PC Gamer

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!




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...




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-


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 End
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
PC Gamer

Every day this week, we’ll be 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 fourth part, it's time to put aside the altered and search for the new. What unseen wonders does Skyrim now hide for our brave heroes adventurers to discover?

Catch up on the adventure: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3

At least, that was the plan - and the number of new points of interest both on the Skyrim map, and hinted at in the Whiterun area suggested that it wasn't going to be too tricky to find cool new places to check out. Unfortunately, and not to take anything away from the modders' no doubt hard work, struggling through the dinosaurs and lions and constant wandering enemies to check them out usually ended up less a thrilling new adventure as something a bit more disappointingly like this.

Destination 1: Tristram
AKA That Town From Diablo Where Nothing Good Ever Seems To Happen...

Huh. Shouldn't there be some demons, or some dungeons or something here, or at least some nerds whining about DRM? These doors are painted on and there's a rogue here called Rouge. If she gets in a fight, it'll be a mascara.

Greetings, traveller! I am Deckard Ca-

You see a turtle lying on its back. It is boiling in the sun. You don't help it. Why?

I don't-

Wrong! The answer is 'Woo! Turtle soup! Free dish!' You ARE a Replicant. Glad we finally cleared that one up. Were you saying something?

Uh. "Stay awhile and listen". It's my thing, you see.

What will I get out of this, exactly?

Unncessary amounts of lore, I suppose. The warmth of knowing you humoured a lonely old man in his time of direst need. A sense of-


Destination 2: The Shire
Where hobbits live, or are supposed to at least...

Just another empty house. A nice one, but...

Who keeps building these things and then abandoning them? Is it because they keep realising they forgot to put in a toilet? Don't they know you can just barge into other peoples' homes and use their stuff without permission?

No, I think that's just you, my Thane. And, well, about that...

Quiet. What's next? People paying real world money to buy land and build houses in this frozen country? No, who needs to go adventuring and enjoy life when you can have a greenhouse and adopt some soulless brats?

Now you're just being silly.

Destination 3: Neiheleim
The land of floating islands, like in that Avatar film - the boring one with the blue people, not the horrific one based on the amazing cartoon. You know, that was such a disappointment - M. Night Shyamalan utterly missed the point, butchered the chara- sorry, I'm drifting.

Bah, I walked backwards all the way here because someone said it was cool, and what do I see? NOTHING! To hell with this. Adventuring is cancelled for the day! Let's just go get some dinner at that new soup restaurant in Whiterun.

Soup restaurant?

Oh. Oh, I see. You don't know what a 'brothel' is, do you, my Thane?

Someone should tell these imbeciles. Every time I ask for a bowl of their finest broth, all they offer is 'beefcake'. Honestly, I don't know why anyone comes here.

...I'm not touching that with an Ebony Greatsword.

You called?

It is, in short, quite a disappointing day for finding new things in Skyrim - save for two discoveries. First, that someone out there, at some point, looked at a mudcrab and thought "You know what would make this perfect? Lips, googly eyes, and both a bikini and something to fill it..."

Shudder. And second, the single greatest moment in the history of Skyrim modding...

So, what to do? For want of inspiration, and to see if it would continue the trend of most stuff around happening near Whiterun, I finally take the Jarl up on his offer to buy Breezehome. I have the cash. Unfortunately, I can't actually get to the door because Whiterun is still an insane waterpark. To avoid any bugs and potential map trouble there, I leave Lydia somewhere safe and warp across.

I'm going home. You'll be fine spending the night in this luxury suite full of food, booze, music and an army of hot naked guys catering to your every wish, right?

For you, my Thane, I shall endure.

Don't get used to it. COC WHITERUNBREEZEHOME!

Oooh, sorry, he only works Morndas to Middas.

Arriving in Breezehome, it's dark and crappy, and impossible to see anything even at mid-day. Truly, the Jarl was generous when he let me buy what I believe estate agents refer to as a blower-upper property in his town. I quickly realise though that I'm not alone. Worse, the stranger is...

Great. My new house, infested with vermin.

I'm not vermin, my Thane! I'm a bard! I'm here in my full motley to protect you from misery - to be your personal gaudy-bard, if you will! I will be proud to fill your days with song and music, and your world with glorious light!

Excellent. Let's start with that one.

Bards. If you're still alive in there, be useful for once and start toasting these marshmallows on yourself. By the way, not sure whether that's screaming or singing I hear but stop it, I'm off for a nap and don't want to be disturbed.

Leaving the smouldering carcass where it fell, it's time to head upstairs to bed. About ten hours sleep should suffice, after which it'll be a new day, and a new opportunity to find adventure.

Zzzzzzzzz. Zzzz. Zzzzzzzzz...

Zzzzzzzz- huh?

Where... am I? What is this place? Last I knew, I was in bed, and then there was blackness and now all I know is I'm really glad I've slept in full armour ever since The Longest Journey...

Yes, in an amazing stroke of luck, I accidentally wander into an interesting, fully voiced quest called Descent Into Madness - one which starts by transporting you from your bed in Breezehome to the split realm of Madness and Dementia. Both sides have their own little village - Madness a mess of crystals, while Dementia keeps things low key with an icy lake area - and have started fighting after lots of essentially getting on fine. Both decide that you've been sent by Sheogorath to help break the stalemate, and waste no time trying to recruit the Dovahkiin. But who are these crazy characters?

I'm Nimbly! And I'm Trixie! I have a split personality you will find endearing and wacky, because I'm from Madness and we're just CRAZY! I also have boobs, and armour that lets you see said boobs and like sex and quote Serenity!

And I'm Captain Jack. From Dementia I hail, and not really that movie. My wacky thing is I have a talking mudcrab I will argue with for your entertainment, and if it'll sweeten the pot, just mebbe I'll let you see me arsecrack.

I don't know, you're both quite annoying. But I don't see a door back home anywhere, so how about I just flip a coin - heads you win, tails I probably end up decapitating you. Nimbly, you... sigh... you win.

Yay! Trixie says yay too!

Also, wasn't your half of Shivering Isles called Mania?

Waaah! You're mean!

It's a fun quest, with heavy amounts of scripting (voice and otherwise). On the Madness side, you start by travelling to the village through caves and a couple of Dementia ambushes, with Madness using robot spiders as troops and Dementia favouring zombies. Once there, an epic battle breaks out amongst big swirling shields, and the Jarl - busy painting - decides the only rational solution is to discuss peace. But given where this is, an assassination mission is chosen instead - quite possibly because the Jarl of Dementia has a seriously awful voice actress and such things must be Punished with Fire.

To get to Dementia though, you have to complete three trials. In the first, only the penitent adventurer may pass through a tunnel, meaning you have to keep your... head... down. Hmm. In the second, you have to bravely put your trust in something greater and take a leap of... faith...

I'm having a serious case of deja-vu here.

Cynic! You're a cynicy-poo! Jump in the pit already, come on!

Shut up for science. FUS!

Okay, fine. But if the next room is full of cups, I'm going straight for the wooden one - even if that's historically questionable at best.

Actually, that doesn't work - not really. The platforms only spring into existence when you jump down, which is better than the movie's rather weird version. Still, we're two familiar traps down out of three. What are the odds the third is going to be anything with a little novelty to it?

Okay. Credit where it's due, was not expecting that.

Mental illness is funny and awesome!

If it's not obvious from the video, the way this works is that the ghosts are incredibly tough and the apples are instant-kill death. You have to wait until the path is clear first, or you die. There's also a chest which you can't get to, unless you cheat. It contains such incredible wonders, spoiling them would simply be rude. Anyway, after this section, there's only one more challenge to go.


