Letters From Tamriel

An epistolary gaming blog

The Alts, specifics

@Zells - sepia stone - smallLast post I babbled about the generalities of my alt line-up; this time I’ll go through the specifics of what they each do.

Someone once commented, “so when do you stop messing around with all that and start playing the game?” Just to be clear: this is me playing the game. I actually do like grinding, it amuses the same part of my brain that likes to knit or make chain jewelry – small, repetitive actions towards a goal are soothing to me – and when I’m in the right mood I can farm a circuit for 6 hours w/o blinking. At the same time, the instant I do get bored, I’m done. My characters are set up the way they are so I never feel stuck, or like I’m in a rut; I do whatever is fun until it isn’t fun anymore, then I jump characters and do something else. I go down the list approximately in the order I have it below, skipping any character if I don’t feel like doing their thing, or if I’m pressed for time.

All of my characters now have 50 in all crafting skills, but until a couple of weeks ago, one character in the rotation would be doing decon as part of their log-in. And I’m down to only 3 characters who need the stable, but a stable trip also used to be part of the deal.

Aaaaaaaaaand: cut.

Vashta Neradae – Dunmer – Nightblade, Magicka – CP

Personality: The name’s a Doctor Who reference; the Vashta Nerada are an insect-like swarm and are “the reason you’re scared of the dark”. She’s a minion of the destructive Daedra – Sithis, Molag Bal, Verminia, etc., and wants to see Mundus destroyed. I run her in the solo games to choose the evil quest options. Kill a companion for Boethiah?  ~stabbitystabstab~ Done, now gimme the magic sword.

Questlines/Evolution: Vashta doesn’t care about people or politics – she hasn’t done any side quests, or the Alliance quests, or the main quest. I almost deleted her, but then the Dark Brotherhood DLC dropped, and she had a home. The drop rate for the Dark Brotherhood motif increases as the character invests in the DB content, including quests done, number of DB motif pages learned, and DB achievements gained. I wanted to farm the motif, so every time I logged in with her I’d run a Sacrament, catch one of the Folly/Arena circuits if I felt like it, then maybe do a DB quest step. She went from lvl 5 to CP without leaving the Gold Coast. The second she finished the DB quests I pulled almost all points out of her combat skills, and I don’t think she’s been in a fair fight since – she uses the Blade of Woe, or she runs. For a long time she wasn’t even carrying a weapon. I really enjoy the Sacraments, and for months after she finished the quests Vashta never left the Sanctuary; I’d log in for the Sacrament & Remains Silent and log out. She’s geared only for that – Night’s Silence & Night Terror, in medium for the bonuses.

Currently: You get the Vvardenfell House motifs by pickpocketing, which requires the Blade of Woe to be done efficiently. Leaving mountains of dead bodies on the streets in pursuit of motifs is a little too grim for my other thieves, and I was finally getting bored of Sacraments, so I moved Vashta to Vvardenfell. She had the DB passives, but not the Thieves Guild or much Legerdemain, so before Vvardenfell she spent some time in Hew’s Bane. Between the hiding/sneaking skills, actual pickpocketing skill, and fencing-related skills, it takes ~20 skill points to maximize pickpocketing payoff, so I took her out and farmed skill points in addition to those from the TG questline (which she didn’t finish). It takes between 5 minutes and 2 hours of pickpocketing to get a page, and because this is currently my primary goal, I start my character log-ins with Vashta and stay with her until I get one. If it takes a long time to get the page, then I skip log-ins with other characters. After I launder the page I return her to the starting point of her circuit and log out. If I was really enjoying myself and don’t want to stop, I do a Sacrament and then return to Vvardenfell, and between that and the laundering the motif timer resets. (There’s a 30 min timer on House pattern drops; stop or take a break when you get one.)

Future: When I eventually want to do the vampire quests, I’ll have Vashta bitten. I expect her to be in Vvardenfell for quite a while, tho – I’m really enjoying pickpocketing.

