One of the things I like to do with Elder Scrolls games is impose my own set of rules. There are some aspects that I feel are just too “gamey” and pull me out of the game. Over the years playing Elder Scrolls games since Morrowind, I created a list of five rules that improve the game experience to me. I do not have Skyrim yet but will definitely be following these rules when I get it.
1. Play the Game Blind
Do not read strategies on how to complete quests or get the best reward. You can only use in-game information to make decisions. If you have already completed a quest before, you can use your experience of course to finish the quest. Just no “cheating” if you have forgotten what to do in a quest. The goal here is to just not spoil your experience. It makes the game feel a lot more mysterious and at the same time interesting when you do not know what is coming next. Even if you finished the quest in an earlier playthrough you might not remember every detail. It is more fun to surprise yourself.
2. Limit Your Saving & Loading
Saving is allowed at any time in case crashes or major bugs occur. We all know how buggy Elder Scrolls games are. Even fully patched and unofficially patched, the game can crash, even more so if you use mods. Loading is only acceptable at the beginning of a game session or when major bugs/crashes occur. Major bugs are ones which would prevent you from playing the game as it is meant to be played. Example: If an essential main quest character got stuck in the environment closing off the entire main quest, reloading would be allowed. (this has actually happened to me.)
3. Always Accept the Consequences of Your Actions
This goes hand in hand with the last two rules. Maybe you played badly and lost a character you really liked. You have to accept that you did not do enough and let them die. Or maybe you thought helping X faction, would have Y effect, but it turns out X faction is secretly evil or nefarious. You could then quit working for that faction, abandoning them in disgust, or continue knowing your character has permanently changed. These “mistakes” become part of your character’s history and make the game more memorable.
4. No Fast Travel
This was added for Oblivion as Morrowind never had this feature. Fast travel is nice for getting you through quests faster. If you just want to see the big picture, fast travel is great. However, you miss out on seeing so many interesting places in the world when using it. I think the point to playing Elder Scrolls games is exploring the world, and fast travel hurts that. You can be more lenient with this if you do not want to complete stop using it. You could only allow it to travel to major cities or only from NPCs that offer it at a cost (Morrowind and I hear Skyrim too). Fast travel in Oblivion can be completed turned off in Oblivion with a mod or in Skyrim with ini edit, or you can just not use it when playing the game.
5. No Quest Markers
This is also only for Oblivion and Skyrim. The reasons here are similar to the no fast travel reasons. You want to see more of the world, not just make a beeline to the end of the quest. Most people do not like to follow this rule. It greatly increases the time to complete quests. I do not know about Skyrim, but most Oblivion quests had little or no direction in the dialogue or quest log. You were expected to use the quest markers. You could spend hours trying to find the place you are supposed to go, all because the quest does not actually describe where to go. I personally play through the first time with quest markers on. Then, on subsequent characters I try to do without quest markers relying on my memory and some wandering. A mod is required turn them off in Oblivion or an ini tweak in Skyrim.
6. (Optional) Hardcore Mode
This is when your character is not allowed to die. You create a save file at the beginning of the game. If your character dies at all, through your own fault or otherwise, you start over from beginning with that save file. The idea here is complete realism. If Skyrim was real, your character could not reload when they died. They would be dead forever. I call this playing the game hardcore, in line with Diablo 2 which coined the term. You can make some role-play exceptions if you want. For instance, if you died near a church or temple, you could say your character was revived by the nearby priests and allow a reload.
I created the first three rules when playing Morrowind to avoid spoilers. I found I started to look up more and more online rather than trying to figure things out myself. Morrowind was a difficult game if you did not look anything up, but I wanted it to be that way. I did not want to just rush through all quests or go straight for the best items. I wanted to learn, explore, and discover new things as I played. With Oblivion I added two more rules due to the new fast travel and quest markers features. I played through once without those rules but felt like I never saw much of the world. When I get Skyrim I will be following these rules myself.
These rules make the game feel more realistic, more immersive, and get me to see the world more. All this translates into more fun. What we all want more of from our games.
Do you have any more rules to make Elder Scrolls games feel more realistic? More immersive? More fun? Please comment below.