Category Archives: Character Profiles

Character Profile – Yseld, Ynvar, and Thendrick

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The Reachmen say his human heart was too big for his chest, so he traded it in for a smaller model. 

Unlike most NPCs, Thendrick doesn’t have an actor. He doesn’t have a single line of dialogue. His story is one told through his companions, Yseld and Ynvar. Nevertheless, I find him no less compelling.

This isn’t to say the trio are incomplete. Yseld has her quirks – she’s forgetful, indifferent, and at times aloof. She can turn a phrase, and maybe even turn a few heads. This is in sharp contrast to her sister Ynvar – who’s the kind of rough, unforgiving woman who eats scorpions and uses tarantulas to brush her hair. You might say she’s as hard as the very rocks that cover the Reach. And yet, while the two have depth both as individuals and as sisters, it’s their relationship with Thendrick that truly gives them character.

When I visit Ynvar and Thendrick, I’m reminded of those summer days as a kid. Maybe you met someone off at camp, and you were both a little bit shy, and a little bit excited, because it was so fresh and innocent and real. And when you go back to school in the fall and back to the real world, those summer days are like special little secrets you keep between the two of you, moments frozen in time.

I also think about how much of that innocence was lost as she grew older. As the war sharpened her edges, it left her angry, jaded, and mean. But Thendrick always believed that girl was still there. Sure, she never showed it, but that’s because it was something they shared between the two of them. He always remembered those words by the river, and the smile that came with it. It was their little secret.

And now, it’s a secret he takes to his grave.

When Thendrick transformed, you might say he lost more than his heart. He lost his innocence. Ynvar‘s refusal to stop him is proof she had done the same. And yet while the story of Ynvar and Thendrick is inherently tragic, their secret still lives on through their hopes for Yseld. After all, she has her sister’s smile. Here’s hoping she never loses it.

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Quest Profile – The Elven Sword

forgepictureThere’s a reason the face sculptor lives in the Ratways. It’s the only place she can hide her can of worms.

The notion of altering one’s face may be ideal from a gameplay perspective, but from a lore standpoint it’s crazier than a barrel full of Orcs. The ability to take on the faces of loved ones, confidants and infiltrate places in plain sight makes it a game-breaking tool for any assassin or thief. As such, in most universes, shape-shifting is a power reserved for the most dangerous of villains. It’s a rare practice, a difficult feat, a taboo. It is not offered to random strangers for the cost of an ebony mace. After all, if such skills were available to everyone, it would destroy the very concept of physical identity. If anyone can be anyone, then there’s no guarantee that anyone is anyone.

Your spouse could be your neighbor, looking for a taste. Your child may be some orphan who wanted a better life. The guardsman who teases you about your stolen sweetroll could be the thief who stole it. Hell, he could be Ulfric Stormcloak. He’d certainly have the face for it. All it takes is some gold and a smith willing to forge it.

The Elven Sword Pelgurt asks you to retrieve is just that. A forgery. It’s a stranger posing as a member of the family. It wears its face, it bears its markings, but it has none of the history. Nevertheless, its resemblance alone is enough for Vartheim to question whether the sword he’s stolen is real. The same is true for the face of the mercenary Benild. At no point does he consider that her identity is as false as Pelgurt‘s sword.

In the end, the story of The Elven Sword is one about deception. Whether it’s the make of a sword or the face on a skull, when identities can be bought and bartered for, it’s best not to trust anyone.

Character Profile – Melea Entius

Unlike most cautionary tales, Pandora’s box doesn’t end on a downer. Yes, Pandora’s curiosity got the better of her, and yes, she released all the evils of the world, but despite the horrors she unleashed, the parable ends with mankind gaining the Spirit of Hope.

And that’s precisely how you feel at the end. Hopeful. It’s an emotional onomatopoeia. This, of course, doesn’t change the fact that opening the box was by any objective measurement a shitty thing to do. If Pandora had a do over, she would be a fool not to exercise it, even at the risk of losing hope. Which, if you think about it, is hardly a risk at all. In a utopia, hope is an unthinkable concept. If you have everything, there’s no need to worry about anything. In a just and moral universe, you don’t hope for the best, you get what you deserve.