For your sake, this had better not involve some ancient, generic riddles you found on a back of a cereal box this morning.


Fine, go. Whatever.


You were warned. Now stop wasting my time and open that door before I get cross.

As for Dementia itself, there's not a lot to it beyond killing its leader, Jarl Danni. Yes, Danni. Not too tough, and there's nothing wacky in the fight. The only question left to ponder is whether or not it's appropriate for a hero to take sides in this kind of conflict without knowing the stakes, the players, or what the long-term implications of allowing a hero of prophecy to take direct action will-

Never mind then.

Finally then, the reward for all this madness - loot! Most of the time, Skyrim quests are fairly poor when it comes to rewards. Either it won't be useful, or it won't be much better than you've already got, or it'll be a handful of gold for your trouble. This was quite a long quest, but was it worth the effort?

I may just weep openly.

Every. Bit. Of. Enchanted. Armour. In. The. Game. All in a box, and nobody to tell you that you can only take one thing, like some kind of game-balance Nazi. Having gathered your fill, a door then leads back to Breezehome - and it's even a two-way one in case you want to check back on Madness any time in the future. For now though, the path lies elsewhere. Possibly even to glory...

...and so I gave her the "protect you with my life" and all that, and meant it of course, don't get me wrong. But when I said "I am sworn to carry your burdens" it just came out... sarcastic. I think she may have taken that badly. I'm not sure.

HOUSECARL! What time do you call this?

My Thane? It's... it's just after 2AM.


It's time to save the world!

Tomorrow! The epic finale! Compass and Lydia go to war! Bandits face their ultimate challenge! Dragons! Bards! How could anything possibly go wrong?

Skyrim: Week Of Madness
The insanity continues... come along for the ride...

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
PC Gamer
Screenshot by Duncan Harris.

I'm playing Skyrim with a rule: illusion magic only. No direct violence, just pure deception - which makes my current task tricky. I'm trying to clear out a fort full of bandits purely by making them fight each other. One of them's just fallen off the castle battlements, leaving me alone with an angry swordsman, so I've thrown myself off too.

I land on the rocky ledge, and find the archer there. All I've actually done is separate my enemies from my only means of dealing with them: each other. The archer's stranded on an outcrop, unsure of how to get back, so I duck into sneak mode and hug the castle walls until I reach the entrance.

I sneak all the way up to the main door undetected, wondering where sword guy has got to. At the door, I realise sword guy is at the door, leaning against the wall in his usual spot, camouflaged with the stone in the grey moonlight. He sees me. I dash for the door.

Inside, there's a man with a battleaxe with his back to me, warming himself by a fireplace. I Fury him and run back out.

Sword guy swings at me, I jump out of the way, and sprint across the courtyard. I'm hoping battleaxe will follow, and the two can have some kind of clash of the burly northerners out here. But when I look back, it's just sword guy. This is ridiculous. I need to get this guy killed.

OK, maybe I can lead him round to the stranded archer. I lead him round to the stranded archer. There's no stranded archer. I hop up to the outcrop I last saw her on, where sword guy can't follow, and peer over the edge. An anomalous black speck amongst the ice and snow down there suggests an answer to this particular mystery. A lady with balance like that should not have taken a job on a cliff.

I hop over sword guy and decide to just run back towards Solitude - we're bound to run into someone I can set on him. Sure enough, our Benny Hill chase has barely gone fifty metres when a thief runs up to me. He starts yammering about an item he wants me to hold on to - it's that guy - and I'm locked into the conversation while the sword bandit takes an almighty swing. Shut up! Whatever! Go away!

I finally hammer the right bit of my keyboard to get me out of the conversation, but not before taking a nasty blow. As punishment, I Fury the thief. Almost immediately, a hunter shows up looking for the item I've just been given. Shut up! Whatever! Go away! I Fury him too.

They attack, and sword guy dispatches them both. He's unstoppable. I run.

It's a few minutes' jog down the snowy path towards Solitude before we meet anyone else. Two guys, one on a horse. He gets off - promising! - but as I get closer I see he's a 'Noble': probably no use in combat. As I run up to the other, he draws a bow and shoots.

The arrow zips past my head and hits the sword bandit - in the mouth. He drops his sword, pitches forwards, his arms go limp, and he ploughs into the snow, flopping onto his back as he slides gently down the mountainside.

I look up at the bowman: Imperial Guard. He suggests I join up.

I'm trying, man, I'm trying.

Next Thursday: The Solution

You can read the next entry in this series in the issue of PC Gamer currently on sale in newsagents in the UK, or from our online shop.
PC Gamer

Every day this week, we'll be 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 third part, Skyrim's nastiest town has no idea what kind of carnage is about to be unleashed, and Compass finds inspiration in insanity from a most unusual source.

Catch up on the adventure: Day 1, Day 2

Riften. The city. My city. I heard it scream. I saw it bleed. It cried out for a saviour. It demanded a... better class of criminal. I brought it both. As I look down on it now, I hear my people's words. I shall tarry a while, to listen....

Did you hear? Did you hear of she who walks in crimson blood and blackest night? They say she destroyed the Thieves Guild in under two minutes! They say when they tried to arrest her, the dragons themselves swooped down to intervene!

They say her calling card was found in Clavicus Vile's treasure room, just to prove she could get in there if she chose! They say she's the illegitimate daughter of Nocturnal, blessed at birth by the Madgod himself!

The deluded masses. They know of me. But they cannot ever know me. Their hopes, their fears... in this place, at this time, I must be both. For I am the hero of prophecy; the thief of the night. I am she who walks upon the edge of chaos. I am...



Three Days Earlier...

Having skimmed around lots of the world, I decide it's time to focus a little more tightly on a specific hold - ideally finding one completely rebuilt or something, but even if not, to focus more on mechanics than surface-level additions like Solitude's weird statue or Whiterun's nasty flooding problems.

A guild then. I consider signing up with the Companions because - spoiler - werewolves, but there's a fair chunk of game before you get those powers, and I've already beaten enough people up to know that with my random mod mix at least, there's really not that much different there except for more blood and some death animations. The wizards? Nah. Theirs is a highly-scripted kind of life - an okay bit of the game, sure, but not one I see offering much variety regardless of anything added on.

The Thieves? They have possibilities, and personally speaking are more interesting since I largely avoided their questline on roleplaying grounds when I first played Skyrim. Here as elsewhere, it seems odd to be the hero who both rescues old ladies' cats for XP and knocks over their houses while they sleep. That said, the first thing I did in Skyrim was try to figure out how to join the Dark Brotherhood and blaze through their bloody, murderous questline with intense glee, so what would I know?

To Riften then. To Riften, gold and probably very little glory...

Why am I dressed up like this again?

Remember how you spent the last few days torturing me with embarrassing outfits?


And how you ended that week of hell and humiliation by giving me a far more powerful weapon and stronger armour than anything you yourself have right now?


Right. This is what we in the NPC business like to call 'payback'. You can have your own clothes back on Fredas, and not a minute before.

If you die, do I just get a new Housecarl automatically, or is there some kind of form to fill in? Asking for a friend.

I arrive on a cold, grey morning, and on the outside at least, nothing seems different - beyond the now familiar giant trees everywhere. As usual, I'm greeted by the world's lamest shakedown attempt.

Hey, you have to pay the visitor's tax.

Oh, is this one of those shakedown things?

Aaargh! Sorry! If you hurt me, not the face! Punch my balls, I'm not using them! I'll let you in if you promise not to tell anyone I just peed my armour a little!

Truly, Riften is the Sin City of Skyrim.

