This is mainly to give me further challenge and try to break my bad habits in this game, but also to feel more immersive and try to put myself in my character’s shoes.
1. No dragons. Complete no quests in the main story past what you need to do in order to get out of the tutorial. This way, no random dragons will spawn in the world, and you can go about your business peacefully. I’ve already completed the main quest chain, and I find the dragons more annoying than anything else at this point. This rule also equals no shouts — even though you’ll occasionally find a word in a dungeon, without absorbing dragon souls, you have no way of using them.
2. No stealing or otherwise breaking the law. Not even untraceable gold and coinpurses. I will bend this rule slightly if an NPC gives me a quest that specifically requires me to steal something or break into someone’s house, and then I will ONLY steal the thing I am told to steal, nothing else. Lockpicks can be carried and used, as long as they are only used to open doors or chests in dungeons. (I am forced to make this minor exception because Skyrim has no “open lock” spell as Oblivion did.) This basically means no Thieves’ Guild and no Dark Brotherhood (mainly because I’ve already finished Dark Brotherhood and have no interest in furthering the Thieves’ Guild quests).
3. No non-magical weapons. I must do everything with spells. The only weapons I am allowed to equip are staves. This will force you to use tactics and take advantage of all of the different utility spells the various magic skills have to offer.
4. No light or heavy armor. I make an exception ONLY for when I happen to find a piece of heavy or light armor that has a non-combat enchantment on it that I will equip only while using that non-combat skill, such as a steel plate helmet of Alchemy.
5. Drastically limited looting. I am only allowed to pick up the following objects: potions, alchemy ingredients, food, wine, jewelry, gemstones/soulstones, ingots of gold or silver, money, cloth armor, staves, rare books (especially the 50+ gold ones that grant skill points), spell tomes, and any enchanted light or heavy armor pieces that have interesting enchantments that you want to disenchant for use later (such as the aforementioned steel plate helmet of alchemy), and obviously quest items. (*note: You are allowed to carry ONE set of heavy armor + weapon for the express purpose of giving it to prisoners on the road when you free them, if you plan to do so. You can replace this set if you give it away for this reason, or trade in pieces for better ones you find.)
Your main source of income should be unwanted potions and enchanted jewelry. It doesn’t really make sense to be carrying around dozens of sets of armor in your backpack, and this tries to reflect that. If you’ve already got enough food for the next week, try to avoid stuffing every potato and loaf of bread in your backpack. That stuff is heavy, and there’s no reason to hoard food when you’re going to have plenty of time to find more before you run out. Avoid carrying entire wheels of cheese, because you can’t split them into smaller slices in any way (new cooking recipe, anyone?) and it just doesn’t feel right to be devouring two pounds of cheese for lunch.
6. No companion characters. You’re going this alone, except for your various Conjurations. Companion NPCs are too easy to hurt with destruction spells, especially the spells you get at the higher levels that are all about AoE. You are allowed to purchase and ride a horse if you wish, since most of your combat is going to be inside of dungeons where the horse cannot follow. Dogs, however, are not allowed. If you happen to unlock any housecarls from quests, they can go ahead and live in your house while you’re gone, but they’re certainly not following you on your adventures.
7. You must sleep every night. This game tries to ignore sleep, but your character must be exhausted from staying awake for weeks at a time. When it starts to get later than 8 pm and all of the shops close down, try to find a room at an inn if you don’t own a house in that city. If you’re away from home, try to clear out a bandit camp or something with tents you can sleep in for the night. Sleep until at least 6 am the next day if you get to bed early, and sleep in later if you stay up past 10 pm. Try to think about how tired your character would be after a day of solid adventuring. Do try to get an early start before starting on any particularly long journeys, so that you’ll have plenty of time to explore that cave and get back before dark.
