Every day this week, we’ve been visiting a version of Skyrim unlike any you’ve ever seen before – a world thrown into anarchy and chaos by Sheogorath, God of Madness, and the assistance of over 200 blindly-installed mods. In our final part... civil war, huh? What is it good for? Social change!
Catch up on the adventure: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4
Saving the world. That seems like something a hero should probably consider at least trying. So, let's break it down. What are Skyrim's problems, in order of how much they need sorting out?
Well, that's easy. Bandits, Civil War, Dragons, Bards. Luckily, that last pesky issue was, after a little provocation, dealt with behind the scenes while visiting scenic Solitude back on Day 2.
Conveniently, it turns out being a hero just means saving slightly more people than would have been killed if you'd stayed at home eating cake.
And how many would you say that is so far, my Thane?
So I took out a line of credit. I'm the Dovahkiin. I'm allowed.
Bandits are a trickier problem, not least because they're far, far more active in this mod-infused version of Skyrim. You know when the guards complain that it's been too long since a bandit raid broke up the tedium of their existence? Now, I often arrive at towns to find a swam of bandits battering down the doors and fighting with the guards. It seems like a reasonably fair fight. As a Thane of Whiterun though, it seems fitting to try and tip that balance a little in favour of the good guys. Other cities will then hopefully pick up on it and implement their own changes and eradicate the menace forever.
Hence the big pile of armour from Madness. Could Compass and Lydia ever use it all themselves? No. Obviously not. Besides, they're already well geared for combat.
But if someone could raise some kind of 'militia'...
Good morning, prostitutes of this bath-house brothel thing I apparently own for some reason, and who have to obey my every order without question. What's got two thumbs and is about to totally abuse that? This gal!
Oh no. Oh, please tell me this isn't going where I think it's going. Please, my Thane! Just say the words! I need to hear you say the words!
But of course, it is. In regular Skyrim, you only get the one follower. Here, it turns out that I can recruit as many as I want - though it does cause some pretty heavy slowdown after a while. The brothel bath-house thing is the perfect recruiting ground, being full of potential Followers and with the option to hire more in. Plus, it's conveniently located just a short walk from town. The only tricky thing is recruiting enough people and persuading them to stop getting naked enough to put on some armour. Then, it's off to defend Whiterun from the bandit hordes. Or to be more accurate, to do the Skyrim equivalent of sheparding sheep to Whiterun so they can fight the bandit hordes.
Attention, brave sluts, for today you fight for glory and your Hold, but mostly my benefit! You are well equipped, and also I gave you weapons and armour! You woke this morning as mere male prostitutes! You die as... MEN OF WHORE!
My Thane, please reconsider... whatever this is!
Nonsense, it's awesome! I feel like a cult leader!
Well, one letter out 'aint bad.
It actually goes oddly well. There aren't any bandits at Whiterun immediately, but they show up after a couple of days. With their enchanted armour and mostly decent weapons, they carve through the bandits with only one friendly fatality. The guards don't offer any thanks, but they do get to keep breathing, and Whiterun is safe for another day. The obvious plan then - station these proud warriors in strategic locations and tell them to stand on alert. Ever vigilant and ready to-
Where the hell did my militia go?
I think they got bored and went back home for a naked bath, my Thane. Followers will do that kind of thing after a while. Not everyone is as loyal as a Housecarl.
Still, the basic idea seems to work - and the squad is combat efficient. Maybe the problem is scale. Why waste this kind of power on something the guards can more or less handle? They're often bailed out by mercenaries and travelling adventurers as it is. No. It's time to tackle a far deeper problem - the civil war between the Imperials and the Stormcloaks. But which side deserves these reinforcements?
A flip of a coin decides it's going to be the Imperials.
The Civil War is far more active than in the original game, with skirmishes both breaking out all over the map and several zones devoted to battle. These are often hilarious as both sides have Fus Ro Dah shouty powers and use them a lot. Much of the battle consists of soldiers throwing each other across the map, then running up to have a go themselves. And that's before monsters get involved.
The big fights take place in Warzones, and can be configured as easily as the average remote control - by summoning a devil to handle the details. There's a test area on the map called Mount Pain, and others hidden like any other point of interest. I've found a couple while exploring. With Fast Travel disabled though, it's going to be a long, long walk to get to the nearest one - just behind a new village called StirlingShire. Keeping everyone together on the walk there isn't a fun experience either.
Right. If we have to do this stupid thing, my soldier's honour demands we do it properly. Sound off, men - one, two. WE ARE TOUGH AND WE ARE MEAN!