Zellus Solaria – Imperial – Templar, Magicka – CP
Personality:
Start with “holy Roman Knight Templar” and shift to the extremely zealous side of the bell curve. (Get it, “zealous”? yeah, I’m hilarious, I know.) She doesn’t cut anyone slack, ever. I started to do the main quest with her, but she was so disgusted with the collective fail of the 5 Companions that we quit. “You people are responsible for all this harm to the Empire? I should kill all of you …”

Questlines/Evolution: The Arena in Oblivion was the coolest thing ever; when I saw the Kvatch Arena I lost my mind. I’d planned on Zellus being Zellus without knowing about the Arena, or what the Order of the Hour motif looked like – that robe is so perfect for her I couldn’t believe it. Zellus went from ~lvl 15 to CP without leaving the Gold Coast. She didn’t do the Dark Brotherhood questline – obviously – but I wanted to farm the Minotaur and OotH pages, and I love the Arena, so she “lived” in Kvatch for months and months. Her backstory was that she’d been assigned to stay in the Gold Coast to keep tabs on the Order of the Hour and send reports to her superiors. I’d log in, hit the stable, run the Arena/Folly circuit, decon/stable, and log out. For a long time my most reliable source of gold was Zellus & Vashta’s motif farming.

Currently: When Zellus’ superiors learned she’d been contacted by Divayth Fyr and offered a way into the Clockwork City, they instructed her to take the invitation and report back on Sotha Sil’s activities and dealings with Daedra. (Translation: Zells finally got burnt out on the Arena and desperately wanted the Apostle motif, so Zellus moved to the Brass Fortress.) I set her up to farm the dailies, but now that Fire has the motifs she could move on, except I haven’t decided what I want her to do next. She’ll keep giving trinkets to crows until I figure it out. (The crows are actually daedric beings; she’s not at all on board with giving them ‘tributes’, so I’ll be moving her pretty soon.)

Zellur’ra – Khajiit – Sorc, Stamina – 32
Personality/Story: Zellur’ra is part of the Hunding’s Oasis backstory; she was a captive of Coldharbour freed by Nyx in the final battle. She won’t be doing any of the main quest because in her timeline it didn’t happen that way. 

Questlines/Evolution: I may at some point do the questlines for the Mage’s or Fighter’s guild, and will probably do the Thieves Guild quest, but Zellur’ra was created to be an inventory mule for furnishing items, so I haven’t done much with her.  (3 days ’til housing storage!) However…

Currently: Have I mentioned how badly I wanted the CWC Apostle motif? Also, I wanted to see the CWC main quest again, and Zellur’ra needed skill points. So in a rare example of duplication, she also did the CWC main quest and is now set up in the Brass Fortress. She was ~lvl 5 when I started; this week she hit 30. I log in, do the Blackfeather Court and WB dailies, then decide if I want to do the other two, or a quest step or an achievement, then I log out. I’m getting bored with two characters doing the same thing, however, so she might go somewhere else. Or…

Future: Zellur’ra isn’t CP yet, so I don’t want her farming gear, but I do want the CWC furnishing patterns, and character level doesn’t affect container loot. So I need to find a place with recipe-possible containers, whether owned or not. When I’m ready to do that, I’ll count the number of containers in every building in the zone, then park Zellur’ra in the building with the most containers inside a single loading-door cell to maximize her looting efficiency. (Welcome to my brain, where ‘super organized’ and ‘crazypants’ is a blurry distinction.) After that I’ll log in, loot the containers, talk to the crows, hit the stable, and then go back to that building to log out. If I end up choosing a location with owned containers, she’ll need to accumulate skill points and rank in Legerdemain & the Thieves Guild skills so she can maximize her fencing profit.

With both Zellus & Zellur’ra, I’ve been picking away at the CWC zone content because I’ve just enjoyed it so much. However, I’m guessing the motif pages and furnishing patterns drop more frequently the more CWC content has been done – you may have noticed that pattern. If Zellur’ra stays in the zone I’ll do some research and may end up filling out the rest of the achievements.

The Apostle and Ebonshadow pages are selling for over 10K each, so having her learn them costs me well over 280,000 gold in lost sales, but if knowing the motifs affects the drop rate like it does in so many other cases, then the return on investment is worth it. That’s an excellent example of why I do research on drop rate factors every time I farm something – I’m not going to burn 300K of motif pages if it doesn’t profit me somehow, but if knowing them is a factor in the drop rate, I want to get on that asap because each motif page learned today will then mean a greater chance for another motif page tomorrow. But if that’s true, then there’s even less reason for Zellus to stay and farm them as well – focus, focus.

Zellthorn – Bosmer – Templar, Stamina – 36
Personality:
Thorn follows Kyne and Y’ffre, both in their warrior aspects. She is a personification of Nirn’s natural defenses against daedric incursions – the poisoned thorn that scratches you when you try and pick the rose.

