Monday, May 31, 2010

Oblivion Mod Review - DeathTrap Dungeon EV

Mod Review - Deathtrap Dungeon EV (English translation of a German mod)
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Overall: It's NOT DeathTrap Dungeon. It's neither the original Ian Livingstone Fighting Fantasy version, nor a remake of the Eidos Interactive version. It's just another dungeon crawl, but with crazy-strong creatures.

Why You Would Download This: You like dungeon crawls for the sake of dungeon crawling. You have a uber character (probably with modded gear) or an elite tactician who isn't too proud to stoop to any strategy. Or, you have some nostalgia for the original Fighting Fantasy and were fooled by the name.

First off, in case you were looking for a role-playable version of the original Deathtrap Dungeon -- the Fighting Fantasy book by Ian Livingstone -- this isn't it.

If you are looking for a better remake than the Eidos Interactive version, this isn't it either (although there are token dwarf goblins -- but there are definitely no scantily clad acrobatic warrior priestesses). There's no Baron Sukumvit or the land of Fang. Forget whatever you know about DeathTrap Dungeon and start from zero as just-another-dungeon-crawl-for-Oblivion.

I used the English Translation version. The orginal can be downloaded from Planet Oblivion or Scharesoft-Portal.

This mod makes only a cosmetic edit to the existing game world (placing one NPC at the Imperial City Waterfront to transport you to DeathTrap Dungeon), so as mods go, this one is very easy to install and unisntall when you are done. And certainly nothing so complicated as needing Wyre Bashing or even thinking too much about load order. It's a bit tricky to find the NPC Colanen, however, as he might very well be INSIDE the wall. You may have to use the console command TCL (toggle clipping) to access him. He is near/behind the crates against the wall in front of the pirate ship Marie Elena.

Once you are sent to Deathtrap Dungeon, there's no turning back until you get to the very end.
For any extended expedition, the main problem in Oblivion mirrors real life: Supplies. Although you don't need to eat or sleep, warriors need repairs to their weapons and armour; magic weapons need recharging; alchemists need ingredients; and everyone needs potions for emergencies. Depending on how much you "cheat" with inventory (e.g., you might be using storage mods such as Storage Sacks and Portable Sorters), this mod can be thrillingly dangerous or a bit more tedious than your usual dungeon crawl.

The mod does cut you some slack, however: If you explore the little island you are transported to, you will find an artifact that gives you 100% Frost Shield. The interesting consequence of this is (if you are not using magic mods that change the effect of Frost Shield, such as Supreme Magicka) that whether you have armour or not (or if your armour is completely broken early in the mod) you will have an armour rating of 85 (normally the maximum possible). All a warrior then needs is a weapon, and many creatures drop levelled weapons. In this roundabout way, much of the issue of supplies (like repair hammers) is bypassed.

I entered the Dungeon at level 8 and, with portable storage, had about 150 repair hammers. I was down to 3 when I finished (and switched to cheesy magic tactics after level 2 of 5 levels -- but more on that later).
The first enemies encountered were level 10 Skeleton Legionnaires with powerful maces (huge damage rating, but scripted so you can't pick them up off the ground). The skeletons each had 600 (!) health each. The only reason all three of them (who magically appeared when I got closer) couldn't immediately swarm me is because two of them didn't know how to get past the log trap at the cave entrance.
I always try to get past an encounter without cheesy tactics initially, but it took a lot of potions just to take down the first skeleton.
This is a huge problem with the mod. Rats have 350 health. The first boss was level 1 (!), but with 2000 health. On the second level, there was an argonian mage with 3010 Health, and a skeleton legionnaire boss with 4000 Health. Starting on level 3 you will start to encounter Ogre Berserkers with 3000 health as typical encounters.
There are fewer foes later on, but they are tougher -- practically every encounter will feel like a "mini-boss" encounter.

And there isn't any supporting loot like potions or scrolls to pick up. In fact, if you stealth your way through (possible until you need the key to level 5, the only key that cannot be acquired without killing the boss that protects the key), you won't miss out on much. There is a Daedric Bow and a Daedric Longsword that can be picked up. Some creatures will carry Daedric-level weapons, but not many.

If you have an uber character who isn't daunted by these stats, then it's just another dungeon crawl, and can be a quick trip because there aren't a lot of enemies, and each of the five levels (plus a treasure chamber, which could count as a 6th) are very different, which means you won't get too bored at least of the scenery.

If each fight can drag out, then this mod can get tiresome really quickly. Because the fights are, as mentioned, like mini-boss encounters, it can get boring when you've cleared one, and halfway across the room is yet another 3000-Health Ogre Berserker. Or maybe even two of them. It wouldn't be so bad if, in such a case, they had more variety in enemies.
There are no new models or textures for enemies here, which makes the mod light-weight to download and install, but boring as hell if you've been to Oblivion and back already.

ogre berserker stats

For those who don't have uber characters, how can you possibly get through? Tactics. There are three general tactics here:

(1) 100% Chameleon. 'Nuff said.
(2) Spell Stacking Weakness magic effects. Make a small area effect (10 ft) and make sure your spells all have max-level Calm so you can safely cast the chain on any creature (watch out for Spell Absorption, though).
(3) Command Creature. You'd be surprised how many monsters have a crazily LOW level.
For the ultimate boss, the Baron himself, there is a cooking pot on the left side of the chamber which supposedly enhances your arrows with fire damage, although I didn't try it myself.

If you want to stealth your way to the treasure, you can do so by sneaking around looking for keys (possibly stealing them off keyholders) until the end of level 4. The treasure is sitting upstairs of the last boss of level 4, but there is an invisible barrier preventing you from going up the stairs until the boss is dead.

Speaking of treasure -- The actual treasure of Deathtrap Dungeon is utter rubbish compared to what you had to do to get it. There's a lot of straight cash loot, an Axe of the Dragon (axe model, axe stats), and a Spider Sword (sword picture, sword stats). The "true treasure" of Deathtrap Dungeon is carried by the Baron himself -- if you can figure out how to pick it up.

The best unenchanted weapons in the game are the maces carried by the skeleton legionnaires and the Baron's sabre. However, if the item is dropped on the ground, a script causes it to be destroyed if you try to pick it up.
So, to get any of them, you must kill the person carrying it before they can draw their weapon -- otherwise, on death, they will drop it.

The trick with the Baron is that when his health is low, there will be a cutscene and he will flee into the treasure chamber. You need to follow him to finish up in order to get the key to the main treasure chest as well as get to the exit of DeathTrap Dungeon.
If you manage to kill him in his throne room, you will still get the cutscene, but his body will be nowhere to be found and he will not be in the treasure chamber. So, you need to hurt him enough to cause him to flee, then sneak up on him in the next chamber and kill him before he draws his weapon. You can then grab the sword from his inventory.
The prize? A cutlass that has speed 1.1, reach 1.0, and damage rating 90.

