The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Skyrim: Nordrick in Windhelm
As the new guy in Windhelm, I'm doing my best to fit in with the local NPCs. I walk around the city, wearing regular clothing instead of armor. I hang around in the tavern, eating and drinking. I sleep in a rented bed every night. I make small-talk, or at least listen to the small-talk of others. Overall, I feel like I'm blending in well: if a real adventurer arrived in Windhelm, I'm confident he or she would be convinced I was just another local living a routine life. Nordrick the Bland, they'd call me.

And yet, a very un-NPC-like emotion has reared its ugly head inside Nordrick's even uglier head. I may walk, sleep, eat, and drink like an NPC, but when it comes to my professional life, I'm definitely falling short. While spending time with the locals, and seeing what they do for a living, I've come to an unexpected conclusion: I'm insanely jealous.

For example, there's an NPC in Windhelm who runs a museum out of his house. For two gold pieces, I get a quick tour of his collection of mundane junk, which includes some bones, an empty book, and a spoon. It's a boring collection of cruft, but he invents wild stories that make his assortment of crap seem interesting. Why can't that be my job? I collect plenty of junk, so why can't I put it on shelves, make up ridiculous stories about it, and charge people to look at it? Nordrick the Curator, they'd call me.

I also meet a fiction writer who lives at the inn. A writer! Now, that's a job I'm jealous of. I'd love to write a book, perhaps about a hero named Nordrick The Bold who single-highhandedly slays the dreaded Frost Troll of Dawnstar. Or I could pen a tome about Nordrick the Fair, who recovers stolen magic weapons and returns them to their rightful owners. I could sell them to stores in Skyrim and collect the royalties.

(I actually read one of the writer's books, which is pretty awful. He uses phrases like "I leave you now, good reader, with this gentle reminder..." Blech! I hate when authors address their audience. You know what I mean, gentle blog viewer?)

Even the beggars seem to have good jobs. I meet one who asks me for a gold coin and offers to train me in the art of pick-pocketing, which seems a bit dubious. If she's so good at picking pockets, why is she begging for gold? On the other hand, I did give her a piece of gold, and as I walk away I realize that she's so skilled that she tricked me into picking my own pocket for her. Now, that's talent.

I think all of this occupation envy I'm feeling is due to the fact that my chosen profession, smithing, isn't really working out so well. Sure, there's a nice smithing area I can use in Windhelm that has all the tools I need: forge and anvil, ore smelter, tanning rack, grindstone, and workbench, all within a few feet of each other. With the right materials I can fashion armor, weapons, and even jewelry. The problem is, it's not making me any money. In fact, it's losing me a ton of cash. Ideally, I'd be able to buy raw materials, fashion them into things, and sell them back for a profit. As it stands, however, the materials I buy cost more than the finished product, so I'm operating at a steep loss.

The only way to buy for less and sell for more is to boost my Speech skill, and the only way to boost my Speech skill is buy doing a lot of buying and selling, and since my Speech skill is currently pretty low, that means I'm losing gobs of money there, too. So, Nordrick the Silver-Tongued Blacksmith, at the moment, is a complete bust.

Luckily, there are several other ways to make money. Alchemy is one, and I've got plenty of ingredients after my long trip to Windhelm. I mix up all the potions I can, selling them to the local alchemist for a nice profit. I also spend a day visiting several nearby farms and gathering crops for the farmers, who had the time and energy to plant, cultivate, and grow the crops, but are suddenly are too lazy to spend thirty seconds picking them. I chop firewood as well, for people who have gone out and cut down trees, dragged them back to their farms, and cut them into small pieces, but lacked the follow-through for the final step: splitting the small pieces in half.

In fact, I do such a good job, the local farmers get together to hold a special election and vote me in as the new Jarl of Windhelm! And here this blog ends, as Nordrick The Helpful rules wisely over Windhelm for the rest of his days.

Okay, I actually just had a quick sit on the throne while no one was watching. An NPC can dream, can't he?

Funneling my earned wages into my smithing and vendor-grinding, it's not long before I'm basically broke again, so there's not much else to do but head back into the wild to do some hunting and mining. I blow the dust off my armor, strap it on, and head south. I come upon a small mining town called Kynesgrove, where I chip some minerals out of the caverns. They also have some spare bedrolls outside, so I spend a rent-free night and continue roaming the following day.

The morning passes as some wolves attack me and I attack some goats, both serving to fill my pelt quota. While wandering alongside a river in the afternoon, I spot what looks like a small wooden shack. As I approach, I spy a tiny flicker of motion through the broken boards on the side of the shack. Someone's inside. I drop into a crouch. Is it a bandit, wanting to kill me for gold? A necromancer, wanting to experiment on my corpse?

