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Fun Things To Do Around Balmora

If you've explored Balmora fully, you will probably have a laundry list of a dozen quests waiting to be completed for various factions and individuals. This can be a little daunting, especially since there's no clear idea of what your purpose is supposed to be in this game (you can be pretty sure it will eventually have something to do with this momentous Nerevarine prophecy about the One who will save the People, but it's going to be a long time before that becomes an issue for you).

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Just pick the item on your to-do list that appeals to you most, go to the indicated place, solve the quest, explore around that area while you're there, and then return to the questgiver for your prize (and, in most cases, a new quest.) Don't let yourself be overwhelmed by the heap of quests; none of them are timed. Don't even think about lawnmowing (completely clearing one area and then moving on to the next)--this is a very open-ended game played on a very large map, and you'll only wear youself out if you try to do everything at once. And with so many locations in hand that you do have a reason to visit, traveling to extraneous ones would be a waste of effort--there's nothing to do in most of them at all unless you arrive with quest in hand.

Here's my travel guide to the areas you will need to visit to complete your early quests:

Lake Amaya Area (East of Pelagiad, North of Ascadian Isles, South of the Mountains)

You will need to come to this region for two quests, Return the Bowl and Pilgrim's Progress.

1) The farmland southeast of Pelagiad contains one cave, Mannammu, which is needed for a later Fighters Guild quest. Don't go in there till you get assigned this quest.

2) To the north and northeast of Pelagiad you can find two smugglers caves named Panat and Punammu. They have no quests associated with them; you can just go in and loot. There is treasure at the end of the sequence of underwater tunnels in Punammu--look around the walls and ceiling of the last chamber carefully.

3) The Dren Plantation itself is very tempting to loot as soon as you find it: it's loaded with good items, the inhabitants are slavers anyway, and most of them hang around inside their houses one by one where they're easy to pick off or at least rob blind. You can literally get some of the best armor in the game here if you can cast telekinesis, or if your sneak score is decent and you're patient enough to wait for an NPC to turn his back. If you belong to House Hlaalu, use extreme caution here though, because everyone at this plantation belongs to that house and you can get yourself kicked out (also lose some trainers and whatnot). Otherwise, all you really have to do is not kill Navil and Ranes Ienith (who are behind a locked door, so you probably wouldn't do it accidentally) or Orvas Dren (the bossman here), and not to free the slaves here yet. Those are the only things in this area that you will need to do for later quests.

4) If you cross the channel east of the Dren Plantation and go pretty much due east, you'll reach some farms, including the one you'll need to visit for the Return the Bowl quest. (The directions you get at the beginning of this quest are particularly poor; make sure you cross the channel, but don't turn south towards Vivec.)

5) On the northern shore of Lake Amaya is the Fields of Kummu shrine (prominently marked on your map).

6) Most of the rest of the north shore is uneventful, but there's one quest you can run into here, Mating Call. You can get this quest from either of the two individuals involved; the reward at the end is the same. There's also an ancestral tomb here, called Sarano, which you will eventually need for a Fighter's Guild and should avoid going into until it is assigned to you.

7) On the east bank of the lake, on the peninsula between Lake Amaya and Suran, is another ancestral tomb called Sandas. It's not important to any quest and you can loot it at will. There is also a questgiver --a slave named Tul, who is not wearing any bracers. His quest is The Escaped Slave and can be completed within the same peninsula (ask some locals if you need specific directions).

8) Along the shores of Lake Amaya can be found many more farmsteads and plantations. Since many of these farmers are important for later quests, it's best to avoid killing them; if you want to free their slaves, you will need to be stealthy about it. The Ules Manor will be useful later in the main quest; Arvel Manor will be useful if you belong to House Hlaalu. To the best of my knowledge there is no way to free the slaves at Arvel Manor even though they ask you to; there simply isn't a key.

9) Lake Amaya itself is worth exploring a little; there are herbs and flowers growing all around it, pearls on the seabed, and a desolate shipwreck to explore (marked with an X on the map that came with the game). There's nothing special in this shipwreck, but there is some loot to be had.