Questlines: Thorn’s wild, and doesn’t much interact much with city folk or “civilization”. She stays in the wilderness and farms; I don’t think I’ve even started a major questline with her. When I run out of other content, I’ll turn her into a werewolf and do those quests.

Evolution: After she finished her crafting and stable training, I put Thorn in the wilds to harvest. She’s been in Craglorn to farm nodes; she lived in the Dreloth tomb in Vvardenfell (>100 urns in that tomb); she’s lived near a lot of wilderness crafting stations. She has all her crafting skills at rank 10 so she can harvest end-game mats. She also has Rapids, the Treasure Hunter passive, and speed gear. She has a few more combat points than my other characters, because she lives in rough places.

Currently: Fire doesn’t have complete sets of any of the Wrothgar motifs, so I recently moved Thorn there. I’m assuming the motifs drop more frequently if the character has engaged with the Wrothgar content, and I’ve never done a lot of it. Thorn’s comfortable hanging out with Orcs and Eveli, so she’s been picking away at the questline and various achievements when I feel like adventuring there. Currently she’s living in Old Orsinium, and I loot some/all of the urns before I decide if I want to play her in the zone. If so, I return her to Old Orsinium before I log out so she’s ready to loot urns the next time.

Issa Ice-Mane – Nord – DragonKnight, Stamina – CP
Personality:
I’ve had a Nord Issa in every game since Arena. She was the first character I built in ESO, then I remembered it was an MMO – struggled for a while trying to decide if I should delete her b/c she’s not a Zell, but I couldn’t do it. It’s an Elder Scrolls game; gotta have an Issa. Her story is that she and her husband got dragged into a local political squabble and in the end their farm was destroyed, he was dead, and she was exiled, so now she’s a wandering adventurer perpetually looking for a new home.

Evolution: At first she was my blacksmith, but when I found out how motif farming worked, I switched all crafting to Zellfire. Issa had a number of the easier motifs learned already, however, and she really likes to be useful and busy, so I made her my secondary crafter. She either lives near a wilderness crafting station and farms, or if I’m currently working on getting writ vouchers she lives in town and does daily writs. Masterwrits drop more frequently the more investment you have in the craft – achievements, number of complete motifs learned, skill points, research… so I’ve been increasing all those a little at a time over the last few months. Only she and Fire do writs, but because of their crafting concentrations, my drop rates are high enough that I see a double-digit writ at least once a week. (If you’re doing crafting writs with every character in order to farm masterwrits, you probably aren’t effectively managing your time or resources – the characters need to have skill pts invested, research done, and know full motifs to see big writ drops.) 

Currently: I want writ vouchers ready to buy storage chests the second patch 17 goes live, which is Monday, so Issa’s doing writs in Windhelm now. She’s been there a while and I’m getting bored of writs, so as soon as I have all Rolis’ new patterns I’ll take her out of town again to harvest nodes and treasure chests. Because she’s CP, I put her in a zone where the treasure chest gear has a chance of being valuable. Like Thorn, Issa has Rapids, the Treasure Hunter passive, and speed gear, but she almost no combat skills at all.

Zellusia Nyxian “Nyx” Cosades – Imperial – Nightblade, Stamina – CP
Personality:  Nyx’s family are passionate supporters of the Empire; her father gave up their family’s title because a scapegoat was needed to protect the Emperor’s family from a scandal. He still works to further the Empire’s goals, and has connections to nobility throughout Tamriel, but he’s also a smuggler, thief, and conman in that “thief w/a heart of gold” way that TES games love. (‘Cosades’ is the name of the Blades Grandmaster you meet in Morrowind; Nyx’s family would be his ancestors.) Nyx is the most heroic and selfless of my characters; her Dad raised her to do the right thing no matter the personal cost. She loves politics and knowing secrets about nobility, but she also loves the little side quests most of my other characters don’t want to mess with. Your dog is lost in the zombie cave? Poor puppy! Nyx is happy to help!

Questing: Nyx likes questing, solving problems. She’s done the main quest (has a bit of a crush on Sai Sahan), the Fighter’s Guild story, and the Mage’s Guild story (she freed Valaste, of course). She’s been through the Thieves Guild questline (her father would have been a known associate of Velsa & Nikolas), and she finished the DC Alliance questline (she doubts Emeric’s ability to rule, but sees no better options). She’s one of my thieves, but I’ll never pickpocket with her – she’ll never set foot in the Dark Brotherhood Sanctuary and wouldn’t ever use the Blade of Woe. I thought I was going to PvP with her, but the state of Cyrodil breaks her heart, so I’ve been taking other characters. When I get around to doing the zone quests there, however, I’ll do those with Nyx because she’ll love helping those people.

