A Skyrim Playthrough Challenge: The Recovering Skooma Slave
Hi there, and thanks for stopping by my page. Today, I'm going to share with you a little challenge I created for myself for a play-through in Skyrim. Well, I say little, but I'm actually going to share quite a bit: What the challenge is, how it came to be, and why I wanted to share it with you all, though I can't promise it will be all in that order!
I've been a gamer essentially since I was old enough to wrap my hands around a controller, and Skyrim is one of those games that gives me nearly everything I could ask for in a game. Open world environments I can explore to my heart's content, graphics that drag you into the game, dialogue that punches you right in the feelings, the ability to play literally any way you choose, and enough loot to make even the most hardcore hoarder go "That's just too much stuff!". Did I mention the loot? I like loot. A lot.
In fact, that's one of the few problems I do have with this game, besides the bugs. I've developed a bit of a loot addiction in recent games, and I swear if there wasn't a weight restriction I'd take everything that wasn't nailed down, literally. Judging by all of the parodies and funny videos, I know I'm not the only one. :)
Out of all of my favorite games series, this is the one I keep coming back to the most. A few months of playing something else will go by and suddenly I'll find myself thinking, 'I should play Skyrim again!'. I dig it out, load it up, create a new character because I either forgot what I was doing or wanted to try something new, and off I go. Problem is, within a few hours or a day or two, I find myself either bored, or frustrated, or both, again.
It's not because the game is boring, but it's because I'm playing in a boring way! It doesn't matter if I play my favorite stealth archer or try something completely different, it seems that combat is the only thing I change, and the rest is all the same. Note: I play on an older console because that's all I have right now -- I know all about mods, trust me. XD
So, I decided to try something truly different, and turned to the internet. In games like Tomb Raider or Final Fantasy, I've found and followed different challenges before to make things interesting, so why not Skyrim? I found so many different, good challenges, and quite a few that I'd already tried, or partially tried anyhow, but none of them were perfect.
Thus, this challenge was born. I found myself inspired by the 'homeless scrounger' and 'scavenger' challenges, but as a creative writer, they just lacked a bit of soul or purpose, to me. At least their descriptions did, anyway. Why were you homeless? Why were you staying homeless? Why weren't you crafting anything? Why weren't you buying or selling anything?
Through answering these questions, Indigea the Khajiit was born.
In order to truly get a feel of what the challenge is and why it's played the way it is, I'm going to tell you the story of my poor, twitchy, skittish, tidbit of a Dragonborn kitty.
Skooma addiction has always been an issue in the Elder Scrolls world, as have documented instances of slavery in the past. Since we no longer have any real 'effects' from drinking skooma by the time we get to Skyrim, it's hard to play as an actual addict, so she had to be a recovering addict instead.
How did she become an addict, though, and how does that affect her? By looking at Wujeeta, the argonian in Riften, just trying it and becoming addicted isn't enough to create a challenge -- one healing potion and she's almost instantly back to normal.
Therefore, Indigea isn't just a recovering addict, she's a former slave who's escaped the clutches of cruel masters who's depravity would make a Daedra blush, in her own words.
As a small cub, her family had a run-in with slavers who were posing as friendly traveling merchants. After gaining her family's trust, those slavers tricked them into eating baked sweets that were laced with skooma and other poisons, allowing them the opportunity to kidnap her and two other younglings to be raised and sold as slaves. The elders resisted, and were all killed.
'Gea grew up as a personal slave, not a laborer, and was passed from owner to owner as their personal desires and tastes dictated. Honestly, she would have been happy to be a laborer, if they hadn't kept her so blitzed out on skooma she'd cut out her own insides, if her current owner desired it.
One night, as she sat sobbing in her cell and crying for her next fix, her fingers scrabbled across a thin piece of metal that was hidden in the straw covering the floor. She held it up to the light and stared at it for several minutes, before her mind cleared enough to realize just what she was holding. It was a lockpick!
It took days of practically starving to ween herself from the skooma-laced food they'd been feeding her, but finally she was coherent enough to remember what her parents taught her about picking locks, and make her escape in the hours just before dawn, when guards are tired from a long shift and no one else is awake yet.
After months of staying on the move, her goal was never to stay in Skyrim, but to simply pass through on her long and winding journey of paranoid freedom and possible revenge. The civil war has changed that plan, however, and now she's caught up in something she never wanted to be a part of. When dragons are on the loose, it's everyone's problem.
This is where the actual challenge and the game play comes in. It's this mindset that sets the whole tone of how you play this character, and therefore dictates everything you do -- or don't do.
