Harrowhark Playthrough,  Skyrim

In Which Harrowhark Becomes Thane of Haafingar

Big Bards College action all over this pair of sessions, as I proceeded through Flute, Poetic Edda, and into Lute studies, as well as discovering how the spellsongs and general performance powers work. Meanwhile, I finished off Potema and bought Proudspire Manor, which let me become thane in Haafingar!

Play by play

  • Play dates: 3/8, 3/10/2023
  • Session numbers in this run: 44–45

Wednesday the 8th

  • Picked up at Lakeview
  • Did a round of drum practice of all three tunes, which put my Bard Skill at 7
  • Set out on horseback with the boys
  • Stopped at Guardian Stones and found the Dragonstone (not to be confused with the one you fetch from Bleak Falls Barrow) added there that’ll let me spend souls on perks, awesome
  • Went down to nearby fishing spot for fishing; caught pogfish! Got quest to return to Swims
  • Rode into Riverwood and sold a few clutter items to Lucan
  • Proceeded on to Whiterun but did not go in
  • Fought sabre cat right by where the Khajiit usually camp, and the cat clipped right through the ground when I killed it (this seems to happen if a slain enemy dies right under my horse?) o.O
  • Headed north across the plains
  • Fought frost troll once I reached the road
  • Reached Silverdrift and killed exterior bandits
  • Got pretty overloaded as expected running the place, but no other problems
  • Mounted up on Yngvi when I got out, and went to Riften
  • Got the courier with the followup message from Falk Firebeard re: Potema
  • Sold a bunch of stuff to unload
  • Gave Swims-in-Deep-Water his fish, and got the next quest from him
  • Went into the graveyard to try to resolve the Gray Cowl quest only to discover that Immersive College of Winterhold broke it, oooooops (more below)
  • Wound up jumping to the VM, turn on the console, and explicitly disable the two elements that represented the teleportation pad; that let me actually get to the journal and finish the quest
  • The Fox showed up, took the sword, and gave me the cowl
  • Returned to Solitude to check in at the Bards College and with Falk
  • Got Malukah to pass my drum eval and kick me over to the flute tests
  • Derped around the Bards College and found the Spellsong Scriptorium! 😀
  • Bought a songbook of songs of Cyrodiil off of Viarmo
  • Found a bunch more songbooks in the library, which were able to teach me songs and which added a bunch of new powers to my list, but which require a lute to play
  • Made four basic spells out of rolls of paper in a nearby basket, which were free to take
  • Went out to the forge and found I now had the ability to make flutes at the tanning rack (which struck me as weird, given that flutes aren’t made of leather, but hey
  • Made myself a flute out of a sabre cat tooth and tested playing it
  • Went into the Blue Palace, but it was still very early and the court wasn’t in session yet
  • So went into the kitchens to see about talking to the servants to get into the Pelagius wing
  • Got a couple of lines from the cook about Sybille Stentor being creepy, and LOL, yes, it is totally not normal that she doesn’t eat anything (said the vampire, as casually as possible)
  • Then talked to Una and passed Persuade check to get her to let me have the key to get into the Pelagius wing
  • Ran the Wabbajack quest; hi, Sheogorath! Sure, I’ll take this staff off your hands, why not
  • Then went to check in with Falk, and got him to give me the pointer to go talk to Styrr
