Oblivion

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PushTheWinButton

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PushTheWinButton

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About this mod

An immersive overhaul true to the feel of the original game. Rare loot is actually rare, high level enemies only spawn at boss-level spawn points, low level enemies and items can spawn regardless of level, and a tonne of other balance tweaks for almost every aspect of the game. Oblivion, as it was meant to be!

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Ascension
The Glory of Cyrodiil
Requirements:
Shivering Isles
Oblivion Script Extender


(a.k.a. Oblivion—JSawyerised)

Introduction

This one has been a long time coming.

It may not appear so at first glance, but this is the culmination of about four years of work (on, but mostly off). This mod has been overhauled, renamed, and remade several times throughout these years, as I sought to create a definitive vanilla-inspired balance overhaul. Many mods have been released during this time span which do similar things, but I found none of them really gave me what I was looking for. I want the game to still look and feel like the Oblivion I know and love—the Oblivion I first played over ten yours ago with a sense of wonder. I don't want fancy new items or heavily scripted features which change how the game fundamentally plays. I want something I can build onto with other mods if I want to, or can just use on its own perfectly fine.

Ascension aims to create the definitive, well-crafted, immersive vanilla Oblivion experience. Loot has been thoroughly overhauled so that rare equipment is actually rare, dungeons feel rewarding, enemies and loot no longer stop spawning at higher levels, underused gameplay aspects are made more worthwhile, and difficulty has been subtly increased overall. The sense of progression you receive from levelling up and journeying through Cyrodiil should feel much greater now (Shivering Isles is also fully supported). Heavy inspiration was taken from Morrowind‘s game balance, but every change was made to conform to the following three criteria:

  • Is it necessary?
  • Does it fit with the vanilla look, feel, and game systems?
  • And, most importantly, is it fun to play?

I have for the longest time been conflicted as to whether this mod was worth the effort to release, given its scope, the documentation I’d need to compile, and the age of the Oblivion modding scene. However, given that I’ll soon be starting a new career and life, and that my Oblivion modding campaign is drawing to an end, I thought it best that I release it at last to get some closure on the project.

I hope you guys enjoy the mod as much as I have, and get at least one more good playthrough of Oblivion out of it.

Enjoy,


PushTheWinButton

(Note: The name Ascension is taken from the exploration track in the game called "Auriel's Ascension". This track only plays on the PC version and, since I first played the game on an Xbox 360, it took me by surprise the first time I heard it. This melancholy tune has stuck with me ever since. The name also invokes the feeling of moving to a new level and passing on. With my to-do list for Oblivion almost complete, it seems like a fitting name.)


Description

The full list of changes this mod makes are too numerous to mention here, but I have included a definitive list in the Docs section for those who wish to read it. Instead, I will give a quick overview of some of the main areas, and try to explain the feeling I am aiming for.

Leveled Lists and Loot


The Manual of Arms and Manual of Armor books state that the higher material grade items can only be found in ancient treasure hordes. Lies! Get to a certain level in vanilla Oblivion, and every man and his dog wears Ebony, Elven, Glass, and even Daedric armor.

No more—the loot system has been exhaustively overhauled. The items carried by NPCs and in loot are now capped at a certain level appropriate to the character and location. You won’t see bandits wearing anything above Chainmail armour, and generic loot has also been capped at Mithril and Orcish material. The best loot has been transferred to the boss chests located at the very end of dungeons, and only ancient tombs and ruins have a chance of concealing the highest level Glass, Elven, and Ebony gear. To find Daedric gear, you must travel to the plains of Oblivion itself, or delve deep into the twisted dungeons in the realm of the Mad God. Furthermore, items will no longer stop spawning when you get to higher levels—iron armour will remain common throughout your adventure, as it should be.

Boss chests also contain various other valuable treasures, ranging from silver and gold clutter, to valuable gemstones and jewellery. This acts as the prize for completing a dungeon, and will be the primary source of income for dungeon delvers. Ayleid containers may also contain additional Welkynd Stones, and Varla Stones can even occasionally be found in boss chests. Thieves also have a chance of finding more valuable loot in homes across Cyrodiil.

Ayleid coins and gold clutter have been added to act as treasure items, and several underused vanilla items have been distributed to existing loot lists. This includes fine iron and steel weapons, all enchanted arrows, and leather bracers, amongst others.