EVERY WEEK WE'RE TESTED CLEAN!
WE SERVE OUR THANE, THOUGH IT MAKES NO SENSE.
WE'RE SWORN TO CARRY HER BURDENS.
Arriving at the warzone, there are a couple of skirmishes going on. I don't immediately engage, since I've never been into one of these before. Would everyone be automatically hostile? Would they be looking out for some kind of sign, or cloak, maybe? Actually, no. Everyone continues their fighting without giving us a second's notice, and everything is so laid back that there's even a giant watching it all with an expression that seems to suggest "I am way too big to give the tiniest shit about this."
Then things go... weird. Even by Skyrim's current standards.
There are some tents in the back, which we head for to see if there's anyone to sign up with or anything. Getting close though, they suddenly morph into a pride of lions. If you remember Day 1, you'll know you do not want to start fighting lions. Those things kill dinosaurs without breaking a sweat.
Then out of nowhere a dragon appears. All fighting breaks off as the Imperials and Stormcloaks collectively go "Aaargh! A dragon!" and start beating it up. Then the giant sees it and casually ambles over, smashing it in what looks like one hit. It explodes into fire and the energy of a dragon soul whooshes across the map. Then, as if this sudden rush of magical energy caught their attention, the lions all perk up and run across - attacking the giant and taking down it in seconds, obviously. So his mammoths go for revenge. The lions kill the mammoths and use their tusks as toothpicks
So far, not one single feline casualty. The biggest lion's health bar is barely dented.
THEN THEY SWARM EVERYTHING. Ten lions rip through the Stormcloaks and Imperials, never losing aggro. It's a massacre on both sides. We're talking one or two hits per soldier here - nothing stands a chance against the furry onslaught. And it's still coming! Another giant tries to help and is torn to pieces. Archers take a pop from a distance only to find teeth in their face almost immediately.
But running won't work! They're too fast, and worse, they pretty much never seem to stop chasing once they've got their hate on. Whether that intentional or just an accident of clashing mods, I have no idea. It doesn't matter. They're relentless, and right on top of our group. Lydia's lightsaber bounces off a lioness as a couple of the recruited squad hit the dirt. There's no way we're going to win this.
At least, not playing fair. But do I still have the Wabbajack spell...
Wabbajack. The scourge of Riften. The penis of the Madgod Sheogorath himself. With its power, you can obliterate whole cities - you just can't control what happens when you fire it. Normally, you shoot it at single targets. This version is a wave of pure chaos, rewriting reality wherever it passes.
The big lion resists it. It resists it. The chaos wave passes right through.
The lionesses, and a Stormcloak who got too close, aren't as lucky. He finds himself suddenly naked on the battlefield, while she explodes into a red mist that turns into a Giant. Things don't go well for him there. Around, the sky explodes into suffocating rain and armageddon red as the lions are temporarily distracted and we run like holy hell - looking to be anywhere but here. It seems like a plan.
Guess what's just over the hill! Yep. More lions!
In fact, lions are everywhere. The whole zone is infested with the damn things, and while these ones haven't spotted us yet, even my fast magicka recharge isn't enough to deal with the current ones. There is exactly one chance - one. I've seen before that lions don't like chasing into rivers - though whether that's a programmed AI thing or just seeing a pattern that's not there, I have no idea. Still, I dive out of the way, not having the second to check for followers. A mammoth in the way takes a Wabbajack in the face, just in case. I don't see what happens to it. I see a river, and the river is all that matters.
Will it provide safety though?
Yes. From lions, anyway. It has its own nasties, but the thing about those right now is that they're not lions. Lions are now the Enemy. Worse even than bards. Well, almost worse than bards. Let's not go nuts here. Following the river and making a break for it, I get out of the Warzone and back into what for Skyrim counts as safety, and make a note to never, ever do that again. Not here, anyway.
Squad! If you didn't sacrifice your lives to defend me during that escape, you're fired! Housecarl! Set these layabouts on fire and dump their lazy ashes over the next person who displeases me!
Yes, the downside of a world where everyone (except children) can die is that Followers are no exception. Lydia survived the wilds and Riften and bandit attacks, and all kinds of death mages and orcs that appeared out of nowhere while exploring... but everyone's luck runs out eventually.
Though your body was too much of a pain to drag back, and I just realised I never even asked what your surname was, know this. Of all the souls who have ever carried my burdens, yours was the most... sworn. And you will not die in vain.
Mostly because you already died in a lion.
Cheers for that by the way.