  • Did that and got the instruction to go down into the catacombs and take out Potema
  • But first: wanted to ditch a bunch of excess things I was carrying
  • Also realized I wanted all the various Bards College related books in the same place, ideally in Proudspire
  • So went on an expedition to find where I left the History and Drum ones
  • Boinged to Lakeview, dropped off some of the building materials i had on me
  • Boinged back to Riften
  • Found Louis Letrush and got the quest from him to go steal Frost (oddly, found him while he was actually out in the market, not standing around inside the Bee and Barb, presumably this was Immersive Citizens at work)
  • Boinged to the College of Winterhold
  • Came in to immediately see an Ancient Dragon attack the courtyard, and other mages actually fought it! Notably, Faralda
  • It crashed and died on top of the Hall of Countenance; I did have to run up there to slurp the dragon soul but didn’t have to kill it there, it was already dead; Inigo threw off another line about my dragon soul habit
  • Confirmed I was not able to give Tolfdir the extra alembic even after starting his “find the missing alembic” quest again; derped around the college for a while looking for the new one that should have spawned, now that I triggered that quest again
  • Wound up stuffing the extra one in the chest in the Arch-Mage’s quarters
  • Confirmed where the orb is that’s supposed to teleport me to a secluded cabin but it apparently wants a filled common soul gem to work? So wasn’t able to use it, will have to try it later
  • Learned what the various glowing pads on various floors are, those are apparently teleport pads?
  • Found an entire shelf of teleportation orbs that are supposedly able to let me teleport off to various hold capitals, which explains why one of those was in the Riften graveyard
  • Got in some training in the Hall of the Elements, nudged Destruction up over 60
  • Got Colette to train me again after buying five rounds of Restoration training from her
  • Boinged next to Windstad and grabbed the History and Drum books, because that was where I’d left them
  • Boinged back to Solitude
  • Got Malukah to pass my flute eval and send me on to the Poetic Edda testing, which required reading a bunch more books in the library
  • Went back to the library and found a pile of books had fallen onto the floor, WTF? I couldn’t safely pick them up because they were tagged ‘steal’, had to roll back when I discovered this, and had to redo the flute eval with Malukah
  • Last but not least, finally headed into the catacombs to run the final confrontation with Potema, which went fairly smoothly though Lucien and Inigo both got walloped pretty hard; had to heal them a couple of times
  • Got killed by a vamp partway through when I wasn’t prepared for a frost attack, but second time through, took advantage of a 40 percent Frost Resist necklace I had in the inventory
  • Had to take advantage of shock resistance in the final Potema fight; took her out and got her skull
  • Got boss loot, but did not bother to fight the two sleeping draugr in the tunnel that led out
  • Boinged back to Solitude to report in to Falk
  • Got Elisif to ask me to go take Torygg’s horn to the Shrine of Talos
  • Returned to the Bards College, parked in my room there, and saved for the night
  • Level up taken during this session: 50, took Stamina bump, took the next bump of base skill in Enchanting (Harrow’s ability to make enchanted jewelry definitely needs some work)

