Skyrim Thieves Guild Part 3

By Shamus
on Dec 28, 2011
Filed under:
Elder Scrolls

skyrim_karliah2.jpg

So we’re now working for Karliah, who was framed twenty-five years ago for murdering the guild master. Mercer is the real murderer, and now he’s running the guild. The old guild master was Gallus, and we now have a translation of his journal. So far we’ve learned that:

  • Mercer Frey stole from the guild vault.
  • Then he stole something from the “Twilight Sepulchre”.
  • Then he killed Gallus, blamed the murder on Karliah, and ascended to guild master.
  • Then he ran the guild for 25 years while Karliah did a whole lot of nothing. (Well, she found Gallus’ journal. I would think that finding the personal journal of your best friend, partner in crime, guild leader, and lover ought to take less than two and a half decades, but what do I know? Maybe it was, like, way, way down in the couch cushions.)

Then Karliah and I head back to confront the guild. (Er. Confront them with what?) The guild members are angry when we arrive. The thing with Gallus happened twenty-five years ago when most of these people would have been kids, but they seem to know who Karliah is on sight. They want to know why I’ve brought this murderer into the guild. Then Karliah shows them the translated copy of Gallus’ journal. Brynjolf reads it, and immediately concludes that Karliah is telling the truth.

skyrim_vault3.jpg

I’ve written before about “story collapse”. That’s the process where some plot hole or nonsensical event irritates you and causes you to analyze the story more closely, which reveals more problems, which leads to more scrutiny, until the whole thing falls apart. This business with presenting a translated diary as evidence is where it happened for me. Up until this point, I’d been just mildly irritated with the quest chain. At first I just thought the tale was a bit dull and convoluted, but once this scene happened I began looking more closely and uncovered all of these other problems.

Why would any of these people accept this diary as proof? It was written out by that scholar guy. They can’t read the original, and even if they could they have no reason to believe it’s legitimately from Gallus. How do they know we didn’t just write whatever we wanted in a book? But no, the will and loyalty of the entire guild turns on this single bit of “evidence”, and they immediately embrace the woman who was trying to “ruin” the guild yesterday.

The dialog gets really sloppy here, with Brynjolf reading from the book and saying that, “Mercer has been stealing from the guild for years,” when the book is obviously limited to events of 25 years ago. For further proof, they decide to look in the guild vault. Someone points out that the vault door is un-pickable and requires two different keys to open. One guy uses his key, then Brynjolf uses the second, and they look inside:

skyrim_vault1.jpg

It’s gone! The vault is cleaned out!

There are so many problems with this that the complete deconstruction would be an article in and of itself. But to cover the major points:

If he’s been stealing from the fault for “years” then how did nobody notice? I assume people have been putting treasure INTO the vault? Didn’t they ever notice that the loot was vanishing? And what’s all this for? Why would the guild pile up riches in some common pot? Is this some kind of hippie communist Thieves Guild, where everyone shares? Why don’t they just split the loot between themselves? I doubt they have to worry about paying property taxes on their sewer-base. More importantly, the entire quest line began with repeated references to how the guild had fallen on hard times. If they were so broke, then why did they have a vault full of gold? Or if times were so tough, why are they so distraught to find the vault empty? How do they know that Mercer is the one who cleaned it out and that he was acting alone? You can explain some of these questions, but only at the expense of others. This entire sequence is deeply flawed, and we’re only just getting started.

All of this is supposed to be a huge reveal, but it falls completely flat. We don’t have any stake in this. Nobody really talked about the vault and it was never established that people cared or even thought about this vault. We never saw inside of it until now, so it’s not a terrible shock for the player to lose something they didn’t have two minutes ago. Instead of being a turning point in the story, it’s this awful traffic jam of fridge logic.

The thieves ask how Mercer got into the vault, since it needs two keys. You would think that thieves would be able to wrap their heads around a conundrum like this. You know: Maybe he made a copy of one of the keys? It’s mechanical, not magical, so making a copy shouldn’t be that hard, especially if you have 25 years to work on it and you know where the originals are kept.

This sequence hinges on this two-key business, but the game never even explains how it works. Brynjolf has a key. Devlin has a key. Does Mercer have a key? Are the two keys the same? Are they interchangeable? How many keys are there? Does anyone else know about Mercer’s super-lockpick ability? On and on. I’m not saying these questions are plot holes. I’m just saying the game didn’t give us enough information to understand this crime or make sense of anyone’s reactions to it.

This is exactly the sort of thing you get with story collapse. If the rest of this story had been tight, focused, well-paced, and logical, most players would skate right past this sort of business and expect things to make sense later. But once the storyteller has blown their trust and failed in obvious ways, I start analyzing and second-guessing them. I’m willing to bet the original author didn’t have any answers to any of the questions I posed in the previous paragraph.

skyrim_vault2.jpg

We’ll find out later how he opened the doors, but it’s beside the point. The hard part of cleaning out this vault has nothing to do with opening the stupid door. The vault doors are well-lit, and the outer room is always full of people. Even if the doors weren’t locked, how did Mercer get these noisy, heavy things open without anyone noticing? And then how did he lug seven treasure chests worth of loot under a light, across the room, and up a ladder without anyone noticing? Even if he had perfect invisibility, people should still have noticed these very prominent doors being open.

I’m sorry guys, but if he made off with that much bling all at once without you noticing, then you deserved it. In fact, your anger strikes me as being really, really hypocritical. We’re all thieves here. We know how this works. You guys just suck.

Brynjolf then sends me to a house that Mercer owns in town. Mercer never stays there, Brynjolf tells me, but I’m supposed to look for clues there anyway. I break into Mercer’s place and check it out. In the basement I find Mercer’s plans, which I bring back to Brynjolf. He explains that the plans show that Mercer is going after the Eyes of the Falmer. This is a major pair of watermellon-sized gems. This job was a pet project of Gallus before he died. Brynjolf says Mercer is going after them as a final insult to the guild.

Dude, it’s been twenty-five years since Gallus died, and you never made any move for these jewels. I think it was really sporting of him to wait this long. You had plenty of time to go and get them if you wanted them. If you couldn’t be bothered then you get no sympathy from me.

Brynjolf says that if Mercer gets his hands on those gems, he’ll be gone, and set up for life. So we have to stop him.

Isn’t he set up for life anyway, now that he has seven chests worth of loot in his pockets? If he’s going after the Eyes of the Falmer, then wouldn’t he have taken his plans with him? Maybe he got those gems months ago? Or years ago? Rather than chase him into the tomb and hope he’s there, why don’t we camp the exit and wait for him to come out? Why not figure out how he plans to leave Skyrim?

Before we go after the bad guy, Karliah says we have to follow her. Mercer is a Nightengale(!) so we can’t hope to defeat him without preparation.

Game designer: Once again you have shot yourselves in the foot. You could sell the idea of Mercer being a badass if you hadn’t already forced us to team up with him and shown us what a complete clown he is. You undercut your villain before you even established him as a villain!

Even though we’re supposedly in a hurry to follow Mercer, let’s follow Karliah and see what her plan is.

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From the Archives:

  1. Dovius says:

    Suddenly I feel really lucky that I haven’t advanced beyond the Golum-Ei part of the Thieves Guid yet, because this is just ridiculous.
    And wait, the Eyes of the Falmer are in a tomb somewhere?
    It’s not stealing if you nick it from a ruin! That’s adventuring, a completely legitimate type of job in the game’s world!
    You’re telling me that one of the master projects of the Thieves Guild has been to barge into a ruin and steal some gems?!
    Your average PC does that A DOZEN TIMES BEFORE BREAKFAST!

    • acronix says:

      Maybe they are considered humanity´s patrimony or something? Or elvenkind´s, since they are falmer gems.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Who says that raiding a tomb is legitimate?Just because the stuff you get dont get flagged as stolen,doesnt mean people wouldnt shun you if they knew where you got the stuff.Besides,one of thieving things is avoiding traps,which are usually located in tombs.

