Harrowhark Playthrough,  Skyrim

In Which Harrowhark Acquires Mehrunes’ Razor and Joins the Bards College

This post features Harrow finishing off getting the Gauldur Amulet as well as Mehrunes’ Razor, and learning how to craft amber and madness gear after fighting the mad smith Evethra.

Biggest highlight of this post, though, is finally beginning the Bards College with Harrow–and y’all, I’m in love with this mod already!

Play by play

  • Play dates: 3/4-3/5/2023
  • Session numbers in this run: 42-43

Saturday the 4th

  • Picked up at Lakeview
  • Tried to ride east from Lakeview only to realize I wasn’t really in the mood to fight through Helgen again
  • But couldn’t boing to the Alchemist’s Shack, was told enemies were nearby–which turned out to be cultists
  • So took them out, then boinged to the Alchemist’s Shack
  • Rode over from there past Ivarstead to get to Geirmund’s Hall
  • Practiced a bit with the camping, though Inigo expressed a touch of disapproval about this as a camping spot
  • Did however finally figure out how to gather materials for a fire, and how to get into the Camping skills tree, you do that off of the fire; I think I really like this system!
  • Ran Geirmund’s Hall and got that bit of the amulet
  • Lucien had a disconcerted remark about how maybe we shouldn’t be there; I think that boy must have been disquieted by the writs of sealing, and OHNOEZ WE ARE ENTERING A FORBIDDEN BARROW?
  • After I came back out again, fished at the fishing spot; still not getting a pogfish!
  • Boinged to Riften to sell things
  • Tried to drop off Dravin’s bow only to discover oh shit he died, must have been a previous dragon attack, because I only saw his wife out working the field
  • Tried to come back into the Riften gates–only to find a surprise trio of bandits!
  • One of whom yelled BURN THE VAMPIRE and started right in on attacking me; sir, I protest! You don’t even look tasty, I don’t want to bite you
  • Ahkari’s Khajiit were right nearby and they helped out with taking down the bandits, so I sold her a bunch of things I’d brought out of Geirmund’s Hall
  • Went back into the city and hit the Hall of the Dead to confirm that yep, Dravin was dead
  • Went down into the Thieves Guild to sell Tonilia assorted things, including Dravin’s bow, since i couldn’t do anything else with it now
  • Took five rounds of Pickpocket training from Vipir
  • Came back topside and boinged back to Lakeview
  • Swapped from the Deck to the VM, to install mod fixes for Immersive College of Winterhold not having an MCM, and also for the mesh problems on Scout cape and hood and helmet; Scout armor problems fixed, but not the MCM problem
  • Went back out from Lakeview, and this time headed west for Cracked Tusk Keep to get the shards of the Razor
  • Went all the way to the arch over the road that in an unmodded game would not let me pass through; this time saw three goblins charge through there, who promptly attacked me, so had to take them out
  • Confirmed that yep, I sure can go that way now, so that’ll clearly be the access point for the Beyond Skyrim: Bruma content; this will require investigation later!
  • For now, swung back through the gate and aimed for Cracked Tusk Keep
  • Ran the place with no issues, and and used Telekinesis to get the shards
  • Next stop: heading west into the Reach
  • Boinged first to Hendraheim to drop off loot out of the keep, so I wouldn’t have to haul it with me
  • Rode west from there and made it to Reachwater Rock; mined the silver and iron ore veins just outside it
  • Got in, got the emerald claw, and got past that gate–only to realize oh shit, I didn’t have the ivory claw needed to get past the second gate
  • Had to retrieve the claw from Hendraheim, but once I did that, got back in and finished running the place
  • Fought the ghostly brothers and then saw the ghostly father reforge the amulet; claimed it, as well as the loot from the boss chest on the way out
  • Headed back out to aim for Hag Rock Redoubt; reached the place via some careful climbing on horseback
  • Left the horses by the initial arch and dropped into Sneak
  • Lucien did a pretty good job following me, Inigo not so much, more on this below
  • Made it to the entrance to Dead Crone Rock courtesy of Invisibility spells; when I got in, Inigo caught up properly
  • The boys and I ran the place and took out what few Forsworn were holding it
  • Made it up to the hagraven and got the pommel; also got the word off the Word Wall there and boss loot
  • Boinged back to Dawnstar
  • Found Frida to give her the Ring of Pure Mixtures
  • But also heard NPCs talking about the nightmares as I came in, and oh right I haven’t run the nightmare plot with Harrow yet, I need to get on that
  • Went to give the pieces of the Razor back to Silus
  • Boinged to Skyborn Altar because I’d forgotten that wasn’t quite the place I wanted to be in order to get to the shrine, so wound up killing a respawned dragon there
  • Hoofed it down the mountainside to try to find the proper route to the shrine; passed the unmarked shrine to Mara
  • Found the vampire + vampire thrall encounter again, and took out both the vamp and the thrall
  • Reached the shrine, and played this as per previous playthroughs, parking myself in the “Silus will pick a fight with me without asking to spare him first” spot
  • Then told Dagon to fuck off and claimed the Razor, called up my own dremora to help take out his dremora, both inside and outside the shrine, and looted the fuck out of the place
  • Boinged back to Lakeview
  • Leveled up during this session to 48; took Health bump and Light Foot perk in Sneak

