Archive for August, 2011

Winals Feek

30 Aug

Just a heads-up: this is the beginning of Finals Week/s for the Summer Sessions classes I’ve been taking. Consequentially, I’ll be updating when I can, which–while not necessarily less frequently–may be at still more irregular hours. There are a few surprises coming up in the immediate future, but nothing I’d like to give away.

There should still be a stream Thursday at the regular time.

 
 

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.

 

A Hole to Die In: Chapter Three

24 Aug

I’ve observed something about the mindset of a laborer, and I’d like to share it with you. I think it goes a long way to explaining how I got my start last time around, and goes even an even longer way  towards describing how I got my stop. It was why my little band had elected to come with me this time around, and why they would follow my instructions cheerfully and without dissent, and why they were all going to die of exposure, exhaustion, or violence inside of a month.

See, the average person wants their mental model of the future and their role in it to be as simple as possible. Ideally, it will be expressed entirely as a task: dig a tunnel, patrol a canyon, reload a crossbow, pray, etc. Most people will be perfectly content moving from task to task without regard for the bigger picture, so long as they have the strong impression that whoever’s calling the shots knows what that bigger picture is. It’s a logical system for any society more complex than twenty people, because at that point, the system will be inscrutable enough that untangling it and figuring out how it works becomes a full-time job. It’s a depressing enough career, and there are few compelling reasons to make it a hobby.

So that’s the situation they’re all used to: follow instructions from on high, work up a sweat, always deliver on what’s asked of you, and then watch the ineffable structure of things come gradually and pleasingly into being–a dream made manifest by their hard work and dedication. I could coast on that mindset for a long time before they noticed they were sleeping in puddles and eating cockroaches.

If all of this sounds like an elaborate epiphany, you should know how it came about. Probably it had been simmering for months now; what brought it to a boil was when Sticks asked me, politely and without any accusation, what it was that I wanted them to do, specifically. It was when I noticed that they didn’t just want a speech from me, or a ticket home, or a magical cookie. What they wanted was direction. What they wanted was the illusion of a benign authority. That was when I first realized that I had a choice between pretending I was leadership material and getting left by the group to be eaten by coyotes. I gave the issue a minute’s solemn consideration.

“Okay,” I said, “Right, let’s get serious. I am being serious, now, and the thing that came just before was something that was not serious. As a token of this newfound seriousness, which I would personally rank as one of my top ten most leader-like qualities, I would like to command that all of you start digging into that hillside, there. I command you all to do a good job, and to create a place that will through processes that are currently impossible for all of you to wrap your heads around become a sustainable home. Now I command you to get to it while I go over to those rocks, away from the campsite, where I will be doing something that I command is not sobbing like a baby.”

I thought that went well. I went over to the rocks, spent a little bit of quality time, and then trotted back to supervise. What I discovered was Mule and Ox digging into the side of the hill while everyone else sat self-consciously around the laden wagon.

“I can’t help but notice that you’re all sitting around,” I said. “I command someone to explain why.”

Jaw spoke up first. “Well, we’re not miners. So we just sort of assumed we weren’t supposed to, you know, get in the way of Mule and Ox.”

“I see. Perhaps you’re not familiar with the process, so I should point out at this time that it is difficult to dig incorrectly. That is, only the most hamfisted and incompetent of dirt artisans can manage to ruin the empty space where soil used to be. Having handpicked each member myself, I am confident that every dwarf on my team has it in them to move peat from one geographical location to the other with minimal trauma.”

“I mean, okay. It’s just not our jobs. That’s all.”

“That’s a fair point. Your skills do lie elsewhere. But tell me, have you ever heard the fable of the grasshopper and the ant?”

I was really, really hoping she’d say yes. I was all but positive that it was the perfect illustration of my point, and would win me the argument on the spot. But she just furrowed her brow and said, “It rings a bell. What’s it about?” and all of the sudden I had to remember the damn story or else completely lose my momentum.

“Ah,” I said. “Well. As I recall…that fable, that is the fable in which…” I grasped at the first story that leapt to mind. “The idealistic nobleman watches a dozen men and women die because he is a failure as a leader and a person.”

“What?”

“Yes. Yes, that’s the one. Grandmother used to read it to me when I was a kid.”

“I don’t–”

“And the moral of the story, of course, is that we’re all put here on this planet for the same reason: not to die a bloody death.”

“But–”

“And to listen to your leader.”

“I–”

“Go dig a tunnel, please.”

They got up and got to work. Well, most of them did. Most of them got up, anyway. That’s when I went back to the rocks for a brief vacation.

We got a foyer dug out without any problems. At least, no fatal ones—I heard Sticks talking to himself about sand, and aquifers, and rock salt—I personally didn’t see the relevance. All of those were things below the surface of the world, and there was still a great chance none of use were ever going to live to dig that far. Because before we could start worrying about expanding downwards, we were going to need to establish a food source. I was about to learn that this, much like everything else in this life, was easier commanded than accomplished.

 

 

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!

Dammit.

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.

 

Dark Messiah, Video 1

21 Aug

Here’s a YooToob of the first level of Dark Messiah, the game I’m attempting to stream weekly…although LiveStream’s been giving me trouble two days in a row, so I’ll have to see what I can do about that.