Hope isn’t a cure for the evils of the world. It’s a symptom.

Melea Entius believes the Divines have a plan for Henrietta. It’s how she makes sense of her impending death and the loss of Indara’s daughter. It’s the only explanation that will suffice, because the alternative – that the world can be a cruel and unjust place – would mean she could never die in peace.

When it comes to Henrietta’s future, Melea doesn’t cling to hope. Not when she has faith.

Unlike hope, faith isn’t a byproduct of despair. If you believe in a divine, infallible architect, what you’re saying is that the “evils of the world” are more or less intended as opposed to an accident. It could be a test of one’s character or resolve, or something so abstruse we can’t comprehend the reasons. Regardless, the belief is that whatever the methodology, those who abide by the plan will be rewarded. Fulfilling one’s hopes is often about taking control. Maintaining one’s faith is about sacrificing it.

This is conflicting for Melea. Her anxiety has shifted from being separated from her daughter in a physical sense – which she now accepts – to losing her identity as Henrietta’s mother. As the years pass on, it’s possible the young child may not remember much of her biological parents. It may even be the will of the Divines that she forget. While Melea knows giving the child away is the right thing to do, she realizes that the more influential Indara is, the less Henrietta will remember her, and struggles with the notion that these feelings are inherently selfish.

Melea has faith that Indara will be a good mother – but in thirty years, will Henrietta feel the same about her biological one? She can only hope.

Character Profile – Jolene

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When I first played GTAV, like any red-blooded male the first thing I did was look for the strip club. After wrestling yourself away from the main story, you find it’s only a few blocks away from Franklin’s house – a tacit admission that I am the game’s target customer. It knows what I want and seeks to deliver it.

The sign outside is unmistakable, searing the sky in blades of electric pink. In typical Rockstar fashion, it’s completely devoid of irony, but at the same time culturally ironic. As in, there is no subtext or double entendre about candy or gold clubs or spearmint flavored rhinos. It tells me there are HORNY GIRLS inside. There damn well better be.

Once inside, the strip club plays like its real-life counterparts – a blur of fake lights, fake boobs, and hollow dreams. The energy the DJ pumps through the speakers is somehow deflating, as false as the room it plays to. This is not a brothel. The brass pole is not your dick. There is no sign to tell you what you already know:

Look, but don’t touch.

Yet like many laws in the world of GTA, even the most sacred of rules can be broken. The text tells me to buy a lap dance. It kindly reminds me to press R2 to touch her booty, but only when the bouncer leaves the room. This is an important distinction. After all, despite being alone with Juliet and Cheetah (which I’m sure is her real name), and being privy to this girl-on-girl circus of flesh, I spent my entire time trying to look past the strippers to pinpoint where the bouncer was. Goddamnit, Cheetah, move your ass out of the way, you’re blocking my view! And even after our friend Mr. Killjoy was spotted, and stripper successfully wooed, I still had to answer to that great bouncer in the sky. The sex, unlike the sign that promised it, is always implied.

Touch, but don’t look.

Like any true patron of Dibella, Jolene is not designed to be a tease. She’s designed to tear down the old hypocrisies – violence good, sex bad – and show that religion doesn’t have to be a gormless, enervating suckfest, at least not figuratively. Religion can be fun, if your religion is about fucking.

Jolene is, in fact, a sex artist. She can turn your knob into a firecracker and paint the universe when it explodes. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like. Jolene knows what she wants, and more often than not, she wants it all. Men and women, beasts and bots, boots and boot-lickers, mages and brutes, cats and dogs, brooms and dusters, meats and vegetables, Daedra and Dremora, witches and hags, priests and Draugrs, midgets and Giants. All of it brings honor to Dibella and pleasure to her. She is what Rockstar would call a HORNY GIRL.

