Sunday, March 20, 2016

Oblivion Adventures Part 18: Killers and Kings

Last time on Oblivion Adventures, Shush’Ogar met surprisingly competent resistance on his latest relic-snatching heist. They were all nonetheless turned into unsurprisingly dead resistance, at least as far as he could tell. We rejoin our orcish adventurer back in the imperial city...

De elf wit de ice cream cone hair did a gasp when Shush walked in de room wit his fancy square of rock.

“You’ve done it!” he said. “You’ve actually managed to recover the high fane! Magnificent! May I please see it?”

Shush handed over de rectangle-thingy covered in squiggly lines an de fancy elf seemed real happy about dat. He turned it over in his hands a bunch an traced de lines, mumblin to himself under his breath.

“Astounding, absolutely incredible, this is just...” de elf paused an looked up. “Is that blood?”

“Oh, yah Shush guess so. It were safe in Shush’s bag, but Shush still got some a de stuff on him.” Shush held out a hand dat were covered in blood all crusty-like.

“O-oh.” Said de elf, carefully placin de carvin on de table. “So there was something dangerous guarding the panel then?”

“Nah, just some angry ghosts. No problem” said Shush cheerfully. “De real tough fight were wit dat Cloud-Marry guy.”

“Claude Maric?” said de elf, his face goin all white.

“Dat’s de one!” said Shush, tryin ta tap his nose, missin an hittin his cheek. “He found Shush leavin de ruins place an he said he and a buncha other guys would hurt Shush unless Shush gave him de panel ting. Don’t worry doe!” Shush said, seein de elf’s expression. “Shush have been doin dis adventurin ting for a while, an Shush knows wot dat means.” Shush leaned down conspiratorially. “It mean dat de Cloud-Marry guy were actually a bad guy, so it were okay for Shush to smash him!”

Ah, the morals of adventurers. Won’t see that shit on Blue’s Clues.

“Um...yes” said de elf distantly, not lookin at Shush. “Good, er...logic. So, ah...your pay! Right right, your pay.” De elf fumbled in his desk for a bit, den pulled out a bag of gold coins. He handed it ta Shush, de coins janglin a bit on account of him shakin.

“Okey, thanks for all de money an stuff!” said Shush as he were turnin around to leave. But den de elf guy spoke up again.

“Wait! I more job for you. It’ll pay far more than the other ones.”

Shush turned around. “Oh cool! Will anyone try ta kill Shush dis tie? Cause dat were real annoyin.”

De elf shook his head quick-like. “Nonono, nothing like that. And I apologize you had to go through that. I, erm, never could’ve predicted he’d do such a thing.” De elf coughed. “No, what I need you to do now is accompany me on a journey into one final ruin. The throne of the last Aylied king lies there. If you can get me inside, you may have whatever you want from his treasure vault. Gold, jewels and more, I assure you there will be plenty.”

I’m actually skipping an intermediary step where you steal an Aylied crown from Umbaccano’s rival, but I’m doing that for a reason. Absolutely nothing interesting happens in the quest, it’s just a matter of waiting until nightfall, unlocking the door to their house in the city and grabbing the crown. Best we just cut to the chase.

“Well den what is you waitin for?” said Shush. “C’mon elf-y man, let’s go!”

De elf blinked. “I don’t mean right this second! Aren’t you tired?”

“Nah, it’s only been a few weeks.”

Umbaccano looked at Shush wit a weird face. “Look, just go to an inn and rest for the night. Meet me back here tomorrow morning and we’ll head out to the ruins.”

“Gotcha” said Shush, turning to de door again.

De elf shouted at Shush as he were leavin. “And for Auriel’s sake, wash off some of the blood!”


Shush bought a bed in one a dose inn tings. It seemed like a waste of shiny coins, on account of Shush havin a perfectly good bed in dat city by de water dat weren’t even haunted no more. But dat were a couple days jump-walk away an de fancy elf guy said dat Shush should be back in de mornin. Shush had hopped in de river outside de city for a bit to get rid of all de blood an stuff, an even got to smash a few mudcabs on de way, so he were feelin pretty good! Shush laid down on de bed, clanky clothes shakin all noisy when he did, an tried ta do dat sleep ting.

