Nondrick’s New Home

Posted July 8, 2012 by livinginoblivion
Categories: Interludes

Hello again! Jut a quick note to let you know what’s going on with this blog.

Living In Oblivion has a new home, at my other site, Screen Cuisine. The whole shebang has been imported over there, comments included, and the images have all been restored.

If I update it again, which I might, the new updates will only appear over there.

If you’re a fan of my other sites, like Not My Desk, The First-Person Observer, or Concerned: The Half-Life and Death of Gordon Frohman, they’re all over at Screen Cuisine now too.

You can also find links to all ten entries of my blog about Skyrim, The Elder Strolls, which I wrote for PC Gamer’s website.

That’s it! Thanks for hanging in there!

The Elder Strolls

Posted December 10, 2011 by livinginoblivion
Categories: Nondrick's Non-adventure, Skyrim

For those looking for more Nondrick, well, there isn’t any at the moment.

However, for those of you looking for something that is kinda like Nondrick, there is! PC Gamer asked me to give Skyrim the Nondrick treatment for their website on a weekly basis.

Since I couldn’t really replicate Nondrick’s distinct fish-faced look in Skyrim, and since 200 years have passed since the events of Oblivion, it seemed reasonable to create a new character who just happens to be a distant descendant of Nondrick. Meet Nordrick.

Nordrick will be non-adventuring through Skyrim the way Nondrick did in Oblivion: walking everywhere, avoiding adventure, and trying to scratch out a living. You can read the first installment here. The diary will be running on Saturdays!

Monster Mashed

Posted July 12, 2011 by livinginoblivion
Categories: Nondrick's Non-adventure

So, here’s my plan for the next few days.

Anvil was pretty disappointing for adding to my meager fortune or even practicing my chosen profession of alchemy: the land around the city was mostly barren of ingredients and even the city shops were pretty empty of stuff to buy, mix, and resell. I feel like I need to make up for lost time and do some real hardcore gathering before I return home to Imperial City. I don’t want people just noticing my stained fingers and how they attest to my diligence in mixing potions and learning their secrets. I want people gawking at my stained fingers and how they attest to my diligence in mixing potions and learning their secrets.

The most fertile place I’ve ever seen in Cyrodiil was the area around Skingrad. There were pick-tastic plants everywhere, and I made some good hauls the last time I was in the area. So. I’ll head along the Green Road toward Imperial City, but when I reach the river I’ll head due west, making straight for Skingrad. There, I’ll set up Beaker in the stables, and spend a couple days picking the landscape bare. That way, when I get back to Imperial City I’ll have a bit more to show for my multi-city tour. I know it’s a little dangerous to leave the road and head straight through the unclaimed wild, but I feel a little more confident dealing with wolves and imps than I do bandits and highwaymen.

And so, we’re off in the early morning light. It’s not long until we encounter our first opposition of the day: a bandit bowman. Luckily, he’s already dead, lying face-down by the side of the road, folded up like a cheap hotel towel.

I strip him of his weapons and fur armor — and why is he in fur armor, anyway? I’m level six, now, shouldn’t chain-mail be making an appearance as the standard light armor? I’m tired of my leather duds and the iron armor proved too heavy and noisy. I want to get all blinged out in chain links, but I’d prefer not to have to buy it.

Soon after, another bandit appears, this one alive, angry, and wielding a hammer. Did actual warriors ever really carry giant hammers? Seems like a really exhausting way to kill someone, by hitting them with a huge honkin’ hammer.

This bandit goes straight for Beaker, ignoring me to wallop on my poor horse. Seems like an iffy strategy: I’ve already climbed down to the road and I’m the one with weapons, spells, and armor. Beaker just stands there, taking the hits, while I dig into the bandit’s back until she’s dead. She, too, has fur armor. I strip her, pause to take a spiritual bong-hit off a nearby wayshrine, then continue up the road.

Speaking of the road, I suddenly notice that my Crowded Roads mod is once again taking itself a little too seriously. It’s supposed to add a little extra foot traffic, but this is ridiculous. It’s more like a parade.

While I don’t mind all the extra company, the only wildlife I’m seeing along the road is dead boars. I’m assuming the boars have been attacking the mod-added travelers, and the travelers have been punching the boars to death. I don’t really want to fight boars, because they kind of scare me, but having every boar in the game being killed for me by a crowd of randomly generated wanderers just feels a bit like a cheat. Well, I’ll be off the road and on my own soon enough, I guess.

