And meanwhile, let’s get back to the Survival Mode playthrough, shall we? Main action here: fighting bandits at both Halted Stream Camp and Silent Moons Camp, buying Breezehome, and getting the quest to go run Dustman’s Cairn with Farkas for the Companions!
This is a double session post.
Play by play
- Play date: 12/17, 12/19/2022
- Session number in this run: 8-9
- Started in Jorrvaskr
- Went out to fetch my horse from the stables, then rode to Halted Stream Camp
- Lightning, Lydia, flame atronach, and I took out the exterior four bandits
- Stashed all the bandit gear in outside chest so I wouldn’t have to carry it
- Then went inside and took out the first interior bandit
- Called up the flame atronach and then took out the rest of the bandits, including the chief
- Got level up alert while running the place but couldn’t take the level up yet
- Looted the fuck out of the place; got a mammoth tusk for Ysolda
- Hit all the iron veins and the one corundum one
- Got the Transmute spellbook
- Looted all the bandits on my way out and got their stuff
- Looted all the sacks for food items, YAY, found salt
- Grabbed all the potions
- Got the stuff back out of the outside chest
- Rode back to Whiterun
- Sold all the armor and weapons from the bandits to Adrianne
- Spent a huge amount of time at the forge casting the Transmute spell and making a bunch of silver and gold ingots, and then jewelry out of those to push my Smithing up
- Went to Bannered Mare to rent a room and rest up, then was able to take the level up to 14 (and saw I was already halfway through level 14, LOL)
- Took Stamina bump and Steel Smithing perk
- Went out to sell a bunch of jewelry to Belethor; bought leather off him to make stuff with remaining iron
- Gave Ysolda her mammoth tusk and got Speech bump
- Went up to Dragonsreach and got bounty payment from Proventus
- Returned to the forge and sold more stuff to Adrianne; made more jewelry, weapons, and armor; sold her the weapons and armor, and previously acquired enchanted Orcish sword that I already had the enchantment for
- Returned to Dragonsreach, dropped a couple of very low frost enchantments on jewelry and on fur shoes, just to get what tiny scrap of frost protection I could, and also boost Enchanting a little
- Did some cooking at the Bannered Mare
- Spotted Sam at the counter and got the prompt for the drinking contest; chose to ignore him for now
- Got bounty from Hulda to kill the bandit leader at Silent Moons Camp
- Got Lydia and Lightning and rode over for that
- When I showed up, discovered at least a couple of exterior bandits had respawned; threw Lydia and the flame atronach at them
- While that was going on a dragon showed up! It strafed us, and the horse freaked out and ran off
- Cold and rainy so I hastened inside; took out chief and other interior bandits
- Slept on one of the bedrolls, and got the chance to level up to 15; took Health bump and first Enchanting perk
- Went out in the morning and looked for my horse via Detect Life spell
- After Lyds killed a sabre cat, finally found the horse and rode back to Whiterun
- Sold armor and weapons from bandits to Adrianne, and a Flawed Varla Stone to Belethor; that got me enough money to get Breezehome 😀
- Went up to Dragonsreach and sold another Varla stone to Farengar
- Bought Breezehome from Proventus and also bedroom furnishings
- Dropped off a bunch of things in the chest and dresser there
- Went to Jorrvaskr to retrieve the items in the dresser there
- Talked to Farkas, who told me to talk to Skjor
- Skjor gave me the Proving Honor quest and told me to go after the fragment of Wuuthrad at Dustman’s Cairn, with Farkas
- Lydia stood down and returned to Dragonsreach
- Told Farkas I’d meet him at Dustman’s Cairn
- Parked both of the pets in Breezehome, then went back out and got the horse again
- Rode over to Dustman’s Cairn
- Lightning and Farkas helped fight exterior skeletons
- Saved there until next time
- Picked up just outside Hamvir’s Rest where I’d found Farkas
- Triggered Hamvir’s Rest for the map but didn’t otherwise engage with it
- Remembered from recently running Dustman’s Cairn in Skyrim Together that it was nearby and up the hill, so went up there with Farkas to run the place
- Got skillbook for Two-handed
- Cue holy crap Farkas is a werewolf! (More thoughts on this below)
- Died a lot; multiple problem spots running the dungeon, basically any spot with more than one hostile, especially if one of the hostiles was an archer or was able to get within melee range
- Farkas frequently got beaten down into recovery mode, damn good thing that boy is unkillable, otherwise he’d have been fucked
- Additional complication as the dungeon run proceeded: I got more tired, which throttled my magicka hard, and I had to stand down from calling the flame atronach because I didn’t have enough magicka for it