      • Varil says:

        You mean like my piles of enchanted ancient nord weaponry? Yeah, good thing they’ll never figure out where those came from.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Thats just due to games poor recognition of things.An apple can be flagged as stolen,despite the fact that its a non distinct apple,just like any other apple in the world.

      • Naota says:

        I think what you mean to say is that raiding a tomb within the possession of somebody else is still theft. Plundering a family vault or the town graveyard means most likely vandalizing some amount of personal property, trespassing, (further) defiling multiple corpses, and taking objects of value held within said property.

        On the other hand, ancient abandoned ruins far from any form of civilization which nobody still alive even remembers are completely fair game, just as the derelict husks of buildings in Fallout are totally open for conscience-free looting. It’s all about the context.

  2. Veloxyll says:

    We have to hurry to follow Mercer. Follow me SOMEWHERE ELSE first.

    I’m sorry why are we caring about these guys? I forget. It’s not even our money. Not a cent of it.

  3. X2Eliah says:

    Have to agree with this completely..
    The whole ‘transcript of a diary as incontrovertible proof’ was just plain lousy and disappointing. :| They could at least have added 3 extra lines of voicework of Brynjolf inquiring about the transcript, asking to see the original and the translation-key, and “crosscheking”.. 5 extra seconds for player, 3 more lines for the voiceactor, and it would make at least a bit more sense…

    Another issue, this “eyes of the falmer” heist is attempted to be shown as a big, stupendous thing, like stealing the Elder Scroll back in Oblivion; the problem is, in Oblivion, it was clear that the Elder Scroll was a big thing – even from crossreferences out of other quests and world; here, these “eyes of the falmer” don’t figure anywhere else, are unheard of, and there’s literally no buildup whatsoever to this. Okay, it’s more that we’re meant to chase Mercer, but still, the intended impact of “oh wow, he’s doing WHAT?” is completely missing.

    Oh, and.. that whole Nightingale business that will be coming is something I really, really don’t like. I bet you’ll have a ton to say about that bit.

    Basically.. Idk. up to this point, more or less, I was going with the plot and it kinda sort of made enough sense for me – and, yeah, storywise this is where it fell on it’s face for me aswell. Still, I’d say that the prvious parts were better than you credited them, but here, well, I got to agree – a lot of lousy, bad things here. Bit of a shame, since the Thieves Guild questline – especially with the burglary sidequests taken in – is more or less the longest, largest guild questline in Skyrim (posiibly on par with DB, perhaps).

    One thing, though – Karliah implies that over those 25 years, Mercer’s been hunting her constantly (hard to say if it’s true, given tht he just stands in the Guildroom all the time before this), so it is kind of covered that she hasn’t the chance to operate on a larger scale or be able to do much more – she’s had to cover, hide and change location every single day for those 25 years – I imagine it would cut down a lot on spare time.

    • SougoXIII says:

      I think the whole problem with the diary sequence is that they focus on the wrong evidence. Instead of focusing on the translated dairy of someone who died 25 years ago, how about, you know, the empty vault?

      The writer could have Brynjol and co completely reject the diary for the reasons that Shamus mentioned above and then Karliah can just go: ‘Fine, why don’t you check out the vault and find out?’

      It would not solve all of the problem the Shamus pointed out but that would at least make the TG seem more competent, if that’s possible at this point.

      • Sumanai says:

        It would help if it went like you said, but she suggested that they check the ledgers more closely. It would still be hard to believe that someone notices from a glance more than bookkeepers have noticed over two decades, but I think it would be an improvement. After all you could handwave that they’ve been paid to stay silent.

      • Felblood says:

        –but that’s completely undercut as well. Possibly moreso!

        Why hasn’t anyone looked in the vault in the last 25 years? Is the accounting really that slopshod?

        • Paul Spooner says:

          Yeah you’d think they would have some third party auditors come in to do an inventory and check… oh wait, Thieves guild.
          Well, at least they would open the vault and make sure no one was stealing… oh yeah, Thieves guild again.
          How about… you know, where is there a Thieves guild in the first place? Is this like the Mafia? Who’s in charge here? Who is this? What’s your operating number?

          • Sumanai says:

            Also: It’s Thieves Guild. Why don’t they have several people checking the ledgers and the vault, since logically they should be careful about each other. Some have noted that there’s honor among the thieves, but that has the problem of “how the heck do they know anyone is honorable if every higher up is blindly trusting?”

        • thebigJ_A says:

          He didn’t clear out the vault 25 years ago, obviously. He just cleared it out.

          The journal “proves” (I do get the problem there, but let’s pretend it does) Mercer lied about killing the previous leader. Since that’s proven, they take seriously the implication that he has been stealing all these years. So, they decide to check the vault to find out if it matches the books. Presumably Mercer had been in charge of counting the coins up to then. He does have the ledger on his desk, after all.

          The fact that all the money is gone now is a shock. It doesn’t mean it’s been empty for a quarter century and no one noticed.

          • WJS says:

            Sorry, but no. He didn’t “just” shove several tonnes of gold into his pockets and stroll off with it. The PC may get away with that sort of thing, but there’s no way we should accept it from NPCs.

    • Hitch says:

      Actually, I’m not sure about this “transcription.” It makes sense that that’s what Byrjolf is reading, but I don’t remember that being stated. It certainly looked like to me that he read the book. The impossible to read book. Apparently accepting it legitimate because he recognized Gallus’ Falmer handwriting. Huh? It almost makes more sense if he’s reading a transcript. Except it’s a transcript of an unknown and unreadable language provide by Karliah, the one person in the world he trusts least of all. Unless, in my bumbling, consistent violation of guild rule, I’ve earned a degree of trust sufficient to overcome his apprehension about Karliah and he’s willing to accept a translation from me.

  4. SougoXIII says:

    Thank you Shamus for your analysis. Throughout the whole business with the diary I was like: ‘Wait what?… How is this going to…? Oh you know what? Just do whatever the hell you want!’

    I always thought the reason why they didn’t go after the Eyes of Falmer is because they simply don’t know where it was. Isn’t it suppose to be one of those heists that only Gallus know about and planned for?

    • Paul Spooner says:

      How could it be stealing if he’s the ONLY ONE WHO KNOWS ABOUT IT? I mean, if absolutely no one else knows where the gems are, digging them up is a service to humanity! This isn’t a heist, it’s an archaeological expedition.
      Besides, it’s not like wealth condenses out of the air in the presence of these things (I hope?). He’s going to need to sell or trade them to someone in order to get stuff like food and luxuries. When he does that then someone with a lot of power will be enjoying them, probably even put them on display so that other powerful people can be impressed.
      And another thing! How would you fence these things without the thieve’s guild noticing? He would have to build an entirely new and seperate criminal society just to unload these things.

      • Skalpadda says:

        He’s stealing them from the Falmer. As for selling them, there are other places than Skyrim where he could go to sell them and there’s also the possibility that he might want to keep them as a trophy.

  5. vukodlak says:

    Bethesda seems to have a problem with judging what is a reasonable time frame for various events to have occured (see also: Fallout 3). In this case, the whole Karliah betrayal thing would make much more sense if it happened say 5 years ago. There’s still enough time for the guild to fall on hard times, but would explain how every guild member knows Karliah on sight. It would make both Mercer and Karliah seem much more competent and proactive, as well.

    Having said that, 25 years might be reasonable if Mercer is robbing the vault a few gems at a time, so that no-one notices.

    • Cradok says:

      Except he’s not taking 5% or 10% of what’s in the vault, he’s taking 100%, and there’s no timescale long enough to cover up the difference between ‘treasure is there’ and ‘treasure is not there’

      • Dys says:

        Except that Mercer was keeping the books. And the guild has fallen on ‘hard times’, which could be at least partly due to the fact that someone’s been skimming off the cream for the past quarter century.

        • Moriarty says:

          no amount of creative bookkeeping can obscure the line between some gold and nothing if people expect something in the vault, they’d always notice if there’s nothing in there. And if people expect the vault to be empty, why are they shocked to find it that way?

          • thebigJ_A says:

            I still don’t get where anyone is getting the idea he cleared out the vault 25 years ago from.

