This was a very eventful session, in which I managed to get both Goldenhills Plantation and Hendraheim for Kendis, and also finally make it up to High Hrothgar to see the Greybeards. At which point I discovered exactly how big of a problem Survival Mode makes out of getting up and down High Hrothgar.
Play by play
- Play date: 12/14/2022
- Session number in this run: 6
- Picked up just outside Dragonsreach
- Went down to the forge and made a couple of things just to clear mats out of my inventory, and sold them to Adrianne
- Went to Jorrvaskr and dropped a bunch of things off in the dresser to pull the carry weight down further
- Headed out to try to go to Hendraheim
- Stopped at the stables and bought the Wild Horses book
- Headed west towards the Reach, took me three tries to get from Whiterun to Hendraheim
- Take one:
- Spotted giant + cow near the Western Watchtower, did not get close enough to giant to engage
- Killed a few wolves
- Passed Ri’saad’s Khajiit en route to Whiterun
- Passed a mercenary
- Killed by a thief 🙁
- Take two:
- Thrown back to coming out of the Whiterun gates
- Re-did buying the Wild Horses notes
- Found farmer refugees, gave them gold
- Re-spotted giant + cow, again avoided
- Re-spotted Ri’saad’s caravan
- Re-killed a couple of wolves
- This time killed by sabre cat near crossroads
- Take three:
- Thrown back this time to crossroads near the stables
- Passed Thalmor + prisoner this time
- But also Khajiit, and a mercenary this time going the other way
- This time took out that fucking sabre cat, with Lydia + flame atronach
- Made it all the way to Hendraheim–and promptly killed by Eydvina
- Take four leaving Whiterun:
- Thrown back to the crossroads near Whiterun
- Dark Brotherhood Argonian assassin, dispatched, which got me yet another steel sword
- Khajiit thief, dispatched
- Killed some wolves, and once again, that fucking sabre cat
- NEW PLAN! This time I diverted to Rorikstead; rented a room at the inn to warm up and to sleep
- Got up the next morning and reached Lund’s Hut
- Fought the skeevers, though Lydia mostly took them out, both outside and inside the hut
- Got the armor and other loot out of Lund’s chest
- Came out and found the Imperial captain and two wardens; took them out too
- Gave Lyds the silver armor
- Stopped to buy the goat from the Rorikstead farmer, then headed over to Goldenhills to do the ghost plot
- Took a bit to find the well, I think that happened the first time through as well
- Spotted Legate Quentin Cipius, oddly enough, just standing out in the wild near Gjukar’s Monument
- Found a hunter and bought a couple of pelts off him
- Killed the wolves nearby the well once I went in the right direction
- Spotted a flyby dragon
- Got the kid’s sword and brought it back, then slept in the upstairs room there once the place was de-haunted
- Got up and planted some crops to get that going so I can have a food source at the place, and got objective to hire a steward
- Headed over to Hendraheim to try the place once again; three times through though and I finally took out Eydvina, so now Hendraheim is mine and I have a couple of way stations between Whiterun and points west
- Swapped into the scaled armor Eydvina had been wearing; left my Scout armor on one of the mannequins
- Dropped off all the books I was carrying
- Grabbed a bunch of food ingredients
- Did a little smithing by the forge outside and made some more Leather Scout Armor, this time to sell
- Headed back towards Whiterun
- Stormcloaks vs. Thalmor battle! Stayed out of range, watched the Thalmor win
- Started looting a few useful things off the Stormcloaks while I spotted Ri’saad’s Khajiit approaching, heading back towards Markarth, and then I sold them stuff
- Thalmor came back and made threatening noises but I backed off
- Got the level up for 12 (but couldn’t take it yet because not near a bed)
- Headed over towards Rannveig’s Fast
- Passed farmer on the way to Stormcloaks, then cut overland and reached Rannveig’s Fast; killed a couple of ghosts outside
- Dragon overhead, probably Eldersblood Peak dragon, did not engage
- Killed Sild quickly, and killed as few ghosts as possible, then got back out
- Killed at Greenspring Hollow by sabre cat after it gave me Witbane; thrown back to coming out of Rannveig’s Fast
- Used one of my campsite kits so I could get a sleep and level up; took Magicka perk and first Conjuration perk to cut cost of calling the flame atronach
- Headed back towards Whiterun and finally found the wild red horse not far from the stables; tamed him!