You see these so rarely you forget what they look like.




“You sleep quite soundly for a mur-“






The next morning, an imperial guardsman interviewed a very distraught Augusta Calidia, proprietor of the Tiber Septim Hotel.

“Now ma’am, I’m going to need you to calm down” he said.

“Calm down?! There’s a corpse in my courtyard!” she shrieked.

“Ma’am, please. We won’t be able to help you if you can’t slow down and CALMLY explain what you saw. Alright? Can you do that?”

The middle-aged, blonde Imperial woman nodded, taking deep breaths and trying to hold her hands steady out in front of her. After a minute of this, she looked back at the guard and continued in a more level tone of voice.

“I was coming out to water the plants, and I found I haven’t touched the body, it’s just as you see now. Crumpled up in my begonias, dressed in an all-black robe apart from...the stains. It looks like he fell out of the window in the room above. Someone had booked the room last night, a large orc gentleman. He’s hard to miss, he had bright orange skin and a purple ponytail. But he was gone by the time I discovered...all this.”

The guard nodded, writing down her words on a notepad. He gestured with his pencil to a puddle next to the corpse. “I presume the vomit is yours?”

“Yes” she said miserably. “I’m sorry I haven’t cleaned it up, but it’s been a very hectic morning. How can you stomach to look at him? I mean, the spine and...just...ugh.”

“I was at Kvatch, miss, I’ve seen much worse than this.” He looked backed down and grimaced. “Although, not by much. Looks familiar, honestly.”

“Shouldn’t you send out a call for your fellow guards to apprehend that orc?”

“Well, that all depends...ah, there you are, Captain Lex.”

Hieronymus Lex, one of the city watch captains, stepped between the two. He was clad in the shining, gold trimmed armor typical of captains and wearing a scowl on his face. But then, nothing was unusual about that.

“Alright soldier, this better be worth it. I was trailing a very important lead concerning the Gray Fox, I’ll have you know.”

The guard rolled his eyes behind Lex’s back. “As you always are, sir. But given that this is an actual, physical crime scene I’d prioritize it. When I saw the cadaver I noticed it matched a description you once told me. Can you confirm the identity?”

Lex grunted and knelt down in front of the body. He slipped on some gloves and tilted the head by its chin to get a good look at the face. There was a sharp intake of breath, and he was silent for a moment. Then he looked back up at the guard with a sharp nod. “That’s Lachance, alright.”

Imagine this face but bloodier, uglier and much DEADer.

Augusta looked back and forth between the guards. “Who’s that? Are you going to arrest that orc or not?”

“He’s a member of the Dark Brotherhood” said Lex, continuing over her gasp, “and a high-ranking one at that. At least, as far as we can tell. It’s hard to get information on the world’s most infamous group of covert assassins. We can probably guess why he was in some adventurer’s room at night. So rather than arrest your orc, I’d say give him a medal.”

Hieronymus looked back down at the corpse. “Well, we would. But upon reflection, I think we’ll all just keep our distance.”


So let’s take a minute to clear things up for those who haven’t played Oblivion. The Dark Brotherhood is essentially the Assassin’s Guild. You perform jobs killing people and they reward you with money and unique loot. To gain membership, you have to murder an innocent.  When you do for the first time, the game states that “Your killing has been observed by forces unknown.” The next time you sleep, Lucien Lachance appears by your bed when you wake and invites you to join the family. So the first question you may ask is: How did Shush draw his attention?

Well, it’s actually for a very stupid and very Oblivion reason. You see, in the last quest where Claude Maric ambushed us, he’s supposed to get away. After giving his speech he turns invisible and flees on his horse. Whether he’s alive because he fled or because you gave him the panel, he shows up in the final part of the quest with an annoying “no hard feelings” attitude. I wasn’t about to let him get away with that (he was the only one I really wanted payback on, after all). So I immediately targeted his not-actually-hard-to-see invisible getaway and made short work of him. Fortunately, Bethesda wasn’t extremely stupid and let me kill him. Unfortunately, they still left him tagged as an innocent civilian.