However, much like in GTAV, the sign around her neck isn’t necessarily as advertised. While I don’t have the government on my back demanding I install anti-penis software, I have my own limitations as a modder. I can’t make new animations and nude textures. Nor do I feel particularly comfortable asking Marcy to grunt and make whoopee noises. Much of it will have to be left to the imagination, and by that I mean sex and prostitution mods.

In many ways, for all her proclivities, this makes Jolene no different than her fellow priestesses. The limitations are different, but the result, unfortunately, is the same. Like its more modern cousin, the Temple of Dibella ends up being a tainted oasis, nothing more than a fading mirage in a vast, sexless desert – no matter how hard I tried to make it rain.

Character Profile – Lundvar

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One of the things I find fascinating about sports is how it’s completely goal oriented. Creativity is a means to an end, but it’s hardly a requirement. The great Yankees closer Mariano Rivera built his Hall of Fame career on one pitch. In his later years, Michael Jordan would make a living going into the post and executing a simple, turnaround fadeaway. Neither of these could be considered original or groundbreaking tactics, but nobody cares how the ball gets in the basket, or how the outs are made. The goal is to win. To win, you need but one, unimpeachable skill.

All you have to do is repeat it.

The same can’t be said for an artist. What comes next can’t be the same as what came before. While athletic skill is built upon repetition – training your muscles to reflexively perform the same task over and over again – for an artist there is no greater sin than imitation, even if the person you’re imitating is yourself. The goal isn’t just to make something interesting, but rather, to do it in a way that hasn’t been done before.

This neverending search for novelty is why I changed Marigoth to a Disney villain. It’s why Ignar the Lucky embraces his odd misfortune whereas Jade can only see it as a curse.

For the character Lundvar, it’s the entire reason he was created.

Whether it was Hjoromir bitching about his sister, or Ingarte being driven off by her father, some of the early NPCs didn’t always have the healthiest relationships with their family. With Lundvar, I set out to create someone who unequivocally loved his brother, and as such, the conflict was derived from losing him as opposed to wanting him gone.

Only Lundvar doesn’t love his sibling the way Zora loves hers. It isn’t complicated. It’s compulsory. His brother is blood, and that makes him infallible. No matter what you say, he lived a great life, and died a greater hero. Lundvar would rather stick a fork in his eye than see the truth. That makes him loyal, and to an extent, admirable. It also makes him blind.

Moreover, Lundvar‘s devotion isn’t limited to his brother. He’s your classic jingoist, your banner-waving, axe-wielding, mead-blooded Nord. It’s what blinds him to the rampant corruption of the city, and what makes the narrative of his brother, Defender of the Reach, such an easy sell. You often hear about people altering the facts to fit their viewpoint. Lundvar is the same way. Nords are paragons of honor, and the guardsmen are true Nords.

So when confronted with Wuuthmar’s letter in The Raven of Anvil, it’s no surprise Lundvar struggles to grasp its inherent contradiction. The words are damning, and while he partially accepts them, he still insists on going through his superiors – despite the likelihood those are the very men who betrayed his brother. Ultimately, there is only one answer that will satisfy Lundvar. He wants his superiors to convince him the letter is fake. His goal is to seek the liar’s comfort, a place where the integrity of his misguided beliefs remain safe. For Lundvar, these lies can be true.

All he has to do is repeat them.

Character Profile – Amicus

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With the release of version 3, I want to talk about some of the new quests, which are a bit experimental at times, and perhaps require some discussion. The first of which is Idle Dreams, a quest I’m fond of much in the same way I’m fond of The Paper Mirror, but I’m not sure how well it will be received.

SPOILERS CONTAINED BELOW. If you haven’t played the quest, which is highly likely given it’s new, then I suggest you do that first, as this will make even less sense than it already doesn’t.

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The word addiction is never meant to be a positive. Regardless of the consequences, it essentially amounts to a lack of control. An addict isn’t an addict because he uses. He’s an addict because given the choice, he can’t say no.