- Returned to the stable and registered a name for the horse: Lightning; also paid to put steel armor on him
- Returned to Farkas to get his payment for taking out Sild
- Slept at the inn, then went out the next day on Lightning to get to High Hrothgar
- Took the path through Riverwood and past Helgen; made it okay through the snowy stretch past Haemar’s Shame
- Ran into wolves near the Alchemist’s Shack; Lightning wound up killing the wolves
- Tamed Thistle the bunny with a carrot, while Lydia caught up and i got all the ingredients out of the shack–including two very, very necessary fire salts
- Made it to Ivarstead, parked the horse, and got a room at the inn to rest up
- Got the innkeeper’s info on Shroud Hearth Barrow
- Then attempted next morning to get up to High Hrothgar–a HELLUVA BIGGER PROBLEM in Survival Mode
- Killed on the way up by snowy sabre cat, but got it the second time through
- Very quickly got to the point of freezing partway up and had to spend a camping kit to warm up
- Bypassed the frost troll at emblem 5
- Did not bother with the emblems because needed to get to High Hrothgar pronto
- Spent second campsite a little further up, probably around emblem 7 or 8?
- Dropped off the supplies and got into High Hrothgar finally; warmed up while Arngeir was talking
- Did the Dragonborn trial, but when I went out back for the Whirlwind Sprint test, saw that the air was ‘treacherously cold’, so I ran over to the nearby fire to warm up instead of listening to the speech about Whirlwind Sprint; then ran back over and passed the trial anyway
- Got the directive to get the Horn; did not take any of Arngeir’s other dialogue prompts because again, cold as balls on this mountain
- Hurried back inside and then back out again to bolt towards the campsite as only immediately nearby source of fire and sleeping; warmed up and also slept
- Tried three different times to get down the mountain
- First time down: saw a dragon coming, went oh fuck and tried to outrun it, and killed myself tripping down the damn mountainside
- Second time down: fried by the dragon
- Third time down: still got the dragon but it didn’t attack, just a flyby, so finally made it back down to Ivarstead
- Cue the Miraak cultists! Guards and Lydia killed them, but I couldn’t find where their flame atronach blew up so didn’t get the salts <cry>
- Finally crashed at the inn to rest up and warm up
- Saved until next time
Heading towards the Reach and first try at Hendraheim
It took me three tries to make it from Whiterun to Hendraheim, and on the third try, I was immediately killed by Eydvina. So that was frustrating.
The lesson I should take from this: even though you get the challenge from Eydvina when you hit level 10, level 10 may not really be a good time for you to take her up on this. Or even 11, which is where I was at the time. Eydvina comes armed with a Nordic sword that does fire damage, and she’s wearing scaled armor, so at level 10-11 she’s probably better armored and armed than you are.
Going back and checking my Shenner post about confronting Eydvina, I see that I confronted her in that playthrough at about the same level, and it took Shenner a few tries too. Plus, Shenner had to let Lydia and Barbas do most of the work. Likewise with the run on Hendraheim I just did with Harrow, where Lydia and Vilja did most of the work.
Takeaway from this: if you want to get Hendraheim shortly after receiving Eydvina’s challenge, you better show up with a posse. And also be prepared to hit her at range with a bow.
Otherwise, you better be able to take a hit from a Nordic Sword of Scorching. Kendis was wearing Leather Scout Armor and this was not adequate at close range. Future Me, or anybody else going after Hendraheim: plan accordingly.
Getting the silver armor at Lund’s Hunt
And after three tries at that, it was clearly time for a different plan. So I diverted to Rorikstead, with the intent of going to Lund’s Hut and getting that silver armor for Lydia.
This, by contrast, played out without any issues. Lydia did most of the work taking out the skeevers inside and outside the hut. And we got a party of three hostiles, not two, when we came back outside. I was better able to help Lydia out with them, and that fight was over reasonably quickly.
Result: Lydia getting the silver armor!
Also, since I was there anyway, I stopped to buy Hilda the goat. Y’all may recall that I was underwhelmed by the Pets of Skyrim content in Shenner’s run. But here’s the thing: pets can help you carry stuff, and in Kendis’ run, with the constraints placed on carry weight by Survival Mode, being able to hand things off to pets may be a fuckton more useful. So I’m giving that content another go.
Getting Goldenhills Plantation
I decided to make getting Goldenhills a priority, if nothing else because it’s a farm and therefore a reasonably easy to acquire source of vegetables. And by extension: source material for making soups.