Overall, unless you like fighting or cheesy tactics, don't bother with this mod. There isn't anything particularly worthwhile as a trophy (not even the rank you get displayed in your factions page).
Some work has clearly gone into this mod, however, as there are three cutscenes. We've already mentioned one. There are two others which are very brief, but which are meant to alert you to a way to disarm two traps. Nothing particularly useful in-game, but neat to see and very rare in modding.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Tips for Curse of the Opera

Nightfall Mysteries: Curse of the Opera is more or less straightforward, except for a couple of puzzles that you may find particularly challenging:

  1. Using the Shepherd's Crook to get the Freezer Key: Unlike most scenes of this type, you can't just click the crook anywhere in the shimmering area. Try placing the hook end of the crook under the key.
  2. Freezer panel: Below is a slideshow of a sample sequence that will flip all the squares blue. Look for the hand-shaped cursor -- it tells you which tile will be clicked next.
  3. The demon safe in the Count's Office: This is a tough puzzle involving some vaguely connected numers. The numerical codes are:
    1. Fire Demon - Code 0832 - Way back (check your journal), Vincent mentions that demon blood is 15 degrees colder. Later, you find a note that says human temperature is 98.2. 98.2 less 15 degrees is 83.2, so the code is 0832.
    2. Ice demon - Code 1117 - November 17th, the date on the letter in the drawer of the room with the music box. The letter mentions, "The devil himself cast a spell upon my heart, encasing it with ice, cold and unbreakable."
    3. Darkness Demon - Code 1026 - Outside the Opera House is a pillar with flyers. One of them mentions a radio station FM 102.6 playing "The Deepest Abyss".

Oblivion Mod Review - Tears of the Fiend

Mod Review - Tears of the Fiend
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Overall: OK story, deeply flawed quest design choices. I don't recommend playing this without being willing to read the walkthrough in advance, doing multiple reloads for critical events, and possibly using the console for "impossible" situations. WARNING: This review contains spoilers.

Why You Would Download This: If you've never played Planescape: Torment or Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic, you may actually find the Legacy part (first part) of the story interesting. There are some clever scripting and interesting events.

There's a saying: "Don't judge a book by its cover". From the number of kudos and endorsements, I suspect this is the case here. There is clearly really good scripting ability and there's a lot of work involved. However, at critical points, the storytelling makes such bad choices, and with such severe consequences for progress or completion of the mod, that unless you are okay with reloading (possibly reloading very far back, depending on how much stuff you do in between the quest stages), you may find this mod to be very frustrating. If you haven't before then unloaded it because you found it irritating.
It's very sad to give a mod a bad review when it's so big and so much work has gone into it, but bigger and shinier isn't necessarily better--For example, there are tons of commercially produced games that look great but suck.

Storywise, Tears of the Fiend puts together earlier mods into one integrated whole. I've played through only the Legacy portion at this stage, and will probably not continue further.

The Legacy has more than the usual amount of dialogue, and several cutscenes/flashbacks that convey information to you in a more interesting way than being told by so-and-so, reading it in a book found in-game, or getting a quest update.
There's also clearly more effort put into fleshing out character interactions, with (one) background music for certain intimate conversations with the key character of Allecia Ehothorn, and adding descriptive passages in between what they say to give more insight into character emotions beyond the facial expressions that can be scripted into dialogue in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.

And this pretty much sums up the pretty-book-cover part of this mod. Storywise, it's short, linear, and predicatble. You will have dialogue choices, but some of them really have no choice at all.

MAJOR SPOILER WARNING - We will now be critiquing various plot points in the story. You will obviously find SPOILERS, but you may also find various tips as well.

(1) Near the end of the Tears of the Fiend Guide that is included in the mod package, in a section that is a sort of novelized backstory, we find this paragraph:

"And so the Player's tale began. He defeated Mankar Cameron and Dagon, placed Martin Septim on the Throne and closed shut the gates of Oblivion forevermore. The Player made a name for himself, and demonstrated that he harboured something more than that of an ordinary mortal citizen of Tamriel."

Something this suggests is that Tears of the Fiend is meant for a high-level character. There are some pretty annoying situations (which we'll touch on later) but the very first one is at the very start of the mod in the game, when you are faced by Edward Pellew. It is entirely possible that your character, sleeping for the first time out of the Tutorial and with very few resources, will be killed in under three hits. Your only choice is to unload the mod and reload it later, get a third-party mod-delayer for Tears of the Fiend, or read the walkthrough for help:

"All you need to do to end the fight is hit him 5 times, and he will surrender to you. ... If you are a low-end character and are having trouble defeating Pellew, the best strategy is a "Hit and run" attack, or alternatively try switching to a Bow and attacking from a distance. You will notice that different Inns and Taverns have a slightly different layout for the "rentable rooms." Try to find one which has a reasonable amount of running space, or enough objects that you can exploit the pathing in the close environment in order to avoid his hits, and deliver yours in return."

Instead of such extremes, a clearer solution would be to simply make a check on the character's level and location (e.g., not in jail) before initiating the mod. Or, have Pellew appear nearby when they are in town (or a particular location, and generally not leave the vicinity) and hover around, following the character. Then give a journal entry stating that the player might want to talk to him to find out why he's following the player around. This would (probably) give the player more time to prepare.
Pellew isn't a problem for a better equipped character, but if you are starting a new character, this could be a problem. Sadly, this sort of do-it-this-way-or-else mod design is pervasive in the mod.
What is particularly baffling is that the author of the mod even recognizes these situations in the walkthrough, and yet chooses to do nothing about them.

(2) At some point you will pick up Allecia Ehothorn, your guide to where-to-go-next. She will direct you to the Old Ehotorn Estate. I didn't have trouble finding it, but the guide explains, "It should be noted that the quest pointer for the Ehothorn Estate is deliberately wrong at this point, and you will need to search around slightly for the ACTUAL location of the Ehothorn Estate." Why it should be this way is mysterious: After all, your guide supposedly has been there and knows where it is. One might even suspect the pointer was actually misplaced by the modder.

TIP: If you need to do so in order to momentarily dump your companion (who may end up complicating other quests you might want to do) and acquire resources you may find you need later on in some irritating combat situations, now is the time. Go to the Estate (otherwise she'll keep following) and simply do not pick up the two clue items necessary to further the plot. Just leave the area and go about your business.

(3) At the Ehothorn Estate, shortly prior to leaving, you will be attacked by wolves. They literally just appear out of thin air and in your midst. How? Why? Who knows. For what reason? Probably just to make sure you have a fight, and possibly to try to kill Allecia. The guide says:

"Remember, Allecia is NOT invulnerable, and if she dies the quest is over. You need to draw as much attention from her as possible (by dealing as much damage to as many of the wolves as possible) and endeavour to take the hits FOR Allecia."