Unfortunately, it's neither. The flicker of motion in the shack suddenly becomes a flash. It's not a person. It's something big, it's something fast, and it's coming right at me. Sabercat. Sabercat! Oh flip, it's a mother-flippin' Sabercat!

A sabercat. I would honestly prefer to fight a dragon than a sabercat. Dragons are deadly, sure, but they lazily circle, then land, then take off and circle some more. Sabercats are all business. They're lightning quick and deadly: I've run into them with the other characters I play in Skyrim, characters with skill points in something other than Speech and Smithing, and the outcome has almost always been a quick death and a largely unscathed sabercat. Now I'm facing one with Nordrick, who can't even buy an apple from a friendly merchant without losing a few hit points.

I'm both crouching and creeping, the slowest possible combination of movement apart from sitting in a chair, and I frantically hammer at my keyboard, trying to get upright and running. I manage to get upright and walking, then crouching and scooting. Great. Trying to quickly draw my sword and shield results in me first readying my healing spell, and then my bow, neither of which are going to slow down this rampaging prehistoric cat. My Battle Cry power! Of course! That will save me, or it would, if I hadn't used it already earlier today to scare off some attacking wolves.

This is the end. This is the end of Nordrick. I won't be known as Nordrick the Blacksmith or Nordrick the Woodcutter, but as Nordrick the Cat Toy. Then I remember the river. The river! If not for the river, this blog would end, right now, with a brief description what it's like to pass through the sabercat's digestive system.

With the beast lunging and slashing and my vision filled with its fur and my blood, I somehow remember how to stand upright and run. I splash into the river and begin swimming, managing to reach the opposite bank. I turn and am mortified to see the cat paddling after me. As soon as it reaches my side of the river, I run back into the water and swim to the other side. The cat begins crossing after me, and I cross back. Okay. Good. If I can just keep this river between us for the rest of our lives, I'll be fine.

About three river-crossings later, the cat seems to come up with a fresh idea: to run up the side of a mountain and get stuck behind a rock. Hey, I didn't say it was a good idea. But if the Gods of Poor Pathfinding love anyone, it's Nordrick, and I find that by standing near the shack I can loose arrows into the cat from a safe distance. It just stands there angrily and takes the abuse until it dies, destined to become the next pair of boots I craft.

With that unpleasantness done, I heal up and check out the shack the cat was prowling around in. It's pretty gross in here: the cat was munching on the previous tenant when I arrived, and there's a bloody skull and ribcage and gore splashed all over the floor. There's a bed, though, unowned, which means I can sleep here, which kind of, sort of, means I can live here. Which kind of, sort of, means I have a home! Kind of sort of!

A home with giant holes in the walls and ceiling, and no door, but there's a wardrobe, a table with some books on it, and even a fireplace and a tanning rack. This might not be so bad. I can't pick up the skull and ribcage, but with some strategic walking I mange to kick the disgusting bones out the doorway and into the river, where they float away. As far as all the blood on the floor, I lay out some goat pelts over it as sort of a makeshift throw rug. So now instead of it looking like someone died in here, it just looks like a couple goats exploded. It's a conversation starter!

Not bad. I've got a lovely, gore-splatted home with no door and some dead fish hanging from the roof. It's definitely no Proudspire Manor. Hell, it's not even Oblivion's Imperial City shack. Still, finally, I have my own place. Nordrick the Homeowner. That's what they'll call me.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
I’m playing Skyrim as an NPC: walking everywhere, trying to avoid excitement, and seeing if I can scrape out a living without resorting to adventure. Part 1, Part 2.

After all the bandit and troll-based excitement in the last entry, I'm ready for a nice long stretch of peace on a nice long stretch of beach. This morning, so far, I'm finding it: it's so early the sun hasn't come up yet and Skyrim itself seems to be slumbering. As I stroll along, it feels like the game has completely forgotten I'm even here. No enemies come charging out of the pre-dawn gloom to greet me with whistling arrows. No monsters are at my heels, swinging at me with hairy fists. No thieves are trying to burden my inventory with stolen magical weapons. It's just me, the soothing music in my head, and the sound of my own footsteps. Then -- suddenly -- nothing happens.


I'm not simply out hunting for pelts today, either: I'm traveling. I've decided to leave Dawnstar behind, for several reasons. First of all, I want to have a real go at crafting as a profession, and while I can create weapons and armor in Dawnstar, the blacksmith shop has no grindstone or worktable for improving them, which is a bit limiting. There's also no general store in town: the only place to sell my collected miscellany is that Khajiit nomad camp, and, being nomads, they've packed up and left. The iron and quicksilver mines are stripped and it will take ages for the minerals to repopulate. Perhaps most importantly, trolls can wander right into town and beat the shit out of everyone at will.