This being my second time playing through this plot, I report that I still quite like it. And while I didn’t call it out in Shenner’s post about getting Goldenhills, I’m pretty sure I had trouble at that point finding the well that Rin had fallen into. So reminder note to Future Me: the well is southeast of the farm, towards Gjukar’s Monument. It may or may not be where you find the wolves.
I had enough veg on me to plant out at least some of one of the fields, but I will definitely have to come back later to get a steward assigned to the place so I can start collecting money off of it, and build it out properly as well.
Lydia, I note, did not volunteer to be steward as I’ve seen housecarls do a lot at the built Hearthfire houses. So what that tells me is, you explicitly have to hire a follower as steward at Goldenhills.
Interesting side note here: while looking for the well, I came across Legate Quentin Cipius just standing out in the middle of nowhere, not far from the aforementioned monument. Apparently this is a known bug? He spawns where the Whiterun Imperial Camp is supposed to be if you join the Stormcloaks. And furthermore, if you fight for the Imperials, a duplicate copy of him will show up in Whiterun!
Since this is a Switch playthrough, I’m running without mods. So looks like there will probably be duplicate Quentins in Kendis’ run, because yeah, chances are good I’m going to fight the war with her. He did in fact give me the quest objective to join the Imperials, and I have a pretty strong argument for doing so: bypassing the need to do the peace council at High Hrothgar. And by extension, minimizing the number of times I’ll need to get up there.
But more on this later.
Getting Hendraheim, take two
After acquiring the farm, I still felt bound and determined to try for Hendraheim. This is Survival Mode, so a recommended tactic is to try to do as many quests within range of a given location as you can, before you have to travel again.
So I headed back over there to make another go at it. It took me a few tries, because as I mentioned above, Eydvina one-shotted me as soon as she got close enough.
What finally worked was a combo of:
- Casting Oakflesh
- Bow of Shadows + ebony arrows (trying to hang onto these as long as possible for more difficult opponents)
- Flame atronach
- Going into Sneak immediately and letting Lydia handle most of the fighting ;P
So now Hendraheim is mine!
Next item on the agenda: clearing Rannveig’s Fast because of the quest for it from Farkas.
Ran this place as fast as I could, got in and out with no problems to speak of. Lyds and I had to kill a couple of the exterior ghosts, and I tried to avoid killing as many of the interior ghosts as I could. I know we missed a couple.
And while I saw a dragon on the way in, probably the Eldersblood Peak dragon, it didn’t come down for battle so I didn’t have to engage it.
This time through I note that I saw Lydia seem to trigger the trap door by the Word Wall but not fall through. So that trap door seems a little buggy, at least in terms of when your follower triggers it. I saw what looked like her standing on an invisible floor, when I went over there to check out why I’d heard Sild start yelling but didn’t see Lydia fall through.
Eight playthroughs in and it’s still very satisfying to lockpick my way out of Sild’s cage and then just kill the fucker. Next time through, maybe with Harrow, I’ll just have to kill him faster. Maybe resurrect his dead assistant. 😀
On the way out of Rannveig’s Fast, at least the first time through, I was promptly killed by a sabre cat at Greenspring Hollow. Second time through, I gave that area a wide berth.
Getting a horse, finally!
Next item on the agenda: getting a horse. Getting a mount ASAP is another recommended Survival Mode tactic, for two big reasons:
- You can’t fast travel, and having a horse will let you move faster
- If like me you are prone to getting chronically overloaded coming out of dungeons, having a horse will be invaluable in letting you get back to places where you can sell all your accumulated loot without wrecking your Stamina
“But Anna,” you might be saying, “horses suck in Skyrim!”
Not if you have access to the Wild Horses Creation, they don’t.
What you should do about this depends on what flavor of Skyrim you’re running.
If you have the full Anniversary Edition, you should also have access to the Wild Horses content. This will give you access to the ability to hunt down and tame up to seven wild horses, as well as the unicorn I was so delighted by in Shenner’s playthrough. The critical thing to keep in mind about all of these mounts is, they are unkillable, because they’re marked as Essential. And if your horse is unkillable, this makes all the difference in the world about how useful your horse will be.
If you have the Special Edition and you haven’t bought the Anniversary Edition upgrade, if you bought your Skyrim on Steam, you probably have access to Survival Mode anyway because Bethesda and Valve gave out Survival Mode for free to Special Edition owners (along with Fishing, Rare Curios, and Saints and Seducers). In this scenario, assuming you actively want to try Survival Mode, I would strongly urge you to consider going ahead and upgrading to the AE. Because not only will you get access to Wild Horses, you’ll also get the Camping content, and this will save your ass in Survival Mode if you have to go into freezing areas. Like I did in this session. (More on this below.)