And this seems to be the reason for having the encounter at all: To make you care about her by making her vulnerable. By this time you may also have had one or two of four dialogues that can help you find out more about her and her backstory. Other than giving her an attractive face, there's really nothing, however, to make your character actually want to have a relationship with her, although the romantic music and dialogue choices make this approach possible. Whether you consider this to be a storytelling flaw probably depends on how irritated you are by rush-to-kiss-and-sex Hollywood movie love-and-romance done in less than 2 hours.

The wolves do not make for a particularly difficult fight unless you have, despite the encounter with Pellew, insisted on continuing this mod with very few resources. The fight itself isn't the focus of this particular critique. It's the "why": Why have such a pointless encounter, and one designed in this way? There are other less obtuse ways of forcing an encounter, such as by making it an internal cell and having creatures already camped inside the ruins of the Estate. Instead, the modder chooses to have wolves teleport in by forces unknown. Storytelling wise, I feel this is a poor choice.

There will be another time when you must protect Allecia, who is deliberately put in a vulnerable position, and it'll be even more irritating than this one. If you need to drop her off, as mentioned before, don't further the plot just yet.

(4) You will have to speak with Archaeologist Bsarnn to find the location of where to go next. You get one chance at this dialogue, with no chance to change your mind later, even though there is nothing particularly critical: He offers to tell you where it is if you give him one of the clue items found at the Old Ehothorn Estate. Why you can't change your mind and take him up on his offer is very strange and there isn't a particularly story-related compelling reason. After all, the archaeologists just stand there after you talk to them.

(5) Next comes a very irritating fight at the Excavation Site. One which needn't happen at all, except it is forced on you by the modder. In short, you will be swarmed by some monsters that can take time to kill and that can dish out a lot of damage. The guide states:

"Once inside you WILL be attacked by numerous undead (called "Scourge of Armindale") who CAN quite easily kill Allecia. There are two tricks to getting through this section. First of all, you can cast either Convalescence or Shield on her to make her a bit more durable, or -and this is the method I usually use- simply charge ahead, and endeavour to kill the undead (or grab as much attention as possible) before she arrives. It is actual possible to kill all the undead in this section of the Ruins of Armindale before she reaches any of them."

Allecia lights a torch and walks straight ahead, forcing you into this situation. Once in the midst of this, if it doesn't kill you, you have to save her. The so-called tips provided by the author -- using Convalescence or Shield -- are also dubious at best, considering that she will do a lot of running around, making spell targeting very hard and very irritating. And while you're stopping to do that, the zombies are still attacking.

Sure, you can just let her die, but that defeats the whole point of having a big mod loaded in the first place. Depending on how much you got out of the four dialogues with her, you may not yet care enough (or think you can proceed without her with clues yet to be found) to actually try very hard. Without the walkthrough, you might not even know to reload and try, try again.

The most reasonable approach would be to simply drop off Allecia somewhere and proceed alone, or call a retreat (running away and having Allecia follow). Why this isn't offered is just one of the many too-linear dumb-choice situations in this mod.
Being linear isn't on its own wrong in a quest. Simple stories are often linear. In Oblivion, almost every quest storyline is linear. But the big difference between the vanilla quests and what often happens in Tears of the Fiend, is that your actions aren't often as tightly scripted. Typically, you are given a task, and only for tricky tasks (e.g., forging a letter, which requires a third-party to do the forging for you) are you guided through the resources that are made available for you in the game to complete a task.

When a modder forces you into making a dumb choice, one which can potentially break the quest (Allecia being story-critical), then this becomes a very questionable choice in mod design and storytelling.
Also, the difficulty jumps a LOT from the time you met Pellew, to the wolf ambush, and now a swarm of zombies. Just because you could handle a few wolves isn't indicative of whether you are ready for the next stage. And since this quest can start with a brand new character, I feel this is another poor mod design choice.

IMO, a better way of handling this encounter would be to have a couple of zombies early on during entry into the Ruins, and then allow the story to pause again -- drop off Allecia, go travelling for resources, then come back, now that you have an idea of what's coming.
Yes, adventurers do get ambushed by suddenly difficult situations. But it's pointless to do so at an early stage in a quest since you would lock out the rest of the mod. And for a supposedly story-driven mod, there is a surprising amount of badly designed critical combat.

(6) TIP: You can start the Butcher of Armindale story once you get the appropriate flashback and ask Archaeologist Biff about him. However, what the mod or walkthrough doesn't tell you is that you actually can't get very far because the scripting is buggy: Renoit will tell you that you need to wait for Kashaan to come back, by sleeping in an inn. However, this doesn't work (or at least it didn't work for me). Only after you finish the Legacy will it work, and in a strange way: By entering the Wait menu, even if you didn't choose and accept a timeframe to wait, you may be transported into the flashback.

(7) More running around, then another flashback. You enter through a roof into an orphanage.
Later you go to the orphanage, and you supposedly catch Allecia in a lie -- that she somehow knew about entering through the roof when she couldn't have know.
But wait! -- Didn't you recount the dream to her? So actually she _could_ know that information.
Here starts what feels like the most linear and badly plotted part of the Legacy story.

Even if we let it slide that you didn't really catch Allecia in a lie (even if you suspected long ago that she knew more than she was letting on), now the story tries to impose a sense of urgency when there really is none. What drives the supposed race against time is that Allecia believes Pellew and his accomplice Maris to be en route to the Ruins to, presumably, stop them or kill them. Because of this, the player must hurry and lie on the altar to mysteriously have everything explained.

Why someone would agree to lie on an altar, especially without properly knowing what will happen, just so that everything will be explained (how exactly?) is ridiculous. Clearly, Allecia can explain more.
And why someone would do so with hostiles on the way is even more ridiculous. The obvious choice is not to make yourself vulnerable by becoming unconscious, but instead wait for them and deal with them first. And so far there is little to suggest that Pellew and Maris are more competent than simply throwing firebombs to start fires.
Instead, the mod railroads you into a false time crisis.

(8) On the encounter with The Fiend (in a dream sequence from lying on the altar), the guide explains:
"If you gave away 5 or more pieces of information (in other words, the Information Pool is 5+) you will have only 50 seconds to complete the sixth flashback before Allecia is killed, beginning from when you FIRST enter the "dreamscape." ... The trick to getting through this in 50 seconds (aside from taking every shortcut possible) is to also ensure that you simply "click through" the Fiend's dialogue instead of reading it (I usually suggest reading it the first time, then -if Allecia ends up being killed- going back and clicking through it.) Also be sure that your character has a reasonable Speed and acrobatics rating, and you take advantage of the other advice outlined later in this section.".

How you are to know any of this is dubious at best. That you are forced to do something very very specific, including shortcutting through dialogue (which, IMO, completely defeats the purpose of having dialogue in the first place), to save a quest-critical character (Allecia is important even after the Legacy storyline in Tears of the Fiend) should be a clue that this part of the story is completely broken. That the modder hasn't changed it is utterly baffling.

