In the next Elder Scrolls Online DLC, The Dark Brotherhood, players will be able to extend their Alchemy tradeskill into the realm of poison making. We had the opportunity to chat with Zenimax's Chris Balser & Phil Draven to learn more.
MMORPG: Poisons are going to be introduced with the Dark Brotherhood DLC. Why in this particular DLC and is there a significance to the content itself?
Chris Balser & Phil Draven: The Dark Brotherhood has always had a strong attachment to poison and poisoning. In Oblivion, for example, you could use poisoned apples to kill NPCs. In Skyrim there is an entire quest about poisoning someone’s food with a rare and deadly root. We had a thematic tie to Poison-Making in terms of the content, and so we wanted to deliver it hand-in-hand with a particularly dark content experience.
MMORPG: Alchemy already exists in the game. Is the new poison line going to be an extension of alchemy or is it its own separate entity?
CB & PD: Poison-Making is an extension of Alchemy. It’s fundamentally quite similar in how you make the poisons, and many of the reagents – mushrooms in particular – that were largely undesirable for potion-making make rather delightful poisons.
MMORPG: What are the major differences between poisons and alchemical creations in terms of ingredients and in the creative process?
CB & PD: Mostly, the difference lies in the solvent you use to deliver your essential reagents – we wanted there to be a clear and manual distinction between creating a potion and creating a poison, so players couldn’t accidentally produce one or the other. So, if you use water solvents for an alchemical task, you always, invariably, produce a potion. If you use one of the new solvents – an oil solvent – you always, invariably produce a poison.
The effects differ as well – poison effects are generally more offensive, even if you use normally-restorative effects for them. Positive effects will still negatively impact your target, and “splash” a brief bonus effect onto you, while purely-negative effects last much longer.
MMORPG: Will players have to go back to the earliest locations in the game in order to ‘level’ their skill at poison making? What type of “catch up” mechanic is in place to make it a viable process for high-level players?
CB & PD: Functionally everything that governs solvent proficiency or ingredient usage from the Alchemy skill line also applies to Poison-Making. If a player is already a proficient Alchemist, they will then also be an adept poisoner – in theory. Any traits that players have identified on reagents will remain identified even in poisons. Additionally, we have introduced new reagents game-wide to provide new avenues for players to increase their skill or experiment with new effects.
Oils can be found throughout the game, generally dropping from large, scary, or gross monsters (trolls, wamasu, and mammoths for example will often drop oils). The new component reagents are level-agnostic as herbs and mushrooms are, of course.
MMORPG: Are there different levels of poison – strength, duration etc.?
CB & PD: Yes. Poisons exist at the same levels potions do – so, level 3, 10, 20, 30, 40, and so on. As poisons are largely debuffs, their duration is one of their key scaling points as players get to be higher level or better alchemists. As with potions, stacking the same effect into a poison three times instead of two makes it a bit better.
MMORPG: Right now poisons can be applied to weapons. Why are there limitations to how poisons can be used? Are there any potential plans to allow players to, for instance, cook with poisons?
CB & PD: We don’t see poison’s potential applications as a limitation but instead as an approach that allowed us to avoid forcing players to choose per cooldown whether to abandon defensive options (potions, in other words) in order to use something more aggressive. Further, the addition of the new “poison” slot – and it suppressing active enchantments – makes the choice more strategic and preparatory for players.
We’re not ruling out additional uses for poison in the future, of course.
MMORPG: You mentioned that players can complete a bonus objective in Sacrament quests that involve poisons. Can you explain what you mean?
CB & PD: One of the optional Sacrament objectives is to kill a target with poison. This can be poison by any means - poison weapon abilities, class abilities, crafted poisons all count for this.
MMORPG: What else do budding poison makers need to know?
CB & PD: Poison effects become diluted as more effects are added to a single poison – this means that they don’t quite last as long, so there are decision points in what you put into a poison. For example, you could make a poison that just does damage, or you could add a snare to keep your victims from escaping – but having that poison both do damage and snare is going to reduce the time both effects can last by a degree.
We also have a fair number of new alchemical reagents – keep a close eye on the creeping, crawling things out in the world and you might see something new and fun. J
MMORPG: Lastly, you’ve now expanded the Alchemy tradeskill. Do you have similar plans for the future with regard to other tradeskills?
CB & PD: Since launch, we’ve been expanding tradeskills as the game grows and changes, introducing new quests, new enchantment types, new recipes, and new traits and styles. We’re always looking at usage data and player feedback for tradeskills and making improvements where we feel things need to be improved – we did so for Enchanting as well this update, for example.