All weapon and armour loot will now also have random health and enchantment charge, determined based on the inventory it is found in. NPCs skilled in Armourer can also carry items with up to 125% repair condition.

Creatures and NPCs


Creatures will no longer stop spawning when you get to a certain level—you can now always encounter Zombies, Imps, Scamps, etc regardless of your level. Furthermore, all random spawns points have been capped, so that tough creatures such as Liches, Minotaur Lords, Storm Atronachs, etc will now only spawn at boss-level points, usually at the end of dungeons. Boss chests contain the best loot, but they’re also the best guarded!

To balance this feature, some low level creatures now have a chance of spawning in groups once you reach higher levels. For example, you can now encounter a pack or wolves in the wilderness, or a squad of skeletons in a dungeon.

Speaking of skeletons, they will now wear helmets appropriate to their level. You can now easily tell skeleton champions apart by their ebony or elven helmets before you go charging into combat.

Character Stats


Player health is now calculated as twice your current endurance, with no level up bonus. This means your maximum health is less, and tank characters will have to rely more on good quality armour instead. It also prevents the meta game of raising endurance early, which is off-putting, difficult to understand for new players, and breaks immersion.

Magicka regenerates much more slowly, but spells in general cost much less if you are skilled in the school. This means that spamming spells in no longer a viable tactic for most characters unless they specifically excel in the arcane arts. Characters with spell support may find that they need to pack some more potions of sorcery for their adventures. Draining a spellcaster’s magicka is also far more determintal now, and will force them to engage you prematurely in close combat.

The fatigue system has been overhauled to create a balance similar to Morrowind. Fatigue will drain whilst running, but only VERY slowly—much slower than it regenerates whilst not running. The rate of fatigue drain is influenced by the amount of equipment you're carrying, so travelling light will prevent you getting tired as fast. Those skilled in athletics may even be able to regenerate fatigue whilst running when they are carrying less, and a master of athletics will always slowly regenerate fatigue, regardless of their encumbrance. Fatigue is now a resource that has to be monitored during combat, just like magicka or health. Potions, food, and drinks all restore more fatigue, and can be found more often in loot. You may find that you have to slow to a walk or rest for a short period of time between fights, and this immerses you in your character's sense of exhaustion. It's also a great opportunity to survey your surroundings and take in some of the amazing Cyrodiilic vistas that you usually run straight by.

I designed the new fatigue system with a low-level, heavy armour spellsword, unskilled in athletics in mind (the worst-case scenario). I found that the new fatigue drain whilst running was perfectly playable—you only have to slow to a walk for less than 30 seconds at most after heavy combat to regenerate your fatigue fully from zero. Running alone with no breaks will usually take 5 minutes or more to fully drain your fatigue. If you are finding the new fatigue system a slog, try carrying less equipment, raising your fatigue, or increasing your athletics. Characters that rely on heavy armour or melee combat should consider taking athletics as a main skill.

Your maximum encumbrance is now three times your strength, rather than five times. This is quite a severe limitation on your inventory space early in the game, and you will now have to make more decisions as to whether you really need to pick an item up. Do you really need to be carrying a shield? Should you carry a shortword as backup instead of a longsword? Can you wear clothing or light armour instead of a piece of heavy armour? Do I really need an Alembic? These will be things that you now have to consider, and it will enhance your immersion in the game world. Don't worry, characters with high strength will still be able to wear a full set of heavy armour, and feather is now a much more valuable enchantment at all stages of the game. Burden can be more potent against your foes too, as the effect is more likely to immobilise them and will also make their fatigue drain quicker due to the fatigue changes.

The movement speed penalty for worn equipment weight has been reduced, meaning that heavy armour has one reduced downside versus light armour. The Light Armor master rank bonus has also been reduced, meaning that heavy armour will always provide more protection than light, making it the armour of choice for tank characters. All armour will also protect more regardless of skill, and a full set of Daedric armour can now actually reach the armour cap. Playing a heavy knight should now be less painfully slow, and heavy armour in general is less of a dud choice.

Gameplay Balancing


A range of other tweaks have been included to generally balance various other aspects of the game and make all play-styles feel more natural and worthwhile. Overpowered aspects of the game have been toned down, whereas some others have been modified to behave more like you would expect to enhance immersion. These include changes to alchemy, sneak, pick-pocketing, hand-to-hand fighting, barter, persuasion, skill leveling rates, and more. The aim here is subtlety. Wherever possible, only minimal behind-the-scenes settings have been altered so that most information pertaining to the vanilla game's item and character stats, etc is largely still correct.