            • Skalpadda says:

              I got the impression that he’d been continuously skimming gold from the coffers but only cleared them out some time between when you first meet Karliah and when you return with the translation. Considering he’s the leader of the guild who knows the layout of the Ratways, a Nightingale who can turn invisible and has the skeleton key it doesn’t seem to be an impossible feat.

          • Hitch says:

            The vault opening would have played so much better if instead of a completely empty vault with 7 open chests, there had been one chest open with at least some treasure showing. Then someone could have sighed in relief and said, “It’s still there.” Then Brynjolf says, “Check the other chests.” and they find them all empty. That would make it seem like the thieves saw the vault open with treasure in the currently being filled chest and assumed the rest was still there and Mercer took all the loot from the closed chests a little at a time.

            It takes no time or effort at all to come up with this sort of thing. Why can’t Bethesda.

    • Type_Variable says:

      I agree, 25 years is a decent timeframe to observe the guild falling into decline, but everything that happened/s that you are informed of feels like it would make more sense to have started with Gallus’ death a few weeks or months prior.

      This still doesn’t quite match up to the stupidity of Pilgrim’s Path though.

      • Jeff says:

        I thought the backstory of the Pilgrim’s Path was hilarious.

        These idiots (“priests” that Nocturnal doesn’t care about) built this stupid deathtrap thing around it, but the Nightingales (the actual servants of Nocturnal) don’t mind – ’cause hey, free deathtrap around the object they need to guard.

    • ACman says:

      Maybe Bethesda Years are like its days; they elapse in 1/16th of the time.

      Of course this would make the Oblivion crisis about 12 years ago so scratch that.

  6. Brendan says:

    Even if the doors weren’t locked, how did Mercer get these noisy, heavy things open without anyone noticing? And then how did he lug seven treasure chests worth of loot under a light, across the room, and up a ladder without anyone noticing?

    Leather Boots of Hauling and a Potion of Fortify Carry Weight!

    No seriously that doesn’t make any sense at all.

    • acronix says:

      That gives some light into the matter: Mercer´s a glitcher! He has 100 enchantment and 100 alchemy, so he can use the “fortify alchemy” gear to make “fortify enchantment” potions until he could enchant a pair of boots capable of carrying 5 thousand pounds without problems!

    • Peter H. Coffin says:

      A Wizard Did It.

    • Uristqwerty says:

      Perhaps he really is a good theif, and stole the spells Mark and Recall from Morrowind. Due to the appearance of the player, he decides to stop taking unnoticably small ammounts of the riches, so during a routine access (such as depositing loot), he ensures that nobody is around at the time, and has the doors close while he is inside. Then he picks up everything, and uses Recall to teleport out with the loot, to an already prepared remote location, from which he has the supplies prepared to get the final treasure and then leave for good. Up until the player got involved, there was nobody competent enough to threaten his schemes, so he was content to sit around for years, living richly, gaining ever more wealth before actually leaving.

      • Gordon says:

        …except he thought he had killed the player already, so why would he then go on to disrupt his plans and cushy constant income after it looked like the status quo had been maintained?

        • thebigJ_A says:

          This was actually my biggest problem with the story.

          He thinks he’s killed the player, and Karliah is on the lamb like she’s been for years, with, as far as he knows, no proof she’s not who he’s always claimed.

          Why didn’t he go back to the guild, pump up everyone with news that “our old foe has returned” or somesuch nonsense, and hole up?

          Hell, it could even have made for a good quest, using the appropriate skillset. Break into the guild itself, while your own fellow members are on guard against you, and find evidence for Mercer’s corruption. The ledger on his desk ought to do it. It’d fit with the nonlethal approach the guild favors, as well. You don’t want to murder the people you’re trying to sway to your side, after all.

  7. Captain Pandabear says:

    Shamus hasn’t even gotten to the world part yet, sadly.

    Selling your soul for a suit of armor and a promise of, well, nothing. Nothing at all.

    Not only that, but you can take the armor and run without selling your soul, so there is even less motivation to do so. Other than the fact that there is no way to object or decline without bringing the entire quest line to a halt there is no reason at all a sane person would actually agree to do that.

    • Piflik says:

      Same goes for the Werewolf thing with the Companions. Another stupid story. You’re a member for seconds and you’re invited into the circle.

      • Klay F. says:

        I am more tolerant of the Companions thing you mention, simply because before you are even inducted as a member, if you talk to other members such as Aela, they all mention their leader’s innate ability to look at people and immediately surmise their potential. In a game-world with magic, vampires, and werewolves, its not that far-fetched.

        • AyeGill says:

          You can even read Kodlak Whitemane’s diary, in which he notes that before you showed up, he had a dream where you and him fight a giant wolf side by side (there’s some other important werewolf/hircine symbolism in there, but the point is, he had premonitions about you)

          • Roll-a-Die says:

            Barring the fact that he mentioned that to NO ONE, he even says so in the journal, it was only written in his journal.

            It was Aela, and the other dudes decision to go BEHIND Kodlaks back and make you a werewolf inducting you into the circle..

      • rrgg says:

        I sort of got the sense that they wanted to offer the position to you so that you wont spill their secret, but that’s kind of spoiled by the fact that you can’t actually tell anyone and in fact the game doesn’t let you be opposed to the idea of being a werewolf in the first place.

        • WJS says:

          That’s the over-arching problem, isn’t it? The writers come up with something they think is awesome, and it never occurs to them (or they just reject it) that you, the player, might not agree with them. Stop thinking for yourself and play our cool story!

    • AyeGill says:

      I’m pretty sure, since the Dovahkiin has a dragon soul, he just gets reincarnated(or maybe returned to Akatosh). Problem, Daedra?

      • Gamer says:

        Well, the Daedra can’t lay claim to his/her soul. The Divines (besides Akatosh) can’t really do that either.

        However, Padoway (what the Dark Brotherhood calls Sithis) and Anu are above the Divines and Daedra. Padoway created the daedra and is the force of change. Anu created the Divines and is the force who maintains the world and prefers to keep things the same. These to deities lay claim over all overs. Since the Dovahkin gives his soul to Padoway (Sithis) in the Dark Brotherhood, that’s who gets it.

        The Elder Scrolls has quite a fascinating lore behind it.

        • Roll-a-Die says:

          Except that the heroes of all elder scrolls games have a legend behind them, and are all reincarnated endlessly as the Unknown Heroes. The heroes who go down in legend for being legends, but are ultimately quickly forgotten or disregarded after they lay out their great change. The Nerevarine, walked out and into Akavir for some unknown reason, likely seeking the Way of the Chim as was taught to you by Vehk. Great change incited, united a people against a rather philosophical and sympathetic rebel, while being used to take part in a grand revenge scheme, and you should really play it and the expansions, it’s really the best written of the elder scrolls games.

          Daggerfall, you reunite a nation and are quickly forgotten about, most likely dying during the great change you incite. Great Change incited, forged nations and reforged the Dwemer Numidium golem, one of their early attempts at god forging.

          Oblivion, you become Sheogorath, and thus become caught into that persona, likely for eternity. That is your new identity, you are the god of madness, no longer the champion of Cyrodiil. Great change incited, saved the empire from the forces of a demon worshipping mad man, allowed Martin Septim to follow along the path of his forefather and mantle Akatosh bringing stability to the realm. Then became the god of a Deadric realm through mantling(The process of walking as a god, to become like that god. As opposed to the Chim, which is the gradual realization that you are the universe and the universe is you.)

          Arena, it’s implied that you become a trusted member of the blades and then die protecting the Emperor shortly before Daggerfall. Great Change incited, saved the empire from the hands of a demon worshipping mad man.

      • Irridium says:

        Yeah, it’s gonna be fun when Dovahkiin finally bites it. I like to think everyone will just throw up their hands and go “fuck it” and let me go to Sovrenguard (I can never spell this damn word right) in piece.

    • CTrees says:

      What’s fun is selling your soul to MULTIPLE Daedra. Both the Theives Guild and the Dark Brotherhood require it, and as sneaky, criminal types, there’s a fair chance most players who join one will join the other.

