Ganniwer Playthrough,  Oblivion

In Which Ganniwer Witnesses the Death of the Emperor

Welcome to the first official session post of my brand new Oblivion playthrough! I didn’t intend to start an Oblivion playthrough quite yet, but I was inspired by the Skyblivion team finally announcing a release date for their mod. And since I’d really like to get a full Oblivion playthrough done before Skyblivion finally drops (hopefully targeting 2025 now), I figured it was high time I got started!

See the intro post I wrote yesterday, which includes an embed of the trailer for Skyblivion on YouTube, and also a bit of discussion about what I had to do to get Oblivion running. This post is about the actual playing I did after!

Play by play

  • Play date: 1/15/2023
  • Session number in this run: 1
  • Surprise beginning of an Oblivion playthrough!
  • Basically ran the tutorial quest
  • Started off by trying to see if I could run Oblivion on my Win11 VM; didn’t work, see previous post for details
  • However, was still able to do initial character creation and save from the VM, and pick up that save over on the Deck
  • Set up Ganniwer as a rather sweet-faced Bosmer with satin blonde hair
  • As per Elder Scrolls tradition, I started off in a prison
  • Spent some time familiarizing myself with the controls, and figured out all important “how to do a screenshot” things
  • Heard a prisoner across the way giving me shit
  • Guards showed up, with the Emperor, and they were stunned to see me in the cell
  • The emperor reacted strongly to the sight of me, apparently he’d seen my face in a dream
  • His sons had all just been assassinated, so his guards were trying to get him out of the palace
  • The guards told me to get out of the way as they had to usher the Emperor out through a secret tunnel that happened to be right in my cell, how convenient!
  • So they got him out and the guards were all “welp looks like this is your lucky day” at me
  • Tried to stay out of the way of the guards and the Emperor, but an initial round of assassins killed their captain; I took a couple of weapons off her, a katana and a steel shortsword
  • Spent time just wandering around the tunnels
  • Fought a bunch of rats and a zombie, and looted assorted chests
  • Triggered appropriate prompts to do things like take stuff, practice weapons, cast spells
  • Got a bow although it was rusty, and a bunch of iron arrows
  • Got other weapons as well but wound up ditching them because they were too heavy
  • Got a leather cuirass and boots, and eventually found a leather shield
  • Right about in here was where I looked up the Emperor on the wiki to confirm that yes, he’s the same emperor as in Morrowind, and also learned that he is voiced by Sir Patrick Stewart :O
  • Made it into a natural caverns section filled with goblins, who all were the same type of goblin as Gogh in Skyrim, so I was kind of all ohnoez you all look like my little goblin buddy
  • However they were all quite hostile, and one goblin witch fried my ass
  • Second time through, got in better sneaking, and actually eluded the goblin witch
  • Made it to the next section and caught up with the Emperor and his Blades, but the game locked up on me and I had to restart
  • So I had to deal with the goblin witch again
  • This time I snuck up on her and attacked her at close range, so she had less opportunity to fry me with lightning, and managed to take her out with the steel sword off the dead captain
  • Re-did catching up with the emperor’s party
  • The Emperor insisted I be allowed to come with them so the Blades backed off confronting me
  • The Emperor also mused about his familiarity with the constellations, and wondered what birthsign I was born under; cue the opportunity to choose a birthsign; I took Thief
  • Baurus, a Redguard Blade, gave me a torch and told me to stick close
  • I helped fight a few additional assassins, but eventually we wound up in a dead end and the two remaining guards went to try to find us a way out
  • The Emperor handed me the Amulet of Kings and told me to take it to Jauffre, to be given to his one remaining heir, an hidden unknown son–and then assassins ran in and killed him, ooooooooof
  • RIP, Emperor Picard
  • Baurus was the only one remaining alive in the party, and he gave me the final conversational prompt to finish my character, as he questioned me about what happened to the Amulet of Kings and I clued him in on what the Emperor had told me
  • He gave me a key and told me to get out of the sewer and get the amulet to Jauffre ASAP
  • I was a little thrown off as to how exactly to GTFO, but finally found my way out and took out a few more rats and goblins on the way
  • Emerged into the sunshine and saved until next time

Controls on the Steam Deck

By default, to my satisfaction, Oblivion had a nice controller mapping already laid out. I did a little finessing to it, just because I wanted the D-Pad to be mapped to mouse wheel actions, like I have it in Morrowind. I need that for purposes of character screenshots!

