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Traps, Locks, and Sapphires (Kirstia's Story, Chapter 4)



My father was a traitor. And yet, strange as it sounds, he was deeply concerned with honor. Indeed, it with his sense of honor that led his to forswear his oath. When I was little, he told the story in simple words - once upon a time, he served a strong Jarl. At first, they were as brothers, fighting side by side for justice and glory. But in time, his Jarl grew cruel and corrupt, and no longer brought justice to the people. And so, with a deep sadness in his heart, he turned against his Jarl and joined the rebels. 


When I was older, he told me the story in more detail. About how Jarl Hrolfdir of Markarth lost his way. How, when pushed beyond what any man could tolerate, he had joined the Reachmen and acclaimed Madanach as his new king. But also how he still loved his fallen Jarl, and he could not bring himself to slay him on the battlefield. And thus, Hrolfdir came to survive the rebellion. Two years later, when Hrolfdir returned at the side of Ulfric Stormcloak, my father had no choice but to flee the Fatherland forever, for he knew Hrolfdir would not grant him the same mercy he'd dispensed.


So you can imagine his displeasure when he learned I'd been playing with locks, puzzling out how to unwind them just by the feel of my fingertips and the quickness of my wit. I promised up and down that I would never use this knowledge to steal, that I only craved a challenge, but he wouldn't have it. He confiscated my improvised thief's tools and told me if he found me at it again, he'd haul me in front of the town guards himself. 


I never touched a lock again... not inside the city walls, at least. As I grew into adulthood, I often traveled to distant villages to trade for food or livestock, and on some of those routes ancient ruins loomed in the distance. Ruins with locks and, I hoped, treasure. And so with great care, I continued my practice - I even came into possession of some ancient coins and trinkets. Nothing to win me the life of ease that the bards claimed adventurers could earn, but enough to keep me practicing.


That practice paid off in a moment as I felt the last tumbler fall into place and the ancient lock click open. I pushed at the door gently, peering within, and found myself in a small chamber - a chamber that in turn housed a chest. That it was trapped was obvious - the tension wire was crude, not at all hidden, and unlikely to pose any trouble. Indeed, it seemed so obvious that I suspected it might be a decoy, meant to distract away from some other, more subtle, peril.




"I wonder if this is where that 'claw' is hidden?" I asked, half to Edippa and half to myself. 


I proceeded with caution, watching for anything out of the ordinary; the approach paid off, as I skirted a pair of pressure plates disguised as flagstones. A quick glance around revealed more narrow holes in the surrounding walls, likely home to more of the spear traps we'd seen earlier. With great care, Edippa and I skirted around them until I was close enough to examine the treasure chest in detail.


The chest itself didn't have a visible lock. Only whatever trap kept it secure prevented intruders from accessing it. I tried to snake the lockpick around and below to hold it steady so I could cut the wire, but the brittle iron instrument snapped in my hand. Frowning, I looked back at Edippa.


"I don't suppose you found any more of those?"


She shook her head, a frown sliding across her face. "I'm sorry, that was the only one."


I considered just leaving the chest be, but after a moment my curiosity got the best of me. "Alright," I said, "stand back and watch out for trouble. I'm going to cut the wire and then leap away. With any luck, I'll avoid whatever sort of trap is here. But if that fails, I'll be counting on your healing skills."


"Are you sure, daughter? You don't have to..." Edippa began, but I stopped her with a raised hand.


"I know, but I feel like there's still something here to find. Maybe in this chest, maybe elsewhere in the barrow, I don't know. But I want to find it, whatever it is. Be ready, I think that dagger we found earlier is keen enough to cut the wire."


I examined the blade. While surely age-worn, the blade looked sharp as the day it was forged. The weapon itself was made from a shiny, golden metal that suggested the forges of elves... or dwarves. Well-balanced, too. While it would probably qualify as a treasure in its own right, I resolved to keep it for myself. A good knife is always worth having.


I checked my surroundings, picking out the likely crevices that might hide plunging spears or poisoned darts, and I planned my escape. Then, tensing for immediate action, I let the knife blade kiss the wire, careful to not change its tension too much and risk triggering it before I was ready. Steel fibers strained and split, until with a snap the bottom half of the wire whipped down into the hole at the base of the chest. I didn't wait to see if anything happened, pushing back fast into a small alcove that appeared safe from possible dangers. 


As I darted back, I could hear hidden strings releasing and some kind of projectiles - darts, arrows, I wasn't sure - clattering against the stones. Surely poisoned, and surely deadly. I waited a moment for the trap to disgorge its lethal cargo before carefully returning to examine the chest. No longer secured by the tension wire, it opened easily, the hinges working without the slightest suggesting of age or corrosion.




And inside? No claw, sadly, but what seemed to be grave offerings of some sort. A bronze teacup, a tarnished pot, a few old coins... and a wooden scroll tube. I pocketed the coins - their owner had no need for them now, and then handed the tube to Edippa.


