As a casual prepper and an avid player of Skyrim, I thought it would be an interesting experiment to simulate bugging out within the wilds of Skyrim’s expanses. While Skyrim by itself doesn’t offer any gameplay mechanics to properly do this, there are a multitude of mods that make Skyrim a harsh and cruel place to traverse.
While I run countless mods on my Skyrim install already, some of the ones more specific to this experiment are as follows:
Frostfall is a mod that adds hypothermia, cold water survival, and camping equipment. Skyrim being of the northernmost climes of Tamriel, is brutally cold and unforgiving. Frostfall makes something that used to be meaningless such as rain or snow, now life-threatening if caught offguard. The player is now required to wear appropriate attire to battle the elements and remain dry to prevent hypothermia. Camping equipment is added as well to maintain and make these new gameplay mechanics manageable and surviveable.
Realistic Needs & Diseases adds hunger, thirst, and sleep requirements. This means the player not only has to watch their health and stamina, but must also regularly eat food, drink water, and get enough sleep. Diseases are also far more damaging and crippling if contracted.
iHUD is an interface mod that allows you to hide most of the helpful widgets that are typically always displayed on the player’s screen. For example, the ingame compass, quest markers, and various status bars such as for health or stamina. With this running, I will no longer be able to rely on user-placed markers or the cardinal directions to navigate my way around. I will instead have to pay attention to landmarks and my surroundings to not get lost when exploring.
Climates of Tamriel w/ Supreme Storms is a visual enhancement mod that greatly increases the density of weather elements within the game to both a more realistic and unforgiving level. Rain and snow will not only get me wet and cold, it will now also be visually impairing as well.
Realvision ENB w/ ELFX (Enhanced Lights and FX) is another set of visuals mods. Both these mods together give Skyrim a much more vibrant and realistic color palette while also enhancing the lighting mechanic in game to create proper contrast. The sun is blindingly bright and nights are absolute darkness. Traversing at night is basically suicide unless I make use of a torch, fire, or other lighting sources.
Nordic Ranger Armor will be my starting equipment. It offers standard exposure protection and comes with a backpack that increases my carrying capacity.
In addition to mods, I am also completely ignoring most of the skills available. I will not be leveling or spending any perks effectively locking me in at level 1 for the whole duration of this experiment. Magic, shouts, and most powers will be completely ignored. The only powers used will be survival-specific ones added by Frostfall and Realistic Needs. Difficulty will be set to Adept.
For the location, I have gone with Falkreath as it is the most forgiving of all of Skyrim’s holds. Running Frostfall it is also the warmest area on the map. My exact location is a bit west of the Roadside Ruins but ignoring the compass and map, I will not be able to navigate towards any major settlements or locations if I were to try. I’ve also attempted to the best of my ability to select a place that is isolated from other inhabitants. That said given the nature of the game if I come across any non-hostile hunters, traveling merchants, or traders I will simply ignore them and their ability to barter. Subsequently, if I also travel far enough and come across any settlements or towns, I will immediately turn back.
In choosing my character, I started off by crossing out all races that provided perks aimed towards survival. For example Wood Elves and Nords were out of the question as they offered poison, disease, and cold resistance bonuses. Out of the remaining races I went with Khajit. Although they have a racial ability allowing them to see in the dark I won’t be using it.
My starting equipment, or “bug-out bag” contains the following:
- A set of Nordic Ranger Armor (equipped)
- Cooking Pot
- Iron Dagger
- Long Bow w/ 13 Arrows
- A piece of Bread
- Tent w/ Bedroll
- Woodcutter’s Axe
My ultimate goal is to start at the chosen location with full statuses in all my needs and make it through seven days on my own in the wilderness, much like Les Stroud on Survivorman. While I will be quicksaving along the way in case of crashes or to simply take breaks, I will not be reloading if death occurs. If I don’t make it through the seven days, it will simply end there. If I make it to the seventh day, I will then pack up and head back to civilization.
