Monday, July 23, 2012

Skyrim - Build Your Own Home

I mentioned the other day that owing to some game complications (massive crashing issues and general instability) I had had to abandon my preferred house mods, and had ended up using Build Your Own Home while I ran the problems down.

Well, it's been a week and a half or so, and while I've solved the crashy-crashy (insofar as one can solve the crashing in one of Beth's fine works, at least) but haven't felt like reactivating the other houses. Sometimes you just want to play the damned game and not make a career of tracking down problems.

I have to say, for just me and the girls (as opposed to trying to billet a dozen eyecandy companions) I'm really getting fond of the riverside home.

Firstly, it's technically a free house... but not really. I'll explain. You get the deed for free; but must come up with the materials to actually build everything. Excepting the "allegiance" addon (Stormcloak or Imperial banners and decor), building and furnishing the complete setup requires 220 firewood, 151 iron ingots, 12 iron ore, 56 steel ingots, 14 'deer hides' from elk (blame Bethsoft -- they were the ones too lazy to have elk drop elk hide; but for some reason the deer hides dropped by deer aren't the same as the deer hides dropped by elk), and three horse hides; as well as some vegetables for starting the garden, a chicken egg to get a chicken (huh; guess the egg did come first...), and seven hundred gold to buy a cow.

Wow, seven hundred florins for a cow? Seems kind of steep; I remember them being cheaper in the Middle Ages.

Septims, Maeva. Septims.

Yeah, whatever. Still a gold coin.

So, unless you're running a loot multiplier mod, or cheat and use the console, this all takes quite some time to collect up -- especially the horse hides and elk hides, which are only infrequently encountered in stores (at least in my games). Hunting up the fourteen elk hides took the longest by far; since few merchants carry them. I had to actually hunt elk to get them. The iron and steel is comparably easy, since I run a 'breakdown' mod that lets you smelt most armor and weapons back into ingots (at a considerable percentage of loss compared to outlay on crafting them). The firewood is mostly just a matter of time; as the author was kind enough to provide a wood chopping block in the work shed up the hill from the home's site.

I still don't understand the whole elk hide bit. Why not just use regular leather? It's not like you can't stitch the stuff together as least as easily as full-sized hides.

No idea.

Moving on. The nice thing about the house though, is that you don't have to build it all. You can build just what you want. You can, for example, build the first floor of the house and farm, and nothing else. Or just the house and no outbuildings. Or forget the house altogether, and just build the fishing camp to sleep outdoors with a minimum of storage. It's... very flexible, and easy to tailor to most individual characters. Some of the features can be redundant -- for example, the "Thief" basement decoration includes an alchemy table, which renders the outdoor alchemy lab a waste of resources; or vice versa. Similarly, the upstairs "Assassin" decorum includes a grinding wheel and workbench, which are completely superfluous if you have the smithing area outside. Of course, if you're roleplaying a character who isn't a blacksmith or you don't think player homes should have smelters and forges, then it would work out well.

The site of the buildable home is down the river from Vaultheim Tower; right next to the abandoned Imperial Prison. It sits down in the valley, with only the shed viewable from the road.

Conveniently located square in the middle of nowhere; far from any stables for easy travel or places to acquire liquor.

Would you prefer to move into Breezehome?

Eh... on second thought, maybe not. I can only resist the urge to choke the holy living shit out of Nazeem for so long...


...No -- the next time Brynjolf tries to sell me a bottle of snake-oil I'm liable to crush his skull...

Well someone got us thrown out of Solitude after the incident in the Winking Skeever...

That bard was totally hitting on me, I tell you! Not my fault she "changed her mind" at the last second...

...And someone else got us thrown out of Markarth...

That orc was staring at my tits. She had it coming.

She was admiring your ebony armor.

Pfft, yeah... like I've never heard that one before -- "oh, don't worry; I'm just inspecting your breastplate..." Had. It. Coming. 'Sides, they said she'll probably walk again someday, and the other green cavemen were so impressed with the way her femur was snapped that they didn't demand a blood-price.

Regardless, since Falkreath, Dawnstar, and Morthal don't have houses; and you don't get the one in Windhelm without playing substantially into the civil war questline...

Yeah, yeah; I'll stop complaining.