So, that could have gone better. But the Civil War still has to end. Right now.
If Warzones are too dangerous though, the only solution is to deal with the problem at its source. The Imperials are led by General Tulius in Solitude, and the Stormcloaks by Ulfric Stormcloak in Windhelm. With both factions decapitated, maybe there's some hope. Even assuming that they're as vulnerable as anyone else in Skyrim though, that's an assassination worthy of the Dark Brotherhood. One attack, and you're talking a lot of very hostile military types with big swords in your face.
If only there was a way to take out a whole faction and just walk away...
General. You look distracted. Did someone steal your sweetroll?
No, no. Nothing as important as that, I suppose. I was just thinking that of all the places in Skyrim we could be waging this war from, we had to get the one called "Castle Dour". Why couldn't we have had Castle Fluffy instead?
General Tulius! Ulfric Stormcloak was just found dead in his castle!
Dead? How can this be?
Nobody knows, sir! In unrelated news, this scary looking woman just walked right through our front door and into your top secret meeting! We really suck at being guards, sir! I have a wife and sick child and even I would fire me!
Good evening, gentlemen. Lady. My name is Compass, but you may call me 'my lord' if you prefer. This civil war has gone on long enough. You have six seconds to pack it, or I shall end it for you in six short words. Choose wisely.
How amusing. And what six magic words would those be, before I have you escorted to the dungeon for what will no doubt be a surprisingly short stay?
Say hello to my leetle friends...
AAAAARGH! THEY'RE EATING MY ARSE!
MY BLOOD! MY PRECIOUS, PRECIOUS BLOOD!
I HAVE NO IDEA WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS!
I'll see myself out then, I suppose.
True, just like wiping out the Thieves Guild, this isn't really something that has any obvious impact. But that's probably just because not everyone's got the message that the war is over. They'll figure it out in time, when they don't get any more orders. Or they'll all be destroyed by lions. Either works.
So. Bandits dealt with. Civil War essentially over. What else needs to be done here?
ALDUIN! You! Me! Right here, right now, dragon-time-god-I-lost-track-frankly boy. We'll fight on top of the world, for the fate of it. That's poetry, almost. The really clever stuff that doesn't even try to rhyme at all!
Please. Have you seen our poetry? It rhymes when you translate it into English.
It's not very good though. "Black wings in the cold / that when brothers wage war come unfurled." Come on. Tongue of the dragons or not, that scans like crap.
True. But Dovahkiin, I confess I had not expected you in my clutches so soon. I fear you may not find me so easy to dispatch with your pets as you had hoped. For your sake, I trust you have been practicing with the Dragonrend shout...
The what now?
The... the what? Dragonrend! The shout that sounds really awesome and terrifying, but really just makes me land and go "Buh?!" The most disappointing superweapon since the nuke in Command and Conquer! You know! Dragonrend!
Not ringing any bells. So, do I hit you with my sword or throw lightning at you, or what? Honestly, the idea of fighting a dragon was much more intimidating before I discovered a few town guards could beat you guys up.
I do not believe it. You summoned me here - with the console, no less - and you haven't even broken the back of the main quest? I hope at least you're in charge of all the Guilds - including that Hunters one I hear they've added.
Thieves. Unofficially. And they're all a bit dead at the moment for reasons almost certainly not related to a mysterious, yet amazing, jester in-
FOOLISH MORTAL! YOU DO NOT TRY TO SKIP TO THE END OF AN EPIC QUEST LIKE THIS! WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU ARE, MORROWIND? DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY PEOPLE SLAVED AWAY TO BRING YOU ADVENTURE?
One to press the 'make game' button, another to bring them coffee?
I would burn you, Dovahkiin; I would chill your heart to frost. But no. You are unworthy of being blessed by my power. I have only one thing to say to you...
Suddenly I have a really bad feeling about-
Now let's not be too hasty here!
You eat souls, right? I know where there's a tasty Housecarl going spare!
The technical side of wreaking chaos
Over 200 mods were installed for this diary, not all of which were noticeable or worked together. Here's a selection of the ones whose effects came through, mostly stored on Skyrim Nexus. Others were downloaded in bulk from the Steam Workshop and a few other sources. There's a ton of stuff out there, from city redesigns to mechanics changes, goofy additions, new followers... in fact, pretty much everything except a mod to make public indecency a crime. Odd, that.
In many cases, the effects of them as seen in this diary will have been caused by conflicts and incompatibilities with other mods rather than being intentional design choices. As a reminder, they were neither checked to see if they worked together, not what they even did. Still, to hell with lions!
