It begins as every Elder Scrolls game should. No, not in a prison – although that happens too – but with a catastrophic crash. I spend 30 minutes creating the perfect burly orc, named Mugrub gro-Mogg (it takes longer because I have to look up the correct genitive case for a male orc). I’ve almost finished the intro when the sound effects stop. Then the music disappears. Then everything freezes. Somehow, I haven’t saved. That’s not a good-enough anecdote for an article, so I go back to the start and make a new Mugrub.
Now, there’s one thing you need to know about Mugrub. He’s a bad orc. In the Elder Scrolls world, the Orsimer are noble savages, fearsome in a fight but blessed with a kind of muscular honesty. They are misunderstood, but not necessarily evil. Mugrub isn’t like that. Mugrub believes that the only good guard is a dead guard, and the only thing better than a dead guard is a dying guard who tells you where to find his mates. He is hatred, with tusks.
But before the frothing murder can begin, I have to escape my prison. My liberator, Emperor Uriel Septim, talks to me about prophecy, death and destiny. Mugrub doesn’t listen. He takes the Amulet of Kings, even though the giant, regal ruby apparently isn’t worth enough to sell. Bah. As the Emperor lies bleeding at our feet, his bodyguard Bauros starts cheerfully asking Mugrub what class he is, presumably making small talk to dispel the awkwardness of personal failure. This is a forgotten element of the Elder Scrolls, and one that I miss. Granted, the ability to play Skyrim unfettered by class choices was easier for people unfamiliar with traditional RPGs, but I love the distinction that comes with adhering to a specific class. I look through the list and decide that none are quite right. Knights have many of the correct skills, but seem entirely too noble for ol’ Mugrub. I must create my own class. Thus, the Warbastard is born.
Mugrub the Warbastard leaves the cave, and sees the sky for the first time in what feels like forever. Pale sun breaks through swaying trees, and the lake glimmers gently in front of me. This would be a beautiful place to kill a guard. Unfortunately, there aren’t any here, so I ignore the main quest and begin the long trudge to Cheydinhal. I don’t fast travel, because there are some RPG transgressions too wretched even for Mugrub.
Cheydinhal is lovely, but very stuffy. The first inn I visit makes some pointed reference to the ‘finest clientele’ in the town, so I assume she’s an orc-racist. Mugrub will come back for her later. In the meantime, I cross the street to the Newlands Lodge, which is a Dark Elf inn far more to my tastes. Spitting is allowed; fighting is positively encouraged. After making the usual small talk with the innkeep (“What’s the best hammer for bludgeoning a guard, in your opinion?”), I’m reminded there’s a Fighters Guild in Cheydinhal. If that’s not a worthy profession for a Warbastard, I don’t know what is.
Mugrub joins up. His boss is another orc, so I expect favourable treatment and swift advancement, but apparently I have to do some ‘contracts’ first. My first task is to deliver some weapons to a goblin-infested mine, which is quite frankly beneath me, but I need the Septims. I also take a fancy to one of the weapons – a shining steel warhammer, which I have no intention of handing over. I head to the mine, and meet the person I’m supposed to give it to. A plan forms in my head: my contact is another orc, wearing a full set of fine steel armour that would fit Mugrub handsomely. What if an accident were to happen?
Weapons delivered, we begin clearing goblins out of the mine. Mugrub tries to help, but he’s clumsy, bless him. He keeps hitting his orc brother, until his ally sees red and attacks. This was not part of the plan. The goblins were supposed to finish him off. Instead, he chases me into the mine. We run to a gloomy passageway and I murder him in the dark, then steal his armour and burn the body. And by ‘burn the body’, I mean ‘spend five minutes trying to balance the corpse on a tiny fire’. I like to roleplay.
I return to the guild master, safe in the knowledge that nobody saw my crime. One of the loading screens reminds me that you can’t join the Fighters Guild with a criminal record – it says nothing about transgressions for existing members. It’ll be fine. I can’t wait for my advancement.
I have been expelled from the Fighters Guild. People are surprisingly angry, and far more perceptive than I was expecting. Perhaps the armour gave it away. Perhaps it doesn’t matter. Oblivion is a voyage of discovery, and I’ve discovered that being Warbastard is its own reward.
This article originally appeared in Xbox: The Official Magazine. For more great Xbox coverage, you can subscribe here (opens in new tab).