Archive for the ‘Let’s Play Oblivion’ Category

The Cyrodiil Look: Cahmel’s New Travels (Let’s Play Oblivion, Part 27)

14 Oct

Go, sickness mini-update!

I admit to being a little bit underwhelmed by that first mission. I show up to a docked boat in a heavily-populated harbor, walk past the bodies of security I had previously killed by accident, and murder my target in two swings without him drawing his weapon. Most of the job was spent walking in broad daylight, doing legal activities. I felt less like a nightclad assassin and more like a delivery guy, except it’s generally more bothersome to get someone to sign for a package than it was to sign that guy’s jugular with my knife. I can’t remember, but I don’t even think the door was locked. I’m a little suspicious that one of my co-workers wrote ahead and asked the dude to go easy on me, it was my first day. Or that I blocked out being diagnosed with a terminal case of corpus or something, and this was the Make-a-Wish foundation letting me pretend to be an assassin for a week.

I get a nice little ring as my reward for the job. I’m not entirely clear on the particulars, but I think the ring might be a special bonus for not having alerted any of the crew? In which case, I guess I would have had to have worked pretty amazingly goddamned hard not to get that ring. Maybe I could have broken into hell just to throw a pair of calipers at one of them and go, “Hey, yeah, it’s me. Finally getting’ around to killing your captain now. Thought you might be wondering why he wasn’t down here—I dunno, I guess I just figured that if the captain had been present at the time, he would have come out and done something about the fact that his asshole crew was getting slaughtered outside. Maybe he just has really bad hearing. Or maybe he hates you guys! You should ask him. Hold on, I’ll set something up.”

I indicate that I’m ready for my next job. This one goes like this:

Apparently, there’s this gentleman named Baenlin who lives up in Bruma. His hobbies include obeying a ludicrously strict schedule that doesn’t involve leaving his house or engaging in any legitimate activities, and his interests include sitting under precariously balanced stuffed heads and somehow antagonizing groups of assassins. My job is to make the hit look like an accident. You might think this would involve getting there, seeing that he spends most of his day sitting under a glaringly obvious deathtrap of a stuffed minotaur head, and extrapolating that you’re supposed to drop it on him and then sneak out at your leisure. You’d be wrong. Instead, it involves getting outright told by your handler that you’re supposed to go there and drop a minotaur head on him. Say what you want about the Dark Brotherhood, but they’ve got crackerjack intel.

“Alright, initiate. Blood to see you. Am I right?”

“Uh, yeah, good one.”

“Now, to business. Your job is to find a way to slay Valmont Boucherie, the scrib jerky merchant. You are to make it look like an accident.”

“Very well, brother. Have you any advice to give me?”

“Valmont has a pair of guards. They take bathroom breaks between 1:00 and 1:15 every single day, and when they do so, they tend to hang their scabbards on the stall doors.

“This is useful information, brother. Thank you for…”

“Also, Valmont has a deathly allergy to cinnamon. He begins to go into cardiac arrest if he consumes any of it. The only treatment involves the application of scabbards.”

“Aha…a plan begins to form. I will go and acquire some cinnamon before I….”

“You can find it in his spice cabinet. First on the left, top shelf.”

“Oh. Well, that’s…thank you, brother, that will be convenient. I suppose I can place it in his supper…”

“He takes a snack at 1:30 every day. The snack is prepared by a chef who’s a notorious drunk.”

“I guess that’s more convenient? So I guess I bribe the cook…”

“Or get him drunk. You should really just get him drunk.”

“Alright, alright. So I’ll get the chef some wine…”

“I’ll even give you a bonus for it.”

“..and then put the cinnamon in his snack, after stealing the scabbards. And then I’ll escape through the back door.”

“Side door’s quicker.”

“Look, I don’t mean to be rude, but is there a reason you didn’t just do the job yourself?”


“Right. Fine. Right.”

I make my way to Bruma. Well, this mission’s pretty much cut out for me; get in, undo some screws, get out. The temptation is pretty strong just to breeze through like a sumbitch; really, at this point, my potential for failure is pretty slim.

On the other hand, I find it does generally paid to be prepared, and in my long experience, “preparation” means talking to everyone in, involved with, or geographically near my job. So I seek out the nearest human being and try to start a conversation:

Once again, I have underestimated my own potential.




The Cyrodiil Look: Cahmel’s New Travels (Let’s Play Oblivion, Part 26)

01 Oct

When we last left our principled hero, he’d finally proven himself worthy of being paid to stab people for a living. Well, I mean—stab regular people. People who weren’t trying to kill me. Not like the Fighter’s Guild and stuff. Sort of an important distinction, professionally speaking: the one career is characterized by legality, nobility, altruism, whereas this one is characterized by being easier: also, giving access to sweet duds, digs, and oxen.

Alright, enough stalling outside the front door bitching about secrecy and subtlety and whatever. In fact, enough of those two things in general. If that last job taught me anything, it’s that Dark Brotherhood assassins require about as much guile, deceit, and cloak-and-daggery as a pizza guy. In a porn film. I guess it’s reasonable to expect things to get harder from here; then again, there’s that level-scaling mentality kicking back in. If a mission ever requires *too* much stealth ability, then it won’t be accessible to lower-level characters, and thus goes against the underlying balance philosophy of the game. This means that at least on a mechanical level, I can expect only so much difficulty escalation as I, through leveling myself up, create. Oh, alright, I suppose the missions do get a tiny bit trickier, but often not as much as the designers want you to think. You’ll see what I mean later on.

The Whackjob Welcome Wagon ambushes me right inside the threshold.

Pictured: Ocheeva, here giving you your complimentary gear and expository orientation. Also, in the background, the skeleton dudes that ostensibly guard the place, just in case some rival whacko cult assassin's guild shows up and starts putting hits out on their NPCs.

After a brief introduction, instructions on how to use the coffee machine, and a short-but-meaningful lecture on sexual harassment as it applies to freaky lizard-people, I am granted my assassin’s gear and pointed in the direction of my first questgiver. Not being the time-wasting sort—unless it’s funny, or profitable, or easier than going out of my way to do something—I head straight for him and get my first job.

Turns out, dude’s a vampire. You’d think this would be a bit of a disadvantage for an assassin, as it limits the hours you can be active and makes you about six thousand percent more high-profile to anyone who’s read horror novels or teen literature—but then again, that might be why he’s camping out here, essentially acting as my personal inbox of assignments, promotions, and payouts.

