As I mentioned before, I played Skyrim. But... I didn't really stop. In the intervening time, a few DLCs have trickled out. And now that they have announced that the team is moving on to something else, it seems that the coast is clear. I got all of these for about half off on various sales, so I figured, why not.
The first bit that came out is called Dawnguard. This expands upon the already existing (and plentiful) vampire lore already in Skyrim. It adds a pro-vampire faction and an anti-vampire faction (that are not werewolves). But it seems that all isn't well over in the vampire castle, as the alpha vampire seeks some mad plan to kill the sun. You can choose to become one, or not, but you will still kill that guy.
The places it adds are literally on the opposite sides of the map, and could not be further from each other. But that's not all: like all good Elder Scrolls quests, it takes you to some extra-dimensional plane. This time, it's a plane of Oblivion called the Soul Cairn. Unlike most of those planes, this one is not governed by a daedric prince, but instead by a mystical group called The Ideal Masters. Fortunately, you never deal with them, and no one really knows who they are or what they look like. As you can see, it's not a bright place, and its an ideal vampire hangout.
As you fight vampires, there's a small chance that you will contract a disease that, if left uncured, will turn into vampirism. Granted, it gives quite a bit of stat boosts, but my character is so high level, they are not needed. Plus the maintenance is just ridiculous, and there are other heavy miscellaneous restrictions. I made sure to have an appropriate potion handy, just in case. In fact, after the final boss, I was in the Soul Cairn when I got a message about the sun rising and feeling weaker. That's strange, there's no sun here and... crap! I'm too far away from civilization to do much of anything about it! Fortunately, I had a cure disease potion.
Since it's right there on the box, I don't think this is a spoiler: there are things in this game called elder scrolls. They are supposedly prophecies about all things that have ever happened and will ever happen. In the base game, you get one. Dawnguard adds two more. They serve as integral plot pieces, but are useless everywhere else. You also get a summonable dragon who, if you are outdoors, will fight for you for about three minutes or so.
Hearthfire is the second bit. It's all about building your own customized houses out in the middle of nowhere. I found that pretty interesting, and moved all my stuff into those. Each includes plenty of expandability and customizability, and can be built mostly for free. But if you have the gold, you can skip ahead, because after all, time is money. Every one has plenty of storage containers, and you can have a complete set of crafting equipment. You can also adopt children, but I haven't done that, because it would not be a wise career move for my character. Darn it, now I can't find my keys. Oh honey...
Dragonborn is the last, and in my opinion, best one of the three. In a previous Elder Scrolls installment, you got to visit a ice covered island called Solstheim. After playing both of them, it seems that this place is always the go to spot for any daedric prince wishing to make a stir. Last time it was Hircine, Lord of the Hunt; now it is Hermaeus Mora, the Lord of Fate and Forbidden Knowledge.
This time, it's not as... direct. Mora's servant Miraak is stirring up trouble, and sends dudes to deal with you, all the while enslaving the locals to build temples and shrines for himself. Turns out that Miraak is the first Dragonborn (that is a mortal with a dragon's soul), and you are the last. Again, like all cool quests, you get to go to Oblivion again!
Scattered across the land in nearly every dungeon, there are black books. Opening any will cause green tentacles to come out, and it's off to Hermaeus Mora's realm, Apocrypha! It's like a creepy version of Myst where everything is trying to kill you. The place is an endless library labyrinth of all sorts of knowledge. It all worked out, because I happen to be building a library of my own.
As for Solstheim itself, plenty has changed. Half of it is ashlands, the other half is the ice cap of old. I do remember it being larger before. Walking up to the main temple, I noticed a dragon skeleton. And another. And more. There must have been about 10 or so. Someone must have really been pissed off! You can supposedly shout at dragons and ride them, but I've never been able to do that successfully outside of the main questline.
So what's next for Skyrim? Plenty. Even after two hundred hours or so, there's still wars to fight, dungeons to loot, and people to kill.