Slaught, the high elf has been questing for just shy of a year in the province of Morrowind (350 in-game days; all told, only maybe three or four weeks of that consisted on full days of rest to refresh merchant inventories). In that time, she has waged prolonged war against the forces of Dagoth Ur, ended the Cammona Tong’s hold on the Fighters Guild, uniting said guild with the Thieves Guild, presiding over both as guildmaster, murdered several people for profit in the name of the Morag Tong, freed nearly a hundred slaves, became the Arch-Magister of House Telvanni before murdering the other magistrates, became Arch-mage and thus brought the Vvardenfel Mages Guild under the jurisdiction of House Telvanni, became Hortator of the Great Houses, fulfilled the Nerevarine Prophecies, killed a bunch of werewolves, established a mining colony, defeated two gods, became a third god’s pope before subjugating him, plundered nearly every tomb and tower, fought in the name of the Emperor on earth and in heaven while fighting to free the land from the Empire’s grasp, and helped a few modestly grateful mooks along the way. All in all, Slaught has had a busy and profitable year. There are places still left untouched and unpillaged, but they are few and not likely worth bothering with.
She’s level 50 now, and nothing really poses much of a threat. Dagoth Ur got a few decent blows in, but it’s her magnanimous nature that keeps her from just killing anyone who mouths off. Amazingly enough, she’s probably got another 15 to 20 levels left in her, but most of those will come out of grinding magic skills that are still in the 50s and 60s. All she’ll get is more HP and be able to eke out a few more points in the nebulous “Luck” stat.
Slaught has taken the fight to Mournhold, where she’ll inevitably be killing another god or two. So far, I’m enjoying Mournhold more than Soltheistheim, even though content-wise it’s probably a lot smaller. It’s at least denser. I like the urban adventuring, even though most of the quests so far have seemed a bit silly. Still, for its geographic size, Mournhold seems a lot smaller than Vivec. It goes back to my thoughts on negative gaming space and ‘useless’ areas. There is a LOT to Vivec, and a lot of it isn’t worth visiting (sewers with no dungeons, various apartments and living quarters of non-story NPCs, poor street vendors with little on-hand cash and nothing but garbage to sell) or holds no bearing to the plot. But it’s there, which reinforces how big it feels. Meanwhile, Mournhold seems to make the most of physical space, with the exception of the strangely empty south plaza. The Bazaar conveniently has one of each type of vendor with enough cash to unload some of that stuff that was unsellable before, the Temple district has the Temple (duh), and the residential district has a bar and a small handful of manors. I have to presume that everyone in Mournhold who doesn’t have a store and isn’t a guard somewhere, must live in this fairly small district, which, I don’t know, makes the town feel a lot smaller. Vivec had what were essentially 8 different neighborhoods with people living and working in them, plus a creepy ‘palace’ (more like a meditation chamber) for the living god.
The Imperial City in Oblivion takes a lot of its design cues from Mournhold in the Tribunal expansion, in that it’s a city with a central palace and neighborhoods divided by walls like the spokes of a wheel. Though there’s a bit more to interact with overall in the Imperial City, IC feels cramped and small because of the other problems Oblivion suffers from in terms of lacking negative urban gaming space. Like the Imperial City, Mournhold feels more like a small fortress town than an actual city. It needs some suburbs. Interestingly, in Arena’s procedurally generated game world, every city had vast suburbs, even small towns with sparse services, that served no other purpose than to make the world feel big. It was there; there was no reason to go there, but if you wanted to, it was there and you could. Eventually just knowing it was there sufficed. So, in the meantime, I’m going to just tell myself that there’s an expansive city just outside the unopenable main gate of Mournhold, and continue to quest in the dungeon-city, thankful that at least Barenziah’s castle in Morrowind is not nonsensical labyrinth that the one in Wayrest was.
And maybe I’ll fill in some of those empty levels along the way.