Skyrim, land of the Nords. A hardy people known for their love of battle. What's that, you don't want to kill people? What are you a milk drinker? Get out of here before I kill you!
Skyrim is an enjoyable game, and boasts a large amount of freedom, but how much choice do we actually have? When all is said and done there are basically only three quests in the game:
- Go here, kill something or everyone
- Go there, fetch/deliver something
- Go here, tell/convince someone (into) something
That's really it. Even then, if you can't convince someone to do whatever they send you on one of the other quests, and to fetch something you have to usually fight your way through a dungeon full of enemies. So basically the entire game revolves around your ability to kill people. But why? Why is it in this game that says it offers freedom of choice is there only one choice? Sure you can kill people in a multitude of ways. Stab, slash, pound, punch, bash, burn, freeze, electrocute, explode, maul, arrow, decapitate, throw off a cliff, but ultimately it's always the same. Kill all enemies to proceed. We ought to have more than just killing, or at least more creative and indirect ways to go about it.
As things stand
As mentioned, the basic "combat" skills are are One-Handed, Two-Handed, Archery, Destruction, and if you're feeling generous Conjuration. All other skills seem rather pointless to level up, as they don't contribute to the main focus of killing people. When did anyone ever try powerleveling Speech because they wanted to be able to intimidate more effectively the every month or so the option presets itself? Sure Sneak will still level up very slowly even if you don't kill people, but it does tramendously faster when you do. Why not use some of those other less combat skills and make the game around using these skills to progress through the game. A great example of this would be to a very minor extent, pickpocket. An enemy like the Briarheart, which can be killed by pickpocketing its Briar Heart. Another pickpocket ability is the perk Poisoned, which allows the player to poison targets by placing poisons in their inventory. While both these method do involve killing, it is less direct about it. It uses non-combat skills in a way that allows you to progress. The latter method actually combines three abilities, Sneak, Pickpocket, and Alchemy. But using this method as a main weapon is near impossible since most poisons won't do enough damage alone to kill enemies, requiring several to kill a single target, and thus costing potentially near maybe 100 poisons to clear a single dungeon. There is simply no way to be able to mass produce poisons in that quantity. But this is all based on how the game currently is structured. If it were made to allow these other less combat centric skills to further your progress through the game, it could vastly improve gameplay variety and replayablity.
Speech is probably one of the least developed skills out there. Since being fused with Mercantile it's taken a bigger role in, sell all your shit, get good at talking. But the actual part of the game where you can use you skill at talking, Persuade, bribe, and intimidate, are so rare and often too difficult for the average player's speech skill. So the point remains, what is the point of ever leveling speech (besides raising your main level)? Why can't we use the skill more actively and dynamically? Using our golden tongue to fool people into things that benifet us?
One such idea i've had was the concept of disguises. Clothing in the game is completely meaningless. Walk into town wearing Necromancer Robes, nobody cares. Walk strait up to Ulfric wearing Imperial Armor, no one gives a shit. But they should! There were two instances in Skyrim where people notice you are in disguise (I mean rather they don't notice you because you're in disguise), the quests To Kill an Empire and A False Front, in which you impersonate the Gourmet and a imperial/stormcloak courier. During these quest you can choose to wear a chief's outfit or the respective military uniform, and people will believe you are who you're impersonating. However, this fails in the fact that without the disguise, there is zero penalty. Pretty much all it takes to get away with it is "I forgot my clothes" and all those chicken loving stone heads fall for it. Highly disappointing.
If this were expanded it could create an entirely new gameplay mechanic. Being chased by the city guard? Find a guard's uniform and walk out of the city pretending to be looking for yourself. Happen to be carrying a set of Necromancer Robes? Walk right into that Necromancer den calling yourself the new guy. Bandits? Take some of their clothes and pretend to be one. Want to get into that fort? Wear the armor of the group guarding it. Want to slink around the city without drawing attention? Wear beggars clothes, no one will bother with you. Endless possibilities really. Where does speech craft come in? Well for one, so we don't have to make a whole new acting skill tree, we can integrate it, but beyond that, not everyone you'll run into is daft, someone is going to notice they don't recognize you. So you need to use your skill in speech to convince them that you are in fact that guy they meet last week. Succeed, and they'll wander off feeling satisfied. Fail, and they'll blow the whistle on you, and you'll have to go back to fighting your way out.