He gives me the breakdown: jobs give me payments. Doing the job the “right” way will give me an additional payment; doing the job the “wrong” way will get me the disapproval of my peers and the nagging sensation that I’m playing the game wrong. The additional payments are actually usually pretty good and worthwhile, and the extra parameters you need to meet to get them are often pretty basic; i.e., don’t kill the target in front of a dozen polite witnesses, hurl a handful of your business cards at them, then pivot around and thrust your wrists at the nearest guardsman. Again, there are some notable exceptions—and then again, there are a few occasions in which it’s more or less impossible not to get the reward. It varies a little bit.

This time, for example, my target is a pirate captain, and the bonus objective—which is actually a little loosely defined, and may not actually be possible to fail to accomplish—is to get on the guy’s ship without too much fuss. Apparently the ship has a contingent of pirates and stuff guarding the top deck, but they’ve got a suggestion for me: find a crate on the pier and smuggle myself in with it—apparently hoping the crewmen will not question why a man just grabbed one of their crates—within view of the ship—cracked it open, dumped all of its contents out onto the pier, and then climbed awkwardly into it before lowering the lid, loosely, back in place.

That’s one plan—and it’s not a bad one. However, being the slick muthajumper I am, I think I’ve managed to hit on a better one. It took a lot of planning, a few back-of-the-napkin calculations, a good understanding of human psychology, and a two-week course in infiltration, but I think I’ve got it all worked out: what I’ll do, see, is cleverly have already murdered all the pirates for no reason ages ago. See? That’s murdering smarter, not harder. Or smarter, honestly, but “murder luckier” doesn’t really sing.

I show up at the ship, breeze past the assortment of corpses, and trot up to the captain’s quarters.

"Oh, hey, there's a silver lining to my day. You wouldn't happen to know anything about sailing, would you? Only most of my crew was butchered earlier. By a Redguard. With a knife. Would you like some tea?"

It’s probably a bad idea to kick off your assassination by openly admiring your target, but there you go. Look at that guy: sitting up there, quietly dining at his captain’s table with that the-sea-is-serious-business look on his saltworn mug, looking like the workaholic dad in a coming-of-age movie, while meanwhile pretty much his entire crew has been sitting around outside baking into corpsepies for, like, for a long time. I don’t know exactly how long, but measured in festering body years, it’s basically forever.

"Sit down, won't you? Or walk behind me and crouch into a furitive stance that makes you one with shadowy death. I'm not a pushy host."

Then again, maybe he just hasn’t noticed. This hypothesis is corroborated by the way he continues to sit there, eating contentedly, as I stroll up, situate myself behind him, eyeball a weak spot to put the knife into, mark it off with a sharpie, take a couple practice swings, ask him to lift his chin a little bit, and then top him off with aplomb.The first swing does not kill him, but it does make him high-five the table with the bridge of his nose, which gives me more than enough time to finish the job.

Yeah. I’m practically a goddamned ninja.


The Cyrodiil Look: Cahmel’s New Travels (Let’s Play Oblivion, Part 25)

23 Sep

(FRAPs problems in general. No screens for the moment, I’ll get them in retroactively.)

When we last left our crafty hero, he’d just asked two witnesses where his target was before nipping past them and stabbing him to death. This takes care of the practical portion of my exam; Lucy’s apparently used the same asspull bullhonkey mechanics he used to ascertain when I killed the first guy to monitor my progress on the second, so all I needed to do was find a place to rest and he’d swing by. The nearest place to rest up is back in town, so I needed to get going if I was going to make it before…

Actually, hang on a tick. It occurred to me that technically speaking, I was in an inn. Assuming they weren’t subsisting off the ten-gold-per-day Roo-fee-o was giving them for his little paranoia tax—and if they were, then they were in for a rude upset—they probably had other rooms. Go to sleep as the only other guest of the hotel you just murdered a man in? Heck, why not? Even if someone made the jaunt down into stank-ass lonely-old-man-land, apparently desperate to find out what a deranged senior citizen would be doing that would cause him to miss breakfast, and even if they managed to conclude that the murder was committed by the shifty questions-asking heavily armed traveler that had visited the victim right around time of death, I wasn’t in any real danger of prosecution. If they lodged any formal accusations, I’d just hide the murder weapon somewhere. Like their kidneys.

So I bought the room, and…well, okay, technically speaking I attempted to buy the room, realized I didn’t have enough money on me to pay for the crappiest room not occupied by Tommy Wiseau, put up with the innkeeper openly mocking my poverty, sold him a few flowers I picked by the side of the road, and then bought the room. And then I settled down for a nap, and before you can say, “Was he seriously waiting just outside or does he really get some sort of broken teleportation power,” Lucy was all up in my personal space. Dude’s lucky I haven’t slept naked since the wasps-in-the-bedpan incident.

Let me translate this from emo poetry into English: I killed the dude thoroughly enough to merit entrance into the DB, and as such, I get to know the location of their hideout and the password to get me through their evil talking glowing door. First thing I need to do is hit Cheydinhal.

Cheydinhal’s one of my least favorite cities in the game. It mixes the irritating sprawled-like-a-dead-ox layout of bridged cities like Bravil with the sterile suburban aesthetic that’s at its worst in towns like Chorrol. There’s a quest in town related to corrupt taxation that’s more or less worth doing, but other than that, I can’t say I recall anything particularly nice or pleasant about being there. Even the NPCs are mostly surly and annoying there.

I find the spot indicated as the façade on the outside of the Dark Brotherhood’s sanctum. They’ve holed up the basement of an abandoned house–because apparently, they’re as thick as a swimming pool full of lard. Seriously, this is just about the worst possible place they could be hiding.

Let’s say you’re a citizen, or politician, in a town of maybe a hundred people maximum. That’s a couple dozen houses at any given time, with most of the land within the city walls already built upon and real estate at a relative premium. The house for sale in Cheydinhal definitely falls on the expensive side compared to houses available in, for example, Bravil and the Imperial City. Wouldn’t it behoove you to seize any abandoned property and resell it to an interested buyer? Or to renovate said property? Or, at the very least, to have someone poke their head in and take a look to see if there’s anything worth auctioning? It’s pretty well implied that any disinherited property goes into the hands of the local government, so there’s no reason that place should be an exception. And the minute anyone poked their head in, they’d find a glowing red evil door with a massive handprint on it that screams, “Check it out, this is the Big Evil Bastard clubhouse. Please alert the Imperial Guard and have them camp outside here, apprehending anyone stupid enough to stick their head out.”