Friday the 10th

  • Picked up at Bards College
  • Decided to go out on assorted other quests to see if being away from the college for a few days game time would clean up the books mess on the floor
  • Boinged to Gjukar’s Monument to ride over to the shrine for the start of The Cause quest; killed by Mythic Dawn assassins there, and thrown back to Gjukar’s Monument
  • Rode to the shrine, take two; this time took out the two assassins
  • Found Skorvild’s body and got his journal, and objective to go check out the Mythic Dawn camp
  • Boinged from there to Tundra Homestead thinking to go place Torygg’s horn
  • Got courier with a note about the bonewolf followup to Potema
  • Also got an Elder Dragon! Heard the courier scream, poor guy, he did not sign up for this
  • Got a random High Elf mage showing up to start some shit too
  • However, the game crashed right in the middle of the dragon fight >_<
  • Thrown back to the shrine just post taking out the assassins
  • Boinged to Tundra Homestead take two; got the courier again, did not get the High Elf
  • This time the dragon was a Blood Dragon, and we took it out
  • Did a bit of fishing at the fishing spot nearby; caught a spadefish for round two of Swims’ fishing quests
  • Finally rode over to the Shrine of Talos, and killed a sabre cat and a bear on the way
  • Placed the horn! Cue Thalmor agent Lorcalin and his Thalmor soldier buddy
  • Summoned the dremora because I was overloaded from dragon bits, and we took out the Thalmor!
  • Boinged down to Riften to sell things
  • Boinged to Whistling Mine to get within range of the locations to find the missing College of Winterhold students, or at least their remains
  • Hit Journeyman’s Nook first for Borvir’s dagger; took out the bandit there and cleared the place
  • Team Dragonborn also fought what appeared to be two different sets of nearby bandits, found two different dead bandit chiefs once the battle was done; got overloaded again just getting all the bandit loot
  • Hit the little shrine that had Rundi’s dagger as well
  • Stopped by the college and went down into the midden to smelt some of the bandit gear, which helped get me back under carry weight
  • While I was down there I hit the atronach forge and created the Conjure Staada spellbook
  • I accidentally hit a Shout on the way down the bridge, which triggered a guard telling me to knock it off–at which point I saw I had a dialogue option to invoke being the Arch-Mage to tell the guard to fuck off; I did not take that option, it seemed unnecessarily haughty
  • Sold things to Birna in Winterhold on the way out
  • Went down on foot to head for the other two locations with the dead students
  • Fought a few skeevers by Ilas-Tei’s body at the Talos shrine; got the ring and a bit of other loot
  • Hoofed it further on to get to Yisra’s charred and flaming remains; got her necklace
  • Fought a surprisingly large number of snow bears right around here
  • Hit the Horse Call power to mount up, since we’d gotten ahead of the horses
  • Boinged back to Solitude and sold a bunch of things to unload
  • Returned to the Bards College to see if the books had cleaned up; answer: no
  • So just trudged through reading a bunch of books in the pile on the floor
  • Talked to Malukah to try to pass the Poetic Edda exam, which took me two tries since the first time through, I got one of the questions wrong
  • Second time, passed and proceeded to the Lute exam; got the three books for that
  • Took oral exam for that, which again took me two tries since I got one of the questions wrong
  • Then was able to work on actually making a lute and practicing it
  • Boinged to Lakeview and did a little bit of smithing and inventory management
  • Returned to the college so that I could check in with Phinis, and resolve the quest about the missing students
  • Got more training in the Hall of the Elements while there; Phinis can’t train me any further, I hit 75 in Conjuration, but was able to get training off of all four of the other trainers
  • Boinged to Goldenhills to pick up profits, which got me enough money to buy Proudspire
  • Spotted Alduin hovering around Vuljotnaak’s burial mound, same as I’d seen in Kendis’ run
  • Boinged back to Solitude to buy Proudspire, and partially decorate it, since I didn’t have enough money to do all of the decorations yet
  • Still, HI JORDIS
  • Finished off by discovering the book rendering problem I described below
  • Boinged to Windstad and confirmed that the bug reproduces on the shelves there too
  • Saved at Windstad for the night

Horse hooves are apparently pretty powerful?

I’ve been seeing this happen a few times now, so let me call it out here as a thing: apparently, if an enemy NPC or creature dies right underneath my horse, the body will clip right into the ground. I don’t remember ever seeing this with the vanilla horses in the game–but I’ve definitely seen it with all the horses provided by the Wild Horses Creation in the Anniversary Edition.

And it’s not specific to Harrow’s modded playthrough, either. I’ve seen it happen with Kendis and her unicorn over on the Switch playthrough as well.

Immersive College of Winterhold breaks the Gray Cowl quest in AE

As of the sessions covered in this post, I found the first notable bug introduced by the Immersive College of Winterhold mod. Namely, that it breaks the tail end of the Gray Cowl of Nocturnal quest.

The problem is, the Gray Cowl quest wants you to return to the graveyard in Riften, where you are to find the Stranger’s Journal next to the alleged gravestone of the Gray Fox. You pick up the journal, and the Gray Fox himself appears, to take the Ancestral Sword of Clan Ice-Blade from you and give you the Gray Cowl.

Which is all very well and good up to the part where the Immersive College of Winterhold mod drops a bunch of teleportation pads all over the game. Up until now I’d only noticed the ones inside the actual college. But apparently there are more, and I’m pretty sure they’re connected to the teleportation orbs I’ve found in the college.

