(Re)installing Morrowind, Pt. 6

Continued from Part 5, or start at the beginning.

Now that we have fixed most of the bugs, we’re going to make a few more improvements to graphics and gameplay. If you’re at all familiar with modding Morrowind, you may think it’s strange that I’d choose now to do this, as opposed to waiting till after installing extra landmasses or other things. My reason is that I want to get the “most necessary” things done first, before adding to the base game, so if you wanted, you could just quit modding and play through it before trying anything world-changing. My goal is “Good-looking, bug-fixed Morrowind with expansion packs.”

This will also allow you to experience Morrowind more closely to how it was designed, albeit with fewer bugs and better gameplay. When we reach the point of anything advanced enough to be game-altering rather than game-improving, I’ll let you know.

Improving the way Health is calculated

Even if your only concern is fixing bugs and you’re not interested in modding beyond that, there’s one more addon which is an absolute necessity: Talrivian’s State-Based Hit Points.

A bit of background: Morrowind uses your Endurance attribute to calculate the hit points you gain when you level up. What’s wrong with this? Well, your gained hit points are calculated only from your Endurance score at the time you leveled up, and raising your Endurance later on doesn’t retroactively help your health (even though logically it should). This leads to the dreaded “Endurance rush” in which players try to max out their Endurance as soon as possible in order to receive the best level-up health benefit. This is done through all manner of metagaming and/or exploiting that takes away from the fun of playing and utterly destroys immersion.

Talrivian’s State-Based HP Mod eliminates the “Endurance rush” by recalculating your hit points every time your Endurance changes. Even temporarily fortifying your Endurance actually has a benefit to your health, making those spells much more useful. Even if you prefer min-maxing your character and normally don’t care about leveling up feeling seamless or organic, it’s worth it to avoid needing to train Endurance early on to the expense of other skills (and if you are a min-maxer, you’ll appreciate not missing out on hit points due to early decisions). Overall, it’s a must-have, regardless of playstyle.

(Note that there are other options that further change the way you level up, even so far as to attempt to make it happen invisibly in order to yet further increase immersion, but I’ll discuss those later; now we’re still at the point of improving, not completely altering.)

You can apply Talrivian’s State-Based HP Mod to an existing character, but you need to follow the steps outlined on the mod’s download page linked above.

Improving the behavior of books in the game

Morrowind is rife with books, and ways to display those books, including bookshelves, mantels, and even lecterns. But in the unmodded game, if you pick up a book and drop it, you can only lay it flat. This leads to player homes full of empty bookshelves (or shelves stuffed with armor and weapons instead) and unsightly towers of books piled in corners or on tables, leaning precariously. The solution to this is Book Rotate.

Book Rotate changes the positioning of a book every time you pick it up and drop it, cycling through vertical to be placed on a shelf, and two different flat orientations (including the default). If the book was originally open when you picked it up, it will also cycle through lying flat and open, and open at an angle (to be placed on a lectern). All you need to do is pick it up and drop it again until it’s positioned how you want it to be.

When placing books on shelves, there’s a bit of a “snap to grid” feeling that helps space them properly. They may not all line up perfectly, but it’s not hard to get them to look good. How far back on the shelf your crosshair is when you drop a book will also affect how far forward it sits on the shelf, so keep that in mind when trying for a neater or messier look. You will also find books that are way too tall to fit inside a bookshelf, and will clip through the top. I usually put these on a mantel or other shelf, with an object on either side to look like “bookends,” or I just lay them flat in an empty part of the bookcase so they look like they’re stopping the other books on the shelf from falling over.

I never, ever play without this. Be sure to read the readme before you install, though, so you know which files to use.

Clearer, high-resolution text

Better Dialogue Font does this job admirably. It’s a crisp, clear version of the same font Morrowind already uses (Magic Cards). Later on, I’ll give you more details about how to completely change to a new font, if you so desire.

Continue to Part 7, in which we upgrade the graphics for characters and their basic clothing.

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