Layton Hawkes - Game Designer

Skyrim: Vorunthaal

Vorunthaal Chambers


Vorunthaal is a singleplayer dungeon level for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim that provides approximately 20-30 minutes of new gameplay. Vorunthaal is comprised of two explorable dungeon areas; the Vorunthaal Chambers (this level) and the Vorunthaal Depths. The dungeon is an ancient city that has sunken into an underground lake. A bandit clan, whilst mining for ebony, has uncovered the entrance to this large underground environment. The Dragonborn (player) must fight their way through the bandit excavation, explore the sunken ruins and encounter the restless draugr to uncover the secrets of this once great city.

With Vorunthaal I aimed to create an experience that was different from many other Skyrim dungeons, I wanted to create an area that felt unique yet still fit within the style of the world. Underwater exploration and gameplay was one area of the original game that I thought could be expanded upon. This became one of the main focuses of the design. Water-breathing potions and spells form part of the essential gameplay in Vorunthaal as the player must swim through the sunken sections of the level.

Design Goals

  • Provide compelling environmental challenges and incorporate underwater gameplay into the level design.
  • Carefully control pacing by alternating between puzzle/exploration and combat scenarios.
  • Create satisfying and varied combat encounters; multiple enemy types, ranges and environment factors.
  • Create an ambient narrative through journals and visual storytelling techniques.


Personal Work. I designed and built the level.


Creation Engine


The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Build Time

1.5 Weeks



Play Time

25-30 minutes.


In Brief: Design & Gameplay

Vorunthaal Level Progression Chart.jpg

Vorunthaal tries to capture a different feeling from the many other areas in Skyrim with its focus on underwater exploration combined with puzzle-solving. To progress through the ruins the player will need to make use of water-breathing potions found around the environment and solve multiple puzzles, some of which are completely submerged. With a balance of exploration and combat the overall pacing is kept unpredictable and keeps the player on their toes. Fights can be unexpected because of the downtime between them, in this way the level demands attention from players.