What’s to stop that from happening? The door to the house is locked, but with an “easy” grade two-tumbler mechanism that slowed me down only the thirty seconds it took to buy a lockpick from the pawnshop. Once you’re inside, the Dark Brotherhood’s big scary obvious front door is pretty much right inside the basement—and before you make an excuse like, “Well, they obviously just kill anyone who comes near it if they’re not in the club,” that’s demonstrably not true. Even if you’re not even aware of the Dark Brotherhood questline, you can come down here as often as you like and nobody will ever treat you as a threat. You can picnic down here for hours, cheerfully reading by the glowing red light of the door, and nobody treats you like a threat. If the game gave you the very reasonable option to go downtown and report this place—you can argue all you like that people consider the DB a myth, but there’s no way the Legion would just ignore a big scary evil door in the middle of a populated area—then half the guild would be rumbled before the week was out. The only two exits to the hideout are that door and the nearby well, and neither would be an inconspicuous mode of egress for a glowing-armored assassin in a Hot Topic hood. Sure, the Guardsmen can’t get in the hideout, but they have the advantage of a steady supply of food and water. Eventually the assassins would be forced to make a break for it, and without spoiling the future of this quest line, let me just point out right now that these guys are by no means unkillable. A proportionate force would make cut them into hash.

In conclusion, this hideout is a.) very likely to be discovered, b.) a deathtrap the moment it is, and c.) cliché anyway. This is another example of the DB’s obsession with romanticism and gothic posturing getting in the way of their doing a good job. They were so wrapped up in getting a suitably dark, badass hideout that they didn’t consider getting an actual house.

Advantages of using the basement of a populated middle-class home as opposed to a rotting two-story:

1.)    City officials rarely poke their noses into private residences.

2.)    The coming and going of people would not be considered suspicious.

3.)    The use of a higher-quality lock wouldn’t attract any attention.

4.)    Just, less suspicious in general. If someone were to look through town for the location of a cabal of murderous assassins, they would be more likely to check the abandoned structures than some guy’s house.

5.)    Doesn’t smell like spider farts.

Yeah. This was going to be interesting.

Next: Cahmel’s first job! As in, his first assassination job, not his first regular-type job. He’s never had one of those.


The Cyrodiil Look: Cahmel’s New Travels (Let’s Play Oblivion, Part 24)

15 Sep

I love to see you go, but I hate to watch you leave.

When we last left our cunning hero, he was on his way to perform an assassination pro bono because a strange man told him it was a good career move. Something to think about, isn’t it? I mean, I’m not implying that this whole ritualistic cult murder thing doesn’t seem legit—perish the thought—I’m just pointing out that I have to take it on some faith that once I’ve killed my target, I’m not going to get left out in the middle of the woods with no follow-up visit while Lucy heads back to his bosses and says, “What, Rufio? Yeah, I took care of him. No problem. Now, what are my next ten assignments?”

The journey to the location is more or less uneventful. Funny thing about Oblivion is that half the time, traveling on the road seems to lead you to more areas of interest than wandering around off the beaten path. That might seem intuitive, at first—except that it means there’s a bunch of ruins that have been sitting around in heavily populated areas, bursting with ancient treasures, significant historical artifacts, and monsters poised within striking distance of main roads…for centuries. In a realm where the two most popular professions appear to be:

1.)    Working for a guild centered around some genre of murder

2.)    Hanging out in the woods, killing people and things, exchanging the loot for yarn and wooden spoons

It’s the classic Fallout problem of, “Why hasn’t someone been to this supermarket full of perfectly good food and drugs in two hundred years, when it’s right next to a settlement with no obvious food source?” When combined with the level scaling, which warps every living creature in the realm to however good you are at violence, it kinda ruins the illusion that the world is their for anyone’s benefit but yours. You get the vague sense that NPCs sit around town smoking cigarettes when you’re not there, and all scramble back into costume when they see you riding over the horizon—proudly brandishing the goodie bag they’d left for you in one of their vast, gloomy activity centers.

Morrowind didn’t really have this problem. This was partially because the roads were generally winding, unclear, badly labeled, and dangerous enough that you generally just wanted to use the fast travel. This was partially because the enemies were not level scaled, and after the sixth or seventh time you got your ass fried for getting to close to Asharganafukuwup, you got a sense of why people steered clear. It didn’t matter that you’d eventually be able to level up and take the place on—hell, that’s what made it feel great when you did. It was like, “I, Outlander O’Utlander, am the only jerky-gnawing enchant-abusing mark-recalling wrecking crew who is a bad enough dude to clear this place out, and dammit, I had to work to get that way.” That worked for the higher level places, anyway–and generally, the low-level areas would be quaint, easy-to-miss cave doors, either temporarily occupied by banditos or crewed by ancestral spirits and skeletons the natives would have compunctions about messing with.

Whereas in Oblivion, it seems like half the dungeons have obvious superstructures that can be easily seen from the main trade roads—broadcasting an invitation to all potential looters/archeologists/mages looking to stomp necromancers unmentionables. And since you know you can take on any one of these dungeons at any time, it becomes harder for you to see why anyone else wouldn’t—especially when you’re first level, and every undead, goblin, bandit, and necromancer has the striking power of a hair dryer and the structural integrity of a baking soufflé.

Anyway, the point—which I think I dropped behind the seat cushion three or four paragraphs ago—was that a lot of major dungeons are clustered along the road, and if you walk off the road, you might go some distance without bumping into one. It does partially depend on where you are, and how straightforward your path is, and how unlucky you are, and whether or not you can read the compass properly. In my case–apart from a little shrine where you can give yourself a temporary piece of armor that looks silly and is of debatable application, much like those rub-on tattoos of dolphins and M&Ms you can buy at pizza joints—I bumped into buck all on my journey to the Inn of Ill Omen. Which is just as well, I suppose. It meant I’d be able to save my strength and wits for the job, which I already got the feeling was going to be tricky.

Okay, take it easy. What you’re about to do is gain access to the room of a man so paranoid, he’s holed up alone in the middle of nowhere, and kill him without attracting the attention of any guards, or private henchmen, or bystanders. This is obviously going to take a certain amount of finesse. Approach this as you would any treacherous and multifaceted mental exercise: methodically.

