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01 June 2012

Night of the Lizard

Boring Inn

For my fifth Morrowind mod I decided to do a treatment of The Lizard's Head in Vivec. In the plain vanilla version of the game, this inn is pretty blah. There are five characters in the place, but only one of them has anything particularly interesting to say. You'd think with a name like The Lizard's Head, and the fact that there's a mounted Argonian head hidden away in the storage room, there would be an intriguing back story. But there wasn't, so I made one up.

After considering various ideas and coming up with a story that involved several new characters and some complicated interactions, I eventually simplified the concept to disturbances at the inn seemingly associated with the Argonian head in the storage room. So as not to spoil the mod for anyone who hasn't played it, I won't go into detail here. I'll just say that the player can find out what's causing the disturbances, get some back story that explains something that happened in the past, and do a small quest to resolve the situation in a satisfactory manner.

Engaging Characters

To complement the new story, I wanted to make all of the existing characters in the inn more interesting by giving them story dialogue as well as other things to talk about. First I took a look at each of the existing characters to get a feel for their personalities. There's Arvyn Llerayn, a Dunmer mage; Ennbjof, a Nord commoner; Maesa Gabinia, an Imperial bard; Manara Othan, the Dunmer proprietress; and Teegla, Manara's Argonian slave. I decided to leave Ennbjof alone because he was the only one who already had a somewhat engaging story. For the others, I wrote a large amount of dialogue.

I made Arvyn Llerayn a polite and reserved liaison in House Telvanni who travels a lot delivering messages and schmoozing. He's very conscious of rank, knows lots of rumors, talks about making the right impression, can provide detailed information about high-ranking members of House Telvanni, and knows all the best clothing shops on Vvardenfell.

Maesa Gabinia became a fun-loving, outgoing lady from Cheydinhal in Cyrodiil. She's touring the pubs, taverns, and inns of Vvardenfell and is recently arrived in Vivec. By her comments, one can tell that she enjoys entertaining. Certain types of male player characters are able to woo her with flowers or pearls. Maesa is writing a book about the disturbances, and, at the successful conclusion of the quest, gives the player character a personalized copy of it.

For Manara Othan, I decided that The Lizard's Head had been in her family for a while, so she could give some history about it. She's a reasonably pleasant woman, but she has strong views on slavery. She can give detailed directions on how to find various services in Vivec. She's partial to mushrooms, grows her own, and likes talking about them. She also likes relating the experiences she had when she did the Pilgrimage of the Seven Graces.

Since this mod was to be the third in my Traveller's Guide to Dining series, I needed a waiter who could serve the items on my new menu. I was originally going to make Teegla the waiter, but it didn't really seem appropriate for a slave to be doing that. Instead, I gave Teegla a more subtle personality. He was born and raised on the Dren Plantation and is a simple Argonian who actually seems to like being a slave. Since he's always in the background doing cleanup or running errands, he tends to overhear things that he can take advantage of. Sometimes he will pass along his secrets and the player character can use him to procure certain types of items.

Still needing a waiter, I created a male Orc named Murgal gro-Gogrun who would act as waiter and bouncer. He is a family retainer, son of the manservant of Manara Othan's father. He loves to visit the arena in his spare time and work out with the fighters, and he greatly desires to buy a complete set of steel armor so he can go on some adventures. He has a tendency to get fresh with female Orc player characters.


Desiring to clutter up the inn a bit, since it was pretty bare, I created several objects for Maesa Gabinia: a book that she writes about the disturbances at the inn, a book about visual conundrums, and a book that's actually a box that holds some of her valuables. I made the book covers out of textures that I found on the web. I also arranged for several vases of flowers to appear if and as the player character gives her flowers.

Night of the Lizard
Night of the Lizard
Visual Phenomena
Visual Phenomena
Maesa's Book Box
Maesa's Book Box

To round out the dining and inn themes, I made some plates and coasters. For the plate design, I found a photo of a white plate, colored it green, put the lizard heads and diamonds around the rim, and then used GIMP's Filters > Map > Bump Map. Unfortunately, I don't remember exactly how I made the texture for the coaster other than it involved using some special functions in GIMP. (I think it was Create > Logos, since the lizard head is actually the letter Q.)

Lizard's Head Plate   Lizard's Head Coaster

Just for fun, I also made a couple of wanted posters which are unrelated to the story in this mod, but are related to a normal event in Vivec. I used the following typefaces: Squares, Bosox, Michaelmas, and Wooden Nickel. To make the drawing of the Dunmer female, I took a screenshot of a character in the Construction Set, loaded it into Inkscape, traced it, then saved it to a PNG file that could be loaded into GIMP.

Wanted Poster  Wanted for Questioning

The Seafood Diet

To create the dishes for the menu, I looked at the ingredients available in the general area of Vivec and took into account the fact that the proprietress has a thing for mushrooms. Being that Vivec is a port city, I made most of the meals seafood-oriented and gave some of them an Asian flavor. I wanted to do something odd to go with the oddness of the inn, so I right-justified the text on the food menu. I used these typefaces: Sweet Leaf, Polo, Hansa, Squares, ZapfDingbats Thin, and Special Type Italic.

The Lizard's Head Food Menu   The Lizard's Head Drink Menu

After thinking, designing, and writing off and on over the course of a year, I finally released this mod as TGD03 The Lizard's Head in August 2011. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire process, especially writing the dialogue and creating textures. I had a new itch and I knew just where to scratch it next — the Plot and Plaster in Tel Aruhn.

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  1. Hey Debi . Love the book covers . Slowly getting back into Morrowind after a 2 year hiatus .

    1. Hey Greggy! Thanks! There are a lot more cool mods available now. I'd love to get back to it, but I've got too much other stuff going on at the moment. Have fun! - Debi