There is an "good" option, to reject the fiend. This requires you to run away. If the fiend catches up, you die. You get a few seconds of a head start, but the probability of fleeing is very low because:
(a) There is a visual distortion effect, which makes it hard to see where you are going, and running into things will result in lost time. The AI-controlled Fiend, however, is under no such handicap.
(b) The bridge to the exit has lots of stairs and twists. One false step, and you can lose time or fall off and be trapped.
(c) Good luck doing all this and still getting out of the dream sequence in time to meet Pellew and Maris before they kill Allecia.

TIP: If you can access the console, you can do the following:
(i) As an additional backup, save your game before activating the altar and entering the dream sequence.
(ii) Save your game as soon as you enter the dream sequence and are notified that you "have to run".
(iii) Do the dream sequence however you like. BUT, when you first encounter the Fiend, open the console again, and click on the Fiend. This will set the Fiend to be the target of certain console commands. You will know if you clicked correctly because in the top middle of the your screen, the name of the item you clicked will show up.
(iv) If you want to shortcut things and be out of the dream sequence in time to save Allecia, just reload your game (either from step i. or ii.). When you enter the dream sequence, step forward a bit, and then open the console. The Fiend should still be selected as the target (his name should still be in the upper middle of your screen assuming you didn't have to exit Oblivion and restart the application). Type the command moveto player to bring the Fiend to you. This saves you a lot of time running around.
(v) If you want to run from the fiend, move back to the starting point (the altar in the dream sequence). If you are not immediately transported, move away from the altar. The trigger point is very close by, but not exactly at the altar itself.

(9) Now that you are back, you may have to fight Pellew and Maris. Pellew has a superweapon, despite what the mod author claims:

"Pellew on the other hand doesn't do a great deal of damage, however he has the Sword of the Celestial which gives him the ability to dominate Fiends (such as yourself) by knowing their REAL name (you will have learned this if you read Pellew and Other Children's Tales. It was how he defeated Quuarll - Allecia.) If you are hit 5 times by Pellew, you will see a message box advise you that you have spoken the first syllable of your Fiendish name. If you are hit a total of 15 times, you will instantly be killed, regardless of the damage dealt. Obviously the trick here is to either Hit and Run, or to use ranged attacks (eerily reminiscent of how you found Pellew the first time, wouldn't you agree?)"

In the story mentioned, Pellew did NOT defeat Quorrol by beating her on the head with his sword. He talked to her and found out her lineage first. As you are an orphan neither you nor Pellew can know your lineage. Also, it feels like utter rubbish that getting hit by a sword will cause you to speak the first syllable of your Fiendish name. If the modder wants to give Pellew a superweapon, just give him one. I'm not sure whether a bad story is worse than a deus ex machina weapon.

Further, Maris will heal Pellew, which means you will probably want to deal with Maris -- which also means Pellew gets free hits against you. Its an irritating encounter, and if you have survived this long, you will probably cheese them with spells or poison, if not for sheer practicality then just to get past this irritating encounter.

(10) The final stage of the Legacy story involves talking to Allecia. There is apparently only one correct dialogue path IF you want more story later on, since Allecia plays an important role in the other storylines.
The choices are obvious if you've paid attention to the flashbacks and dialogue, but it also railroads you into a certain role, one which can be very out of character or just against how you want to play. But if you want to play out the rest of the mod, there's really no choice here. You MUST fall in line with the modder's vision. It's their way or the highway.

Overall, the feeling in Tears of the Fiend is that someone has a character in mind, and you either play out that particular character, or don't bother. There's a story here (whether it is a particularly good one and worthwhile to play through is up to individual opinion) and a lot of scripting and work to try to enhance the storytelling. For some people, that might be worth the download.
But for those who don't like to play someone else's character, who want to feel like they have choices and a certain freedom in how to resolve tasks, who didn't pick up a mod to essentially just read a novel, then this mod will probably be frustrating and disappointing.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Oblivion Mod Review - House of Healing at Weye

Mod Review - House of Healing at Weye
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Overall: Educational. Uninstall when done.

Why You Would Download This: To sample a better style of quest-making.

The author warns that the mod is more or less abandoned, and if you are running lots of Weye mods, it can conflict. I don't run any Weye mods myself, so for me it was a clean and simple installation.

The highlight of this mod is the quests, though the actual completion of the quests are disappointing, for complex reasons. First, the quests:

The quests are strongly themed around what the mod is about -- a place of healing. Sort of a like a sad charity running more on goodwill than anything else. Very much like many of the smaller social services that don't receive a lot (or any) funding. Like such places, there's a lot of work to be done, and most of it is thankless.

The "work" (i.e., the quests you are given) are designed and scripted to be much more interesting than kill-this-get-that or the typical "Fedex" get-me-this-i'm-too-lazy-to-get-it quest that plagues not just Oblivion but many other computer RPGs. For this reason, and this reason alone, you may be interested in having a close look at this mod.

If you are looking for an actual reward from this quest, something to take away with your character when you're "done", even if it is a keepsake, this mod won't do it in the long run. The problem is that Oblivion is a game, and there is a certain distance and detachment that comes with it. For starters, you don't even need to eat or sleep. You don't really have friends or a social life. You could get a mod that gives you a companion, but often they are more of a chore to keep alive and micromanage than anything. What, then, can volunteering do for your character?

In the real world, sustainable volunteering typically has tangible benefits. It is generally acknowledged by organizations that the mere wanting-to-help is typically not enough. To have a stable and committed volunteer base generally requires at least periodic recognition of volunteers and other real world benefits, either in goods (e.g., free tickets, volunteer appreciation party), services (e.g., discounts if you shop at the thrift store), or prestige (e.g., formal recognition and celebration). Otherwise, it would take a severe amount of self-motivation and loyalty, and such a volunteer would probably end up going elsewhere to do the same thing, but with more benefits.

If you examine the quests in unmodded Oblivion, even the simplest task almost always ends in some sort of reward, even if it is a bit of gold. A mere pat on the back means nothing in a world where you largely act with impunity anyway, where wealth is easy to come by, and you rarely feel any actual relationship with anyone. Some few times you are rewarded with humour (e.g., you get potato bread -- whoop de doo), but those are few and far between.
Even the official "house plugins" such as Deepscorn Hollow and Battlehorn Castle come with benefits above and beyond merely being a home (e.g. Deepscorn Hollow is the only source of ChokeBerries, which has an effect similar to the Dark Brotherhood's Poisoned Apples, except you need not do anything complicated like join the Dark Brotherhood).

With the House of Healing, then, you will probably come to a point where you feel or realize that it is pointless to keep going. You will just be wasting your time here when you could be furthering some other quest. And the mod does in fact acknowledge this possibility with a "resignation letter" from some previous hero who was persuaded to help them.