Sunday the 5th

  • Wasn’t planning to play Harrow two days in a row but hey it worked out that way!
  • Started by just exploring if I could fix the mod issues I’ve been seeing; still no MCM for Immersive College of Winterhold
  • Started at Lakeview, just experimented for a bit with mods, see below
  • Then went ahead and played, boinged to College of Winterhold
  • Dropped off Thalmor papers and Gallus’ encoded journal in the secret Arch-Mage chamber
  • Then did training; couldn’t get Phinis to trigger training this time, but did get Alteration and Illusion both up to 80
  • Actually got Colette to train me! Bought five rounds of Restoration training from her–then suddenly she was actually able to train, maybe because the other students were there? So got her to bump me up a couple more points in Restoration that way
  • Next up: wanted to try to find malachite ore for the last ingredient needed to fortify the Hedge Mage armor
  • Boinged to Whiterun, sold a few things, but nobody had ore, not even Eorlund Gray-Mane; Eorlund did have a neat wolf named Masser though! <3 Seems to be courtesy of Dawn of Skyrim, and he looks cool
  • Boinged next to Riften to check there
  • Came in late, saw a thief, robbed the body when I found it by the forge 😉
  • Waited by the forge for it to be morning, nobody in Riften had any malachite ore either
  • Got into Bolli and Nivenor’s house to get the stuff out of the strongbox for the Gray Cowl plot
  • Went out through the gates thinking to go to Evethra’s forge–but Ancient Dragon showed up, so had to take that out
  • Snerk, Inigo is now on this kick of equating my dragon souls with drugs
  • Whistled for Hjalte since he ran off, then mounted up and headed towards Mistwatch
  • Killed a bear
  • Found Kharjo the Khajiit fighting wolves! Helped him out with that, and also got his quest to get his Moon Amulet, this time from Bilegulch Mine
  • Proceeded along the road and then stopped to help the Khajiit caravan with a spider attack too; talked to Akhari and bought stuff, but she didn’t have any malachite ore either, damn
  • Veered off the road from there; killed one more bear
  • Finally reached Evethra’s forge–and BOOM ANOTHER DRAGON, probably respawned from Bonestrewn Crest, killed this one too
  • Got another crack out of Inigo about being here for me any time I wanted to give up dragon souls
  • The fight also pissed off Evethra so we went straight to fighting her too; took her out and got her journal
  • Killed the skeletons as well and took the swords and various loot off the table
  • Boinged off to Solitude from there
  • Sold all the swords to Beirand; still no malachite ore 😢
  • Shopped with Sayma as well
  • Then realized wait holy shit I’m in Solitude, AND I HAVE THE BARDS COLLEGE MOD, so went over to finally get the Bards College underway with Harrow, a lot more on this below
  • Talked to Viarmo first of all as per usual, but he pointed me at a new NPC, Malukah, to handle the entrance exams
  • I got my own space in the college on the bottom floor (which, with the mod, is much nicer)
  • Malukah made me take a history exam, which required me to review all the instruments on display in the building; passed that on the second try
  • Took a lyrics test and passed that
  • Then got to work on drum studies, which enabled me to actually craft a drum once I passed the oral exam
  • Malukah also expected me to practice, holy shit, whodathunk, the Bards College actually expecting you to play music! However, it’s not clear to me yet how much practice I need to do?
  • Took a bit to figure out how to enable the Play Drum Power, which did a cool animation of me playing
