A prison escape? Actually, it’s more like a last-minute pardon. Only, you’re not the one in the hot seat.
Start by telling the game something about who you are in the world of Oblivion.
The default character is a young Imperial male. If you just want to get into the game, simply choose a name and select “Done” when his guileless face appears onscreen. He will serve you as well as any character in this “starter” dungeon. Don’t worry; you’re not stuck with him. You can revise this choice and other choices still to come before you step out into the wide world. Here, you pick your character’s name, gender, appearance, and most importantly, race. For help on creating your character, see the “Character Gen” chapter.
The Imperial Prison
After you click on “Done,” you find yourself in a stony cell. Explore a bit. Approach the cell door to experience the gentle humor of Valen Dreth, who occupies the cell across the hall.
Just for kicks, you can create several quickie characters so you can experience the grand panorama of Dreth’s undiscriminating nastiness. (He has unique taunts for each of the game’s 10 races, and for each gender as well.)
He stops taunting when visitors appear on the stairs. Dreth makes it sound as though they’re coming for you.
They’re not. They just need to use your cell.
An Old Emperor in a Hurry
The visitors are Emperor Uriel Septim VII and three members of the Blades: Glenroy, Captain Renault, and Baurus. Listen carefully to the dialogue as they approach. It sets up the story for this first stage of the game.
The emperor’s sons reportedly have been attacked by assassins and killed, the emperor supposes, and the Blades are trying to spirit the emperor away via an emergency exit before Septim joins his sons in death. (You see only two Blades until the party enters your cell. The third, Baurus, is up the stairs locking the prison door.)
Talk to Glenroy and the emperor through the door. The emperor is as pleasant as someone who has just learned his children are dead can be, but an urgency lurks behind his words.
Glenroy is dismissive. He just wants you out of the way. At this stage, you are merely an administrative inconvenience. This cell was supposed to be empty.
For the game to progress, you must satisfy his demand that you stand down; do so now. You can either stand under the high window in the east wall (which allows you a better view of the proceedings) or sit on the stool beside the table. Either way, you’re temporarily pinned in place; the cell door opens and the royal party enters.
Captain Renault moves to the northeast corner. Baurus watches the door. Glenroy looks at you with the eyes of a hungry dog. Renault presses a big stone in the seventh row up from the floor. Your alleged bed sinks grindingly into the floor. The north wall opens to reveal a dark, descending passage.
You’re free. At least, you’re free to explore this large “starter” dungeon. In the Imperial Prison, Imperial Substructure, Natural Caverns, Imperial Subterrane, and the Sanctum, you will find weapons and armor. You use the weapons to kill Rats, a Zombie, and perhaps not a few Goblins.
You learn how to cast a spell and pick a lock. You may sneak past a Goblin and deal with a Goblin trap. Perhaps you even spring a trap of your own.
You also witness a defining event in the history of the Tamrielic Empire.
In addition to the advice given to you by the tutorial, here are a few extra things you should know as you make your way through these dark passages.
You don’t have to remain with the Blades, but you have no reason to linger in your cell. The cell door was locked again behind the royal party, and Dreth seems to have shot his bolt. And if you do keep up, you can talk to your new friend, the emperor, who offers unique commentary at certain points along the way. In the second large room, the royal party reaches the midpoint between two sets of stairs, and four hooded assassins cascade from a raised area to the west.
You are unarmored and virtually unarmed, so steer clear of the fray, ideally by retreating back down the passage. The Blades can handle the attackers. If you attract the assassins’ attention, they try to kill you, and they may well succeed.
Besides, you can’t materially influence the key events in this dungeon. In the company of the emperor, you are mostly a spectator. When the battle ends, you learn from an exchange between the Blades and Septim that one of those killed was Captain Renault. She led the royal party down the passage and seems to have borne the brunt of the assassins’ attack.
You can claim two items she was holding: a torch and a sword. By searching around you can also find an Akaviri Katana that she dropped when she was killed. Take them all. The torch is a decided comfort in this deep and dark place, and you can hold it in one hand while you hold the sword in the other.
A word about taking stuff: It is basic to your existence in Oblivion. You’ll buy things at the many stores, of course, but you live and die off loot. Fortunately, there’s a lot of it about. Each of the assassins has a Mythic Dawn robe and hood – their weapons have vanished because they were bound items – and some may carry potions or other useful items. Leave the robes and hoods – they will quickly be superseded by more valuable items – but take any potions.
TIP: Right now, you’re nowhere near the limit of what you can carry, so take anything that has potential value as a weapon, armor, or magic or has significant value. If an item has a value in gold listed in your inventory, you can sell it when you get out of here and buy something more useful. (Gold is weightless.)
However, you’ll eventually reach your limit of what you can carry and have to decide what to dump and what to keep. Find a convenient location to leave items that don’t contribute directly to your mission but that you’re uncomfortable leaving behind. We scout several such locations in the Imperial City area in the “Freeform Quests” chapter. That same chapter we discuss what’s involved in buying a house.