I've decided Nordrick needs to be in a real city. A city with real shops, a full complement of blacksmithing tools, and big stone walls and a huge oak door to keep out angry snow gorillas. I'm tired of being a big dork in a small town. I want to be a big dork in a big town.

And so, I've hatched a plan, a plan so boldly cautious and daringly timid that it just might work. My target is the city of Windhelm, which lies far to the southeast. I'll have to walk there, naturally, but rather than stride through the interior of Skyrim, which is filled with forts and crypts and bears and giants and who-knows-what-else, I'm going to take the coastal route, along the outer edges of the map. It's a long walk, but I'll have water to one side of me and cliffs to the other, so any danger that wants to jump on my face will have to do it from directly in front of me. Skyrim is full of adventure, but my plan is to sneak around the edge of it, unnoticed.

So far, it's working. The entire morning is uneventful: I hunt a couple foxes with my bow, catch a few salmon with my bare hands, collect the meat of many vicious clams, and walk along in complete peace. In fact, I grow so accustomed to trudging around unmolested that when I see a charred corpse kneeling next to a spell book on a patch of land with a bunch of flames shooting out of it, I just walk right on over and have a look and immediately catch on fire.

Okay, so, that was incredibly dumb and fairly painful. Note to self: weird corpses are not to be trusted.

As evening approaches, I find a shoddy lean-to perched on a rock. I decide to camp there for the night, ignoring the shipwreck I can see in the water below (no more boats!) and trying not to think about the presence of skeletal human remains on the bedroll. I set my infallible mental alarm clock for 4am, hoping to rise early enough to continue slipping under Skyrim's adventure radar.

The next morning, the constant snow flurries give way to a proper blizzard. The wind howls, the world darkens, and there's so much snow I can't see my big nose in front of my face. I press forward until I notice I'm not actually moving because, in my blindness, I've walked directly into an angry horker. It bellows and fusses and flops around angrily, offended at having been stepped on, but it's fat and slow and easy enough to avoid. I briefly consider killing it for meat and tusks, but it just seems too charmingly huffy to hurt.

The blizzard continues. Wolves attack every so often, signaling their presence with mournful howls, then lining my pockets with their fuzzy, bloody pelts. I eventually come across two human skeletons and a bear trap. It looks like someone got their foot caught in the trap and perished, and someone else sat there, helpfully watching as the trapped person perished, and then perished themselves. The skeletons are at the bottom of a narrow mountain pass, and I climb it, slowly and carefully, to have a look around from higher ground. The blizzard stops, briefly, affording me a nice view.

While I'm up there I spot a little bit of dark rock poking up, and I walk over, thinking it might be another camp or shelter I could use. As I get closer, it starts looking less like a camp and more like an altar of some kind. And there's something... something... on it. It looks like a dead body, but it appears to be encased in ice or something... shimmery. I crouch down and creep up as slowly as I can, but just as I'm getting close: VOOOOM! A sudden burst of light and noise and magic hits me right in the face.

I just run. I run all the way back down the pass like a giant coward. When I catch my breath, I realize it was probably something similar to what happened with the burned corpse from the other day. Some idiot was trying to learn a spell, some sort of ice spell in this instance, and offed himself. And then I just come along and blunder into him despite having done the exact same thing earlier in the trip. Didn't I just say "Note to self: weird corpses are not to be trusted?" Is there any point in writing notes to myself if I don't read them? No wonder Skyrim isn't flinging adventure at me on this trip. It doesn't need to. It just lets me come across the dead bodies of people who were looking for adventure and I pick up where they left off.

Toward the end of the afternoon, amidst more snow flurries, I come across a small camp. There's a couple bed rolls, a horker corpse, some tables covered with horker meat and tusks, and a cart. The camp's inhabitants are nowhere to be seen, save a single horse standing around benignly. I remember the two skeletons from yesterday. Were they horker hunters? Did they perish out on a hunting expedition after becoming ensnared in their own trap? The horse isn't talking.

I sleep there and rise early. While I'm pretty sure the owners of the camp are the two dead guys I found yesterday, it doesn't seem right to completely loot the place. However, after much internal debate, I do decide to take the horse, because the horse isn't marked as owned, and if he is owned, the owner is probably dead. Plus, anyone who kills adorable pudgy horkers doesn't deserve their own horse.

I don't press the horse to gallop, so I'm not really traveling any faster than I would on foot, but it's been days since I've seen another living NPC and it's kind of nice to have a companion I can sit on. I decide to name him Flurry. Unfortunately, it looks like I won't get to keep him: every time I have to dismount to fight off wolves, Flurry starts wandering back to the horker hunter camp and I have hustle after him. I realize that having to chase a horse the wrong way every few minutes means it's taking me twice as long to travel to my destination, so I eventually just have to let him go. Bye, Flurry.

