Let’s Illustrate Morrowind Part 45: This Week In The Polls…

Through the power of wiki Fault finally opens the doors to Azura’s shrine.

Inside the shrine Azura herself rewards us the sign of the star and moon, which turns out to be a magic ring we will never actually put on. She also commands us to go forth and fulfill the fourth and fifth trials by uniting all the ashland tribes and becoming champion of at least four of the great houses. After that we have to cast down some false gods and confront the plague demon at which point we presumably win the game.

As a final bit of neatness Azura summons up the ghosts of some of the most famous past failed candidates for the Nevarine. They give us some simple advice, tell their stories and then give Fault a bunch of nifty artifacts which she obviously will never use. Still, it’s the thought that counts, right?

Fault then trecks all the way back to the Ashland camp to get advice on how to unite the four tribes. Apparently if we can both convince them we’re the Neverine and that Dagoth Ur represents an immediate threat they will gladly name us joint warchief.

At first I’m a little afraid our favorite ashlander chief is going to stonewall us with yet another “prove our worth” quest but he seems to have finally warmed up to Fault and recognizes her as the Neverine (but only after politely warning her that naming herself the head of a heritacle cult will probably mess up any temple or political related sidequests she’s on so she should think carefully before saying yes). He also gives us a list of the other three tribes we need to convince and even marks them on our map. All of them live along the grassy east cost which should be a nice break from all this volcanic cliff racer righting.

So… one tribe down. Three to go.

Looks like it’s time to find a new campaign manager…

Let’s Illustrate Morrowind Part 44: What’s The Dark Elvish Word For Friend?

Fault finally found the mysterious shrine that will help her prove her legendary status but it turns out the door won’t open unless you have some sort of Azura related star.

The bane of adventurer's everywhere: The plot door.

The bane of adventurer’s everywhere: The plot door.

Looks like it’s back to the ashlanders for more advice about the other half of the riddle: The pearl teeth thing.

OK, it turn’s out the pearl hint just leads us back to the same door who still won’t open until we have the star, which I assume is some sort of rare daedric artifact. I thus spend a painfully long time Justice Leaping and levitating around the nearby mountains looking for any sort of star or dungeon or cave before finally breaking down and checking the wiki.

It turns out the “star” the door is referring to is an actual star, one that only comes out at dawn and dusk. You know, just like the magic shrine door of the secret cult Fault was hanging out with a few updates ago. That really should have tipped me off on what was going on.

But here’s the thing: In most (all?) Elder Scroll games there is an actual artifact called Asura’s Star so my first instinct was that the door wouldn’t open until I had found it. And I got so caught up in that idea it never occured to me it might be a time based astrology door even though the game had already thrown one of those at me. Whoops.

Oh well, at least the door is open now.

Let’s Illustrate Morrowind Part 43: A Quest Marker, A Quest Marker, My Kingdom For A Quest Marker

Now that Fault is done selling all the loot she can and squirreling the rest away for later it’s time to head back to the ashlands and hand over the various proofs of heroism we collected from the haunted ruins. This successfullly impresses the chieftain who finally teaches Fault the riddle of the third trial: Something about finding a cave of a deadric lord by finding an eye and some pearl teeth and I probably should have written this down. But a local tribesman mentions that there is a famous rock formation shaped near the cave and I figure as long as i can get there I can probably figure the rest of the riddle out on the spot.

The landmark we’ve been told to look for is two giant rock spires marking the entry to a valley and if you talk to the right villagers you will find out that the valley lets out into the ocean which make it pretty easy to walk along the north shore of Morrowind until you find the two spires. Then you just have to follow the valley all the way to your goal.

If you somehow neglect to talk to the right villagers and instead just find someone mentioning that the cave is south of a certain ruin you could instead spend almost an hour wandering around a volcanic wasteland.

Guess which happened to Fault?

Taking the road less traveled might be a great metaphor for life but it's pretty bad advice when it comes to actual roads

Taking the road less traveled might be a great metaphor for life but it’s pretty bad advice when it comes to actual roads

It was at least some interesting wandering. As we got close to the center of the volcanic island we came across a massive magical wall that I can only assume is the Ghost Wall some of the NPCs mentioned. Apparently it exists to help slow down the rate at which blight disease and various monsters escape from the cursed mountain.