Seyda Neen Area (South of Pelagiad, the Coast and Islands)

You started out in Seyda Neen, but you'll need to return to the vicinity for an Errands for Caius quest, so you might as well explore the rest of the region while you're here.

1) Just off the road from Pelagiad to Seyda Neen is Andrano's Ancestral Tomb, the target of your Blades quest. (If you go in here until you get assigned that quest, be SURE to hang on to the objects you find in here!)

2) Of course, you can return to Seyda Neen now and open any of the locks that eluded you back when you were a first-level noob.

3) In the waters south of Seyda Neen you can see an X marked on the map; if you investigate, you will find it to be a shipwreck. It's an optional place to explore--save before entering as it can be tricky to navigate without your air running out. There's nothing particularly special in here (one useful key, but there are several copies of it scattered in different locations).

4) There's an underwater grotto called Alamaes in the strait to the east of this same island. It's not part of any quest so feel free to explore it if you have water breathing capability.

5) Further to the east, on the third island in this cluster, there is a cave called Assemanu. This cave is necessary for a later Imperial Legion quest, and you shouldn't go in until you are assigned to.

6) If you follow the road west from Seyda Neen towards Hla Oad, there's another underwater grotto you can explore in the region between the two towns. It's just offshore of the bay before the westmost peninsula and is called Nimawia.

7) If you swim due west from this peninsula, to the large island marked on your map, you can find two fairly easy dungeons that are not part of any quest and are safe to explore, Aharunartus and Sarys Ancestral Tomb.

8) Turning north up the coast toawrds Hla Oad, you will pass an ancestral tomb named Lleran. It's not a part of any quest and is safe to explore.

9) Still further to the northwest is a woman with a quest for you, The Lost Tourist. You have to escort her a LONG way to the shrine at Kummu; check your map, and stick to roads so her AI doesn't get her stuck helplessly between two big rocks enroute. (Whatever you do stay out of the water, too; she will try to walk along the bottom of the lakebed, run out of air, and drown.)

Hla Oad and Vicinity (Peninsula South of Hlormaren, West of Balmora)

You'll need to come here for two quests, Careless Travelers and an early Thieves' Guild Quest.

Hlormaren itself is a Dunmer stronghold that you will need for a later quest, so best to give it a pass at this point.

***UNDER CONSTRUCTION***

Gnaar Mok and Vicinity (Coast North of Hlormaren, West of Balmora)

If you're male, you'll need to come here for the first of your Romance Quests.

On the way up from Hlormaren to Gnaar Mok, you'll pass Sennararit cave (west of Balmora). It's perfectly explorable.

Ald'ruhn

If you join House Hlaalu you'll need to come here for the first of Nileno's House Hlaalu Quests. Even if you don't join Hlaalu, you'll probably want to come out here before taking on the Caldera Fighter's Guild quest, since Percius has important advice for you on several Fighter's Guild political matters.

Caldera

You'll be coming here for one of the early Fighters' Guild Quests.

Lake Nabia Area (Mountain Paths East of Balmora, near Marandus)

You'll have to come out here for the first Errand for Caius and two of Ranis' Mages' Guild Quests. (She assigns both at the same time, so you can do all three of these assignments on the same journey--although you'll almost certainly have to return to town several times anyway to sell off the heavy loot you acquire.)

Onward From Here

If you're following this walkthrough exactly, you've explored about a sixth of the game map; in real life, you've probably ventured a bit further than that, but either way, your next stop is likely to be the metropolis of Vivec, which is the most pain-in-the-ass virtual city to navigate around that I've seen in fifteen years, so I'm giving it its own page. If you prefer to mop up some of your other quests in places like Gnisis and Ebonheart first, feel free to just skip on ahead to the Middle Game Area Guide. This is a nonlinear game, and you don't have to take it in any particular order to enjoy it; just make sure you stick to locations you have some business in, or you'll be spending a lot of wasted time backtracking, lost, and/or interrogating people who have nothing to say to you yet.

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