Let’s Illustrate Morrowind Part 40: Learn History, Repeat History

Fault is finally ready to meet up with her recently rescued contact, who is now safe and secure in the secret monastery of some dissident priests. Their hideout can only be reached by giving a secret password to a specific boat-woman who takes you to a hidden island where you have to wait until either dawn or dusk for a magic door to open. Very thematic.

Once inside we chat with the priests and finally hear the rest of the plot. All our various puzzle pieces like the Neverine and Dagoth Ur finally start fitting together.

Apparently a long time ago the dwarves uncovered the crystal heart of a god and built three powerful magical artifacts to extract and control its power. This went horribly wrong and is the reason there aren’t many dwarves left alive today.

This is, coincidentally, also how 90% of Dwarf Fortress sessions end

This is, coincidentally, also how 90% of Dwarf Fortress sessions end

Some time later a bunch of dark elves including a guy named Nevar and his buddy Dagoth uncovered the same god heart and artifacts. Nevar was smart enough to recognize it for big trouble and asked Dagoth to guard it while he went off to get advice from his three most trusted counselors.

Sadly Dagoth wound up corrupted by the heart and Nevar and his counselors were forced to subdue him. This lead to peace and happiness for all of five minutes before the three counselors decided that they could use the heart to become the new god kings of Morrowind.

The rest is history. Nevar passed away, Dagoth faded into legend as a monster and the Triumvate ruled with a mostly benevolent iron fist.

But the heart is a dangerous thing and the Triumvate seems to be slowly losing their minds and their power while rumors stir that Dagoth never truly died and has awoken again.

All we need now is for Nevar to be reborn and we’ll have the whole gang back together, which is why this whole reborn hero Nevarine thing is so important.

This also means that if Fault keeps following the path of the prophecy it’s only a matter of time before she comes face to face with three gods and a demon lord.

So all things considered buying all those expensive enchantments was probably a good investment.

Let’s Illustrate Morrowind Part 39: The Importance Of Accesorizing

So Fault’s had to spend a week in jail, but that’s fine since it should give her recently rescued contact plenty of time to reach her hiding place and prepare the information we need for our quest to continue impersonating the Neverine reborn. But first, something has been bothering me.

Sure, Fault’s ability to go from civilian to Daedra armored hero with the casting of a single spell is cool… but real transforming heroes don’s use spells, do they?

That’s right, real heroes have gizmos to help them transform! Magic belts, high tech armbands, enchanted jewelry and all sorts of other shiny trinkets they can dramatically thrust into the air while shouting out their catch phrase. What, don’t look at me like that. I’m sure you watched plenty of power rangers when you were a little kid too.

Anyways, that means it’s time to dip our toes into the mad world of Morrowind enchanting. Way back in the first post I did mention that my no armor, no weapon, no potion run would still allow me a few pieces of enchanted jewelry just to experiment with the system. Well it’s time to experiment.

In Morrowind enchanting is basically the same as creating a new spell that can then be cast by using the enchanted item (or by hitting things with an enchanted weapon). The major advantage is that enchanted items have their own constantly regenerating magic pool so even if your character is all tapped out on MP they can still use enchanted items to heal or teleport or shoot fireballs or whatever.

The major downside is cost. Spells that cost a few hundred gold to research cost several thousand gold when inserted into an artifact. You can theoretically skip this cost by enchanting your gear yourself but unless you have crazy high stats the odds of failure are so great it’s probably faster to just grind for gold and pay an expert to do it for you.

Which is exactly what Fault does, having finally grown strong enough to laugh in the face of cliff racers and safely explore and loot the many caves and ruins dotting south western Morrowind.

That gives Fault enough gold to commision Justice Enforcer, a ring that lets her summon magic spears at will, and Justice Idealize, an amulet that summons her armor.

Sure, it's a pretty rock but how many pluses does it give you?

Sure, it’s a pretty rock but how many pluses does it give you?

