Well, I have decided to compile a guide on various ways to role-play in games like The Elder Scrolls, because I was bored and there is no rule saying I can’t do it.
There are many different opinions on roleplaying, spanning various forums, but to be entirely honest, I think most of them are terrible. Take, for example, UESP’s Roleplaying section for Oblivion: There are a large variety of different jobs/lifestyles you can role-play having, but even then, to me, they are nothing but make believe jobs you can do, and they don’t necessarily create a real person, like what I like doing in my TES role-plays. That is what this is about Creating a real person, not just giving your old level 50 character something to do at the end of your play through with him. Of course, this is strictly my opinion, and if it’s not suited for you, then feel free to ignore me
Also, whereas other role-play examples I’ve seen say “you need this race, this skill set, this whatever”, I don’t do that. At no point in this guide will you see me tell you what you need to do. The choice is all up to you!
One last thing although it isn’t at all necessary, I like to make my roleplaying end when I die the first time. You don’t have to do it, it’s just something to throw out to make it more interesting. You’re much more likely to be careful under the possibility of dying.
Let me conclude this by saying that while the examples and mods contained within are for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, virtually every technique mentioned can be applied to another game –albeit with different mods if you want to play modded.
For the purposes of this guide, I will create five sections detailing different things I look at when I role-play, and I will close the guide off with a character that I used in Morrowind, and carried over into Oblivion. (Each section, however, just to prove the point, will use a Redguard warrior named Jarren.)
Defining Your Personality: Who is your character?
When I start a new role-play, I like to sit down and create a backstory for the character. What motivated him to visit this new land? To leave behind his family, his friends, his home?
A good character would have a motivation for what he’s doing. A life goal that he wants to achieve. Of course, it needs to be moderately realistic if you want to have any hope of achieving it. Or, you could have a character who would strive his whole life to become Emperor of all of Tamriel, only to end in failure (actually, there may be a mod, although I can’t remember).
EX. Jarren has just arrived in Cyrodiil. He used to be a city guard for a town in Hammerfell, although bandits overran the guards and plundered the city. With his family dead, he boarded the first boat for Cyrodiil, and he has landed in Anvil. As a former guard, he can’t stand to see injustice, so wants to travel Cyrodiil performing charity work for the beggars and defeat any bandits/marauders he can find.
As you can see, he came with a goal, a reason to be in the province and something that you can strive for achieving. Jarren would be the kind of person who would selflessly give his life and all his possessions for the good of the people.
Another thing I like to look at is hobbies. What does my character like to do in his free time? He quite obviously can’t fight bandits 24/7 or he might come to resent being the good person that he is.
It can be something small like having a drink in the tavern with his friends, or it could be something bigger like exploring Ayleid ruins that he finds when he is not busy. Or, is the character partial to dressing a certain way and having a certain appearance to the public? There are an infinite number of possible things that could be done, so the option is up to you how to pass the time.
Jarren likes to read. His mother was a school teacher, so books were always around him, and he likes to read history. So, while he is out exploring, if he sees a good history book that he hasn’t read, he will pick it up and hold on to it so that he can read while he is relaxing in his room after a hard day of adventuring. He also likes to do some hunting while he is taking a break from adventuring, but still in the field.
He also is a very modest person. He never dresses to show off, opting to wear lighter weight linens when he is in town. As for armor and weapons, he was never a heavy armor fan, as movement is too restrictive when you’re trying to move quickly around towns. He prefers to wear light furs and leather
Is there a person your character despises? Someone he hates to be around or outright wants dead? Or is there a particular food, deity, or object that he finds repulsive?
Again, whatever you want it to be.
Our friend Jarren dislikes lawbreaking, so he will go out of his way to find the culprit and have them atone for their sins. He also isn’t a fan of ham, because when he was younger, he ate some bad meat that got his really sick, so he won’t eat it or carry it with him, even for resale.
Does the character has a weakness? Something that he is forever seeking, like an addiction? Perhaps he is an alcoholic or drug addict and will blow away his money on whatever alcohol or skooma he can find? Or, does he have a favorite snack or sweet tooth that needs candy?
Jarren loves to eat sweet cakes. While he won’t blow his money on them or spend it if he can’t afford it, he doesn’t mind having a sweet cake once in a while.
NPC Interactions: Races, Genders, Factions, etc
How does your character plan to handle himself around other people? Is he friendly to everyone, or is there a race he just despises? Is he sexist or is he partial to a particular faction? This section won’t be long and detailed like the previous, as everything is being left to you to decide (just like before), so I’ll just cut to my example.
For example, Jarren is not particularly bothered by anyone based on race, having a few friends in each of the races. He has a healthy relationship with the Guards of Cyrodiil, being an ex guard himself, but he tries to bust Thieves and he actively attempts to kill assassins, as he believes killing for profit is one of the most dishonorable crimes you can commit.
Actual class creation is further down the list in my ordering, because we aren’t going for power gaming and efficient classing, we are going for what would make sense for a character, which is why we’ve established who Jarren is first.
While a warrior would stereotypically be proficient in numerous styles of combat, Jarren isn’t. He is more into being agile in combat and he is very charismatic when he is in town speaking to the beggars and the general population. We will list Jarren’s two Attributes as Agility and Personality.
