The Elder Strolls

The Elder Strolls, Part 10: The Pale Horse

Christopher Livingston at

After weeks of contentedly walking everywhere at a snail's pace, I suddenly feel an overwhelming urge to rush. With my wedding over, I'm eager to leave Riften behind and start my new life in Whiterun. I can't wait to move into my new home, to find a place to store my various collected possessions, and to get back to a quiet life of smithing and hunting. Oh, and also to find my wife, I guess, who wandered away halfway through our wedding ceremony and hasn't been seen since. (You can watch the entire ceremony here on YouTube.)

So, I'm in a hurry, for a change. It feels like a cheat to hire the wagon outside the city, so I decide instead to buy a horse from the Riften stables, and moments later I'm galloping along the trail, with Jasper following. It's strange to be traveling this fast, mostly because I'm zooming past all these flowers and herbs and thistles. I should be picking them. I'm... compelled to pick them. It's almost making me tense, passing them all by like this. But, like I said, for once I'm in a hurry.

The Elder Strolls, Part 9: Groom and Gloom

Christopher Livingston at

There's a spring in my step as I prepare to make my way to back to Riften to get married, because my future, once uncertain, now holds many treasures. A home to live in. The love of a wife whose name, I'm pretty sure, begins with a Y. The realization that I no longer have to interview NPCs and help them solve their problems. Best of all, I feel like I've cheated Skyrim, a world intent on throwing adventure in my path, by getting engaged without any bloodshed.

Marriage in Skyrim begins with deeds, the priest told me, and deeds in Skyrim generally involve killing people. Not murdering them, necessarily, but fighting them, scores of them, while completing a favor for your intended life-partner. My engagement, however, came about by simply buying a mammoth tusk and handing it to a woman. Take that, Game Filled With Adventure! I got a bride with zero casualties! Unless you count the mammoth, which I didn't even kill. And, it's not like I'm going to kill a lot of people on my way back to Riften, right?

The Elder Strolls, Part 8: A Mammoth Decision

Christopher Livingston at

In the last entry, Nordrick was faced with a question we've all struggled with at one point in our lives: "Should I marry a filthy homeless man?" After a great amount of heated internal debate, hours upon hours of soul-searching, and the thoughtful splitting of many cords of wood, I have finally reached a decision. I'm not going to marry Angrenor Once-Honored.

It all boils down to this: deep inside his thick, ugly head, Nordrick has a dream: a place to call home. Angrenor Once-Honored can give me a lot: companionship, happiness, comfort, a variety of social diseases brought on by unprotected hobosex in an unsanitary public thoroughfare... but he can't give me a home. And so, I have to turn my back on the one man to ever love me. I'm off to Whiterun.

The Elder Strolls, Part 7: Homeless Romantic

Christopher Livingston at

It's a little weird to admit that, as a grown man, I have a genuine emotional attachment to a fake dog in a video game. And yet I do. I love my new dog, Jasper. I love him. He has bright, cheerful eyes and a big panting smile. He happily follows me everywhere I stroll. When I stop, he sits or lies down. He pitches in during combat, and helps me hunt large game like deer and elk (animals too large for me to kill with one shot from my bow), bounding after and finishing off the wounded beasts that would have otherwise escaped.

My warm feelings for Jasper help me overlook his main flaw, which is his incessant, endless barking. They also explain the sudden bolt of terror and sadness I feel when, while crossing a river, Jasper gets trapped in the current and sucked over a waterfall.

The Elder Strolls, Part 6: A Wolf Pack of One

Christopher Livingston at

I don't care for Riften. Well, that statement isn't really fair. I hate Riften. I hate Riften, and I wish it would burn to the ground, and I wish everyone who lives here would also burn the the ground, and I wish a bunch of giants would come and push dirt and rocks over the ashes, and I wish that whenever anyone asked about the giant dirty rock pile that smells like burnt dead bodies that sits where Riften used to be, the giants would shrug as if they didn't know.

That's my wish for Riften.