Step one was to find Rufio’s exact location. That meant worming it out of the proprietor. The proprietor was a calm, guarded man—easy of disposition, but with an air of worldliness and caution that instantly put me on my guard. He looked at me, and his expression was nothing but smiles and good old folksy hospitality, and I knew that he could smell what I was. The moment the door swung open, the stink of my sins and deceit reached him, and he withdrew into his fortress and barred the gates. This man didn’t just roll off the turnip cart. He was a worthy opponent. Getting this information out of him would be my first test.

I walked up to the bar and ordered myself a drink. He served it up on the bar, a midrange Surille’s of adequate vintage. I thumbed the cork open, took a long, casual sip of wine, and opened with: “Nice weather we’ve been having.”

“Sure is.”

“Where’s Rufio?”

“Down that trapdoor. End of the hallway, first left. Door’s unlocked.”


“No problem.”

"Heya. How've you been? Name's Cahmel. C-A-H-M-E-L. If some guards come through here asking who killed Rufio, could you be a dear and let them know it was me? Only sometimes, I forget to leave a note."

Like a shadow, I walked across the well-lit barroom, nodding politely at the other patrons, and climbed the ladder downstairs.

Rufio was, as the bartender had promised, down the ladder—waiting for the end of his life to come, borne by me on semiswift wings. Perhaps the only way to give you an accurate impression of the chaotic, blood-pounding, tooth-and-nail battle that followed is by sharing the following pictures with you:

Well, that was a close one. I was dangerously close to falling asleep myself.





The Cyrodiil Look: Cahmel’s New Travels (Let’s Play Oblivion, Part 23)

28 Aug

When we last left our honorable hero, he’d managed to rack up enough Jackass McBastard Jr.’s Patented Asshole Points to qualify for an exciting position in the field of murder. Well, almost, anyway—it’d be fairer to say I’d proven myself enough of a deranged monster to land an interview. My actual entrance exam was coming up.

I’ll let Lucy take it from here:

Okay, see, I’m liking the straightforwardness. There is a man, go kill the man—I can get behind this sort of organization. It’s got a simplicity and purity of purpose to it that’s really been lacking in the other organizations I’ve dallied with. There’s no specious sociopolitical agenda, no endless parade of grunt-work gofer quests that don’t really go anywhere, no non-Euclidean architecture and fixation with hobofights—just killing things and getting paid well for it. It’s about goddamned time I found a questline that provided the basic meat-and-potatoes of adventuring without serving it alongside some kind of posturing nonsense.

Never mind.

It’s worth mentioning that this isn’t so much a commentary on the Dark Brotherhood questline in general, which is quite well written and interesting. It’s more a commentary on Loosey Goosey, here, who has the diction of a dedicated LARPer and a costume to match. You know, I’d never really thought about it, but he looks exactly like that one guy who always tries to play a character a thousand times cooler and more badass than he is, but can’t quite manage it, because all he’s got to work with is a hooded cloak from Party City and a crude pastiche of coolguy clichés—the same ones he uses for all of the plot-critical NPCs in his 2nd Edition game, the ones that are all slight deviations of the protagonist of his unfinished fantasy novel, Bladeswords of Darkshard. And I really do mean Lucien looks like him, physically resembles him: he’s got that round, chubby face, with the lazy 5-o-clock shadow and the puffy lips and the reddish eye sockets. I’m not sure how this never struck me before, but now I can’t unsee it—I look at Lucien, and I see him rolling up to the counter of a 7-11 in full costume, ordering a Big Gulp and a Maxim and daring the clerk to comment.

Maybe it’s this abrupt shift in perspective that soured me on Lachance, but I suddenly felt a distaste for him and his antics. Don’t knot yourself, I’m still doin’ the quests and all, but I didn’t feel like standing by and acting all impressed by his faux-mysterious shenanigans. So when our business concluded, and he swept wordlessly away into the night—er, afternoon—I followed right on after him.

Perhaps detecting that I aimed to spoil his exit, he slipped into invisibility. But since this is Oblivion, and “invisibility” actually means “malfunctioning Predator cloak that bends light like silly putty and looks like a mobile kaleidoscope,” this did not avail him much. So he just sort of jogged along, still plainly visible, until the situation got sort of awkward and he did exactly what he made his 2nd-Edition plot-critical NPCs do in this situation: teleport away by DM fiat, without any pretense of a logical explanation.

This is more than a little aggravating to me, because it’s blatant cheating on the part of the developers. There’s clearly no reason this should be able to happen in-game. In most cases, when the game pulls stuff out of its ass like that, you can shrug your shoulders and say, “I guess the world just works that way.” For example, the game never needs to establish how the Dark Brotherhood’s potential recruits are magically detected and weeded out, because that’s different enough from the stuff in the observable sections of the game that you can give it the benefit of the doubt that that’s just how this universe works. But in this case, all of the relevant elements are well within the observable spectrum of the game—the nonexistence of personal teleportation magic is well-established, and the game can’t even make the excuse, “You can just sort of do that ninja shiz when you get to the level of hardcoreness Lucien’s reached,” because the game allows you to get promoted right up to his level, and spoiler warning: no teleportation mojo is forthcoming. So without any justification, the message carried across by Lucien’s disappearance is the same as the message in Lucien’s 2nd Edition games: “What’s that? You’ve outsmarted my railroad plot and my supposedly-godly NPC? Screw you, I win anyway. Man, this is much easier than being a player!”

The least they could have done was wait for him to get through a loading zone before he dropped off the face of the Earth. I mean, when I go out a gate directly after an NPC and he’s not there, at least I can kind of say to myself, “I guess he ran off and now he’s outside my field of vision.” You can kind of kid yourself along there, and that’s all I’m asking—for the game to meet me halfway on the rationalization. But having him disappear well away from the gate, under cover of a spell that doesn’t work, using a spell that can’t exist, is just a little obnoxious.

Alright, enough fixating on that jazz, let’s just get on with the quest. Pretty straightforward: just have to journey through the woods a ways, find an inn, and kill a certain guy inside. And now I have a weapon, so if I get attacked, I’ll have something to defend myself with besides a tangible body odor and abysmal dress sense. Hm. Come to think of it, he did put a lot of emphasis on the dagger being a “virgin blade” that had not yet been used to kill. In context, this seemed to have great ritualistic importance. So let’s run through a purely hypothetical scenario. Let’s say, purely for the sake of example, I was attacked by a wolf.

