A lot of people approach games like Skyrim as an objective – a mission, a goal, a game to trade in when you’re done .
The people who stick around look past the quests to explore the skill, lore and content of the world, conjuring an entirely different game from the one on the shelf. I used to be that guy: started the game as the coolest-looking person I could make, and finished at level 27 as a character with a huge identity crisis.
A friend suggested the idea of roleplaying – instead of controlling the character, why not become the character? It’s all well and good stumbling from one quest to another, ticking them off on my to-do list of missions. But quests don’t have to be a chore; in fact, they’re more fleshed-out and immersive than you’d think. Thing is, you’ll miss it if you’re too busy sprinting through a dungeon without taking in the scenery.
Roleplaying in Skyrim unlocks a game created by yourself. On the surface, it’s just dragons, weapons, and shouting. Under the hood, it’s a world full of lore, decisions and skill. But how does one unlock this different game, I hear you cry? Simple.
First, you must look inside yourself. What? No, seriously. It’s time to make your own rules.
1) Starting your character – Becoming the man!
Okay, so you’re on the path of roleplay.
Remember: roleplaying is to play as someone else, yet imbue your ideals and traits into that character.
Roleplay is to become someone you can’t – in a world like Skyrim, this is important, as your character lives in a world where dragons, magic and powers exist. If you manage to make these things happen in real life, I’d eat my hat.
First, its a good idea to decide who you want to be, not just in terms of profession or weapon skill – in terms of behavior, characteristics and ability. Some people like to create detailed, expansive backgrounds for their characters; This is their backstory. If you’re not the backstory type of Dovahkiin, you don’t need to create one. However, it helps to have a general idea of what makes your character so that you can make the best decisions for them.
A backstory can include:
- Choice of weapon and armour: There might be a reason why your character is so good at using a sword – perhaps he used to be an Imperial soldier until he dropped out due to their greed and corruption. Get creative with your reasons. This step can be tricky, because if you’re going to effectively roleplay, you’ll (usually) need to stick with the same type of weapon throughout your whole playthrough, so choose wisely. There are some exceptions; perhaps your character decides to go through a major mid-life mace-interest? After all, a new start in Skyrim means a whole new you. There’s nothing in the way of stopping you from changing your weapon half-way through!
- Reasons for being in Skyrim: Perhaps you’re on an assassination mission commissioned by the Dark Brotherhood (if you’re a PC player, the Alternate Start Mod is a good tool to use to make sure you actually start off in the Dark Brotherhood). Maybe you want to join the College of Winterhold. You could be visiting Skyrim to explore the Dwemer Ruins. Heck, maybe you’re just a farmer’s boy, in it for the ‘tatoes and wheat. There are a million reasons for being in Skyrim – even if you just want to complete your fate as Dragonborn. But remember: just because you’re the Dragonborn doesn’t mean you have to do Dragonborn-related missions. Hardcore roleplayers genuinely comply to mundane tasks, such as picking crops on a farm, to really fulfill their role as a character. You don’t have to do that – it’d get a little bit boring – but if you really want to get into your role, wheres the harm in trying? One of my favourite things to do in-game is hunt big game.
- Behavior: Skyrim often gives you a choice of wording to answer people with. If you’re a roleplaying a heartless warrior, say mean things when you get the chance. If you’re an alcoholic, carry wine or mead with you everywhere. If you’re religious, pray at alters (alternatively, if you’re not, don’t pray at any – and maybe even assassinate those who do). Perhaps you believe that “Skyrim belongs to the Nords”, harboring a deep hatred for Imperials? Think of your own and see if it works with your character. Behavior is a game-changer.
An important factor to consider is what your characters pros and cons are. Just like in real life, people have talents and weaknesses. This part involves deciding what your character is and isn’t good at. It seems counter-intuitive to give yourself a weakness, but it’s important. After all, it’s fine being good at everything, but it isn’t fun.