Let’s Illustrate Morrowind Part 38: Sub-par Secret Identity

Fault’s new magic jumping skills give her access to the floating prison where her informant is being held. Inside the structure is swarming with guards and seems to have been designed mostly to make stealth focused characters feel good about their life choices. I experiment with using invisibility and chameleon effects to make up for the fact that Fault is roughly as subtle as getting drop kicked by a 200 pound viking but we just don’t have enough mana to keep the charade up.

Backup plan is to just run like crazy, grab the keys off a guard, find our friend, give her her teleport scroll and then use a recently purchased “recall” spell to teleport ourselves back to the safety of wherever we last used the checkpoint “mark” spell. The only problem is that every time I try the guards mercilessly cut Fault down. It doesn’t seem quite fair. I don’t think I’m under-leveled for this quest…

I then remember that the game was designed around the assumption that normal players wear armor instead of running around in casual clothes. I also remember that I have half a dozen different ways to cover Fault in nigh-invulnerable Daedra armor. She is then able to shrug off her attackers just long enough to get her friend to safety. She then casts recall and…

We’re in the ashlands in the middle of a sandstorm? I thought I had dropped my checkpoint back in the town of Balmora! Well, that’s fine. Let’s see if we can find a strider to take us back to civilization.

Also, word travels fast in Morrowind. Fault literally just teleported across the entire map but all the ashland NPCs are already giving her the evil eye for being a wanted criminal. Fortunately Fault didn’t kill anyone so she gets off with six days of hard labor for the apparently minor crime of running around a secure prison while dressed as a masked vigilante.

Vigilante tip: Costumes that magically evaporate after sixty seconds make concealing your true identity difficult

Vigilante tip: Costumes that magically evaporate after sixty seconds make concealing your true identity difficult

Let’s Illustrate Morrowind Part 37: Mastering Morrowind’s Mechanics

Fault is now her own boss and in charge of making sure the Neverine prophecies come. That means it’s probably time to go research what those prophecies actually say. First stop: That one priestess we contacted back in the capitol city. It seems she’s been arrested by the Ministry of Truth and we need to break her out of prison by bringing her a scroll of teleport. The trick will be getting it to her as the ministry keeps their prisoners locked up inside a giant floating rock they’ve hollowed out.

Now Fault could technically fly up there using levitate but that would take up so much of her energy that she’d be basically helpless to actually do anything once she got there. So that means it’s time to start playing with the custom spell system again.

You see, I think I’ve cracked the system. Most of the game’s default spells give you a weak bonus for a relatively long time. But more often than not it’s both cheaper and more useful to get a very big bonus for a very very short time, which leads to the creation

of “Justice Leap”. For exactly one second it gives Fault the ability to jump several stories straight up into the air. That is admittedly only long enough for one leap but that’s all Fault really needs in order to reach the prison.

Magic is just like physics except that when you mess up things tend to explode... so actually exactly like physics

Magic is just like physics except that when you mess up things tend to explode… so actually it’s exactly like physics

Side note: Justice leap has no ability to make landings any softer so it’s probably not going to see a lot of use outside of this one scenario. Maybe in the future Fault can make an improved version with a slowfall effect for when she wants to jump over something instead of onto it.

Let’s Illustrate Morrowind Part 36: Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

Reporting back to Caius about curing Fault’s corpus brings bittersweet news: He has been ordered to return to the capitol. Before he goes he promotes Fault one last time making her the new highest ranking member of Blades in the local area. Or at least the highest ranking Blade Caius knows about. It’s not like the emperor’s elite spies have a complete organizational chart lying around anywhere.

Fault’s final orders are simple: Track down all the information about the prophecy we can and then make sure everything comes true. It’s up to us exactly how to do this but we are gifted with a final chunk of cash and ownership of Caius’s house to help us out.

I’m going to miss the guy. He’s been a better boss than any of the guild masters.

The hardest part of throwing a going away party for a spy master is finding caterer's with enough clearance to know about the event.

The hardest part of throwing a going-away-party for a spy master is finding caterer’s with enough clearance to know about the event.