But why not take it a step further, rather than just remain unnoticed, try using your disguise to sow deceit. Go around that bandit den, try convincing people to mutiny or that there are conspiracies against them, or whatever such nonsense. Then the bandits will start fighting among themselves, and you'll be left free to rummage through their loot while they kill each other for you. If you're wanted by the guard and disguised as a guard, try convincing them that "I saw him go down that way!", or that maybe try convincing them that the you they thought they saw committing a crime was actually someone else disguised as you, so they stop looking for you. Double disguise paradoxes.
Wearing the right disguise in the right place with the right people may even get people to give up information they wouldn't normally. Maybe you could even do double agent work for certain guilds?
As stated above, the Briarheart and Poisoned were nice touches, but just not enough, but maybe were could add on to them and make them better. Poisoned could still work, if still high maintenance. Maybe we could also put other harmful objects into people's pockets? Items enchanted to do damage to self, maybe even cause them to explode. Give them a piece of stinky cheese to attract skeevers, which will then attack them.
We could also try sowing discord among people. Steal an item for one person, plant it on another. Soon Mr.1 will notice their thing is missing, and that Mr.2 happens to have it. They start fighting, and you have a perfect distraction to get past, or just wait and see if they'll kill each other.
This is pretty much the most strait forward. The only real benefit to sneaking is getting close enough for a sneak attack. The only difference between a thief and assassin is that the former is a kleptomaniac. There ought to be a way for us to level up by not ever being noticed. Leave everyone alive, let no one see you, and take everything. Maybe at the end of a dungeon it could somehow calculate how many enemies are still alive, how many saw you, how many detected you, and add them all up into an amount of xp. Just saying...I don't ever feel like a thief when I still have to kill everyone.
Or perhaps dungeons could be designed around the player using traps to their advantage. If you can reach this point undetected, you can activate a trap that some fools happen to be hangout out right on top of, and kill them.
Illusion is a very underrated skill. Fury spells are really the most beneficial thing it has to offer (aside from Invisibility, but that is way off in the higher levels and), aside from maybe Clairvoyance ;D. It would be cool if you could use fury spells as a main weapon, forcing enemies to however in that most of the time your enemies will be stronger than your fury spells. This could be remedied with maybe a wider variety of fury spells that have smaller level increases, to allow a dedicated user to keep up with their enemies. Maybe the bosses will still be too high level to fury, but their underlining will not, so you can fury them to turn against their leader, then on each other. Also perhaps a better directed fury spell could be available the causes enemies to attack specific other enemies rather than just indiscriminately.
Illusion is also mastery over the mind, so there is no reason to stop at fury, Calm, and Fear alone. Why not have a whacko-crazy spell that makes enemies start flipping out and draw all nearby enemies over to see what's going on, and away from that chest you're trying to get at. Make them drop their weapons or take off their armor, or just all those miscellaneous items they carry (like keys ;D). Maybe even just convince them into just jumping into the nearest chasm.
Alteration seems to be the most utilitarian school or magic, but could easily be made into an offensive school. Transmutation can become a powerful weapon. You could place down traps similar to Rune spells, that when stepped over cause the ground to turn into spikes and harm enemies. Maybe also with rune spells, you could create binding spells that cause enemies to be trapped in place when they step on it, like they sink into the ground or magic arms or something as silly.
Another great idea would be something similar to Disintegration spells, in which an enemies weapons or armor will burst into a cloud of dust and leave them wide-eyed and empty-handed, unable to block that hammer coming at their head. Due to the removal of weapon durability, the level of the spell would affect which materials can be affected. A low level disintegration spell could be able to affect a iron or steel weapon, but when someone pulls an ebony sword out, it's tough luck charlie.
Have any suggestions of your own on how some of these lesser skills could be used to progress through the game, or how to improve them so they could, or even entirely new skills?