      Don’t remember, offhand, if you can sell your soul to any others, but you definitely can become the “champion” of sixteen or seventeen different, competing, mutually exclusive daedric gods. Honestly by the time I was collecting all the daedric artifacts, I was paying much less attention to their fluff (except for Clavicus Vile and Sheogorath – those were fun).

      • Jeff R. says:

        Becoming and staying a Werewolf gives Hircine a tight claim on your afterlife, so that’s at least three.

      • Hitch says:

        “Selling your soul to multiple Daedra….” That’s the Tamrielic version of the John Constantine cure for cancer.

        That’s why the player character is effectively immortal always getting a reload after “death.”

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      If only selling your soul had any impact.But seeing how it doesnt,it seems you are the one doing a scheme on everyone.

      Oh,and like someone mentioned earlier:Seeing how you are collecting all the dragon souls,maybe its them that you are selling.

    • Jeff R. says:

      It’s not _exactly_ selling your soul, here. It’s agreeing to an indeterminate period of post-death labor, the terms of satisfaction being entirely at Nocturnal’s whim, so it could theoretically be an eternal deal, but you actually see her release someone from that service (under conditions that could be regarded as premature, in point of facts), so she’s probably not going to be a total dick about it. As long as nightingales get induced and die in office at a fairly regular rate, it’s probably just a couple decades of spectral guard duty you’re going in for…

  8. Aulayan says:

    The more I think of this, the more I view this story as possibly Stupid Due to Voice Acting.

    They write it up, they get the voice actors to do their parts…and then the story is over. At this point, if play testers, or the writers or anyone in development goes over the story again and goes “You know…there are parts that don’t make sense,” they can’t actually fix it. Back in the old days, you would write new lines (Or re-write) and put it in and bam, you’re good. Now, you’d have to get the voice actor back for just a few minutes of work? Good luck on that, it won’t happen.

    So yes. Voice Acting in the RPG? Makes it very very hard to be a writer on a deadline.

    • Raygereio says:

      No, VA is not even remotely the cause of this.
      Saying that moves away blame from the true villains – the writing department – to the project managment.

      It’s shitty writing. Pure and simple. I’ll grant you can more often then not when you write something you yourself can’t see the flaws in it until you’ve put it down for a day or two. However that excuse doesn’t fly here: there should have been editors, other writers could have proofread. More importantly; these are issues that shouldn’t even have existed in the first place. Shamus’ description doesn’t read like the product of a rought first draft. There are constructial problems – ranging from gaps in logic to failure at presentation – in this plot that any writer who’s even remotely competent and who cared about what (s)he’s doing wouldn’t even have come up with.

      • Gamer says:

        Also, they had quite a while to finish the game, even with the 11/11/11 deadline they set for themselves. They really need to hire at least one guy whose job is to just check for plot holes and continuity.

        I say this, but I know I’m going to buy their next game regardless.

        • WJS says:

          I’m not sure I am. I played Morrowind and Oblivion way more than Skyrim, and I replayed them much more recently too. Skyrim really has very little going for it, and it would take a massive reversing of course (like, hearing about how awesome TES-VI is from people who hated Skyrim) for me to bother.

      • Jeff says:

        These are probably the same writers who wrote FO3’s main quest. A few minutes on Google finding out how easy it is to filter radiation from water when they started writing would have made for a less stupid story.

        Fallout 1, 2, and NV had their MacGuffins based on science fiction (Essential “water chip”? GECK?), as opposed to incorrect science fact.

        • decius says:

          It’s flatly impossible to ‘filter’ radiation from water. If you meant “Remove radioactive contamination from water”, that’s a different story. Just use whatever method you are already using to remove the heavy metals from it. Distillation works well, with the added benefit of sterilizing.

          Many other failures of radiation are also in there- FO1/2 got around the worst of them by not showing the player the mechanics of how radiation played out. As long as you took your pills before the glow and didn’t play too much chess, you were fine.

          • Jeff says:

            Indeed, that’s the point. The writers never even bothered to find out how radiation works. That’s fine if you don’t hinge your entire storyline about how radiation works.

            • decius says:

              The storyline works fine if you fudge the science a lot. Make up some treknobabble about why the food and water is gradually and cumulatively harmful, but hasn’t already killed everyone. Perhaps some kind of mutation resulting in every surviving plant everywhere producing a toxin that killed off the new agricultural superpest. Make all the pre-war food poison-free, giving it a reason to be valued (but not present-set it 30 years after the war for that). The plants contaminate the water, and the toxin is gradually absorbed through the skin by contact, explaining why swimming is hazardous, but being in a boat above the river is safe. (Distance from a plane source does not attenuate the dosage; only getting far enough from the plane source that it is no longer a plane source does.)

              Or write a better story.

        • Raygereio says:

          FO3’s problems were many, but it’s plot premise really wasn’t one of them.
          There really isn’t any problem with basing your story around the fact that water is hard to purify. The Fallout universe is not hard sci-fi afterall.

  9. Tobias says:

    I never went further on this quest then barely becoming a member. Because I thought it was needed to find that Blades guy in the ratways.

    The thing I hate the most about the thieves guild is that there is no alternative.
    If there was any alternative ways of doing this, I would forgive a lot of the stupidity. Because I hated everyone in the Guild from the moment we met. They are assholes and idiots, every one of their problems is clearly their own fault. And they have plot armor.

    Here is how I would improve riften:
    1) Have the jarl offer a questline to kill the thieves guild.
    2) Have Karliah hit you up with an offer to destroy/take over the thieves guild.

    btw. I still don’t know if you need to be in the guild to fence stuff. The wiki says so, but I seem to remember selling stolen stuff to the kilrathi or the college guy.

  10. There’s a perk that lets you copy any key the moment you pick it’s lock. It’s a high level lockpicking perk, but not maximum level and we’re lead to believe Mercer is a better lockpick than anyone ever. So why is it a surprise he can pick locks or copy keys? That’s a known skill, one that the guild members presumably use often. So is pickpocketing which he – as a nightingale superthief would probably also be good at, so again – how is his obtaining a key surprising?

    And I can’t get over how they’re so shocked at being robbed, BY THE GUY RUNNING THE THIEVES GUILD. If he was an honest, hard working man, he wouldn’t be RUNNING THE THIEVES GUILD.

    And for that matter, Gallus knew they were being robbed 25 years ago, and never thought to hint to anyone? Retrieving money from debtors was the first thing you did as a guild member, did they not put it in the vault? I assume it’s to pay for expenses such as fixing up their sewer, or funding large scale heists so that might be a good reason why they had a vault, but not why they didn’t make both locks more than one arms’ length apart, and require that they be turned simultaneously.

    Or, given mages should be highly valued members of the guild – namely alchemists, illusionists, alterationers or conjurers, why aren’t there more mages in the guild? shouldn’t they be capable of devising a better lock system? I mean, isn’t muffle or invisibility or even calm invaluable to a thief? I certainly used them frequently so why is everyone in the guild a rogue? The dark brotherhood had a mage and an alchemist, both of whom were awesome.

    Why don’t RPGs have an action/stealth axis and a magic/technology axis in terms of character building rather than shoehorning magic into a third slot where it’s a viable tactic in both roles?

    Going back to the main plot – why would Mercer need to write down his plans to go for the Eyes of the Falmer? it’s a simple dungeon crawl the kind Dovahkiin goes on all the time and he never bothers writing it down. There’s no planning to be done or guards to bribe or watch schedules to record infiltration routes to plan – just a couple of giant gems in a cave.

  11. ACman says:

    Wow, that’s even worse than I had imagined.

    I smelt the stink off this plot from the start. The retarded “Hey stranger! Steal a ring and frame that guy” intro to the guild was dumb.

    And then I got the whole protection racket style aspect of the next missions. It’s less a thieves guild than a mafia run by Maven Black Brier.

    But I never thought it would be this awful. I mean the Forsworn Conspiracy felt incomplete. Like they didn’t have time to finish all the plot lines they wanted for tit so they just threw together the one and said “fuck it, that’ll do, ship it” whereas this is fucking stupid.

    I wanted mission where you broke into a bank and swipe all the moneys. Or into a museum and swipe all the art.
    Or into a wizards tower and swipe the magic thing.