Currently: I began re-gearing Fire and improving her DPS, then played Nyx and the difference was crazy – she had been fine, but after Fire’s improvements, Nyx was so, so weak in comparison I couldn’t stand watching her tink-tink-tink enemies to death. At the same time, I was concentrating on farming Fire’s gear and couldn’t really fix it. So I set Nyx up in the background to farm (Thieves Guild motif pages, then thieving runs) and sent all the stam-blade gear Fire found in dungeons to Nyx. I decided Spriggan’s would be a good addition, so a few months ago I parked her on a Bangkor’ai dolmen near a World Boss, and when I logged her in I’d clear the dolmen then look to see if other players were around for the WB. Sell trash to the merchant assistant, bank the sellable stuff, log out, ~20 minutes total. Along the way I rotated her slotted skills so all her relevant skills are now max’d.

Nyx now has a full set of BiS Spriggan’s gear, mostly-full sets of Vicious Ophidian and Two-Fanged Snake, and most of the Toothrow and Dreugh King sets. On the one hand, yeah, it’s taken me 3-4 months to get that Spriggan’s. On the other hand, it never took me more than 20 minutes at a time. I was never frustrated, and it was always fun. When I got a piece it was a happy surprise instead of “FINALLY, DAMMIT”. Your mileage may vary, but for me this is the painless version of farming.

She’s still on that dolmen; right now I’m deciding where to send her next. Maybe it’s time to quest in Cyro or farm motifs in the sewers… except none of that fancy gear I’ve farmed for her is Impenetrable, lol.  Have to think about it some more.

Zelluna Velumbra – Dunmer – Sorcerer, Magicka – CP
Personality:
Umbra was an Ashlander raised to hate the Tribunal, but she was exiled for not adhering closely enough to tribal law. Ashlanders are uncivilized; Umbra likes the fine, expensive things you can get (read: steal) in big cities. She’s a mage, so she’s ruthless and self-serving.  (You’ve met the Mage’s Guild, yes?)

Questing: Umbra’s developed a real problem with authority figures and tends not to finish long questlines b/c she gets tired of the quest giver telling her what to do.  But she’s an Azura devotee, so she finished the Vvardenfell quest since Azura showed up and said it was important. She also finished the Mage’s Guild quest. Valaste really wanted to be with Uncle Sheo, right? (Umbra: “whatevs – you said skill points, right?”)

Evolution: For me, the distinction between an alt and a main is whether or not the character logs out standing in the same spot where they logged in. My alts are parked in a location to do a specific thing; my mains wander. Umbra wanders. The only thing I’m doing consistently with her right now is Bolgrul’s dailies, to build up Undaunted rank. My ultimate goal w/Umbra is to make her my primary dungeon-runner, but I haven’t finished max’ing out her skills, and I’m still missing a few pieces, so for now Fire is still farming Umbra’s gear. But I have multiple, almost-complete sets of BiS gold gear to mix & match for both them now, so we’re getting very close.

Zellfire of House Fyr – Altmer – Sorcerer, Magicka – CP
Personality:
‘Fire is a clone of Divayth Fyr’s; she’s not actually an Altmer, she’s Chimer. She’s out in the world doing things for Divayth he can’t be arsed to do because he’s too busy being Divayth Fyr every second of every day. If you’ve met Divayth, then you know Fire: arrogant, brilliant, condescending, presumptuous, self-serving, only half-convinced other people matter…

Fire also did the CWC quest. (I get more out of it every time I run it. ❤ ) I’ve played Fire as a Divayth clone since Morrowind, and it was really extra super cool actually interacting with him as Zellfire after all these years. His tiny note of humility at the end was way more of a payoff for me than for most players, I suspect. At quest’s end, he and Fire stood together in silence on that bridge watching the landscape for almost 20 minutes real time, because I knew he’d disappear when I left. Call me sentimental. 🙂

Questlines: If it ends with a powerful person owing the character a favor, Fire’s done it, or it’s on her list. Part of her mission in the world is make sure as many people as possible are indebted to Divayth, preferably without realizing they’re dealing with him at all. You never know when that’ll be handy, and he is a Telvanni – they practically invented political maneuvering. On the other hand, Fire doesn’t spend a lot of time helping “little people”; there’s no profit in it.

