Last week PC gamers who already owned Skyrim and its DLC’s were given a free copy of Skyrim SE. Why? Because PC gamers are the Millennials of gaming; we don’t fight our own battles about who has the “best console” but we do expect to be rewarded when the conflict results in content.
Editor’s Note: None of that last statement is true. Like, any of it.
Anyway, a free game is a free game, even if I already have more hours logged into regular Skyrim than NASA pilots log on flight sims, so once again I donned my prisoner’s shackles. This time, however, I decided to take the advice of our resident writer J and attempt a “True Nord” historically accurate play-through. To explain the rules of this alternate style of rimming the skies, here are some excerpts from J’s article;
“First off, no looting Nordic tombs. Treasure chests and unattended items on shelves are OK, but no riffling through burial urns or searching the cadavers in the catacombs for loose change. The coinage of any Draugr that rise from the grave to slay you is, of course, free game. If he didn’t want his corpse looted he should have stayed in his tomb!”
I was dubious at first, but this one might actually be pretty easy to stick by. Most named weapons, magic items, and dragon masks come from end-dungeon bosses who bust out of their tombs like the Kool-aid man overcoming night terrors. So far, so good.
“Secondly, no thieving.”
“But you have to understand how to discern the difference between thieving and raiding in the culture of the ancient Norse. Thieving is when you sneak about and take things that do not belong to you. Raiding is when you kill someone for their stuff and then take it. I kid you not, that’s how the Norse used to see things.
There’s an account I read, in which a band of Norse raiders attacked a farm and managed to get themselves captured in the attempt. Later that night they were able to escape with most of the farm’s valuables in tow. But the group determined their actions to be dishonorable, you know, sneaking off in the middle of the night with the farmer’s stuff… So they went back and murdered his whole family by setting their home on fire in order that their helping themselves to his property would be socially acceptable. Therefore, feel free to take stuff from anyone you kill, but be up front about it.”
Okay, that one’s not as hard as I thought it would be either. Apparently I’m pretty shitty at stealing in this game, unless I’m throwing a basket over someone’s head or letting my character idle in sneak mode overnight to boost his skill. Currently my sneak is 26%. I get caught 100% of the time. Thieving, it seems, will not be a question.
“Thirdly, no poison. It goes back to the honor thing. It’s OK to murder a man with your axe because you don’t like the way he drinks his mead, but poison is not how a true man kills his enemies. That goes for bad ass shield maidens too.”
My usual Skyrim style is to spam Frostfang poisons, especially early in the game. This is known in ancient martial arts as Oily Sword Technique. I guess for this rodeo I’ll be going in dry…
Editor’s Note: The above statement does not reflect the values of Statbonus.com or MasksOfMonsters.
“Fourthly, and this is important, no using weapons or armor of the fallen. This doesn’t include weapons found on racks or inside treasure chests. This is specifically the weapons and armor of people that have died using them in combat.The Norse were very big on luck, both good and bad. And though they believed the length of their mortal life was fixed, they also believed that using weapons of people killed was really bad luck. After all, how lucky could this sword be? Its previous owner is dead!”
My first instinct was to discard this particular rule, but then I remember how many daedric weapons are littered throughout Skyrim. Sure, Vikings might not use “looted” weapons, but what about a sick-ass ebony blade gifted to you directly from the freaking gods?
“Interestingly enough, you don’t actually have to play a Nord character to play True Nord Mode. References to “Blaumen” (how ancient Norse described people we now generally describe as ‘black’) suggest that some parts of early Norse civilization (such as it was) may have included non-ethnically Norse into their societies if they could keep with the norms of Norse culture– you know, taking slaves, murdering people for their loot, engaging in human sacrifice every nine years– all the stuff we did in high school.”
I picked Breton. Sure, I could be resistant to frost magic by choosing Nord. Or resistance to fire magic with a Dunmer. But why not pick the clearly superior option: resistance to all magic to the tune of 25%?
As for difficulty I wanted to go big or go home. Here is how the difficulty scale effects the game, according to the UESP:
Difficulty | Damage Dealt | Damage Taken ----------------------------------------- Novice | x2 | x0.5 Apprentice | x1.5 | x0.75 Adept | x1 | x1 Expert | x0.75 | x1.5 Master | x0.5 | x2 Legendary | x0.25 | x3
I’ve never played higher than Adept, so I figured the next logical step would be to jump right into Legendary mode. This decision, combined with J’s True Nord rules, has turned my character into a law-abiding pacifist by day, and a serial-killer by night. Let me elaborate why.
First off, I’m not very good at video games. Despite essentially being born with an Atari joystick in hand, I lack the reflexes to really excel at fast-paced combat-oriented games. I can’t manage resources while simultaneously commanding troops in Starcraft. In Counterstrike, I’m the guy who hangs around in spawn too long and gets headshotted from across the map while shopping for that perfect handbag to go with my AK-47. In Super Smash Bros I got really good at timing my rolls, and my friends got really good at forgetting to invite me to play. I’m bad at digital conflict, is what I’m saying. For this reason, my most recent venture through Skyrim has been very, very different. For example…
I’m A Very Social Traveler
When I emerged from the cave outside Helgen I was still wearing prisoner’s rags (all the armor in Helgen belonged to dead people–See Rule #4) Not a problem though, since I managed to follow my savior Rolf into Riverwood. There I watched him give a tearful goodbye to his family who gathered around the sawmill, something I’d never witnessed in past games. This time, however, I was motivated not to leave the village without my quest-NPC to sponge bandit damage, so wait I did. Very patiently.