"What do you make of this, mother?"


Edippa opened it cautiously, working a rather well-preserved looking scroll into her hand. 


"Hmm," she said, "I recognize this incantation. The script and the phrasing is old, but this is surely mean to drive off the undead and overcome their curses. Not simple Draugr, their power is too small to resonate with this magic, but their powerful masters. Hopefully, none of which reside in this barrow. But we'd best take this anyway, just in case."


I considered that. I imagined we could go back to Wilhelm now, if we wanted, explain to him that the spirit was put to rest, and collect whatever reward he'd offer us. But I was still curious. 


"Mother, how do you feel about exploring just a little more? I'm still curious about this place. I can't shake the feeling that there's some connection here to the strange dream I had."


Edippa didn't offer any resistance. "You know how I feel about the undead. If we can properly cleanse this place, I'm with you all the way. But be careful."


I almost rejoined with a 'you know I will,' but I realized that Edippa didn't. I was falling into this mother-daughter game of hers and was starting to treat her like someone who'd known me my whole life. Realizing that, I instead reassured her, "I will, don't worry. We'll take it slow, and if we find a threat too great, we'll flee. I'm not too proud to run away from a monster if I have to."


"Good," Edippa said, "I thought you might feel that way, but I'm glad to hear it."


After some further searching, we found another branch passage that didn't lead to a dead end or a collapsed tunnel. Instead, it housed another door - secured with a tension trap much like the chest. I considered just barreling in, but I decided to try something different first. Edippa and I stepped back as far as we could, and I drew my bow. I wasn't convinced that my broad-headed steel arrows would actually break the wire, but I suspected they might impart enough force to trigger the trap while we stood at a safe distance. 


It took two tries, but on the second shot the wire snapped. On our side of the door, there wasn't any visible reaction, but I could hear the grinding of stones just beyond. Whatever mechanism was at work there was probably meant to strike down an interloper as they opened the door. We waited silently for half a minute after the noises stopped, then cautiously opened the door. No sign of the trap remained behind for us to examine, though the two stylized stone dragon heads were most likely the source. More spears, perhaps, or a magic trap of some sort? Either way, we pushed in deeper.


At length, our exploration lead us down a long hallway to an enormous stone door. At its center was some kind of keyhole, elaborately silvered with the pattern of... a claw.




"So, the claw was a key?" I said out loud.


Edippa nodded slowly, "If so, it leaves us stuck just where that mad elf was. I'm afraid to say, I don't think there's more for us to find here. Perhaps the claw's lost in one of those collapsed tunnels, or perhaps it was never here to begin with."


I let out a quick sigh of frustration. "Damn, I know there's more here, and I know it's something that'll matter to me. I can just... feel it."


"Let me give you some advice, daughter," Edippa said. "Sometimes the puzzles we can't solve on our own are just meant for us to solve later. We know half the secret of this place already. If, when, we learn the other half, we can always come back. I promised I'd show you Markarth; there's an old researcher there who knows all about ancient ruins. Maybe he can help us find the way forward."


Much as I wanted to argue, I couldn't fault her reasoning. "Fine," I said, "but I'll hold you to that promise. Let's tell Wilhelm that his ghost problems are solved."


We emerged from the barrow under starlight - it hadn't felt like it, but evidently our careful delve into the old tomb had taken us hours. While hardly meeting the killing frost of Northpoint, there was a noticeable chill on the air that hadn't been there earlier. I didn't tarry, quickly returning to the inn.


"Hey, Wilhelm," I said, waving in greeting to the bartender.


"You again," he grumbled. "Back from the barrow already?"


"Aye, and I've got something you might find interesting. Here, mother, show him the journal."


Edippa produced the leatherbound book and handed it to Wilhelm. The man practically tore it from her hands. Excitedly he said, "let me see that!"


"I... can't believe this. It was all just a fabrication of this Wyndelius character?" He shook his head slowly before adding, "I can't believe we were so stupid."




"Well, least I can do is give you something for taking care of him. If you won't accept it as payment, consider it a gift. I don't want it either way." 


Reaching under the counter, he laid an ornately carved... what? A bird's talon? A dragon's claw? It was lovely, either way, Gold, or gold-plated, and with vividly blue stones for the nails, it must have been worth a small fortune. But more to the point, I was gobsmacked by what this was. I didn't know whether to groan to to laugh.




"Mother," I asked, "Is this what I think it is?"


"It looks like it," she said. "Those sapphire claws, I think they line up perfectly with the keyholes."


I took the claw with one hand and rubbed the heel of my palm into my temple with the other. "That fool... if he'd just talked to Wilhelm instead of scaring him away, he'd have found the answer to his puzzle."


I thought on that for a moment, then resolved. 