Inside though, it's a little cheerier than I remember - not a redesign, but definitely more colourful. That seems the wrong way to go, really - I always though Riften should be darker rather than lighter. It just doesn't have any sense of danger to it, from the hilariously open shakedowns to the way the Thieves Guild approach you with work. I'd say that the Elder Scrolls series just isn't that good at danger, but... well... the Dark Brotherhood does just fine. Riften just doesn't have any oomph.

I check inside a few buildings before kicking off the Thieves' Guild storyline, but nothing exciting pops up. Knowing that stealth is going to be an issue though, and I'm already pretty bad at it, I decide I should probably do something with Lydia before making my mark on the criminal underworld.

Welcome to Haelga's Bunkhouse, now piss off and die. No, really. There is no room here for you. If I gave you an apple, it would be full of maggots and streaked with the brown of my own scented arse-crack. Incidentally, apple?

If we can't get a room, can my Housecarl stand quietly in the corner for the next few days without food, water or sleep as a polite reminder of who her boss is?


Sure, whatever. By the way, I apparently have insane mood swings now. Want this free spell tome for no apparent reason?

Only because it would be impolite to refuse.

The Thieves Guild questline kicks off with a guy called Brynjolf recruiting you to steal something from one of the vendors in Riften's market and plant it on another. It's pretty easy, with a little light lockpicking but no actual challenge. It's the perfect crime. An idiot could pull it off without a hitch.

At least... normally. Unlike the regular game though, the guards are rather more attentive now. Pull a sword or start sneaking and they rush up to you and tail you relentlessly. I try a couple of times, but there's no way I can get away with the crime. I humbly pay my fine and head back to Brynholf. Luckily, he's still a moron and decides I have the 'spark' his organisation needs, and I get the invite to the secret underground Thieves Guild headquarters anyway. This explains a lot about Riften.

To get to the Guild, you have to go through a set of underground tunnels called the Ratway. Unfortunately, you're not the only one down there, and the company is immediately hostile. This isn't a problem when you're armed to the teeth. It's a little trickier when you're only wearing a jester suit.

But! Who says you have to play fair? Time to even the odds a little.

Running around without armour down here? Not smart, girlie!

Who's running round without armour? Spellcasting - STRIP!

Yes, it's not just about fan service! When you strip an NPC, it also gets rid of their weapons and armour, leaving them with just their fists and hopefully easy them easy picking for- Oh crap.

That didn't do anything, did it? Just a flash of light and all my magicka is gone.

Ah. You fell for Haelga's scam, right? Ah, the fun we have, watching horny kids running round town every night, flashing away in increasing desperation. Good times. Good times. As an amusing side-note, you die now.

Bug or just a clashing mod, I don't know. Pulling out my scimitar and a hand of magic death, I still manage to take them down thanks to my fast-recharging magicka and lots of convenient corridors. It's a close thing though, and I'm pretty metaphorically bloody by the time I get to the Thieves Guild.

Everyone's gathered together in an underground tavern called The Ragged Flagon - a merry band of crooks, thieves, bounders and cads. Obviously, being a stranger, I do my best to fit in by casually stealing all their stuff. They react just as hardened criminals naturally would.

You must really need that.

I suppose that's yours now.

I'll look the other way this time.


Aaargh! You are the wussiest Mafia ever!

Their badass credibility isn't exactly helped by the first mission - to go shakedown some merchants. Everyone makes it clear that the Thieves Guild is all talk, to the point of not so much being shocked when I do things like threaten their families as just a little surprised. Brynholf admits this, but says it's all in order, and everything will become clear after I speak with their leader, Mercer Frey.

Mister J is here?!

Uh, no. Frey. Mercer Frey.

Oh. Right. Sorry. Not... what were we talking about again?

Frey assigns my first task for the Guild - to go and burn some beehives on behalf of the town matriarch, who runs a brewery and is involved in all kinds of complicated stuff. Mission assigned, I'm asked if I have any questions - and seeing the state of the place... one whose inner circle operates out of a cistern in the middle of the city's sewers no less.. one minor one does rather spring to mind.

Hypothetically, if I wanted to run this place and make it into something that doesn't diminish the entire concept of crime by its mere existence, how long would it likely take to rip your job out from under your flabby arse?

What? Only the most trusted, experienced thief can even dream of thinking to aspiring of running this most esteemed guild! Do you even know of our patron, Nocturnal?

Sure. Daedric Prince of Cleavage.

She also does Night! Only through worship and sacrifice and skill and-

Just ballpark it for me.

Ten missions, maybe eleven.

Yeah, no. As a more competent criminal than you might say: "This is a nice Thieves Guild you've got here. Be a shame if anything happened to it."

Normally of course, this would be a pretty empty threat. Plot critical NPCs are immortal, and even if not, you don't generally survive long by walking up to one and biffing them in the face while dressed as Harley Quinn. Now though, I'm pretty sure everyone in Skyrim can be taken down, with the possible exception of the kids. Mercer is a bit weird because attacking him doesn't actually count as attacking a member of the Guild, so everyone just ignores you if you start fighting to the death. The other heads of this idiotic group of fools and morons also have to be cleansed to consider the job done though - to say nothing of all those layabouts sitting around and farting in the Flagon - so never mind.

Not only can I wipe them all out right now though, I can do it without even even officially being responsible. How? Because of this guy, who I met in Whiterun a while ago....

He's a newly added Ambassador from the Shivering Isles - Sheogorath's realm - with a bag full of toys to play with. Most are unsurprisingly goofy and pointless, like a fork that gives you meat when you hit people, or a blunted sword. He also has a ungodly powerful spell though: "Conjure Plague".

What does this do? Initially, or judging from the spell description, not very much.

Oh no. A single solitary rodent. I am most terrified. Please do not mind my screams as I go to find my +2 Boots Of Much Stomping to deal with this, the greatest threat I have ever faced. Oh no, oh no, please get my mummy.

Wait for it... ideally down there, while I climb onto this handy cupboard...

Yep. Rats-eroids. And you can keep casting it...

There's only one real downside to the Create Plague spell, though it's a big one - that while everything will attack and thus aggro it, the summoned rat defaults to to targeting you until then. In short, it's effective, but you absolutely have to get some height/distance on enemies before casting - unless you're shooting a quick video, of course - or you just get caught in the fur.

But if you want to clean a room and walk away karmically pure? There's no better way.

...why? Why did you do this?

Why do people climb mountains? Because **** mountains! By the way, this is my badass calling card.

As for the Flagon folks, they're unfortunately smart enough to hang out in a room with no big stuff to climb on, and it turns out that Brynholf is God. Well, immortal, anyway. No matter how often he gets chewed, he just keeps on ticking. I opt for the "Mummy" strategy of dealing with an immortal - filling the room with plague rats, then locking all the doors with a magical locking spell I found. He'll probably be back in two thousand years to wreak vengeance in one decent movie and several shitty sequels, but that's something for a future hero of Tamriel to worry about.

And so was the hostile takeover of the Thieves Guild complete, lacking only a few minor things from the official route - the missions, the money, the items, the option to wander off with Nocturnal's Skeleton Key and any in-game recognition of the victory. Still, deep in their code, I'm sure the NPCs know. Why, as I head to my room in the tavern, I'm sure they're talking about their saviour even now...

Wake up, lass. We NEED to TALK!

Oh, glee. Sheogorath, Daedric Prince of Not Being Half As Funny As He Thinks. How did you get into my room, and does it work in reverse?

Maybe you're just DREAMING, lass. Maybe I be more cheese than CHEESY. Or maybe it was the CONSOLE summoned me here for the sake of an IMPLIED NARRATIVE in an otherwise disconnected SERIES OF EVENTS!

How undelightfully meta. Well, goodnight. I've got a busy day tomorrow and as head of the Thieves Guild, everyone will be much better off if I get my beauty sleep.