    • Nimas says:

      “I smelt the stink off this plot from the start.”

      Heh, now I have this image in my head of the PC walking up to a guy, knocking him out and dragging him to a forge ;)

  12. AlternatePFG says:

    Please tell me you’re doing more than just this questline, because there were a lot of quests in the game with writing just as terrible and I enjoy the critique.

  13. Captain Pandabear says:

    Have to nitpick this paragraph: “I’m sorry guys, but if he made off with that much bling all at once without you noticing, then you deserved it. In fact, your anger strikes me as being really, really hypocritical. We’re all thieves here. We know how this works. You guys just suck.”

    Historically, the Thieves Guild had very firm rules in place against stealing from one another. The entire point of a guild of thieves in the first place is to have structure and honor among one another for common gain. The master of the Thieves Guild doing what Mercer did is historically unprecedented. Usually to get to the position of guild master one would have to actually believe in the tenets of the guild.

    The idea is that Mercer, the leader of the Thieves Guild, not only decided to disregard the rules of the guild, he took a long, healthy piss on them.

    Claiming that all of the thieves in the guild who are angry that their guild master robbed them blind ‘just suck’ isn’t a fair assessment. It isn’t the job of a rank-and-file cutpurse to worry about the guild’s stash of gold, there should be higher ranked people taking care of that. The only ones at fault are the lieutenants Delvin and Brynjolf, who really slacked on their duties.

    • ACman says:

      That still doesn’t answer why this apparently impoverished thieves guild had over a dozen chests of golden treasure.

      • Captain Pandabear says:

        “Impoverished” is a relative term. If Microsoft suddenly went from their current wealth to only a few million in the bank, they would be considered “Impoverished”. The Thieves Guild was once extremely wealthy and powerful, and they had their influence slowly cut down to one base in one city with one vault of treasure.
        The one last stash of wealth they had to rely on was gone, and they realized that they were now broke.

        • ACman says:

          But by the games standard though this looks like it is the single largest pile of loot in all of Skyrim (Unless you can think of another room with several chests full of loot.) indicating that they had some serious financial capital that they simply weren’t using.

          And Maven Black Brier is supposed to be a member and she seems to be the “Mister Burns” of Riften.

          They’re an “impoverished” organisation with bags of gold and plutocrat members that hides out in the sewer . It doesn’t make sense.

          • Captain Pandabear says:

            I have to admit that I cannot think of an example of a larger treasure room off the top of my head.

            • Jeff says:

              I don’t think “chests of loot” is a good unit of measure. The Dragonborn has almost a hundred chests of loot, but some of them only have calipers or something. Not to mention the eyes are like 5000 each, but my Dragonborn was wearing gear that was individually higher value than that.

              I only did the Dark Brotherhood before the Thieves Guild, too!

          • AyeGill says:

            Maven isn’t a member, she’s just their most important customer and backer. Although with customers like that, they should still be able to do pretty well, unless they’re singularly incompetent. Which they are, so i guess that part makes sense.

      • acronix says:

        I like to think they were using it one coin at a time to buy drinks for their sewer tavern that most likely makes 0 profit since the only ones there are guildmembers..

  14. Sucal says:

    I’ve never understood why we have to follow Mercer in the first place. Why don’t we and the rest of the guild simply wait just outside the entrance to falmer eye place, and simply pepper the bastard with Arrows when he leaves. I mean, really its always easier to just shoot the guy, especially if hes meant to be such an leasing threat.

    Especially considering the next quest, but that’s spoilers for tomorrow.

    • acronix says:

      That´s a sound plan, but a lot of dungeons in Skyrim have a secondary access (or, more exactly, a secondary exit). Ussually this exit just drops you back near the entrance, being blocked from the other side or unreacheable when you first get there. However, in other cases, this access leads to an outside exit, concealed or obscure.

      So the solution is to send a group to track him inside AND have another bunch of people guarding the entrance.

      • Sucal says:

        I mean, we barely even need the tracking group, considering we ‘KNOW’ exactly where he is going. It would be closer to a beater group then anything else. Though of course, I’m making this point from what we knew at this stage of the quest, not what we know about AFTER the quest (after all, sending a large group after mercer would be a bad idea as Kaliah knows..)

        Actually, now that I think about it, that’s another reason why Kaliah might have shot the dovakin in yesterdays episode. Namely, she knows how he as the only one who has a certain Agent (trying to avoid spoilers) meaning she literally HAD to remove someone out of the picture otherwise her 10% chance of getting away from mercer then would have turned into a 0% chance.

  15. Grudgeal says:

    Well it’s not like the game engine ever shows it if *you* run around with enough looted swords, armour and assorted other equipment in your backpack to arm a small legion of melee infantry (apart from the movement penalty). Why should NPCs be held to a standard you’re not?

    • Scott (Duneyrr) says:

      Also, money has no size and no weight when it’s in an inventory.

      • AyeGill says:

        Also, if you’re hidden while picking the lock to open a door, opening it doesn’t make people detect you.

        Really, while i see Shamus’ point, this particular scene makes perfect sense if you go by Skyrim Rules and not Real Life Rules

      • Moriarty says:

        haha, somehow that makes me think if Mercer jumping into a big pile of gold Scrooge McDuck style, while sucking everything up like a sponge as he dives through it.

    • tengokujin says:

      In fact… if you reverse-pickpocket enough items on to an NPC… I need to try this when I get the chance. I want to see if I can weigh down an NPC with excess stuff.

  16. Phoenix says:

    I’m waiting for the next part, that’s where I stopped following the guild questline (they’re still waiting for me ^^;).

  17. Captain Pandabear says:

    Again I must nitpick your nitpick, Shamus:
    ” And what’s all this for? Why would the guild pile up riches in some common pot? Is this some kind of hippie communist Thieves Guild, where everyone shares? Why don’t they just split the loot between themselves? I doubt they have to worry about paying property taxes on their sewer-base.”

    The Thieves Guild is a business, it makes sense they would need income to keep it running. I doubt it’s so much “sharing” as guild dues being charged to members. They don’t have to pay property taxes on their sewer-base, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have any overhead costs.
    To list just a few, using only examples actually established in the game:

    1. Bribing high ranking officials, such as the Jarl’s steward in Riften. Once the guild starts to expand, it’s safe to assume you either have to continue to pay the officials in each city for their allegiance or do their bidding. Doing their bidding requires employees, who in turn require payment.

    2. Getting guards to look the other way. It only makes sense that paying every guard in the city to look the other way for a member of the guild would be costly. Really costly. They’re putting their livelihoods on the line, after all.

    3. Fences. Though they likely do take a cut of the goods that pass through their hands, moving hot property is risky work that I doubt they do for free.

    4. Bodyguards. Dirge and Maul seem to have no purpose outside of grunting threateningly at new members of the guild. I’m betting they aren’t going to grunt at people for free.

    5. Training facilities. Though small, the cost of maintaining the lockpicking room wouldn’t be free. They likely have to pay the maid to clean the arrows out of the target dummy, and what do they do when one target dummy is battered beyond repair? I’m betting they have to buy another. That’s more gold out of pocket.

    Though now that I’m thinking of it, what I’m saying brings up another problem. If the gold has to constantly flow in and out of the vault to keep the guild -running-, how in the hell didn’t anyone notice this? Did the aforementioned people just not care that they were being paid in pocket lint and IOUs?

    • Tse says:

      I would suggest that maybe it was his job to take care of the money, but the two keys negate that explanation. Top notch job, Bethesda writers!

    • Jeff says:

      …you posted what I wanted to post! Except better and longer.

      I was surprised to read Shamus be surprised that a guild or organization of any sort has a pool of funds. Even in real life, organized crime groups have pools of funds.

      One of the benefits of being in an organization is not having to be individually prepared – rather than everyone keeping 100 gold (for example) on hand for bail, the group as a whole can just keep enough to bail a certain amount of people.