The Elder Strolls, Part 5: Spring Break

Christopher Livingston at

I've settled into a comfy routine during my past week in Skyrim. I spend time by my new riverside shack, hunting, fishing, gathering alchemy ingredients, and chopping wood at a nearby mill. Every other day I make the walk to Windhelm to mix potions and craft armor to sell to vendors. I even run (well, walk) into a giant who is doing some strolling of his own near my house, and to my delight he doesn't try to kill me or ask me to do something for him. In my mind, he's the perfect NPC: completely indifferent to my existence. I've named him Andre.

This morning, however, on my way back from spending the night in Windhelm, something is nagging at me. I've spent my morning walk trying to figure out what do to next, but I'm drawing a blank. Where do I go from here? What's on my to-do list? And then, as my shack comes into view, I suddenly realize why I'm having so much trouble planning my next move: I may not actually have a next move.

The Elder Strolls, Part 4: Nordrick the Envious

Christopher Livingston at

As the new guy in Windhelm, I'm doing my best to fit in with the local NPCs. I walk around the city, wearing regular clothing instead of armor. I hang around in the tavern, eating and drinking. I sleep in a rented bed every night. I make small-talk, or at least listen to the small-talk of others. Overall, I feel like I'm blending in well: if a real adventurer arrived in Windhelm, I'm confident he or she would be convinced I was just another local living a routine life. Nordrick the Bland, they'd call me.

And yet, a very un-NPC-like emotion has reared its ugly head inside Nordrick's even uglier head. I may walk, sleep, eat, and drink like an NPC, but when it comes to my professional life, I'm definitely falling short. While spending time with the locals, and seeing what they do for a living, I've come to an unexpected conclusion: I'm insanely jealous.

The Elder Strolls, Part 3: Off to Meet the Blizzard

Christopher Livingston at

I’m playing Skyrim as an NPC: walking everywhere, trying to avoid excitement, and seeing if I can scrape out a living without resorting to adventure. Part 1, Part 2.

After all the bandit and troll-based excitement in the last entry, I'm ready for a nice long stretch of peace on a nice long stretch of beach. This morning, so far, I'm finding it: it's so early the sun hasn't come up yet and Skyrim itself seems to be slumbering. As I stroll along, it feels like the game has completely forgotten I'm even here. No enemies come charging out of the pre-dawn gloom to greet me with whistling arrows. No monsters are at my heels, swinging at me with hairy fists. No thieves are trying to burden my inventory with stolen magical weapons. It's just me, the soothing music in my head, and the sound of my own footsteps. Then -- suddenly -- nothing happens.


The Elder Strolls, part 2: That Sinking Feeling

Christopher Livingston at

I'm playing Skyrim as an NPC: walking everywhere, trying to avoid excitement, and seeing if I can scrape out a living without resorting to adventure. You can read Part 1 here.

I get a lot done on my second day in Dawnstar. I visit the Jarl and listen to him air all the problems he has that I have no intention of helping him with. I buy my own pickaxe and work in the mines some more, chiseling out every last bit of ore and selling it to Leigelf, the mine-owning racist. I find a group of Khajiit nomads camped on the edge of town, and sell them some of my jewels in exchange for some hide boots, bracers, a hunting bow, and some iron arrows.

And now, to the hunt!

The Elder Strolls, Part 1: Fresh Off The Boat

Christopher Livingston at

It's morning, and I've just arrived in Skyrim. I wear no armor, just simple clothing and footwraps. I carry no two-handed broadsword, just a small iron dagger. No fearsome warpaint adorns my face and no jagged scars tell stories of hard-fought battles won. I have no priceless treasures or magical artifacts, just a handful of gold coins and a single piece of fruit.

I won't be looting ghoul-infested crypts or rampaging through bandit-occupied forts, I won't be helping citizens with their various problems and quests, and I certainly won't be awakening any dragons. My name is Nordrick. I'm not a hero, I'm an NPC, and I'm here not to play Skyrim, but to live in it.