Poor guy, all he wanted to do was brutally murder us for profit!

So one of our more justified murders so far turns out to be arbitrarily criminal. But this may lead to a second question: Why did I murder Lachance? Well first of all, I didn’t, that asshole IS invincible*. But there are several reasons why Shush did. None of them are because the questline is bad. In fact, the Dark Brotherhood questline in Oblivion is a candidate for best in any Elder Scrolls game.

*Okay I looked it up, apparently he’s only invincible after you complete his first quest. I just assumed from past experience.

As you might expect, there’s a lot of skullduggery and betrayal that goes on before the end. What you might not expect is some pretty amusing black humor throughout. Your fellow assassins have a lot of personality compared to many of Oblivion’s NPCs, who are often rather bland. They also delight in murder as much as, well, someone playing a video game with no real-world consequences would. This is backed up by the gameplay being equally engaging.

Quests in the Dark Brotherhood always involve some level of scripting, people to circumvent or plan around. There are always bonus conditions you can fulfill by killing a contract in a certain way, netting you extra rewards. Some are quite inventive, the high point being a quest entitled “Whodunit?” which is exactly what it sounds like. You and five other people are trapped in a mansion for the night and take place in a murder mystery where you’re the murderer. It’s a premise that seems so tailor-made for video games I’m surprised more haven’t tried it. It puts in effort too. All the victims have different personalities and react differently to their housemates dying, and there’s a bonus for killing everyone without them catching on.

Of course this is still Oblivion we’re talking about. Plenty of the quests are buggy, awkwardly implemented, or annoyingly scripted. The mechanics aren’t robust enough to allow anything too crazy, the combat is still average, and the writing won’t win any awards. But it’s simply a fun time, and when I’m asked to think of my favorite quests in these games it usually springs to mind...which is why it would be a terrible idea to write about it. It’s very hard to make fun of something that’s already funny and interesting. On top of that, Shush’s personality doesn’t gel with the comedic psychopathy of the Brotherhood. Perhaps most importantly, this series is already going to run pretty long as it is. So I’ve said my piece on the Dark Brotherhood, but that’ll be the end of it in this let’s play.


“Here we are” said de fancy elf, as he an Shush walked up to de door of some old ruins stickin outta de ground near a river. “In all its majesty: Nenalata. Last surviving kingdom of the Aylieds before their disappearance.”

“ looks kinda a bit exactly like all de other ruins.”

Well, he’s not wrong.

“Quiet you orc filth!” de elf snapped. “I mean, um...the structures are mostly underground. Do not judge the mighty Aylieds by outward appearance.”

“Well at least we got here pretty quick” said Shush. “Shush only counted four bandits an three wolf attacks, so it couldn’t have been dat far.”

“Yes, you were very...efficient.” De elf frowned at a blood-stain on his silk shirt. “I can see how you’ve performed so admirably thus far. But now is not the time for discussion, not when the fruit of my studies lies so close! Onwards!”

Den de elf opened de door to de ruins, ran down de stairs inside, stepped forward three times an den got his head chopped off by a skeleton.

Uh...hang on. That doesn’t seem right.

Let’s rewind that, shall we?

This quest is an escort quest, and anyone familiar with video games knows what that means. Hint: It doesn’t mean anything good. The first time I marched inside Umbaccano was killed by a skeleton in, not one hit, but a mere four or five. As soon as we got within a mile of our bone-chilling foe the unarmored nobleman with no combat experience sprinted over to it as fast as he could, apparently trying to set a world record for quickest execution of a terrible idea. By the time I reached him he was half dead, and I couldn’t distract the undead nuisance quick enough to save him.

After that I told the moron to sit tight by the entrance until I slowly purged the entire floor of anything bigger than a cockroach. Then I had him follow me, dip his toes in the next floor and repeat. There wasn’t much interesting about it, so let’s skip ahead to the end.

“This is it!” said de elf, some time later. “Here we are!”

Shush scratched his head. “It just look like an ordinary wall wit a hole innit.”