One of these pads is in Riften, in the graveyard. Right smack on top of where the Gray Fox’s gravestone is. And when I showed up there to try to resolve the quest, I found that neither the gravestone nor the Stranger’s Journal were accessible.

There’s a patch that’s supposed to fix this problem, part of a collection of patches rounded up in the Immersive College of Winterhold Patch Collection . And I did in fact install that patch collection. But what I saw as the result was that the gravestone became visible–but not the journal. According to the patch collection’s page, the journal was supposedly to be moved to a place where it would be reachable, but that wasn’t what I saw.

I wound up having to invoke the console to fix this, though fortunately the fix was easy enough. I just had to click on the two assets that represented the pad, and enter the disable comment to hide them.

To my frustration, though, I discovered that installing that patch collection still doesn’t give me an MCM for this mod. Damn.

And while I’m on the topic of Immersive College of Winterhold mod bugs, I have an extra alembic of Tolfdir’s that I apparently can’t get rid of. I found two of them lying around in the same spot at one point, and was able to give Tolfdir one of them, but he wouldn’t take the other one. So I wound up stuffing it in the chest in the Arch-Mage’s quarters.

Bards College stuff!

Continuing to enjoy the hell out of the Bards College mod, so here’s some general commentary on various aspects of that!

More about the instruments on display in the Bards College

I missed this before, even though it was stated outright right on the mod’s description on Nexus–but I discovered finally that yes, the instruments on display in the college via this mod are all brought over from Elder Scrolls Online. So now I’m clearly going to have to take the time to check out the Bards College in ESO just to see how similar it looks!

This does also raise a real interesting question about the state those various instruments are all in. Skyrim’s time frame is several hundred years after ESO, so that’s several hundred years in which those instruments would have had time to grow more fragile. One hopes that the Bards College is doing a very conscientious job of keeping them in as good a condition as possible!

Kisani

I spent some time chatting with the Khajiit NPC Kisani, just because it pleased me deeply to see a Khajiit wandering around the college. This conversation included a question to her about Khajiit not being allowed in the city–and she pointed out that Khajiit caravans are not allowed inside the city walls, but she isn’t part of a caravan.

Which, loophole! But I also noticed that she didn’t sound exactly thrilled about it. I expect Kisani probably gets asked this question a lot, and is probably very, very tired of hearing it. And she’d be justified in thinking this particular aspect of Skyrim’s culture is bullshit.

Spellsongs

I found the Spellsong Scriptorium and figured out how to create the four basic spellsongs. And later, I learned that playing them would require me to have a lute equipped.

Also, apparently I can get more of these as I level up the Bard Skill. We’ll see how useful this winds up being. I like the idea of the ones that boost Alchemy, Smithing, and Enchanting, anyway.

Making and playing flutes

I found it interesting that the flute crafting was for bone, reed, or wood flutes, and explicitly not metal. Dara pointed out that with the tech level we’re dealing with in Skyrim, metal flutes would be pretty much unaffordable for most of the Nord population, so I can run with that. She says that Skyrim’s tech level would make it possible, just not something that could be done often.

(Which raises an interesting side question of whether the Dwemer might have made metal flutes. Given the complexities of the Dwarven automations, it seems to me like they’d totally have had the ability to make metal flutes. Possibly other metal instruments as well?)

I likewise found it interesting that I can now make flutes out of sabre cat teeth, or mammoth tusks, or firewood. Regardless of what material I chose, though, the resulting flute looked the same. And it had a lot more holes than I expected, when I triggered the Play Flute power and saw myself actually playing it.

And I had some quibbles with how the animation showed me holding the flute, in general. It looked like it was right over Harrow’s mouth, rather than being in front of it. I don’t think Skyrim’s flutes are meant to be played with the nose? (Nose flutes are a thing, I looked them up.) But if the player is supposedly playing by blowing with the mouth, then the animation showed me definitely holding it too high.