Ah, but will they? You've seen them! The MORTALS! They see you walk past, but what do they really see? Nothing! NOBODY! Doesn't that drive you... insane?

Pffft. Everyone's talking about me out there.

Are they, lass? ARE THEY? Wibble wibble flashback effect flashback effect flashback effect flashback effect flashback effect flashback effect flashback effect...

Riften. The city. My city. I heard it scream. I saw it bleed. It cried out for a saviour. It demanded a... better class of criminal. I brought it both. As I look down on it now, I hear my people's words. I shall tarry a while, to listen....

Boring generic NPC dialogue! Boring generic NPC dialogue! Get your boring generic NPC dialogue here! Free sweetroll with every two lines of boring NPC dialogue!

What's... what's going on?

Is it not clear, lass? You're going MAD! Mad as a hat wearer! And why not? Only SANE RESPONSE if you ask me! And I'm Sheogorath. I eat BANANAS!

Please stop shouting in my ear. You spit. A lot.

Face it. This town is WORTHLESS! Criminals UNWORTHY of you. A people that will never RESPECT or truly FEAR you. You have only ONE PATH with meaning, and I shall show you the way. I give you the POWER to make the world BURN...

This is a penis.

Nay, lass. 'Tis WABBAJACK, my-

It is a penis.

Alright, so I'm not sure what happened there. Still! WAVE it at these corrupt, ignorant mortals, HO-HO, and WONDERS shall come flying out-

I am not making anything come from your penis.

Fine. Here's a Spell Tome version, you prude. Go! Sow madness in your path! Just promise to use it UNWISELY, and but ONCE! For twice would be BORING! HA! I'm so endearingly wacky and I'm like this ALL THE TIME!

Yes, it's a bit of an indulgence - but there are a few items in Skyrim that seemed an obvious fit for someone's modding efforts, and Wabbajack was top on the list. Cue a trip to the console to get hold of it, followed by immediately wishing I'd phrased that differently. Only one question remains - is the population of Riften corrupt enough to deserve being wiped off the face of Tamriel?

Yes, obviously. And you know the best thing about the Wabbajack spell? Dual-wielding.

My Thane, I heard noises from outside! Is everything okay? Did something happen? Did you do something?

Absolutely not! And for reasons totally unrelated to me or any atrocities committed by person or persons unknown, we can NEVER RETURN HERE EVER AGAIN.



...and when I woke up after a night in the inn, everyone in town had gone to sleep, quite a few in puddles of ketchup. Weird place, Riften. Which reminds me - is it Fredas yet? Can I get out of this damn clown suit already?

Yes, my Thane. Honour is satisfi-

Good. Come, Housecarl! I have a new destination in mind - one nobody in this world has ever seen! Let us away, before the authorities arrive.

Wait! My Thane, you forgot-


...oh, nothing. Never mind.

Tomorrow! A mysterious dungeon beckons! Everyone finally gets actual armour with protection and everything! What awaits in the Madgod's lair? In memory of Riften. Never forget.

Skyrim: Week Of Madness
The insanity continues... come along for the ride...

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
PC Gamer

Every day this week, we'll be 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 second part, we use magic portals to go clothes shopping in a world with a one-track mind, take a scenic trip through the woods, and Lydia... well, she's not happy.

Catch up on the adventure: Day 1

When we last saw our ever-heroic heroine Compass, Whiterun had just been saved from a dragon in sunglasses and a big purple hat, the land of Skyrim was newly filled with Nords shouting "Fus Ro Dah" at lions and dinosaurs, and in gratitude for saving his Hold, the Jarl of Whiterun had assigned Lydia to be her Housecarl. That at least was familiar enough... except that instead of being the snarky, well-prepared fighter we know and frequently make walk into traps, it turned out poor Lydia had found herself at the business end of some horny modder's fashion sense. Our story continues...

Oblivion-damned geeks! Hurry up and give me a spare Hammerfell Cuirass or a bit of plate or a mage's robe... you must have something I can use in your bag.

You'd think, but I emptied all that crap out of my inventory on the way up here to buy some new spells. See? I can throw fireballs now. Boom! I also bought this book about magical fungus. You can borrow it, I suppose.

Well, do something! Everyone in Dragonsreach is going to be heading here for dinner in a few minutes!

Pfft. Like I can just say 'put on a full set of Daedric heavy plate armour' and-

Oh, thank the Divines. Right. Now-

No, no, no. As your Thane, in the name of your personal development and for the sake of your soul, I refuse to allow this. Change back out of that nonsense immediately and never do that again.

What? You've got to be-

It's for your own good. Cheating, getting something for nothing - what kind of boss would I be if I endorsed that kind of slack adventuring? On this quest we make our way in the world legitimately, missy.

Thane or not, I will have my revenge for this.

Yeah, right. You and what armour?

Despite appearances, there actually is a pragmatic reason to stick to 'real' gear. Several characters now offer a dress-up menu, but it's not immediately clear whether it's simply an aesthetic choice, or they actually get the bonuses of the armour set you have them wear - a wide selection from tavern uniforms to assorted armours to... well... other things. Exactly what bonus a complete 'schoolgirl' set would impart, I have no idea. I'm pretty sure I don't want to know. I'm certainly not Googling it.

All of these presented in the same creepy way, which is... well, okay when it's a supposedly consenting love interest or similar, but seriously weird when it's a regular follower - or in the case of Lydia, someone who's essentially a employee who's been ordered to serve you. Amongst the options available are:

"I've noticed how tight your Dark Brotherhood leather is."
"I have trouble controlling myself when you're naked."
"I think wedding dresses look classy."

But you know what really stands out about all of this? While I'm sure there are mods out there that turn every conversation into a potential scene from the most awkward porn movie ever, none of those seem to be installed in this playthrough. Instead, at the top of this list is... wait for it...

"Someone needs a hug."

Awww. And they say romance is dead.

The Skyforge? My Thane, why have you brought me here? I can’t walk around town looking like this – I have my reputation to think of!

Not anymore! Anyway, I had this great idea. Why spend 'money' on things made by so-called 'professionals' when we can just grab some resources, make our own gear, and still have enough cash left to find out what Skooma tastes like?

And you can actually do this?

I'm almost positive I can.

A lot of clothes in the game have just automatically changed - the standard female mage robe for instance now has a rather prominent hole exactly where you'd think, given Lydia's current uniform and the rather pornier things I'm not showing. You still have to acquire them though, with some found in stores, but most crafted at a forge. Almost as weird as some of the items is the fact that you're expected to bring a whole ton of materials, rather than the recipe just being a loaf of bread or something - a sack of ebony for instance, or Daedric hearts that you're probably not going to just stumble across.

But I suppose this is only reasonable. If you're going to mod a game like Skyrim, you obviously want to stick as close as possible to the Skyrim economic system and esteemed Elder Scrolls lore.

There. Behold, the finest armour in all Tamriel!

Speak up. Your muffled agreement almost sounds like sobbing.

That head wasn't even hollow! Look, it's easy. Steel armour. Iron armour. Fur armour. I don't care, just as long as it at least pretends to try and cover my entire ass.

Of course. Anything for my most loyal Housecarl.

Thank y-

-is what I'd say if I hadn't just used the last of our crafting resources making these new boots for myself. Don't worry though, I'm sure we'll be able to whip up some more traditionally heroic gear when we get to the our next town or fifth.

You want me to parade through every bloody hold in the country in these humiliating outfits, purely to give you a cheap excuse to go sight-seeing instead of doing your job and fighting the dragons who want to kill us all?

By the Divines, no. I would never dream of wasting so much time.

That's something, I guess.

