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Resource faucets and sinks from a player POV


Buridan

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Not strictly speaking a topic for LL, but eh. I'm here.

 

I've been thinking about the economy loop for Skyrim. The very core of the problem here is that it is really easy to make lots of money in vanilla Skyrim - you very quickly get into a post-scarcity situation where you have so much gold and nice things that you have no more compelling reasons to engage in the game's "kill-loot-sell" core gameplay loop except for its own sake. And every aspect of Skyrim seems designed to funnel you into and facilitate this kill-loot-sell cycle, so when it breaks, the game can start to feel quite hollow. So getting that economy balance right is, to put it mildly, Quite Important.

 

There's actually two distinct sub-problems here:

  • the resource faucets are too generous. You can clear a couple of dungeons and come away thousands of gold richer, potentially, not to mention all the other lucrative things the game lets you do like alchemy, ore transmutation and smithing.
  • there are not enough recurring resource sinks. You don't actually need to eat, sleep or heal. You can get through the game never buying a single piece of gear. You don't need to pay followers more than once. You can buy property, but why? You don't need a place to sleep, and safe barrels to stash your stuff are everywhere. (I don't really like training as it feels basically like paying to bypass level progression.)

So far I've been playing with mods that tackle this latter sub-problem. Making it so that you have to eat and sleep in proper beds. Making sure your followers need to get paid. Introducing city tolls and taxes. I've come to the growing realization though that it's only a partial solution, because if you really want to put your nose to the grindstone, the game gives you multiple ways to make a shocking amount of gold in a really short time, so these sink mods all have to be tuned absurdly high to even have a hope of keeping up: licenses in SexLab Survival cost thousands. My Devious Follower demands over a thousand gold a day.

 

I could tune these resource sinks even higher, but even at this level it's already kind of distorting the game's incentives. Sure I could run all the way up Dragonsreach to claim the 100 gold bounty from Proventus Avenicci, but the time it takes to do that already cost me more than 100 gold in recurring costs. They also completely overshadow more modest sinks like inn, food and gear repair costs, as well as making features like begging from SLS or performing from Ordinator less viable than they might otherwise be.

 

So it's clearer to me now that the other half of the solution is tackling that first problem - the resource faucets. My first instinct is to just download a mod that guts the loot tables like Scarcity and be done with it, but thinking about it some more, a big chunk of my looted income actually comes from selling armors and weapons looted from bandits, which I don't think Scarcity touches. It might make more sense to also have a house-rule that I can't strip the armor and weapons off bandits (it always felt kind of unrealistic, anyway). I'm not 100% sure this is the way to go - what might end up happening is that dungeon-diving becomes so unrewarding it no longer makes sense for my timid civilian character to want to do so, which is not something I want.

 

Another house rule I'll probably go with is to not use the transmute spell, when I find it. It is really strange that this this is not a bigger thing in the lore, anyway - for instance no one seems to think about transmuting all that mined silver to gold in Markarth (yeah, I know they're called the Silver-Bloods but still).

 

Alchemy, the last big faucet, I will probably leave as is. I really like having a reason to tinker with the ingredients and discover various combos.

 

Unrelated but I'm excited to try out Live Another Life, which I just downloaded, for my next start. Will probably go with the shipwreck or just the ship arrival start. The escape from Helgen is pretty dramatic but there's only so many times I can run through the exact same narrative beats in a short span of time without my eyes glazing over ("yes yes, mead with juniper berries in it; oh look here goes that horse thief; the dragon is gonna burst through this wall in 3..2..."). I'm interested to see if the flow of the early game still makes sense when starting not in Helgen-Riverwood-Whiterun.

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