Now, I grant a few contradictory things here:

  1. I am a flute player, so this is one of those things that I’ll be more inclined to nitpick than people who aren’t flute players
  2. The Lore pages on the wiki I follow aren’t exactly explicit about how Skyrim’s flutes should be played, and the game itself doesn’t give detail on it; I have to extrapolate from what I know about flutes in real life
  3. This is a mod in an eleven-year-old game, so there’s only going to be so much you can do with really making that instrument playing look accurate, I expect

So by and large, I’m willing to suppress the urge to nitpick on the grounds of the mod just generally being cool. 😉

Making and playing lutes

I found it a trifle weird though that I had to make instruments explicitly at a tanning rack. Dara also pointed out that if you had to do things like making strings and doing bindings, the tanning rack would make sense. But Skyrim, unlike Elder Scrolls Online, doesn’t include a Woodworking crafting station. So you have to make allowances for that. Because yeah, I suppose that the tanning rack makes a bit more sense than trying to make instruments at the actual forge, especially if you’re not making instruments out of metal.

And now I’ve gotten to play finally with the Wanderer’s Lute that you can make. Which requires one extra leather strip (aside from the leather strips you need to make a lute to begin with), and which allows you to actually wear and equip the lute. It hovers behind your back kind of the same way your backpack, arrows, and bow too.

Which of course means that you could wind up with a backpack, a quiver, a bow, and a lute all occupying your back at once. These all do kind of clip together in slightly hilarious ways. So clearly, any Dragonborn has a small dimensional holding pocket right behind their back, that they can stuff anything they like into? Or else that backpack I’m carrying is set up to carry arrows and a bow and an instrument, all without smashing anything else I’m carrying in it. Like half a dozen other types of weapons, five scrolls, three dozen potions, and thirty different types of ore and ingots. 😉

In addition to being a flute player, I play a bit of guitar as well. So I was able to notice during the lute playing animation that if your hand gets far enough down the instrument, your fingertips clip underneath some of the strings. Or at least they did for Harrow. I was wearing the Hedge Mage Armor at the time, and the left hand glove is missing a couple of fingers. So there may be some weirdness there. I will need to try this when I’m not wearing any gloves, just to compare.

Last but not least, let me note for the record that the Arch-Mage’s quarters have really good acoustics. Playing in there sounded awesome.

Singing

Since I did make it to the point of doing lute practice, this meant I was able to also sing various songs from songbooks. Which is great except for two things.

One: The basic Skyrim songs do work but for the female voiced ones, but you switch voice types if you do “Ragnar the Red” vs. “Age of Oppression/Aggression” or “The Dragonborn Comes”. From what I can tell this is entirely because the songs don’t have samples for all the various female voices, and from a technical standpoint, I get that! But from a player standpoint, I find this super distracting!

Hell, I’m not even sure if either of the two available female voice types even suit Harrow. The one that matches Karita in Dawnstar, which I find kind of grating, definitely doesn’t suit her. The even-toned female one that is demonstrated by Lisette in Solitude might be a better match, maybe? But even that seems a little high-ranged for what feels appropriate for Harrow. I’m kind of feeling her as a contralto.

Even more distracting, if you kick off a song that has lyrics, the animation of you performing plays, but your mouth does not move, so there is no obvious sign that you are in fact singing.

This, I freely grant, is a much more technically challenging problem to solve. I don’t even know all that much about Skyrim modding yet, this being my first serious modded playthrough. But even given that, that seems obvious–because there are so many different ways you can design your character in the character creation UI, so many variations on how mouths are shaped, that I expect making animations to cover them all would be incredibly meticulous work.

And now, though, it occurs to me that in eight Skyrim playthroughs I don’t think I’ve ever actually looked closely enough at any of the bards to see if their mouths move when they sing. I’m going to have to follow up on this to doublecheck!

