Skyrim,  Skyrim Together Playthrough

In Which the Dragonborns Fight Thalmor and Rescue Esbern

This one is way overdue, over two months at this point, but I’m posting it anyway to get it out of my queue! This is the last session Dara, Mel, and I ran in Skyrim Together Reborn, on December 3rd.

This is all main Skyrim quest action, primarily featuring raiding the Thalmor Embassy, and then proceeding to rescue Esbern from the Ratway. With a side helping of general Skyrim Together shenanigans, as we do.

Play by play

  • Play date: 12/3/2023
  • Session number in this run: 11
  • Picked up where we left off in Whiterun, specifically in Breezehome
  • Had issues with floating items, and Kitty having the zoomies, which made Dara nauseous but she decided to try to make a go for it anyway
  • Decided we’d run the Thalmor Embassy
  • Boinged to Riverwood to talk to Delphine about that as you do
  • Then boinged to Solitude to do all of that
  • Here was where we first started running into issues, though, with losing our stuff
  • Mel ran the conversation with Malborn as per usual, but Dara and I both had trouble with that
  • Then we went over to the stables to meet up with Delphine, and again, this went weird
  • I had a crash here and had to restart; this threw me back to coming out of Solitude, and I teleported to the party to catch up
  • We all got into the embassy–and again, I saw both Rhanys and Kitty as naked
  • The Thalmor did not hit me up for an invitation on the way in, presumably because Mel was the quest party leader…?
  • Saw Elenwen without her usual weird face coloration this time, and she actually looked more normal, heh
  • Mel got Razelan on deck as our distraction, and we got into the kitchen with Malborn
  • Malborn: “A guest, feeling ill.” Us, as Tsavani the cook: “Khajiit sees three guests, and thinks you cannot count.” ;D
  • Here though we discovered a major problem: our smuggled stuff was not in the chest
  • We rampaged through the embassy as best we could
  • Kitty lost her armor to the chest problem, but she got re-outfitted off a dead Thalmor, first taking some robes and then later taking some armor
  • We had the issue where NPCs spawned a copy for each one of us, so we had three times the usual number of Thalmor, particularly after reading Esbern’s dossier in the dungeon
  • Extra Thalmor wizards kept conjuring atronachs, which was a problem, but I managed to nab fire, frost, and void salts off assorted atronach remains
  • We did however get out safely with Malborn and Etienne, killed the frost troll, and got the Stone of Barenziah
  • Then returned to Riverwood to check back in with Delphine–but ran into two more problems
    1. Delphine wasn’t frigging there, but Mel saw her moving on the map, so we just derped around in the inn for a bit waiting for her to return
    2. None of us had anything in Delphine’s chest where she was supposed to put the rest of our stuff 🙁
  • Dara at this point though reported she was quite nauseous and had to stop
  • So we took a break and worked on solving problems, of which we had three, see below
  • While we did all of this, I went over and sold a bunch of Thalmor loot to Alvor at the forge and to Lucan in the Riverwood Trader
  • Bought some steel to improve a couple weapons I swiped off the Thalmor
  • Bought a bunch of potions from Lucan
  • Noted Camilla was missing her usual red rouge on her cheeks and the red tint of her lips–so in general women’s faces seem to have issues showing makeup?
  • Sold a bunch of Thalmor armor (I wound up with like seven full sets of armor, LOL)
  • Hit the wood chopping block to make firewood, so that I could make some more arrows with the iron and steel I bought, including a set of fire arrows
  • Did some alchemy at the Alchemy table in the Sleeping Giant as well
  • Blew through some ingredients I’d gathered for Ingun, but decided I didn’t care, since this let me recreate a few more potentially useful potions
  • Dara made the appropriate adjustments and attempted to come back, and this did seem to help her
  • Once Dara returned she also got into the console to recreate the Thieves Guild armor and the Nightingale Blade, and to give herself a bow back
  • Tested out making another set of Leather Scout Armor and confirmed Dara still couldn’t see that, or the Dark Seducer armor Rhanys is wearing
  • But Dara can interact with other AE content like fishing supplies, as we also discovered
  • We had some inconsistency with quests, I had “A Cornered Rat” queued up but Mel still had “Diplomatic Immunity” showing with the objective to talk to Delphine
  • But Delphine finally arrived back at the inn and Mel was able to talk to her and proceed to “A Cornered Rat”
  • Decided next to return to Riften and get Esbern out of the Ratway
  • But first, Mel bought Shadowfoot Sanctum since she had the gold for that, and we went over to check it out
  • Mel ran into Shavari on the way into the house and took her out, so we didn’t have to worry about her
  • Dara was able to bring Kitty in and interact with the place, so that was another confirmed bit of AE content she can see just fine
  • We had some hilarity in the loot room there, Dara and I both saw a skeleton spawn right on top of one of the armor mannequins
  • Went back over to the Ratway for a little bit while Dara and Mel were exploring the house
  • Confirmed that Vekel could still show me the option to buy Shadowfoot Sanctum myself so apparently Dara and I can buy it independently?
  • Not clear if we can safely store stuff in Mel’s instance of the Sanctum, Dara and Mel played a bit with that though
  • After we finished playing with the house, commenced going to get Esbern
  • Got Dravin’s bow out of the chest partway through the Ratway
  • Mel wound up taking out all of the denizens of the Warrens, even the non-hostile ones
  • Getting out again was a bit messy with the Thalmor battles, see below
  • Mel and I got out of the Ratway first, then I went back in to guide Dara out since she was trying not to resort to using party teleport
  • Sold some Thalmor loot to Balimund and Bersi on the way out
  • Then we boinged back to Riften to bring Esbern to Delphine
  • Mel told Delphine we’d meet them at Karthspire, since we were not leveled up enough to get the best possible Dragonbane either
  • Epilogue: derping around with ragdoll physics! See below


