Let me take you back to a simpler time, where a humble baker named Salmo aimlessly wandered the cobblestone streets of Skingrad, yearning for the opportunity to taste bread and end the world.
Okay, it wasn’t all that long ago – it was in 2006, and I’m describing a singular NPC (non-playable character) in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. If you haven’t heard of Oblivion, you’ve probably heard of its much more popular younger brother, Skyrim. Or maybe you aren’t a nerd, and that’s okay. It’s a video game, and it’s kind of like Dungeons and Dragons, but, you know, video gamey. It was a pretty big deal at the time. Patrick Stewart and Sean Bean were in it.
But we don’t give a skeever’s tail about those guys.
Our story today is about Salmo the Baker.
Salmo the Baker is a commoner, a high elf, and, well, a baker by trade.
In the game, there were over 900 named characters wandering around in the world, offering to talk to you, the player. To make the world more immersive, all of the NPCs were programmed with a wide gamut of behaviors and errands that, more or less, seemed pretty organic at the time. The sun would rise, and most NPCs would wake up. They had specific places they liked to go, streets they liked to walk, taverns they liked to eat and drink in, other NPCs they would try to seek out and have conversations with, and so forth. Some would hunt, tend the fields, or run errands. Each NPC had a little variation in what they would do. It’s pretty cheesy these days, but for the time, it really added this sense of realism. These characters had things to do, and weren’t just standing around in the street waiting for you to show up and ask them what the latest rumors were.
But Salmo… Salmo was special.
First of all, it’s not very common for a golden-skinned high elf to be wearing a canvas potato sack, especially since he is a locally famous baker. He owns a house with a sign that says, “Salmo the Baker’s House.” Other NPCs in the town of Skingrad will comment on how delicious Salmo’s sweetrolls are.
Except, they do misgender Salmo, referring to the male high elf as “she.” This isn’t important to our story, but the folks who made Oblivion spent most of their audio nut on getting Sir Patrick Stewart and Sean Bean, so there were only about eight other voice actors to play the remaining 900+ NPCs. Also, the voice actors weren’t given their lines in any sort of context to what was happening, they were given them in alphabetical order. You can guess that this probably isn’t the best way to get really good line delivery. Plus, the game was still in development while recording was happening, so if something minor was changed, such as the gender of a poor common baker, they just hoped nobody would notice 17 years later and blog about it.
Back to our story! Poor Salmo the misgendered baker had much bigger problems. This wasn’t in the form of a quest or anything—Salmo wants not from the player.
It’s interesting that Salmo doesn’t sell sweetrolls. In fact, Salmo can’t sell you anything, as he’s not programmed to be a merchant in the game. He just wanders around and goes home alone every night, totally breadless and nearly penniless.
If you, as the player, were to sneak up to Salmo and try to pickpocket him, you would see that Salmo doesn’t have much to offer; usually just a few coins.
Instead of stealing what meager coin the impoverished baker has, if the player were to slip a loaf of bread into Salmo’s inventory, all Oblivion* would break loose.
*Oblivion is basically the series’ version of hell, although it gets pretty complicated once you dive into the extended lore.
Once Salmo the Baker has bread, his programming makes him stop whatever he is doing, and immediately march over to the nearest inn. It’s like the very idea of possessing gluten rocks his high elf mind. He must experience it, to know the very product of his trade, and we can almost assume he’s never been allowed a taste before.
The moment Salmo sits down in the inn and takes the bread out of his inventory and bites into it, the game crashes.
Like, a hard crash. To Windows. And to this day, the developers never fixed the bug.
Poor Salmo the Baker exists in a state where he can never fulfill his purpose to serve sweetrolls to you, and when blessed with a windfall in the form of a single loaf of bread, Salmo never even gets a chance to taste it, as the world he lives in immediately ends the moment he tries.