The above screenshot is with the place completed. You can see where the construction stretches across the river, and provides a three-tiered platform on the far side. Bottom level has a leatherworking area; second level is the smithy (complete with forge, smelter, grinding wheel, work bench, and specifically named storage for ingots, ore, and a trunk for weapons); the third level is labeled as a 'watch tower', but I have to confess I'm not sure what you're supposed to watch -- it provides a nice view of the river, but you aren't high enough to see the road.

Pretty view of the stars at night, though, even if I am always worried that someone over in the fort can see us...

At house-level, facing back upstream. You can see the second set of scaffolding that stretches across the river. This provides space for a distillery (decorative only, but the author has stated that at some point in the future he intends to make the distillery work)...

Foul! Foul, I cry! Putting in a still that I can't use? That's fucking evil, man; even by my standards!

...a combat training area (not built in the screenshots -- it's only target dummies, and I didn't see any point in having the extra useless stuff for my PC to have to render), and on the bottom-right the alchemy lab. The lab includes some respawning plants, and quite a few insect spawns (bees, butterflies, torchbugs). There's also plenty of storage, and some of those bug-in-a-jar things that everyone seems to like so much.

Unless that laboratory lets you mix me up a bottle of scotch, I'm not impressed. Well, maybe if it can do a good Tom Collins...

You know it can't.

...I haz a sad.

Stop that! I've told you before it's fucking creepy when you talk that way.

In those last two you can see the view back towards the house, from the alchemy lab.

Back near the front door of the house, you can see across to the work areas. On the left and barely visible is the leatherworking area; the work bench you can see towards the center of the image is the mid-level where the smithing facilities are, and the highest point there in the upper left corner is the watch tower.

A bit further right in the image, you can see the crumbling platform that provides access to the Imperial Prison; and Fort Amol (I think it was) at the far right in the distance.

Facing downriver, you can see the fishing camp. The poles are decorative only. Back around the corner of the house is some storage, and behind the hide tarp is a sleepin' spot, and a cook-fire; for the outdoorsy types. Me, I prefer living under a roof, but I was building everything available to get a feel for what parts I liked and what I didn't.

If you look close you can also see the remains of a Boethiah cultist there in the rocks.

Stupid bastard made the mistake of jumping us coming out of the house, and was promptly decapitated by Mystery-chan (do not annoy the lady in the morning).

Good advice. I'll still kill you even after my first Vault of the day; it just won't be quite as brutally. Probably.

I chucked his body into the river so as not to have to look at it until it got cleaned up by a cell respawn; but the current caught it in the rocks.

Ugh. So messy. I swear: you people need counseling. Have you spoken to a doctor about Zoloft?

I refuse to take shit about my bloodlust from the woman who burned six bandits to ash in that last dungeon.


Inside, we find the main living area; consisting of the ground and second floors. I use the "Assassin" furnishings, which aren't -- they're actually Dark Brotherhood (notice the fireplace) specific. Not ideal decorating in my opinion, but it fit me better than the other choices (mage, hunter, thief).

You'll also notice the display case, there. The contents are not part of the decoration -- it's a standard display case that I've taken to using to display the cores I've ripped out of defeated Dwarven Centurions:

...Hey, does anyone else think that those cores are a pair of handles and a color change away from being the Autobot matrix of leadership?

...Now that you mention it...


Opposite the fireplace and sitting area is a work area. The assassin motif comes with an enchanting station, and work bench; along with a couple of dagger-specific display cases, some poisonous plants to pick, and a couple mannequins (one of which is showing off a complete set of Falmer armor we brought back from Mzinchaleft).

There are also several weapon racks; two near the entrance, and four by the mannequins.

Upstairs, we find the bed; another bookshelf, some miscellaneous storage, and the aforementioned grinding wheel.

...Also, a skeleton manacled to the wall over the stairs for reasons I'm not sure I want to know.

Kinky. Seems like an odd place for bondage, though -- over the stairs and all.

Down in the basement, we have the "thief" motif. Again, you'll notice it's not "guy who steals stuff" but specific Thieves Guild.

The stuff on the shelves is decorative only, and can't be taken.

How a cart got down there through that little trap door I have no idea.

