In Which the Dragonborn Goes to Avanchnzel

Short-ish session last night, as Sunday is Columbo night and I don’t want to try to play Skyrim during Columbo! Highlights:

  • Popped straight back over to Avanchnzel from Whiterun, after doublechecking inventory was as light as possible
  • Got only a little ways into the dungeon before beginning to see the ghosts of the prior party
  • Main feature of this dungeon was lots and lots of automatons, including an actual factory!
  • Surprisingly, no Falmer
  • Got the Lexicon safely returned to its receptacle
  • Got safely out of the dungeon with loot, and back to Whiterun
  • Epilogue: discovered shopkeepers in Whiterun I’ve invested in are now significantly more friendly!

Kept this session somewhat short-ish, as Sunday night is Columbo night in my house; we’ve been watching the old episodes broadcast on MeTV, and Columbo is fun enough that I don’t want to try to play Skyrim during it. Also, it being Sunday, I didn’t want to stay up too stupidly late playing. So I had only a couple hours to play before bedtime, therefore, I limited myself to just visiting Avanchnzel.

Which, honestly, was less scary than I’d thought given the whole intro of poor From-Deepest-Fathoms so desperately foisting the Lexicon off on me. There was nothing to make this particular Dwemer ruin more challenging than any of the other ones I’ve visited so far.

And even given that I came into this dungeon at level 47, which argues that I was OP for it, I kind of feel like there wasn’t anything even before the boss chamber that offered any kind of a challenge to speak of. There were no puzzle rooms, and only one significant trap—the spinning blades type, which I now know how to get by now that I have the Become Ethereal shout. Nor were there any Falmer, which surprised me, since that made this dungeon a notable contrast with the other Dwemer ruins I’ve visited.

This was not to say the dungeon wasn’t enjoyable, because I did enjoy tromping through it. Part of the interest was seeing the ghosts of the prior party come through and get their interplay for what happened to them.

Side note on that though: this is now the second time I’ve entered a dungeon and seen a prior doomed party’s ghosts acting out their own doom. Both times, the ghost drama included the ghost of a person who actually survived the doom, which kind of doesn’t make sense. At Labyrinthian, it was the later-to-be Arch-Mage, Savos Aren. At Avanchnzel, it was From-Deepest-Fathoms.

Oddity of the ghostly drama including a character known to be alive and back in Riften aside, it was very apparent that this bunch was way out of their depth trying to infiltrate this ruin. They even had dialogue about how they were a party of thieves—and one of their number sarcastically observed that apparently none of them could pick locks.

(Which makes me wonder how the hell they’re supposed to be thieves? I cannot imagine the Thieves Guild would be sending people who can’t even pick locks into a ruin! Or maybe these people weren’t professionals and just decided on their own to try to infiltrate the place in the name of looking for loot to sell?)

There was also a strong implication that the leader of the party, Watches-the-Roots, was getting taken over by the Lexicon, though the ghost drama didn’t take that as far as I thought it would—the party leader apparently just got diced by one of the various automatons still wandering the place, before any of the other party members had a chance to do anything about that problem.

Drennen, the youngest member of the party, is shown to try to bolt in a panic and his body was the first I found. I also eventually found Watches-the-Roots’ body, and finally, Breya, the remaining party member, who’d made it into the final chamber but had taken out one of two centurions before the other one got her.

The remaining one was no particular problems for me.

Mind you, it wasn’t an easy kill, it did take several rounds for me to fight it. But I was distinctly amused that I wound up hitting it right in the crotch!

Dwarven Centurion Masters are quite large—and Bosmer are apparently rather small. I also noted a whole bunch of shelves in this place made out of dwarven metal, all of which had parts for various machines on them, and all of which had a higher shelf just a little bit above my eye level. This raises interesting questions about how big the Dwemer were supposed to have been. From what I’m seeing on the wiki, they were not any smaller than other Mer races, and the whole “dwarf” moniker may well have just been given to them by giants.

(And that, in turn, raises interesting questions about the intellect of giants!)

Really, the main point of interest for me about this dungeon was that it clearly functioned as a factory for the various dwarven machines. There was even a factory floor in one great big chamber, which looked neat enough that I snapped a pic of it.

Factory at Avanchnzel
Factory at Avanchnzel

But from a worldbuilding perspective, the other thing I found interesting was the contrast between the factory floor for the centurions—and the much more mundane objects lying around. Namely, a whole plethora of dishes, plates and bowls and cups. And I got to thinking that it was surprising that more of those hadn’t made it out into the world.

I mean, sure, I’m an adventurer breaking into one of these ruins—I’m probably there to look for treasure, right? But from a sheer practicality standpoint, particularly if I’m an adventurer in Skyrim, I gotta wonder whether those plates and cups and bowls made out of Dwemer metal might not also be appealing. How many adventurers with at least a little bit of smithing skill might look at those dishes and go “hey… I could learn from this”. How many of them might take some of those dwarven metal ingots lying around back to their forges, and make something out of them besides weapons and armor?

How would having that metal available as a source for making everyday objects impact the technological development of the culture?

The game only gives you a somewhat limited range of things you can make at a forge—mostly just a boatload of types of armor and weapons, with only a small set of building materials useful for building houses. But I should think that Alarrah, who now has legendary smithing skills and a growing cache of forge materials to play with, would totally be thinking about whether she can make useful objects with those materials.

Like plates. And cups. And bowls.

Sure, there’s a war on. But there are also a lot of settlements under threat of dragon attack. And objects a little more durable than wood or clay, I think, would be very interesting to some of these settlements!

Anyhow, I got that last centurion sorted. And got safely out of the dungeon with a moderate amount of loot, nothing hugely spectacular, but a good assortment of gems and metals. And one set of glass armor with a regeneration enchantment on it which I think would have been way more interesting to me before I learned how to make dragonscale. ;)

Came out of the dungeon on a balcony with no obvious way down, so had no option but to fast travel back to Whiterun for the epilogue of the evening.

Once I got back to Whiterun to start selling things, I noted with amusement that the shopkeepers I’ve invested in are now a lot friendlier to me. I’m getting lines out of them now like the ones from townsfolk I’ve done favor quests for—“You’ve been a good friend to me” and “what do you need, my friend?”

Even Belethor, smarmy little weasel that he is, is giving me a line I had previously only heard out of the head of the bard college: “You and me, we’re the only people around here who aren’t complete fools.”

So that’s kind of neat, even aside from the main point of investing in those shops—i.e., they have more gold now so they can buy more of my stuff. And presumably, sell it to everybody else!

Next time: Dunno yet? Found out I specifically need to do the next stage of the main quest, Throat of the World, before I can trigger the final phase of the White Phial quest. So I may go follow up with Arniel, and then see about doing Throat of the World. Or I may go to Windhelm to deal with clearing out the Dark Brotherhood. Or I may follow up on the other quest that involves a Lexicon, which is perhaps one of the remaining Daedric quests that aren’t actively horrible? So many choices!

P.S. Bonus extra screenshot:

This was from the previous session, when Lyds and I were on the way south from Winterhold to Riften. Passed through Anga’s Mill and saw this helmet just floating in mid-air. To wit: WTF?!

Did we go past the helmet of the ghost of one of those Stormcloaks who’d been killed by a dragon? Did Carl’s ghost get turned into a helmet? I don’t know! Neither does Lydia!

Mysterious Floating Helmet
Mysterious Floating Helmet