For the story-telling skill involved, it's worth checking out if you are interested in story and not as focussed on interesting loot (after a while, even lots of money gets boring in Oblivion, when there's nothing to spend it on). When you are no longer doing anything with it in-game, you might as well uninstall the whole thing. Sadly, the time you put in will probably not make any difference.

How could this mod be made better? We've talked about rewards, but the backstory precludes gold or valuable goods -- such would have instead been used by the House of Healing to maintain operations. Going back to our analysis of what helps volunteer retention, we can try three things: goods, services, and prestige.

Prestige is probably the simplest, but is still limited in its usefulness, especially if you use money (e.g., one of the later quests requires you to raise 1000 gold per day to keep the House running) to trade for points of Fame or a reduction in Infamy. Either way, there's a limit to the usefulness of Fame / Infamy, and once reached (or maybe it can be reached more easily another way), House of Healing becomes boring.

Services, or access to better services, might be implemented in a manner similar to the Mage's Guild, where tasks must be completed to access services. Here are some possible services to make the House of Healing interesting and relevant throughout the character's game:
  • Whereas the House of Healing may procure many ingredients, they might be interested in a greater quantity of generally useful ones rather than having exotic ones of limited use. A larger quantity of common ingredients and potions with a healing component (e.g., Restore Health, Cure Disease) could be swapped for rare ingredients or ingredients that are predominantly harmful (e.g., Harrada, which only has harmful effects).
  • Free on-demand healing (or an AI scripted to cast them on the player automatically) for disease, poison, and health.
  • The House of Healing uses unorthodox methods, which might be more useful than "regular" Alchemy. A character could learn:
    • How to cast more efficient Restoration spells (a small Fortify Restoration ability, that can be swapped for a stronger one as they complete certain quests)
    • How to make better potions: Swap one potion for a lighter version, or a version with a longer duration.
    • Tap previously unknown ingredient properties: Swap one type of ingredient into the same, but with effects not normally available to the ingredient. For example, Frost Salts could be changed to have Frost Damage, Burden, and Paralysis effects (a different version of their harmful effects, caused by a slow-down due to cold).
  • Make the healers into merchants that can sell donations (like a thrift store) or alchemy. They could have little or no trading gold, low Mercantile ability, high Disposition toward the player, and sell poisons (normally not easily buyable -- it's even tricky getting them from the main official source, Shady Sam), assorted clutter (like a thrift store; for story and immersion only, as it is unlikely that players will need any), and a few very rare ingredients, such as human skin, human heart, and imp fluid (not actually placed in-game, but available in the Construction Set).
Giving Goods is probably the simplest and most boring quest reward and therefore in a way the trickiest. Oblivion tried to tackle this, somewhat awkwardly, with levelled quest rewards so that you would get items that were level-appropriate, and theoretically useful at the level at which you got them. Here are some suggestions for an implementation that would make the mod a keeper.
  • Access to free (and zero-valued) items, such as Cure Disease potions and scrolls (as well as on-demand healing. These could also be special 0-weight versions but only occasionally available (since the House of Healing would need such themselves).
  • Portable statue of Mara or Meridia, which can be used occasionally for a blessing regardless of Fame or Infamy.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Oblivion Mod Review - Meogron Knights

Mod Review - Meogron Knights (v1.6)
( )

Overall: Do not download - Badly thought out mod that modifies official plug-in files.

Why You Would Download This: Your list of mods has no dependencies on official files. You want to see a few more monsters here and there. You have finished the official Oblivion quests and just want to fight tough hand-placed boss monsters.

The "do not download" recommendation comes from the fact that the "mod" edits three official plugins: Horse Armor, Spell Tomes, and Knights of the Nine. This is very bad for many reasons.
For example, these official plugins might be themselves modified by other mods (most notably, the Unofficial Official Mods Patches (UOMP), which fix all sorts of leftover bugs).

It's possible that the author of Meogron Knights has taken that into account, but unlikely, since the Unofficial Patches would have to be loaded AFTER the official files, and this mod changes the official files. And the author states offhandedly, "Also I fixed few game bugs like Mora quest award. Now it gives +10 willpower as it should, also path of steel gives now +10 Str and End instead +10 Str and speed. Cameron staff has been fixed too and also it looks different." If these are the only changes, then it is a poor substitute for the UOMP.

It is also not worth your time to check into potential conflicts and it would be tedious to do so, because changes to the official files WON'T be easily discerned from official plugin content in The Elder Scrolls Editor.
If you actually trust the author of this mod above something as time-tested and community-approved as the Unofficial Official Mods Patches, then you may still want to consider that if you have a mod that relies on these plugins (although there aren't that many), then you have no idea how they will interact because those modders will not have counted on having the Meogron version.

After all these complications, if you still want to install this mod, obviously you will need to backup your original files.

Content-wise, if you read the (version 1.6) description, you may get the sense that although the author claims " So basically it doesn´t change the game as Oscura or Martigan mod, but it adds things in normal leveled lists. (such as weapons, armours, creatures, and scrolls and potions)", the mish-mash kitchen-sink approach to this mod actually does result in widespread changes, including music and the addition of items.
The focus of the mod still seems to be monsters, so lets examine that.

The monsters added are generally of two types: Additions to levelled lists, and hand-placed bosses in dungeons.

The basic additions list is moderate in size, but the author admittedly uses content from other popular mods, such as the excellent Martigen's Monster Mod. So if you're worried about missing out, you can probably get most and more content elsewhere. Otherwise, the effect looks pretty standard -- More monsters available.
It is not necessarily the case that more will show up. For example, a low-level character used to seeing imps might now see mostly ice bats at a certain level.
It feels like there is a bit more variety as you progress through character levels and thereby make more powerful monsters available on the leveled lists. But not necessarily more variety while you are still wandering Tamriel at a particular level.

For the hand-placed bosses, if you don't care about the game world as a whole and just want to fight, it probably won't bother you much that they are designed to be tough just to be tough. If you are still completing various quests, you may find that the placement of some bosses are awkward, if not outright stupid.
For example, there is a "Crystal Spider" in Fort Blueblood, described as a "deadly foe against spell casters". This creature has a very high chance of negating spells, either through spell absorption or outright spell reflection. All of which makes fighting it with spells tedious if not suicidal.

The author's justification is "Are you playing pure spellcaster then no melee or archery? I usually prefer melee caster. Beside everything dont have to be easy." There are so many problems with this defense.

First of all, it is based on the author's particular style of play, which tells you where their mindset is. This is an invalid defense and a short-sighted approach to design. We further have no idea how it was "tested", if at all. What did the author's character have? Is the spider of a fixed level? (Would that really make a difference?)

Second, although there is nothing inherently wrong with an encounter that is skewed against one specialty (the "luck of the draw in an open-ended world" type defense), Fort Blueblood deserves an exception because it is specifically a mage location, being a critical location for the Leyawiin Recommendation. And because it is a Mage's Guild Recommendation quest, we can expect it to be completed by low to lower-middle level characters.
Further, the placement of the Crystal Spider means it MUST be defeated: It is in the final location of the quest item, and there is a bug that can occur when monsters in that location are allowed to leave the chamber or are left undefeated.