"You know what, let's head back to his little hidey hole and rest up, then see what's behind that door. What do you say, mother?"


Edippa smiled, "my thoughts exactly."


I shrugged to the barman. "Sorry, Wilhelm, I don't think we'll be renewing our lease on that room. We've got some... exploring to do."



Troubleshooting and Conflict Resolution

Floating Lantern

Returning from the dungeon, I observed a lantern that was floating in mid-air. Based on its angle, it appears that it was meant to rest on the boulder right next to it. The lantern is from Lanterns of Skyrim II, while the boulder is vanilla, but repositioned by Become Jarl of Ivarstead. This'll be a fairly simple patch job, but we do need to make the change in the CK, so we can take advantage of its GUI.




We'll start by creating a working file that contains the lantern (ref xx0012F4) and the boulder (ref 3FBAF). There will be a few other parts we need to move as well, but we can select them manually in the CK. We'll also make Lanterns II and Become Jarl of Ivarstead masters for this working file.




Now let's load up our working file in the CK. It'll throw some errors because, for whatever reason, the CK doesn't like Lanterns II, but nothing that would prevent us from making this fix. When we bring up the location we can see an immediate problem: Jarl of Ivarstead adds a buildable location that eventually hides the boulder as well as at least partially hiding the lantern. We could address this by just moving the lantern further away, but I am going to do a slightly more involved fix which I'll touch on in a moment. Note that in the image below, I've hidden a lot of building parts that completely hide the lantern.




First, let's move the lantern so it rests on the boulder.




Next, let's look at the guild building and, specifically, the enable parent it uses to make its geometry appear.




Now let's go back to xEdit. We'll start by removing all the edits except for the lantern and its associated light source. Everything else in there are dirty edits added by the Creation Kit. For the remaining pieces, we need to add the BuildHunterGuild enable parent, but set it as "enable state opposite to parent" so they'll despawn when the guild hall gets built.





One thing we discover is that the lanterns themselves have an enable parent, likely tied to MCM controls. Since I know that I am going to be leaving these turned on with the MCM, it's OK for me to change the enable parent. The new record looks like this:




Lastly, we'll copy the temporary records from the working file into our worldspace deconfliction file. After applying this change, here's what it looks like in-game:




It's not quite perfect, there's a little bit of lean, but it should be good enough that casual observation doesn't flag it as out of place. The light glow is still aligned wrong, but that's because the light entry is a persistent record and generally won't respect plugin changes. In future playthroughs, it'll be lined up.



Birthday Spanker Stalkers

I mentioned in the previous entry that I had not planned on having birthday spankings enabled in this game. While it's a cute scene, beyond being immersion breaking the scene itself is actually rather fragile and breaks easily. In this case, the final stage of the scene got interrupted and never played, so when I came back to the game I found the three spankers chasing me into the dungeon and subsequently following me around. None of these NPCs are unique characters who need to be accessible, so this is more a nuissance than anything else, but we do want them to stop chasing me, as they could easily get in the way or even catch friendly fire and cause me to get marked as a criminal.


Let's stop this quest and reset the associated global, then manually flip the switch that would normally be in the MCM to turn this off.


First we'll end the quest: stopquest BFWBirthdaySpankingQuest

Next, we'll turn off the global value that the quest's script set to indicate the event is active: set BFWBirthdaySpankingGlobal to 0

Finally, we'll turn off the birthday spanking function going forward: set BFWCanBirthdaySpank to 1


This should put an end to those shenanigans. 



CTD from Sexlab Survival Enforcers

Coming back into town, I started to encounter a replicable CTD when the local SLS enforcer saw my character. Research revealed that this is a known issue with the current release version of SLS. There is a test script out there to try and address the issue, but I'm going to wait on that until my next playthrough, since hot swapping scripts can sometimes be problematic. For now, we'll follow the advice on the SLS front page and use the MCM to disable the underlying behavior. This is mildly disappointing, since the enforcers were an intended part of my difficulty structure, but ultimately I don't think I'll cry too much about missing this feature.



Known issue: In some builds the Enforcers are causing a CTD as you approach a town. Current fix is to go into the MCM and set the min and max spawn numbers for enforcers to 0




You know I will cry about though? Changing the MCM settings doesn't fix the problem after the Enforcers are actually spawned. So I'm just going to have to suck it up and swap out the script. It's not really the clean modding approach I like to stick with, but since the script properties don't change it should be fairly low risk. 





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As my SO said when I explained why I like this blog: "Where have you been all my life?"

Thank you for the extremely detailed Troubleshooting & Conflict Resolution sections!!

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2 hours ago, qalavix said:

As my SO said when I explained why I like this blog: "Where have you been all my life?"

Thank you for the extremely detailed Troubleshooting & Conflict Resolution sections!!


Glad you found it helpful! You may want to check out the Modding Diary series as well, it sounds right up your alley. 

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