"The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim" (2011): Marrying and Romancing Serana
I remember when the Dawnguard DLC came out. I was playing this insane altmer mage who was dragging around Vorstag as a follower -- Yes, I played an altmer mage back in the day. You should try it. It's an interesting roleplay experience given all the crap with the civil war.
Anyway, I loved the vampire/werewolf content in Skyrim (what little there was before the DLC), so when Dawnguard came out I got it immediately. The first thing I did with my altmer was I had her become a vampire, then run off to start the Dawnguard quests.
Needless to say, I was extremely disappointed that the DLC forced me to join the vampire hunters first, even though I was a vampire. I think a lot of players were bothered by this because it makes no sense for a vampire who hates the Vigilant of Stendarr to join vampire hunters.
I reasoned it away by saying that my character was planning on destroying them from the inside, but the fact that I had to pull some headcanon out of my ass shows how bad the writing was. Bethesda knew the writing was bad too.
The first time you walk into the Dawnguard fortress, if you're a vampire, Isran will crack a joke about it. He will complain that the fortress is so vulnerable that a vampire could just walk in.
At least Bethesda has a sense of humor about their mess, mess though it is.
Later, when the Dragonborn lets Serana out of her prison, they will agree to escort her, a vampire, home to an entire nest of vampires -- even if they are a vampire hunter!
A lot of people, myself included, made up the headcanon that Serana put the Dragonborn under the in-game power Vampire Seduction and made her a thrall. She would also have to make insane, fanatical Isran a thrall to stop him from killing her on-sight when she later approaches the Dawnguard in her vampire princess armor -- because nothing else makes sense.
Whenever fans have to keep stopping to insert headcanon in order to make things make sense, it is evidence of bad writing.
At the time it annoyed me, but now years later -- and with the help of some mods -- I find that I've always gotten some enjoyment out of the DLC, even if it wasn't perfect. And maybe that's all that matters in the end.
Like I said, the first time I played Dawnguard, I was playing as an altmer mage who wanted to be a vampire lord desperately. So when Harkon made his offer, she leapt on it and joined the vampires.
I played her as a crazy fanatic who was loyal to Harkon and was oblivious to the fact that she was just being used. She was like this to the point that she didn't even pay much attention to Serana.
What's great is that Serana herself can actually acknowledge it if you choose to roleplay this way. You can play a character who is obliviously loyal to Harkon, and Serana will call you out on it by saying, "Really? You can't see how he's using you? Okay . . ."
The DLC is very self-aware, and I know that some people hate that in a video game, but I actually loved it.
It wasn't until I played the DLC again and sided with the Dawnguard that I really began to like Serana as a character. Before that, I was indifferent about her. I found Harkon and Isran to be way more interesting.
Harkon and Isran are both insane tyrants on different ends of the spectrum, and I find it pretty amusing. For a long time, I felt they outshone Serana as characters and I was having a hard time understanding why so many people were moaning about being unable to marry her. She felt more like a friend to me!
Then I replayed the DLC as a non-vampire character, and suddenly, I had the Serana bug.
One thing that bothers me about the Serana romance is that you only get certain flirtatious lines if you're playing a male Nord. Serana's dialogue was buggy to begin with -- sometimes she would hate your character even if you were nice to her! -- but a lot of her flirt lines just don't fire unless you're playing a male Nord.
I'm not against characters having depth and actual sexualities and preferences (I mean, I do play Bioware games) but something like that tends to have no place in a Bethesda game, where most players expect potential love interests to be playersexual and accessible to everyone, making the game as fully customizable as possible for each individual.
So you can imagine that, after playing a game where I could marry anyone I wanted and do whatever I wanted and build my character however I wanted, the fact that I couldn't customize my experience with Serana was . . . . incredibly frustrating.
I wanted her to flirt with my female characters. Male gamers were complaining about not being able to marry Serana but at least they got a romance with her at all! It seemed unfair that I was missing out on the only actual romance in Skyrim just because I was playing a female Dovhakiin. I didn't want to be Serana's sister, dammit. I wanted to be her lover.
I am incredibly embarrassed to admit this, but I wanted to romance Serana enough that I tried the romance mod Amorous Adventures. I thought some things about the mod were nice, like the fact that it alters Serana's dialogue so that she shouts, "You will not touch her!" during battles.
There was also a cute part where Serana drinks the Dragonborn's blood and says that it tastes clean like flowers.
Aside from that, however, I was disappointed with the romance. It made the Dragonborn sound too much like a horndog who just wanted to hump Serana's leg. The dialogue was really cringeworthy in that regard.
My frustration growing, I abandoned the mod, went back to Serana being rude to me for no reason, and developed a sort of love-hate "relationship" with her thereafter. And I stayed bitter about the entire thing for quite a while.
Then a wonderful, wonderful mod happened along.
The Serana Dialogue Edit is a mod that fixes a lot of the glitches and bugs regarding Serana's dialogue. The flirty lines that failed to fire based on Serana's disposition now fire. Serana will no longer be mean to you for no reason. Also, some of her dialogue is expanded, and the mod will let you know when you say something that Serana actually likes, thus raising her disposition.
I was quite pleased when I took Serana home and was given the option to talk to her about the size of the castle. Her flirty line -- the one where she worries about what you'll think -- fired, and her disposition was raised.
So in essence, the mod allows me to experience Serana's romance as if I were playing a male Nord. It's really nice to be able to do that, especially when it fits my werewolf Nord character so well to fall in love with someone so opposite her and yet so similar.
It was also nice to have Serana not be rude to me. I recall some playthroughs where Serana glitched out and was rude, even though I was nothing but nice to her. It was jarring to have her snap, "Are we done?" at the end of a conversation when I had done nothing but be courteous!
I'm not one of those players who needs to marry Serana. I'm just grateful I get to experience her romance at all. However, if you're playing on PC and you want to turn Serana into a boring housewife, here you go!
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