Toward the end of the third day, the massive stone walls of Windhelm finally come into view. I'm here! Windhelm! My cunning plan of skirting around adventure totally worked, with the exception of a couple magical traps I stupidly wandered into. Still, I came a long way and didn't encounter any horrible monsters or murderous humans. Plus, there are no new icons on my map, which means I didn't discover anything.

Three full days of walking around in Skyrim without discovering a single new map location? You can't get more hardcore NPC than that. I really feel like I've accomplished something by basically accomplishing nothing.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
The Elder Scrolls Skyrim - dragon fights bear
One of the most popular mods on The Skyrim Nexus is the Large Address Aware patch, which lets Skyrim use more than 2GB RAM. Last night a quick patch was applied through Steam, adding official "support for 4-Gigabyte Tuning."

"About time!" cry thousands of Skyrim fans. It's been a long time coming, but 64 bit system users can finally make use of their extra juice, so to speak. Skyrim became the best selling game this Christmas in the UK this week, and it's still the most played game on Steam. You can use the extra RAM to run some of the fancier post-processing overhauls in our round-up of the 20 best Skyrim mods, or to power the promising work-in-progress ENBSeries graphical mod. Bethesda are currently working on official mod tools for Skyrim, which should arrive early next year.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim - don't mess with the war walrus
For the first time in years, the game topping the UK Christmas software charts hasn't got anything to do with Call of Duty, The Sims or Fifa. Skyrim has take taken the top spot, relegating Just Dance 3 to second place. Modern Warfare 3, meanwhile, lingers in third place.

You can see the whole chart on the UKIE site. The figures won't include steam sales, which Valve tend to keep secret, though they have confirmed that Skyrim is the “fastest selling title in Steam’s history.” Skyrim is still topping Steam's top games chart.

Bethesda can enjoy an extra tankard of mead this Christmas, then. With its snowy mountain, reindeer and festive dragons, Skyrim's a great Christmas game, but we'll likely still be playing long after the holiday season has ended. We can look forward to the addition of the official mod tools early next year and, looking further ahead, we can anticipate some chunky DLC with "an expansion pack feel," according to Todd Howard. Is Skyrim your Christmas nuimber one?
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
I'm playing Skyrim as an NPC: walking everywhere, trying to avoid excitement, and seeing if I can scrape out a living without resorting to adventure. You can read Part 1 here.

I get a lot done on my second day in Dawnstar. I visit the Jarl and listen to him air all the problems he has that I have no intention of helping him with. I buy my own pickaxe and work in the mines some more, chiseling out every last bit of ore and selling it to Leigelf, the mine-owning racist. I find a group of Khajiit nomads camped on the edge of town, and sell them some of my jewels in exchange for some hide boots, bracers, a hunting bow, and some iron arrows.

And now, to the hunt!

Well, eventually to the hunt: it takes ages just to slowly walk out of town. And then it takes a while to find anything to hunt. And then when I do find a thing to hunt -- a moose, or whatever Skyrim's version of a moose is -- it turns out the moose is already being hunted, by three wolves, who decide that rather than continue hunting the moose they'd rather hunt me.

It's my first taste of combat! I suddenly realize that besides my bow and arrows, I completely neglected to buy any actual weapons. I don't have a sword or a mace or anything, just a dagger and my mining pickaxe. Turns out, the pickaxe is a decent melee weapon, and I quickly and frantically pick the lives out of the snarling wolves. The hunting continues: I chase another moose and fail to kill it, I survive an attack by skeevers (they're basically giant rats), and I bravely vanquish a vicious goat that makes the fatal mistake of standing harmlessly in my vicinity. Back in town, I use the blacksmith's tanning rack to turn my pelts into leather and leather strips, and finally have a go at crafting, making myself an iron sword and a helmet, just like the one that guy wears in the Skyrim commercials.

Despite my fancy new helmet obscuring my ugly face, people in town suddenly stop talking about how terrible their dreams are and instead start commenting that I look like shit. Apparently, I've noticeably contracted a disease called Ataxia, either from the wolves or the skeevers, but it only affects my lock-picking and pick-pocketing skills, and as a harmless NPC, I have no real plans to pick either locks or pockets. So, apart from the flood of insults, I'm not too worried about being covered in skeever cooties.

The next day, I head further out to hunt along the cold, snowy beach to the west. I spot a figure in the distance, pacing and carrying a round shield. I assume it's a Dawnstar guard walking patrol, but just as it occurs to me that I'm kind of far from town to find a guard, I get hit in the head with an arrow.