Purely for the sake of example, this wolf.

Doesn’t killing the wolf kind of ruin the whole schtick? I’m pretty sure he implied that this was intended to remain a virgin blade up until I killed Rufio–I mean, assuming I’m not reading too much into that? I kinda felt like that was supposed to be the blade’s…you know, its…first time? So, I mean, now that I’ve killed an animal with it, isn’t it sort of defl—okay, yep, just decided I wasn’t comfortable with this analogy. Let’s try this again, without Lucien’s creep clinging to the conversation like a fine layer of sweat.

…yeah, it’s not working. Forget the whole thing, please.


The Cyrodiil Look: Cahmel’s New Travels (Let’s Play Oblivion, Part 22)

21 Aug

More troubles with Icewind. I’ll let you know what took so long when I post it up. In the meantime, Cahmel.

When we last left our streetsmart hero, he’d brought fists to what was evidently a magic ninja warmace fight. This served to complicate what was otherwise a fairly straightforward scenario. See, my projections for this encounter were: start fight, kill lady, become night-stalking death-dealing prisoners-not-taking murderman, solve all problems, win everything. Recent developments having challenged this possibility, it may behoove me to revise. Off the cuff, I’m thinking: start fight, die sobbing and wetting myself.

She's almost too cool to beat me up. Almost.

For those of you out in the audience wondering what just happened: remember those guys that carried out a successful assassination on the emperor of the realm at the beginning of the game? Yeah, she’s one of them. To a man, they’re trained in the mystic art of summoning awesome badass armor and overpowered weaponry that look great on the back of the box and disappear instantly when you kill their owners, thus achieving the troll game design difecta of pissing and ripping the player off. To my knowledge, which is embarrassingly extensive, the only way to get the armor for your own usage is to cheat. Which would seem fair to me; if your enemies get overpowered haxx equipment that they pull out of their collective asses and don’t share with you, it seems equitable to return the favor.

I’m not going to lie; the fight was brutal. The only reason I survived it was because I was so damn low-level. See, if I’d been higher level, her stats and damage would have scaled alongside me, and I’d be expected to Put Up at a substantially higher grade. Which wouldn’t have been a problem…if I weren’t using my fists, which I have not previously employed in a pursuit more dangerous than Billy Blanks air-boxing. As a result, I dish out less damage punching than I do singing Gilbert and Sullivan. Again, though, I’m low level, so the game expects less of me and I can just sort of coast without needing any actual skill or experience at what I’m doing. It’s the public education system of leveling.

Long story short: I won. It wasn’t entirely surprising. The more successful warrior is often the one who is able to sacrifice the most on the field of battle, and I ended up surrendering my pride, my faith in a just universe, and three-quarters of my facial bones. But it’s cool: the little message popped up that made everything worth it.

"Your killing has been observed by forces unknown..." Ooh, can I guess? Is it the Masons? The reptilians? A cockroach? Google? Or is it the evil-god-worshiping murder cult already on record as watching this sort of thing?

To kill the moment with overanalysis, because that’s kind of what I do here, that whole “observing” thing must be a tedious job. It’d be like Minority Report, but without all the glitzy special effects and social commentary.

“Looks like this guy and his wife are having an argument. Looks like he’s really mad about something. Gee, I wonder what he’s going to—oh, look, he’s gone and murdered her, what a spellbinding twist.”

“Think we oughta recruit him?”

“I dunno. I guess it was an okay murder.”

“Did you maybe feel like it wasn’t, you know…”

“Pointless enough?”

“That’s it, bingo. What else we got?”

“Half-naked outlander crept into a lady’s loft and punched her to death.”

“Brochure’s in the mail!”

So that’s resolved. Felt good to cross it off my to-do list, you know? Get shirt, find purpose in life, kill someone for no good goddamned reason–looks like I could just go ahead and check that last one right off. And hey! She had a shirt right there with her, and some pants that weren’t sewn out of tree moss.

What an auspicious haul! I get clothes AND assassin volunteer hours, and there's no negative repercussions whatsoever. Everything's coming up Cahmel!


I was in something of an awkward situation, here. For starters, I had no idea what he was charging me for.

Now, you may be thinking to yourself that in this universe of infinite possibilities, this is perhaps the sole situation in existence–and all possible existences–with an unambiguous answer. That’s until you check out what my current fine is, which is 65 gold. And I already had a bounty of 25 for assorted miscreancy.

So what happened is that a guard heard screams, burst into a moonlight loft, and discovered a wanted ex-con with bloody knuckles standing over the dead, naked body of a local woman, and from this situation somehow prescribed a 40-gold fine. Which would actually be hilarious, if I’d had 40 gold. In my current state, I had no way of paying my way out. All I’d done was batter a woman to death in cold blood, but for all the legal pressure I was under, I may as well have stolen the crown jewels. Oh, wait.

Is he wearing makeup?

When you can’t pay the fine, you’ve got two options. You can resist arrest, which means that guard will immediately try to kill you—along with all of his guard friends for a hundred miles—and anything you do to fight back will exponentially increase your bounty. And if you ever come across another guard, he’ll instantly recognize you and press charges once more, meaning you’ve either succeeded in postponing your Adventures in the Legal System or in wasting even more of your time running away from guards like it’s goddamned Benny Hill and you’re the villain. Actually, scratch that–I lack the dignity of a Benny Hill villain.

That’s option one in a nutshell. The other option is going to jail and losing two points of a skill that statistically speaking, you don’t care about.

I ran for it.

Nothing like a leisurely jog after a good homicide.

Yeah, it’s stupid, but I look at it this way: I would rather pay the fine than go to jail, and if I stick with this Dark Brotherhood thing, I should be able to make some money in the immediate future. So maybe I’ll live my life haunted and careworn, trembling at every footstep, anticipating the drop of the hammer of justice with every waking moment. It’s nothing I haven’t handled before.

My borrowed welcome long-since rescinded, I legged it out of town like the place was on fire. The guards gave chase for a while, but balked and turned back once I plunged headlong into wolf and bandit country in the middle of the night. Suckers.

I did take a moment’s breather and try on my new duds. I might be a rain-soaked, battered fugitive squatting in the middle of nowhere as I made my way to try out the only disreputable career option left to me, but at least now I wouldn’t have to look like a complete jackass.