And I also wanted something mapped to screenshot functionality to begin with, since the default layout didn’t accommodate that.

I need to do a little more finessing of the layout, though. I want to do the same review of all the keyboard commands in Oblivion that I did for Morrowind, and see if the layout makes sense for that. I did see at least one function (Jump) duplicated, so that’s a thing I’ll want to fix.

Setting up my character

I think I like Oblivion’s character creation process better than Morrowind’s. It’s closer to Skyrim in terms of the level of control you have over aspects of your character’s appearance, which meant I was able to fuss with the details of Ganniwer’s face, and make her head look somewhat less like a potato.

However, I did not have the ability to finesse her body shape, which I found a little disappointing. So the end result of this was, I got a rather sweet-faced blonde Bosmer who was nonetheless rather stocky of build! I feel like she ought to be thinner, just because the backstory I’m working with in my head–that she’s the little sister of Tembriel, my Morrowind character–suggests that the two of them grew up in rather dire straits if they turned to less-than-legal means to support themselves. Which means it’s not likely Ganniwer’s had a steady diet!

But ah well, it is what it is, and I can work with this.

I think I like Oblivion’s various bits of UI. Its design is still pretty old school, but to my eye it’s clean and kind of airy. I like it. And it’s not trying to crowd everything onto the screen at once like Morrowind does, so I don’t have to try to rearrange the window with my stats and the window with the map and the window with the inventory on the Deck’s tiny screen.

The various controls to get at bits of the UI all felt straightforward and familiar, and not too out of left field after my being accustomed to both Skyrim and Morrowind.

I quite liked that the tutorial quest actually spaced out various aspects of what you had to set up about your character. I was surprised at first that the Birthsign and Class didn’t get set at first along with the other things–but those came up in conversation, first with the Emperor, and then with the Blade named Baurus. That actually felt pretty cool and organic to me, and the conversational prompts that led to setting those things flowed well with the overall situation being played out.

Overall, I liked this a lot better than Morrowind’s schtick of making you fill out paperwork when you show up in Seyda Neen, and go through the long “interview” process with the NPC there.

About the only thing that seemed a little odd to me was that I got a question prompt while talking to the Emperor, to ask him why I was in jail. Why the hell would the Emperor know anything about why I was in jail? And why would I be asking him that to begin with?

This seems like a question that would only work if your character explicitly did not know why he or she was arrested to begin with. Which I suppose kind of fits in with the backstory I’m envisioning–that Ganniwer, while living on the less-than-legal side, didn’t actually get nabbed for thievery or any such thing. Instead, she got nabbed for starting to raise a stink about what happened to her sister, and whether it was true that the Emperor sent her off to Morrowind to die, or what.

So I figure she got arrested and thrown in jail to shut her up. In which case, okay, yeah, I can see Ganniwer feeling salty about this, and seizing the opportunity to confront the Emperor about it when she has the chance.

But, of course, there are much more urgent matters going on.

Wait, why is Captain Picard running the Empire…?

Calling this out separately, because I’m kind of sheepish that I didn’t realize this immediately: the Emperor is voiced by Sir Patrick Stewart. Which, awesome.

But I only realized this after his initial arrival in the cell, when I paused to look him up and find out if he was the same Emperor ruling during Morrowind. At which point I discovered Stewart was his voice actor.

Once I knew that, I of course couldn’t parse that voice as anything except “Captain Picard”. (Yes, I know Jean-Luc’s an Admiral now that the Picard series is a thing. “Captain” is still how I think of him!) Which meant that hearing Captain Picard’s voice coming out of a face that was definitely not Patrick Stewart was very, very odd. LOL.

The actual action, and getting out of the jail

First character interaction was with a prisoner across the way, who started yelling abusive commentary to me about my being a “pretty little Wood Elf” and how I wasn’t going to be able to frolic in the woods anymore. And how I was going to die in that prison. And oh hey look, the guards were coming! Presumably about to kill me! Wow, what an asshole.

(And apparently he’s an asshole I may see later? He’s also got a descendant in Skyrim! Ha!)

That the guards did not expect to see a prisoner in the cell was kind of delightful. For purposes of my backstory, this plays into the idea that some minor functionary decided to arrest me on their own recognizance, and that nobody bothered to actually check up the chain of command as to where this particular prisoner ought to be stashed.