Once out of town Rolf and I parted ways as he veered off toward Windhelm and I marched for Whiterun. It was here, under the open night sky, that I was really able to appreciate the beauty of this game. The new graphics, landscapes, and lighting were breathtaking, as Bethesda promised they would be. I was staring up at the poetry of a starry alien sky and its multiple full moons, in fact, when I died.
At one-quarter damage my iron blade, which I had found on a weapon stand in Helgen, was little more than a birthday clown’s balloon sword against this trio of Cujo’s. I quickly realized that my cockiness about a 25% magic resistance didn’t amount to Argonian guano if my level-one Breton could be dragged into the woods and eaten by what modern man treats as a T-Shirt decoration.
Upon reloading I took a wider path and died again. Twice. To the same group of bow-wielding bandits. It seems without perks my iron-bound shield was incapable of stopping arrows, if even by accident. In both instances of brief combat I would charge the group, hear a sound akin to ninja stars blowing through paper walls, and the game would zoom out on my corpse.
I reloaded into Riverwood, slept until daytime, and followed a patrol. Normally in Skyrim I would still worry about an assault from the sky, even with guards at my back. But alas…
There Are No Dragons In My Game
Crabs, skeevers (rats), and deer seemed to be my character’s upper limit for the first hour of gameplay. After a level or two I started getting more aggressive, and actually challenged a group of spiders. I almost died. To a couple of goddamn spiders. These are monsters I would have normally ran past in earlier play-throughs. I took Skyrim’s web-shooting arachnids as seriously as I’d take a snail performing a war dance toward me in real life. But not this game. At 3x damage, without armor, a spider will ruin your day. As such, the idea of fighting a dragon without any of the armor or weapons I’d usually have looted off bandits by now sounded suicidal bordering on pants-on-head.
Then it struck me…must I? If I simply ignored the main quest before ever visiting Bleak Falls Barrow, the dragons won’t spawn.
I’ve played for almost 10 game hours now, and my skies are clear. Heck, by not continuing the main story I’m doing the people of Skyrim a favor. As far as they know Alduin was just popping by on an idle Saturday to watch an execution. It puts the game into a new perspective if the biggest threat to the land is an impending civil war. Unfortunately, getting involved in said civil war is also a pretty big hurdle for my character, because…
Every Fight Is Awkward
Until I got my hands on a formidable, freely given (or smithed) weapon, going to war was off the table. Let me show you a graphical representation of my character trying to fight bandits with an iron mace…
And much like the scene above, it doesn’t end with the big scary man actually taking a nap. I was able to keep a bandit stunned with my mace until my character ran out of stamina, and then I found a new level of desperation; How many bowls of lukewarm stew would I have to guzzle to outlast them?
Without healing potions from looting crypts (See Rule #1) or stealing them from shops (Rule #2) I was left to pick vegetables on friendly farms, cook in tavern common rooms, and split wood for money. I was literally forced to take a second job in order to save up enough life-saving foodstuffs to go into battle for about five minutes.
My proud Viking was starting to realize…
Life Has No Meaning Anymore
At some point I started telling myself that all I needed to really turn my life around was one big score. One decent weapon was all I needed, baby, and everything would be good again. One job, one life-changing deal, and I would be back on top. And I knew just the demon to make that deal with.
In the city of Markarth there is a haunted house. In this haunted house you discover a demonic (Daedric) shrine which speaks to you. This is the voice of Molag Bal, a terrible Daedric prince, and he demands the return of his favorite priest to torture. Unfortunately this priest is being held by a small army of Foresworn (violent bush-people) who are, let’s be honest, far out of my league. On the other hand this is Skyrim, and anything is possible if you climb the right 90-degree cliff.
Verily, I purchased a horse and set off. Having completed this quest many times throughout my other games I had a solid plan. Instead of ambling up to the fortress the priest was being held in, fighting my way to the top, and challenging the Foresworn leader, I used my spider-horse. I trekked up a cliff, down the side of a tower, and into the end-zone of the Foresworn base. Once inside I was able to corner the chief without arousing his men and engage him in final combat.
This endeavor cost me 1,000 gold in odd-jobs for the horse and around 60 bowls of potato stew. If we do the math that’s approximately 720 ounces of home-cooked creamy goodness, or five and a half gallons if you’re in the US, that my character necked while beating on a tribal leader with a Wiffle Bat. With a staff of familiar summoning I found in his tent I managed to dispatch his men, and once I had retrieved the priest, I returned to claim my prize from Molag Bal.
And now the game is a complete cake walk!
Yep, you guessed it. Everything still kills me in a few hits. I can’t use the armor of slain enemies. Most quests that would otherwise lead to better armor explicitly asks you to raid people’s graves. And upgrading the smithing skill takes money. Without being able to steal ingots I’m left with very few options; continue doing chores for gold, or put that glorious glowing mace to good use.
Which is how my character settled on his new career path; home invasions.
Editor’s Note: Jesus Christ, no! None of this reflects the values or morals of the parent website.
I simply pick out a hut, farmhouse, or hamlet that looks isolated enough for me to murder everyone inside without allowing survivors to escape and report me to he watch. Then I take everything they have, sell as much of it as possible, and use the gold to fuel my ingot addiction. I’m not looting tombs (Rule #1). I’m not stealing (Rule #2) or using poison (Rule #3) and I’m not using their dropped weapons (Rule #4).
I just need to craft some ebony armor, and I’ll be ready to join the Stormcloak rebellion. A few more families, maybe, and I’ll have what I need… It’s for the greater good, right? I’m a Viking, after all. I’m a proud, strong, brave Viking. And if anyone tries to get in my way or tell the cops, I just hit ’em with my demon stick until they stop screaming. I’m a True Nord of the north now. And you did this to us J… You did this to us…
Featured image from Google Images / Skyrim / Bethesda
All other images from Meme Database or Wiki.