Oops. Instead of a Dawnstar guard, it's a bandit, and it's also another bandit, and it's also a third bandit. I draw my handmade sword and hack away at the closest two, but they both have shields and block every single swing. Meanwhile, the third bandit, the one with the bow, deposits another arrow into me from a safe distance. Hm. This could go very badly very quickly.

While the bandits and the rest of the universe wait patiently, I examine Nordrick for any tricks up his sleeve (though he doesn't actually have sleeves.) I find he was born with an ability called Battle Cry, which he can utilize once a day and, for Nordrick, probably translates into more of a Coward Shriek. I use it and the two closest bandits dash away in terror of my terror. I chase them, swinging at their backs, but they're running just as fast as I am and I can't actually connect. The parade of two fleeing bandits and one wildly slashing idiot takes all of us, luckily, right past the third bandit, who was out of range of my arcane terror-scream and hasn't moved. I cut into him wildly, bringing him down with a few hacks. The other two eventually regain their courage and re-engage, but suddenly they don't seem terribly adept with their shields, and after a few minutes of frenzied hacking and backpedaling all over the beach, they both fall dead.

Oy. Whew. Wow. I've just killed three people. Not wolves or skeevers or goats, but actual people. I pause a moment to reflect on the fleeting nature of life, ponder what darkness leads men to take up arms against their fellow man, and grieve the senseless loss of human life in the traditional Tamriel fashion: by stripping the dead jerks of all their stuff and leaving their stupid naked bodies in the snow where they fell.

I sleep in the dead bandit's camp that night, happy to have a free bed, and while doing some early morning hunting (I kill a snow fox and two wolves), I spot what looks like a shipwreck in the distance. I was going to head back to Dawnstar, but that ship looks intriguing, and I want to have a closer look. Along the way I find an overturned canoe that some mudcrabs are calling home, and also a small collection of treasures, like a jeweled circlet, some fine boots, a book, and a curvy sword that is cooler than my straight sword because it's all curvy. With my new sword and bandit armor, I feel like I'm assembling quite the impressive kit.

I finally reach the large shipwreck, and while I'm admiring it, I hear a voice behind me. Some dude has run up and is talking to my back. He tells me to hold onto something for him, and not to tell anyone about it or he'll kill me. I turn around, baffled, and watch him sprint off. What the hell was that all about? I check my inventory, and sure enough, he's stuffed A GIANT MAGIC SWORD into my pants.

Great. I've accepted stolen goods against my will. I hate it when people just add stuff to my inventory without giving me a choice in the matter. It's called personal space, people. I sullenly skulk around on the deck of the ship, annoyed, then turn around and see some other asshole racing toward me. Oh, let me guess. This new asshole is the one the other asshole stole the sword from, the sword I've got hidden down my pants-leg. Fantastic. See, this is what happens when you try to avoid adventure in Skyrim: Skyrim gets annoyed with you and runs up when your back is turned and jams a giant stolen enchanted sword into your underpants and makes you have an adventure.

Well, I'm not getting involved in anybody's personal drama. Just the other day I had to decide if I should borrow a pickaxe or not, and that's plenty of excitement for a guy like me. I immediately hand the magic sword to the new asshole, who seems somewhat mystified that I would do such an honest, unadventurous thing. He then runs off, promising to kill the first asshole. Good luck! Keep me out of it!

I'm irritated, but you know what? This is all my fault. I saw a cool looking shipwreck, and decided to check it out, thus signaling to the game that I wanted some adventure. What was I expecting? Grampa Nondrick checked out a couple boats in his day, and they blew up in his face, too. One time he wound up at sea, surrounded by bandits, and another time he got attacked by ghosts. This boat is probably filled with zombie pirates or mudcrab vampires or republican presidential candidates or something equally horrifying. I'm not even going to poke around on this boat. I'm just leaving. Do you hear me, Skyrim? Nordrick is OUT.

I grouchily stalk straight back to Dawnstar. I'm not even going to sleep at the camp: those bandits will probably respawn, or I'll awaken to find those two quibbling assholes have returned and are using my boxer shorts as their own personal storage locker. From now on, when out in the wilderness, I will shoot at anything furry, or crabby, or goat-y, and ignore everything else.

Or, not. Skyrim isn't quite done with trying to make me have adventures yet. I'm almost back to Dawnstar when the calm, soothing music constantly playing in my head becomes suddenly ominous, and I turn to find a giant goddamn frost troll bearing down on me. I backpedal, peppering it with arrows, but it ignores them, heals almost instantly, and keeps on coming. I manage to scramble up on a rocky outcropping while it roars and bellows and tries to find a way up.

Well, this isn't good at all. Trolls are friggin' dangerous. I work my way carefully over the rocks, spot a the roof of a building, and realize I'm basically in Dawnstar at this point. Will someone help me with this crazy ice gorilla, maybe? I can see a couple town guards, clearly alarmed and readying weapons, but they don't seem to know where the danger is.