      • Wide And Nerdy says:

        Yeah, this is really the one point I disagree with Shamus on. Even if I don’t stop and try to figure out for myself what the guild needs a shared treasure pile for, I intuitively trust the guild must be a value proposition or else I’d just be out stealing for myself (and indeed, if nothing else, they find your jobs for you and provide you a fence)and that to maintain that must cost them something.

        At first blush, that makes it all the more absurd that Mercer could have gotten away with this but actually the fact that they would have to be in and out of the vault all the time works in his favor. He could skim here and there without being noticed and remember one of their Radiant Quests is forging people’s ledgers so that other Thieves can steal without it even being noticed and we see Mercer standing over the Guild books several times. Still doesn’t explain why everybody was shocked to see the vault empty. They should have known the treasure wasn’t piling up. So I had a little inverse story collapse here for a moment before it imploded again.

        They were so close to being able to make this all work. If they weren’t clearly publishing their rough draft, they would have had it.

  18. Alex says:

    Maybe he stole the loot in his pants, a little bit at a time, Shawshank-style?

    Actually, you know what? Screw being the Devil’s Advocate, that’s just an idiotic scenario from top to bottom.

  19. Airsoft says:

    While this storyline has huge plot holes, you can argue that Mercer’s magical lock picking ability is all down to the skeleton key.

    • Gamer says:

      Oh yeah. They explain explain Mercer’s ability.

      It’s just the contrivances before that that need explaining.

    • Destrustor says:

      I disagree: I’m pretty sure the game would never let the player do that, even with 100 lockpicking AND the skeleton key. To me, Mercer opening these locks in total impunity, while flaunting how “easy” and “simple” it is just felt like a slap to the player’s face from bethesda.
      “Na na na na na, nah, you know those plot doors everywhere? they can be opened by ANYONE… except you!”

  20. Dys says:

    Ok, so a few things.

    Yes, the guild needs a vault to house monies owned by ‘the guild’ rather than individual members. The three highest ranking guild members have access to the guild vault and it takes two of them to open the door. Assuming you accept the statement that it takes two of them to open the door, it’s reasonable for them to be shocked that it has apparently been opened by Mercer alone.

    The thing about stealing from thieves is that it’s very hard to do. It’s like tricking a professional illusionist. I imagine that both Delvin and Brynjolf would be hard to pickpocket, but I’ve never actually tried. Even if you could steal the keys it makes sense to assume that one person can’t use two keys, again thieves should know how to design locks. It should not be possible for one man to open a door designed by thieves to only be openable by two.

    We don’t actually know how much stuff was in the vault prior to Mercer cleaning it out. There’s certainly space in there for serious wealth, but given the guild’s current status it makes sense to assume that it wasn’t exactly bulging. It’s been pointed out that stuff must be moving in and out the vault on a relatively regular basis, presumably whenever the player isn’t around to see it. In that case, everyone in the cistern must be used to the door being opened whenever the top three need to deposit or withdraw. That being the case the only ‘unusual’ thing would be Mercer going in alone, and he’s the guildmaster. I can see it being possible for him to just walk up with a sack of rocks and walk out again with a sack of gold, representing the sum total of the impoverished guild’s current worth. What I want to know is where the hell that wealth ended up. You certainly don’t get it back from Mercer.

    The whole thing with the ‘evidence’ was blatantly stupid, however.

    Mercer’s house pissed me off more than anything else. Plot doors on all sides, a guard carrying a key which opens NOTHING, and since they can’t actually make it difficult to get in, a trivially easy entrance that only works if you know about it and resembles nothing else in the entire game. I understand that the whole thing is meant to hype the power of the macguffin, but in terms of gameplay it was really horrible.

    • Gamer says:

      I hated the Mercer’s house quest. I talked to Maven in order to get the guard out of the way (by erasing his debts). Then she decided to give me a fetch quest.
      I said yes then promptly went off to kill Mercer’s guard because fuck him and his stupid fetch-quest. I was disappointed in how easily he died.

      (Side Note: You can actually pickpocket from everybody. I did. It’s very easy, especially when you have a Pickpocket skill above 50. Of course, that was because my character was an ass who stole everything that was worth more than 10 gold and any arrows anybody had.)

      • tengokujin says:

        What’s worse is that even if you pickpocketed the house keys from the guard unnoticed, he still attacks you when you come to him with his debt forgivence. So I had to kill him, unnoticed, so that I wouldn’t get a bounty. (He doesn’t register as a typical hostile to the guards)

        • Hitch says:

          You can accidentally aggro Mercer’s house guard then run around the building. He’ll come after you and get shot down by the town guards and you can loot him without ever fighting him or risking getting in any trouble.

      • Myu says:

        My encounter with Vald was the most hysterical thing that has happened to me in the game so far. I talked to Maven, did the completely unrelated fetch quest, was totally ready to relieve this dude of his debt, etc. Except, when I went to shoot the mechanism that lowers the secret ramp-whatever, I accidentally attacked with magic instead of an arrow. So, as I’m rearranging my shortcuts/inventory, I hear commotion around me and turn just in time to see the passerby Ingun Black-Briar stick a blade under Vald’s ribs, because he had been advancing in my direction with a brandished weapon.

        I think I laughed for five minutes straight.

    • I got a ton of sneak training from Delvin and just pickpocketed all my gold back in between, he wasn’t appreciably harder to rob than any other given NPC.

      • thebigJ_A says:

        They didn’t code him to be harder. I’m not sure there’s even any mechanic in the game for one npc to be harder/easier to pickpocket. it’s all dependent on value/weight/skill/perks.

        But it’s safe to assume for the sake of the narrative that, as professional thieves, they’d be harder to pilfer from.

        Dys pointed out most of the holes that aren’t really holes very well, I think.

  21. CalDazar says:

    And then you sell your soul, for powers to stop Mercer, that you can only get after defeating Mercer.

    That is where I got pissed, things were not making much sense but I wasn’t being jerked around any more than the NPC’s. Now I was worse off than some lines of code, screw that noise.

    I like how you sell your soul to every other Daedra though. The best part is that being Dragonborn you have a dragons soul, so nobody has claim on you.

    • Gamer says:

      Well, at least the armor is the best looking armor in the entire game.

      I was under the impression that the point of the Nightingale blessing was to restore your luck so that things went your way against Mercer. Still, selling your soul seems like a pretty steep price when your character has nothing to gain by perusing this. I guess at this point, the game has decided that you care about the guild.

      • CheddarTheKnight says:

        I sold my soul to almost every daedra, so I must assume that at this point I’m using stolen dragon’s souls as the most interesting IOU ever.

      • Jeff says:

        I joined the Nightingales so I could be Fantasy Batman, true story.

      • thebigJ_A says:

        Not if you’re a Khajiit, it isn’t.

        My tail sticks straight through the middle of the cape. It’s absurd! You’d think they’d make sure the ultimate thief armor would at the very least work on the primary thief race!

        • Destrustor says:

          It’s a problem with the tail itself. They already had to design every piece of apparel for both male and female models, as well as having tons of different clothes and armor. Adapting to tails would have almost doubled their workload for the measly benefit of having better aesthetics on 20% of characters.
          They opted for the easier, “your tail is a ghost that follows you around” solution.
          It sucks but it’s still better than being told “your race can’t wear this because there’s no tailhole”.

  22. Athatar says:

    For me the empty vault was even less of a suprise.

    About the second or third time I entered the guild hall I spotted someone exiting the vault. Up to now that had just been a door that could not be opened. The door was now wide open and I though nothing of it to enter as I belived the door had opened now I was a full member. The vault was compleatly empty and I thought it was there to show how the guild was broke. I was under the impression that as you compleated missions the vault would fill with riches and you could see the guild build to its former glory.

    It wasn’t until the part described above, the “oh no, the vault is empty” part, that I relised that the vault wasn’t meant to be open and the game had bugged out, locked a character in the vault, and thus had to let them out spoil the “big” supprise. Also, the conversation about Mercer stealing from the vault being a suprsise made no sense to me as, in my game, anyone could just walk in.

  23. Daemian Lucifer says:

    There is a simple explanation as to how he plundered everything:He crouched when opening the door,so no one saw him enter.He then stuffed everything in his inventory,and slowly dragged it out,because being encumbered only slows you down,but doesnt hinder your sneak(if you dont wear any of it).Its a boring walk,but doable one.