If you don’t want to pony (pony! HAR) up for the AE, your other options are:
- Find out if you can buy the Wild Horses Creation as a standalone, the individual Creations are (I think) still on sale
- Consider doing a modded playthrough and running a horse-related mod (such as Immersive Horses)
- Hold out until you can get Arvak via Dawnguard
- Run the quest to get Frost in Riften
- Join the Dark Brotherhood and hang in there long enough to get Shadowmere
However, options 3, 4, and 5 here all contradict the whole “get a horse as fast as possible” question here. And since I’m running the AE here, all I had to do to get a horse was buy the Wild Horses notes from the guy at the Whiterun stables. This thing gives you a book of notes about where the seven wild horses have been sighted, and you also get a map with their rough locations marked out. This costs only 250 gold, which is 1/4th the price of just buying a horse from a stable outright.
Best of all: one of these wild horses is just a short distance from Whiterun. You don’t even have to look very hard for it. It’s just a short walk roughly northwest of the stables!
So I nabbed that horse, rode him enough to tame him, and now I have a horse. <3 I took him over to the stables to register and name him, and let the randomly selected “Lightning” name stick. I also paid up for steel armor for the horse, since I had elven armor on the unicorn in Shenner’s playthrough and I wanted to see what the steel armor would look like.
Going to see the Greybeards
And here, finally, was where the horse first started proving immensely useful. To get to the Greybeards this time, I decided to take the route through Riverwood and past Helgen, which lets you swing down and head east past Haemar’s Shame. The good thing about this route, even though it’s longer and more circuitous than the route that leads east from Whiterun, is that it’s roads or at least well-trodden trails the entire way.
The area right around Haemar’s Shame is problematic because it’s snowy–but I didn’t get any worse than “Chilly”, riding through there. And I made it to the Alchemist’s Shack with no problems, where I stopped to pick up Thistle the bunny (see above commentary re: pets), and critical ingredients, including two fire salts known to spawn there.
I made it into Ivarstead with no problems, and then finally got to the point of trying to head up the steps to High Hrothgar. At which point I learned exactly how much bigger a deal getting up the 7,000 steps is in Survival Mode. I thought I was adequately prepared. I was mistaken.
Because here’s the thing–shortly after the second emblem, it starts getting cold. Fast. I got to the point of “Freezing” very, very quickly. On the Survival Mode ranking of Cold status, “Freezing” is the second worst, just above “Numb”. And the wiki says point blank that if you reach the worst level of Cold, your health will hit zero and you will die from exposure to the elements.
(Practically speaking, I see on the wiki that “Freezing” actually covers a pretty large range of Cold values, so it’s possible I could have made it farther along without dropping into “Numb”? But that doesn’t seem like a thing I’d want to fuck around with!)
So just after the third marker, I dropped an emergency campsite so I could stop and warm up. This is the only thing that saved my bacon. I had on fur armor (though not a full set, I don’t have the helmet yet). I was carrying a torch. And I even ate a hot soup. But this barely put a dent in how fast I got cold.
Once I got back to the status of “Warm”, I tried to move on. I very explicitly avoided the frost troll near the fifth emblem, by going the long way around the large rocky hill by its lair, because I did not have the time to stop and fight the thing in these conditions. I had to get to High Hrothgar pronto.
I had one other campsite kit on me, and I wound up having to set up that one, too, right around the 7th or 8th emblem. Once I warmed up there, I was finally able to bolt to High Hrothgar, drop off Klimmek’s supplies in the chest, and scamper inside ASAP to warm up and talk to Arngeir.
At that point I was able to do the initial Dragonborn tests. But I wasn’t off the hook yet. Because I still had to go out back and do the part where they teach you the first word of Whirlwind Sprint.
And as soon as I went outside, I got a message saying that the air was “treacherously cold”. Shit.
So as soon as I got the first word of the Shout, I bolted over to the fire close to the steps that lead up to Paarthurnax, rather than actually standing around listening to the speech about Whirlwind Sprint.
“Apologies, M-M-Master Arngeir, but it is cold as balls out here, can you m-m-maybe teach me a Shout for b-b-breathing fire, I don’t know if I can Shout when I am freezing to death, okay okay fine, WULD! D-Divines’ sake, can I go in now?”
