Letters From Tamriel

An epistolary gaming blog

Welcome to Letters from Tamriel

As players of The Elder Scrolls games well know, no situation in Tamriel is so dire that one cannot take a moment to jot down a few notes in a journal or letter to a loved one, perhaps including three-fifths of a puzzle solution for those who might come along later.

In this spirit, Letters from Tamriel will feature the epistolary fiction of my characters from Elder Scrolls Online, writing home with tales of their adventure and intrigue.  Those letters will be interspersed with my discussions of game mechanics, TES history and backstories, and other ESO-related topics.  Start with the Category “About This Site”, or pick a character and click their Category to read through their letters sequentially.

Pull up a chair, grab a sweetroll, and enjoy!

@Zells

my toy arrived

In every character house I’ve mod’d, there has always been a miniature Centurion sitting on a shelf or display somewhere, about a one-foot scale, if it’s sitting on a bookshelf.

Now there’s a one-foot scale Centurion sitting on MY real-life bookshelf.  I am way too old to be this deeply happy about a toy, but here we are. 🙂

Morrowind unboxing pic

There are many Centurions like it, but this one is mine.

Lore: Lorkhan’s Tears

In ESO’s Alchemy system, plants you harvest can be mixed with waters (“solvents”) to create potions. The kind of water determines the level of the potion: “Natural Water” makes lvl 3 pots, and the highest level of water for CP pots is called “Lorkhan’s Tears”.

A while back someone in guild chat asked: “Who is this Lorkhan dude, and why is he crying?” My first response was “The answer to that question is the plot of Morrowind” because for me all roads lead back to Morrowind. But there’s a longer, better answer, deeply rooted in Elder Scrolls mythology, and I’ve had requests for lore posts, so we’ll start here. Turns out Zellur’ra is a bit of a bard, and she’s going to tell us a story of Lorkhan.

Caveat: “A” story of Lorkhan, because each of the races has their own mythology and interpretation of cosmic events, and there is much contradiction in the lore. Lorkhan’s myths are particularly confusing to follow through in-game books, b/c depending on the race’s perspective, some see him as a savior/creator deity, yet some see him as an evil figure, the cause of mortality itself, and therefore, the instigator of all mortal suffering. To deepen the confusion, each race calls him by a different name – to the Khajiit he is Lorkhaj, (as in “the Maw of”), but the Nords call him Shor.  Zellur’ra is Khajiit, but this is not the Khajiit myth; this version most closely follows the Imperial tale, though the Imperials call him Shezzar.

And now that I’ve thoroughly confused everyone, Zellur’ra can take over… Read more…

Early-release Morrowind is live

@Zells - sepia stone - smallI walked around Vivec City last night, literally crying the whole time. It’s so beautiful, and it is crazy how much it feels like home. I said something in zone chat about my eyes leaking, and immediately chat was filled with people saying they were crying, too.  I wanted to collectively hug everyone, including (especially) the devs.

I have nothing coherent to say, sorry. By the time the patch finished DLing it was pretty late, and I spent very little time on Vvardenfell. I wrapped up a couple of things with the character I want to take to Morrowind, started the starter quest, but then teleported to Vivec City instead of Sayda Neen because I wanted to see it more than I wanted to do the quest.  Promptly began crying, and wandered around the city just looking at things way past the time I should have gone to bed.  Never did even finish the starter quest.

It’s true. It’s real. It’s Morrowind. I can’t even.

I used to always get turned around and lost in the cantons because the layouts are identical.  I got lost last night and had to pull up the map to figure out how to get out, and even that made me happy in a perverse way.  “Aww, I’m lost in the cantons! It’s just like old times! I really am in Vivec City!” Absolutely. Ridiculous. This post could have been “omg omg omg <sniffle>” 200 times. So… I guess this is the “restrained” version.  You’re welcome?