8. Eat meals on a regular basis. Carry around food and beverages, not to devour during battle when you need health restored, but so that you have plenty to eat when you’re away from town. At each mealtime, try to select a realistic variety of foods that might make up a real meal, like meat, vegetables, starch, wine, and dessert. You can eat vegetables raw if you have to, but always prioritize the cooked ones, and never eat raw meat or fish. Try to put yourself in your character’s shoes, and see how you would feel about having nothing but a bushel of raw potatoes for breakfast.
9. Stick to the roads. No cutting through the wilderness directly towards the arrow on the compass, which usually results in wallwalking and carefully falling down steep cliffs in order to reach your destination because the road to that place is far from obvious on the map. Liberal use of the Clairvoyance spell will lead you to the proper roads to your destination.
10. No fast travel. You must walk on the roads manually between any of your destinations, dealing with any enemies you encounter along the way, and picking up any alchemy reagents you find. In addition to reducing the chance that you’ll accidentally stay up past your bedtime, this encourages you to focus on quests that are near your current location, and not hop all over the place through the countryside.
11. You must increase your Magicka every time you level up. Stamina is of no use to you except in running away, since you don’t use weapons and you won’t be looting enough to be overburdened. Having low health will encourage you to be more tactical and avoid getting hit instead of taking the blows. And of course, having as much mana as possible will help you cast as many things as possible.
12. When you level up, you must put your Perk point for that level into whatever skill caused you to level up. If you leveled up from casting a destruction spell, put it into Destruction. If you leveled up from enchanting some rings, put it into Enchanting. If you leveled up from selling something, you put it into Speech. Et cetera. There are two exceptions to this. The first being if you leveled up due to finding a book that taught you a skill point in something you’re not allowed to use, such as heavy armor or archery. The second being if you have no further perks available in that skill, since you have taken them all already and do not yet have a high enough level in that skill to learn the next. In both of these situations, you can choose a perk in any skill of your choice.
13. No blacksmithing except for jewelry and magic staves (which are craftable using a certain mod). This mostly goes without saying, since you’re not equipping any armor or weapons, so you have no need to craft them or improve them. You’re also not picking up any of the materials that would be used to craft them.
14. No stashing of loot in your house, except for placing rare books and spell tomes on the bookshelves. If you’re getting overburdened for whatever reason, sell off your extra potions or something.
Mods used to assist with this:
1. Novice level destruction perk makes novice spells free rather than half cost. These spells do so little damage, they’re basically just used to give you a “basic attack” when you’re out of mana, or so that you can spend your mana on more tactical things like summons, frenzy, armor, or healing. I basically only take that mod and the staff crafting one from this pack.
2. Various other destruction tweaks to allow it to scale better with level, such as adding a third rank to increased elemental damage perks and causing the expert/master perks to increase spell damage further. Improvements to the cloak and rune spells to make them more worth using.
3. Cooking recipe additions, allowing you to cook things that already exist in-game such as baked potatoes and grilled leeks, as well as several new recipes. This should cut down on the number of raw vegetables you’re carrying around.
4. Optionally, remove the compass at the top of the screen to reduce your temptation to walk towards the arrow, and force you to find where the enemies are on your own by looking around and seeing where that arrow came from.
My new character is a thin wisp of a high elf (because high elves are best with magic y’know) with green eyes and a suitably elven name that I cannot remember except that it starts with an M. She is a bit high and mighty and disdainful of getting blood on her hands and clothes. She tries to kill her enemies from a distance with destruction spells and summoned creatures, and certainly isn’t going to go running off of the path to hunt and skin a deer or something. She has no interest in stripping her defeated enemies down to their underwear so that she can drag a giant bag full of quasi-valuable leather armor to the nearest shop. She’s not even sure she knows how to hold a sword.
She is currently level 10 and has joined the College of Winterhold, though she has no interest in following them on their little field trip. She plans to join the Stormcloaks when she returns to whatever cold-themed name that city had, halfway because my last character joined up with the Imperials and halfway because she’s trying to overcome racial stereotypes, or something. I’m still working on this RP stuff.