we got Brynjolf’s directive to get into the Ragged Flagon!
  • Another incident of Dara not seeing AE content, because she didn’t see the note on the door to the Ratway, or the ghost. or the grill with the entrance to the extra area; we filed that for later investigation and proceeded to the part where we join the Guild
  • Discovered a surprise with Ingun Black-Briar being in the Ratway, in the same room with the generic “Lowlife” NPC; Mel accidentally killed Ingun, oops, and we kinda all like her so we rolled back from that
  • Second time through: Mel avoided a lot of the fight just to keep from hitting Ingun
  • Made it into the Flagon, and while Mel did the talking to Brynjolf to get us into the Guild, Dara pickpocketed both Delvin and Vekel the Man
  • We got int! And sent off to intimidate the shopkeepers
  • We tried a strategy of each of us taking one, but that didn’t work, so Mel had to do all three
  • Meanwhile Dara pickpocketed Keerava, but couldn’t sell her back the meat pie she’d just swiped out of her pockets, snerk
  • Came back to the Guild to report in, and Brynjolf proclaimed us official
  • Went to talk to Mercer Frey, at which point Mel started throwing Unrelenting Force at him, LOLOLOLOL
  • Got the quest to go hit Goldenglow Estate, and got our Thieves Guild armor from Tonilia; Dara and I changed into it, but Mel stayed with her heavy armor which she prefers
  • Decided to call a halt here
  • We tried to see if Mel could take Meridia’s Beacon by putting it into the chest by the player-owned bed in the Thieves Guild Cistern
  • Did a little investigating of Dara’s setup and discovered her Skyrim Together did not think the AE was installed; we worked on fixing that some, and now she can see some AE content, like the access into the new area of the ratway, but not the backpacks I already had in my inventory
  • Paused there until next time

Initial action in Whiterun

It was a little odd to me that we had an incident of “guard dead in Whiterun for no apparent reason”, when I’d seen the same thing recently over in my Survival Mode playthrough! This time, though, the dead guard was surrounded by a few other guards, as well as Idolaf Battle-Born kneeling next to him in a general “Oh shit, what just happened?” kind of way.

A little disappointing that we couldn’t get Lydia into a proper mode to follow us, even with having Farkas stand down. Not sure what’s up with that. I was the only one apparently able to get Lydia to answer “Lead the way” when I asked her to follow me–but even given that, Lyds didn’t follow me out of Dragonsreach. When I went out through the doors, I saw a brief flicker that looked like her trying to actually phase through the doors, while also still sitting down.

But we didn’t poke at this for very long. The advantage to running STR here being, if you have a party of three actual Dragonborns, the need for having your housecarl follow you is reduced! Still though it’d be nice if we could get at least one follower (that isn’t Farkas) keeping up with us regularly. We’ll see how the next session goes, and if Lyds decides to show up at some point as if she’d been following us the whole time!

Going to Riften

Did you know you can actually pickpocket M’aiq the Liar? I didn’t, not before this session!

But we found him at the spawn point near White River Watch, as well as the Aspiring Mage NPC I’ve run into a few times in my actual playthroughs. And while Mel was busy talking to the Aspiring Mage and eventually killing him to take his staff (because he refused to give it up), Dara pickpocketed M’aiq and stole all his skooma.

We also learned at this point that M’aiq can in fact scold you! We’re not entirely sure what he was specifically reacting to–either Dara pickpocketing him, or Mel killing the Aspiring Mage. Either way: LOLOL.

Of course, then he promptly went over to kneel by the poor ex-mage and threw the reaction line of “Oh, what happened,” so he apparently forgot that he’d just witnessed a murder. Snerk. This is what he gets for carrying around all that skooma.

As is usual if you’re traversing the roads of Skyrim, we encountered and fought a bunch of critters. But we also noticed a distinct trend of the critters registering as different beasts. For example, Mel would see a bear but Dara and I would see a sabre cat. We also had at least one occurrence of an animal that rendered as a skeever with a wolf tail.

We also found an Orc skooma dealer, and while Mel was talking to him, Dara pickpocketed all his skooma off of him. And Mel killed him. We are clearly going to be a goddamn problem for any NPCs carrying skooma.