By giving your character weaknesses, be it behavioral, ability-wise, or physically, you’re setting yourself limits that make the game difficult not in terms of setting, but in terms of choice. If you’ve created a backstory for your character, ask yourself this as you play:
“Does my character like this? If not, why?” Here are some ideas:
- Perhaps your character doesn’t like magic due to previous, unresolved issues – perhaps it was a previous failure with restoration spells, resulting in an unresolved distrust of restoration magic. As vengence, they’ll hunt every mage and vampire in the face of Skyrim. On the flip side, maybe they love magic because they think that weapons are prehistoric. Come up with your own reasons that suit your character.
- Is your character good or bad? This changes their whole being – a good character won’t steal, pickpocket or bribe guards. Instead, they might choose to persuade, barter and sell their own goods. However, a bad character would do all of these things and feel no regret, fencing their loot to underground buyers. Is there a reason as to why they enjoy stealing? Perhaps its in their nature, or they were brought up through thievery?
- Maybe your character likes to hunt a specific type of monster/animal. My character always wanted to kill every giant he saw due to previous, Giant-related grievances. Your character might enjoy hunting game for sport or profit – maybe they use pelts to sell or create armour? Or if you’re a PC gamer, you can take your hunting interests to the next level by overhauling the bounty-hunting system, using notice boards with wanted posters as the gateway to your next big head-hunting adventure.
You don’t need to create a lot of talents and weaknesses. The more you have, the more restrictive the game tends to become. Sure, you’re playing to roleplay, but you’re also playing for enjoyment – you don’t need to make the game too difficult and boring for yourself. Create as many as you feel confident about, and stick to it – these are your traits.
2) Deciding the skills you use
Choose the skills that suit your character‘s lifestyle, behavior and ability. For instance…
- – Thieves might use Sneak, Pickpocket, Lockpicking, Light Armour, Speech, Illusion, etc.
- – Warriors might use Heavy Armour, One-handed, Blocking, Two-handed, Archery, Smithing, etc.
- – Mages might use Destruction, Conjuration, Alchemy, Alteration, Enchanting, Alchemy etc.
Choose what you want, but make sure you stick to them – since your character lives this way, they probably won’t do anything out of their pre-determined traits. Mix and match, but don’t go overboard or you’ll end up with an OP (Over-Powered) character.
Choosing a star sign that complements your skills is useful. There are tons, but most of them involving having to explore a bit. It helps if you’ve got a knowledge of Skyrim beforehand and you know where the signs are off by heart. If not, you might have to find an immersive excuse to locate them (read a book on the guise that it’s informative, then Google the location – that’s what I did. Shhh!)
It’s also important to choose a relevant race. Each race has advantages and are relevant for different play styles. The Khajiits and Wood Elves are sneaky, so they’re preferable for thieves. Orcs and Redguards have resistances that are useful for close combat. High/Dark Elves are good with different kinds of magic, so choose the most relevant. Race is imperative – if you choose the wrong race for your play style, Skyrim will get a whole lot more difficult (unless your character is actively battling a stereotype about their race – for example, an Orc might use magic because they’re sick of the idea that Orcs are always warriors).
Finally, its important to choose what type of follower you’ll want, if any – if your character is a lone wolf, it’s not mandatory. Part of the game is to get to know the NPCs of Skyrim, but you’ll probably want a companion who you’re interested in, be it romantically or tactically. If you’re a PC gamer, there are ton of follower mods out there to explore, so pick someone that you think will compliment your own character. A quick note, though: if you’re interested in a romantic follower, you might want to make sure that they’re marriageable before you build a relationship with them – after all, you don’t want to go through hell and back with your loved one just to find out they’re dedicated to a life of loneliness.
If you want to explore Skyrim in a wolf-pack with a whole bunch of followers, and you also happen to be a PC gamer, consider using a follower-management mod such as AFT to let you lead more than one follower. Then you can cover all of your bases – a warrior, mage, and archer as a group? Unstoppable!