Suddenly, help arrives from an unexpected source. I see Leigelf, the racist mine-owner, run past me toward the troll, pickaxe at the ready! Yes! Get 'im, Leigelf! I love you! I'll forgive your vague racism so long as you hack that troll down to oh wait he's dead. Leigelf is dead, instantly. The troll kills him with one blow and his stupid racist body flops into a crumpled heap. Yikes!

Another one of the miners, Lond, runs up to the troll, also armed with a pickaxe. I'm not optimistic: the guy isn't even wearing a shirt. Lond lasts roughly .0003 seconds longer than Leigelf did. This is quickly getting horrifying. I have a sudden vision of the entire town's population perishing at the hands of this troll that I innocently led back here. I try setting the troll on fire with a fire spell, and while the monster seems generally unhappy to be engulfed in flames, its health barely dips.

Now the troll is actually entering the town proper. I'm suddenly certain this troll attack is never going to end. This going to be my life from now on: running backwards for days and weeks and months, over trails and roads and through towns and cities, endlessly pursued through the world by an unkillable troll that punches every single NPC to death, leaving the entirety of Skyrim littered with dead bodies.

Or, not. The troll promptly gets trapped between a rock wall and the back of a house and just stands there, confused. A couple guards team up and fill him full of arrows, and the beast finally, thankfully, expires. I pull six of my iron arrows out of him, eight steel arrows belonging to the guards (and a bunch more out of the side of the house).

The final troll toll: three. Leigelf, Lond, and one of the town guards. I don't feel quite right stripping the dead NPC bodies of all their belongings and then selling them to the other NPCs in town. It just feels a little... ghoulish, especially since I'm kinda sorta totally responsible for their deaths. So, I just leave the dead where they fell, head back to the inn, eat some fresh troll fat, and stand next to my bed for the night.

Poor citizens of Dawnstar. They've already been having nightmares. I somehow don't think watching half of their mining industry getting punched to death will help.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Skyrim Online thumb
Skyrim Online has achieved what many thought impossible. It's giving Skyrim players the chance to play online. Previous attempts to do the same with Oblivion and Fallout 3 ended in failure, but modder awpsoleet has managed to get a rudimentary alpha version of a Skyrim MMO up and running even before mod tools have been released.

The mod is currently extremely basic. Players can chat with eachother and see a representation of other players. The mod's description claims other players are represented by a 'spectral horse', which sounds hilarious, but the version I tested instead had unclothed player models in a standard animation pose, gliding around. You can attack and cast spells on other players, but they don't currently display any effects.

Despite all this simplicity however, the mod represents an impressive first step on the road to a true Skyrim MMO mod. We'll definitely be adding it to our Skyrim Mods list, and keeping a close eye on it.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Skyrim competition thumb
Update - This competition is now closed. Check out our Steelseries Bundle giveway instead.

Welcome to the PC Gamer Ultimate Christmas Giveaway! This is the biggest competition we've ever done: packed with peripherals, games, and exclusive items signed by some very important people. Why are we doing this? Because it's Christmas! And we love you.

The Ultimate Christmas giveaway will run until Christmas Eve. Every day we'll be posting about a new prize that's up for grabs, and you'll have 24 hours after the time of publishing to enter. Sadly, we're only able to open this competition to UK residents.

Sometimes it seems that everyone in the world is playing Skyrim, but, hard as it is to believe, there are some people who haven't had the chance yet. Don't worry, you poor unfortunately people, we've got your back. We're giving away a collectors edition of Skyrim. Yes, that's the £130 collector's edition with the awesome model dragon you see above, plus some extra goodies sent to us from the folks at Bethesda.

Check inside for the full details of what's on offer and how to win it.

Here's what you could win:

A Skyrim collector's edition, that contains:

A copy of Skyrim (duh)
An awesome dragon statue
An art book
A 'making of' Skyrim DVD

But we're also throwing in:

Three Skyrim t-shirts
A Skyrim poster
Skyrim soundtrack
Set of Skyrim postcards

To win all this, simply answer this question.

I want you to make up a dragon shout. You know the rules, three syllables, what they mean and what it does. Example: In Skyrim, Fus (force) Ro (balance) Dah (push) knocks people flying backwards. Now you make one, only funnier.

f you win, you'll get a private message via the forums. Let us know your address and we'll send you your prizes shortly after Christmas. Remember, this competition is open to UK readers only. Also, if you don't claim your prize within three weeks of being notified we'll offer it to someone else. Full terms and conditions can be found here.

