How to Play Dawnguard So It Doesn't Seem Like More of the Same Old, Same Skyrim
Iris Ophelia's ongoing review of gaming and virtual world fashion
A lot of gamers are complaining that Dawnguard, the first Skyrim expansion, doesn't add much to the game world, but that's probably because they're trying to play it with their original campaign character. In my opinion, the best way to play Dawnguard is with a totally new character who can explore Skyrim from a fresh perspective. And if you really want to get the most out of Dawnguard without retracing your original footsteps all over the map, the right mods will give you a unique experience through an alternate character-- and almost feel like a totally new game.
I'll admit that my triumphant return to Skyrim for this new expansion left me feeling a little... uninspired. After grabbing Dawnguard myself and finding that the campaign didn't really compel me to keep questing with the character I've spent nearly 160 hours playing, I went on a modding spree to develop a whole new playing experience, and to renew my passion for this game.
Here's exactly how I did it:
Skyrim's PC version has a strong modding community, like previous Elder Scrolls games, so it's no surprise that completely new and unique races are among the many things you can snap up to change your game experience. Modders zzjay and Xenius put together this Dryad race mod, which even comes with its own racial abilities and powers including weakness to fire and "Tree Link", a once-a-day ability that grants regeneration for a half hour. Dryads also come with their own gear and accessories which are easily made and great for new characters, though with my atmospheric shader mods they seemed to be a little more transparent than originally intended (slightly NSFW picture on the right). I decided to play an ill-tempered dryad so the Vampire Lord path in Dawnguard would be an easy choice later on, so I gave her a horned hairstyle from this hair mod set to complete the look.
Be Anyone but the Dragonborn
Skyrim's main story is almost negligible when you compare it to the rest of the world, and after finishing it on my main character, it was the last thing I wanted to redo. I'm done with dragons, I'm done with Shouts, I just wanted to play anyone else in that world. So this mod by frodone, accurately named You Are Not the Dragonborn, solved my problem handily. If you use it, remember to toggle it off when you're playing your actual Dragonborn character, since it keeps you from absorbing dragon souls and learning any words of power you find.
But that wasn't quite enough, either. What self-respecting malicious dryad would let herself get captured by dopey Imperial soldiers for unclear reasons? I needed a new start... and this mod offered me quite a few to choose from. Depending on your choices, this mod will drop you in the appropriate location, with the appropriate gear. Even better, each new start seems to have its own way to tie it in to the main quest line, if you're still interested in that. I created a plain little peasant character who was a regular at the inn in Riverwood, and she started with a plain NPC dress and a note to investigate rumors of war in nearby Helgen. My dryad, however, started camping in the woods. She was given fur armor and quickly stumbled across the charred body of a dragon's victim... Even though I've modded my game half to death, this is definitely my favorite mod so far, simply because of the variety it offers you. Where you start and what you start with can completely alter your Skyrim experience in ways that may surprise you.
Travel Somewhere New
Even if you're still sour that Bethesda didn't expand the world of Skyrim, modders have been doing so in full force, in some cases even adding entirely new characters, companions, quests, towns, and more. I knew I would need a house for my Dryad, but if she was going to be a bit of a murderous bitch, she might not be welcome in a standard town. So I picked up Elvenwood, a tree-top community of wood elves that seemed like the perfect place for a dryad to find herself. There are other mods out there of course, including towns with their own unique voice acting, and even steampunk dwemer airships to call home, so it's worth taking a look to see what leaps out at you. If you want a slightly more substantial territory to explore, the Moonpath to Elseweyr mod will take you to the deserts and jungles of the Khajiit homeland, all absolutely free.
If You're Bored With it, Replace it
If you've played Skyrim unmodded for a long time, there's more than just new locations that you should consider opening up to break yourself out of an adventuring rut before you approach Dawnguard at all. The map was never the tedious part for me-- the tedious part was using the same old sword, the same old spells, the same old horse, the same old... Lydia.
Daedric Swords and Fire bolts get old fast, so try out new weapons. If you love melee, look at blade mods like JaySuS Swords which offer dozens of new models you can craft and upgrade instead of the plain, vanilla weapons. Magic users absolutely must get a spell system upgrade. My favorite, Apocalypse, offers a lot of D&D style spells like Feather Fall for those tricky mountain descents, as well as much flashier spells with their own unique effects, completely different from Skyrim's vanilla spells.
There have also been a host of mods for horses, including armor for the warhorse on the go, as well as some slightly less conventional mounts sold by a shifty Argonian (wait, is that racist?) named Mike. While my dryad rides a charmingly derpy elk from this particular merchant, these alternative mounts are far from bug-free... but if you want different, they're about as different as you can get.
The last boredom-fix for me was a new companion, especially since I couldn't see this ill-tempered character doing many favours for others on her travels. There're plenty to choose from, but a spriggan sidekick seemed like a natural choice in this case.
My point is this: If you find yourself a little run-down on the world of Skyrim (and a little uninspired by Dawnguard on its own), figure out why-- and change it. The power to do so is entirely in your hands... So long as you have the PC version.Tweet
Iris Ophelia (Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Times and has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and with pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.