  • Went over to the Winking Skeever to investigate how to perform there, which did indeed bump up my Bard Skill a bit
  • Confirmed I had a Bard Journal in my inventory now that tracks my Bard Skill level and how many places I’ve played in
  • Meanwhile, snuck into Erikur’s place and yoinked the deed for the Gray Cowl plot
  • Tried to talk to Gisli but failed the Persuade check and didn’t have enough gold on me to buy her off
  • So headed to the Blue Palace to get the Potema action underway
  • Found Dervenin on the way and got the quest for the Wabbajack
  • Saw the initial ‘oh shit something’s happening in the cave’ scene in the court
  • Talked to Sybille Stentor after that and was vaguely disappointed that she didn’t seem to know I’m a vampire! But she did know I’m Arch-Mage!
  • Got a few rounds of Destruction training from her, and also got her quest to go take out the vampire leader in Pinemoon Cave, so I’ll swing over there eventually
  • Talked to Falk and got the quest to go clear Wolfskull Cave
  • Saw sailors from the Red Wave on the way out
  • Fought Orc skooma addict just past Meridia’s temple–but the damn game crashed when I arrived at Wolfskull
  • So had to do take two of heading out; got cultists on the way this time
  • Reached Wolfskull successfully this time and ran the place without any particularly unusual bits
  • Definitely easier with a party of three and sometimes four (when I summoned my dremora), not to mention Vampire Sight to see through the dark bits
  • Returned to Solitude rather late, but sold stuff and got payment from Falk for cleaning out the cave
  • Still didn’t have enough gold to buy off Gisli, so boinged down to Goldenhills to get farm profits to solve that problem
  • Flyby dragon while there
  • Did a circuit of various houses, because I couldn’t remember if I’d sold my prior Red Cowl, or if I’d stashed it somewhere, and I wanted civilian clothes to wear in Solitude, and/or while performing
  • Boinged between Windstad and Lakeview; gathered building supplies
  • Did a boatload of jewelry making and enchanting
  • Built a few things on the upper floor of Lakeview
  • Boinged around to Hendraheim, Whiterun, and Riften
  • Gathered clothes from various houses to get them all back to Lakeview
  • Sold assorted things in Whiterun, including a bunch of the enchanted jewelry
  • Boinged back to Solitude and sold more of the enchanted jewelry at Radiant Raiment
  • Bought Dark Common Clothes which appeared to be rebranded vampire robes, LOL, appropriate
  • Bought another Red Cowl, they look good together but the left shoulder has clipping issues
  • Finally paid off Gisli
  • Got the prompt to go find the Stranger’s instructions in the barrel, at which point I discovered a problem: Dawn of Skyrim plopped a wagon right by that access back to the barrel
  • Jumped up onto the wagon and then off the other side to reach the barrel, but at least I could still get to it!
  • Got the instructions and the quest to go to Silverdrift Lair and get the sword
  • Boinged back to Lakeview
  • Saved there for the night

More about the Campfire mod

I haven’t been doing much practicing with the Campfire mod so far in this playthrough, but took the time to do so when I got to the little island with Geirmund’s Hall.

So now I’ve finally figured out how to gather ingredients for a campfire! And I also have seen that having a campfire can actually be beneficial to you, it gives you temporary bumps to your skill increases. Awesome. <3

To my amusement, Inigo had some opinions about my choice to make camp on the island, LOL. He apparently didn’t think it was safe?