3) Change the settings – Make Skyrim work for you
In order to get a true experience of roleplay, you’ll need to alter some game settings. Changing your settings is accessible by going into your pause menu by pressing Esc or Start, and going to the Settings tab.
- Change your HUD/Crosshair settings: This is something that I do all the time – making my HUD invisible. Its simple – turn your HUD transparency all the way down. Why? Making the HUD invisible is a measure of immersion – in real life, would you see health, magic and stamina bars in your vision? Probably not. I’ve found that by not knowing when my stamina or magicka depletes, it drastically changes the course of combat; just like me, you’ll get to the point where you’ll know your character so well, you’ll can tell when you’ve ran out of these things. The compass, shout meter and navigation marks will also disappear, too. Exploring Skyrim suddenly becomes real – you don’t know where anything is anymore, so you’ll actually have to look around for them yourself. Use road-signs, NPC descriptions, and book details to get an idea of where to go.
- Change your audio settings: This is roleplay at quite a level of dedication. I’ve heard that some people decide to turn the Music volume all the way down. This means that battle music or overworld music will not play. This justifies the idea that in real life, music wouldn’t blurt out while you’re impaling a bandit, unless your headphones happen to disconnect from your MP3 player. Personally, I find that it can get a bit boring where there’s nothing to listen to, but some people love it – give it a shot if you want to feel more immersed.
- Change your difficulty: If you’re comfortable and want a true challenge, change your difficulty. I find it best to start at Expert then move into Master when I’m ready, but some people like to start at Master.
4) Roleplay Rules – You should probably follow these regardless!
There are a few standard rules that most roleplayers consider essential. You don’t have to follow them, but it’s advised for an optimum roleplay experience.
- Don’t Fast-traveldon’t fast-travel. No teleporting places, no easy way in or out. You must get by by walking, running, riding, or using the cart horses in front of major cities. You might want to by a horse or travel as a werewolf (they sprint faster than a horse), but absolutely NO FAST-TRAVEL.
- Eat, Drink, Sleep, Repeat: Be sure to carry food and drink on your character. Every day, eat at least one meal and drink at least one drink. You don’t want to go malnourished, do you? Also, when it’s night, go to sleep at Inns or in beds in general, or gut a bandit camp for their hospitality. Not only will you get the Well Rested boost (unless you’re a werewolf), but your immersion will increase – you’ve got to go to sleep at some point!
- Don’t carry silly amounts of things: If you’ve got 3 swords, 5 shields, 10 fur armours and 257 arrows of 8 different types, you’re probably going crazy. Carry what you can carry in real life – you’re not going to lug around 5 iron warhammers, and certainly not 12 dragon bones. Limit your arrows, limit your weapons, limit your potions and trash – the challenge increases, tactics unfold, and your play style will soon become logical, tactical and unmatched – plan for explorations.
- Think about taking armour from enemies: Taking the clothes off of a bandit is a bit… well, weird. Maybe your character is into that kind of jive. For a true immersive experience, however, consider this: would you really undress a warrior to wear their sweaty, disgusting, blood-soaked fur armors? If you’re looking for something to sell, relieve them of their jewellery. It’s lightweight, compact, and worth a fortune.
- Decide your take on waiting around: Roleplayers are split on waiting. Those who don’t use it justify that in real life, you wouldn’t stand around waiting for five hours like a lemon. Those who do use it will wait to pass extended periods of time when doing activities that would take a few hours – for instance, smithing a sword isn’t instantaneous. After smithing at the forge, they’d wait a few hours to pass the time they would’ve spent making the sword. Use the wait command at your own peril, but it’s really a matter of choice.
And there you have it: your basic intro to Roleplaying in Skyrim. Let me leave you with a final thought, though:
Make sure you have fun! If the game is becoming too restricting or repetitive, feel free to break the odd rule. You’re the dragonborn, dammit! You rule the land!