“Hmph. Well so it would appear to one of you less intelligent races. But I know the workings of my genius ancestors at work. Observe!”

De elf put de fancy rock wit de swirly markins onnit inside de hole in de wall. Suddenly de whole wall shook an den a part of it moved up into de ceiling, leavin a big door in front of Shush. On de other side of de door dere was a room wit a big stone chair.

Well, a normal-sized chair. It’s a reused asset, after all.

“Huh. Dat’s weird. Why did dey put de throne room behind a secret wall? Aren’t people s’posed to see it?”

“Silence, you stupid oaf!” said de elf, jogging past Shush. “I have no use for you any longer!”

De elf reached into his bag an pulled out a funny-lookin hat. Den he crammed de hat around his giant hair, threw his bag to de ground an started walkin forward.

“Finally, after years of searching, I shall achieve my dreams. By sitting on my ancestor’s throne with the crown in tow, I shall become a conduit of nigh infinite arcane energies! My birth right will finally be mine! Soon all of you filthy inferior races will be pushed back into the dirt where you belong, as I usher forth a new era of the Aylied empire!”

Shush’s grandma always said Shush weren’t de brightest knife in a bag of rocks, or somethin like dat. De point was Shush were not de smarterest orc. Actually, Shush were probably one of de most smarterest around, on account of all his Supa-Smart enchant-y armor. But dat were a DIFFERENT kinda smart. Even doe Shush had trouble wit dose type-a brain thinkins, Shush was startin to get real familiar wit stuff like dis.

Shush sighed. “So is Shush gonna hafta kill you?”


Lightning shot outta de glowy stones in de corners of the room and all went straight into de fancy hat dat de elf were wearing. He started floatin in de air an havin real bright eyes. Den holes started openin in de walls an a buncha skeletons started comin outta dem. Shush rolled his eyes an pulled his hammer offa his back.

“Yeah, Shush thought so.”

The fight with Umbaccano and his minions isn’t too bad, but it does stand out. You see, Oblivion didn’t really have “minion” style enemies like some later Bethesda games did. Everything was scaled closely to your level, so fights are mostly kept to one-on-one. One-on-four at most. However, in this fight...


The game throws like eight of these boney buggers at you at once, on top of the dairy queen haircut tossing lightning bolts at your face. Even though the enemies didn’t do TOO much damage, everyone foe in Oblivion has vast oceans of health in reserve and it was wearing me down. Fortunately, after I gave the elf a quick tap on the shoulder and he crumpled like tissue paper, I found a handy solution to my problem. You see there are these little side passages the anatomy army poured out of, and...

Ha, suck it boneheads! Single-file slaughter!

And so Shush triumphed over another bumbling megalomaniac. Our reward is the crown itself, which has some nice enchantments and is worth a whopping 9100 septims! Wow, that’s a lot of money right?’s the thing: Oblivion vendors have a maximum amount they can pay for sold items. These typically range from around 400-1200, meaning even if you’re worse at negotiating than Claude Maric’s bloated corpse you’ll still get far less than you could for it. We’re talking as much as any standard loot after 10 or 15 levels. It has some potentially useful enchantments, but I’ve been gaming the enchant market far too much for it to surpass my creations. Besides, it’s light armor.

So we went on a perilous journey through ten separate deadly ancient ruins. Even more since it took a while before I got fed up and looked online for the artifact locations. Then after all those dangerous forays into musty old tombs we promptly delved into another with an ambush at the tail-end. Then we broke into someone’s house, escorted a suicidal nobleman through a gauntlet of angry post-life individuals, and practically suffocated in an avalanche of marrow-muscled femur fighters. Our reward...was more money we don’t need because we could already buy every building in the country twice over.

But hey, at least I got to make a bunch of lame skeleton puns and murder people. And in the end, isn’t that what life’s all about?

...that’s rhetorical. Please don’t answer that.

And so Shush looks forward to a new dawn of adventure...
...dawn. Dawn, dawn, hm. I feel like there’s something dawn related we’re forgetting.
Ah well, probably nothing.

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