Amicus is an addict, and his choice of drug is a soft pillow and a warm bed. He spends every night and half the day in his own world, and shows no concern for the waking one. When he does manage to open his eyes, he directs them straight at a noble’s coin purse. When you first wake him from his slumber, he nearly throws a fit.  He gets angry at Haelga despite the fact she’s providing him with room and board. Amicus doesn’t care about the needs of others. For him, the only world that matters is his.

When Vaermina turns his gift into a curse, the larger metaphor is obvious. He is trapped within the walls of addiction. However, it’s his self-absorption that manifests itself first, in the form of a warrior coming to rescue him. Like the Falmer in the dungeon, the warrior wears his face, and moreover is Amicus‘ betrothed. In this dream, he is literally making love to himself, over and over again.

When this realization hits him, with perhaps an assist from the player, Amicus tries to picture someone other than himself.  Yet all he can think of is Sadrin, who predictably, cares only about Haelga.  In the second chamber of his dream, it’s evident Amicus not only fails to make lasting and meaningful relationships, he can’t even fake them.

In the third and final chamber, Amicus retreats to his child-like fantasy of wanting to be a jester. The clowns once again wear his face, but the larger theme is that of immaturity. Amicus is a grown man who spends all his days in a child’s world. He enables this behavior by stealing from hard-working folks, and yet justifies it by saying his dreams hurt no one. When you speak to him about the doors, he will tell you he never managed to solve the riddle. That’s because Amicus has trouble growing up. He can’t find his way out.

Now, I’ve been asked, and with good reason, about the emotional aspect of this quest, or lack of it. In other words, do we care if Amicus overcomes his addiction?

For instance, in another quest, I gave the main character a wife and a child to add an emotional component to his behavior. That way, even if he continues his current path, the fact that someone loves him provides a measure of tragedy or success depending on the outcome. The player is given a reason to care, if not for the character, for his fate.

So it’s safe to say I took a risk when not doing the same with Amicus. Amicus has no family. He has no friends. He is completely lost in his own world. Which is sort of the point. I don’t know if there’s a reason to care about Amicus, but your concern for him wouldn’t be a solution. In fact, it’s part of the problem.

You see, in this quest the player is the enabler. Rather than overcome his childish behavior on his own, Amicus cheats his way out of the nightmare by enlisting the player’s help. It’s unclear, however, if he even has the mental fortitude to escape, as allowing the warrior to take him will have him shuddering in a corner for the foreseeable future – but I stress that that is a future I’ve left open-ended. It is not necessarily a bad ending.  It’s also unclear whether helping him will cause him to re-evaluate his behavior. He seems intent on returning to his dreamworld, but it’s possible that if he doesn’t change his ways, the nightmares will continue. After all, it’s his self-absorption, his indifference, his dream. He owns it until he proves otherwise.

Do we care if Amicus overcomes his addiction? The real question is, does Amicus?

Character Profile – Yushari

2013-06-07_00019Consider for a moment three traveling Khajiit being asked to peddle wares in Skyrim. They are each given a wagon with a variety of general goods, but they quickly discover the wares are not necessarily relevant to the region.

The first salesman, being of average skill, immediately begins to highlight items like fur coats, snow boots, and fire salts. As an average salesman, he identifies a customer’s need and does his best to fulfill it.

The second salesman is slightly more skilled than the first. He asks his customers if they like to travel. Perhaps a Nord couple spends their winters in Hammerfell. He identifies needs that the customer himself is unaware of, while still covering his bases.

The third salesman is neither good nor average. He’s corrupt. He doesn’t identify needs. He manufactures them. He does not give two shits about whether his customers come away satisfied with the transaction. The third salesman sells ice to Eskimos.

The best street vendors have always been the third type. They aren’t interested in repeat business, because the majority of their business comes from tourists. They have limited knowledge about the wares they sell, which is probably wise if what they’re selling is garbage.