Let’s Illustrate Morrowind Part 35: Good Luck Getting That Past The FDA

Fault finally gets into a meeting with the corpus researching wizard, who is more than happy to chat and casually mentions that all the women in the tower are “daughters” he magically grew in a test tube from bits of his own flesh. This has no impact on the plot but really helps to turn the wizard into a memorable character instead of just another checkbox to tick on your path through the main plot. I mean who is really going to forget about a mad biologist wizard who lives in a tower with a bunch of his own gender-swapped clone daughters?

The wizard then goes on to talk about corpus. It defies all common knowledge of how both mundane and magical diseases work leading some to believe it is divine in origin. It also has the interesting side effect of making the infected completely immune to other diseases, including aging, which would be pretty handy if corpus itself wasn’t a death sentence.

Anyways, the wizard admits he has invented a potential cure but that it has killed all the patients he tried it on. Fault’s feeling pretty confident with her 100 endurance and asks to try it anyways.

The worse the disease the more acceptable the sideeffects

The worse the disease the more acceptable the side effects

The wizard is happy to have another test subject but, being the bored eccentric he is, asks us to first prove we deserve a cure by going into his patient ward and retrieving a pair of boots from the last of the dwarves. It’s almost ludicrously casual. That lost race of dwarves? Guy has one of them living in his basement. No big deal.

Wizards are crazy.

Anyways, navigating the patient ward is pretty easy when you’re a high-speed martial artist with the ability to materialize nearly weightless armor out of thin air. Fault then has a pleasant chat with a diseased dwarf whose mere existence probably counts as the archaeological find of the century. He hands over the boots he was repairing for his host and now it’s time to play guinea pig.

Fault returns to the wizard, quaffs the potion and then proceeds to NOT DROP DEAD. The wizard is pretty excited that his cure finally worked, although it turns out he might have been fibbing a bit about that whole “cure” thing. Truth is the potion merely suppresses the disease’s symptoms. So while Fault is in no danger of dying or infecting others she is still technically infected with corpus.

This is actually better than being cured since even suppressed corpus results in complete immunity to disease. That means no more worrying about the many random diseases Fault seemed to always get when she took more than five steps out of town.

This is another example of Morrowind carefully cultivating negative experiences in order to later give the player a massive positive experience. Being immune to diseases feels AWESOME but only because the game made sure not being immune to diseases was AWFUL for the first ten hours of the game.

Speaking of diseases, here’s what the second trial of the neverine was supposed to be:

Neither blight nor age can harm him. The Curse-of-Flesh before him flies.

Looks like plan “Get the neverine prophecies to come true” is well on track!

Let’s Illustrate Morrowind Part 34: Not Your Standard Trip To The Doctor

So Fault now has corpus, a 100% fatal disease. Fortunately Caius was well aware that investigating a plague cult might give us said plague and so he has tracked down a mage who claims to have finally invented a cure for the dread disease.

The only complication is that the mage lives on an isolated island, which is admittedly a pretty responsible place for building a fantasy ebola research lab. It’s not like it’s exactly hard for us to get there since Fault can chain cast water walking but it’s still kind of sad to think of poor Fault once again setting off on a cross-country hike while running a high fever.

That said I really like this particular wizard. He’s well written and does a good job of evoking a sense of fantasy wonder.

The first thing you notice when you enter his tower is a beautiful (theoretically. These are Morrowind graphics we’re talking about) dark elf woman who politely asks if you’re here to loot the dungeon. Apparently the owner of the tower has a vault full of relics and is fond of inviting thieves to try their luck at plundering it. The main complication is that the vault is in the middle of the cave where the wizard houses all of his copus patients. Patients that visitors are forbidden to harm.

As you might imagine the not many thieves have managed to successfully crack the wizards vault while avoiding attacks from a legion of fever-mad plague victims, but the wizard does enjoy watching them try.

(Insert witty comment about RPG rogues here)

(Insert witty comment about RPG rogues here)

Of course, Fault isn’t here to participate in Morrowind’s Most Dangerous Game and instead asks about meeting with the wizard. The (probably) beautiful elf explains the wizard is happy to meet with guests but that like all Telvani his tower has no stairs and it’s up to his guests to levitate themselves up. This is a nifty bit of world building and helps Morrowind mages really stand out from other generic RPG tower bound wisemen.