May the nine watch over you readers. Be sure to check back tomorrow at 4.30 for the next big competition, which will involve maximum WASD.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
It's morning, and I've just arrived in Skyrim. I wear no armor, just simple clothing and footwraps. I carry no two-handed broadsword, just a small iron dagger. No fearsome warpaint adorns my face and no jagged scars tell stories of hard-fought battles won. I have no priceless treasures or magical artifacts, just a handful of gold coins and a single piece of fruit.

I won't be looting ghoul-infested crypts or rampaging through bandit-occupied forts, I won't be helping citizens with their various problems and quests, and I certainly won't be awakening any dragons. My name is Nordrick. I'm not a hero, I'm an NPC, and I'm here not to play Skyrim, but to live in it.

I did something similar with The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and wrote about it in a blog called Livin' in Oblivion. The NPC I created for Oblivion was a dopey-looking fellow called Nondrick, and I'll be following similar rules with his descendant, Nordrick, here in Skyrim:

Eat and sleep regularly, and walk everywhere, as NPCs do, unless there's a specific reason to sprint, such as while hunting, fighting, or fleeing. No fast travel!
Do my best to avoid adventure, intrigue, and excitement, though if a quest seems reasonably boring or safe (such as a crafting tutorial), it might be okay.
No stealing, and no "stealing" (I can't join a guild for the sole purpose of helping myself to all their stuff and selling it to a vendor).
Find some way to make a living that doesn't involve adventuring. Find a place to call home, and maybe even land a spouse, if the fates allow (they probably won't).
NPCs can't reload a previous saved game if things don't go their way. Neither can Nordrick. If  he dies, he dies.

In my Oblivion blog, I began the game standing on a boat in the small coastal city of Anvil. As Nordrick, I will be starting in a similar fashion, standing on a boat in the small coastal city of Dawnstar. Nordrick will begin the game with the same meager inventory as Nondrick did: a dagger, an apple, and 17 gold pieces. (If anyone is interested, I can post in the comments what console codes I used to start my game like this).

Okay. Enough mundane set-up! Let's get into Nordrick's mundane life! I slowly stroll off the boat I'm pretending to have just arrived on after a long trip I'm pretending to have taken, and walk up the dock into the town. Dawnstar is a chilly, drab-looking village, its few buildings clustered together as if for warmth. Lo and behold, the entrance to a mine is straight ahead of the dock. I sort of wanted to have a look at the town and maybe chat with the locals a bit before beginning hours of routine manual labor, but since the mine is right here, I might as well get to work.

Walking into Quicksilver Mine, I'm gripped by a sudden moment of panic. The place is dark and rumbly, and I have a vision of the mine entrance collapsing behind me, trapping me inside, and having to fight giant spiders or cave trolls or irresponsible mine safety administrators to escape. What if this isn't a mine but a clever attempt by the game to force me to immediately have an adventure? Oblivion was constantly trying to engage me with thrills, and I don't imagine Skyrim will be any different.

Luckily, the mine remains mundane and doesn't collapse, although I am immediately faced with my first tough moral quandary: I'm here to mine ore, but I don't have a pickaxe. I find one lying on a table, and it's not marked as an owned item, so if I take it,  the game won't consider it stealing. Still, it feels like stealing, since it's not mine. I decide to compromise and borrow it: I'll do some mining, and then leave the pickaxe behind when I'm done, and try to buy my own later. That feels like a satisfying decision, and probably as close as I'll get to a dramatic personal choice in this blog (you've been warned).

I get busy, swinging the axe with my spindly arms, chipping away at the rock in a few different places in the cave. Pretty quickly, my pockets are loaded with quicksilver ore: 15 hunks of it, in fact, which I determine to be worth 25 gold apiece (I'm sure the local vendors will disagree). I'm also surprised to dig up a couple shiny garnets, which I value at 100 gold each. Man, I've only been working for an hour and I'm already rolling in loot! Poor Grampa Nondrick worked for ages picking flowers and mixing potions to attain the kind of wealth I've amassed in my first hour in Skyrim.

Finished, I drop the borrowed pickaxe roughly where I found it, but I'm surprised when another miner, a woman named Edith, walks over, picks up the axe, tells me she saw me drop it, and hands it back to me. How thoughtful of her! Shame that I can't propose to her on the spot (marriage is little complicated in Skyrim), because Edith is my kind of woman: hard-working, considerate, and female. I can't explain to her that the axe doesn't actually belong to me, so I walk close to the entrance of the mine, drop it again, and leave before she can scurry over and politely force it back into my inventory.

Outside, the mine's owner, Leigelf, offers to buy all the ore I chipped up, which strikes me as a little weird. It's his mine, isn't it his ore? It's like owning a grocery store, then buying all the food back from the customers as they leave. Leigelf also makes an angry, passing reference to "milk drinkers." I don't know what the heck that means, but I assume it's some sort of racism. Stay classy, Leigelf. At any rate, I want to try to use this ore to craft something more valuable, so I don't sell any of it. I wait patiently for a miner named Lond to finish using the smelter, smelt half of my ore into ingot form, then head over to the blacksmith's shop.