Yushari is not a florist. A florist manicures and arranges her flowers in neat little bouquets. Yushari is selling a handful of flowers she pulled out of the ground. Her typical customer is a traveler, coming to the Temple of Mara to arrange a marriage. Given how uncommon divorce is – Nazeem is still married – the odds of repeat business are slim, and there is no reason for her claims to have merit. She will do everything and say anything to get the only sale that matters, the one right in front of her.

Character Profile – Beatrice

2013-05-12_00007Sometimes I like to whittle the world down to a set of attribute points. I’m drinking coffee over tea this morning for the +2 constitution. I’m wearing sneakers over skate shoes for the +1 speed, and the jacket for the +7 style. In most cases, especially when it comes to fashion, whatever enchantments you’re wearing are an expression of self. The clothes don’t give you style. It’s your style that picks the clothes. For better or for worse, when you dress, you’re trying to be you.

The same logic doesn’t apply to something like a hairpiece. Even though it’s fundamentally an article of clothing, like a hat made out of human fur, wearing one is perceived as being fake. You’re not being yourself. You’re hiding who you are.

I wonder if people in Skyrim wear speechcraft amulets to parties. I wonder if partygoers roll their eyes if some douchebard is trying to make moves with what is clearly an Amulet of Dibella around his neck. Perhaps this douchebard tries to conceal it by wearing enchanted rings, or painting his amulet black to hide the glow.  Or maybe in the world of Elder Scrolls, it’s simply part of the standard rules of engagement, like makeup, hair gel, and cologne. Maybe it’s like an Italian sports car, and the fact that some dude can afford a +30 speechcraft amulet overrides the fact that he’s literally compensating.

Still, I don’t think such behavior would go unnoticed in your average sewing circle. Unless the reason is purely medical, I can’t imagine people wearing performance enhancers in plain sight and not being the subject of ridicule. In a world with magical amulets and face surgeons, identity doesn’t have to be static, but changing it still has to be weird.

All of this is to say, I don’t know if anyone knows the real Beatrice. It’s possible the amulet she wears allows her to express who she really is. You could make an argument that poorly educated people have their identities forced on them like male pattern baldness, and hair plugs and speechcraft necklaces level the playing field.  Still, there’s a difference between who she was supposed to be and who she is. And as language is the basis for exposing yourself to new thoughts, revelations, and ideas, it’s not absurd to suggest wearing such an amulet can alter your very makeup. When Beatrice reads a book, I imagine it’s like reading a webpage translated from French. I haven’t learned a word of the language, but the knowledge is still conveyed. Yet for someone of her background, if she did manage to maintain the knowledge, it would happen in a way so sudden and drastic that it would almost seem unreal.

So when it comes to Beatrice‘s identity, there really isn’t a definitive answer. Yet despite all her changes, real and artificial, there is one thing that has been a constant in her life.  Whether she was loquacious or unintelligible, the girl has always loved skooma.

Beatrice could someday lose her amulet, and the effects will be unpredictable. It’s possible she’ll transform into a less articulate version of herself.  She could retain some of her previous knowledge, or become a completely different person. And yet, regardless of what does or doesn’t happen, one thing is for certain. When she has that sweet, sweet bottle of refreshment in her hand, you know exactly who she is, and it’s hard to picture her as anyone else.

Character Profile – Clario Moorsley

2013-05-04_00007You can typically tell how effective a medicine is by how awful it is going down.  I know Listerine kills the most germs because it tastes like piss-flavored battery acid.  When I was a kid, my favorite cough medicine was Dimetapp. I swear on Ysmir’s pubes that grape-flavored honey was better than any soda I’d ever tasted, but alas, it did nothing for my cough.

And it makes sense. Strong medicine is supposed to taste bad because it’s designed to be toxic. It doesn’t make you better so much as it annihilates whatever was making you worse. Listerine began as a surgical antiseptic, a floor cleaner and a cure for gonorrhea before someone decided to gargle with it and survive. If poisonous things were pleasing to the palate, we wouldn’t have made it past the Stone Age regardless of how many dinosaurs Jesus killed.