Last note about doing more of the songs: some of them clearly had more voices and instruments than could be accounted for by a single character performing. So while I think it’s really cool that the mod lets you bring in these external songs, I don’t know how immersive I find that. I feel like those kinds of songs only make sense if you actually are able to play together with other characters. (Is there a mod for that? I don’t know!)

Book explosion in the Bards College library, broadsheet at 11

This was a weird one: just after Malukah assigned me the Poetic Edda exam, I discovered that a whole bunch of the books in the library had fallen into a pile all over the floor.

The really frustrating thing about this: I couldn’t actually pick up any of those books, because getting them into my inventory would count as stealing. And even if I could have picked them up, the shelves in the library aren’t ones I can interact with, either. So I had no way of returning the books to their proper places on the shelves.

I went digging through the various posts up on the mod’s page on Nexus, and I’m apparently not the only one who’s experienced this problem. The recommended solution for this was yet another mod, called Tidy Up. And as I installed this, I had yet another round of seeing more clearly now why people wind up with several hundred mods in their load orders. 😉

Still not clear on what actually caused the problem, though. Seemed like a very sudden and violent displacement! Presumably some kind of conflict with something else going on in the load order, but not sure what it would be.

For now though, Tidy Up did seem to do the trick and let me more or less put books back in the right places.

And speaking of buggy books

I ran into a different problem: namely, the History of Skyrim books and the three Drum volumes stopped actually rendering on my bookshelves.

I was able to reproduce this on multiple shelves–at Proudspire and at Windstad. The books can be placed on shelves, but visually, if I just look at the shelf, the books don’t appear to be present. If I then interact with the shelf, I can get them.

Off the top of my head I don’t recall this reproducing with these six books when I originally got them and placed them at Windstad. And it’s not reproducing with the later books I’ve gotten, the Flute and Lute volumes, or with the Bards College Timetable or the one songbook I’ve purchased so far. And I don’t know if it’s related to the weirdness with the books exploding all over the library.

It was weird enough though that I posted about it on the mod’s page on Nexus, to ask if anybody knows of a solution. I’ll report back here if I hear of anything useful.

Other action in Solitude

Chugged pretty fast through the tail end of the Potema plot. Getting in there with a party of three on Team Dragonborn was definitely helpful! Though Lucien and Inigo took pretty strong thrashing and I had to heal them a couple of times. I need to look into giving both of those boys some armor bumps.

And since I took out Potema, I was then able to proceed to buying Proudspire! And becoming thane. So now I have Jordis the Sword-Maiden available as a housecarl.

Learned something about Vuljotnaak

I’ve seen this happen in both Harrow’s and Kendis’s runs this time: spotting Alduin flying around Vuljotnaak’s burial mound, but not yet actually resurrecting Vuljotnaak. I’m getting conflicting information about this on the wikis, because the uesp.net one thinks Vuljotnaak should be resurrected before “A Cornered Rat” is run. The Elder Scrolls fandom.com one thinks though that it happens before you finish “Alduin’s Wall”.

But I’ve finished “Alduin’s Wall” with Harrow and Kendis both, I think? So do I actually have to return to High Hrothgar to see Paarthurnax before Vuljotnaak is properly resurrected? I’ll have to confirm.

Next time

Damn good question!

I kinda want to make a hard push through the rest of the Bards College plot so I can move on to getting the instruments, and get the overall plotline done and dealt with. But that’ll depend on how fast Malukah clears me on the lute. So I may need to go off and do something else first.

Fortunately, I have several side quests to pick from. And I still haven’t gone after the Lost to the Ages quest to meet Katria yet! So that might be an option.

Screenshots

Notes

  • 3/15/2023: After further poking at this on the wiki, and checking maps of where the dragon burial mounds are located, I determined that the glowing mound I saw in this post’s sessions was not actually Vuljotnaak’s. It was Nahagliiv’s. I have corrected the caption on the relevant pic in the screenshot 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.