Actual Content next time – I’m going to start doing posts about TES lore, and I have one almost ready about Lorkhan, which was super fun to put together. In the meantime, may all your lootz be legendary. 🙂

Hunding’s Oasis: Pt 5, Back Patio

Zells note – This will be the last post of the house tour for Hunding’s Oasis. This is an especially challenging area to screencap because I deliberately placed the pieces so not everything can be seen at the same time – I wanted to give the sense that there was always something cool right around the corner to pull people along.  Also, I wanted to make good use of the huge space, so many the pieces are large, and often require a long shot to be seen properly.  Really, the best way to see the area is to port in – if you’ve read this far, consider yourself invited, it’s my primary residence. 🙂

Previous posts in the tour can be found via these links:
Part 0: Prologue
Part 1: Entryway
Part 2: Courtyard
Part 3: Interior Downstairs
Part 4: Interior Upstairs

Thanks for everyone who has read and commented on this indulgent series of posts!  (In game, I mean, but fyi, you are allowed to comment on the posts themselves. 🙂 )  I will now turn things over to your tour guide, Zellur’ra, except for the picture captions. Read more…

Hunding’s Oasis: pt 4, Interior Upstairs

Zells note: The house tour begins with Part 0: Prologue, and continues in Part 1: Entryway, Part 2: Courtyard, Part 3: Interior Downstairs, and Part 5: Back Patio. I will now turn things over to your tour guide, Zellur’ra, except for the picture captions.

Although guests are never allowed upstairs without an escort, you are most fortunate to have come at a time when our lady Nyx is away from the Oasis, and that means this one is able to show you the master suite. Follow me upstairs and we’ll explore. Read more…

Hunding’s Oasis: pt 3, Interior Downstairs

Zells note: The house tour begins with Part 0: Prologue and continues in Part 1: Entryway, and Part 2: Courtyard. It continues in Part 4: Interior Upstairs and Part 5: Back Patio. I will now turn things over to Zellur’ra, your tour guide, except for the captions on the pictures.

You must be sun-dazzled and road-weary from your journey to Hunding’s Oasis.  Come! Let us step into the cool shade of the house and enjoy its delights. Read more…

Event Catch-Up: Wild Hunt, Jester’s Fest, Happy Birthday, ESO!

@Zells - sepia stone - smallI’ve been having so much fun playing with my dollhouse I haven’t done much of anything else.  (Downstairs is done now, hopefully will have the next post up tomorrow or next week.)  But for now…

Wild Hunt Crown Crates – RNG is a bizarre mistress.  Bipolar, gives mixed signals, yet here we all are, courting her.  Back in December I had some Christmas money, and decided to buy a big pack of the storm crates. Didn’t have much luck, as I described – 15 crates, no mount, very few big items, ended up converting all I could to gems and buying the belly dancer veil that way.  Wasn’t impressed. Of the available treats in the Wild Hunt crates, I wanted two: the methrot multicolored hair, and the ancestor moths pet.  I had gems left over from before, so I got 4 more crates, and could convert enough trash into gems to get the methrot hair, but not enough for the moths.  However, I did much, much better in terms of getting the high-end prizes: an apex mount (the wolf), two pets, the leaf aura, and the Hircine banner.  Nice, but I wouldn’t have bought any of those outright, and I’d absolutely trade in both pets for the ancestor moths.  In other words, whether I do well or not, I’m still ambivalent about Crown Crates. Grade: C+

Jester’s Festival – Hm.  On the plus side, like with the New Life fest, I love how it was integrated into the world lore; it felt like something that was really happening in Tamriel.  On the other hand, I got super tired of doing those 3 quests, and quit after only 1 character had the full achievement, compared to the 5-7 each for the Halloween and New Life fests.  And partly I bailed because distribution on the drops was so off – I have ~20 of those Jester banners now, and I wasn’t excited about the other prizes.  Jester’s wasn’t my favorite so far, but it was a fun little diversion, and not every holiday event has to be huge.  Grade: B-