Let’s Illustrate Morrowind Part 33: Six Degrees Of Seperation

Fault has awakened to her inner masked hero and runs off to a zombie and cultist infested cave in need of purging for the good of all. It’s nothing too hard although like most Morrowind caves it is painfully dark and actually finding which part of the map the evil mastermind is hiding in takes some work.

But Fault does finally find him and before he attacks he delivers a message from Dagoth inviting us to free him from his prison and join him in his work. It sounds like the original Neverine and this Dagoth guy the plague cult worships might have known each other back in the past.

Sometimes a simple no just isn't enough...

Sometimes a simple no just isn’t enough…

But there’s no time to think about that because while Fault does emerge victorious from her fight the mad priest curses her with his dying breath. Fault now has corpus disease. You know, that incurable disease of disfigurement, madness and death that Caius told us about.

At the moment the only side effect is a tiny stat penalty, but just having the disease means no one wants to talk to us which makes it hard to sell all our loot.

Let’s Illustrate Morrowind Part 32: Mighty Morphing Morrowind

There’s a mad plague cult on the loose and interviewing the scout commander in charge of the case reveals they the cultists are probably hiding out in a cave near a coastal fishing village. It’s up to Fault to shut them down before there are any more casualties.

Which brings to mind some interesting thoughts:

Fact: Fault spends most of her time undercover as a normal citizen

Fact: Fault is a skilled martial artists who frequently visits the local dojo

Fact: Fault is secretly a member of a covert organization dedicated to fighting evil

Fact: When there’s an emergency Fault responds by magically summoning a suit of armor.

Conclusion: Fault is a power ranger

Unfortunately I don't think Fault will ever get a giant transforming battle robot to go with her magic combat transformation

Unfortunately I don’t think Fault will ever get a giant transforming battle robot to go with her magic combat transformation

Please believe me when I say this was not how I planned for this build to turn out. I figured the no armor gimmick would make my first few levels a little difficult but that I’d soon settle into a normal mage play style of throwing lightning bolts and summoning elementals.

But my obsession with maxing out endurance meant Fault started out with a teeny tiny manapool, far too small for summoning monsters or casting frequent fireballs. On the other hand her combat stats were great and bound weapons and armor were just too efficient and fun to ignore, which lead to the current power ranger setup we have going here.

And now that I’ve started thinking about it as the power ranger build I can’t think of it as anything else.

Let’s Illustrate Morrowind Part 31: Visiting Grandma

So Fault just found out that the ashlanders won’t even talk to her unless she can make her way through a cave full of their ancestral dead and return with a legendary bow. This is just about the best tribal initiation rite Fault could hope for and she spends a gleeful half hour Deadra Bursting her way through ghosts and skeletons all while looting as many ancient artifacts and weapons as she can carry.

Morrowind style ancestor worship, like many religions, is driven primarily by guilt

Morrowind style ancestor worship, like many religions, is driven primarily by guilt

Back at camp the nomads accept her as a honorary tribe member and gift her the magic bow, which is awkward since Fault is never going to use thing. Fault is also finally allowed to talk to the wise woman who explains that there are many different signs and prophecies about the Neverine and that while Fault fulfills many of them she has not yet fulfilled all of them. In particular there are seven legendary curses that the Neverine must survive and Fault has only experienced the first two.

So while Fault failed in her mission to convince the nomadic cults she was their reborn hero she does at least have some very solid intel on how to eventually achieve that goal. Caius will be pleased.

Or at least Caius would be pleased if he didn’t have bad news. A scout patrol was sent out to research Sixth House smugglers and all but one were killed. As for the survivor, he was inflicted with a horrible disease called “Corpus” and sent back to his commander with dire messages from a certain plague priest.

Fault’s mission is to track down and kill that priest before his disease spreading cult can grow any stronger. Apparently Corpus isn’t just any disease, it’s an incurable malady that causes horrid skin growths followed by madness and finally death. Understandably it would be nice to stop that sooner rather than later.