Although slight, these changes can have a large effect on how you play the game. For instance, playing an unarmed monk is now a perfectly valid choice, as you can be skilled in marksman and hand-to-hand will remain a viable back-up combat skill throughout the game. Alchemy is less potent for those not skilled in the craft, and so it is harder to create potions more powerful than those found in loot for most characters. Persuasion and barter are much harder unless a character specialises in them—some merchants may not even haggle with novice mercantile characters at all! The list goes on.

These tweaks were all carefully designed by me with inspiration from the vanilla settings, often using extensive spreadsheets and play testing (I'm an engineer who used to work as a data analyst, so lets say I know my way around numbers). I tried my best not to make any changes that could be considered ham-fisted or arbitrary. Settings were only changed if I thought it was necessary, fit with the vanilla feel, and would improve the gameplay experience. Wherever possible, I built around the vanilla settings instead of replacing them entirely. For example, most fatigue settings are the same, and only a small handful have been altered to create the new system.

Included in these tweaks are fixes for creature power attack damage and damage for creatures which carry weapons. In the vanilla game, creature power attacks did no extra damage, and some creatures with weapons actually did less damage than those that didn't.


Consistency


All the changes made by this mod have been made to be consistent with the vanilla game—the goal is to make it appear as though they could have been there from the start. This means that all loading screens, menu text, and tutorial messages have been updated to reflect the new features. A handful of new loading screens have also been added to explain extra details, and these all use vanilla loading screens which were rarely seen in the vanilla game.



Video

This video is just a quick gameplay showcase of a short dungeon completed with a level 1 character fresh out of the tutorial.




Recommended Mods

Ascension was created with the use of several mods in mind, most notably some of my other recent mods; however, these are not strictly required and you can play without them if you wish. These were actually once part of Ascension, but were made standalone so that I could manage them easier.

Recommended Essentials



If you're interested in more of my recommended vanilla-friendly mods, why not try my full vanilla plus modding guide:

Through the Valleys
PushTheWinButton's Vanilla Plus Modding Guide



Installation

This mod requires the Oblivion Script Extender.

To install, simply add the files to your data folder manually or using your mod manager of choice, activate the plugin file, and you're good to go.

You don't need to start a new character, as Ascension can work with existing saves. However, a new character is highly recommended if you want to get the full experience. I like to restrict myself to vanilla classes and underused birthsigns for an extra challenge.


Ascension currently requires no patches for any of the official DLCs, and supports them out of the box.

Optional Files

Push's Tweaks: This is a single merged plugin containing all five of my recommended optional files, itemised below.

Bash Filter for UOP (Recommended): Use this file if you are rebuilding a bashed patch with the Unofficial Patch installed. This file simply replicates some of Ascension's leveled lists, but includes the Unofficial Patch as an additional master. This prevents the patcher from re-importing some leveleled list item fixes from the Unoffical Patch, as these items have instead been added to Ascensions new high-tier item lists and shouldn't be put back into the common loot lists. You can deactivate this file after patching.

No Starting Map Markers (Recommended): This optional removes the ability to travel to the starting city map markers without having visited them first. Also covers Weynon Prior and Cloud Ruler Temple. I recommend this optional as it prompts some interesting journeys.

Respawn Time Modifiers (One-Week Recommended): These plugins set the game's respawn time to one week, two weeks, or 4 weeks depending on the file you choose. I personally use one week.

Leveling Rate Modifiers (15 Skill Increases Recommended): These plugins allow you to tailor the game's leveling rate to your own taste. There are two kinds of files included in the download: six that increase the experience needed to increase skills by between 1.25x and 3.00x; and two that increase the number of major skill increases needed to gain another level to 15 or 20. Mix and match to your liking. My personal preference is for the optional file which increases the number of major skills required to level up from 10 to 15. This slows leveling by 50% without making increasing skills a grind, and gives you some extra room to get +5 attribute bonuses each level.

