I decided to make this mod after realizing that Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion suffered from significant gameplay and "realism" problems that, in my view, detracted from the potential enjoyment of such a beautiful and massive RPG. Creating, balancing, and testing the needed changes was a time-consuming task, but the result is a more rewarding experience that I hope also helps those of you that found the game wanting upon release.
The following list describes the problems and how I addressed them:
The first major issue is that of linearity of challenge. In Oblivion, quests and combat encounters are "leveled" relative to the level of the player's character. This concept, while offering some good gameplay elements (freedom of choice, gentle learning curve, etc.) was implemented too indiscriminately. The sense of accomplishment in improving one's avatar suffers because the world is constantly changing to meet a pre-designed level of challenge. Also, "realism" and "immersion" disappear when the player notices glitches in the continuity of the world (Town guards so high in level that one wonders why they need a "hero" after all; lowly creatures that can suddenly give High-Chancellor Ocato a senseless beating, etc.)
The goal of this mod is to increase the overall challenge of the game, to increase the chances of the unexpected to happen, to reduce the flaws that hurt the "realism-factor" of the "leveled" system, to tweak item rarity and presence in the world, to add some new content and, lastly, to change some of the variables of the game system to balance its gameplay.
To preserve the positive aspects of the "leveled" system and remedy the negative ones, this mod changes the following:
I went through every NPC and creature in order to cap their max level. In general, the caps fall mostly between 4 and 40, with some special cases. Every modification allowed a range where the creature or NPC can level relative to the level of the player; those that were capped or static by default I left untouched. The criteria to choose the level of caps took into account the relative power of the creature, the frequency, the status (named, boss, occupation), the relevance for the main quest and guild quests, the lore of tamriel, etc. Also, most of these changes also included a minimum level. This will enhance the sense of danger when traveling into unknown areas, it will also add to the realism of the game's world and, finally, provide a sense of accomplishment when what once was a threat becomes a hunt for sport. A complete list would be too large for a readme file, here are some of the most significant and common changes:
1- Daedra remain unchanged except for capped levels. Also, their spawn lists were changed to give a more random chance of encountering weaker daedra at higher levels. For example, Fire atronarchs, clannfears and scamps can appear in oblivion areas, gates, special dungeons, etc, regardless of the level of the player. The higher level daedra have a slightly higher chance of spawning, to keep the player on guard.
2- Dremoras are now significantly more powerful. Markynaz and Valkynaz have their levels capped but with a range where they keep up with the player. Every leveled list that included dremoras is now updated, even quest ones. This means that some quests, specially the main quest, will be more difficult and the player will not be able to complete them at low levels. Roughly, a level 20-25 will stand a chance, anything below that and it will be a world of hurt. At a player level of 40+ almost all dremoras will be lower than the player, with the exception of some special cases. At lvl 50 the player should be able to mop the floor with just about every creature in Cyrodiil. (Example: Kynval are lvl 12, in most cases they will not spawn unless the player is level 13--the intervals of Dremora reach near lvl 40)
3- Vampires are very different now. There are four different types of vampires: regular, fearsome, deadly and ancient. They all have an interval where they will appear in the usual vampire havens and dungeons. The space between the intervals allows the player to experience both challenge and a good ol-fashioned vampire-killing spree. For example, at lvl 16 there is a good chance that you can clean up a vampire nest with ease (except if patriarchs or matriarchs are around) Anything below level 8 will have a very tough time against the regular vampires. Deadly and ancient vampires carry specially good loot, but they will not show up until level 25 or so. Again, some surprises are in store for the daring adventurer. The most powerful vampires are the ancient patriarchs and matriarchs. These will appear in the late stages of the game provided that you have not cleaned every other regular patriarch or matriarch in Cyrodiil, something hard to do unless you reach mid twenties. Some dungeons will become "re-occupied" if you clean them early on. Rumor has it that a very powerful vampire lord has brought to Cyrodiil a feared relic in order to cleanse it of its power with the aid of other elder buddies of his kin.
4- Goblins of different tribes vary now in power. Some are rather scrawny, others are now very strong in comparison. All of their levels and loot tables are capped and adjusted accordingly, plus a new item here and there if you can find them. regular, run-of-the-mill gobbies are also capped and tweaked, the warlords will give you a good beating unless you are a seasoned adventurer.
5- Mythic creature leveled lists are modified so that there is a chance that lower level critters will spawn even at high levels. This is specially prevalent in wilderness areas, where now there is also the chance that powerful creatures may surprise the wandering player. That is, there is now the slight possibility that you will run into very tough fights while exploring the wild. The more remote and inaccessible the area, the higher the likelihood of an untimely encounter. The strongest of mythic creatures, the Minotaurs, are capped but can put up a fight even against the experienced player.
6- Undead are mostly untouched, except for level caps on their strongest versions: wraiths/Lichs. Some skeletons are a bit stronger but they remain among the weakest of the undead, alongside zombies. Leveled lists for undead are modified so that there is now the chance that they will spawn weak undead regardless of the level of the player. Again, higher level undead have a greater chance of appearing in these situations.
8- Bandits, Marauders, Conjurers and Necromancers are capped, their loot lists adjusted and spread at variety of level ranges so that some difference between them is apparent. Bandits can be very low level and reach early twenties. Some exceptions are the bandit bosses and the infamous Black Bow Bandit crew. Marauders tend to be slightly more powerful. Necromancers and Conjurers will give some trouble to the inexperienced adventurer, but later on they will easily become cannon-fodder. However, the boss versions are rather powerful. The expulsion of necromancers from the Mages Guild has bred resentment. Necromancers of Tamriel, under the guide of the experienced Fayth Noor, gather in Cyrodiil to plot against the Archmage.