And I finally figured out how to get into the Camping skills tree. Apparently you do that explicitly at a campfire. Which makes sense! So now I know more about how this mod works.

Starting to really like this system. I need to practice with it some more, just for the benefit of Future Me. Because I do eventually want to try another run with Survival Mode, perhaps involving Campfire!

Running Geirmund’s Hall

Ran this without any trouble to speak of. Main notable detail was Lucien throwing off disconcerted commentary about “maybe we shouldn’t be here”. I got the impression that boy was unnerved by the idea that there was a writ of sealing on the place–an attitude he expressed again when we got to Reachwater Rock, later.

Which tells me, this is Lucien’s more Lawful bent kicking in here. Which is kind of hilarious given that his entire gig is wanting to follow the Dragonborn around to better experience the rougher, seamier side of Skyrim! My dude, you are traveling with me explicitly for the purpose of things like breaking into tombs and stealing treasure. And also, I am a vampire. And the future Guildmaster of the Thieves Guild. My take on “should” is, in short, rather more flexible than most people in Skyrim would probably allow for. ;D

Stopping by Riften

One of the things I wanted to do in Riften this time was dropping off Dravin’s bow, since I’d retrieved it from the Ratway. I was stymied in this, though, by the discovery that Dravin died! Presumably in an earlier dragon attack. Damn.

Which meant I had no particular choice but to just sell his bow to Tonilia, since I didn’t have any way to give it to his wife. I kind of wish I did, though. Because I ran into her later coming out of the Riften gates, and she even had a line about Dravin dying. She might have felt a bit better if I’d been able to give her something of her husband’s! Sniff.

Lesson to be learned here: as with Wujeeta and From-Deepest-Fathoms, if I’m to do this quest at all, do it as fast as possible, just because Riften NPCs who spend any time just outside the city are prone to getting fried or frosted by any dragons that show up.

Meanwhile, apparently it is possible for at least some NPCs to attack me on sight for being a vampire, at least if the NPCs are bandits! Because this happened just outside the Riften gates. Bandit chief yelled BURN THE VAMPIRE and came at me.

Ahkari’s Khajiit were nearby and helped out with the fight. But I suppose I shall have to presume that no nearby guards overheard that “BURN THE VAMPIRE” thing. Otherwise I should expect that some very awkward questions would be asked. 😉 Or, the Riften guards have already figured out that Thane Harrowhark is a vampire as well as Dragonborn, and they’re all smart enough to not challenge me on it! Yeah, I’ll go with that.

Scout armor mesh fix, and MCM kicker

I added a couple more mods to the load order during these two sessions: the patch for the Scout armor meshes, which fixes the weird shadow issues on the hoods and capes.

I also installed Jaxonz’s MCM Kicker. Which did not, unfortunately, fix the problem I’ve been seeing with the Immersive College of Winterhold mod not showing me an MCM at all.

Oh hey that’s how I get to Bruma!

I was able to confirm what I had already read about the Beyond Skyrim: Bruma mod, i.e., that the access point to get to that content is the gate west of Falkreath, right near Cracked Tusk Keep.

In an unmodded game, you can’t go that gate. In this playthrough, I confirmed I could.

I also saw three goblins come at me from the other direction! So that was a bit of a surprise.

I’ll have to swing back and check out that content later. Still not entirely sure of which order I’m going to do Bruma and Moonpath to Elsweyr in. Not only in relation to Dawnguard and Dragonborn, but also in relation to resolving the Main Quest. Bruma and Elsweyr kind of feel like they might be post-Alduin things?

Weirdness finishing the Forbidden Legend plot

I was rather shocked to discover, upon getting to Reachwater Rock, that I had forgotten I’d left the Ivory Dragon Claw back at Hendraheim. The shocking part being that I was actually able to.

I think I’d unthinkingly parked it in Hendraheim on the dragon claw shelves there, thinking I just didn’t want it in my inventory. But I hadn’t resolved the Forbidden Legend quest yet. So apparently that claw wasn’t marked as a quest item?