When I tried it, the Crystal Spider did leave the chamber but was ultimately defeated. When I went back to finish up the quest, Kalthar did not have the required key for me to exit the room. This is an extremely serious bug because the door is locked as "key only" and cannot be lockpicked. Unless you know how to use the console, you're stuck. And if you thought the key was to be found in the room, you're stuck too because that's not how it's scripted to play out.
I restarted a game with this mod taken out. There were a few imps in the room. I killed them without letting any leave the chamber. Kalthar turned up as he should, and had the key on him when he died. Everything went smoothly as it should. If I hadn't researched the situation, I wouldn't have known earlier on that the key was meant to be on him.

For the bosses, if you like tough fights (especially if you will then unload this mod), this may be a decent sidetrip. (But keep a copy of a savegame where you haven't yet installed this mod, in case uninstalling this mod causes you to be unable to load or save games anymore -- some extensive mods can do that when unloaded).
However, if you just want to fight bosses (whether you uninstall the mod later or not), there are other more interesting alternatives out there, such as Martigen's Monster Mod (very highly and easily customizable) and Hentai Mania (it's not what it sounds -- trailer here, sample boss fight here).

Overall - It's in between an overhaul and a monster mod. The confused style of what goes into this mod makes it harder to integrate. Decide on what you want and choose a dedicated mod instead. There are excellent and extensive monster mods and item mods (like Armamentarium).

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - GQ Magicka from Soul Gem

GQ Magicka from Soul Gem
Alternate Download Location (requires login).

This is a simple mod for Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion to empty soulgems and get some Magicka-restoring ingredient in return. It requires the Oblivion Script Extender.
This uses a modified version of Strategy Master's Soul Delete script aaSMSoulDeleteScript ( ).

GQ Magicka from Soul Gem

Version 2
- Now works on stacks of gems dropped.
- Added a quest-item key that does the same thing. Use the Console to get it. Form ID xx0037c7, where xx is the position in the mod load order in hexadecimal

Requires OBSE
This uses a modified version of Strategy Master's Soul Delete script aaSMSoulDeleteScript ( ).

This mods puts a script on a Pewter Pitcher (Form ID 1C61F). Hotkey it and, while looking at a filled soul gem, equip it via hotkey. There is also a quest-item Key that is not in-game but can be added with the console (FormID xx0037C7).

The soul gem will be emptied and the soul inside converted into units of a "Distilled Magicka" ingredient (which you can imagine to be poured inside the pewter pitcher). The amount received varies according to the Magicka values for each soul level (may vary with a mod), Mysticism skill, and Luck.
The Distilled Magicka ingredient returns 50 Magicka over 50 seconds when ingested. All four ingredient slots are Restore Magicka, which can advantage you when using the Alchemy Advanced mod.
Each time a soulgem is emptied, Mysticism skill is increased by 1-5 uses, depending on the soul level emptied.

KNOWN ISSUE - If there is more than one soulgem or soulgem stack near the one you are looking at, more than one gem might be grabbed by the script although only one is processed properly.
KNOWN ISSUE - If used on a non-vanilla Oblivion soulgem that is pre-filled, it will be replaced by a non-black vanilla soulgem with the same maximum soul capacity
KNOWN ISSUE - Clearing a pre-filled gem also clears a "stolen" attribute -- We destroy one pre-filled gem of the same type and create one new empty gem.
KNOWN ISSUE - Extra-data issue exists: If a stack of cleared player-filled gems is in inventory, the next time any one soul is captured, the entire stack becomes filled, instead of just one gem
- use an extra-data cleaner, like the Scrolls bag of the Portable Sorters mod, to clear it
- we can't simply remove them in inventory because we can't be sure which gems will be deleted
- using a proxy NPC to remove it caused a script bug where the script looped back to the start

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Oblivion mod review - Mysteries of the Dulan Cult

Mod Review - Mysteries of the Dulan Cult
( )

Overall: Do not download. Or, download, play this short mod, then unload it.

Why You Would Download This: Short dungeon run. With a medium or low-medium strength character, you can zoom through the dungeon portion and have one, maybe two, challenging fights.

The "do not download" recommendation comes from the fact that scores of cells are changed by the mod (if you look at it in the TES Editor), but none of this is evidenced in the game, so it's probably a "dirty mod" -- unintended changes that may or may not have an effect on your game. And honestly, it's not worth your while to figure it out.

Mysteries of the Dulan Cult starts out as a promising mod with focus on story. This is typical even of commercial games, where the early parts of the game receive attention, then maybe because fatigue sets in or time constraints force shortcuts, the rest of the game gets less detail. In the case of this mod, after you get access under the Abandoned House, all story seems to go out the window. Depending on what you are looking for, you may or may not uninstall the mod at this point.

There are practically no quest markers. Modders often defend this as a choice to not "dumb down" their mod, but Oblivion is such that just walking around, you will probably pick up 5 quests per city. If you don't have quest updates, you'll probably not even remember to get back to a particular quest.
Also, sometimes it's genuinely not clear what to do next. Maybe clear to the modder, but not to the general public.

You will also find overpriced items on just about every opponent. If you are willing to Fast Travel a lot, you can make a ridiculous amount of cash here. Pricing is not fully thought out, as some of the better items cost way less than inferior ones.
You also start the game with a hideously powerful sword and shield which you simply pick up from the Abandoned House, without yet having done anything to earn it.
Various enemies use them as well, but they are few and too easily defeated to count even as mini-bosses. As I said, lots of loot. Hardly any effort.

The early part of the game has no risk -- as directed, you read a flyer in the Imperial City Market District. Following the information there, you go to Anvil and travel far to the south east of the city to the Abandoned House. Another clue will take you to Sideways Cave, then you finally have access to the deeper part of the basement of the Abandoned House. If you happened to walk into Sideways Caver prior to this, you will already have what is necessary to finish up at the Abandoned House.

The "dungeon" part of this mod is nearly pitch-dark, as a "real" dungeon ought to be. The cultists here have armor that has a transparent or no texture. It's not clear whether this was intentional, but the cultists look like disembodied heads and limbs. Harder to spot in the dark except for the Alchemists who have permanent Bound Weapons (like the Mythic Dawn Assassins) in the Tutorial that might glow in the dark, depending on what mods you have running.

There's evidence that this was in fact unintentional because the magic elemental damage sword had no texture and showed up pink, and there was a statue in the dungeons with the big yellow "I'm missing a texture" message.

Enemies do not appear to be levelled. You can sneak and snipe just about everyone. One or two "bosses" will have over 100 Health, but you may well also kill those even before you get to mouse over their names and figure out they were a boss monster.