Beaker and I soon reach two lodges, The Inn of Ill Omen (that sounds ominous!), and the Faregyl Inn (that sounds faregyl!), and I briefly pop into both for a visit. I meet a Khajiit (cat-person) named S’jirra who tells me she’s lost some of her jumbo potatoes, without which she cannot make her “famous” potato bread. Zounds. After Anvil, which tried to tempt my adventurous impulses with ghost stories and multiple disappearances, the game seems to be lowering its standards a bit here to see if I’ll bite.

Normally, I wouldn’t even pose any follow-up questions about anything that smelled remotely like a quest, but, jeez, we’re talking about some missing potatoes. It’s not like she’s asking me to close an Oblivion Gate or save Bruma from demons or anything. What the hell. I can at least ask her about them. She tells me she put her potatoes outside and someone ran off into the woods with them. Well, I’m not going to go actively search for the crook, but if I spot anyone with potato-sized lumps under their coat, maybe I’ll stop them and ask a few questions.

After buying all the food in both inns, churning it into potions, and selling it back at a mark-up, I head West, and almost immediately spot a large, burly, mostly naked figure running through the trees. Ogre. It’s an Ogre!

He spots us and approaches, and we’re a little too close to do anything but fight. This is kinda scary: I’ve never fought anything remotely this big or dangerous before. Luckily, I’ve got a couple things going in my favor. First, I’ve already poisoned my blade. Second, the Ogre, like everyone else lately, seems to hate my horse a lot more than they hate me. Is it my high personality score making enemies decide, “You know, he seems like a decent fellow. I’d like him to die last.” Or, is it just that a paint horse is more obvious a threat than a fish-faced guy who can barely lift his own sword?

The Orge wades in, punching Beaker repeatedly. I ready my frost spell, then plunge in and touch the Ogre with a bunch of magical coldness. Then I hit him with my sword, both hurting and poisoning him. Already, I can see his health diminish to almost nothing.

He’s still swinging, though, and now he’s swinging at me.

And then, I am saved! Beaker, driven by his extreme love of me (or more likely he’s just tired of being a punching bag for every violent creature we meet), rears up and starts kicking the Ogre. The Ogre falls back into a bush, and Beaker charges him, sort of nudging him with his head. I don’t know if it was my poison or Beaker’s semi-ferocious charging that kills him, but the Ogre drops dead.

Attaboy, Beaks! My hero.

I lay some healing magic on Beaker’s wounded butt, then retrieve the Ogre’s teeth, and also find the cat lady’s missing jumbo potatoes in his possession. Well, since I’ve got them, I might as well bring them back to her. I am not really happy with having completed a quest, but this didn’t feel so much like a quest as a coincidence: she mentioned her potatoes were missing, and my horse and I happened to poison and head-butt an Orge to death, and the Ogre happened to be the guy who stole the potatoes.

Cat lady is happy to have her potatoes back, and even offers to kiss me, but I’m not really into cat people. I just like her as a friend. Cat woman gives me some bread she made out of potatoes. Funny. When I mix potatoes and bread I just get wet potato mush. She’s got mad skills.

Dope On The Water

Posted June 21, 2011 by livinginoblivion
Categories: Nondrick's Non-adventure

Having spent the night standing next to my bed, meditating on what I’ve learned about making potions and bragging to Counts, I’m up early to reach Level Six. Cool. I choose to upgrade my Intelligence and Personality, as I use them more than anything else and yet they still feel a bit lacking. I also upgrade my Strength, for those instances when thinking and boasting must give way to slashing and stabbing.

Did the game just call me ignorant? I see it’s been paying attention.

Now, I’m off to track down Varon Vamori, a local who I’ve been told can train me in Speechcraft. I check my map and sure enough, his home is shown, which means I walked by it at some point yesterday and magically harvested his name and address. My map is like a precursor to the Google Street View van.

I arrive at his house just as he’s stepping out his front door. I talk to him, but he doesn’t offer to train me. It’s possible he’s off-duty: not everyone’s services are available 24/7. So, I decide to follow him, shadow him at a distance, slyly, like some sort of detective from another time period with a name like Cole Phelps. (That’s the detective’s name, not the time period’s name. The time period’s name is Frank Walters.)

Vamori walks to the Mage’s Guild and stands at the top of a staircase, staring at a locked door. Hoping to not distract him from his important door-inspecting activities, I crouch directly behind him and wait for a bit. An hour passes, and I speak to him again, but he’s still not offering me any training. Hmph.

Great. I’ve wasted a couple hours staring at some unhelpful dude’s butt. Still, it doesn’t mean the day is a complete loss. I throw on my armor and head out of town to check out the surrounding area. If it looks like a good place to regularly harvest plants, I might just think about settling down here in that affordable dump that’s for sale.