Aside from Delga’s run in the civil war in her playthrough, I don’t think I’d ever actually been in Fort Amol. But since we found the place, we decided to try to clear it. This went only somewhat okay. All three of us got fried by mages at various points, and I’m not sure if we actually got all the hostiles in the place. But the wiki also says that Fort Amol is not in fact clearable. So if we did get all the hostiles in the place, the game wasn’t able to actually confirm that!

Beginning the Interception quest

When we reached Shor’s Stone, we found Azadi, the NPC who’s the hook for starting the Interception quest. This is the AE quest you can run to get the Remnant armor. Those of you who’ve read along on my Shenner playthrough may recall that I liked that armor pretty well, and spent a fair amount of time wearing it in her playthrough.

Mel brawling with him here, though, was a bit of a mess. We saw various NPCs reacting differently–some shouting out the usual “are you going to take that? Fight!” kinds of lines that happen during a brawl in a standard Skyrim game. But I also saw the smith Filnjar yelling for help, and a guard over on the right yelling along the lines of “stop in the name of the Jarl!”–though that guard never actually came over to interfere in the proceedings.

So the game seemed clearly confused about whether Mel was assaulting Azadi or not. Azadi himself seemed to take it as a legit brawl, and he did deliver his line about “We’ll be in touch.” But he also did this while, at least in my POV, clipped into the road! So we’ll have to see if we eventually get the courier with the next phase of the quest.

Reaching Riften

Between Shor’s Stone and Riften was, of course, Fort Greenwall. I asked Dara and Mel if they wanted to go around or through the fort, and the consensus was “through”. So we amused ourselves fighting bandits there for a little while.

Like Amol, Fort Greenwall is marked as not clearable on the wiki. But it’s bigger than Amol, with more zones. Not sure if we hit all of it between us or not? We did get separated a few times, particularly at a trapdoor up to the top of a little tower, which had a lock in weird states and which Dara and Mel both had to pick to get through, both climbing up and climbing back.

Once we got to Riften, we found Ahkari’s Khajiit caravan hanging out outside, so both Mel and I stopped to talk to them. I noticed that Ahkari’s face was rendering weirdly; she’s normally black-furred, but this time I saw her with a pale white face.

We had trouble getting in through the Riften gates. Neither Mel nor I passed the Persuade check to get past the guard demanding the “visitor tax”, but Dara did make it, so that was enough to let us get in.

Dara wanted a bit of a break at this point, so Mel and I spent some time derping around Riften. Mel spent this time doing the following:

  • Cueing up assorted side quests
  • Talking to Brynjolf in the inn so we could be ready to run the pickpocketing scam to get into the Guild
  • Robbing the Temple of Mara XD

And while she was doing that, I noted the following:

  • A bunch of the guards were naked, but not all of them
  • One of the female guards who had no clothes on had facepaint like Mjoll’s, with one half of her face painted dark
  • And speaking of Mjoll, I saw her and Aerin not far from the forge, with Mjoll acting like she was trying to improve armor at the workbench–while Balimund was at the workbench, so I got doubled workbench noises, which was weird

I don’t think I’d really registered in my other playthroughs that Madesi is at his stall in the market earlier than everybody else. He shows up at 6am, where most merchants start their selling at 8am game time. So apparently he’s really anxious to sell his jewelry!

Which ties into Dara’s activity here, once she came back from her break. She started breaking into the various apartments on the lower level of the city–not the Ratway proper, but the lower water level that leads to the access to the Ratway. I’d never actually been in any of those living quarters before! But Dara mentioned she found where Madesi lives. And when I look that up on the wiki, I see he lives in the same Beggar’s Row as Snilf and Edda, the two beggars in town.

(I’m a little sad that Madesi has to live in Beggar’s Row? But, well, all of the cities of Skyrim have shown themselves to not be exactly kind to their beggars. The ones in Riften get shit for not looking for work, but do any other NPCs actually offer them work? Madesi at least appears to have a job, but he must not be making very good money at it. Clearly, this must be why he feels like he has to set up his stall at 6am!)

Mind you, Dara didn’t actually steal anything down there, she just wanted to get into the spaces! But she got plenty of opportunity shortly thereafter to swipe stuff. Hold that thought.