As for his skill set: The city guard have trained him tone proficient with swords and shields, and he taught himself how to move in furs and leather armor while hunting with a short bow, and all the outdoor activity has made him fairly athletic. He also has minimal field training in Alchemy, since he would have to make his own potions and poisons while out in the field hunting to ensure a merciful kill. As a guard and public face for the people, he is a decent speaker, so Speechcraft would be one of his skills.
Blade, Block, Marksman, Light Armor, Alchemy, Speechcraft, Athletics
As you can see, it’s probably not the most efficient class ever, and there won’t be a lot of 5X multipliers at level-ups, but given his past, this is what makes sense. Of course, this is just my example, and if your character’s background would dictate a more efficient character or a less efficient character, then that is your decision to make.
Ways to Increase Realism
Here is a short list of things I like to do to increase realism, as a character wouldn’t strive for his goals non-stop. This is not a complete list, rather, these are examples of things that you can do to improve your experience in roleplaying.
1. Stop to eat at least 2 (ideally 3) meals a day
2. Take breaks when traveling long distances (unless you have an incredibly urgent task, you wouldn’t ride from Anvil to Leyawiin in one shot.)
3. Maybe stop for a swim in a river you find (remove clothing, wouldn’t want it to get wet, would we?)
4. Stop and sit under a tree or in a campsite when night falls and you can’t reach town.
5. Stop in towns you see, and go have a break to go shopping or interact with the citizens
Treat animals like you would in real life
6. A horse or following dog companion would get tired after the long travels, so you should give them a break too, or maybe throw a piece of food on the ground and wait for an hour to simulate resting and them eating
7. You couldn’t realistically carry 20 sets of armor, even if you can carry 500 pounds of weight, because armor is huge. (Or any item; think realistically when you’re gathering loot)
Mods I Like
I have a list of mods for Oblivion that is so large that I will probably never update my Oblivion mods page to be an exhaustive list, and there are many roleplay mods that I won’t discuss in any particular detail. These are a few that I particularly like for my style of roleplay, though I also have several lore-appropriate clothes, armors, weapons, new locations and quests, overhauls of things, etc. Basically, whatever mods you want are at your discretion, and each character might dictate a different type of mod to get that perfect roleplay.
Opinion: This mod adds the necessity to sleep regularly to the game, with negligence resulting in a decrease of your attributes. I like this mod because it makes the game more realistic. After all, who can stay awake for 3 years straight, resting for an hour a week to level up?
Alternate Start By Boat
Opinion:This mod starts the game by filling immigration forms rather than escaping prison. It does not interfere with the main quest and after the forms are filled you receive free stuff based on the answers on the forms. I like to use this mod so that I am not pulled into the Main Quest right away.
Hunger and Thirst Survival
Opinion: This mod makes eating and drinking a NECESSITY! If you don’t have a meal every so often you enter stage 1 hunger/thirst. There are 5 stages of hunger, and neglecting to eat will result in death shortly after reaching stage 5.
Oscuro’s Oblivion Overhaul and Martigen’s Monster Mod
Opinion: These mods add more monsters/NPCs, etc, tweak the leveling and make the game more challenging. I was never a fan of Oblivion’s leveling with the player. I like that it’s challenging from the beginning and you have to work to improve yourself and stand a chance.
Breydon Sarethi: My Morrowind and Oblivion role-play character
Breydon Sarethi is a nephew of Councilor Sarethi of House Redoran, but he was never the fighter type, opting to do more magical studies. Rather than join House Redoran, he’s joined the Telvanni. Aryon has accepted him as a willing pupil, but Athyn Sarethi is a more than a little upset that his nephew chose to become a selfish, xenophobic Telvanni Mouth. So, in order to avoid any family troubles, Breydon avoids Redoran territory as much as he can.
As for his studies, he has no particular magical specialties (I use a little bit of all types of magic) and he is nearly useless with a blade (I carry a small steel shortsword as backup, otherwise I am pure magic).
When he is out traveling, he wears a plain travelers robe and shoes, otherwise, he tries to dress really fancy. He isn’t a fan of armor.
He went to Vivec once to go to the bookstore in the Foreign Quarter, and he fell in love with the city. He always makes time to stay in town for a few days and wander around.
His favorite subject to study is the ancient residents of Tamriel (he stops to investigate EVERY Dwemer ruin in Vvardenfell and every Ayleid ruin in Cyrodiil, and if he can’t he remembers and hits it when he finds free time). He is an avid reader and collects all kinds of books to keep in his home, and he hates the Argonians with a passion, because they are smelly swamp lizards. (Breydon hates the swamps of SW Vvardenfell and never was a fan of those scaly tales) If he can get away with it, he will try and kill any free lizards he finds so he can rid Vvardenfell of them and have the rest enslaved and put in their places.
He isn’t particularly religious, but every couple of days, he will visit a Tribunal Temple for prayer and solitude.
He is indifferent to the presence of the Empire. While he doesn’t hate the outlanders, he doesn’t go out of his way to be friends with him.
Lastly, he isn’t an addict (yet), but he loves to have some skooma once every few weeks.
Eventually, Breydon decided that to further his knowledge, he needed to travel and see more of Tamriel, so he set off on a boat for the Imperial City to visit the Arcane University, gather books, study, and eventually explore the Ayleid ruins.
He is largely the same six years later, except that he can’t visit the Tribunal Temple when he isn’t in Morrowind. He now just likes to relax in the shade and reflect after long morning walks.