I'm playing her as an archer, since I see her body as a bit on the abused side and unable to stand up to up close and personal melee combat, especially right at first. An archer though, with a tiny bit of patience and training, can take down a foe before they notice you're there, and thus you avoid heavy combat or detection. Also, stealth archer is my favorite build, so it's a way to do something I love, but completely differently.
That being said, here are the actual requirements:
At the very beginning, only loot your starting weapon, and basic, non-descript gear such as leather, hide, or fur. You want to blend in and not draw attention, and imperial or stormcloak armor stands out a bit there.
No smithing, enchanting, or alchemy -- essentially, no crafting that has a skill tree attached. You are allowed to upgrade your starting gear once, to "repair damage or improve fit". It does not have to match, in fact it's fine if it doesn't.
After your initial equip, you may only change or add gear that's given to you as a quest reward. If it's enchanted, you may no longer upgrade it, and it must be relevant to your play. Such as, boots that increase magic resist, a ring that improves your main combat style, or a necklace that speeds up health regen, for example.
No potions! Absolutely no potions, not even ones you make yourself, since you're not crafting anything. Ideally, it's the irrational fear that anything liquid can be laced with skooma when you're not looking. In reality, it's because the game practically vomits potions at you, and where's the challenge in that?
You can cook and collect food, but there's a catch. It can only be fruits, veggies, and meat, and you have to cook the meat and soups yourself. The theory behind this is the ingredients for skooma are sweet, and easily disguised in baked goods and sweets, or really strong or pungent cheeses. You've learned long enough you can trust nothing but what you handle yourself.
You may collect ingredients, but only a select few. Blue herbs, orange butterfly wings, sabre cat eyes, pine thrush eggs -- those heal, that's fine. My cat can't stand mushrooms, but that's up to you. Other than that, quest ingredient collection is fine, and maybe a couple additions, such as hawk feathers for cure disease, vampire dust for brief invisibility, or snow berries for a bit of fire resist. Keep it small.
Only loot quest items, lockpicks, (and arrows if you're archer). You want to be able to stay light on your feet and move quickly, and you can't do that if your inventory is bulging.
No buying or selling anything. If you're not looting anything to weigh you down, you have no reason to be selling to traders. You also inherently don't trust anything they would sell to you, no matter who they are.
No buying or building houses. A house ties you down to one area, keeping you from moving on if danger gets too close. Also, it gives your enemies a place to lay in wait for you, and ambush you when you think you're safe.
No storing in containers. Again, same principle as a house -- if you're leaving something behind you want later, you're tied to that place. Besides, if you're always on the go and never in one place too long, how are you going to remember where it's at?
No enchanted weapons. Looting the soul gems required to keep them recharged would weigh you down, the time spent recharging them would slow you down, and people tend to notice enchanted weapons.
No guilds! We're trying to stay as non-descript and unnoticed as possible -- being the head of a guild and well-known is counterproductive to that. Think of how Karliah had to live after Mercer Frey screwed her over, that's what you're going for. Now, my personal playthrough did make one exception here -- I joined the Dark Brotherhood. Since it is a possible scripted encounter, 'Gea saw that her enemies would go to any lengths to see her dead if they couldn't have her as their slave. The only way to combat that, in her mind, was to infiltrate the guild, become one of them, and use those contacts to not only protect herself from future hits, but finally find the information she needs to end the threat once and for all. Besides, revenge is a dish best served skewered on an arrow. XD
No magic. Magic is something else that will get you noticed, and requires time, learning, and supplies. We don't have the luxury for that. Also, it's possible magic was used as torture or to force compliance.
No stealing. Stealing gets you noticed, and there's no real point if we're not already looting everything not nailed down.
The only gold you carry is what you get as quest rewards. The gold you do get will be used for training of your main skills, traveling by carriage, and as fines in case you do something stupid, like kill a chicken. Too much gold makes you a target, and tempts you to buy skooma in moments of weakness.
Little to no fast traveling. Fast traveling takes most of the challenge out of the game, and for me, ruins the role playing element of planning how to get where you need to go. Also, for me, from playing other games, I've always viewed it as a hidden teleportation spell, and since we're doing a no-magic run... I save my few fast travels for hard to reach places like High Hrothgar, or hidden things like Sanctuary. I also only do it where no one can see me.
No Daedric quests. I personally count these as enchanted weapons and count it under that restriction, since you still have to recharge them and do weird things to level some of them up. Also, 'Gea has dealt with enough depravity and weirdness in her life, she has no interest in being caught up or dealing with Daedric Princes. Her life is finally her own, and she'd like to keep it that way, thank you very much.