- Finally made it to boss chamber and got the word for Fire Breath off the Word Wall
- Grabbed potions and the fragment of Wuuthrad off the table in front of the Word Wall, which triggered the emergence of the draugr
- Proceeded to have my ass handed to me at least a dozen times
- Got trapped over in the corner where the boss chest is; tried to find better hiding spots to snipe from, but no dice
- Kept summoning the familiar, which wasn’t nearly as good as the flame atronach, kept getting smacked out of existence by the boss chamber draugr
- Went into the settings and discovered holy shit I was still running on Master Difficulty, left over from Faanshi’s playthrough :O
- Kicked the Difficulty down to Adept, which is what I’d intended to be running Kendis on to begin with, and suddenly was much better able to snipe a bunch of draugr still hassling Farkas
- Finally cleared the damn room, and changed back to fur armor because going outside at night
- Returned to Lightning and rode back to Whiterun–wanted to get back ASAP because cold, tired, and hungry
- Dropped off Lightning at the stable
- Collapsed in Breezehome and slept 10 hours
- Leveled up twice, from 15 to 17; took bumps in Health and Stamina; took Apprentice perk in Conjuration, first Bladesman perk in One-handed
- Paused there and saved until next time
Writing up these two sessions together since they go together well, what with getting the quest to run Dustman’s Cairn in the first, and then actually doing so in the second. And mostly, the stuff I want to talk about is involved with that dungeon.
But before I get to that, I also want to note that running Silent Moons Camp again taught me a couple more things about Survival Mode.
One: I am going to have to continually remind myself that I cannot just fast travel right back to Whiterun after running a lair, or wherever else I need to go to drop off gear and such. I caught myself doing that, was very confused about why fast travel wasn’t available, and then went “OH RIGHT”.
Two: the lack of fast travel has another consequence I hadn’t considered, and that’s what happens if you lose track of your horse. Most of my playthroughs, this hasn’t been a problem–because I figured out fast that vanilla Skyrim horses are squishy, so the vast majority of the time, I’m riding Arvak. In Faanshi’s playthrough, while I did get her a horse, I minimized how much I actually used it, and was surprised that it actually survived to the end of her run. And in Shenner’s playthrough, where I did lose track of her unicorn once or twice, I was able to solve the “where the hell did my mount get off to” problem by fast traveling off to a safe location so the unicorn could catch up.
This however cannot happen in Survival Mode. So if my horse runs off and it’s not in immediate sight, I have no choice but to actually go after it.
So pro tip for Future Me and other readers who might want to try Survival Mode: this is where the Detect Life spell comes in handy, or the equivalent Shout, Aura Whisper. Or, if you happen to have it and you’re not near a town where you could piss off guards while wearing it, the Grey Cowl of Nocturnal. Regardless of what means you use, this can help you find your errant horse if you conduct a search pattern around the area.
Now then, on to talking about Dustman’s Cairn!
I’ve run Dustman’s Cairn twice now, once in Delga’s solo playthrough and once in the Skyrim Together playthrough we have going. So it’s still fairly new-ish to me, compared to a lot of the rest of the game.
And the novelty of seeing Farkas transform into a werewolf to kick the asses of multiple Silver Hands hasn’t worn off yet!
I gotta think a little though about what Kendis thinks of this reveal. I think like a lot of citizens of Tamriel, she was probably freaked out. But it gets mitigated a bit by how Farkas really is kind of sweet and straightforward. I can hear in my head how dubious and slightly horrified Kendis must have sounded when the game gives you the dialogue prompt of “Are you going to make me a werewolf?”
I think that when Farkas outright said no, he’s had enough time with the Dragonborn to get a positive character impression off of him. Farkas is just too damned guileless to lie. So I think you can reasonably assume that the Dragonborn is willing to go along with this for now, but not without a hefty level of “WHAT EVEN THE FUCK IS THIS” when Farkas also tells you that all of Inner Circle of the Companions are werewolves.
Which raises an interesting question for me here: do any potential new members of the Inner Circle ever actually go “What, wait, no, this is absolutely batshit, how the hell are the Companions getting away with this?” There must surely have been one or two who found out what was going on? And if so, what happened to them to prevent them from ever revealing the Inner Circle’s secret?