A Chance Arrangement quest

Unfortunately for both Madesi and Brand-Shei, we were there for important Joining the Thieves Guild business! And so Mel got things underway with Brynjolf and the plot to plant Madesi’s ring on Brand-Shei.

Since Mel had to be the one running this action as our party leader, that left me free to pay more attention to what Brynjolf was saying to his onlookers, which was kind of fun. And I caught a line of Madesi’s I hadn’t noticed before, where he snarks at Brynjolf for previously having hawked “wisp essence” which turned out to just be nirnroot mixed with water. Which does lead one to wonder exactly how many variations of the Falmerblood Elixir scheme Brynjolf’s tried to run before the player shows up in Riften. 😀 Given the shitty state of the Thieves Guild when you arrive in town, chances seem fairly high he’s tried multiple variations of this, just to see what actually sells!

Mel had little problem getting the job done. And we got the directive to actually make it through the Ratway and to the Ragged Flagon!

Taking Care of Business quest

Which was the first point where we discovered that Dara maybe wasn’t actually running the Anniversary Edition at all. Because if you have the AE active, when you get to the entrance to the Ratway, you should see the note posted there by the Riften guards that gives you the hook for the Dawnfang & Duskfang quest. Mel and I saw the note, but Dara didn’t.

Dara also didn’t see the access point into the Guardian Vault part of the Ratway, which is added in by the Dawnfang & Duskfang quest. She did see the circular grill in the wall, but it didn’t register as a usable exit to her. But we elected to come back to this later, and instead proceed to the Flagon to get into the Guild.

Our next surprise came when we got to the part of the Ratway where you have to fight a generic “Lowlife” NPC. Because somebody we didn’t expect was also in the room: Ingun Black-Briar!

In the fight that ensued, Mel actually accidentally killed Ingun, because Ingun insisted on getting in the way and took a few too many hits. We took a pause at this point, and agreed we’d all roll back to our previous saves–because Mel and I both like Ingun as an NPC, and her quest to fetch ingredients is a good one to run.

She spawned again the second time through, but this time Mel took care to avoid hitting her. And Ingun actually defended herself pretty credibly against the Lowlife! When I looked up Ingun’s wiki page, I saw that the game actually classifies her as an “Assassin”. Which makes her interest in poisons rather more interesting, I feel! Is she trying to set herself up for a career with the Dark Brotherhood?

What was not clear in this encounter: what the hell Ingun was doing in the Ratway to begin with. I know of no circumstances that would trigger Ingun’s presence down there. The Ratway is not part of her usual NPC schedule, and as far as I know, nothing in the AE gives her any reason to be down there either.

This wasn’t a situation like a bunch of the others we’ve seen, where an NPC who should be somewhere in a city appears somewhere else entirely, and is stuck in a pose and such. Ingun wasn’t clipping through anything, and didn’t seem to behave as if she were actually somewhere else, like Elgrim’s shop. But she was definitely hostile to the Lowlife.

Kind of wondering whether the game tried to spawn her in the shop and overshot to the Ratway instead? And she landed in the room with the Lowlife, and attacked her.

But at least from an IC perspective, I also amuse myself with the thought that she was down there to try to desperately bribe the Thieves Guild to help her replace Elgrim’s ingredients. Maybe to get them to go steal some from some other alchemist? LOL.

Once we got safely past the Lowlife without killing Ingun, we made it into the Flagon! And Mel got the conversation underway with Brynjolf to get us officially into the Guild.

At which point Dara snuck around behind Delvin and pickpocketed him. And then went around the bar and pickpocketed Vekel the Man, too. LOLOLOLOL. There are advantages to joining the Thieves Guild in a team!

Next item of business after that: going to intimidate the shopkeepers. We wanted to try a strategy of each of us taking one, but that didn’t work out. Dara wasn’t able to get the correct conversation prompt from Keerava in the Bee and Barb, and I found the Pawned Prawn locked when I tried to go talk to Bersi Honey-Hand. So after she got done intimidating Haelga, Mel swung around to lockpick the Pawned Prawn and take care of talking to Bersi, and then she hit the inn to talk to Keerava.

This did not, however, stop Dara from pickpocketing Keerava. Though she could not sell her back the meat pie she stole!