  24. Moriarty says:

    I don’t think the unopenable door is that much of a stretch. We see the door being opened by two people using two keys while standing quite a distance apart. I’m no expert on lockpicking but theres no reason to assume the door really is impossible to open without the original keys.

    I mean we’re talking about a guild of locksmiths here, even without explanation I’d believe they’d be able to create such a lock. Maybe the three keys are different but designed in such a way that two of them in combination always form the desired mechanism?

    Anyway, while the rest of this part is stupid indeed, the plotpoint of Mercer getting through that door seems pretty acceptable to me.

  25. braincraft says:

    The best part of all the fuss over the Eyes of the Falmer is that by the time you actually get them yourself, their total sale value is almost certainly much less than your normal walking-around pocket money.

    • Jeff says:

      They were valued at 10,000 total, which got me around 5,000 from my speech at the time. When I got them though, I had about 250,000 in my pockets.

      Devin telling me I could retire when I got them really made me wish the game let me be able to have an appropriate response to that. Just like when Mavin warned me not to cross her by threatening me with her connections to the Dark Brotherhood. I just want to bitch-slap her and be all “You’re threatening to send the Dark Brotherhood after the leader of the Dark Brotherhood, dumbass?”

  26. kmc says:

    “I assume people have been putting treasure INTO the vault? Didn’t they ever notice that the loot was vanishing?”

    Silly Shamus! They didn’t notice it was vanishing because no one in the Thieves’ Guild ever steals anything! I mean, it’s not like they’ve sent you to do it at any point yet…

  27. Nidokoenig says:

    “Before we go after the bad guy, Karliah says we have to follow her. Mercer is a Nightengale(!) so we can’t hope to defeat him without preparation. ”

    Huh. Some problems with this. One, the typo. Two, this guy isn’t a dragon. Three, it just makes using the one and only paralysing arrow on the PC from yesterday even more stupid, because she obviously thinks you’re much less of a threat than Mercer. Nothing wrong with her having a certain impression of you, right or wrong, but it should be consistent, given that there’s been nothing to change that impression or, apparently, not acknowledgement that she has.

    As for having two locks on the door that have to be opened in unison, that makes sense. It’s perfectly reasonable for the Thieves Guild to have a rule that nobody goes into the vault unaccompanied regardless of rank, though summoning something with opposable thumbs or using telekinesis if you have the key, or a spell to open the other lock if you don’t gets past that easily. Haven’t played Skyrim because I’m stuck on an old computer, but I can’t find a reference to an Open spell. Has it been moved out of Alteration or has it actually been cut?

    • Moriarty says:

      Karliah’s assesment of his power changes after she learns he took stuff from the twilight sepucher. Before that he was just a guy, but with the artifacts from in there, she assumes you’re going to need the help.

      Which is not completely untrue, he gets some pretty useful powers in the final fight. Note that he still fails to be any threat with the way the game handles npc invisibility.

      • Destrustor says:

        I just smacked him with a 15-second paralysis poison I had saved up for such an occasion. By the time he got up, he was dead first. He hit me exactly once.

  28. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Shamus,could you please insert a number in the comments to show us when they were made.It gets really hard to hunt down new comments when there is 100+ of them.And looking at the time stamp doesnt make it easier,especially since am and pm share the same numbers.

  29. guy says:

    Argh. What. He cleaned out an entire vault and no one noticed?

    Seriously, what?

    The “two keys” buisness is actually fairly readily explicable unless the opening it animation undermines it. Traditionally, two key vaults require both keys to be turned simultaneously and are positioned such that it is physically impossible for a single person to turn both at once. They’re used for high-security bank vaults and nuclear weapons. So Mercer would have needed an accomplice as well as two keys/lockpicks. Of course, the natural question is not “How did he do this?” but “Who helped him?”

  30. Factoid says:

    I can’t help but think how much most of the logic of this quest chain could be improved by getting rid of the “25 years” part.

    Just make it so it happened about a year or two ago. That’s plenty of time for the thieve’s guild to lose its credibility. And it would make sense why everyone is in their 30s and 40s but somehow was around for all of this when it happened.

    It would make Karliah look less incompetent and it would make Mercer’s theft of the vault a lot more comprehensible.

    • Kana says:

      I think it’s at least Bethesda making progress. I mean, it’s not 200 years or something stupid like that.

      Maybe in the next game or two, someone over there will learn what a reasonable time frame is.

      • Captain Pandabear says:

        Agreed!

        Say what you want about Bethesda, they do at least seem to learn from their mistakes.

      • rofltehcat says:

        Don’t you know? In fantasy settings, things always happen veeeery slowly. So when a hero comes along every 100 or so years, he has to clean up all the mess of everyone else from the last hundred years.

        Also, nothing ever happens when the heros isn’t around. Wolves eating your sheep? Meh, why do anything… after all, a hero will come along eventually.
        This is also a reasonable explanation why most fantasy settings are still stuck in medieval times and have been stuck in there for several thousand years without any meaningful advances. Nobody ever tries to improve their situation out of their own. Or at least noone ever succeeds in it.

  31. Dev Null says:

    I’m sorry guys, but if he made off with that much bling all at once without you noticing, then you deserved it. In fact, your anger strikes me as being really, really hypocritical. We’re all thieves here. We know how this works. You guys just suck.

    And that right there is my biggest problem with the story you’ve laid out so far. Although to be fair, its the same problem I have with every single game with a “Thieves Guild” in it (i.e., every fantasy RPG ever written.) I’m sorry, but this is the _Thieves_ guild; the dude managed to steal from you? Then you should elect him king! Theft, especially in a pseudo-medieval technology level, is not an activity that lends itself to group activity much. Why would you expect this guy to NOT steal from you? Fencing, on the other hand, is all-over organised crime syndicates. There’s no reason for the local crime-boss to involve himself – and implicate himself – in anything as petty as actual theft; he just makes sure he runs the local fence, and takes his cut. And there’s really no reason for thieves to work together, unless a specific job for some reason requires more than one person. And its not like you need a hacker to crack the security system, and a getaway driver.

    I’d love to play a medieval-esque fantasy game just once where every thief in the land isn’t soulbound buddy-brothers by a pact of mutual larceny, and doesn’t instantly gang up on anyone seen to break with that pact.

  32. Doctor Satan says:

    “Brynjolf reads it, and immediately concludes that Karliah is telling the truth.”
    let me see if i can do something from here(instead of just giving destructive criticism). here i’m asssuming brynjolf is the guy from the 1st quest in this ql.

    this is how i would go on:
    brynjolf is the bastard child of gallus. gallus’ figured he was in danger so 2 days before he was kiled he gave a note for his son to his mistress. when he died his son got the letter and he, brynjolf,decides to take revenge.
    he come to riften(the TG’s hideout) and decided to ill mercer(gallus knew it would be mercer who would kill him(mercer was 2nd in command+ some bad blood between gallus and mercer)). but brynjolf realizes mercer is too well protected and decides to wait for his chance. he joins the guild and starts making friends with the other TG members and tries to turn them against mercer.
    meanwhile: karlia runs away after that murder. she roams around for some time and then decides to take revenge. she join the DB so she can kill without a frontal assault(because the others wil protect mercer and she is no match for them). but during her training and life in the Dark Brotherhood she forgets about TG.

    fastforward till 2 weeks before the player reaches skyrim.

    karlia is now very rich(she’s an assassin after all). during ine of the missions she learns of gallus’ diary. she remembers all that had happened 25 years ago… at this point she buys the meadery and all just to get mercer to come to the place where gallus died(symbolic + many places for the now assassin to kill mercer from)
    she did all that because she thought that was the only way mercer would come and expose himself(as in, be without his mates)

    at that exact time you reach brynjolf and the ql starts.

    skip to: “Brynjolf reads it, and immediately concludes that Karliah is telling the truth.”

    at this point most members of TG were on the fence on wether to betray mercer or not. for brynjolf gallus’ note is what he needed so he immediately agreed. now most are on his side.
    then they’ll face mercer and kill him.
    later brynjolf meets you and karlia to discuss what do to next.

