Monday, September 17, 2012

Skyrim: Hearthfire- My Experiences

(aka Learn From My Mistakes)

If you're looking for a review of Skyrim: Hearthfire you can check my post:
Skyrim: Hearthfire- My Thoughts.

This post is a bit more personal and will describe my playtime with it thus far and more in-depth opinions regarding my game play. Things I learned (tips) are bolded/italicized.

I don't know how I managed, but this add-on snuck (not a word? too bad it is in MY vocabulary :p) up on me. I must have heard about it maybe 1 week before its release and at first I thought it was a joke. It didn't help that the way I heard about it was via jokes about Skyrim was now The Sims *shudder*. Clearly though, these people had never heard of nor played a good ol' game called Fable... that or they are too young to know anything passed The Sims. Who knows? Regardless, I poked around on google to find what it was about and when it was available.

I've always been a sucker for things that let you customize and build. I can spend 30+ minutes making characters in games (assuming they give you appearance options) and I used to spend hours on EverQuest II building and placing furniture in my house back in the day. I also didn't mind the child adoption thing that reminded me of Fable (and one thing I regretted about Skyrim). So for me, Hearthfire was an insta-buy. Despite being an insta-buy and the fact that I bought/downloaded it on release day, I didn't get around to actually having time to sit down and play until last Thursday (9/13).

With the addition of Hearthfire comes 5 new achievements. If you remember, I am going for all achievements earned in Skyrim. I'm currently sitting at 54/65 (raptr profile link) only lacking Master Architect which I will earn easily this week and would have ALREADY, if I hadn't had to start over twice.. (long story, more on that coming).

So I finally sat down Thursday and decided to play. I never like to play Skyrim unless I'm sure I have a couple of hours ahead of me because it's not one of those games you can play for under an hour (even an hour is too short). I wanted to actually feel like I accomplished something and got to taste the DLC.

Locations, How to Start?

I didn't want to spoil every thing for myself right away, or make it too easy, so I limited myself on information I looked up. I looked up only how to get started with the DLC (where to buy land?). I had seen there were 3 properties and where to buy them: Falkreath, Dawnstar and Morthal.

Just from looking at where to buy the places from I automatically crossed Dawnstar off my list of places for a family home. I would of course build the 3 houses as I want all the achievements, but I wanted the family home to be my first one so I could adopt children ASAP (achievement whoring). Upon walking into Riften I was greeted by a courier who informed me by 2 letters that land was purchasable in Falkreath and the orphanage had children for adoption. I assumed I was lucky, because I have read some people having a bug and only receiving 1 letter (that or they didn't notice they got 2 of them at once)?

So I headed on over to Falkreath, and was assaulted by my new housecarl as soon as I walked into the Jarl's long house. (They added 3 more to those cities). I then talked to the maid-turned-Steward and bought my land.

It took me a while to find my house. It was marked on the map, but for some stupid reason I thought it would be more "fun" to ride there via the directions I was given. It wasn't. I got lost and it took me forever to find it (I fail).


Once I got there I was ready to get started! I read the book waiting for me on the crafting table and got to work! There are enough materials on-site in the chest to build "small house" which is the core of every home. The provided ore/bars is the EXACT required amount. There is a place to mine clay and quarried stone nearby with a pickaxe as well.

I found that while building you tend to run back and forth to town(s) a lot for iron and corundum ore/bars. IT IS A PAIN.

After starting over twice (I'm getting to why in a bit), I decided to just look up the required materials and have them gathered and stored in the chest beforehand to make the building process much faster.
Tip: So here is this hand-dandy list for you: You're welcome.