As I’ve already posted about on this blog, Bethesda has dropped two different updates to Skyrim in the last couple of months. This play session of Skyrim Together, however, was right before the first of those two releases. So that didn’t impact this session. What did impact us was concern about how well trying Anniversary Edition content was going to work for us. Since we’d had some weirdness with that in the previous session and all, particularly at the end of it.

We started off in Breezehome, and right out of the gate, definitely got issues with items floating in random directions. But Kitty also started showing the zoomies, which unfortunately made Dara nauseous. She tried to make a go of it by deliberately moving Kitty too slowly, which did mitigate the problem some. Note this here, because this becomes important later.

Hitting the Thalmor Embassy seemed like a good goal for the session, so we aimed for Solitude to do that. But we started seeing signs of trouble pretty damned quickly.

Problem number one: handing off stuff to Malborn

At the Winking Skeever in Solitude, where you’re supposed to rendezvous with Malborn the Wood Elf and give him whatever stuff you want him to smuggle into the embassy, Mel ran the conversation with him as usual. I tried talking to him, and nothing happened at first–but then I got the UI to give him my critical stuff for him to smuggle into the embassy. Dara, for her part, couldn’t give Malborn anything at all.

Prologue for the larger problem that happened later!

Problem number two: Delphine at the stables

When we reached the stables to meet up with Delphine and get the party clothes, we had another burst of problems. Mel ran the convo with her, but neither Dara nor I could talk to her at all.

And all three of us had weirdness getting onto the carriage! None of us could see the others wearing the Party Clothes Delphine hands off to the Dragonborn at this point in the plot. So we all looked naked to one another. And we stacked very strangely getting onto the carriage to go to the embassy, too!

The nakedness problem persisted even when we arrived at the embassy. Which intrigues and concerns me, given that this is base game content here, this isn’t a question of Anniversary Edition content failing to sync. It suggests our run has issues going on aside from the question of Dara only getting the AE running belatedly.

This, too, was prologue for the larger problem at the Thalmor Embassy, see below.

Elenwen actually looks better without her weird makeup

When Ambassador Elenwen greeted us at the entrance, she was missing her weird face coloration. Which actually made her look more normal! This seems like another instance of the issue we’ve seen with Aela, with her face paint missing. And I think a couple other NPCs that normally have face paint have shown the same issue, like Mjoll the Lioness.

This does at any rate suggest that Elenwen’s weird face coloration is considered by the game to be face paint. If that’s the case, I’m not sure how you’d replicate it in the character creation process, since it doesn’t match anything I’ve seen in the settings so far. I’m equally unsure as to why you’d want to! Unless you have your heart set on playing a weird-faced Altmer.