But I’m not sure why. I don’t see anything on either the UESP wiki or the Elder Scrolls one indicating this as a known bug. So I must assume something in my load order broke this. Damned if I know what, though.

I initially tried to move the claw to me via the console, but that didn’t work. Its object ID was shown on the wiki, but using that didn’t work. The prid command in the console didn’t like it. Not sure whether this means that the prid command only works on NPCs? I will need to research that further.

Ultimately, I had to exit Reachwater, boing back to Hendraheim to physically fetch the claw, and then boing back to Reachwater to continue running it. Fortunately, this worked and I was able to proceed to closing the quest.

Getting the rest of the pieces of Mehrunes’ Razor

This went mostly as per previous playthroughs. Cracked Tusk Keep had no particular oddities.

Hag Rock Redoubt, on the other hand, had a bit. Lucien did a pretty good job following me in Sneak mode as I crept up to get into Dead Crone Rock. Inigo, however, did not. I didn’t actually see Inigo following me at that point, and I also heard horse noises, without entirely knowing why. Not sure if it was supposedly Inigo’s horse making those noises, or Hjalte. At least once I saw Hjalte within visual range, but he was far enough away that I was surprised to still be hearing any horse noises at all.

When I made it to where the main outside Briarheart was (by the tent with the giant frostbite spider), I saw him charge down the stairs trying to attack something. That might have been Inigo trying to follow me, but I’m not sure! I was too far up the slope to see for sure.

Past that point, though, it was smooth sailing. Got the pommel and returned to Dawnstar (at which point I gave Frida back the Ring of Pure Mixtures, but also realized that I hadn’t run the nightmares plot yet, need to get on that later). And returned to Silus to give him the pieces. At which point I expect a conversation something like the following occurred:

Silus: “Praise Dagon! Now I can take the pieces to his shrine and ask him to restore them! You should come! It’ll be awesome! What could possibly go wrong?”

And Harrow, a bit taken aback, doesn’t have time to answer before he darts out the door. At which point she looks at the boys and dryly asks: “Are we going to have to go after this asshole and make sure he doesn’t do something stupid?”

Inigo: “He is definitely about to do something stupid.”

Lucien: “It would be interesting to document another live encounter with a Daedric prince. Maybe from a safe distance…?”

Harrow: “Right then. Asshole stupidity prevention measures now active. Let’s go put a stop to this.”

From there, the rest of the plot played out pretty much as before. And now I have the Razor!

And I have delivered a hearty fuck you to Dagon. This servant of Nocturnal is not impressed. What is it the Khajiit call you? Demon Kitty? Ooh, scary kitten. Yawn. Send me a few more dremora next time I’m bored, won’t you?

An interlude about working on my mods

Kind of frustrated that I haven’t been able to find solutions for the broken MCM in Immersive College of Winterhold, or for the Bow of Shadows no longer turning me invisible when I wield it. I have written this up in depth in this post.

Here, I’ll just note that in between these two sessions, I did some derping around with trying to get the mod problems addressed.

Things I tried included:

  1. Turning off certain mods and turning them back on again
  2. Reinstalling Immersive College of Winterhold
  3. Checking assorted past save files, and as near as I can tell I never had an MCM for Immersive College of Winterhold, and I really am not sure why

Checking old save files reintroduced the bug with the music for the Forgotten City mod, so I had to boing back over to the Forgotten Ruins to fix that problem. And at that point, I decided, fuck it, I’ll just go ahead and do a proper play session with Harrow since I had her up anyway.

One last note I’ll make here is that I have a small theory about what might be breaking my MCM situation: I did blow away Anna’s NPCs earlier in the playthrough, as well as the Bosmer Armor mod. So it’s certainly possible that I broke something in regards to the MCMs for all my mods that way.

However, I don’t have a really good way of confirming this, not without trying to restore Anna’s NPCs into my playthrough. And I’m far enough along at this point that I don’t want to do that, since I know Anna’s NPCs isn’t happy with Tundra Homestead being parked right near one of the inns it wants to do by Whiterun.

