Mod of the Week: Skyrim Unbound
Isn't starting a new character in an RPG the best? Sure, it's great being a high-level badass with an arsenal of weapons and spells and enough loot to choke a dragon. But there's something about starting over from scratch, when every rusty dagger is a priceless treasure and every minor monster is a genuine threat. Let's all start a new character in Skyrim, and let's all use the Skyrim Unbound mod. It makes starting over an adventure in itself.
Skyrim Unbound is designed to give you a fresh start to the game. You've played through the original Helgen opener enough, right? You've been the Dragonborn plenty of times. You've slain so many dragons you need to build an extra room on your house just to store their bones. This time, let's skip all that. You can save the world later. For now, let's just get busy living in it.
When you start a new game, you'll see the Skyrim title card, and then a notification to visit the mod configuration menu. There, you can select the options you want to start your game with. You can pick a specific starting point, the place in the world your new character will appear, or just specify the type of area you’d like to start in (city, town, wilderness, inn, even a jail cell). Don't care where you start, or want to be surprised? Leave it on random, and the game will decide.
There are several types of characters to choose from: you can be a hunter/explorer, a warrior, a mage, a merchant/traveler, a thief/assassin, and even a beggar. The type of character you pick will determine the type of gear and clothing you begin with. A hunter will have a bow, a mage will have a staff and a couple spells, a warrior will have a starter set of armor and a nice big melee weapon, a merchant will have a fat purse of gold. A beggar, naturally, will have just some ragged clothing and a few coins. None of this modifies your actual stats, just your starting gear, and you'll still get to customize your character's race, gender, and appearance before you begin playing.
As far as dragons themselves go, you’ve got a number of options. You can turn them off completely, allowing yourself to pretend they have not yet awoken. You can activate just the scripted dragon encounters (which take place at word walls and burial grounds) so you'll still have a few dragons to slay. Or, you can turn on the random encounters as well, so they'll appear in the game as they usually do.
You can turn dragon soul absorption off, allowing you to fight and kill dragons without absorbing their souls, as if you were a run-of-the-mill adventurer instead of the fabled Dragonborn. Best of all, you can always adjust your dragon options later, meaning you won’t be married to any particular dragon-related setup. If you do want to become the Dragonborn at some point in your game, just enable the dragons, absorb a dragon soul, and then visit those old guys on the top of the mountain. That’ll kick off the main Skyrim quest. And, until then, no one will accuse you of being the Dragonborn.
If you don't want to choose a character class or starting spot, the mod is happy to do it for you. Just launch the game with everything set on random, and see what happens. Once I spawned as a warrior at a campsite. A couple hunters were staring at me as if I just stepped out of the gloom to warm my hands at their fire. Another time, I appeared as a thief inside a fort filled with bandits, as if I'd just snuck in to loot the place. Another character of mine appeared at a tavern, as if he were just another weary traveler looking for a drink before going on his way. It's fun, and it lends itself to role-playing and building a little story for your new character. Who are they? What are they doing here? And, where are they going next?
One time I got a merchant character who started in a jail cell. Perhaps he'd been doing some shady dealings. Maybe he was more of a con man, a thief in merchant's clothing. Boom. I've already got a story for him. Another time, I appeared as as an assassin in the town of Rorikstead. I could only assume I was there to murder one of the residents. Boom. Story. Another time, I spawned near a Forsworn settlement near Morthal, and they immediately attacked. Now my character is committed to wiping out the Forsworn. Whoops, no, he's dead. But if he hadn't died, he'd totally have a story!
Skyrim Unbound is a great way to kick off a new adventure. (I only wish I'd had it back when I wrote The Elder Strolls.) Leave the Dragonborn stuff aside for the moment, roll up a new character, and see where they land. It won't be long before you've created a new story and are living a new life.
Installation: Two choices here. You can subscribe to it through the Steam Workshop. When you start a new game, you'll be presented with a series of prompts on the type of character you want, where you'd like to be placed in the world, and so on.
To get the most out of this mod, however, you’ll also want to subscribe to SkyUI, which means also installing and launching the game with the Skyrim Script Extender (long-ish video on how to install and launch the game with SKSE here). This will allow you to configure the mod through the menu screen and change your dragon-related options later in the game. This is how I used the mod for this column, and I definitely recommend using it alongside SkyUI and SKSE.