Problem number three: oh shit Malborn lost our stuff

And here’s where issues with giving stuff to Malborn and Delphine bit us all in the ass. Because making it into the kitchen with Malborn led us to problem point number three: none of us could actually get anything out of the chest where Malborn was in theory supposed to have stored our stuff. 🙁

So I lost everything I gave to him. Including the Nightingale Blade, a Dwarven Bow of Soul Snares, a bunch of arrows, some food, and some potions. Dara likewise lost Kitty’s gear, but she took advantage of there being a plethora of Thalmor opponents to get herself re-equipped. First with a robe off a Thalmor wizard, and then trading off to actual armor.


We had more occurrences of an issue seen in previous sessions, where we got three times the normal number of NPC spawns. Which meant getting through the embassy was fairly crunchy!

We particularly had issues after reading Esbern’s dossier down in the dungeon, and triggering the arrival of the additional Thalmor who captured Malborn.

All throughout this part, multiple atronachs kept getting conjured too. This was because we kept spawning extra wizards, and this did cause us some problems as characters still more or less in the 20’s for level. Still, I managed to nab some fire salts, frost salts, and void salts off of assorted atronach remains.

And we did eventually make it out of the place, with Malborn and Etienne alive. We killed the frost troll in the tunnel out, and got the Stone of Barenziah from there as well. Then it was back to Riverwood to check in with Delphine…

Problem number four: oh shit Delphine lost the rest of our stuff

… except that we actually beat Delphine back there. So we had to wait around for her to arrive so Mel could continue the quest with the followup conversation with her!

More importantly, though, we found that Delphine hadn’t put anything of ours into her chest in the basement of her inn. Which meant that anything we handed over to her back at the stables was just gone.

So I only lost the stuff I gave Malborn–which I suppose was a happy side effect of my not being able to talk to Delphine at the stables? But Dara couldn’t either, and she lost all her stuff anyway. So who knows what happened there.

Mel and Dara both lost a lot more stuff to this problem, too. Including their Thieves Guild armor, the Nightingale Blade, and other weaponry.

At this point though Dara reported she was feeling quite nauseous and needed to stop. So we took a break and started working on fixing various problems.

Solution number one: fixing the server’s default difficulty

I’d observed in previous solo playthrough posts that my Difficulty level in those runs had mysteriously reset to Master. I saw this happen as Kendis, Elessir, and Kendeshel.

During this play session, though, Mel and I finally figured out what was going on. It turns out that a Skyrim Together server sets the difficulty level for all players, and our server was defaulting to Master.

Which explained a whole hell of a lot. Not only the weird resetting of the Difficulty levels in my other runs, but also why I was finding Luciriel so damned squishy in this one. So Mel dug into the server configs, found the correct thing to change, set that to Adept, and restarted the server.

Solution number two: getting our stuff back

After that, we started looking up the correct console commands to recreate the specific items we’d lost. Normally, we’d have considered this cheating. But in this specific scenario, we did it without hesitation–because in a correctly functioning playthrough, we should have gotten those items back from Delphine.

And for the record, we did limit it to just the specific items we knew we’d had before, like the Thieves Guild Armor, the Nightingale Blade, and a couple of other specific weapons, like my Dwarven Bow of Soul Snares.

This required us to look up a bunch of reference IDs for the various objects. And in my particular case, I just did it for the Nightingale Blade. Since that weapon is leveled, I also had to find the specific ID matching the one we would have received from Karliah before.

Dara and Mel likewise rebuilt their stuff, and all of us looked up as many reference IDs as we needed.

Solution number three: fixing Dara’s zoomies and nausea problem

Meanwhile, Mel and Dara had a stroke of inspiration: that the issues Dara was experiencing with Kitty getting the zoomies, as well as her own nausea after playing for a while, could stem from how Skyrim has issues over 60fps.

And Dara has a very high tier gaming monitor. She regularly plays at 144fps in Overwatch.

So she and Mel dug into settings to figure out how to lock Skyrim’s frame rate to 60. Dara tweaked the appropriate things, restarted her game, and reported afterwards that this did seem to help.

For reference, when I’m playing on the Steam Deck, it caps out at 60fps even though it’s capable of going over that if you remove the cap. So, thankfully, I haven’t had this problem. And this tells me to definitely leave my cap in place.

Fun with houses, and in particular Shadowfoot Sanctum

So after that interlude in Riverwood, we headed back to Riften to get Esbern out of the Ratway. And this went somewhat better, overall, than the raid on the embassy.