As for “Mythic Dawn,” the game doesn’t make anything of the reference at this point, but this is your first clue. The royal party passes through the locked gate and the door beyond – and you’re on your own. Perhaps it’s because the Blades (who don’t trust you) are running the show. Speak to the emperor before he disappears. He says he knows you’ll meet up with the party later. But first you have to pass through the Imperial Substructure and the Natural Caverns – after finding a way out of the Imperial Prison.
A section of wall crumbles to the southeast. Two Rats advance through the gap; a third waits beyond it. Kill them and then search this new area for loot. Among other things, you’ll come up with a bow, armor, and lockpicks. Use the picks to master the simple lock on the door to the southeast, or use the key on the Goblin’s shaman’s body.
This is the Imperial Substructure. In this new area, you’ll find a zombie, some odds and ends of loot (including ingredients), and a whole lot of rats. (It’s a good thing the rats are weak and suicidal.) And, near the door down into the Natural Caverns, you’ll find your path semi-blocked by a goblin early-warning system made by hanging skulls. Clever, those goblins. In the next section of dungeon, you’ll have a chance to outwit them.
The Natural Caverns
Up to this point, none of your battles should have been intimidating – unless you did something foolish, like deliberately attacking the Blades or the emperor. However, unlike the giant Rats, the Goblins (who occupy the Natural Caverns in force) are quite another matter.
These foes can block and dodge your blows, and their own blows can inflict significant damage. And, if you allow them to gang up on you, you’re in real trouble.
This whole section of the dungeon can be seen as a series of not-at-alls. The first Goblin in the Natural Caverns is watching a Rat roasting over an open fire when you appear on the scene. You can ignore him, but leaving live enemies in the darkness behind you isn’t always intelligent. Sneak up on him and put a blade in him.
You can sometimes use your enemies’ traps against them. North and east of the campfire is a chamber guarded by a single Goblin. A tripwire stretches across the floor just east of the entrance. Run northeast through the entrance – right through the tripwire, deliberately triggering the trap – and one of the three spiked logs pinned to the ceiling takes the guard out for you.
You also sometimes want to attract the attention of as many enemies as possible. Right at the end of the Natural Caverns is a large Goblin encampment. Two of the ugly little monsters guard the entrance, and the remainder are scattered around the camp. Some of these are tough hombres – notably the spell-casting shaman on the far side of the camp.
You can fight the guards one at a time: engage one in battle, run away to heal, then come back to fight the other one. However, each fight will be tough, will take a while, and taking out the guards in this way isn’t really necessary.
Instead, look around. The Goblins have left a large pile of logs just up the slope from the entrance. You can activate the stack and wipe out two of the guards below. But why settle for two weaker Goblins when you can kill all of them? A brisk run through the camp will result in you slamming back up the entry slope with a small army of Goblins on your tail. If you have a lead on them, activate the stack, and now you’re overseeing a bloodbath. Afterwards, mop up any Goblins who didn’t play Follow the Leader.
TIP: This maneuver has its hazards – not the least of which is slipping into the pit at the center of the camp, having the Goblins pile in after you, and then being roasted over an open fire. So save your game first and again after you succeed.
Once the mopping-up is complete, you have control of an enormous haul. (To be sure, there’s a lot of junk mixed in with the good stuff. Goblins seem to have a deep appreciation for junk.) Mixed in with the junk are lots of usable odds and ends. Once you’re done, make your way out the exit to the Imperial Subterrane.
The Imperial Subterrane
The emperor and his escorts vanished into the Imperial Subterrane at the bottom of the Imperial Prison.
Now they’re just a hop away.
A short corridor leads west to a broken section of wall. Here, peer down into a chamber like the one where you parted ways with the royal party, watch the emperor and Blades appear out of the southern tunnel, and listen to Glenroy and Baurus quarrel about strategy.
Their exchange is followed by another assassination attempt. Since you’re now set up with weapons and armor, you may be able to participate in the emperor’s defense. However, since it’s just two assassins this time, Baurus and Glenroy may already have dispatched them by the time you’re ready. Use the bow and stay on one of the room’s upper tiers. However many skinny Rats you offed back in the Imperial Substructure, you’re not remotely ready to go toe-to-toe with the assassins.
Finally, Glenroy tries to coax Septim into moving onward, and the emperor protests that he wants to rest a little longer. That’s your cue to show your face. Hop down to the party’s level, and the ever-friendly Glenroy promptly orders Baurus to kill you as a potential ally of the assassins.
Don’t worry. The emperor calls off the dogs. He knows better.
You join the royal party. Glenroy still doesn’t trust you, but Baurus treats you almost like a normal person, and you can question him briefly about the Blades and Septim. And the emperor is almost…fatherly! Seeking to explain why he trusts you, Septim asks whether you’re familiar with The Nines – the state religion whose deities include Tiber Septim, the first emperor of Tamriel. Evidently, Uriel feels your stars are linked and asks for your birthsign. See the “Birthsign” chapter for help on what to choose.