Yeah. That’s what I call a sharp ensemble. Who could have guessed that raiding the wardrobe of a deranged female cultist was not the first step on the path of style and gravitas? But it beats sack cloth and dirtsmell, I guess. And maybe the shirtlessness will make people mistake me for a tough jackass instead of a broke one.

I limped to the next town, which, thankfully, didn’t really have much in the way of guards. I managed to make it as far as the inn without any difficulty. And even then, the difficulty wasn’t so much “dodging Johnny Law” as “scraping up the ten goddamned gold to buy a room.” I finally managed to scrape up the cash by selling her some of the flowers I’d accidentally picked on the way over here.

The room was exactly what I’d come to expect: a bed, a few valueless unattended items to sate kleptomaniacs, a vague sense of disappointment that one’s life has come to this. That is to say, a series of rented or unearned beds, each a shade smellier than the last, until I sleep forever in an unmarked grave. Or, more probably, inside a wolf. Or a bandit. It could go either way.

Screw it; I was too tired to worry. I just ran halfway across the continent, and what I really needed was a good solid eight hours of oh just cut straight to the interruption.

There we go.

This is Lucien Lachance. He’s a murderer, and he’s really, really enthusiastic about it. You know that guy who has a slightly unusual and very technical job, like zoo lighting engineer or graphite mixer, and he spends every party in a sense of gleeful anticipation waiting for someone to ask him what he does so he can bore them with every weird-but-boring detail? That’s Lucien—but only after you mix him with the guy who got stuck with a socially negative label and decided to make it a badge of honor, except he’s the kind of guy that wrapped the label up in negative stereotypes to begin with. To wit: because I punched a lady until she fell down, I’m a “taker of life” and a “harvester of souls.” He informs me of this with a gleeful voice, like Vincent Price being informed his pizza just arrived.

There’s this definite culture in the Dark Brotherhood like murder is some sort of sacred act of power and mysticism. I guess that’s cute, but it doesn’t really jive with the mindset of most murderers, who are usually desperate, don’t really give a rat’s ass one way or the other, or are beyond lucidity. I guess it feels a little bit weird for the association of contract killers to be so wrapped up in gothy posturing.

Anyway, he wants me to join his little club. First thing I gotta do is kill a guy named Rufio–this time, not with my hands. Lucien offers me a dagger that he describes as a “virgin blade,” which wins the very exclusive award for, “metaphor I least wanted this guy to use.” Lucien tries to pass himself off as the cool kind of creepy; whether he succeeds, I’ll let you be the judge.

He doesn’t.

See, I was lying to you just there. Comes with the murdering asshole territory.


The Cyrodiil Look: Cahmel’s New Travels (Let’s Play Oblivion, Part 21)

14 Aug

Miss yesterday’s Cahmel? Scroll down to read Part 20 first!

When we last left our resourceful hero, he was trying to beg a longbow off of one of the most obnoxious jackasses I’d met in recent memory. Seriously, just look at that this guy and tell me your sucker-punch instincts aren’t firing.

Just, wolf turds right to the kisser. He'd never see it coming. Smugly rattling off that one bit of armchair Aristotelianism he drummed up in a haze of ganja, and then out of nowhere, turd in the face. I can't stop thinking about it. It would just shotgun the wind right out of his sails.

We’ve got:

1.)    Stupid haircut. That tonsure makes him look less like a monk and more like Danny DeVito when he gets his hair torn off in Matilda.

2.)    Creepy grin. He’s smiling like that forty-year-old guy at the family reunion who nobody knows that well, but who treats absolutely everyone, of all ages, as he would a best friend or former lover.

3.)    Mountain-man vest. Did he just cut along the belly of a roadkill beaver, dump everything out, and cut himself a couple of arm holes? Thing’s gotta smell like sweat, dust, and probably trace amounts of mice urine. It’s the fashion statement that says, “I want to display my love of badly-cured animal hides and my own sweet pecs simultaneously.” Combine with moron-sure for maximum lady repelling.

4.)    I’m not even going to go into the “Archer’s Paradox” again. Because the perfect insult would be one that adequately reflects my contempt for this kind of clueless, pretentious posturing, and that’s impossible. Besides, this line is so damn stupid it’s managed to get stuck in my head. It’s just iterating over and over, and every so often I’ll find something exciting and new wrong with it, and then I’ll get hung up some more and tear my hair out. Probably the best thing for everyone is if I just try to forget it exists.

I did consider making this guy my Dark Brotherhood initiation, but I ended up shooting the idea down for a couple of reasons. Firstly, although he’s irritating, that’s more a general function of his character than a by-product of any grievance he had towards me. I like to think I’m above such petty grounds for assassination as “he’s kind of a tushbag,” and that I have it within me to turn my energies to other, more productive avenues of murder. Plus, he has one thing that I don’t. Can you guess what it is? If you guessed, “ready access to a wide range of weaponry,” you evidently haven’t been paying attention, because the right answer was, “stupid haircut.” But yeah, okay, the fact that he’s so well armed gave me pause.

I did manage to steal a couple bows off of him. I ran my usual diabolical caper: walk up the staircase to his private quarters, pace around aimlessly as the storekeeper in question wonders what the hell possessed you to just randomly wander into his domicile, wait for him to follow you upstairs to make sure you don’t pilfer his crates of hourglasses or poop on his pillow or something, and then—as soon as he’s been kited upstairs—blast past him at full speed, hop down the staircase, and grab everything on the counter before he can catch up and resume supervising you. This time, I managed to score two bows. What I did not manage to score were any arrows. Those were located in such a position as it would be difficult to obtain them without first maneuvering them off of the counter—actually picking them up will get you arrested, so the best way to do this is to hop up on the counter next to them and can-can-kick them across the room—but I didn’t really have the time or the inclination to sort that out.

So I exposed myself to the chest, and to the Paradox, and what did I get for it? Some bent pieces of wood. Those were not going to put murder on the table. By then, it had grown rather late; most of the shops and private residences had closed their doors for the night. Not that this would stop me, if I had so much as one lockpick anywhere on my person. I’d contemplated sneaking one into jail, but at a fairly early stage of the planning process it occurred to me that there were places in my body I didn’t fancy lodging a hooked length of metal. Besides, what incentive did I have to break into anyone’s house? Best case scenario was that I found a bunch of moderately-worthwhile vendor trash I could sell to some jackass up in the frozen ass-end of the country. Worst case, I found a bunch of yarn and spoons that I could sell to my choice of nobody, because they were useful to absolutely no-one, including the person I took them from. Oh, I guess it was possible somebody would have a weapon. On their person. Which they would cheerfully introduce to my anatomy if I got any funny ideas, like any idea that was worth having at this point.