Skills, Quirks, and Quotes
In this playthrough, I'm only intentionally leveling four skill trees -- lockpicking, light armor, sneak, and bow. Since I'm not using magic or crafting, there's no reason to work on those trees. Otherwise, leveling will be too easy, and this is a challenge, after all. You are allowed to turn these skills legendary, however, and can use trainers to level them if you have the gold.
Now, whatever skill levels you get from reading books or doing quests is fine -- you're not going to get much more than a few levels doing this anyway, as long as you don't exploit it. Also, when you level, most or all of your 'level points' should be going in health. You're weak and abused, you'll want to grow stronger and build your health up. Also, no magic, since you won't be using it. Stamina is up to you, if you want to sprint everywhere, but I've only started adding one skill point every five levels, after I hit 15.
That brings up books and reading -- A quirk I've picked for my cat, is that she reads every book she comes across, as a way to gain knowledge she missed out on as a cub, and possibly learn information about the people who did this to her.
Which leads to another quirk -- you must talk to pretty much everyone in your 'quest for information', and you have to do the quests they give you. The idea is if you do something for them, i.e. collect a book, gems, or ingredients, they'll gladly share any useful information or gossip they have with you. Also, years of being a slave has ingrained that automatic reflex into your nature. To that end, you won't want to talk to the people who start the guild quest lines, for example, or any quest that might conflict with your restrictions.
Becoming the thane is... a debate. I AM doing the main questline, so that thaneship is unavoidable. Also, for me, the whole skooma thing in Riften, I want to end that wherever I can, so I'll be doing that quest far enough to kill them all, but not be thane :). Ultimately, that's up to you. On that end, I also automatically kill any of those crossroads merchants who offer you 'something to relax' you, but that's me.
There's a couple more, but that's just my own personal outside of game quirks, and I won't bore you with them. I will, however, leave you with a few quotes from 'Gea's 'journal', to get you a little more insight into her thought processes, and as a thank you for sticking around!
10th, Last Seed
Found this blank book on a fool who tried to rob me today. This one does not like writing, but it might be useful to record useful things I hear. Mind is still not always clear.
18th, Last Seed
This one thinks she should have avoided traveling for another week. Caught in the middle of idiotic human battle at the border of Skyrim, didn't have time for this! Also, research big, flying ugly fire-breathing bird lizard. Smelled bad, but saved this one's life.
19th, Last Seed
So many new flowers and plants in Skyrim, it makes this one sneeze! The little blue ones taste nice though, and take away pain. Tried to make into a paste to cover wound from stupid dog attack, turned fur sticky. Tried to wash it off, fur is now hard and crunchy. Will stick to chewing in the future.
21st, Last Seed
Found Atronach Standing Stone. Not the first stone this one has found, but seems very useful. Can not use magic to control one, if spells get absorbed!
25th, Last Seed
Am convinced these humans have become lazy. This one has been asked to fetch so many things, she has nearly forgotten them all. Can they do nothing for themselves?
Had first run in with Skyrim's undead today. Will have nightmares for days, may never get smell out of nose and fur. Am avoiding these mages at all costs! Also, found out flying lizard is a 'dragon', according to old books. More trouble for this one.
27th, Last Seed
Had first battle with dragon, outside the city of Whiterun. Took many arrows to take it down, am a bit singed around the edges. Went to retrieve arrows, was treated to weird light show. Afterwards, this one's mouth tasted like she'd licked the inside of an oven.
Idiot guards started shouting about 'shouting' and 'dragon souls' and 'dragonborn'. Made no sense to this one, but can send things flying when she yells in frustration now. Feels good. Also, find out who the ones with beards of grey are.
29th, Last Seed
Idiot guards are the same in every city here: they do not know the value of silence. Have found out more information in passing comments than in all errands combined, so far. Also, the Dark Brotherhood still exists?
"You'll make a fine rug, cat!" Have heard 36 times now. Nords need new insults.
First encounter with soft, white flakes these ones call 'snow'. Was colder than this one expected, but very quiet and peaceful if one is still long enough. If one is still for too long, however, one's paws freeze stiff.
Was assaulted by assassin, as well. DB is very alive and well, and this one's former masters want her dead. Two can play that game.
Killed vampire while on a contract, today. Landed near pond, but checked body for lockpicks anyway. While doing this, gust of wind blew weird dust in this one's mouth and face. Looked into water to get it out of fur, saw nothing! Only lasted a few seconds, though. Tastes bad, but could be useful.
Feel almost bad, leaving cranky monks waiting for this one to arrive. Still have not climbed tall rock to see them, but must take care of this mission first. Can not learn about weird yelling, and stop flying lizards, if this one is dead in a ditch or locked in a cage.