Combat Grunts and Taunts Removed (Recommended): This is a mod I use myself by didn't find it worthy of its own page. It simply removes all random grunts and taunts from NPCs in combat. They will still grunt when they reach low health, which is a good indication to press the attack. The changes are made through gamesettings, rather than messily replacing the audio files like some other mods do.

Vanilla Gamesetting Overrides: This contains four plugins to override Ascension's modified gamesettings with the vanilla health, magicka, fatigue, and carryweight settings. These are not recommended as the balance of Ascension was designed with the new settings in mind, but I have provided them as I understand these changes will probably be the most controversial aspect of the project.


Load Order

Ascension should be loaded as low down as possible in your load order, but before Balanced Creature Stats and Balanced NPC Level Cap. Then rebuild your bashed patch.

A basic load order would look something like this:

  • Oblivion.esm
  • Unofficial Oblivion Patch.esp
  • (Other DLCs and Unofficial Patches)
  • ...
  • (All other mods)
  • ...
  • Ascension.esp
  • Balanced Creatures.esp
  • Balanced NPC Level Cap.esp


Customisation

Ascension has relatively few scripted features, but those that it does have can optionally be controlled in the provided ini file. The ini is not required, and if you delete it the mod will instead use the default internal settings.

The ini file allows you to control the rarity changes made by ascension, and also disable any of the scripted features. Full instructions are included in the file itself.



Uninstallation

Just uncheck the mod and delete the included files. Uninstalling this mod will have no permanent effects on your save game.


Compatibility

Since this mod edits a lot of forms, I've decided that bashed patches will be the best way to support compatibility with Ascension. I have already included the required bashed tags in the mod file.

A 'patch' for the Unofficial Oblivion and Shivering Isles Patches is provided in the optional files section. This should be loaded when you create a bashed patch, but can be removed afterwards. This simply ensures that some of the high-level items added to common loot lists by the Unofficial Patch are not re-added into your bashed patch, as they have instead been added to my new high-tier loot lists.

No patch is required for Balanced Creature Stats and Balanced NPC Level Cap if the load order advice above is followed. Technically, there are a few minor conflicts, but these will be resolved automatically by a bashed patch.

As for other mods, Ascension is incompatible with other similar overhaul mods. I have yet to get around to confirming compatibility with mods like Artifacts and Armamentarium, but my plan is to gradually build up compatibility patches over time. If a mod doesn't touch leveled lists or loot in any major way, it will very likely be compatible with Ascension. This means Oblivion Character Overhaul is compatible: I have not touched NPCs. I have very deliberately avoided touching unecessary areas of the game precisely for this reason—my intention is that you can choose to use Ascension as a 'base' on which to build your own balanced Oblivion experience.

For Mod Authors

There are a fair number of ITM records in this mod. These are intentional, and can be cleaned, but I do not recommend it. I have included these records where I have edited other settings or stats in a similar system, but intend for some vanilla values to remain. For example, many of the vanilla fatigue settings have not been changed, but some of the other important fatigue settings have been changed with the vanilla settings in mind for proper balance. Therefore, the vanilla settings have been copied into this mod so that I can be sure they are unchanged, even if you use a mod earlier in your load order that also edits them. A similar reasoning was applied to some leveled lists and clothing value changes.

For mod authors who want to modify the internal variables used by the scripted features (much like gamesettings in the construction set), I have included all the relevant variables as globals. They are all prefixed with “asc0” for easy identification. For example, if you need to change the crafted potion weight to 0.1 to fit with your weight mod, just change the asc0CraftedPotionWeight global variable. Some features use leveled lists as pseudo-form lists, and these are also prefixed with asc0 in case you need to add your new items to them.



Acknowledgements

Many thanks to the following authors for their permission to re-use their assets in Ascension.

Ancestral Ghost for Skeletons Helmets Resource
Gristle-TL for Gristles Precious Stones with Xs Glittering Prizes (Ayleid Coin assets)
Meo for Meos Armors of Cyrodiil for Dummies - Resource and Meos Ayleid Clutter - Resource (Ayleid boss chest)
miguick for Migck's Miscellaneous Fixes, Tweaks, and Additions, whose scripts I had a quick peak at to see how the creature fixes worked
pseudomuffin for Muffins Golden Dishes Modders Resource
Stroti for Strotis Animal Trophy Resource and Strotis Static Weapon and Shield Resource


My Mods

I spend a lot of time creating and supporting my mods, so any donations are gratefully received.