I will though try the instructions on this Reddit post. Maybe that will help! More on this later.

Dragon souls = skooma?

Inigo, in the second of the two sessions in this post, apparently decided that dragon souls are my skooma. He threw off multiple comments about encouraging me to stop absorbing them, and how he’d be there for me any time I wanted to try:

“Dragon souls are like your medicine. I know. I know. You can stop whenever you want. I thought the same thing about skooma.”:

“I take it you feel better now you’ve had your dragon soul hit? Maybe you should go without for a while and see what happens.”

“You just couldn’t resist that dragon soul could you. You are hopeless. When you are ready to give up I will be here to help you.”

Snerk. Part of me thinks this is hilarious. But part of me thinks having three different quotes about this so close together is laying the running gag on a little thick. Inigo, my good son, you do realize this is what the Dragonborn does, right? Killing dragons and absorbing their souls? It’s not like I can turn it off!

(Well, not without a mod to toggle that off, anyway. ;D)

Also, this is what Inigo chooses to start being concerned about? Not the part where I’m a frigging vampire and have to literally drink the blood of living creatures to sustain myself?

Though that does raise an interesting point: whether you can assume that a Stage Four vampire, if she’s Dragonborn, can manage to sustain herself without blood if she’s taking in dragon souls?

Meanwhile, Lucien also had a quote about dragon souls, for that matter:

“What do dragon souls taste like? Do you taste anything at all? Lucien Flavius, asking the important questions.”

Ha! Way to pursue scientific inquiry there, Lucien! Because it is a good question!

One last note about Vilya

As should be blatantly obvious given that I am running an obsessively detailed Elder Scrolls playthrough blog here, I am exactly the kind of completionist gamer that wants to finish off each and every quest in her quests journal. So that part of my brain has been nagging at me about Vilya, since I still have her quest line present.

And I keep thinking “maybe I should give her another chance?”

But then I remember that she annoyed the fuck out of me, and remind that portion of my brain that it is okay if I don’t finish each and every quest in the game. Even if it’s a quest already started on my journal. Just because it’s there doesn’t mean I have to finish it.

Aside from the gamer part of my brain, though, there’s the writer part of my brain. That part doesn’t like leaving a narrative unfinished. Vilja’s story is still unfinished as far as my playthrough is concerned, so even though I don’t really want to return to having her as a follower, my writer brain still wants to decide what happened to her.

The easy answer would be, after Harrow ditched her, Lydia, and Lucien in Morthal just after her infection with Sanguinare Vampiris, Vilja got eaten by a bear on the road. RAAAAAR. 😉

But tempting as that is, that’s still not entirely satisfying to me. I didn’t like how the character was implemented, but as I wrote before, I do still kind of like her concept. So I’m going to do her the courtesy of assuming that she gets to have a happy ending.

I’d written back in the Harrow becomes a vampire post that she’d bailed on her followers in Morthal, and told the innkeeper to tell them that she’d gone to look for the Horn of Jurgen Windcaller alone, and that they were not to follow her. To this, I am going to now add that she explicitly left a note for Vilja, telling her to go pursue her dream of becoming a bard, and that if she chose to go to Solitude for that, to ask Lydia to go with her to help her get there safely.

For Lydia, she left a note explicitly saying that she’d consider it a personal favor if she helped Vilja get to Solitude safely. But that if Vilja needed anything else, how much Lydia chose to assist would be up to her.

For Lucien, let’s say a shorter note, to the effect of “I will return to our agreement when I can, but will understand if you choose to go about other business”. Because at that point, Harrow didn’t know Lucien as well.

I shall further assume that Vilja did in fact make it to Solitude, was readily embraced by the Bards College, and perhaps then became so popular a singer that she was invited to tour down in Cyrodiil. So that’ll give me a narrative angle to explain why she is no longer present at the Bards College by the time Harrow gets there!

Now all that said, I reserve the right to also decide “she was eaten by a bear” if I change my mind and want to be less charitable later. 😉 For now, though, I’ll let her have a happy ending! Someplace else.