I chat a bit with Rustlief, the local smith, and try to sell him my garnets, but he's not interested. I start using his forge, hoping to make something with the quicksilver I mined, but, even as watch myself bang away at an anvil with tools and materials I don't have, I see that I can't craft anything with my quicksilver ingots. I don't even know what the hell quicksilver is, frankly.

I take a quick (actually, instantaneous) break, eat my apple for lunch, and then I stroll around town some more. I chat with the people I pass, and nearly all of them mention having terrible nightmares. Some go on about it at length. Ominous. There is a cloud hanging over this town, a dark cloud in the shape of a giant quest. I walk away in the middle of a conversation to eat some strange berries I find on a bush, which I admit is pretty rude. Someone is desperately asking for help with terrible supernatural nightmares, and I walk away and start stuffing random berries into my face. But look, sometimes you get quests just from listening to people for too long, and I want to avoid that. Also, free berries! Eating them reveals one of their alchemical properties to me, so I've taken my first small step in the world of alchemy. Grampa Nondrick, a decent alchemist in his own right, would be proud.

I descend into an iron mine and leave a few hours later, laden with iron ore and a bunch more gems (at this rate I'll be able to craft my own game of Bejeweled). I still can't make anything at the forge, though, because I need leather. I can't afford to buy any, so that means I need to hunt, and hunting means I need a bow and some arrows.

It's actually getting kind of late already (walking everywhere instead of running really eats up the day: try it sometime), so I head over to the local inn. I meet an attractive woman named Karita, who mentions she's a bard and that she trained at a Bard college. A hot, employed college graduate? I think I want to marry Karita instead of Edith. I mean, maybe if Edith had gone to college she wouldn't be covered with filth and breaking rocks in a hole.  Then, Karita starts beating on a drum and singing, and wow, she's just terrible. I'm quickly leaning back toward wanting to marry Edith again.

I pay for a room for the night, and I'm genuinely charmed by the fact that the innkeeper, Thoring, actually walks me to it, rather than just vaguely telling me where it is (as innkeepers did in Oblivion). Pleasant, helpful, and runs his own business? Plus, he has a nice selection of cheeses on his counter. Maybe I should marry him instead.

After paying for the room (10 gold) and buying a piece of bread for dinner (6 gold), my savings account is down to a single gold piece. I'm a little conflicted: mining has provided me items of value, but no one I've come across will buy the precious stones, and I want to save the ingots and ore for crafting, if possible. I'll have to find a solution tomorrow, because the room is only rented for one night, and a Nord's gotta eat. At least I got through the day without having any adventures, and only fell in love three times.

There's a book on the night table, and I consider reading it before bed, but it's called "The Cabin in the Woods, Volume II", and I haven't read Volume I yet. No spoilers! I'm a little worried about these nightmares everyone is having: what if simply falling asleep starts some dangerous quest? Thoring, though, tells me I won't have bad dreams: they don't seem to affect travelers, only locals. As I stand beside my bed all night, sleeping, I take some small comfort in that.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Do you remember this impressive Deus Ex: Human Revolution mod? It was built by Boris Vorontsov, author of the ENBSeries graphical mods which also formed the basis of the spectacular ICEnhancer mod for Grand Theft Auto 4. He's just released the first version of one for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. You can download it now from Skyrim Nexus.

The ENBSeries mods layer a suite of new post-processing and colour adjustment effects over the visuals, smoothing out colours, making shadows look deeper and adding a bit of vigour to Skyrim's brightest hues. It also uses a unique SSAO method, which may have a hefty performance impact. Vorontsov recommends setting EnableAmbientOcclusion=false in the enbseries.ini file to improve your framerate. The video above is footage of a work-in-progress version of the mod. Here are a few screenshots, taken from the ENBSeries site.

If you're interested in tweaking Skyrim more, check out our list of the 20 best Skyrim mods so far.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Members of the PC Gamer team have been known to shout FUS RO DAH when activating dragon shouts out of instinct alone, making for a noisy office at lunch times. This man's suite of Kinect controls actually use the dragontongue shout as a vocal cue, letting you blow enemies away with the power of your voice. You also get to attack by flinging your arms at the screen and draw your sword by shouting "LONGSWORD!" See all of this in action in the impressive demonstration video above, spotted by Destructoid. It's easier to see how Kinect interprets his movements and turns them into game actions in KinectFAAST's Morrowind video. If you want to mess with Skyrim's inner workings yourself, check out CVG's Skyrim guide and tips.


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