Dawnstar sucks. We'll definitely be skipping that one.

Looking around, mods have added at least a couple of options for getting around. For starters, there's a ring of portals just outside Whiterun that warp you to any of the Holds you like - regardless of whether you've made the trip there before. Fast, efficient, free. I approve, even if it is a bit cheaty. Their presence also possibly explains what the hell a certain familiar looking ship is doing not too far away...

There's another option nearby though, which looks much more entertaining - at least as a one-off. Skyrim already offered carriages for getting between Holds (though they were easy to miss), but they were essentially teleporters. That option is still there, but talking to one of the drivers I notice a new option - Scenic. It's what it sounds like, giving you a choice of horse speeds, or the option to just teleport if you get bored. With this many mods running, getting there is a question of fighting the odds, but it's a good addition I'm actually surprised Bethesda didn't put in by default. Didn't everyone complain about not being able to ride the silt striders in Morrowind? Really? Why not?

Sadly, with the stability of my Skyrim installation right now, there's no way I'm making a full journey by that route. Pity. While the trips last, it's hilarious to have the driver casually smashing through guards and completely unfazed by bits of civil war going on as he drives. He's probably the most badass character in the whole of Skyrim, and he drives a carriage. Respect owed and delivered, sir.

I make a note to myself to head back after I finish playing the game and get to see what mods I'm using, switch off a few of the more intensive ones, and record a video of an example journey. Unfortunately I don't ever manage to make a full journey with everything switched on, but would highly recommend this mod for a more sensible installation. Skyrim is such a pretty game, but it's easy to forget that when you're fighting for your life or focusing on a quest. When you're just sitting there, you appreciate it.

Unfortunately due to game stability, you'll have to mentally add moments like the driver casually running over a Giant while driving over a bridge, or driving through epic magical battles. Sorry. I tried, and left on as much as seemed safe, but ditching the more active additions was the only way to get one uninterrupted recording without a freeze, crash-to-desktop, or full system switch-off.

Picking a destination at random, the dice come up "Markarth". Arriving via carriage, it doesn't take long for some differences to present themselves - though first of course, there's a little important business to be done on Lydia's behalf before going sightseeing in the town itself...

There. I think this will have a real effect on your combat efficiency, Housecarl. A Mass Effect, if you will. And possibly an effect on your mass, too.

You know what? I'm okay with this. Sure, this steel corset is crushing my ribs and this mask is air-tight, but at least it's actual armour. I'd rather have something appropriate to our setting, but yes, I can work with-

Hold it! As an official fictional representative of EA/Bioware, this constitutes copyright infrigement, trademark dilution and nulla mensa sine impensa, and I'm here to sue the pants off you. Literally. Hand them over, and please buy our DLC.

Bad luck, Housecarl. On the plus side, I just realised that you and that red bikini might actually have more in common than you're giving it credit for.

What the hell are you-

I am sewn to carry your burdens.


The main change to Markarth, sadly not including a name-change to Markath like everyone always accidentally spells it, is that it's been infested with giant floating jellyfish for some reason. Also, running in, the guards are swarming all over a naked man. At this point though, pfft. That's barely even noticeable any more. Sadly, nothing else really jumps out while poking around, so I bid it farewell and hit the nearest portal. As Scrooge toasted himself on Christmas Day - To Solitude!

Is... is that a new thing?

The statue pooping into another statue's mouth?

Yeah. Was that... here before?

I don't know. Maybe. I've never spent much time in Solitude.

Too many bards. By which I mean, some bards.


I guess it will have to remain a Mystery For The Ages. Who built this? Why? Was it an Ozymandias, its meaning lost in dark irony? A statement of rebellion against a corrupt system? A religious monument to the spirit of free will?

Really makes you think.

In unrelated news, you wear this now.

I most definitely do not.

It's funny because you look like an angry chicken.


Last on the current tour route is Winterhold, on the grounds that it would be a shame to not at least check out the snowier parts of Skyrim. Last time I was here, in another life, it was as Arch-Mage of the College, so I remember it quite well. It's a quiet part of the world, unless the mages are up to something. Quiet. Peaceful. Not just because lots of it fell into the sea a while back, but because... actually, no, that probably explains it. Either way, it seems like a perfect place to quietly bring things to a-


Yes, werewolves. Lots and lots of werewolves, and not the friendly Companion variety. I land right in the middle of the pitched battle - hairy creatures of the night on one side, a combined army of town guards and the Blue Stripes from The Witcher 2-


Not my client!

-on the left. The good guys are winning, but there's a lot of fire and fangs and Fus Ro Dah-ing going on, so I bravely bail out of the way and try not to be noticed. Lydia on the other hand joins right in, apparently working off lots of frustration over something or other. Surprisingly, she doesn't just hold her own in battle, she rocks it with some pretty good lightning powers. Having avoided the wilds today, I've not really seen her in a fight so far, but she really lets rip against everything in her way.

You... you just saved me. Is this warm glow in my chest what gratitude feels like?

That or hypothermia. I know which I'm rooting for.

Unfortunately it is hypothermia, and that's a problem - having teleported here, Compass doesn't have any thick clothes to protect her from the cold - and it only takes minutes to freeze to death. Despite appearances, Lydia, like the other underdressed NPCs wandering around, is immune - the effect only seems to apply to the main character, not Followers or townies or enemies. Unfair!

Chilly, my Thane?

S...s... shut up...

No. This isn't going to work. Hurrying back to the portal, it's with no small relief to get back to safe, warm Whiterun. Winterhold and its college, and whatever weirdness has been added by the whims of Sheogorath, will have to wait for another day and a much better suit of armour. Speaking of which.

Skyforge again? Right. Whatever. You think I care any more? Bring it on, my Thane, bring it on. In fact, why bother? Why don't I just rip this thing right off and dance naked through the streets singing Ragnar the Red at the top of my voice?

If you like, but I was thinking something more along the lines of...

The... the hell? Is this dragonbone? And a magic gauntlet for my lightning? And a lightsaber?! What's the armour rating on all this? By the Divines, I could be hit with a truck and barely even feel it! I don't understand. What's the catch?

Catch? No catch. See, I've learned something today - that as fun as abusing power is, occasionally there are more important things to consider.

Like loyalty? Friendship, even?

Balls no. Like making sure that if someone's stupid enough to fight werewolves for you, they live long enough for you to get away. It's just common sense.

I guess that's better than... wait. I know for a fact you haven't killed enough dragons to make this, or have anything like enough money from playing tourist to buy the rest of it. Where did you get the components?

Huh? Summoned them from the console, like with everything else I make. Crafting materials are for poor people who aren't also Thanes.

What? What happened to "Cheating, getting something for nothing – what kind of boss would I be if I endorsed that kind of slack adventuring?" and "Making our way through this quest legitimately" and all that other high-and-mighty talk?

That doesn't sound like something I'd say. Anyway, it all worked out, right? Friends? Frenemies? Hmm. You've gone purple. Have you been bitten by a space weevil?

There are of course many other bits of armour and clothing on offer in the crafting menu and from certain vendors, but you can probably tell the pattern. Sensible things do exist, like Lydia's new dragonbone armour, a kind of Tron looking thing for mages, and more classic swords and shields ripped from The Witcher 2, Lord of the Rings, and a couple of other fantasy series. The bulk of it though seems taken up with assorted anti-gravity bras, panties, leotards and nipple-poking lycra horrors in an assortment of colours - and I don't just mean for the ladies, but as a general thing. The number of original outfits for men on the various screens can be counted on the fingers of one hand - presumably the one hand not otherwise occupied while most of them were being designed.