Alas, the emperor’s own star flickers only dimly. He now states plainly what was only implied back in your cell: He has seen his own death. He seems even to have accepted it. But he’ll make no predictions for your own destiny – save that it seems bright with possibility. (“In your face, I behold the son’s companion.”)
The party heads north, with Glenroy unlocking the door, then makes a U-turn, heading south for the stairs and the third ambush. If you’re fast off the mark, you can make a useful contribution to the emperor’s defense. Ready your bow, drop off the north side of the path, then jump onto one of the ledges that overlook the columned room below from north, west, and south. Let fly.
Again, it’s not as though these Blades bruisers need your help, and you probably won’t do much actual damage before they finish the job you start. But even simple hits on the two hard-to-see assassins in the raised areas above the columned room’s northeast corner forces them to abandon their positions and ruin the surprise. (By shooting at them, you can trigger them early – before the Blades arrive in the room where they’re waiting. You can see into the room from a raised area, but they have to walk to it by a somewhat more roundabout path.) And your presence above distracts any on the lower level, giving Glenroy and Baurus the opportunity to take some free whacks.
Obtaining the Amulet
Here it ends. And here it begins.
There’s a strange mood in the air as the party enters the Sanctum. The emperor has just told you he’s going to die, and this statement hangs between you like smoke. It’s almost as though he’s already dead and you’re all just going through the motions.
Glenroy obviously smells trouble. He orders the party to hold up while he checks the path to the north. He signals it’s clear and then leads east toward a gate. The gate is locked from the other side, and the Blade smells a trap.
He’s right. The trap lies in a small, apparently enclosed chamber to the north. Perhaps this is “the Sanctum” itself and perhaps even the defensible position that Glenroy was arguing for back in the Subterrane.
The Blades read it as a “dead end.” In fact, it’s not a dead end – and that fact will be the emperor’s undoing – but these two Blades don’t know that. After all, it was Renault who opened the escape route in the first place and Renault who led the way down that dark track. And it may have been Renault, too, who knew this room’s secret exit. And she’s dead.
But there’s no opportunity to deal with these subtleties. At this point Glenroy and Baurus suddenly run off to deal with assassins who’ve appeared to the rear, leaving you alone to defend the emperor.
You can follow the Blades. If you do, they kill the assassins in the big room to the south and Glenroy dies. But things won’t progress until you return to the emperor. If you stay with the emperor, you have a moment before he speaks to you. If you’ve taken damage, this would be a good time to restore your health to full. If you follow the Blades out, Baurus will periodically shout at you to “stay back and protect the Emperor!” and the fight will continue indefinitely until you return to the room where the Emperor is waiting.
Sensing that his end is nigh, Septim places in your care an artifact called the Amulet of Kings and charges you to take it to someone named Jauffre. He does not further identify the amulet, or say who Jauffre is or where to find him, only that he knows where to find “my last son.” The emperor also talks of “the jaws of Oblivion,” and “the Lord of Destruction.”
The conversation has no sooner ended than a stone panel rises in the room’s northeast corner and a Mythic Dawn assassin appears and slashes at the emperor. Just like that, it’s over. Septim is dead.
The assassin’s still very much alive and kicking, and you’re no more capable of killing this one on your own than you were back in the Imperial Prison. Stay out of range of his dagger until Baurus reappears on the scene and takes off the heat.
Baurus doesn’t blame you, either; he blames himself. Nor does he accuse you of swiping the Amulet of Kings. He realizes that the emperor “saw something in you.” And because the emperor trusted you, Baurus trusts you despite the fact that you’re an escaped convict carrying a divine artifact, which you claim the emperor handed you himself seconds before a guy with a red hood and a magic dagger came through a secret door.
Baurus tells you that Jauffre is the Grandmaster of the Blades and lives as a simple monk in Weynon Priory. The priory is almost straight west from the sewers’ exit in the woods southeast of the city of Chorrol.
You probably still have lots of questions. But it’s time to go. All you can do at this point is enter the secret passage opened by the assassin.
Baurus? He’s staying to guard the emperor’s body and fight off any pursuers. But you’ll see him again before too long.
You’re not out, but you’re almost out. Descend the stairs and follow the depression in the floor west and north to a door for which Baurus gave you a key. Inside is a well entrance (a manhole cover) you activate to reach the final section. Beyond, a large chamber has a trench running down the middle. You find a couple of Goblins and a Rat in here. Dispose of them, and on the far side of the trench you find a wheel you can activate to open the second chamber entrance.
Enter the room and take the stairs leading up. Follow the path over the bridges and through the gate. You may find a few additional Rats to kill along the way, and eventually you come to the final gate.
Don’t like your character? Maybe you made a mistake with your birthsign. Or your experience in the dungeon has taught you that you’re want to play a little differently than you’d thought. When you activate this last gate leading outside, you’re offered the opportunity to tweak your character’s race, birthsign, and class. Essentially, you can change any of the decisions you’ve made to this point, even your name.
Once you’ve made any changes you want to your character, head outside.