Also to note, Frostfall and Realistic Needs are newly installed mods on my part, so this playthrough is from someone who isn’t familiar with either of these two mods. I have attempted to familiarize myself with them by reading over the online documentation for each, but most of the discovery will happen during the actual playthrough. All other mentioned mods are part of my regular install.
Morndas, 18th of Last Seed
I arrive early in the morning at the bugout location, its a nice flat open area with a large rock structure that I can utilize as a wind shield and heat reflector. I decide to setup camp there. I’ve also already spotted a couple elk, rabbits, and other signs of life nearby.
Weather looks promising with the sun shining bright and little to no clouds. At least today, it doesn’t appear that I will need to worry about staying dry or keeping away the cold.
The task ahead of me is quite formidable and is weighing heavily on my mind. To start things off, I begin to make a campfire. While heat doesn’t seem like an immediate concern, fire has and always will be a great morale booster in survival situations such as these. I use my axe to process the plentiful amount of wood around me and quickly get a fire going. With some extra wood on hand, I make a tanning rack in case I run across any animals along the way. I’m already thinking ahead, and can definitely use more clothing to stave off the elements and exposure.
I pull out my cooking pot and realize that I cannot position it on my current fire so I am forced to make another one costing me valuable daylight hours. The extra wood harvesting has also left me peckish, so I eat my piece of bread.
With evening already here, I roll out the rest of my supplies by pitching my tent and bedroll next to one of the fires. With that done, one of three of my main concerns are taken care of. I have a proper shelter so only have food and water to be concerned with next.
I take a moment to gather my thoughts and check my immediate needs and status. I am now slightly thirsty and sleepy. With a few hours of daylight left and nothing productive left to do at my campsite, I decide to do a bit of exploring.
I circle around the rock structure my camp is facing from the left and head straight behind it. About 60 yards ahead I see some smoke in the distance and discover an abandoned carriage. The scorched ground and corpses indicate a dragon attack.
Tragic to these travelers, but quite possibly an opportunity for me. I scrounge around to see what can be salvaged. Not much sadly. I salvage a hide from one of the dead horses then find an iron sword lying inside the carriage. A chest contains three rotten tomatoes. Most definitely not good for eating but I take them anyways in case I have no luck hunting down food later. I can also make these more safely edible if I can stew them with something else.
Darkness is quickly approaching and I start to head back to camp. I try to cover new ground on the way back by heading right a bit so as to arrive on the opposite side of camp from where I left. Along the way I can spot what looks like mist or steam behind some shrubbery. I approach the area to investigate further and discover a sizable pond. This is an incredibly fortunate find and takes care of my second concern, a source of water. My luck takes a harsh turn however and I am ambushed by a couple of spriggans and their thralled animals, a fox and an elk.
The spriggans are overpowering me especially since I am locked at level 1. I immediately find that fighting them is likely a lost cause and start to flee. As I retreat, the hostile group becomes much more manageable and I decide to attempt to take them down. I realize that if I want this water source, these hostiles have to be dealt with eventually. I figure that my odds are best now when I am still in relatively good condition. I’m able to kite them and take them down one by one by using the iron sword I found earlier which has double the damage output of my measly dagger and far better reach. After the battle and on my last drops of health, I’m rewarded with a couple taproots I take off the spriggans and a pelt off the fox. The elk unfortunately got away.
I take a much deserved drink from the pond satiating my thirst and head back to camp. Also all along the way on my short excursion, I gathered various mountain flowers, thistle, and herbs. I don’t have an immediate use for them, but I’m hopeful that if I can hunt down some meat in the days to come, I can use them to cook something up.
It is fully dark now and I do a few small tasks before getting into bed. I craft a walking stick and some stone arrows with the remaining wood from earlier in the day, and process the hides I’ve collected into pelts and hide laces. I don’t have an immediate use for them, but if I can find more resources later, I can use them to make myself a cloak or other supplies. Finally I do a last bit of wood harvesting to get a jump on tomorrow.