Despite a little cheating on Lydia's behalf, mostly to make up for her default look, Compass herself is of course still wearing her bandit gear as scavenged to avoid going too far. As for the adventure, exploring the world has certainly produced some odd things, but spreading things out so thinly, it can be a little tough to spot the differences. Next time then, it's time to dig deeper into a single Hold - and where better to go spread a little chaos than Skyrim's biggest hive of scum, villainy, and-

Not so fast, my Thane. After what you just put me through, did you think I was just going to let you just walk away from that forge like nothing happened?

I was rather expecting you to, yes. Since you're an NPC who has to obey-

Not this time. Not after all that. You had your fun with me, but you know what tomorrow is? Tomorrow is another day. And tomorrow is my turn.

Tomorrow! Lydia's revenge! A corrupt city cries out for a hero! Compass, saviour or destroyer? The world's wussiest Mafia! A visit from the God of Madness! Wabbajack!

Skyrim: Week Of Madness
The insanity continues... come along for the ride...

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
PC Gamer
Sykrim: Shannara Weapon Set

(Want to know what Skyrim looks like when you install 200 mods at random? Find out in our eye-opening, eye-bleaching diary: Skyrim: Week of Madness.)

The ancient stonework of High Hrothgar prophesized that the 10,000th Skyrim mod would include a righteous sword of bananas and a flying Buick. Thank goodness for the uncertainty of prophecy, as while Skyrim has indeed received its 10,000th mod, its contents are more pragmatic.

Modder Joe Powell's Shannara Weapon Set marked the milestone for Skyrim's sizable mod library, and it provides an armory of sharp pieces of metal based on author Terry Brooks' epic fantasy Shannara series. Bethesda conducted a short interview with Powell discussing his first foray into user-made content and his experiences working with the Creation Kit tool suite. Onwards to 20,000!
PC Gamer

Every day this week, we'll be 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 first part, get ready for epic dinosaur battles, Whiterun's new theme park, fandom striking in the strangest places, and an awkward meeting with an old friend.

Like most of the best and worst ideas I've ever had, this started with a whim. I was browsing the Steam Workshop to see what kind of things modders were working on, with the idea of picking the best for a brand new playthrough, and trying to work out why I didn't have any enthusiasm. It's not like there's not loads of cool stuff. Damn near every aspect of Skyrim has been worked over by this point.

Then it hit me. Where would the adventure and discovery be in simply picking something off a menu? I didn't want to install, say, "Really Pretty Flying Boat House Mod" only to walk over, see it, go "Oooh," and be done. I wanted to turn corners and actually be surprised by what I found.

There was only one way - to embrace chaos and random chance. But how?

In short, I didn't choose some mods. I chose all the mods. Whole Collections on Steam Workshop, sight-unseen. Running through the Skyrim Nexus' categories and just hitting the download button without even looking at names. Even asking a few friends to send over mods, which I'm pretty sure is why the Riverwood tavern currently houses a gaggle of transexual adventurers and I apparently own an all-male brothel/bath-house outside Whiterun. Thursdays are veal night. Bring the kids. By the time I was done, I had over 240 of them installed, and actually knew what about ten of them were.

This is not a nice thing to do to Skyrim. I'm not going to keep harping on about this, because it's not fair to blame the camel for buckling under the weight of the straw - never mind the anvil that all these mods count up to - but yes. It crashes all the time, some areas are impossible to enter, several armour items were corrupted somewhere leading to random acts of nudity, the frame-rate is regularly drop-kicked into single digits, and as for balance... forget it. This modded Skyrim is I Want To Be The Guy: RPG Edition, only without the sense of mercy or fair play. If you feel like trying this experiment for yourself, great. Don't let your actual savegames anywhere near the result. Consider yourself warned...

And now, let the adventure begin...

My adventure begins in a familiar place; the Live Another Life mod. This starts you off in a locked hut somewhere in the world, where the goddess Mara appears in statue form to ask who you want to be - a shipwreck victim, a new recruit to one of the Guilds and so on - and both kits you out and teleports you to an appropriate starting position for that storyline. It's a good way to skip the intro and tutorial dungeon, especially if you've done anything that might dick around with the scripting (ahem), with a quick new quest for when you want to activate the main story. It's not quite the brand new, never-seen-before intro I wanted, but at least it opens up potential beyond the default Helgen stuff.

I pause for a minute to decide how to play this. All good Skyrim gimmick-diaries need rules; this one will too. Our heroine is a spellsword, Compass, who I have no doubt will live up to the heroism and sense of personal responsibility expected of a Dovahkiin. She's an Imperial, and this is her face:

Game mechanics wise, everything seen is playing on the default difficulty. Fast travel is a no-no, since that would probably mean missing cool stuff or bypassing interesting mechanics for surviving in the wilds. Any mods that present themselves have to be switched on, to at least their defaults, but cranked up a bit if it sounds like fun, and only switched off if they're causing impossible problems or just killing the fun. In the end I switched off one that made hunger/thirst a priority, since it was getting in the way of seeing things, and a couple of town mods that otherwise crashed everything.

Beyond that, given the likelihood of things breaking, some console commands are allowed. Death is not a problem, at least not as a running thing to worry about. Finally, most importantly-

...and mid-configuration General Tullius, Ulfric Stormcloak, and their men suddenly burst into the room, knocking seventeen kinds of shit out of each other. Tapping Ulfric on the back, he immediately swings round from a battle with his nemesis to say hello, and also offer awful polygon sex.

Oh yeah. This - if not that specifically - bodes well.

Even so, the first attempt at living in this strange new world... could go better.

Ugh. Where... where the hell am I? Why is my skin so smooth and my hair so... flowy all of a sudden? I thought... I thought I was meant to be on a cart, about to set some people on fire for thinking they could chop my head off. What...

Compass, my child, I am Mara. I offer you the gift of a new life, a life such as no Nord, Imperial or Whatever has ever even dreamed of. All you need do is choose your fate, and I shall grant your destiny. What shall it be?

Surprise me.


Thanks, Mara. For the second attempt, I opt for a specific start - a patron at the Riverwood tavern, which comes with both a promise of no immediate dragon ambush and also actual clothes. (Oddly, Compass did apparently have a set of mining clothes on, they were just invisible. Whether a bug or sabotage from some other mod, I have no idea. I will however point out that the anatomically correct nudity comes as no surprise - not only are nude mods the most popular, there are no fewer than three different female body replacement meshes. The guys in the game also of course let it all hang out if you swipe their trousers, but their naughty bits unsurprisingly get much, much less loving attention.)

Riverwood is pretty familiar, except for a gigantic aqueduct running behind it for no apparent reason and a new evil base across the way. At least, I'm assuming the "Evil Lair of Hydra" is evil. I hate to make snap-judgements, but I can't actually get in without a crash. Maybe they just sell cookies.

There are some differences though. I've never seen Skyrim so grey and murky... like North Yorkshire on a sunny day. When it starts raining, it gets worse - not a polite little storm, but a full-on monsoon. Also, as a status message helpfully explains, rain makes you wet. It's not just being polite. With a sinking feeling, I checked the in-game manual to discover that while getting wet isn't a problem per se, getting cold and wet can kill. And Skyrim? Skyrim is a pretty damn cold place, even in the nice bits.

I head back into the tavern to let it pass and check my gear. I have... basically nothing. The standard fire spell, a cheap mace, some bits of jewellery, and some food. For armour, we're talking a shirt, a thin skirt, and some boots. A nearby vendor offers to sell me essentially every spell in the universe, but I don't have enough cash. Chatting with the other patrons, a group of friendly transexuals offer to join the journey - and hey, those are ladies with plenty of experience handling a sword, right? Before I can pick one as an official Follower though, they're all upstaged when a decapitated Triss Merigold from The Witcher 2 runs up and asks to join without moving her lips. Or indeed, having any.