And I’ll just have to stay out of the Bannered Mare, either way. Hopefully the Bards College mod won’t expect me to perform in each and every single inn in the game!

And speaking of which…

Joining the Bards College

The whole Vilja thing was on my mind because, well, Bards College! Off and on over the last many Harrow sessions, I’ve kept thinking, “Jeez, I’m nearly up to level 50 and I haven’t even run Bards College yet, I really ought to do that…”

And this time, finally, I did that! When I wound up in Solitude again and was looking for something to do, and remembered holy shit right I have the Become a Bard mod installed.

So I decided to check it out. And OMG you guys. I fell in love with this mod as soon as I set foot in the college. I think it may have just shot up to stand shoulder to shoulder with Immersive College of Winterhold for how much enjoyment it’s adding to the game for me.

A few changes were immediately obvious as soon as I showed up to talk to Viarmo.

One: Viarmo doesn’t cut straight to sending you off to get Olaf’s verse. Instead, he directs you to talk to a new NPC, Malukah, to take various entrance exams required to admit you to the college. Malukah is named after the performer of the same name who went viral with her video of singing “The Dragonborn Comes”, which is lovely. <3

Malukah the NPC is not voiced by that person, and I did find her voicing a trifle stilted sounding, but not enough that it really bothered me. What was much more important was that she’s responsible for walking you through the entrance exams! And I gotta say: I just adore that this mod expects you to actually work on the skills that the college expects for a bard: history and music.

You actually need to take musical exams, make instruments, and practice them!

Now, to some gamers, this might be too much work. If you prefer to cut to the part where you run off and fight your way through Dead Men’s Respite to get Olaf’s verse, as well as the three locations for recovering the missing instruments, more power to you.

Me, I adore this added level of detail. It makes the Bards College feel a lot more real to me. And as an amateur musician myself, it feels a lot more satisfying to be asked to actually do musical things if I want to join the Bards College.

Now, I wasn’t able to pass the drum exam quickly. In the session I ran on Sunday, Malukah kept telling me to go off and practice some more. So whether or not I find this annoying is going to depend on how much more she’s going to expect me to practice. I like that it’s going to take a little bit of work. I don’t want it to take days and days and days of additional sessions! We’ll see.

Two: The whole place has been remodeled. It looks a lot nicer now, and there are historical instruments on display all over the first floor. Instruments which Malukah in fact asks you to review, to pass her history entrance exam.

I adore this. I liked reading the info on each and every instrument, just for the added richness of detail that they give to Tamriel’s musical history. Now that I’m playing Elder Scrolls Online as well as Skyrim, I’ve seen better signs of musical variations over there, but this is not a thing you get much of in vanilla Skyrim. So to see these additional details here is wonderful.

I particularly liked the instrument explicitly donated by a Mane of the Khajiit, on the condition that Khajiit be allowed to join the College. <3

Three: Speaking of Khajiit, I saw a new Khajiit NPC added in attending the classes, as well as an Argonian! So improved diversity at the college for the win. <3

Four: I actually got a bed in the Bards College. Which means I now have a place to sleep in Solitude that isn’t the Winking Skeever, which should serve me nicely until such time as I can buy Proudspire Manor.

And once I got through Malukah’s initial exams on history and lyrics, I moved on to the part where I needed to start studying the drum. I passed her initial oral exam on that, but as mentioned, did not immediately pass her evaluation for playing.

I really do like that I was able to make my own drum, once I went over to the tanning rack at Beirand’s forge. Malukah’s dialogue suggested I would be able to buy one from the headmaster, but I did not see instruments available in Viarmo’s “What have you got for sale?” dialogue option. So I had to go make my own. Fortunately, that was easy! I just needed leather, leather strips, and firewood.

It took me a bit to figure out how to actually play that drum, though. The mod gave me a new power, “Play Drum”, which I could activate to launch off the right bumper button, same as for Shouts. And when I launched it, it let me pick from three drum rhythms to play. When I chose one, it then did a neat little animation of me playing that drum.