First things first: I check on my faithful, patient horse Beaker. I’m not going to ride him today, I just live in a state of constant, crippling fear that he’ll eventually wander off, and I want to make sure he’s still alive and standing where I parked him.

Sup, Beaks? Who’s a good horsie? You is! Yes, you is!

Oh, right! I nearly forgot. While mixing up potions last night, I discovered I’d made an interesting one: Water Walking. I decided not to sell it, because who could resist the chance to walk on water if they had the chance? Not me, certainly. Since I’m on the waterfront, I chug it down and go for a watersprint, just for kicks.

Wheee! This is actually pretty cool, running around on water. I don’t think I’ve ever actually tried it before, as my other Oblivion character was mostly interested in mixing up poisons and Nondrick is mainly interested in mixing up boring mush made of carrots and bread to sell at a profit.

I’m in the middle of the river when I realize it’s running out, so I hightail it back, reaching shore at the exact instant the effects wear off. I’m greeted by a mudcrab, who demonstrates just how impressed he is with my brief godlike abilities by attacking me. Pff! A crab? I eat enemies like you for breakfast!

That’s not an idle boast, I do literally eat him for breakfast, since I’ve got that mod installed that requires me to eat regularly.

It’s actually quite lovely in the hills surrounding Bravil, but for all the fields of grass and flowers, there’s literally nothing growing that I can pick for potions. Disappointing, to say the least. I stroll around all morning, not finding a single ingredient, unless you count… danger!

Oh yes. Though the hills are barren of plants, it turns out Nondrick is not alone after all. In the near distance, a mysterious figure lurks. His motives unknown, his intentions unclear, this figure stands silently, motionless, his dark gaze fixed with purpose on okay, look, I’m just being over-dramatic to make this encounter seem more exiting. It’s just some dude from town, Jean-Pierre Lemonds.

I’m not sure what he’s doing out here, standing around, but we don’t have much to talk about. I seem to remember from reading the Oblivion Wiki a couple seconds ago that he’s a former Arena champion, now retired, who spends his time drinking in the Bravil pubs and hunting on the weekends. He doesn’t appear to be hunting, though, just standing around staring at grass.

Unlike Jean-Pierre, the local wildlife is getting some exercise. A short while later, a wolf runs up to attack me, and I swing my sword at him. And, um, the fight is over. Wow, a wolf hacked down with one blow. A single blow! That extra strength I invested this morning in is already paying off.

I walk a bit more, getting a nice view of Imperial City and really, nothing else. No plants, no roots, nothing to pick, nothing to make. Hm. Since there isn’t much in the way of ingredients out here near Bravil, and the town itself is kind of a bummer, I think I’ll be heading back to my hovel in the Big IC. No real point in subjecting myself to the depressing, drug-riddled city of Bravil if it’s not going to pay off.

As I head back to Bravil for the night, another wolf approaches, intent on killing me for daring to intrude on nature. Pff! I eat enemies like you for breakfast! Oh, wait, I can’t eat a wolf. I can only sell their pelts. Okay, then: I sell enemies like you to Innkeepers and use the proceeds to buy breakfast! Which I then eat! For breakfast!

My revised (yet still scathingly clever) battle-cry turns out to be inaccurate, however, as this isn’t a wolf, it’s a Timber Wolf, and even with my increased strength it takes several blows to chop him into merchandise.

Not a whole lot else happens for the rest of the day. I find a dead boar, and before I can even threaten to eat him — for breakfast! — I discover someone has already eaten him, possibly for breakfast, as his inventory contains no meat. As it gets darker, there’s some brief excitement as I’m double-teamed by a couple lightning-bolt throwing imps, though my super-heal spell and a some  frenzied hacking and slashing whittles them down to their component parts.

That’s it for the day. I re-rent my room at the lodge, planning to get up bright and early so I can invent the rear-view mirror and put this town in it. Tomorrow, I’ll set out for my hovel in Imperial City once again, though this day spent gathering zero ingredients has left me feeling bothered and restless, and I already know I’ll be making a slight detour before I get back home.

Bravillage People

Posted June 16, 2011 by livinginoblivion
Categories: Nondrick's Non-adventure

So! Before we were rudely interrupted by the passage of sixteen months, where the heck were we?

Oh, right. Nondrick. That guy. He had been winding up his tour of Cyrodiil, headed for Bravil, suffering from a series of wolf-born diseases, and having no luck finding the ingredients needed to cure them. After entertaining dark thoughts of the theft of a Shepard’s Pie, he stuck to his vaguely defined principles and was rewarded in true karmic fashion, finding a wild herb that allowed him to brew a potion that would cure his wolf-cooties.