First point of interest here is that Mel bought Shadowfoot Sanctum. And we all were able to get into her instance of the house! Plus, I went back to Vekel the Man and confirmed that I still had a prompt with him myself to buy the house, which suggests that Dara and I should still be able to buy it ourselves.

What’s less clear though is whether we can safely store stuff in Mel’s instance of the house. And for that matter, if we all try to go into this house or any other at once, whose copy of the house are we actually in?

In this particular session, at least, we were clearly in Mel’s instance of house just because neither Dara nor I had actually bought it yet. And we still had some weirdness with objects, despite Dara’s having locked down her frame rate. Like the skeleton we saw spawn right on top of the one of the armor mannequins!

So the fun question here is, if all members of a party own the same house, and we all enter the house together, whose instance of the house are we actually in? We know from this session that it’s possible for all of us to be in a house together at the same time, since we did that in both Breezehome and Shadowfoot Sanctum. But what’s less clear is, whose instance of the house we were in, and how in general the mod keeps track of that.

The STR wiki says that player houses don’t sync, and this is on purpose. This is to make sure that players can still use the storage containers as safe storage in their own instances of the houses. But I’m also curious as to how the mod keeps track of stuff like moving things around inside of a house. For example, if I take a sweet roll off the table in my Breezehome, do my other party members still see a sweet roll there because they see “their” instances of Breezehome?

I’ve asked the STR Discord about this, though I may see if Dara and Mel and I can experiment with this too to answer it on our own.

Rescuing Esbern

Every time I run “A Cornered Rat” to rescue Esbern, it usually winds up being a rampage because I have to take out Thalmor coming and going, and usually also Shavari while I’m at it.

When you have three Dragonborns, though, it’s even more of a rampage! We got Dravin’s bow on the way in, which was not rampage-y. But Mel wound up killing all of the Ratway’s denizens, even the non-hostile ones, which was. Ah well, guess Hefid the Deaf won’t have to worry about hiding her bucket anymore! ;D And, well, that cannibal bastard Knjakr totally had it coming.

Esbern himself was no more immune to snark than Arngeir:

Esbern: “Only a Dragonborn can stop him. But no Dragonborn has been known for centuries.”

Me: “Fortunately for you, we have three entire whole ass Dragonborns RIGHT HERE.”

Dara: “Well, two and a half.”

And once we got Esbern on the way out, things were a trifle messy then too. He called up a frost atronach, but the game seemed confused about it. Mel saw it as Esbern’s Atronach, but Dara and I saw it as a hostile one.

We also saw Esbern sink through the floor at one point. So game physics still seemed a bit weird, even with Dara locked at 60fps.

Epilogue: derping around with ragdoll physics!

Once we got Esbern safely to Riverwood and did the rendezvous with Delphine, we were all kind of done with actual gaming at that point. But we hung out for a while longer anyway, and amused ourselves with experimenting with ragdoll physics. By which I mean, seeing what happened when Mel threw the Unrelenting Force Shout at assorted targets. Very important scientific research, you understand. Who knows when a Dragonborn or three might need to use this information in battle? 😆

Here are our rough findings!

  • Esbern: blew rather impressively up the stairs out of Delphine’s inn basement
  • Camilla: also went flying impressively, but this also pissed off every NPC in the vicinity, oops
  • Stump the dog: went airborne but also got pissed off, and Lydia attacked him and killed him
  • Gerdur and Hod’s cow: same, again killed by Lydia, and yeaaaaah the good folk of Riverwood weren’t very happy about this either, LOL

We finally bailed on this after much giggling, though, and dropped off the server to save and disconnect.

Though this did cause me personally one last oh shit moment. Because when I disconnected from the server and dropped back to my local save, Gerdur and Hod were attacking me! Yikes.

But thankfully, I was able to get around that by reverting to the save just before, where everything was calm again. I don’t think Gerdur and Hod would buy it if I tried to explain that was some other High Elf’s Redguard friend that Shouted at their cow. ;D

Next time

We haven’t played in a while, but as of this writing we’re hoping to maybe play tonight, Saturday the 23rd! We’re considering maybe working on becoming thanes of somewhere, or going after dragon priest masks, or maybe College of Winterhold. More as it happens!


And now, the screenshots! Here are mine:

And here are a few from Dara:

And a couple from Mel:

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.