The majority of the enemies (sporting 1000-gp see-through armor) appear to have only about 20 health, but carry health potions of which they might get to use one or two if you didn't one-shot-kill them. This is good and bad in terms of mod design.
On the good side, it means minions are minions and you can blow past them to get to the good stuff while experiencing the atmosphere of the dark dungeon. The hundred or so potions you'll end up picking up also means that if you don't like running back and forth to resupply, you don't really have to. With the number of enemies in this dungeon, aggressively levelling minions could have resulted in a pretty tedious experience.
On the bad side, it can get boring for a mage or thief who can one-shot minions with 20, 50, even 100 health.

There are really only two boss monsters, and the difficulty jumps up suddenly, so if you were used to the cheesy minions, suddenly you might need to come back at a higher level. This big leap is, IMO, rather bad design and probably an oversight.

Another probable oversight is one of the "experiments" you come across. It is mentioned in a note you find in-game that this being was promising in its intelligence and aptitude. When you finally encounter it, it is no tougher than one of the weaker cultists.

Finally you'll come to the titular boss mentioned in various notes. That you might be able to one-shot him with a powerful spell makes this an anti-climactic encounter. Even if you can't, he's still the weakest of the three bosses.
Still no quest update, so you can't be sure what to do next or if this is the end. You can pick up some wierd "artifacts" worth tens of thousands, but nothing happens. Some people have mentioned getting a "pyramid helmet", but it didn't do anything.

Overall, you'll download this mod if you like a fairly quick dungeon run in a pitch-dark dungeon. If you like sneaking and a quick game where you just blow through popcorn minions and have a couple of moderately tough fights. Otherwise, there's not much to recommend this mod. If there's more story than what I experienced, it wasn't communicated adequately and clearly I missed it.

If you run a lot of mods and especially city overhauls, I highly recommend not installing this for the aforementioned reason that it changes a lot of cells with unclear effect. I have over 200 items loaded and Wyre Bashed, and I was appalled to find out this was a dirty mod with so many apparently unnecessary cell edits.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Tiber Septim Brothel Walkthrough

Adult Adventure - Tiber Septim Brothel is a "mature-rated" mod for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, by ghsmithDallas. It's a tongue-in-cheek style fun mod, but the lack of Oblivion-style lead-you-by-the-nose clues and journal updates makes it challenging. Here are some helpful hints:

There is a HUGE amount of running around in this mod. You may want to get some sort of teleportation spell, either from LAME (Less Annoying Magic Experience); or the excellent SN Mark Recall mod which can mark over 40 locations, uses cheap spells that can be cast at low skill levels, and is somewhat configurable by an INI file.

You will need cash. Alchemy is a good way to raise cash that doesn't take up too much time as you will have to go into various taverns anyway.