Ooof. Bad choice of words.

Even without eyes, Triss manages to follow along for a while, only to vanish early and never re-appear. So, pretty much like The Witcher 2 then. Alone, I find myself wandering through the snowy forests towards Helgen, and quickly discovering that my gear is nowhere near warm enough for even these climes. Before long, there's snow all over me, and things only get worse when night falls. The temperature drops along with it, and in this Skyrim, night is pitch black.

Then the messages start appearing. Messages like "A Forsworn is hunting you." Gulp.

Also, I finally figure out what's wrong. I can't see the world for the trees. Skyrim has big ones already, but now they're huge and absolutely everywhere. Forests are now incredibly oppressive at times, especially when a group of Hammerfell mercenaries suddenly bursts out of the greenery. A gloriously powerful, metal, version of the Skyrim theme kicks in as I blast the first two with flames - noting in the process that my magicka now regenerates incredibly fast. I don't have unlimited firepower, like you do when you stick god mode on, but the big blue bar refills itself within seconds.

The first merc to fall donates his armour and sword to my adventure - absolutely superb, if unenchanted, quality gear for a Level 1 character - and things are officially on.

Then I get killed in one hit by an unseen Thing. Grrr.

Fleeing, what would normally be harmless woods are now more like survival horror. I have no idea where I am, Skyrim has no interest in being balanced any more, and there's at least one enemy following me for whom my best sword attacks are like throwing pavlova at a castle wall and expecting it to turn into dust. Arrows shoot out of nowhere, wolves... well, I'll get to that in a second, but they do something far creepier than howl... and then out of nowhere, a torch! Light! Not just more red dots!

It's a group of travelling adventurers, and someone from a newly founded "Hunting Guild". They handily destroy everything behind me, we chat for a moment about how grateful or not, I do not in fact want their literature, and then they head off down the road. I'm about to do the same, when suddenly:

Any questions?

I spin round, but there's nobody there. Only a small, inquisitive looking dog, and...

Pfft. Dogs can't talk. It's not like they're microwaves.

Except they can. They don't converse, but most of the classic Skyrim animals can talk now - generic... pardon the expression... barks, but still words. You know the only thing weirder than having a Mudcrab mock you as you try to kill it? No. No you don't. But you will, soon enough...

Speaking of weird, look who I met on the way to Helgen. He kills me with fire when I try to go into his house. In retribution, I steal his pig and hit him so hard, Minecraft is now sprite based.

Arriving at Helgen, it's to the discovery that Alduin has already been and gone, and both Hadvar the Imperial Tutorial Guy and The Other One Whose Name I Can't Remember are lying wounded in a cave.

Riverwood! You need to... warn Riverwood! Get me a healing potion from the now completely obsolete tutorial cave and (cough) I can...

Will this new tutorial cave also have giant bloody spiders in it, by any chance?

I'm almost positive it won't.

Aargh! That still counts! Die in a fire, Todd Howard! And your little developers too!

Please... the health potion... while I still remember what it feels like to have blood...

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, what would you do?



Getting to Whiterun to tell the world that dragons want to eat a sizeable chunk of it proves an absolute nightmare. Everywhere I go, there are monsters - and if there aren't, they spawn out of nowhere. Models in bikinis with knives. Orcs. Wolves. If I stick to the road, there are often guards or travellers - but that can't be expected, only made use of. It's a complete throwback to when Tamriel was called Arena if you remember that, Day Z with a target on my back if you're more into modern games, and a maelstrom of sadistic entropy if you like fancy words. My F9 pressing finger has no fingerprint left.

The worst bit comes when I stumble on a circle of stones, populated by a small cult of lightning-spewing sorceresses and their skeletal minions. Easy to walk around? You'd think! Except no. Because on either side of them lives a pride of lions, whose aggro radius is measured in light-years. As for the long-way round, well, even assuming no spawns, there's a giant there, and a... triceratops? Yes. A triceratops, bullying some horses. Every single one of these things is instant arse-kickery.

But you know what they're not? Friends.


Just to be clear, this absolutely destroys Skyrim, to the point that my computer shuts off a couple of times trying to render it. The AI has no idea what it's doing, things get stuck on the scenery, and the framerate plummets. But that's not important. Why? Because dinosaurs. Fighting lions.

Whistling a happy tune, I continue on my way to Whiterun, pausing only when a guard sees me with a weapon drawn and rushes over in case I do anything illegal with it. But wait a minute...

Bronies. Why did it have to be Bronies?

Excuse me? You have a problem with one of the few shows that combines classic nostalgia with a modern sentimental twist; one that treats little girls with the respect they deserve instead of churning out fluff-

My Little Pony, skinny and bony...

Stop that.

Who's your favourite pony? I like Pritt-Stick. You know. From the second series. Where they're all rendered into glue. And the glue has sparkles, only it's not magic, but tears. The tears of little ponies. What I'm getting at is-

Enough! I'm warning you!

You're a grown man obsessed with a show for tiny little girls who like pink things and ponies. What do you have to say to that, hmmm?

Two things. First, that there is nothing wrong with any sincere fandom, especially one that seeks to make an emotional connection not often found in this frosty land, and if you cannot appreciate that, you have my most sincere pity.

Uh-huh. And the second thing?


Yep. Turns out every Nord - every single Nord in Skyrim - has been taking sneaky trips up the mountain, and all of them now know this Shout. It's amazing how annoying it is when it's you being blasted off mountains every few minutes, though it does make civil war fights hilarious.

But I suspect we'll be seeing that later. Time to check in with the Jarl in Whiterun.


Ahem. Where was I? Oh. Yes. The imminent dragon-based apocalypse.

Greetings to you. I-

Give me a Flame Grilled Whopper, large fries and a diet coke.

Excuse me?

No gherkins. I want it my way.


You look like the Burger King.

Are you quite finished? We know you witnessed the dragon attack... or officially did, even if in reality you skipped it with some kind of mod thing... which makes you the closest thing we have to an expert around here. I'd like to hire you to fight it.

What kind of reward are we talking about here?

Vaguely defined, and not even close to the life-changing fortune that would come your way were we not in a role-playing game that can't afford to set you up for the next fifty levels. Also, I'm ignoring that you're Level 2 and regular bandits can kick your arse.

Just as long as the preparation for this battle doesn't involve any more giant Spider-Men.

I'm almost positive that it won't.

That's it! I'm taking my business to McDonalds!

Actually, the quest for the Dragonstone is quite a refreshing change. Inside the dungeons, nothing seems to have been switched around or made worse, making for at least one dungeon where I can not only survive easily, but have much more powerful equipment than I'd normally have thanks to looting bodies. It's not exactly ULTIMATE POWER, but a few stumbling zombies are exactly no threat. As opposed to normally, when they're merely a minimal threat. It's not much, but it's a start.

Knowing that there's a dragon fight coming up though, I take a bit of time to nip into a few other familiar places, fight some more regular enemies, and claw up at least a couple of levels and grab some perks. In the end though, the dragon fight isn't much of a problem. As usual, I have enough redshirt goons around to do most of the heavy lifting, and the fight is exactly as it was in the vanilla version.

Okay, so that part is a little different.

Now with basic access to the same Shout as pretty much everybody else, everyone immediately hails me as their Dragonborn hero. Hurrah for me. I return to the Jarl and he hands me the ceremonial Hat of Who Gives A Crap and the +2 Axe of If You Hadn't Noticed, I'm A Spellsword, along with instructions to go see the Greybeards on High Hrothgar. This I do not plan to do, for the following reason:

Greetings, Dovahkiin. You are blessed with a gift few possess, to harness the ancient words of power and channel them through your body, performing wonderous actions. Like Force Push. And. Uh. Ice Beam. Running Pretty Fast, that too.