I also noted how much of which ore it takes for each section. That isn't included in that list (it lists the number of created materials; nails, fittings, hinges etc) but the conversion is simple and you can note it down somewhere:

  • 10 Nails = 1 Iron Bar
  • 2 Hinges= 1 Iron Bar
  • 1 Iron Fitting= 1 Iron Bar
  • 1 Lock= 1 Iron Bar, 1 Corundum Bar
After building the core of your home, you're allotted 3 wings. I hated having to choose between 3 of the 9 potential rooms; but ok, I can understand you gotta choose wisely. Fair enough. But wait! There's more! Those 3 wings are divided into North, East and West and some of those rooms belong to a certain wing.

  • East Wing- Armory, Kitchen, Library
  • West Wing- Bedrooms, Green House, Enchanter's Tower
  • North Wing- Storage Room, Trophy Room, Alchemy Laboratory
I was annoyed. Having to pick 3 I could deal with, being limited to having a Library OR an Armory? I couldn't. I have spent my Skyrim life collecting all kinds of books, so the Library was a no-brainer for me. I have also spent my time collecting weapons and armor sets (especially having done the Oblivion Walker achievement) which I love to display (when display cases, plaques and mannequins aren't bugged to where they eat the items....).Ugh limitations.

I decided since this was to be my family home I would need something family-friendly. I read through the book again and decided upon: Kitchen, Bedrooms and Trophy Room. I decided I would build a secondary house that would suit my crafting needs later (which I later discovered would be unnecessary).

Tip: The Main Hall offers alchemy lab, enchanting table and an anvil. The optional cellar provides an area for all your forging/smithing needs!

After much running back and forth for materials (remember, this was my first time through) I built the Main Hall, remodeled the small house into an Entry Way, Bedrooms, Kitchen and Trophy room. I then began the task of filling my house.


First of all, they aren't what you think (or not what I thought anyway). You don't get to individually build things and put them where you want. You get to build from a list of items that have a preset location. Sad trombone.

Tip: You will need lots of Iron, Corundum, Glass, Goat Horns, Straw, Leather Strips and Sawn Logs. Stock up unless you like running around. To save even more time do this BEFORE you start building if you can afford.

I began in the West Wing labelled in the book as Bedrooms. BedroomS, note the use of plural. However to my disappointment I found it to be one section of house, one story tall.

I thought that perhaps it would end up like some of the homes previously available for purchase in game. There were a few that when you paid for the upgrades added walls/rooms, so I started building. No. The children's beds were on the opposite wall across from the master bed. It's not a serious issue, but as a real-life parent the thought of having children share a room with me is not one I care for. It just seems weird and like a reality-tv show waiting to happen.

Turns out the Main Hall actually offers children's beds and a double bed, so the bedroom (cuz it is 1 room dammit!) isn't required. If I had known sooner (I furnished the bedroom first), I would have just left off the children's beds from the bedroom which would force them into their own room in the Main Hall.

I was disappointed but moved on to the kitchen, which seemed senseless with its obscene amount of tables. I was interested in the oven that was mentioned in the book, but it didn't make up for wasting an entire wing on a bajillion tables and extra fireplace, especially since the Main Hall offered a perfectly good fireplace. Another let down.

So I moved on to the trophy room. If I could have a place to show off my weapons and armor it would all be worth it. I took a look at the available furnishings and found pedestals for mounting carcasses. /facepalm I had seen a preview about that in the Hearthfire Trailer, but I just didn't make the connection that trophy = dead corpse. For me, my weapons and armor were my trophies. Turns out the Armory is actually the room that offers that along with some amenities for smithing excluding a forge and smelter.

What Has Been Built Can Not Be Unbuilt

That was the last straw. I hated my house. You can't remove nor undo things you have built so that left me with undoing about 8 hours of gameplay (keep in mind I was slow from all the back and forth for materials). I was disgusted, but I started over.

There was one good point, I now knew what to expect and stocked up on logs from the mill owner (I must have bought about 200.. I have a lot of money :x), iron bars/ore, corundum bars/ore, glass, straw, goat horns and leather straight away.