There’ll be an Icewind Dale 2 video in this space today–I don’t want to try uploading them at the same time. I’ve also got half of this Cahmel done, but that’s the thing: I kinda want to make this double-length so I don’t leave off at an awkward moment. Check in for that between this morning and tomorrow.

 

 
 

Quick Change of Plans

19 Aug

Today’s stream is going to be at 4:00 PM, PST, at www.livestream.com/chocolatehammer. Be there, or be slightly later than the fifty-man cap because I still can’t get that increased dammit.

EDIT: Stream botched. Moved instead to today, Saturday, 4:00 PST. I’m going to try to get some videos/Cahmel uploaded before then.

 

A Hole to Die In: Chapter Two

18 Aug

When I was a young dwarf, I remember how I used to have a vague and ignorant fear of the Outside—of the woods and fields that lay, sun-warmed and tranquil, outside the reaches of our subterranean city. Now I am older and wiser, and I have set aside these childish fears, and I have replaced them with objective and well-informed terror.

It took us a long time to reach the spot I’d picked out. I’d already resolved that I was not going to give my enemies the satisfaction of watching me starve to death, so I had little recourse but to situate myself out of their view. With any luck, nobody would stumble on us until our deaths had graduated from bad joke to anthropological curiosity. I would have to remember to leaves some primary documents lying around, if only so that future archaeologists would find the answer to the question, “Why did a small group of dwarves dig into the side of their mountains, live off rotten fish for a month, and then eat their own picks?”

During the journey, I got to know my crew; this, despite my best efforts. Similar to how one does not grow attached to one’s livestock, I felt I should try to avoid associating with these people as much as possible. Besides this, they were all criminals. I may have lost all of my shame, and my illusions, and my optimism, and my joie de vivre, but I hadn’t entirely forsworn my standards. Even if I had been ignorant of their criminal nature, none of them—excepting Jaw—was particularly pleasant to converse with. Mule and Ox had vocabularies consisting largely of body language and odors, Sticks gabbed witlessly like a prisoner trying to stall his execution, Foods was suddenly stricken with a very familiar sort of dread, Hammer was taciturn, Weed was an idiot. None of them said a thing of importance on the entire journey, excluding the time Hammer pointed out that we’d just managed to run over a squirrel and that it probably had a day’s meat on it.

Sticks balked at the suggestion. “Why would we eat a squashed rodent? We’ve got plenty of food in these barrels.”

I laughed so hard I was sick. Very, very sick.

We made it into hill country without running into any troubles, and I became conscious of the need to choose our graveyard. For hours, it made for a strangely fascinating game. Would I rather die behind that hill or that one? What would be the ideal nook to starve to death in? Should I go with the valley with all the lovely trees in it, or would it be more poignant to kick off on the banks of the river? I might even feed a few fishes. That would have a kind of symmetry to it.

Eventually, I was forced to acknowledge that one spot was as good as any other, and that all I was doing was delay the inevitable. And it was two ours after I acknowledge that when I brought myself to say, “Stop the wagon.”

“Bathroom?” asked Foods.

“No. This is where we’re setting up.”

“We can push through a few more hours before making camp.”

“Let me rephrase that. This is where we’re setting up permanently. Right here.”

Everyone blinked and looked at one another. “Wait,” said Sticks, finally. “You mean this spot is near where the fortress is going to go?”

“This is precisely where the ‘fortress’ is going to go. Welcome to Fort Foxhole. Grab a pick and let yourselves in.”

They chewed on this. They were expecting something, I realized. More accurately, they were expecting two things. Firstly, they were expecting something more from the site itself. I’d picked a not-unappealing little valley in the midst of some hills, with a nice little copse of trees handy and a cliffside of silty loam we could bore into. It was as good a location as we were likely to get…and it looked exactly like the past fifty miles of countryside. There wasn’t much destiny to the place, I’ll admit that. No massive rock that looked like an animal if you squinted, no flanks of limestone leading up to the front entrance like the hallway of the gods, no ocean to crash against nearby rocks and declare, loudly and clearly, that this was a fortress for dwarves of Grit and Bravery. It looked like this land had been several centuries caught in the throes of nothing much interesting, and that it was as surprised as anyone to discover that this was about to change.

And they expected something else from me: a speech to mark the occasion. I did my best to oblige them.

“Get to work,” I said. “Try not to die before we’ve got the foyer dug out.”

 

 

Bootmens, Icemens

17 Aug

As you may have noticed from the lack of video content here, I’m still ironing a few things out with uploading. This may take a little bit more time to sort out. At any rate, I’ll get them up as soon as I can. Since I have been having to drop time into this, I won’t have the new DF post until later this afternoon.

However! To celebrate this season of Spoiler Warning wrapping up, and as an apology for the video content being late, I’ll be giving y’all a stream on Friday as well as Thursday. Hopefully, the Bootlord vids will be up by then, so you’ll all be caught up.

See you for the striking of the earth later today.

 
 

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

SON OF A BITCH

I’M SORRY KARMA, I DIDN’T MEAN THOSE THINGS I SAID

 

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!