Apachii SkyHair - More detailed hair, most fitting the models' heads
Travellers of Skyrim - Fill the roads with wanderers
Monster Mod / Monster Wars - A more dangerous Skyrim, if you dare face it
WARZONES - Civil Unrest - Put the 'war' back into 'Civil War'
Live Another Life - A different way to start, as well as a way to skip the intro
CBBE Curvy - The female character model seen here. Find the sexy outfits yourself.
Imp's More Complex Needs - Hunger and thirst, taken to pretty intense levels
Frostfall - Make the harsh landscape actually harsh
SOS - Sounds Of Skyrim - New soundscapes for Skyrim's different area types
Hunting In Skyrim - A new guild and wandering NPCs
Divine Punishment - I used to be an adventurer like you. Then I AAARGH!
Reneer's Crime Overhaul - Makes the guards much less dopey
Uncle Sheo's Really Helpful Tips - Funnier loading screens, courtesy of Sheogorath
Prides Of Skyrim - LION! LIONS! LIONS!
Whiterun Water Park - A truly insane overhaul, just for kicks
Harley Quinn Suit - For all your Dovah-Quinn crime sprees
Nords Are Rude And Shout A Lot - Specifically, they shout FUS RO DAH!
Dibella's Beauty - Upgrades the NPCs with better Apachii hair
Bandit Raids - Gives guards something to do
Luxury Suite - Your own brothel/bathhouse to use and abuse
Descent Into Madness - A really cool, quirky new quest
Multiple Followers - Build an army, crush your PC
Wabbajack Unleashed - Disappointed with the weapon? Try this for size...
...or just browse its categories and the Steam Workshop. Steam is the easiest because everything is a one-click install and you can subscribe to whole playlists. It's more limited in terms of what its mods can do to the game though, so check the Nexus for anything that needs advanced scripting features or to overwrite files. In both cases though, beware. Mods can really, really screw up your saves.
If you're going to install a lot of mods at once, try to steer clear of a few. In particular, I avoided Ultimate Followers Overhaul and Open Cities, but did install the SKSE Script Extender just in case. Replacement body models can be problematic, with several clothing pieces in the game just not appearing. And yes, it took quite a lot of trial and error to get the game running in the first place. Not impossible, just annoying. Monster Mod/Wars and Warzones seemed especially problematic together.
You'll want Nexus Mod Manager to help with that, move around load orders, and bring new mods in. If you really want to shake up Skyrim's look, you can also check out the ENB series - though I didn't want to push my luck any more than I already was. Even without that running, my PC had full system-freezing crashes quite a few times and was generally as unstable as a legless unicyclist after seven pints.
Thanks for reading. Hope you enjoyed this. Now go forth and make Skyrim a stranger place. Personally though, I think the next time I play, it'll be with a few carefully chosen tweaks to Bethesda's template - and definitely no bloody lions. Or maybe I'll just add Jason Vorhees to Fallout: New Vegas.
If you've enjoyed this series, please do Tweet, pass around the link on Facebook, click Reddit buttons and the like. Click here for a nice index page, or start people off at the beginning with Part 1. The more people who read this kind of thing, the better, not just because they take ages to put together, but because it's the most likely way to get more on the site.
For now though, this experiment... is over. OR IS IT?!
Ugh. Where... where the hell am I? Why is my skin so jagged and my hair so... blocky all of a sudden? I thought... I was fighting a dragon, then...
Hey. You're finally awake. You were trying to cross the border, right? Same as us.
I... dimly remember. That's... what's the penalty for that again? A slap on the wrist? A fine? A few nights in jail and some unflattering rags?
Hah! No. You're thinking of theft, murder, treason, assassination and genocide. Everyone knows unarmed trespassers are the worst kind of scum. We might ignore 'don't walk on the grass' signs and everything.
Next! You! The Imperial woman with the hair. Head on the block, no lollygagging!
Wait! I know you! You're Hadvar, right? Look, there's been some terrible mistake - a miscarriage of justice with four horses on the front. Can't you do something?
Yeah, about that. Hypothetically, if I was about to die in some horrible, unfair way, and it was you who had the power to save me, would you even lift a finger?
...I'm almost positive I wou-
The world returns to normal... but you can still catch up
Day 1: The World According To Sheogorath
Day 2: Quest For Dignity - The Housecarl Chronicles
Day 3: The Dovahkiin Riften Deserves, Not The Hero It Needs
Day 4: Yet There Is Method In It, And Also Cheese
Day 5: The Life And Deaths Of Compass Meridian