Kendeshel Playthrough,  Skyrim

Ongoing dragon spawn problem in Legacy of the Dragonborn run

Writing this post up outside the main playthrough posts for Kendeshel, just because this has continued to be a problem in her run, and I want to organize my thoughts about this.

This is a long-ish post, so slapping a More tag on this.

It has now become apparent to me that the patch I attempted to do for this playthrough to cut down on the number of dragons I see strafing Solitude is not adequate. I am continuing to see dragons spawn semi-regularly in Solitude, often enough that this has now caused the deaths of multiple named NPCs in the city. And losing Beirand the blacksmith makes me especially sad.

As Kendeshel continues to level up, the dragons are of course leveling with her. As of this writing, the dragons I’m seeing spawn are Revered Dragons, all the more likely to slay any Solitude citizens who aren’t set Essential, and who are unfortunate enough to be in their attack paths.

And I’m genuinely torn about this. It’s an unpleasant contrast to all my previous Skyrim runs, even the prior ones on Steam Deck, where dragons attacking cities were not nearly so common. This is one of the most brutal playthroughs I’ve had in terms of civilian casualties. The only other playthrough that’s matched it was Ysani’s, where the dragon torched Left Hand Mine and killed every single adult character who was above ground there. And even then, that was a single brutal attack, an outlier in Ysani’s run, as opposed to an ongoing high frequency of random spawns.

Kendeshel’s run has the added problem, too, of these being civilians lost in Solitude. Where she’s living and working, and where she’s settled her family. Which makes it a fuckton more personal for her to lose Solitude civilians than it was for Ysani to witness the obliteration of that mine, even if that did motivate Ysani to adopt little Erith.

Even as I say that, part of me also feels like Skyrim kinda needs this level of gravitas. The Dragonborn needs to be reminded that the threat of dragons is not just at the “Alduin is going to eat the entire world” level. It’s also at the day-to-day, direct threat to civilian populations level. Populations that include people the Dragonborn herself may specifically know and care about.

The actual core problem for me here, I think, is more of a question of underlying game functionality than it is one of impact on Kendeshel’s narrative. If this was just a question of “oh shit, the city Kendeshel has settled in keeps getting attacked by dragons”, I could accept it as just added urgency to the story. I’m not bugged by that.

What I am bugged by is not understanding why this is happening. It’s different behavior from what I’ve seen on the Switch, or in my previous Steam Deck playthroughs (Shenner and Harrowhark). And it’s also different behavior from what I see with Elessir, even though Elessir’s run has a bunch of mods in common with Kendeshel’s. And my QA brain gets irritated by weird behavior it doesn’t understand and can’t solve.

So here’s what I currently know:

  1. My attempt at patching this problem changed the Max Height Data in the MuseumExterior cell
  2. The patch at first did seem to make dragon spawns in Solitude less frequent; it did not eliminate them
  3. However, as Kendeshel’s playthrough progressed, I began seeing dragon spawns in the Dev Aveza dock cell, which does appear to be its own cell separate from the museum exterior, because there’s a zone change when I go around the corner to it
  4. Dragons that spawn in the airship dock cell sometimes show a behavior of flying off into the distance midway through the battle
  5. If I leave the cell and head out into the city, though, the dragon shows up again inside the city at its last known health status, and I have to finish the fight

What I currently don’t know:

  1. How to find the cell that represents the Dev Aveza’s dock so I can check its Max Height Data
  2. Why seeing a dragon spawn in that cell usually leads to the dragon flying off before I can kill it–maybe this is because the dock cell has nowhere for a dragon to actually crash once I beat its health down low enough?
  3. Am I triggering behavior that happens to players on the PC, or is this somehow specific to the Steam Deck?
  4. Can I repro this if I play Kendeshel in VM?
  5. Would this be happening if I wasn’t running Dawn of Skyrim?

It also occurs to me as I write this that I’m overlooking another critical data point: namely, that by the time I got up into the 60’s level-wise in all previous playthroughs, I was usually not headquartered in a city. Lakeview is almost always my main house, with Severin Manor serving as backup as long as I’m running Dragonborn.

And to be fair, I have seen this level of frequency of dragon attacks in Raven Rock. And, it seems like a higher percentage of the NPCs in Raven Rock are actually set Essential, or at the very least Protected, making it harder to kill them during said dragon attacks.

I’ve seen a similar level of dragon attacks at Lakeview, for that matter. I’ve had a lot of dragon attacks just coming back to or out of that house.

So it may be that I’m seeing so many attacks in Solitude because I’m there so much in this run.

This doesn’t really tell me if I can do anything to make it less likely I’ll lose any more of Solitude’s population this time through, though. I’ve learned from hard experience not to go fucking around with my load order in the middle of a playthrough. And since I don’t know what else I could actually patch to address this problem, I’m not going to try to dig further around in xEdit.

So for now I need to figure out a way forward. First thing I want to do is try a Kendeshel session in my VM vs. on the Deck, and see whether I get any similar dragon surprises.

Other than that, my options seem few. Since dragons can spawn on zone changes as well as fast travel, any time I come out of the museum seems like a risk. Or any time I try to go out to the dock to get on the airship. And I can’t solve this just by fast traveling straight onto the Dev Aveza (since it does have its own fast travel marker), just because in order to do that, I still have to go outside.

And it’s also not like I can avoid going into and out of the museum! Given that that’s the entire point of running Legacy of the Dragonborn and all.

But I could at least try to scale down on the number of times I’m in and out of Solitude? It’s not absolutely critical that I return to the Safehouse at the very end of every single session, after all. Particularly given that Legacy plants so many shipment locations all over the game to send stuff back to the museum. And I could make more of an effort to actually sleep in Proudspire Manor. If I’m not in and out of the museum as often that might scale down on the number of random dragon attacks that show up.

I’ll have to think hard about how often I really want to use the airship, I guess. So far it doesn’t seem super critical that I use the airship in Legacy’s overall plot structure. Even though it has bunks for people belowdecks, nobody ever actually comes onto the thing unless they’re somebody actively following me. All of the various Guild NPCs keep meeting me at the various important excavation spots without my having to take them there.

Next few times I play Kendeshel I’ll do it in VM, and will report back on how that goes. Stand by!

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.