Though okay, more likely is that the Inner Circle’s just been secretive enough about their status that they haven’t been willing to pull anyone into their ranks ever since they got hit with the curse. I’m not clear on how long the curse has been in effect, though. The wiki says it was caused by the actions of one of Kodlak’s predecessors, which suggests the curse has been in effect for at least a few decades.
Which seems like an awful long time to go without a potential inductee to the Inner Circle reacting very, very badly to the discovery that they’re being asked to join a werewolf pack. Clearly, the current Inner Circle willingly accepted the beast blood, and I’m pretty sure that even includes Kodlak, though I need to pay more attention to his backstory once I get to the point of talking to him again.
So this suggests that the Companions have been extremely careful with who they ask into the Inner Circle. And if they’ve ever had to kill anybody who freaked out about the discovery, for the sake of protecting their secret.
And speaking of the reveal of Farkas being a werewolf–it makes me a little sad that he can’t trigger being a werewolf at any other point than that one scene in Dustman’s Cairn. Because it would have been handy, given how hard both Farkas and I got our asses kicked as I continued to run the dungeon.
There were multiple points all throughout the barrow that were a goddamn problem. I kept getting one-shotted by archers, or, in the event that one well-armed melee fighter got within sword range, whacked to death with a single blow.
And I had an additional complication as well. I’d noticed on the way over to Dustman’s Cairn that the game warned me I was feeling “Drained”, the next level down of Fatigue from “Refreshed”. I thought I’d be able to make it through the barrow okay despite this.
I was mistaken. I progressed from “Drained” to “Tired” to “Weary”, and that started throttling my Magicka hard. By the time I hit the boss chamber my Magicka was nerfed by half, and I no longer had enough to spare to summon the flame atronach. I had to summon the familiar instead, which was not as effective in combat.
Farkas, Divines bless him, kept getting smacked down into the recovery/bleedout state. Then he’d shake it off, get up, charge the half a dozen draugr again, and get smacked right back down.
After dying a dozen times in that boss chamber, I finally started thinking, “This is stupid, do I actually need to turn off Survival Mode just so I can get out of this room? Or turn down the Difficulty…?”
I went into the game’s Settings, and made a discovery:
I’d forgotten to pull the Difficulty down from Master.
It was still set to Master from Faanshi’s playthrough.
NO WONDER EVERYTHING IN THE DUNGEON WAS KICKING MY ASS.
So I kicked it back down to the default Adept tier, which is where I had intended for it to be to begin with. And at that point, I was suddenly a lot better able to snipe all the draugr that were still hassling Farkas.
Dara points out quite correctly that my sniping aim is still poorer than it should be, even after all the playing I’ve been doing. If I had more reliable aim, arguably I could still have cleared that dungeon. (Though I have enough experience with Skyrim at this point that I strongly suspect it would also have required my having better gear. I was shooting the Bow of Shadows, but my arrow selection was poor. I rapidly used my small stock of Ebony, and after that, had only a small number of Orcish before having to resort to Steel and Iron.)
And what I knew from both Delga’s playthrough and the Skyrim Together one: the boss chamber in Dustman’s Cairn has a metric shitton of draugr in it. Seventeen total, which spawn in waves. But even the smaller waves of six or so at a time were a problem for me at Master difficulty.
Which gets back around to my kind of wishing Farkas could have transformed at that point, too. Because if he’d been able to wolf out, even with me at Master Difficulty, he would have been able to clear that room. Wolf Farkas vs. five Silver Hands was no contest. He should have had even less trouble with draugr.
Last but not least, I want to note that I am definitely finding it odd to not be able to take level ups immediately when I get them. I’m finding that slightly annoying, just out of force of habit if anything else. But on the other hand, I find it actively satisfying to go drop into a bed after running an adventure, get in my sleep, and get in my level ups! It was particularly cool this time to get two of them.
Time to go get officially inducted into the Companions! Which does make me wish I could run mods on the Switch so I could have a version of the Wolf Armor that doesn’t look stupid on a woman. And I’ll need to think about whether to carry the Skyforge Steel Sword I’ll get, just if nothing else I’m finding that relying on Bound Sword is too damned slow when I’m about to enter melee.
And I think I have enough gold to finish furnishing Breezehome, now.
After that, I think it’ll be time to pay a visit to Falkreath!
No screenshots of note this time.