  1. You should receive a journal update when you load a game with this mod active. Go to the Tiber Septim Hotel to meet your manager, Madam Barrows. Don't blow the 30,000 cash that you will be given.
  2. Madam Barrows asks you to hire three prostitutes. Stop at three and report back, to save some running around.
    1. Because the "prostitute career" dialogue option always ends in exiting dialogue, be careful when using it on non-prostitutes as you might break quest dialogues in Oblivion or other mods.
    2. None of the Middle-Class or Imperial City prostitutes will join yet.
    3. Locations of the prostitutes:
      1. Anvil
        1. Heidi - Mage's Guild
        2. Holly - The Count's Arms
        3. Pablo -Fighter's Guild
        4. Riker - The Count's Arms
      2. Bravil - Amber - Silverhome on the Water
      3. Bruma - Candy - Olav's Tap and Tack
      4. Cheydinhal
        1. Suzie - Cheydinhal Bridge Inn
        2. Vivian - Newlands Lodge
      5. Chorrol
        1. Geraldine - Castle Barracks
        2. Irma - Northern Goods and Trade
      6. Imperial City
        1. Gabrielle - Waterfront District, Waterfront Trading Company Office
        2. Jasmine - Market District, First Edition
        3. Xaviera - Prison District, The Bastion
      7. Leyawiin
        1. Kirstin - Best Goods and Guarantees
        2. Sasha - Chapel of Zenithar
      8. Skingrad
        1. Domenica - Colovian Traders
        2. Sera - Hammer and Tongs
        3. Vicki - Castle Skingrad, County Hall
    4. Holly and Sasha have pimps who will come after you in a public place. If you are worried about hitting bystanders, just keep blocking and occasionally heal yourself. They aren't meant to be deadly encounters, and the bystanders will eventually defeat them for you.
    5. Hiring Geraldine and Xaviera results in a bounty placed on you. To avoid paying it, you can raise the disposition of the nearest guards to 90+. Because they like you so much, they will remove the bounty on you as a favour (recall that they say "if you run into trouble, come find me"?). If you are having trouble getting a high disposition with them, try a Charm spell to raise their Disposition or alchemy to raise your Personality.
    6. The key prostitutes to get are Vicki, Geraldine, Candy, Sasha, Pablo.
  3. Madam Barrows will ask you to buy a brothel license and licenses for each prostitute on staff. If you can afford it, buy 14 licenses for prostitutes to save you a bit of running around later. (Total $8000!)
  4. Madam Barrows will suggest various administrative tasks. Buy everything you can afford. You may be penalized later if you don't.
  5. Madam Barrows will tell you to market the brothel to at least 15 inns and taverns.
    1. Eventually you will want to do as many as you can and hire along the way. For now, do 15 and report back to Madam Barrows to unlock the next task. You'll run around more later, so you can do the rest afterwards en route.
    2. If a proposition results in the topic "maybe later", then the prostitute is hireable but you need to do more marketing to get more clientele first. If you don't advance in the dialogue at all (to "Offer Job" or "Maybe Later"), then she's not available for hire at all at this stage of the quest.
    3. You can now hire Middle-Class prostitutes. Hire them all.
    4. The following Inns do not offer a Bribe option: The All-Saints Inn, Border Watch Inn, and Imperial Bridge Inn. At the King and Queen in the Imperial City Elven Gardens, you will need to speak with Ley Marillin; his wife Pista does not have the Bribe option.
    5. Try to take note of what they say when you bribe them, as they essentially tell you what type of prostitute to hire.
  6. Madam Barrows offers marketing schemes. Buy everything you can as it increases your clientele, allowing you to hire more prostitutes.
  7. Madam Barrows will tell you to "recruit cities". You might as well do this while you are working on bribing more inns and taverns. To complete this task...
    1. Talk to any one man and any one woman in every city (not the small villages). You can take note of what they say, although it is probably too vague to be useful at this time.
    2. Go back to Madam Barrows. If you don't yet have the right prostitute mix, she'll suggest you ask beggars. If you noticed what the innkeepers told you when you bribed them, you might not even need their help.
    3. Whenever you have the right mix of prostitutes, you can skip all this running around and just report back to Madam Barrows. There will not be a journal entry or other notification telling you this.
    4. Complete your prostitute list by getting the Lower Class prostitutes Vicki, Geraldine, Candy, Sasha, Pablo; and getting all the Middle Class prostitutes as you can.
    5. Go back to Madam Barrows when your roster is complete. She should now say you have the perfect mix, and ask you to recruit the cities (again). Go to every city and gain talk to a man and a woman. They should all be happy with your brothel. Report back to Madam Barrows.
  8. Good News Bad News - Pablo
    1. You will have to help Pablo twice, once with Manly Mike (Anvil Docks) and then with Mandi (standing next to Manly Mike).
    2. Both solutions are the same: Getting a Red Velvet Outfit. This is NOT the same as a set of Red Velvet Garments and Red Velvet Pants, even though those are redder in appearance.
    3. Without mods, there are very few guaranteed instances of the outfit:
      1. Anvil, Mage's Guild, Living Quarters
      2. Bruma, Nord Winds
      3. Leyawiin, Rosentia Gallenus's House, 2nd Floor
      4. Imperial City, Talos District, Dorian's House, 2nd Floor
    4. You can give yourself an outfit via the console with "player.additem a498e 1"
    5. Pay attention to what Mandi says!
  9. Good News Bad News - Heidi
    1. Go back to Heidi in Anvil, Mage's Guild. She will say her husband Duncan is a "Guild member".
    2. Go to the Fighter's Guild and ask around. You will be directed to Aleswell.
    3. Go to Aleswell and talk to Duncan. He will want to meet back in the Anvil Fighter's Guild. If you don't want to wait, you can use the console:
      1. Click him to get his name and ID showing in the upper middle of your screen.
      2. Go to the Anvil Fighter's Guild and open the console again.
      3. His name and ID should still be displayed in the upper middle of your screen if you haven't clicked on anything else while in console mode.
      4. Type the command "moveto player". He should appear a short distance away. He may run for a second or so until his AI realizes he's already at his destination.
    4. Go back to Anvil and wait for him to get there. He wants a wife.
    5. Remember what Mandi said? She said exactly the same thing Manly Mike said, and then something else about wanting a Fighter's Guild member. So, talk to Mandi and lead her to the Fighter's Guild to hook them up.
      1. There is a chance she will not enter the guild hall with you at night when the doors are locked. You can still complete this quest as she doesn't need to speak with Duncan directly.
      2. If you enter the guildhall at night (and are not a Fighter's Guild member), the door will be locked from the inside.
  10. Serial Killer
    1. After being informed of this development, exit the Tiber Septim Hotel to find Sally dead in the plaza there, even though she was working the Market District before.
    2. Talk to the guard (or not). Take her black book from her body. Apparently "x" means she completed her appointment with them already. Jack Reaper is the obvious suspect since a modder would never dare kill off a vanilla Oblivion NPC that might be important in a vanilla Oblivion quest.
    3. The guards say no one local would kill her, so head out to the sites of the other killings - Anvil, Bruma, Cheydinhal.
      1. Because no locals would kill her, you don't really need to go through Sally's black book and talk to the Imperial City suspects.
      2. There are no dead bodies at the other cities. You can talk to any guard (even unique characters, as long as they have "guard powers" to arrest you). All the guards will refer to a killing and say it must have been a stranger.
      3. Since strangers to town would stay at an inn, that is your next stop.
    4. Ask innkeepers about strangers. Even if you have what sounds like a good lead, you must talk to all three innkeepers on this list in order to proceed. No one else will have a "strangers" dialogue option.
      1. Anvil - The Count's Arms
      2. Bruma - Jerall View Inn
      3. Cheydinhal - Cheydinhal Bridge Inn
    5. You get a lead that sends you to Leyawiin. Talk to a guard there about Jack Reaper to learn his history.
    6. Go back to the Merchant Inn to confront Jack. Jack tells you that you don't have proof and to instead find proof of his innocence. He then runs off to "complete his mission". Follow him so you'll know where to find him later -- On the bridge from the Market District to the Prison.
    7. By now you will have learnt that he frequents / talks to prostitutes. Go to the various cities to talk to prostitutes. Or, you can just talk to Vivian in the Cheydinhal Newlands Lodge. Vivian tells you about his "mission". Go back to apologize to Jack.
    8. Jack gives you a lead about Althea.
      1. Check it out by talking to a guard in the city in which it happened.
      2. Confront her in the Imperial City, Elven Gardens District, Luther Broad's Boarding House. Don't sell her skooma.
        1. If you have the other Adult Adventure mod, Sword and Scabbard, there will be another Althea in the Tiber Septim Hotel. She's not the correct one and won't have appropriate dialogue anyway.
  11. Specialty Prostitutes - Madam Barrows wants you to hire three Specialty prostitutes. They are the three in the Imperial City.
  12. Madam Barrows next wants you to market the specialty prostitutes at the King and Queen. This is just a straightforward bribe as before.
    1. It is possible that there was some mix-up with the taverns as the All-Saints is the only place in the Imperial City that doesn't give an option to bribe for marketing. Possibly it was meant that the King and Queen was reserved for marketing the specialty prostitutes at this stage.
  13. Drug Dealer - Madam Barrows is worried after a drug dealer in the Talos Plaza approached one of the prostitutes.
    1. Speak with Freddie in the Talos Plaza, The Foaming Flask. He'll want (one bottle of) skooma.
    2. If you sold Althea's skooma, there's no shortage of it nearby unless you've already looted Tamriel. Without mods, here are sources of skooma, with several in the Imperial City.
    3. Freddie directs you to his source in the Imperial City Waterfront, Bloated Float Tavern. Talk to Bethany Stone.
    4. Bethany Stone wants you to "rescue" her sister Diane from Prison. You just need to somehow unlock her cell and thereby get to speak with her.
      1. Facing the jailor, take the stairs of the right. The jailor will probably just sit at his desk, so even if he detected you as you walked down the stairs, if you stand still, you will go into hiding again. Pick the lock and go downstairs, then pick the lock to her cell.
    5. Talk to Diane, who then leaves Prison to meet you and her sister in the basement of the Tiber Septim Hote. She won't be there, and neither will her sister. Instead, go to the Bloated Float and report to Bethany.
    6. Bethany suggests a scheme that requires 50 bottles of fake skooma. You can order this from either Sinderion (Skingrad, West Weald Inn, basement) or Dagail (Leyawiin Mage's Guild).
      1. If Sinderion is working on an Elixir of Exploration for you (which requires 24 hours), he will immediately exit conversation with you, so you'll have to try Dagail.
      2. Even if you haven't finished the Leyawiin Recommendation and Dagail is still a nutjob, she will offer to make the fake skooma for you.
    7. Pick up the fake skooma when a day has passed. Go back to the Bloated Float to give it to Bethany, who says she will meet you with her sister at the Tiber Septim basement. She will appear there in about 24 hours.
  14. After speaking with Bethanyh and concluding the skooma dealers quest, report back to Madam Barrows. There are no more quests.