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

Septim Skyrim
One of the "selling" points of Hearthfire was that it provided a productive use for all that coin laying around. Building a home cost a lot of money, and some players found their seemingly bottomless pockets empty quite quickly. Many people enjoyed this aspect, as it gave purpose and reason to even having money, as on the whole money was more of a novelty than anything useful (See Milkman's blog on the subject listed above). Building a house is one matter, but rebuilding an entire town? That would take than one trip to the bank.

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.

Logical logistics

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.

The next question might be, "Well, then why not another place, like 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 trash

Jarl Siddgeir
Before anything, you need to remember that Helgen, decimated or not, is still part of Falkreath 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 cleaning

Now that you actually own the area, you can start building your town. Except it's full of bandits! Clearing them out should be no issue for a warrior of your status. Now that you can work freely without the risk of bandits firing arrows at your unprotected joints, you can start building your town. Except it's still full of all that junk Alduin left behind after throwing his party! You'll need to clear out all the debris and wreckage first before you can build anything. Now you might have to hire a work crew, do it yourself somehow, or throw money at a magic workbench and Zenithar will make all the wreckage evaporate. Now with a blank slate you can start building.

Bigger and better

At this point, we've already made two hefty purchases, buying the land and clearing the rubble, so we might have to do some extra adventuring on the weekends to continue funding this little project (unless of course you've had a lot of weekends free beforehand). Now that we've got more dough we can bake some cookies build some buildings. Likely in a similar fashion to Hearthfire, you'll need to acquire all the needed materials to build your buildings, and possibly have a small amount of customization to what they are (ie, Home, Shop, Inn, Temple, Sex Dungeon, Chuck E Cheese) through some kind of similar limited selection drop down menus. Now if you thought building your own house was expensive, try building a whole town of them. Due to your frequent trips of trying to scrounge for cash, you may have to invest in a steward to buy all your need materials for you while you're away.

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

Refugee 1
While your new town is impressive, no one actually lives there but you. Not to worry, word has spread that you have been rebuilding Helgen, and all those misplaced farmers who were attacked by dragons need somewhere to go. So people may inquire about being able to live in your newly created town. If you happen to be away, your steward may send you a letter informing you of this, prompting you to return and decide to let them in or not. You're not running a charity here though, they'll need to pay for a home before they can live here, so you choose how much you want to make them pay for a home, or maybe you are running a charity and you let them in for free. Ask too much however, and they'll leave. Too rich for their blood.

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

With your city prospering, people start to take notice, not all of it in a good way. Bandits may attack your town looking for easy spoils, and thieves may sneak about looking for loot, and wild animals may roam outside the walls. To avoid your people get murdered, robbed and mauled, hire some guards. Guards will keep your town safe and people will be happier knowing that they aren't under constant threat of being attacked by a wandering troll. (Maybe guards can also prevent riots, and repel attacks from the Jarl as suggested above?) Guards will likely have a barracks in the keep, separate from your play room of course. It's a big keep, there is enough room for you and a legion of big burly men in identical clothing.

(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.