I was just about ready to give up and find an inn when I bumped into a house that was unlocked. Intriguing, not to mention unconventional. I suppose it wasn’t technically impossible that that place, right there, was where The Party was at, but to be honest, I also wasn’t sure I wanted to see the Bravil iteration of The Party. Somehow, I was picturing fewer fresh beats and fine ladies, rather more fresh beetles and bovine ladies. Like I would walk in and it would just be a bunch of men and women, all box-faced, all dressed and do’d exactly like Daenlin up there, sampling a platter of caught vermin and talking about issues like masonry and sweeping and what kind of animal feces was the most obnoxious to clean up. And then someone would start playing an instrument…outside. In the alleyway. Until someone from the party poked their head out and yelled at them to keep it down.

This was not the sight that greeted me when I entered. It was, indeed, just some homely High Elf lady’s house. Despite my having just opened the door of this one-room domicile and let myself in, she appeared not to have noticed me at all.

And suddenly, I was faced with a dilemma. You see, a functioning lock was not the only thing this woman lacked: conspicuously absent from her hip was a rusty dagger or blood-spattered mace. She was completely defenseless. And alone. And I did need to kill someone.

See…it’s not that I have a conscience, necessarily, but I guess I was under the impression that I had a little more style than this. I guess at the end of the day I could kid myself that I was a pretty cool guy, and that any acts of hostility or borderline sociopathic behavior were actually just me sticking it to dudes squarer and less gnarly than myself. Like Robin Hood, except instead of robbing from the rich and giving to the poor, I was…killing people I didn’t like. So, I guess that’s not like Robin Hood. I kind of wish I hadn’t thought about that comparison, because I’d been leaning on it for like the past six months of indignities.

Yeah, screw it. I guess I’ve just proven to myself that I really am just a clueless opportunist. Why bother with pretensions, when everything I’ve done and everything that has been done to me has proven that there’s no such thing as karma? What is convenient is just to bludgeon this woman to death with my bare hands, so naturally, that’s just what I’m going to do.

I crawl up, throw a punch




The Cyrodiil Look: Cahmel’s New Travels (Let’s Play Oblivion, Part 20)

13 Aug

I’d always kept my career options open. My mama raised me to believe that no matter how comfortable your situation might look, there could be an even more lucrative sucker you can murder and/or murder just beyond the next horizon. It’s a philosophy I’ve stuck with most of my life, and, okay, maybe it’s pushed me onto some hard times. Maybe I’ve lost a few promising careers, maybe I’ve burned a few too many bridges, maybe I should just pick a murder-opportunity and stick with it. But all of that was behind me, because at long last, I’d found a career I can stick with: incarceration.

That’s the short version of where I’ve been for the past few months. The long version features repeated counts of public intoxication, pawning most of my equipment to afford to buy off jail time, managing to avoid the rap, getting intoxicated again to celebrate, and waking up hanging half-on, half-off the town walls with a clay pitcher under one arm and a dead dog under the other. I also happened to be in that state that poets refer to as “all one’s glory,” and that I have come to refer to as “weary inevitability.” Once I righted myself, cleared my vision, and caught a glimpse of the surrounding countryside, I could immediately recognize six of the charges that were soon to be leveled against me, guess at another four, and make wild, bizarre, and ultimately correct speculations about another twenty-six. I think the only reason the guards arrested me is because if they killed me, someone would have to dispose of the body, which would mean touching it.

And that’s how I spent my summer vacation: kicking bones around a 5-by-5 cell and composing poems about how much I hate everybody. So far I only had the one. It was a haiku, and it went like this:

I hate everybody.

How many syllables are these things supposed to have?

But then, eventually, the day of my release arrived. They were kind enough to let me keep the sack-cloth pants and manacles. I was kind enough to rob them blind on my way out. Not because I was going to fence any of it—I’d rather shave my face with a brazier than subject myself to the Thieves’ Guild brain-dead pseudoconomy. Call it opportunistic reflex mixed with malicious instinct. Still, since everything I took was fiscally valueless and more broadly worthless, I was really down to my drawers and my wits, and you know what those things have in common? I can’t eat them, I can’t sell them, and I tend to lose them whenever I’ve got a drop of liquor in me. So it would be accurate to say that upon being released from prison, I had absolutely no prospects whatsoever.

What did I want to do with my life before I got arrested? I had a plan. I had this big, bold plan that involved not being here, doing this. Just before I got arrested, I’d hit on this wonderful idea that tied together my general contempt for my neighbor with my inability to hold an honest job. That’s right—I wanted to become an assassin, and to do that, I’d have to kill someone. That is, someone who wasn’t trying to kill me first. Which actually narrowed the options more than you’d think. So far, half the people on this continent have attempted assault the moment I moved upwind. Take the cabals of random mages and bandits out in the sticks, for example: now that’s a culture that has unprovoked assault down to a science.

Actually, that raises a great question. Assuming I’m not just a unique snowflake, and that there’s not just an inscrutably glory to my murder technique that draws Brotherhood recruiters like blisters gather pus, wouldn’t every single marauder and necromancer I’ve bumped into have gotten a Dark Brotherhood invite by now? The DB seem to knock the things out automatically, like they’re a crappy YooToob channel that sends friend invites to any account that comes down the pipes. No, I’ve got it—they’re that dodgy WoW Guild, the one that’s loud and about a dozen members strong and has <<Blood>> or <<Legion>> or <<Knights>> in the title, the one that’s owned by a 12-year-old and administrated by power-hungry jackasses. They really want to be competitive in the Arena this season, and their best DPS just got banned for binding racial slurs to his chat macros and spamming Trade, so the guild’s active members spam the chats with invites and maybe a few exasperated newbies join because they’ve had the bad luck to find the “Accept Invite” option faster than “Squelch,” or because they were vaguely aware joining a guild was something you do, but tragically unaware of the handful of organizations founded around something beyond an adolescent’s ego.

Anyway. There was one obvious obstacle in my path, which was that I didn’t have a weapon of any description. Granted, one does not actually need a weapon to murder someone with, just like one doesn’t actually need to wear pants while beekeeping. Call me spoiled.