Meet the Family quest, and Loud and Clear quest

Then it was time to report back to Brynjolf–and by extension, Mercer “Murderous Lying Bastard” Frey. Any of you who’ve read my previous Thieves Guild playthroughs will understand why exactly Mel, on general principles, started throwing Unrelenting Force at Mercer every few seconds while he was delivering his lines.

“‘Scuse me, gotta sneeze! FUS!” LOLOLOL.

We got the Thieves Guild armor from Tonilia, which Dara and I both changed into. Mel elected to stay in her heavy armor, which she prefers.

We also got the quest to go hit Goldenglow Estate, but we decided not to run it yet, we’ll get to that next time maybe? Dara called dibs on breaking into the safe to get the info we need to steal, and I called dibs on setting the beehives on fire.

Trying to fix Meridia’s Beacon

Once we stopped officially playing, we tried to see if Dara could hand off Meridia’s Beacon to Mel so we could activate that quest properly. Answer: no. Since we now had the player-designated bed and chest in the Thieves Guild Cistern, we used that chest to try to pass the Beacon from Dara to Mel, and then to me. But it wouldn’t activate for either Mel or me.

So we don’t know at this point if the Beacon is fucked. I think in theory we should be able to still go to the Statue of Meridia and start the quest that way.

But this may turn into a situation where we’ll need to invoke the debug console, if we want to run the quest to get Dawnbreaker. We’ll find out.

Discovery that Dara Wasn’t Actually Running the AE

After we all got done officially playing, Dara and I poked at the status of the Anniversary Edition on her system a little further. And we finally verified that though both her vanilla Skyrim and her exe for Skyrim Together were showing the gold AE logo, STR didn’t think the content was actually installed.

So she finally got that fixed. And the immediate result of this was that she was then able to see the access point in the Ratway into the new section featured in the Dawnfang & Duskfang plot.

She was not, however, able to see the backpack I was wearing. Or see the extra backpack I put into a chest for her.

So we will need to keep an eye on this the next time we play, and see whether any newly spawned AE content is something Dara can see. We’ll also have to see what happens once we’re connected to the server and synced up again properly.

The other open question here is whether this will resolve any of the oddness we’ve been seeing with NPCs moving in weird ways, objects floating off in strange directions, and such. I kind of suspect not, just because from what I’ve learned by getting into Skyrim modding, once you start a game with a fucked-up mod situation, a lot of critical scripts are baked into your playthrough in progress. And you can’t really expect to resolve them without doing a new playthrough.

But we’ll see! I might be wrong!

Meanwhile, I had to drop SkyUI

Mel likes SkyUI, so we’d included that in our set of agreed upon mods for this playthrough. But I’ve found it highly problematic while playing STR on the Deck.

The reason for this: if I’m trying to interact with a chest with SkyUI active, I’m expected to hit the Wait button in order to change between the chest’s contents and my inventory. And for whatever reason, I cannot for the life of me get this to work on the Deck. It’s been problematic when trying to shop with merchants, too.

I don’t know what’s going on with this. I have not noticed this issue in my modded playthrough with Harrowhark, but STR is not involved there.

I also realized, though, why SkyUI’s UI kind of bugs me. In Skyrim’s UI, if I hit the B button on my controller, I get the compass rose that points off to Inventory, Map, Magic, and Skills. I can flip back and forth between Inventory and Magic.

If I’m running without SkyUI, then the listing for my inventory shows up on the left side of my screen. The listing for Magic shows up on the right. There’s a certain symmetry and balance to that.

But if I’m running with SkyUI, both lists render on the left of the screen. So I lose that visual symmetry, and this just kind of nags at me.

So I’ll be removing SkyUI from future sessions in this playthrough. Things are already fairly shaky stability-wise, so I’m pretty sure this won’t make things any worse? Maybe. I hope. 😀

Next time

Dunno yet! We do have the tasty Goldenglow Estate quest to run, so we’ll have to decide if we want to proceed with that–and work out the challenges of how to have three Dragonborns sneaking through the place, vs. just one. Or if we’re in the mood to do something else!


As with last time, all of us got screenshots, so here are those!

First, mine:

Then Dara’s:

And here’s Mel’s:

Dara also got a video of the creepy rendering wolf! Here’s that:

Editing to add

  • 11/25/2023: Restored missing galleries.

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.