A Novel Approach

In my explorations of the non-linear adventures of the past and present, I’ve embarked on a trek through the timeline of Bethesda Softworks. I’ve commented frequently on my experiences with Fallout: New Vegas and even touched on my journeys within Fallout 3, but I thought I would go even farther back in the Xbox 360 cycle and pick up The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion — the fifth year anniversary edition — and try something both outside the genre of the Fallout games and outside my usual reading preferences as well.

I should make note here that I have played the game before. I was… bullied into playing the game on a PC about a year ago. A friend of mine kept talking about his experiences with the game, the mods he was using and how much time he had sunk into the game over the several years he had playing. Upon a sale on Steam, he reminded me that I should I should play and, finally, I submitted to his wishes and bought the game. That first time, I rushed through the game and played the story narrative very closely. True, yes, I daubed with some side quest things, played around in the Arena area, but I wasn’t playing much attention to the world and definitely was not trying to invest into any character and play out any role. Well, any role other than the reluctant and forceful hero that wanted to just get through the story.

This second time to the game, I wanted to take it slower. Both because I wanted to extend my stay and because I wanted some of the same experiences I had been having with Fallout: New Vegas: fighting with my will as a player against that of the role of the character. After spending some time with the character creator, and my own personally created back-story for the character, I ventured into this world of Oblivion and sought to align my character with a reputable Guild.

You start the game as a criminal. As far I can remember from my first playthrough, your crime is never told to you. Regardless, you find yourself in a jail and, upon a series of situations, face to face with the emperor of the land. He has a task for you. First, protect him as him and his guards travel through the underground passages. Second, once this is done and he is dying, take an amulet and deliver it to his bastard son. I did the former. For the later, well, I thought it could wait until I could build up some money, credit and tools. I had a world to explore, this bastard son thing could wait.

I made my character as a Mage and invested in skills that would raise her Magicka, her ability to use spells. I often play fantasy games as a warrior-type, as I had in the previous playthrough, and wanted to try the game from a purely spell-casting frame of mind. For any attack, I would rely on my spells and effects before I would resort to physical weapons. Naturally then I searched of the first Mage Guild building I could find and signed myself up with them. If I was going to take a second chance at the world, both as a character fresh out of prison and a player on a second playthrough, I would need to build up my reputation with the Guilds, people and local town. What better way than to develop some professional relationships?

One of the consequences of becoming part of a Guild is that nearly all items within their building then become your property. All Guilds are built around a community aspect to their organizations where items, weapons and other goods are shared among them. So, by becoming one of them, you gain access to all the objects — for the most part — within the building. I knew this already and took advantage of it to make some quick money. I ran around the building and picked up everything I could hold and then went to the merchant within the Guild and began to sell it back to them. Once I had taken possession of them, both via a member of the Guild and once it was in my inventory, the game, and thus the NPCs in it, did not know where I had gotten the items. Selling things back to them then was supposed to be a simple action of possession and putting them up for sale.

I ran into a problem. While I was perfectly willing to sell back every fork, knife and spoon on their tables, I stopped at selling the books. See, in Oblivion there are actual books. Not just items but actual writing, usually no more than twenty pages worth, but actual knowledge in the game that is accessible only through the act of reading it onscreen. For my character, these books were an easy source of money. I could pick up a large amount of them — the weighted very little — and then sell them for a modest profit. As a player and avid reader in reality, I paused. I was not ready to sell these books off yet. Before I would sell them, I would need to read through them, to test if their was some information in them that I might need as both a player and character. So, I kept them with me.

Hours later, I was exploring a vast cavern system and I needed more space in my inventory. I was scrolling through it and looking for objects I could drop that would give me the required amount of weight to be able to move. Any number, even a single unit over, and my character would not move. And I was carrying lots of gear I wanted to sell off to get more money. What could I get ride of? Then I saw them. The books from hours earlier. Over a dozen books I had collected from the Mage Guild building. I had yet to read them and they were weighing me down, literally. I made a decision. I need to buy a house or something. There was no way I was going to get to rid of these books. I needed to keep them. So, my mission changed. I was now after a place to store things, a place for all these untapped experiences I was about to have.