Overall I made great progress today crossing off two of three of my main concerns, shelter and water. That said, each day will certainly bring new challenges and finding food may prove to be the most difficult task. Having already eaten my only piece of bread, obtaining food is a heavy weight on my mind.
With the day over at around 11 o’clock at night, I head to sleep with campfire blazing.
Tirdas, 19th of Last Seed
I awake feeling well-rested but hungry, thirsty, and chilly. The cold is an unwelcome surprise as I expected the campfire to last well through the night, apparently it went out much earlier then I anticipated.
I start the morning off by taking a walk to the pond to replenish my thirst while keeping my eye out for any animals that I can possibly take down. Upon arrival at the pond, I take a refreshing drink and get the idea to see if any fish reside there.
Since I have no tools to fish with except my bare hands, I take a calculated risk and dive in hoping for any little swimmers. No such luck but the wetness isn’t too concerning as its early in the day, and weather looks promising with the sun already out in full force.
I head back to camp and notice a structure to the right. Its some sort of abandoned ruin and I sneak around it to investigate. I find a spriggan inside and decide to covertly retreat. Nothing of value seemed to be there, and I wasn’t up to tangling with a spriggan again.
Once I arrive back at camp, I take a moment to more carefully take in my immediate surroundings. I find a large tree stump with a cluster of mora tapinellas and also a sizable iron ore vein. The latter is of no use to me without a pickaxe but its a notable find nonetheless.
Without any other immediate concerns at camp, I head back out again to do a bit of exploring. I immediately spot a lone necromancer and take him out with ease. I check his body for anything of value and turn up nothing. Walking past his corpse I quickly come upon his makeshift altar. I spot a few bottles of poisons and a bunch of human bones. Again, nothing of use.
It is now noon with the sun blazing overhead, I am now fully dry from my previous fishing attempt but also very hungry. As I head over a ridge I spot a rabbit in the distance and take a desperate clumsy shot. I miss by a mile and the rabbit frustratingly disappears into the foliage.
Very hungry and mildly thirsty, I head back to camp. Upon arrival I see an elk in the distance that has yet to spot me. I crouch down into the brush and draw my bow. I know that I only have one shot to take him down so carefully aim and wait for my opportunity. I loose my arrow and hit. My placement was off though and the elk takes off.
With hunger being my only real concern for the day, I spend the rest of my afternoon hunting down other animals only to be met with failure. With most of the day already behind me and nothing to show for it, my luck quickly takes a turn.
As I come across a hill, an elk starts to run past me. I react quickly and slash it down with my sword. I process my kill and take its hide, antlers, and a sizable cut of venison. With some food finally obtained, I decide to head back to camp and call it a day. Since I’m close by the pond and thirsty, I decide to get a quick drink though before heading back.
As I approach the pond I come across a wolf hovering over the corpse of a white deer. In guard of his recent kill the wolf attacks me, I take it down quickly. I collect a pelt from the wolf and a hide and more venison from the deer.
I return to camp after getting my thirst quenched feeling triumphant at my miraculous turn of luck. With the wood I collected the night before, I start up my cooking fire and roast up all my venison. I obtain six pieces of charred meat, half of which I consume immediately to prevent my near starvation. The taste of the meat has left me thirsty but I am finally well fed.
With the day at its end, I go about doing whatever tasks I can around my campsite. I process all my pelts and hides, of which I craft a fur cloak, helmet, and bracers. The cloak will hopefully keep me warm through the night, and I won’t have to wake up to the morning chill again. Also if it rains, a cloak is something that will definitely aid in keeping me dry.
I do a bit more wood processing for both my campfire tonight and to have some on hand for tomorrow. I finish around dark and the work has left me a bit hungry. I eat another piece of charred meat now leaving me with two. I am quite thirsty now but decide the risk of traversing in the dark isn’t worth it. Hopefully I can make it til morning.
The night air is cool and with my snug fur cloak I can look forward to a good night’s sleep. I decide to call it an early night at around 9 o’clock and light up my campfire to head to bed.
Continued in Part 2.