Bear Challenges Workflow
First Monk Monastery Ruins
Mount Himinbforg Peak
Meditation (Allfather's Seedling)
Diving (Fisherman's Pond)
Carrying (5th location...)
Crafting (Monastery Ruins)
Sacrificing Totem + Fist Fighting (Mountainpeak)
The Challenges represent the inititation of the Bear Cult's legendary Warrior monks. The player has to fulfill all five challenges to complete the questline. He will be guided by letters telling him what he has to do while also informing about the historical background. These letters are written by the „Eremite“, who is watching the player from afar. At the end of the questline will be revealed, that the Eremite is the physical embodiment of the bear god, heavily weakend because no one is worshipping him anymore. The player should have the choice to either kill or help him after the challenges are fulfilled. (to Help: Anathem mentioned something of a bear statue in a temple...)
The Eremite's death would mean the rise of a new deity, somewhere in some form (there are only a fixed amount of gods allowed by the creator, the allfather).
The Questline begins after finding the first letter on Hammerfall Hill („I see you, wanderer“).
→ possible description: Find out who left you the mysterious note
Footsteps in the snow shall guide the player to a neraby temple ruin. Player has to fight his way through. Exit above Hammerfall valley. There he finds the second note, telling him about the first challenge. He has to carry a heavy object (maybe a hammer?) to the Monastery of the First Monks and place it on the pillar's altar (overencumbered). (7 Minutes Walk => too deadly with frostfall?)
After every completed challenge, the sound of a roaring bear echoing in the mountains should be heard (similar to the greybeard's call).
Arriving at the Monastery he will find the third note, telling about the first bear monks and their settlement. The second challenge is about crafting a totem on a unique shrine in the monastery (unique shrine required, totem required, recipe required). This totem will be sacrificed in the last challenge on Mount Himinbforg. One ingredient for the totem will be found through the next challenge at Fisherman's pond.
This challenges will be rather simple and short, but just as deadly if the player has frostfall installed. He has to dive to the ground of the Fisherman's pond to retrieve an item (yet unknown) he needs to craft the totem. He will also find a note telling him what to do and where to go next (Allfather's Seedling).
The third challenge is about meditation. The player has to sit down on a marked place to perform the ritual. After a certain amount of time (30 sec?) animals will appear. First non-hostiles, then hostiles which will soon attack the player. Just before they can reach and harm the player, they should disappear though (hearing a fitting shout from afar maybe?). The last stance of meditation will be an enemy (draugr archers? Dragonpriest? Ghosts? A bear?) who actually hurts the player. If the player decides not to move until his healthbar is empty (=dead) the challenge is completed. If he breaks the meditation (should be that sitting/praying animation) only once in this time, he fails the challenge and has to begin again. After „dying“ in meditation the player should wake up again (below the tree? Hammerfall hill? Bear temple in hammerfall valley? Monastery (where the crafting challenge has to be fulfilled as the next step)? Or maybe in eremite's cave => first encounter?)
Fourth challenge is to return to the Monastery to complete the crafting challenge. After success the player begins his journey on top of Mount Himinbforg for the final challenge and his sacrifice. The last note tells the player about the upcoming ritual and promises the player that the Eremite will reveal himself upon successfully performing the ritual.
The fifth challenge is located on Mount Himinbforg Peak. In the circle of stones he has to perform a sacrifice (the totem gets desytroyed (really destroyed?)) so he can summon a spirit. This spirit has to get overwhelmed, using only fists and voice. (The Eremite might appear to watch the fight, just to disappear again, as soon as it's over)
As soon as the player won, he completed the questline, now being in the ranks of the Warrior Monks of the Bear Cult. You will the roaring sound of a bear one last time, then the Eremite will reveal himself by lighting up some magical light (or probably just a questmarker due to engine limitations). This will direct the player to the Eremite's cave, where the next Quest begins. This is about helping or letting die an ancient God of Men.
The Eremite doesn't talk, the only way of communication will be a journal he hands over the player.
He is very weak and bound to his flesh avatar, still he cannot be killed by weapons nor magic, being a god.