2nd Anniversary Party! (for ESO’s 3rd birthday, lol) – This was great.  No caveats, no “buts”.  Fantastic set-up.  Hooking the rewards to dailies meant every player could play/celebrate the way we each wanted, but there was still a group element, because players were grouping for dungeons and WBs.  And there was incentive to participate, because the rewards in the boxes were real rewards – pre-existing, highly-sought items people already wanted, and not simply event-related gimmicks.  Even the “trash” in the boxes were still useful (mats can be sold, if not needed), and seemed skewed towards housing mats (yay). In addition to sacraments/heists, guild, and WB dailies, I did a hella lot of writs because those were the fastest dailies, and as a crafter I had 9 alts already certified in all 6 crafts.  (9×6=56/day, which I did several times, and yeah, it took hours.) Normally I don’t do writs on the alts with lower-level skills, but for the low price of maple or iron, I got another present box with a chance of a great motif page.  Picked up a lot of Akiviri, Celestial, Glass, and alliance motif pages, in addition to the more common ones.  Happy birthday, indeed! Grade: A

As a general rule, I like the events, and I like having incentive to do particular things to help break me out of ruts.  I have to admit, however, that after New Life, the Jester’s Fest, and the birthday party, I am looking forward to just playing the game for a while. And by “a while” I mean: less than 5 weeks ’til Morrowind!

Patch Notes & Morrowind beta

@Zells - sepia stone - smallMorrowind beta is on the PTS, patch notes were released on the forums, and probably you have already heard the wailing.  Zone chat and YouTube are both full of expletive-filled rants; Deltia is done and will no longer be producing new ESO material.

Let’s all take a deep breath.

Solo games are static, and you have total control – the only changes are mods you install.  After a while, you figure out the combat mechanics, max out a character, and start walking through the content without trying hard.  And then you’re bored, and you go play another game.

MMOs are not static. The game will change, and you do not have control over that – it’s the nature of MMOs, and it’s a good thing.  The goal is always perfect game balance, but that’s an elusive mirage; it will never be perfect, and an MMO will never be “done”. As the rules flux, the build you’re attached to will change. That gear you worked so hard to get will become obsolete.  That spell that slays in PvP will get nerfed. The more you rely on something that always works, the more likely it is to be dialed down – that’s the very definition of balance.  It’s okay, you can adapt, you can learn a new trick.

The harder you work to get into the top tier of end-game players, the more precise your build gets, and the more rule changes will affect you – that’s why PvPers and trial lords react so strongly. Any combination of crappy gear and skills will get you to 7K dps, after all, but if you’re pumping out 45K per second, it’s because you’ve set up an exacting combo of build, gear, and skills – change any detail, the dps will drop. Going from 7K to 6K isn’t noticeable, but going from 45K to 35 sucks; cue the drama.

Specifically, the patch will be lowering sustain for all classes, and there’s a perception it’s being done to make the Warden the bestest class so everyone has to buy Morrowind in order to be competitive.  I have many thoughts on that. (The crowd gasps in shock.)

  • You can’t truly grok mechanics changes from patch notes, you need to play them. Stuff in patch notes doesn’t always affect playability the way people assume. A lot of the bitching is coming from ppl who have only read the patch notes, so: grain of salt time. For those who have played, an NDA clause is in effect so no one can give details.  I’m not saying it’s all lies, but I am hearing a lot of untrue, wild-ass rumors in chat being stated as fact – chill out.
  • Some people just like to hate things; they want to feel they’re better than whatever it is that they’re doing, somehow above it.  That crowd is jumping in to shout “ZOS sux!”, whether they know what they’re talking about or not. Some unsolicited life advice: H8ers are bottom feeders, don’t let them control your life choices.
  • PTS stands for Play-Test Server. TEST. Changes are implemented first on the PTS exactly so the mechanics can be evaluated – mechanics can and do get changed before content goes live, often because the community has strong opinions.  The PTS literally exists so the devs can assess changes and get feedback; saying ZOS doesn’t care about what we think is nonsensical.
  • The sustain nerf isn’t happening just to you – if implemented it will effect everyone. Your Nightblade won’t be able to sustain, but neither will the enemy’s tank.  That does radically affect how combat plays out, yes, but it does not automatically mean that combat will suck or that you personally will be affected more than the next guy. If you were a great player before, you can be a great player afterwards.
  • I keep hearing the sustain nerf is a money grab, but that doesn’t make sense.  Yeah, yeah – “If only Wardens are effective they’re making us buy Morrowind!” – but that’s not a working model for the game. Any game. The system requires a mix of balanced classes to be viable – people like to play different ways.  At any given time that balance is going to be off (see above), maybe off a lot, but if it’s so skewed as to make all classes but one ineffective… that doesn’t work, and the devs know it.  The balance may be completely broken the PTS right now – I’m not in the beta, so I don’t know.  But I am saying if that’s true, it’s highly unlikely it will still be true at launch.
  • ZOS definitely likes to turn a profit – Crown crates, yeah? But look… I’m sure there’s a small number of on-the-fence people, somewhere, but the vast majority of us made the decision to buy Morrowind (or not) when the trailer hit.  It’s Morrowind; ZOS doesn’t need strong-arm tactics, they just need Vivec and nostalgia.  They have far more to gain by putting out a solid game than they do by forcing people into buying it against their will.
  • Many of the devs have played TES games since Arena, and they love the game as much as we do. I choose to believe they care about making a good game, and I also assume they’ll continue to work on improving it. I’m a fangirl, and maybe I’m naïve, but I genuinely do not believe they sat around a table and said “let’s make all the other classes suck so ppl are forced to play the Warden!”