9- Every guard in game is now level-capped. They are not lowly beginners, but you will not get the feeling that they are so powerful that your presence in Cyrodiil is a nuisance. At high levels you will be able to school most guards. Some towns have stronger regiments, others are weaker. Guards in the stages of the main quest are leveled appropriately, stocked with some healing potions and ready to rumble. Still, powerful enemies will take them down more easily than they can do the same to you. This also applies to the blades and the imperial guards.
10- Every citizen of Cyrodiil, friendly or not, is level capped, when possible, in-synch with the difficulty of the quests with which they are associated. I have tried to give them a generous level range so as not to stiffle or demean the quest progression. With that said, a lot of npcs involved in quests have minimum level caps which means that you may not be able to finish the hard guild quests early on. A great feature of this change is that you will no longer get your ass handed down to you by a hoe wielding punk of a farmer after you pilfer his house clean or take his daughter to the "barn."
11- The levels of the Arena fights are completely changed. They do not simply scale according to your level. Now, each batch of fighters has its own level range, increasing up until a much more epic fight with the Grandchampion. You will not be able to beat the Arena unless you are highly experienced and decked out. This is a significant change from the original, where the Grandchampion of Cyrodiil, capital of Tamriel, was a fearsome level 10 warrior! Morituri te salutan!
12- Finally, every loot table and NPC-gear table has been adjusted to match their occupation and status. You will not find hardly any npcs with Elven, Ebony or above, except in some cases to flesh out the mysteries of Tamriel. The same applies to monsters, except powerful ones, and Bandits, Highwaymen and Marauders. Also, even at higher levels they will not constantly sport chainmail, mithril, dwarven and orcish. They will still appear in leather, iron, fur and steel on a regular basis.
Those changes addressed some of the problems that I found with the "leveled" system. I believe that the game's atmosphere and gameplay improve greatly with them. I added a few more changes for the sake of rounding the mod, also with the aim of improving realism, tweaking lackluster skills, birthsigns and a few other issues. The changes are:
1- Every loot table for armor, weapons, gems, jewelry and special items has been revamped, except most of the quest-related ones. The aim here was to make items more scarce and rare until higher levels. For example, Dwarven will not appear at lvl 6, but lvl 13+; Daedric will not begin to drop until around very early thirties. The same formula, scaled appropriately, I applied to the remaining lists. Powerful items will be more special and not simply lying around at every corner after level 20. (As an aside, the editor for Oblivion has a few bugs, one of which affects how items and levels in lists are organized, I went through the lists as many times as I could before going completely bananas--you try going through hundreds of items across hundreds of cross-referenced lists--but inconsistencies may remain here, some by design, others by bug and yet others because I didn't feel like tweaking them any longer.)
2- The value of gems, jewelry, silver house-wares and pelts is now higher so that thieves have a greater enticement in risking their neck than the measly gold coin that they can squeeze out of a silver fork.
3- A few new items now appear near or in powerful NPCs. These are not mighty or common enough to imbalance the game, but they add some flavor to the also new NPCs.
4- Birthsigns have changed. I have kept the original spirit of each constellation but I have modified their effects, and added new ones, to balance them out. Unless you are interested in roleplaying a cursed character, very few people would choose the sign of the Lord (90 hit point heal spell, 25% weakness to fire) over the Mage (50 points of Magicka, as much as a 25 bonus to INT would give, without penalties)
5- The skills of Hand to Hand and Sneak have some modifications. Hand to Hand was sorely lacking at release. Its range is very short, its damage can't hold a candle to powerful weapons, its rate of block was half of wielded weapons and the player cannot use gauntlets to add offensive on-hit spell effects as with every other weapon. Now, hand to hand damage max is higher, its rate of block also went up (although still lower than that for weapons), it has a longer reach and its staggering chance while blocking was adjusted upwards. Sneak Attacks now do slightly higher damage at Journeyman and Expert ranks, x7 and x8 respectively. Marksman Sneak attacks in the same ranks are x3.5 (displays just as the normal x3) and x4 respectively. Also, disarming chances of Special Attacks and Blocks are now higher than a poor 5%, which meant that only 1 out of 20 blows would actually disarm an opponent. The chances to Knockdown and Paralyze with Marksman Special Attacks also went up slightly.
6- Descriptions for the notices of Mastery achievement in-game are re-written now to reflect a higher sense of pride and accomplishment, rather than the same old text used in the prior perks' notices. Descriptions of Birthsigns differ so as to include the changes and additions. Finally, changes to the perks of Sneak also appear in the notices brought up when a player reaches a new rank.
7- The speed of arrows and magic attacks increases by 20% and 10% respectively. This is done to offset the ease with which one could avoid the ranged attacks of NPCs and monsters by timing sidesteps.
8- The minimum levels necessary to receive Daedra Lord quests at their shrines is now higher for most of them--anywhere from lvl 15 to lvl 20. This change obeys two reasons. First, it did not make a lot of sense to me that a Daedric Lord would grant a lowly lvl 2 the honor of serving under them with the promise of an item of power. Now, in order to be a worthy champion, you are going to need to know how to skin some beast other than sheep. The second one is related to acquiring a decent level before tackling more dangerous stages of the main quest--a build-up towards a more epic finale.
9- Fighter's and Mage's Guilds in the main towns of Cyrodiil now have special Storage Chests to stash the player's growing inventory.
10- Last, the day-time length is now doubled. It takes twice as long to transverse between dusk and dawn. This change aims at both "realism" and practicality.
These are the main changes that the mod addresses. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
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