Great job in designing these challenges! On a first look, these challenges might seem a bit far from the sacred traditions that would characterize a Cult, more like chores, because the actual background behind this has not been touched on very much. Here is my effort at fixing this:
In my opinion each challenge should reflect the "pillars" that form the values and beliefs that the Cult is meant to represent.
Hints regarding these values can be taken from the meager information regarding the Bear Totem and the god it represents, the rest is up to us and the lore community. Which means freedom, as there are no pre-existing concepts from canon lore we are forced to abide to. So far so good.
It's also important to point out that mortal interpretation (or misinterpretation) of what each god represents (or in the case of Atmorans, what each animal or element of nature represents) is one of the main themes that permeate all Elder Scrolls cultures/races. Indeed, one could say the Aldmer are so hell-bent on perfection (=humans are imperfect, let's use Alduin to reset the current Kalpa and wipe them!) because they misunderstood/misinterpreted what their own chief god, Auriel, has told them in its departure.
In the same way, each culture/race worships their own take of the same god, as an example the Bretons worship not only a nord god, but also elf and imperial gods. Just like Akatosh is the dragon god of time for the Imperials, Auriel is the same for the Aldmer, and Alduin is the same for the Nords. They are both the same entity and a separate entity at the same time.
In the case of Yokudans (Redguards), one could even think it is the belief that shapes the god itself.
By saying this, I am trying to inform you of all the precedents that show to which extent the lore likes to play with this overarching concept of religion.
So to get back on the main topic: the canon values the Bear totem represents are: taking prisoners, ransom. That's it. That's what we have and it is very little...
Due to mortal interpretation, it is my opinion this can be safely extended to "value in taking prisoners and spoils of war".
It is still very reductive though. Why not (due to the aforementioned freedom) extend this further?
Here's one way to extend this, and at the same time, expand on the background of the Cult and do some worldbuilding (very important) that can be reflected in actual texts and the narration provided by your NPC:
It's safe to think Atmorans were a warring civilization, quite chaotic and hence hard to rule. This is reflected by the fact it seems only one person (High King Harald) ever managed to unite it all, and for only a brief time.
It seems to me that such circumstances would call for some order. In its own roots, the Bear Cult could have grown to become a moral compass of sorts, although primitive, teaching how to behave morally in the context of war.
This would mostly have been done through oral tradition, as a written language was introduced only later by Ysgramor, who took it from the Altmer.
So initially, these values that were taught would not have a way to reach every lay person in Atmora, meaning the Cult would still lack a way to gain influence and recognition.
That is where military might comes into play (the Roscrea project seems to also favor the concept of military might, by the way!). Basically, any clan in a primitive society where it's easy for "might to make right" could flex its muscles and gain influence through war. Nothing special, that would be extremely commonplace.
So the Bear Cult, to be sacred like all other Cults, would need to stand out in some other way, for example by religiously embracing the aforementioned moral values in its military efforts.
My take would be that in the Atmoran society, to kill morally would be to kill elves. That is what the twin brother god did, which the Bear totem represents: shield-thane to Shor, he fought against the Altmer gods in the Dawn Era.
His twin brother, represented by the Whale, sacrificed himself during that time. Maybe one could see these two twin brother gods as Sword and Shield.
So it seems quite fitting that the Bear Cult would advocate to abstain from killing fellow humans (thus keeping order) and instead kill elves.
Of course, like all factions based on military might, the Cult would also see its members under a harsh training regimen of mind and body, similar to Tibetan Monks perhaps, and that is how, in my opinion, the Bear Cult's background can be wrapped up.
In short, these are the "pillars" of the Bear Cult:
1)military might supported by their religious beliefs to gain and maintain their influence as a sacred Cult (a straightforward fight against a powerful elf. There can be a cave or a building with a millenial stone in which are socketed countless black soul gems. These soul gems hold the souls of powerful warrior elves to be summoned for the purpose of this challenge. The player would have to socket one of these gems in the Totem he needs to craft, and later smash it all to summon this powerful elf).
2)teaching and upholding morality based on the god they represent (a dialogue based challenge that tests whether or not the player's morals are aligned and compatible with the Cult)
3)strict lifelong training of mind and body to craft the ultimate warrior-monk in the image of their elf-slaying god (your challenges cover this perfectly)