Currently: Fire is the character I play most; she’s never locked into a single goal. She wanders. She’s my primary crafter and currently my primary dungeon-runner. She does writs when I feel like doing writs, quests when I feel like questing, etc.

I’ve been going through the characters in the order I log in with them. Up to this point, they’ve all been putting things into the bank. When I get to Fire, she looks through the bank for anything she needs, particularly new motif pages, and double-checks if any of the gear should go to any of the other characters. Then I log in with the banker alt…

Zelliah d’Argent – Breton – Sorcerer, Magicka – CP
Personality:
I’ve had a d’Argent in every MMO since Ultima Online – she is the banker alt & inventory mule. She’s a prissy noble-woman with no weapon calluses who never gets dirty. This one was my Provisioner until I switched everything to Fire, so you can sprinkle some “high-strung gourmet chef” attitude on top of the prissiness. And the Bretons are basically French, so … there’s that, too (she said with all due Francophile affection.)

Currently: Zelliah stays in the bank except to occasionally do Provisioning writs when I feel like it. She’s the only character who runs the Master Merchant add-on. Since she never leaves town I had her crafting mat ranks at 1 – she doesn’t ever harvest. A while back I went out and farmed some skill points for her to max out all of the gear-improvement skills, so when she’s evaluating gear for sale she can upgrade it if that’s the best option. Until recently, Zelliah would sort through the loot and pull the items to put up for sale, then whichever character was raising crafting skills would log back in and decon all the remaining trash. Now that the other characters are done raising their crafting skills, Zelliah can just decon what she doesn’t put up for sale, but with her crafting mat ranks at 1, I wasn’t getting all the mats out of deconing high-level items. So I’ve been improving all those up to rank 10 so she’ll soon be a one-stop-shop for gear-sorting.

I take Zelliah out to do the holiday events when possible – they’re safe for her, the exp point boost is great, and I grab any nearby skyshards while I’m at it. I’ve taken her into Cyrodil juuuust enough to get her Rapids so she can run around town faster. Since Provisioning masterwrits drop more frequently the more purple & gold recipes the character knows, I have her learn those when Fire gets duplicates. But otherwise, she’s a banker/gold management alt. (She prefers “banquier”.) Her gear is perpetually outdated, and she frequently doesn’t even carry a weapon… unless she finds a pretty one.

Zellaedri – Altmer – Warden, Magicka – 6
Aedri is an experiment I haven’t worked on much. I wanted to try the Warden class but I never seem to get around to playing her. I have a pretty elaborate (even for me) story worked out for her, and I’m looking forward to seeing how her progression goes, but for now she’s mostly lying fallow. I was considering playing her last week, but she’s only level 6 right now, and she’s my last character slot – I decided to put off leveling her until update 17 hits so she can start getting the new leveling rewards when she hits lvl 7. But all her crafting skills are already max’d; I just need skill points on her. Until I get around to actually playing her, I’m keeping her by a stable to train, and she’s currently being an inventory mule and holding all the extra mage-gear that Fire and Umbra aren’t currently wearing. (3 days ’til housing storage, y’all.  THREE DAYS.)

Umbra did the main Vvardenfell quest, but I haven’t done most of the rest of that content, so when I start leveling Aedri I’ll take her there and set her up to do the dailies and farm those motifs while I pick away at the achievements and quests. Since I intend to do the zone thoroughly with her, I’ll also make sure she’s able to loot safeboxes and chests so she can farm the Buoyant Armiger motif. (BA pages drop from chests *rarely*, but you have a better chance the more of the Vvardenfell content you’ve completed. Me saying that is now part of your new drinking game, isn’t it?)

And that’s the current line-up.

I’m constantly in the process of moving one character or another from this activity to that one, but many of them stay in the same spot for months before I get bored. Most of them are doing things a lot of people consider repetitious and awful, but I enjoy it all because I stop and switch before I burn out. It takes a little bit of effort to research what affects the drops and what doesn’t, but since I know I’ll have the character working those drops for weeks or months, it’s well worth the time to set it up to maximize the returns. I don’t spend a single skill point I don’t have to, particularly on combat skills. I multi-task whenever possible (keep new skills leveling up on the weapon bars of your lowbies; they really only need a couple of abilities available), and I make sure that they stay in their lane, focus-wise.

There were a couple of you who requested this info; if you’re still reading, let me know if it was helpful. 🙂

Happy Friday! And in case I didn’t mention it, update 17 drops Monday – only 3 days ’til housing storage! woooooo!

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  1. Pingback: The Alts, general set-up | Letters From Tamriel

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