So, basic magic then? Wow. That would really be impressive if we didn't live in a fantasy world where physical gods hand out terrifying power to amuse themselves, and every other person can shoot fire out of any orifice!

This is completely different! We have devoted ourselves to the pursuit of these words! We've learned almost three of them! Not each of course, but....

I'm sure your parlour tricks really impress the kiddies. But me? I walk out, I kill a few wolves, I walk back more badass. And you know the best part? I get to do all of it without completely wasting my life on a frozen mountain.

So, yeah. Of course, the Jarl's reward does go one step further - the title of Thane, and with it the service of Lydia, everyone's favourite Housecarl. I'm not exactly short on potential Followers in this version of Skyrim, but honestly they're mostly just faces rather than characters and at least one of them has simply buggered off. With Lydia though, you know where you are. Good old reliable Lydia; a familiar ally still around to proudly serve her new Thane with honour and professionalism and-

I am going to kill everyone responsible for this. Then me.

Tomorrow! Will the world be saved from dragons? Will the world's modding community be saved from Lydia's wrath? And is there any chance she'll find a respectable set of armour?

Skyrim: Week Of Madness
The insanity continues... come along for the ride...

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

Sony Says That They’ve Been “Working Closely” With Bethesda to Get Skyrim DLC Working on the PS3 People who bought Skyrim for the PS3 are pissed. And you can't necessarily blame them.

First, they get a version of Bethesda's hit action/RPG release that became increasingly unplayable. Then, PS3 owners had to endure news that they may not even get the Dawnguard DLC that Xbox 360 users got back at the end of June. The Dawnguard troubles make it all too easy to believe that Hearthfire's home-building features may never make it to the PS3 either.

So, yeah, if you're a PS3 who wants all that Skyrim magic on your console, you might feel cursed. Sony VP Adam Boyes feels your pain.

Boyes handles publisher relations for Sony, which means he interfaces with third-party developers. He's new there, having arrived about three, four months ago. But he knew all about the Skyrim woes when I asked him about the game after he spoke at the New York Gaming Conference this week. He took a deep breath before replying.

"We work with all of our partners to try and solve their problems," Boyes answered. "We have a big, broad dev support team that works closely with Bethesda—and with all of our partners—to work with them to solve that any sort of issues they have along the way."

"Of course, I always want everything to work always for everyone. I can't promise any kind of resolution or timeline but can say that everyone involved is trying their best to get this stuff working."

PC Gamer
Skyrim Diary part 4 - Main

< Part 3

I'm playing Skyrim with a rule: illusion magic only. No direct violence, just pure deception. So naturally, I've enlisted myself in the emperor's army: the Imperial Legion.

For my initiation, Legate Rikke wants me to get to Fort Hraggstead and kill all of the bandits, which I'm sure will be easy with no way of actually attacking them.

"I've got a good feeling about you," she says, "and I don't often get good feelings about anything."

After this, you will have even fewer good feelings.

The fort is a little way West of Solitude: an easy stroll down the city road eventually branches into a rockier path up into the mountains. I try to infuriate a passing rabbit and miss six times. This bodes well.

By the peak, the snow's thick on the ground and falling gently. When the fort walls come into view, I stop and scope it out. Squinting, I can see one guard on the battlements, and another patrolling the perimeter - no clue how many more inside, but it's big. I sneak over to a large rock, and plan.

The battlements guard is stationary. I don't see anyone near him he could attack, but it's got to be worth flinging a speculative Fury spell at him. After a long flight time, it hits. He flashes red and draws his bow, aiming down inside the fort. I never see who he's fighting, but after a while another bandit runs up to the battlements with a two handed sword and thwacks him. They spar, and then abruptly calm down. The sword guy wanders off. I duck back behind my rock. This might take a while.

I keep tormenting the archer with sneak Fury bombs, hiding behind my rock until the 'slightly suspicious' warning on my sneak-o-meter fades. When I look out again, he's gone - no idea whether he died or just got sick of the inexplicably shitty time he was having on the battlements and wandered off. The sun sets. I restrategise.

I can't hit a moving target from this distance, so I wait for the patrolling guard to head away from me, and scuttle over to a closer rock. I can shadow him from behind a ridge, safely out of sight, peeking over in third person mode. But there's no-one else outside the fort walls for him to attack, so when he turns back I carry on, skirting the perimeter.

The fort is built on a cliff, and I've reached the edge. The northern coast of Skyrim stretches out below, the aurora adds a tinge of green to the darkening sky, and a narrow stone ledge leads around the castle walls. This way, I guess.

I skirt the fort, switching nervously between scanning the battlements for bandits and checking my footing on the ledge. By the time I circle back to more solid ground, I can see a breach in the fort walls. I can sneak in!

Crouching behind some rubble, I can see into the courtyard. The two-handed sword guy slouches by the gates to the keep. Another bandit works at a forge in the corner. And, gratifyingly, a body lies in the center - presumably the archer.

The first bit is easy: I Fury the sword guy, then jump out and attract everyone's attention. The forge guy runs over, sword guy comes for me, then changes his mind when his friend shows up. The two clash in the courtyard, and in a few heavy blows sword guy wins. I run back to my cliff ledge and hide until he calms down.

During the commotion, I saw an archer on the battlements, and I think I can lead sword guy up there. I run back in, Fury him on my way past, and scamper up the steps to the battlements. The archer takes aim, and as I dodge, sword guy catches up.

He's cut me off: the only way I can run is away from them both, towards the high tower. I run up the spiral staircase inside with him hot on my tail, then jump clear over his head and bolt back out. He chases me towards the archer on the battlements, who's aiming an arrow right at my head. I dodge her shot and barge past her, hitting her with a Fury spell as I go.

When I turn back, I'm hoping to see her intercept sword guy for me. Instead, she spins round, looks at him, and falls backwards off the battlements. Er.

This is half-good, half-bad. On the one hand, that's one less bandit. On the other, sword guy has me cornered, and there's no-one left to help. I throw myself off the battlements too.

Next Thursday: the chase

You can read the next two entries in this series in the issue of PC Gamer currently on sale in newsagents in the UK, or from our online shop.

Here's How To Avoid A Major Bug In Skyrim: Hearthfire

Just a heads up: I've experienced a significant bug in Skyrim's newest downloadable content that seems to be avoidable.

When you get your plot of land in Hearthfire, you'll be using two major devices: the drafting table and the carpenter's workbench. At the drafting table, you can select blueprints for buildings and wings in your new home. Once you've selected a blueprint, it moves over to the carpenter's workbench, where you can actually piece it together in stages: first you build a door, then a floor, then walls, etc.

After you've built an entryway and a main hall for your manor, you can start selecting optional rooms like a library or kitchen. Each set of rooms is attached to a wing of the house—you can only build bedrooms in the west wing, for example—but you can only start planning out one room per wing at a time.

This is where the problems start. If you pick a plan from the west wing, start building parts of it over at the workbench, and then select another plan from the west wing at the drafting table, everything goes wonky. You can lose progress and even deny yourself access to entire rooms. (One of my blueprints disappeared entirely, and I can't get it back.)

So what's the solution? Build one thing at a time. Don't pick multiple blueprints from the drafting table at once: just select one, finish all of its pieces at the workbench, and then move on to the next plan. Don't get cute and experiment with drafting, or you might lock yourself out of some of the game's content.

I've reached out to Bethesda to inform them of the bug and ask if they have plans to fix it. If you've experienced any other bugs (and know how they can be avoided) please post'em here!