With the apparent popularity of the Hearthfire add-on, one might wonder if Bethesda may try a similar idea again. There is an audience for this sort of thing, but maybe a greater impact than building houses for yourself. XxSick DemonxX suggested in Milkman's "The State of Skyrim's Economy" blog that we be able to to rebuild Helgen. I liked the idea so much, I wrote a blog about it.
Purse full of dreams
Rebuilding Helgen would not only give a purpose to having money, it would make a reason to want more of it. To rebuild the entire town, you would almost certainly run out of funds at some point. This means you'll have to find more dough somewhere else. Do some odd jobs, go dungeon crawling, sell off all those Dragon Bones you've been hording, just play the game to get payed. Some might call this padded gameplay, but it's hardly forcing you to do anything you wouldn't normally do, just rewarding you for doing it now. You'll get to see all your hard work in earning all that coin take a physical form in your own personal sprawling town.
Some might ask, "Why Helgen? Why not just start from scratch and build an entirely new town?", to which I would say that it would certainly be an idea I would endorse, but it simply isn't realistic from a development stand point. Towns are fairly large things. A town can not simply pop up anywhere in the world, as it requires a significant amount of space, and there are few areas that are open and habitable enough, that aren't already close to existing towns.Winterhold?", to which I would say would say that Helgen is really the best choice available. Winterhold is characterized by its destruction. It is what defines it, and it should not be taken away simply because it might be "cooler" as a sprawling city. But more important than that, Winterhold has many quests tethered to it, such as the College of Winterhold and miscellaneous quests given relating to winterhold being snowy rubble. Helgen on the other hand practically disappearance from existence the second you walk out the door. No one even seems to remember it even existed, except the occasional bandit gang. It has no related quests, and pretty much remain as smoldering ruin forever after (quite reminiscent of another town sacrificed to the plot, Kvatch). After getting blowed up by Alduin, it basically does nothing, so why no utilize it? It's a whole bloody town, someone would try to rebuild it, might as well be us.
Maybe someone might say that the town remaining destroyed forever, like Kvatch, may be a symbol of the threat the enemy poses. I however feel that rebuilding the town after being thoroughly Alduined would make a good symbol of Skyrim's defiance to the dragon menace. Sure you can blow up our towns, but were can rebuild them even better. Take a cue from the Orcs, they were pretty stubborn about Orsinium.
Lastly, Helgen has quite the sentimental value to our dear Dragonborn. It was the first time they saw Alduin, and where they were nearly executed. Lovely memories to be cherished forever.
Making mountains out of molehills
Now if I haven't bored you with the why, lets move on the the how. In the way I can envision quite the bit of content for such an endeavor.
Another man's trashFalkreath Hold and is basically owned by Siddgeir or Dengeir (depending on your affiliation in the civil war). You'll need their permission before you can start fooling around on their property, and maybe a deed to the land. No doubt they'll be happy to let you buy the land, as it's easy money for a bandit infested pile of rubble. As much as I am against prerequisite quests when it comes to DLC, you'll probably need to become thane first. Regardless of how little the area is worth, the Jarl isn't going to hand over an entire city to some yahoo he just meet, you'll need to impress him first.
Spring cleaningZenithar will make all the wreckage evaporate. Now with a blank slate you can start building.
Bigger and better
Along with the town, the other prominent feature of Helgen is that it has a keep. Lacking a Longhouse, this can be yours. You can decorate the keep to your personal tastes as you would any other home, personalizing individual rooms similar to Hearthfire.
House into a home
After you do get people living in your town, they may open shops, which will promote travelers to visit. They may even offer you a discount on their wares, being that you actually own their house. Investing in their business may help, considering you're funding your own city's economy.
Only two things certain in life
With your town growing, the Jarl may decide that they want in on the action, and start charging you a "city tax". You've got to pay if you want to stay. To this end you'll need to start charging a "property tax" to all of your citizens. Property tax could be variable, you can choose how much of the burden you place on the people and how much you're willing to dig into your own pockets (by talking you your steward). A chest will be located in your keep, your steward will put all your collected taxes in it, and withdraw the amount needed to pay your own taxes to the Jarl. So you can choose to pocket all your tax cash and send the Jarl the bird if you want, or place more money in the chest to compensate for your low tax revenue. Your city tax may cost significantly more than you're earning from your property tax at first, but maybe with more and happier people you could actually end up with a profit...a marginal profit...
(To be honest, this is the concept I have least developed. What happens if you don't pay your taxes? Does the Jarl send thugs to kick all your citizens out? Do they burn down your buildings, forcing you to build anew? Is your city constantly assaulted by Falkreath guards? What happens if you charge too much for your own taxes? Can you improve the disposition of your citizens to make them tolerate higher tax rates? Will they leave if they are unhappy? Will they throw riots and burn all your buildings down...and then leave? Will they even threaten you? Please, provide any suggestions you might think would make this work)
I mostly deal with petty thievery and drunken brawls
(Also a little iffy on the details here. Do you just hand a guard a bag of money and they become loyal to you forever? Do you need to pay them a salary [taken from your money chest mentioned further above] If you can't afford their salary do they quit, or strike? Can you ask followers to become your city guards? How will a guard react to seeing you commit a crime? Arresting your boss may not be the best idea, but they took an oath to uphold the law...probably. Can guards die? Do you need to constantly hire more after they get in fights?)
Keep in mind, there features aren't linear. Everything after cleaning the town can happen at the same time. You might get taxed before a single person has joined your town. You could get attack by bandits before you've even started building. You may get people looking to move in when you only have one house.
Half-hearts and half-thoughts
As you can tell, my ideas started to lose solidarity toward the end, but were still concrete enough that I made a basic and realistic outline to their function. I however during this process came up with a few other ideas, which really weren't as well through out, but are still interesting and could make good features if given a little more time.
- Trading routes with other towns. Occasionally raided by bandits? Maybe affected by if you pay your taxes?
- Thieves that rob your money chest. More guards to protect it? Or a Housecarl?
- Corrupt guards. Embezzlement? Lets in bandits and thieves? Abuses your townsfolk? Small investigation quests to see who's the bad apple?
- Dragons, riots, assaults, all can possibly destroy buildings, requiring you to rebuild them.
- Guilds you are a member of have a presence in your city. Guildmaster of the thieves guild doesn't get thieves attacking their city?
- Unique sigil and guard uniforms. Something dragon related as suggested above?
- Travelers do...something, beneficial. Promote commerce?
This has been a long blog in the writing and my mind is taxed, so I can't really think of more, but I would love to hear what you would suggest as features for a concept like this.