The basement also has the cooking area, and some food and drink storage. I'm kind of torn on the layout -- the basement seems like an odd place to cook in a house; but the author did us the courtesy of keeping the interior and exterior scales of the house roughly even, so there just wasn't space upstairs without moving the work area somewhere else. On the other hand, the basement does have the load-bearing (stone) floor, so would probably be the best place for something as heavy as a cooking hearth.

Behind the empty shelves in the basement, is the passage to the "hidden lair". The lair has three options: Dovakiin (stone, a dragon mask rack, and a throne), Werewolf (bestial and messy), and Vampire (glowy, grown up with alchemy components, and with a prisoner to feed on... if the game will let you).

I went with Vampire:

The vampire set also has an alchemy lab, enchanting table, and "sleeping coffin". This is one of those areas I don't see myself using much, but I figured it would be an appropriate place to leave Kathryn. She seems to like it.

Wow; this post was supposed to be a couple hours write it and be done, but it's ended up going off-and-on for three days now. I have no idea what my original conclusion was going to be at this point. Probably would have if I hadn't gotten side tracked playing with those pose mods and taken a hundred and fifty two screenshots this morning...

Regardless, I can't say as the Build Your Own Home mod is my ideal Skyrim abode. It's in a moderately inconvenient location, and completing it requires components that can be downright hard to come by if the leveled list Gods aren't smiling on you in that particular game. Probably the biggest drawback for players like myself, though, is that this is not a companion-monger's home. It's fully navmeshed, yes; but there's one bed that can sleep two in the interior. The sleeping coffin in the basement may or may not work for NPCs (haven't hung out down there overnight to see). This will not be a BBLS-esque place where your legions of eyecandy wait to greet you when you get home after a hard day of adventuring.

However, the house is also well executed, lore-friendly (if that matters to you), far enough off the guard paths to avoid problems even with the highest bounties; and is, quite simply, the most tailor-able house mod I've ever seen.

If you're in the market for a Skyrim home, give it a shot. It has something for nearly every player.


  1. Thanks for the detailed review of this. I'll definitely check it out... when I'm not playing Doom or Two Worlds or Neverwinter Nights or...

    1. I will never understand your persistent DOOM fascination. I mean, okay, in 1995 it was revolutionary... but these days?

      No recorded dialogue, no companions, no replayability...

      I dunno, guess I've just been spoiled by playing sandbox games since 2006; and prior to Oblivion I was into Battlefield and similar games, which were sandboxy in that there were no defined story missions -- even single-player mode was just a botmatch, which you could play in any capacity you liked (even ignoring the points and screwing off out away from the objectives).

      I mean, UT was mostly crap; but it at least had three dimensional combat (and shock rifle jumping -- oh man was that a fun way to fuck with people on pubs).

      Damn it, now I'm jonesing for my old online gaming days. Wonder what happened to the old clan, anyway...?

      ...Wait, what was I saying...? Oh well, couldn't have been that important.

    2. IDK... I'm just weird.

      I mentioned the other two games though because that's actually where my attention is focused at the moment. Now that my video drivers seem to be rendering things properly again, I decided that I needed to finish Two Worlds. When I'm taking breaks from that game I'm busy updating my NWN modules folder, which contains hundreds of modules that I have every intention of playing at some point.

      I gotta take breaks from even my favorite things from time to time though, and TBH sometimes I talk about Doom so much just to annoy certain folks (present company excluded).

      I do want to get back to SKYRIM sometime before the next TES game is released, but I've just got so many unfinished games laying around...

    3. "and TBH sometimes I talk about Doom so much just to annoy certain folks (present company excluded)"

      Aw, hell, it don't annoy me any. I don't understand the fascination; but if it makes you happy I say go for it.

      Don't really have much room to talk myself, anyway -- seein' as I played NWN to the point that I can't anymore: every choice, every path, every alignment and character build; all the henches' side stories. I played the damned game until I knew it all by heart.

      Same for Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries. Played that one so much I could just about run the missions with my eyes closed -- I knew where every enemy spawn was and how they were configured.

      Really, the only things that keep me going with the Gamebryo games is that 1) they're so big I tend to forget half the stuff between playthroughs and 2) I can at any time abandon the game proper and just work on my companions or houses or whatever without having to deal with any scripted events.