Since I’d already cleaned out the Fighters’ Guild, the only place left in town to get a decent weapon was the goddamned Archer’s Paradox. You remember—the archery paraphernalia outlet run by that insufferable asshat wood elf. I’d box his ears, but from the looks of him I’d probably gash my knuckles open.

Something about that grin makes me want to throw wolf turds at his face.

His prices were pretty reasonable. I was sort of hoping they wouldn’t be; if his pricing model was entirely divorced from reason, there was a chance, however miniscule, that this would translate into giving stuff away for free. Which was the only economic model I was presently disposed to support.

Well, almost the only model.

Double your pleasure: more tomorrow!


Once More Oblivious

05 Aug

As already announced today on the Livestream, Kahdzbar is not the only Let’s Play I’m exhuming. Starting around this time next week, I will be resurrecting my tech-aborted LP of Oblivion, which will be continued on a weekly basis for the foreseeable future.

I’ll be picking up where I left off–stranded in Bravil, contemplating the Dark Brotherhood plotline. I’m not sure I can recover my original save, but it shouldn’t be too difficult to regain the handful of levels and smattering of meager equipment that I’d accumulated when I left off, and I don’t plan to return to any of the questlines I’d already started. Either way, I should be fine.

One thing that’s exciting is that I’ve acquired all of the expansion material, which I have thus far not had access to. This means Knights of the Nine, Mehrune’s Razor, Shivering Isles–I’ve never played any of ’em before. It’ll be interesting to see whether I can sustain a blind Let’s Play in this format–whether I can deliver entertaining commentary on something I’m experiencing for the first time. If the answer is yes, it might motivate me to do an LP of my first Skyrim run. It would mean breaking my Bosmer dynasty from Daggerfall through Oblivion, but I think I could just about be persuaded to trade in a line of solemn shadow warriors for a single inveterate nudist. And besides, despite his long track record of failure and incompetence, I’m rather more fond of Cahmel than I am of my more successful, well-balanced characters.

Anyway, be on the lookout for that. I’m off to go fill up my gameplay buffer.


The Cyrodiil Look: Cahmel’s New Travels (Let’s Play Oblivion, Part 19)

17 Feb

When we last left our noble hero, he was considering whether or not a career in straight murdering people was feasible. I mean, it’s not too much of a stretch. I’ve been doing the whole physical violence against my fellow man/woman thing for ages, and while most of that has been at the amateur level, there’s at least a couple of professional dude-killings I can stick on my resume. Those guys in that cave that one time, for example. And that dude-lady in the house. And the other guys in that cave that other time. I don’t think I’ve ever been paid money to assassinate an innocent person before, but it’s a pretty fine line, right? Except in the legal, ethical, or practical sense.

And hey, I’ve been practicing all the right things. Over the course of the past week or so, I’ve been working almost nonstop building up my stock of bribe money, my tolerance for squirrely quests that go outside of my best interests, and my general misanthropy. And also sneaking and daggers and stuff. I am fully equipped to creep up behind someone, work up a lather of uncalled for hatred towards their potato faces, shank them, pay the guard not to arrest me afterwards, and accept a completely meager and disproportionate reward for the whole business before circling back for some more.

Yeah, you know what? I’ve found my calling. I’ve found the one thing on this continent that I’m willing to do. I’m not going to duke it with hobos in the hopes of scoring someone’s lunch money, I’m not going to steal from the middle-class and act irritatingly paternal towards the poor, I’m not going to do jobs for a Grapes-of-Wrath-soundin’ company looking to hire up starving stragglers and throw them at actual literal wolves, and as for that saving the world and returning the rightful heir to the throne in order to prevent the apocalypse thing? Sorry, but I prefer to do jail time and/or pay off the system to excuse my multiple homicides. Performing community service just ain’t my scene.

Mommy, I’ve decided what I’m going to do when I grow up. I want to kill lots and lots of people that probably don’t deserve it.

The trouble is that the Dark Brotherhood won’t even consider your application unless you have already iced a minimum of one punk, and even then, only if it was an unprovoked assault. I guess the Brotherhood can just sense whenever anyone murders any other person at any time, which, while it’s not exactly an exclusive criterion, at least it’s more relevant than the Thieves’ Guild qualification exam, which is bred specifically to select  individuals the Guild shouldn’t want. At least this test is sloppy and generalized in the right direction.

Actually, there’s a good point—the Dark Brotherhood can apparently magically detect whenever someone illegally murders someone else. That would mean they just know whenever a murder is committed, Minority Report style. Setting aside the vast implications of that for a moment: does the Dark Brotherhood visit absolutely every murderer, or just the ones who look buff and pretty enough to do the organization justice? I mean, let’s say I stab some random beggar in order to loot their meager savings and incongruous accent. Is the DB really gonna look at me and go, “Yeah, he’s got what it takes?” Because I’m pretty sure they’d have to interview like thousands of people a year if that was the case. And at least a couple of those interviews would have to be kinda unpleasant.

DB RECRUITER: You sleep soundly for a murderer. Perhaps, within your uniquely dark soul, even you realize that you have the potential to accomplish great and terrible what are you doing to that live stoat?

FISHBOY FRANK: This dance keeps me alive! It is the hound-beast that culls the freshest chicken!

DB RECRUITER: I hate this job so much. I really gotta score that transfer to Murdering People.

Enough screwing around—time to figure out how I’m gonna do this. I guess step one is figuring out who to kill to get cred with the other murderers. Technically, anyone would do, but I make a habit of never being randomly cruel when I can score petty revenge on a specific individual instead. And at this point, it’s really not so much a matter of figuring out who I want dead as it is picking out which ones I would want to kill the least. Into this I’m factoring in how much they’ve wronged me, how smug they were when they did it, how smug their face is, and whether or not I can take them in something that shares a few incidental characteristics with a straight fight.

Armand Christophe, the guy who turned the process of joining the Thieves Guild into a dumbass reality show that carried with it the crappiest benefits ever committed to contract? He did screw me over, and his face is pretty smug, but on the other hand, he’s all super important and stuff. I bet you a million dollars of anyone’s money that he’s unkillable.

Arena dude? He’s spent the last decade or so hurling childish insults at starving, desperate, heavily-armed hobos. He’s either tough as nails or he’s managed to turn stupidity into adequate body armor. Either way, too risky.

The Emperor? Hm. That’s actually not a bad oh, wait, someone beat me to it.

Dammit, this is hard.