Cooooooool. 😀

I tried this out both in the college at an instrument class, as well as at the Winking Skeever. I didn’t see that the class was set up in a way to actually call on me to play (which would perhaps have been complicated to code?). So that felt a little weird. I didn’t necessarily want to be in the back of that class beating on my drum while Inge Six Fingers calls on some other student!

Playing at the Skeever, though, was neat. I already knew about the option to ask innkeepers to perform, but now it actually makes sense since I have the Play Drum power. So I did that a couple of times at the Skeever, which resulted in making a few septims. And the playing animation ended with my taking a bow, too!

That still wasn’t quite enough to satisfy Malukah, though. She threw off a line about checking my bard journal–a book added into my inventory by the mod. It’s apparently now tracking my practice and how many places I’ve played. After performing and practicing a few times, I saw my “Bard Skill” go up to 4. So I’ll have to see now how high that number needs to be before Malukah will agree to evaluate me.

I need to listen closer to the three drum rhythms I can play; right now they don’t sound that different to me. But I’m going to be interested to see what happens when I get to the flute and lute parts!

So far, all in all, pretty damned happy with this mod. Looking forward to doing more of the musical stuff.

Other action in Solitude

After enjoying the hell out of exploring the changes to the Bards College, I took the time to move the Gray Cowl plot a little further along.

First main point of interest there were, I didn’t have enough gold on me to buy off Gisli, so I had to eventually blip out to Goldenhills and pick up profit money from Illia. Only then was I able to them come back and bribe Gisli appropriately.

And also, I discovered that the Dawn of Skyrim mod (I think) stuck a wagon right by the little side alley that leads back to the barrel with the instructions from the Stranger that send you off to Silverdrift Lair. I was able to jump over that wagon to get back to the barrel, once I took a few minutes to evaluate my options. But that was a thing I had to do. Word of warning for Future Me, or any reader who might want to run Dawn of Skyrim in conjunction with the AE.

(I see a bunch of patches for Dawn of Skyrim on Nexus, but offhand, skimming them, I don’t see any that say they address this issue in particular.)

Meanwhile, I talked to Dervenin to get the hook for the Sheogorath plot. Took a little extra time this time to chat with Dervenin and remind myself of some of his other dialogue options, and even got him to tell me about the maids who might actually let me get into that wing of the palace! I may need to try that route this time, just to see how that plays out. I haven’t done it before.

I took a bit of time this time as well to talk to Sybille Stentor. To my disappointment, she didn’t seem to realize that I was another vampire. According to the wiki, she has no coded dialogue for that scenario. But I will headcanon that she absolutely knew I’m a vampire, and was smart enough to not discuss it in public.

She did know I’m Arch-Mage, though. And when I asked her for Destruction training, she threw the same line I get from Faralda about that–which made it clear that she’s got the same voice actor as Faralda! Ha!

And I got the Potema action kicked off, talking to Falk Firebeard after witnessing the “oh shit, there’s trouble at Wolfskull Cave” scene in Elisif’s court. Ran Wolfskull without any issues. And it was definitely a lot easier to get through it when I could turn on Vampire Sight!

Inigo and Lucien, meanwhile, both had very positive commentary about Solitude. Lucien even seemed to want to stay, and for me to buy a house there. We’ll see how these boys react when I get Proudspire!

Next time

In almost all of my previous playthroughs, I think I would have started Dawnguard by now? Shenner is an exception, given that I played Dawnguard with her explicitly after doing Dragonborn.

But for all the other previous playthroughs, yeah. Harrow’s closing in on level 50, albeit at a rate faster than has been normal for me, given that she gets to train faster at the mage college. Still, by now I’d usually be running Dawnguard.

But still don’t quite want to do that with her yet. I have plenty of other things to do still, and I want the quest board more clear with her before I take that on.

I’ll need to level up again before I can get the next round of Potema action, and get onto the path of becoming Elisif’s thane.

So while I’m waiting for that to happen, I think it’d be a good time to go hit Arkngthamz and get Katria’s plot underway, finally!


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.