I don’t know if the same concept applies to your average health potion, given how much they accelerate the healing process. Still, I’ve picked enough virtual pockets to know people don’t drink them for fun. This may be primarily a product of cost, but I imagine part of the reason is because health potions taste fucking horrible.

In 1992, Listerine introduced a Cool Mint followed by a Fresh Citrus mouthwash. It wasn’t as effective as the original. On the other hand, it didn’t taste like floor cleaner. It had struck an acceptable compromise.

The potions of Clario Moorsley are loosely based on this idea. Health potions don’t have to taste like shit.  While their effectiveness is limited, Clario‘s potions aren’t designed for severed limbs and gonorrhea of the mouth. Just like you don’t wipe your floors with mouthwash, Clario‘s potions are for minor scrapes and wounds, and meant to be pleasing to the palate. The average health potion is designed to be drank. Clario‘s potions are meant to be tasted.

Which, in essence, makes them one of a kind.

There are limits to a game world, rules if you will. Weapons are weapons, medicine is medicine, food is food, and rarely do the lines cross. You can extrapolate this further to anything you wish. In real life, we make homes out of coke bottles, music out of kitchen appliances, eat chicken with waffles, and sometimes drink beer out of a boot. We don’t always do things according to the instructions. In the world of video games, items are mostly limited to their natural function.

Yet when I think about a fantasy world with alchemy and magic, I think about their utility beyond killing hordes of bandits.  I picture a chef who uses fire salts to boil a hotter broth.  Tavern cups enchanted to resist heat, and dinner plates enchanted to resist cold. I imagine agricultural mages putting ice spikes in the ground during a drought.  An alteration mage casting courage before he proposes to his love. Sellswords drinking ale out of their boots.

The vanilla game explores this as well. In Riften alone you find a woman using ice wraith teeth to preserve meat, and exotic drinks that experiment with alchemy ingredients. That is to say, there is a world of people like Clario Moorsley who exist in the lore of the game, if not in the gameplay itself. And that little bit of creativity is enough to make the world a more interesting place.

And if the people of Skyrim are anything like us, I imagine one of these days it’s going to happen. Some crazy son of a bitch is going to buy a cure disease potion and use it to disinfect his floors, and when he’s done, maybe even rinse his mouth.

Character Profile – Bergrisar

2013-04-26_00011Some think Berg is Nord. But Berg is Jotun, Giant. Just puny type.

Name for Giant come from Norse mythology. Berg know this because he has wikipedia. Of course, Berg name come from same place. Bergrisar, mountain giant. This Berg know because mod author is s’nua amott, lazy cunt.

When Berg milk mohroktha, mammoth, he wonder why author cannot give Berg own name like others. He have to steal it. Berg think his word for woman come from German word because author more lazy. So to author, Giant is part Nazi. It make no sense, just like Berg‘s metal club. If mod author had woman, Berg would beat him into cheese then make him cuckold. Then he make female grunt like fat cow. Berg only need chance.

But Berg know no fraulen in Mundus fat enough to sleep with mod author, so point is vrokmot, moot.

Some think Berg was first choice. But he not. Berg only exist because big Jotun no talk. So author make puny Jotun and give him round ear. Now author know how make Giant talk, but does he give Berg new ear? Does he give Berg wood club? No, he keep Berg puny because he ikja rakki, bitch.

Forgive Berg, he not always complain so much. He blame mead sauce made by cranky Nord, which not Berg‘s people. Real Nord hurt neck try to kiss own face. Berg not so vain. He knows he born puny. But he knows he fight big. Jotun see this and someday teach him make cheese. Someday Berg even make chief, and own many wives. This Berg‘s biggest pride. Then he give all other Jotun metal club and see how they like.

But Berg digress. He finish by say jakranu, word of thanks. He think blog is orend klorun, sucks.