But I still wasn’t off the hook. Because even though I’d made it up the mountain and passed the Greybeards’ tests, I still had to get back down the mountain.
And here’s another problem: there are no beds for the Dragonborn inside High Hrothgar. And they don’t have any cooking spits, either! So I couldn’t use those fire salts I’d gotten at the Alchemist’s Shack to make more hot soups!
I had no choice but to go back outside again and run like hell to the last campsite I’d dropped, as my only immediate place where I could sleep. And have a source of heat. So I have to envision Lydia and Kendis sleeping in shifts in this little camp, one of them sleeping while the other one tended the fire. And Lydia probably deliberately taking a longer shift, because she’s the Nord and more resistant to cold, and also so that she could protect her thane.
It took me three tries to actually make it down the mountain–complicated by not only the frigid conditions trying to kill me, but a fucking dragon showing up.
This is perhaps the first time ever, in my history of playing Skyrim, where I actively went oh fuck and tried to run like hell to avoid the dragon, vs. stopping to actually fight it. Because I was not confident I wouldn’t freeze to death before I could kill it, and I didn’t want to try. But in my haste to try to outrun it, I wound up killing myself anyway, because I took a wrong turn and tumbled down the mountainside. Ow.
The second time down, I got fried by the dragon.
Third time down, the dragon spawned again, but this time it was a flyby and did not attack me!
This time through, I’d slept late enough in my camp that it stopped snowing, so I could get down the mountain without freezing to death. But even without the dragon strafing me, but it took a torch and also nomming several snowberries.
So I finally made it back down to Ivarstead. At which point, cue the Miraak cultists! And their flame atronach!
And honestly, after damn near freezing her ass off coming back down the mountain, I gotta think the proximity of a flame atronach, even a hostile one, must have been a relief for Kendis. 😀
I gotta say, too: this was perhaps the most excitement I’ve had going up and down High Hrothgar since my first playthrough! The added urgency of weather really upped the stakes, and was good practice for the rest of the cold environments I’ll need to reach as I continue to play.
Surviving the 7,000 steps next time
It occurs to me only as I write this post that I could possibly have actually ridden Lightning up to High Hrothgar. I didn’t think of it at the time–but I’m glad I didn’t.
Because while Lightning possibly could have gotten me up there faster, and therefore reduced my chance of freezing to death, that feels like a roleplay copout. Realistically speaking, the 7,000 steps (for values of 7,000 meaning closer to 700-800, according to the wiki) are supposed to be icy and treacherous. You are told this if you talk to folks in Ivarstead as you prepare to go up.
And while Skyrim horses are very, very good at climbing up things you can’t (I’ve even done this a few times, by accident), to try to go up there on a horse on purpose just feels wrong. I feel like any reasonable resident of Skyrim would think that taking a horse up those steps will just risk the horse breaking its legs as it tries to find purchase on the icy, snowy steps. And possibly pitching both you and it to your deaths.
I can see a devoted pilgrim doing this for their own sake. But risking their horse? The horse that might be their only source of transport from point A to point B? And who might be the thing that lets them outrun bandits and bears, assuming they make it back down the mountain? Nope. It seems stupid for your long-term survival, not to mention just cruel to the horse. Even if the game would let you do it anyway.
So yeah, that option won’t be on the table for me next time I come back to High Hrothgar, to drop off the Horn of Jurgen Windcaller.
What I will need to do is:
- Finish out my set of Fur Armor. I’m given to understand there’s a fur helmet for the grabbing at White River Watch. I’ll need to go check.
- Acquire the Resist Frost enchantment ASAP, and enchant the fuck out of gear with it. This feels like a hella important enchantment to put on every single piece of that fur armor, in fact. And a ring and a necklace, too. Even if I suck at enchanting, and can’t manage better than, oh, say, 8 percent frost damage reduction, 8 percent x 6 items of gear = 48 percent frost reduction. This could make all the difference on High Hrothgar, or for that matter any northern locations. Because I will need to hed north eventually. I gotta join the College of Winterhold, after all!
- Make a boatload of Resist Frost potions to stock up on for later.
- Replenish my stock of torches.
- Get more fire salts and make more hot soups. I will need all the hot soups.
- Keep up a steady stock of camping supplies.
I’ve played the next session after this already, so that post will feature Kendis venturing into Shroud Hearth Barrow!