And it really is a wall, going twenty or so feet straight up and then stopping. This is a pretty poor design choice considering that cliff racers can both fly and carry disease but to Fault’s advantage it means she can use Justice Leap Mk 2 to access the interior of Morrowind.

That’s right, Mk 2, now with added slow fall effect! Sadly not quite enough slow fall effect buy what kind of hero of justice would Fault be if she couldn’t survive the occasional terminal velocity face plant?

Anyways, there’s a lot of diseased zombies inside the wall and a lot of ruins that will probably be important to the plot later but not really anything else so Fault Justice Leaps her way back over the ghost wall and eventually stumbles onto the valley she was looking for all along.

Only to find that the ancient ruin she was looking for won’t open for anyone who doesn’t have the “star”.

Let’s Illustrate Morrowind Part 42: Supply And Demand

So Fault is, once again, fighting her way through a creepy monster filled ruin in order to prove her “worth” to the ashlander chieftain. This is a little frustrating, but on the other hand the corpses and chests in the area gave Fault over a hundred thousand gold worth of rare weapons and magical doodads. She’ll never be wanting for money again… except for one tiny problem: No one in Morrowind seems to have enough cash to buy Fault’s loot.

Some economists believe the loot based economy may not be viable in the long term

Some economists believe the loot based economy may not be viable in the long term

For instance, Fault found an ebony sword worth 10,000 gold. With decent bartering she can sell it for maybe half of that. But the richest merchant she knows never has more than 2,000 or so gold on hand at a time. So Fault either has to sell at a huge loss or play a complex bartering game where she sells an expensive item for all of a merchant’s gold PLUS most of his inventory in trade. She can then sell the cheaper items back bit by bit as the merchant’s gold recovers. Whether or not the slight boost in profit is worth that much tedium is up for debate.

Anyways, all of Balmora runs out of gold before Fault cleans out even a tenth of her loot. So for now she just goes back to Caius’s house and shoves a king’s ransom worth of legendary weapons under the bed. She’ll hopefully be able to sell them bit by bit every time she returns to town. On the other hand, if she keeps finding new treasure faster than she can liquidate old treasure Caius might wind up coming home to the Fort Knox of ebony.

As you might imagine since this is a no-equipment run and we already have our handful of magic jewelry exceptions all of that wealth will be going into training. Getting perfect levels from here on out should be a breeze. Fault may even just outright buy half a dozen or so levels.

Let’s Illustrate Morrowind Part 41: Triple Dog Dare

Now that Fault has a more or less complete copy of the lost Neverine prophecies in hand it’s another trudge back to the ashlands and tell our favorite wise woman what we learned. Morrowind then once again shows off it’s excellent sense of open world pacing by having her suggest it might take her a while to figure out what all these new prophecies mean and that now would be a great time to go off and side quest.

Alternatively you can tell her to just make her best guess now and get the plot moving again.

Surviving Corpus disease and becoming immune to all illness in the process means Fault has now passed the second of the seven prophecies trials. For the third trial we’re going to have to talk to the chief.

Except he’s not so keen on talking. He’s not exactly questioning the wise woman’s opinion that Fault might be the Neverine but he sure would feel better about telling us the secrets of the third trial if we first proved ourselves a warrior by exploring the abandoned ruins of a sixth house fortress and bringing back: 1) Slime from a corpus monster to prove you’re really immune 2) A marked cup to prove you went to the right ruins 3) An ancient magical shield because a two item scavenger hunt is no fun.

I'm beginning to expect the clan chief isn't taking us seriously...

I’m beginning to expect the clan chief isn’t taking us seriously…

The ruins themselves are probably one of the creepiest areas I’ve visited in a non-horror game. They’re dark and filled with bizarre plague monsters and misshapen tentacled wizards. Of course Fault is immune to plague and has more than enough JUSTICE to cleave through an army of mildly eldritch horrors but the whole atmosphere of the area gave me the creeps.

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.