That brings us roughly to… now! Bravil! An ugly, dirt-poor city on the Nibeny Bay. Having spent the night in the affordable and aptly named Lonely Suitor Lodge, he decides to spend the day doing what he always does: mixing and selling potions, walking around slowly, and talking to everyone about anything that won’t lead to quests and adventure.

That last part isn’t exactly easy here in Bravil. While their main import is poverty and the color brown, their leading export appears to be intrigue. Almost everyone in town wants to talk to me about something called The Forlorn Watchman, which I’m guessing isn’t just a city guard who can’t find a date.

In the Mage’s Guild, an Argonian named Kud-Ei wants me to help her find her missing friend, Henantier, insisting I am the only one she can trust with the task despite the fact that I just walked in the door ten seconds ago. The other mages are passive-aggressively chatting about someone named Aleron Loch, who is also missing, hoping I’ll overhear and lend my questionable investigative skills to the case. Don’t these people ever go to the cops when someone disappears? There’s also more talk about The Forlorn Watchman and a few chat to me about Necromancers. The only thing positive I hear is someone recommending that I steer clear of mudcrabs. Can do!

Wandering around outside, I start to see why people don’t go to the cops: many of the citizens are drug addicts, and probably don’t want the narcos snooping around in their business. A door advertises itself as a “Skooma Den”, and two dudes are feverishly chugging down the drug right outside in broad daylight. I sort of wouldn’t mind Nondrick getting his hands on some Skooma (he’s no square), but the door to the den is locked and these two won’t share. Guess I’ll have to stick to wine.

Popping into the Fighter’s Guild for a moment, I watch two members hacking away at each other in a friendly sparring session, taking a break only long enough to tell me that The Forlorn Watchman is a g-g-g-g-ghost! So, ghosts, missing persons, necromancers, drug addicts… I figure real estate can’t be too pricey around here. Maybe I should inquire about a house.

I stroll over to the castle to talk to the only real estate agent the city has: the count. Naturally, he doesn’t want to sell a house to someone who he just met: the guy who oversees a town full of junkies and ghosts doesn’t trust just anyone with his valuable real estate. Luckily, I’m pretty good at winning people over, and after quickly divining that he loves a braggart and hates being admired, I convince him I’m worth selling to.

After poking my nose down in the jail, just to see if there are any interesting prisoners (there aren’t), I get lost in the castle for a bit, somehow winding up in the servant’s quarters and then the dining hall. When my slow pace finally leads me back outside, it’s dark, so I head back for the night. I check out the other inn, which is a little expensive, but chock full of interesting looking company.

I’ve got a couple things planned for the next few days. First, someone mentioned there was a Speechcraft trainer in town, so I’d like to track him down and see if he can give me a boost to my already impressive conversational skills. Second, after charming the innkeeper with my aforementioned silver tongue, Nondrick’s odometer turned over and I’m due to level up while I sleep tonight. Wow. I only started this blog in 2007 and Nondrick is already on the brink of Level Six! Amazing.

Finally, the Count told me the house for sale only cost 4,000 septims, the cheapest residence I’ve found besides my hovel, and I’ve almost got enough coin to afford that. Of course, the town is full of spooks and scumbags, and I’m entirely not sure I want to live here. To make my decision, I’ll need to explore the area nearby and see if the landscape is littered with enough plants for an ambitious, level-climbing alchemist like Nondrick to survive on.

Still Living

Posted June 10, 2011 by livinginoblivion
Categories: Interludes

Oh, hello.

With The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim coming just around the corner (okay, it’s half a year away, but it’ll be here before you know it), I’ve decided I should, you know, maybe bring some closure to this little blog that has been dribbling along intermittently since 2007 (!!!).

Sorry for all the delays, once again, and thanks to anyone who is still hanging in there.

Last night, I reinstalled Oblivion, and restored all my Nondrick saved games and mods (I’d uninstalled everything a while back to try out some sort of full-conversion mod thing that I wound up never playing). It crashed regularly for about a half-hour, but thanks to some inspired tweaking and the incredibly useful Oblivion Mod Manager (Thanks, OMM, you’re a damn miracle), I finally got everything running, loaded up my last save, and once again peered into the ugly face of Nondrick P. Cairk’tir.

He’s still there, waiting patiently. Beaker, too. They’re both fine and ready to continue, and so am I.

Here’s a picture from last night.

So. The blog will ride on again, picking up wherever it left off. Not sure when the next real post will be, but maybe in a week or so. I will guide this experiment to some sort of ending, and I will make an effort to do so before the release of Skyrim in November. That is my goal.

