The success of Skyrim's first DLC pack, Dawnguard, has created a new generation of Oliver Twists that cling onto Bethesda's coat tails asking "please sir, can we have some more?" Admittedly, that's partly because Dawnguard wasn't as good as it could have been, but demand is demand.
As such, rumours regarding the next DLC are cropping up all over. One in particular, however, seems a little more concrete than the rest. Bethesda's parent company ZeniMax Media made a trademark application earlier in the year for "Hearth Fire", covering "downloadable computer game software offered via the internet and wireless services". Could "Hearth Fire" be Skyrim's next DLC pack? Let's take some massive leaps of faith and entertain that possibility for a moment or two.
Seeking insight on the whispers, I pulled on my most scholarly robes (which grant me +20% reading age) and traipsed over to the ElderScrolls wikia. Here's what I've found. "Hearth Fire" is a month in the Elder Scrolls calendar, and a very mysterious month at that. It kicks off with the Rites of Moawita, as performed by the ancient Psijic Order. In case you've forgotten/haven't visited the northern coast yet, the Order get a speaking role in the College of Winterhold's questline, but their involvement raises more questions than it answers.
Could we learn more about their conflict with the Thalmor in Skyrim's next downloadable adventure? Given that the Thalmor's headquarters in Solitude is currently conspicuously empty, this seems plausible - there's a gap waiting to be filled. Maybe we'll even find out what caused Winterhold's Great Collapse, or visit the disappearing isle of Artaeum.
The Tales and Tallows holiday also takes place during Hearth Fire, a celebration of Necromancy that doesn't exactly sound like a barrel of laughs. Widening the gulf between the earthly and the unearthly, the festival would provide the perfect opportunity for another split storyline, with the player either supporting or obstructing the forces of evil. Let's hope for variety's sake that Bethesda steer their ship away from these dark waters.
Hearth Fire is also the name of a book that can be found in both Skyrim and Oblivion, though it's hard to glean much from its weathered pages. It's a long, rather wordy volume that forms the ninth part of the "2920" series, chronicling several interlinked chains of events. Nothing really jumps out at me as something that could be sculpted into DLC. However, and this is flagrant speculation, this book could reveal something of the structure of upcoming DLC - the pack might be a bundle of loosely associated smaller quests, rather than another grand narrative arch.
As for release dates, it's worth remembering that Hearth Fire corresponds to September. Yes, building your release plan into a product's title is eccentric to say the least, but Bethesda does have a "thing" for numerical patterns, releasing Skyrim itself on 11/11/11. Colour that one "questionable" for the moment, but if the next DLC pack arrives next month, remember you read about it here first.
Words by Sam Horti. What do you hope for from the next Skyrim DLC pack? In April, Ed theorised that the Order of the Mythic Dawn might return in Dawnguard. He still holds out hope. While we're talking Skyrim, here are 17 mods we want on Xbox 360.