That the Emperor himself was also startled at the sight of me plays into that. He clearly didn’t expect to see me there, so it was unlikely he ordered my capture. But he was also not entirely surprised, given his commentary about seeing my face in a dream.

Which means ol’ Uriel Septim VII was motivated by two different Bosmer girls who just happened to be sisters! I think I’ll take the liberty of assuming that Azura, after making the Emperor send Tembriel off to Morrowind, is doing her part to make sure that the Nerevarine’s sister isn’t neglected. 😉

The Blades escorting the Emperor, of course, want to get him the hell out of the palace–because all three of his sons have been assassinated, and they’re afraid he’ll be next. So while they were very surprised to find me in the cell, they also didn’t want to take the time to actually do anything about me, because priorities! So they were all “welp guess this is your lucky day, just stay the hell out of our way” at me, and they whisked His Majesty off through the escape tunnel.

I expect Ganniwer flipped off the abusive prisoner across the way as she hurried out. Hey, asshole, I’m going to frolic my way out through this tunnel now, ciao!

Staying out of the way of the guards was not entirely an option, though. In the first part of the escape tunnel, I had no choice but to follow them, which meant I was able to catch up after the captain got killed in an initial round of assassins. Conveniently, this gave me an opportunity to get a couple of decent weapons off of her.

For a while after that, though, I was on my own. Wandered around through the sewer tunnels, looting things, gathering weapons and armor where I could find them, and killing assorted rats and one zombie. Once I made it into a natural caverns section, I started needing to deal with goblins too. Who turned out to be the same kind of goblin as Gogh in Skyrim, and since I’m very partial to Gogh from my run as Shenner, I felt at least a little sad about taking them all out! Y’all look like my little goblin buddy! Please don’t make me hit you oh okay fine you’re hostile, let’s do this.

Let me note at this point that I noticed pretty quickly that Oblivion has Sneak a thing I can toggle, just like in Skyrim. Discovering this was a relief. <3 And I quickly learned to recognize the “you just got another bump to a skill” noise. My Sneak got several bumps as I made my way through those goblin caverns.

I definitely liked that Oblivion’s spell casting seems closer to Skyrim’s, since I had a dedicated button for casting whatever my active spell is. That key is currently my right bumper, which admittedly is a little distracting. Because Skyrim is still my “default” way of parsing Elder Scrolls action, and I’m still very much in the mode of “left hand for spell, right hand for weapon”. From what I’m seeing so far in Oblivion, this game doesn’t have that idea.

Once I made it past that goblin witch and caught up with the Emperor’s party again, I got more examples of one of the few things so far that I don’t like about Oblivion’s UI: that when a character starts talking to you, the camera zooms in on that character. I find the swoopy motion of that distracting.

Apparently other players don’t like this either? I see several threads about it when I do a search. But happily, I also see references to a value I can in theory edit in Oblivion.ini that might help this problem some. I’ll need to experiment with this.

And of course, catching up with the Emperor’s party meant I was on hand for his final lines (including a direct Shakespeare quote, which I’m sure got in there because Stewart is a known Shakespearean actor and general Shakespeare nerd). Not to mention his knowing that his assassination is at hand, and handing the Amulet of Kings off to me so that I could get it to his one surviving son and “close shut the jaws of Oblivion”.

No pressure or anything. Yeep.

This part was probably where Ganniwer began to wonder if something like this had, in fact, happened to her sister.

With the one surviving member of the Emperor’s party being Baurus, I got my final character creation action from him, as he had a line about guessing I was an “experienced Assassin”. Apparently the game makes a guess about your class based on what skills you exercise during the tutorial, and Baurus has dialogue that responds accordingly. I thought that was a nice touch.

And heh, I went ahead and took “Assassin” as my character class, just because it seemed like it matched up best with the skills I most enjoy playing: Light Armor, Marksman, Sneak, etc. Plus, I am amused by the idea of a sweet-faced Bosmer girl being an assassin. Muahaha.

With Baurus’s last directive to me to get out of the sewers and get the amulet to Jauffre, I finally escaped properly out into the sunshine.

And one more thing happened that I’ll note I’m not entirely a fan of: I got multiple quest prompts just arbitrarily starting, a couple of which pertained to property I was apparently inheriting. This felt artificial and forced. Presumably these were all level-dependent starting quests? I would have preferred to get them more organically.

Next time

Damned good question. I need to poke around for recommendations as to which things are best for a starting Oblivion character to do!


Editing to add

  • 11/25/2023: 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.