I did receive a beta invite, but haven’t logged in yet and probably won’t.  I play a fair amount – okay, a lot – but every time I log in, there’s still more that I want to do than I have time for.  Playing on the PTS always seems like a waste to me, because it’s time I could have spent developing my “real” characters.  It’s the same reason I didn’t download the PTS to see housing before Homestead was released.  Also, I don’t like spoilers or experiencing art in bits and pieces – I want the full, in-context experience as the artists intended.  Generally speaking, I prefer to give up the chance to see something early in lieu of seeing it polished and complete.

So yeah, I’ve heard it all, and I’m still excited.  The classes will change, builds will change, the CP system will change… the game will continue evolving, sometimes in radical ways.  Some of Morrowind will be buggy and some aspects will be unbalanced, sure.  Always. But I have faith that most of it will rock, and the parts that don’t will get patched in the future.  I have faith that the devs are good at their jobs, and that they actually care about the game, goofy as that may sound.

It’s nearing the end of the Spring semester; finals are getting close.  Everywhere I look, people are quietly (or not-so-quietly) losing their minds. Remember to breathe, and eat, and sleep, and like the Hitchhiker’s Guide says: DON’T PANIC. 🙂

Gold Farming Techniques

@Zells - sepia stone - smallTaking a break from the house tour (will finish, tho!); thought I’d talk about gold farming a bit.  I’ve gone through a couple million gold since Homestead dropped; someone asked me if I had a huge bankroll to start with and was surprised I’ve been making 100 – 200K a week to fund my furnishings addiction.  They wanted to know my “trick.”  Honestly, that amount of gold is not extraordinary – the highest seller in my trading guild made 2 million gold in the first 3 days of this week, and she made 9 million last week.  A 150K average is not hard.  I rarely focus solely on gold farming; mostly I’ve just figured out ways to make gold while I’m doing the stuff I like to do.

Search “eso gold” on YouTube and you’ll get dozens and dozens of vids.  They’re mostly fine, but each focuses on one very specific method, and most don’t work for me because I don’t like to do the things they describe.  And some rely upon exploits that have been patched, or describe a random lucky break that’s impossible to replicate.

So here’s “The Zells Guide to Gold Farming for Beginners & People Who Hate Gold Farming.”  Like my post on running Dark Brotherhood Sacraments & Thieves Guild heists, it will be long-but-thorough, and I’ll update it if I think of something new or if a patch requires it.

Read more…

Hunding’s Oasis: pt 2, Courtyard

Zells note: The house tour begins with the post “part 0: Prologue” and in Part 1: Entryway. From here it continues in Part 3: Interior Downstairs, Part 4: Interior Upstairs, and concludes in Part 5: Back Patio.  I will now turn things over to Zellur’ra, your tour guide, except for the captions on the pictures where I’ll identify special furnishings and explain any game-mechanics behind the RP.

We are ready to proceed with our tour of Hunding’s Oasis, yes?  Zellur’ra is pleased.  Come, follow her to the courtyard, the jewel of the Oasis.

Read more…

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