Thanks again for sticking around (if anyone has indeed stuck around), and I hope to continue the non-adventure shortly. Meanwhile, my wife and I are doing some pop-culture blogging over at my new(ish) site, Screen Cuisine.

The Alchemist’s Code

Posted February 15, 2010 by livinginoblivion
Categories: Nondrick's Non-adventure

When last we left Nondrick, roughly eighteen years ago, he was faced with a moral dilemma.  Stealing a Shepard’s Pie from someone’s home to cure his wolf-born infections (Witbane and Helljoint) was weighing heavily on his soft mind — was it the wrong thing to do?  Was it in keeping with his NPC nature?  With his back against the wall, would Nondrick fill his pockets with stolen goods?

In a moment of desperation I’d mixed up the ill-gotten curative and stood there, bottle to my lips, debating, worrying, and trying to remember the Alchemist’s Code.  What I eventually remembered was that I’d never actually invented an Alchemists Code. So, I invented one.

What I can find is mine. What I can’t find, I can buy. But stealing is kind of a dick move.

Okay, it’s not the most eloquent code ever written. But stealing, along with fighting, adventuring, romance, and writing eloquent codes,  just isn’t Nondrick’s thing .  I decided, eventually, to leave the potion in the house I’d broken into, along with a trinket or two to make up for ruining someone’s dinner. With that, I trudged out into the night on aching, infected joints, to find where I’d parked my horse a year ago and to continue searching for a cure that wouldn’t involve stealing a baked lamb entree from a stranger’s dinner table.

Of course, this being Oblivion, when the game closes a door it opens a window. Unfortunately, opening a window in Oblivion is a dangerous prospect, because sometimes an enraged pigs rushes through it and tries to kill you.  Today, as I travel north atop my faithful horse, Beaker, boars finally make their appearance in the game.

Boars are actually pretty tough: they’re fast, durable, and challenging for any character who hasn’t leveled up properly, and Nondrick’s improved speechcraft and mercantile skills, which certainly help with his career, haven’t left him particularly capable of dealing with boars easily.

Killing a boar requires a lot of blocking, back-pedaling, and just plain running away, while making the occasional swipe with a sword or blast with a fireball.  The first boar I encounter drops me quickly to about one-quarter health before I’ve even done him much damage. I heal quickly with my Mara’s Gift spell, then find myself battered down to half-health again before I finally send the little piggy to market.

While I’m carving up the boar, a Timber Wolf leaps snarling out of the woods.   I blast the animal with my frost spell and hack him down to size, hoping he doesn’t infect me with yet another disease.  My health is now worryingly low, and I don’t have much in the way of curatives. I use my Heal Major Wounds spell, but since I’ve never built up my magic abilities, I can only use it once or twice before running out of gas.

As soon as I’m back on Beaker, I spot a fellow traveler heading my way. He sees me as well, and thrusts a fist skyward.  I’m hoping he’s waving hello, but no, he’s casting a spell: a scamp spawns beside him and attacks me.  Ignoring the conjured beast, I chase the spellcaster around, trying to smack him with my sword. Cripes, can’t these stupid animals and evil wizards just fight amongst themselves and leave me out of it?

A retarded little parade ensues.  The conjurer can run backwards as fast as I can run forward, so it’s a futile chase for a while as I follow him around.  Meanwhile, his scamp is chasing me, so the three of us make circles all over the road and through the grass, nobody gaining on anyone.  Finally, the warlock runs back-first into a boulder. Pinning him against the rock, I hack away at him while his scamp repeatedly sets me on fire.

Eventually, he folds and his scamp vanishes.

Back on Beaker, I proceed slowly up the trail, gathering ingredients from horseback (somehow).  With the city of Bravil in my sights, I spot a plant with large leaves by the base of a tree.  My keen eye for plant life tells me this is Mandrake.  Wait a second.  Wait a second!

I slide off Beaker and yank the Mandrake roots out of the ground.  I check the properties in my well-thumbed copy of Mushing Up Plants For Fun And Profit.

There it is. The Cure Disease property!  I mix the Mandrake Root with the remaining sample of Elf Cup Cap that has been gently decomposing in my pocket for days.  Bam!  One Cure Disease potion.  I chug-a-lug and check the active effects — all traces of the disease are gone.  Hurray!  I have rid myself of wolf-cooties!

Wow. I’d sunk pretty low there for a while, but finally managed to complete my personal quest, ridding my body of unwanted canine pathogens. Nondrick was once again complete, and could walk triumphantly into Bravil.  Or, if not “triumphantly,” then at least proudly.  Well, “proudly” may be overstating it.  How about, “not crawling with diseased ticks.”

Yeah, that’ll do.


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