I purchased the land in Morthal to go check it out and see if I liked it better, but I didn't. If you remember, I tossed aside the idea of using Dawnstar's land without even bothering because I assumed it would be in snowy cliffs. (I would later come to regret that.)

So I began again on my home. I chose instead a storage room, bedroom (sans children's beds), and library for my lovely book collection. I built all the furniture and started filling my home, I moved my husband and adopted. I was much happier.. until..

Locations Re-Visited

My second erasing/back-tracking of gameplay was the result of watching my husband poke at Hearthfire and finding that I actually liked where he was building his house much better...

Tip: Here's the details on location:

You have 3 to choose from, the first I was offered (via a letter by courier) was Lake View Manor in a foresty location near Falkreath.

  • Lake View Manor is probably one of the better and "prettier" locations, beside a cliff and over looking a lake. However, if you're into roleplay (which I know most aren't), this is a bad place to raise children. You see, right behind your house down a cute little path is a sacrificial altar with a Necromancer. If you don't mind letting your children play cultist, then this is great.
  • Winstad Manor is in the salt marshes of Hjaalmarch (talk with the steward in Morthal for this one). Salt Marshes. Need I say more?
  • Heljarchen Hall is an alright place. Despite purchasing this piece of land from Dawnstar and technically located in The Pale, it is actually slower to Whiterun. It is located right next to a giant camp and snows a lot though.
I was put off by that sacrificial altar behind my house even if I found it kind of funny. Though that isn't even the real reason I wanted to move already, it was because I have always had an attachment to Whiterun. Of all the cities I own houses in, it is the one I always come back to. I instantly rejected the idea of buying land from Dawnstar because I thought it would be an icy wasteland. Turns out it is super close to Whiterun...

I could have just made another house and moved things where I wanted. The more I thought about it though, the more I was annoyed at all the money I had spent and how much of  pain it would be to move my belongings again. So I went back hours of saves again. Which leads to my next tip.

Tip: If you can afford to, purchase ALL THREE plots of land BEFORE building. This will allow you to determine which area you like the most before wasting precious gold and materials.

Can I Finally Play Now?

They say third time is the charm, and by this point I had learned some hard lessons. I purchased all three pieces of land and made one small house on each. There are enough materials on each site for one house, except the logs are shared between locations, so I just bought a few more before starting. I then made an INTENTIONAL save which would allow me to back track to that point if (god forbid) I needed to start over again.

Tip: Make an intentional save (and make them often) in case you need to backtrack.

I then used the building material list I linked earlier along with conversions for materials and stocked my chest with EVERYTHING. I had built my entire home and outside furnishings within less than 10 minutes.

I went inside, built the required sleeping space for a Steward (really handy) and brought Lydia over to be my Steward.

Tip: Stewards make building easy! You can purchase lumber from the Steward and/or have them do the labor in exchange for gold


The rest as they say is history. I now have a fully furnished home (excluding the furniture I didn't want like mounted heads and children's beds in the master bedroom). I added the bedrooms and chests/dressers required to have my husband move in as soon as possible and adopt a child (I have 1 for now). This allows me to enjoy their presence while I am working in the area and hauling my belongings back and forth.

It is nice to finally have things in one location and I wish that Hearthfire had been included with the game as it would have been more useful to me sooner than now where I am only working on achievements, but oh well. Better late than never I guess?

Next up, getting the Master Architect achievement. Should be easy now that I have done it 50 million times -_-'


  1. How to get the dawnstar offering for buying land?
    I started a new game for enjoying this dlc and i just receive the letter from the falkreath jar.

  2. Hey there. You may have to earn reputation/build favor with the Jarl first to get offered that piece of land. I know that I personally had to kill some giants first. Speak with the Jarl, doing quests for him should open that up.

  3. Hey there. You may have to earn reputation/build favor with the Jarl
    first to get offered that piece of land. I know that I personally had to
    kill some giants first. Speak with the Jarl, doing quests for him
    should open that up.


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