    ^^^^here are two things i’m looking at. one is that is semiql is over and now they can move on to a more stealing oriented ql.

    OR… this can be the introduction to the Dark Brotherhood: how?
    in this meeting brynjolf manages to kill karlia and knock you unconscious(surprise!). when you wake up you will be in that abandoned house(you know the 2nd quest is DB ql. where you have to kill one out of 3)
    here that woman can say,
    “When one leaves at will,
    another must join the guil'”(semirhyme :D)
    (karlia was an assassin. after she left she was asked to find a suitable replacement within a fixed amount of time. she chose you(because you happened to meet her at the right time))

    i thought it out in a few minutes so there may be plotholes. do tell me wether it was good or not.

    • Otters34 says:

      Well, the forgetting about it for 25 years thing is a bit of a stretch, but otherwise it looks workable.

    • Dev Null says:

      Yeah, I’d say it works reasonably well… which kind of proves Shamus’ original point; not only are these plotlines ridiculous as-is, but with about 5 minutes thought just about everyone can come up with some minor tweaks in the dialog – that require no other non-dialog changes to the game – which make the whole thing hang together a heckuva lot better.

  33. rrgg says:

    You can tell the guild has fallen on hard times because you need at least 500 gold to buy a mercenary who will remain loyal for life but chests of that size only hold aroud 20-30 gold each. Addionally everyone had gotten together and agreed that they wanted to buy more upgrades from the riften sewer home decorating guide.

  34. Jokerman says:

    The thieves guild was my first of the game – i got it the point just after getting a very useful item then though…fuck it – this quest sucks and now i dont have to give this item that will help me forever back. I screwed the guild over more than Mercer did really – but there very patient so havent noticed yet.

    Maybe thats why everything takes 25 years to get round too.

  35. Matt K says:

    A little off topic, but I finished the MQ and can anyone explain to me why that dragon attacked in the opening? It wasn’t a story collapse moment for me not to see any rationale given (or if it was I missed it) but it definitely bugged me afterwards.

    • rrgg says:

      Its implied that he was trying to free ulfric in order to prolong the war since his primary source of power was devouring the souls of its dead soldiers.

      • acronix says:

        That´s what Delphine, the not-so-awesome-and-not-so-last-Blade suggests, thinking the Thalmor and the dragons are in the same team. It is later revealed that they are not. I´m not sure, but I recall somewhere it´s mentioned that Alduin was trying to kill the dragonborn after awakening/materializing.
        Except, he didn´t know who was the dragonborn, so he proceeds to burn the whole place down. After patting himself in the scales for doing such a good job, he then proceeeds to revive his buddies.

        Of course, it is never reveleaded or lampshaded why he doesn´t try to kill you again once it´s obvious you weren´t killed on Helgen, so there´s some stupidity involved.

        • Tse says:

          It is possible that by prolonging the war he was buying much needed time to grow stronger and gather his armies.

        • rrgg says:

          Buy the way spoilers

          I highly doubt he knows you are dragonborn at the beginning. Delphine thinks it’s the thalmor at first but alduin is trying to prolong the war of his own accord so that more souls are sent into his soul snare in sovengarde

          • acronix says:

            Deslphine doesn´t deserve spoilers!

            Wouldn´t attacking Helgen to free Ulfric mean Alduin has spies or humanoid allies? Otherwise, I don´t know how he could discover that Ulfric was the leader of one faction considering that he was fastforwarded to the present thanks to the accions of the trio of heros that banished him. And if he does have spies or humanoid allies, they are never mentioned (besides the draugr, who couldn´t work as spies nor scouts since they never leave their burial grounds)..

            • thebigJ_A says:

              He calls himself the first-born of Akatosh, so he’s essentially a demi-god. He’s at least as powerful as a Daedric Prince, and they have a good idea of things going on in the world without being completely omniscient.

              It’s not hard to believe he’d know the dragonborn had arrived in Skyrim, without knowing exactly who it was.

    • guy says:

      He wanted to kill the Dragonborn but was unable to distinguish him from the sundry other dudes.

    • Vect says:

      I just thought that it was Alduin trying to kill the Dragonborn preemptively.

    • Piflik says:

      Pure chance? He just arrived there (or rather then), was confused and angry and just attacked the first settlement he came across.

  36. Amanda says:

    Everything about the translated journal evidence makes no sense, but, if I’m remembering right, there’s actually a tunnel that leads directly from Mercer’s house in to the Guild vault. It’s a one-way drop for the player, but, if Mercer had, say, a rope ladder, he wouldn’t have ever had to break in to the guild vault to get any loot out of it. That explains it a little? Though then it makes no sense why he needed the magic key so never mind.

  37. Eric says:

    I want to say something else, but I really just can’t.

    This isn’t “the bad part.” The entire game is full of this stuff. It’s just that bad, consistently. I realize that at Bethesda, fun takes priority over details like making sense, but it’s like nobody even bothers to review or proofread this stuff before it goes into full production. Is it really that hard to get a reasonably bright intern or something to look over it? Call me, Bethesda.

    • Vect says:

      I think I understand it now…

      Bethesda’s specialty is making a world that is relatively fun and interesting to explore. Plot is not their specialty, with the lore being somewhat pedantic to learn of. The Elder Scrolls is not a world for brilliant writing. It’s a world that’s just fun to go and fuck around in.

      • Eric says:

        Kind of. Arena, Daggerfall and Morrowind all had competent writing and excellent lore, although some contend that Morrowind changed too much from Daggerfall. It was only during/after Morrowind and its success on the Xbox that Bethesda began to spend a lot less time in building compelling sandbox worlds and game mechanics, and a lot more on adding gimmicky features and more and more detailed visuals.

        Of course, a lot of people loved Bethesda games for that “fucking around” quality they have, and that’s totally fine, but instead of making games where that was only one aspect of gameplay, the “fucking around” became their sole focus, to the exclusion and expense of everything else, be that a coherent game world.

        Granted, the Elder Scrolls series has never been a shining jewel of narrative, and its game mechanics have always been pretty poorly balanced, but Bethesda’s design philosophy in recent years has been effectively to cut away significant chunks of gameplay, tart up their old engine which was dated even back in 2002, and hold up the end product as innovative. Who gives a shit if you make good games or not… with Zenimax’s lawyers and marketing department, you can bully the press into whatever realms of hyperbole you desire.

  38. thebigJ_A says:

    I didn’t agree with most of the complaints in the first of these, but right about here is where I, too, started to have problems. The 25 years thing was the worst offender. Karliah’s an elf, so 25 years isn’t too long for her, but since most everyone else is human, it falls on its face.

    I took the cleaned-out treasury to mean he had JUST cleaned it out, which is why no one noticed till now. It doesn’t explain how he got it out of there, though. (He does have the magic mcguffin of deus ex machina, though. Maybe he used that?)

    I thought the game said there were three keys, and you needed two of them together to open the vault, kind of like those old Cold War movies with the launch keys for nukes. So, there’s three identical keys and two are used at any one time. But yes, since Mercer had one, they should not at all have been surprised he could get in.

    I also think the story was implying Mercer was going for the eyes now because he’d use them to fund his escape. But he just cleared out a vault, so… There being a vault with money in it at all isn’t a problem, though. Even a struggling guild present in only one city is going to have significant expenses. It was the money they worked with, rather than a hoard just sitting there. (And considering how much the player finds in chests, those seven probably had a total of like 200 gold in them! ;p).

    All I’m saying is, yeah there are some plot holes, even some egregious ones, but not everything being listed is, in fact, a plot-hole.

  39. Destrustor says:

    I actually breezed through this questline, never questioning it. Your rant-nalysis made me realise just how dumb this was. you should definitely take a look at the dark brotherhood, because that one managed to suffer plot collapse for me. It started with the listener’s passphrase bullshit, and I ended up appaled by the whole questline in hindsight.

    To clarify: (also spoilers, whatever) you end up becoming the listener, and to prove it, the night mother gives you a password to tell the other brotherhood dudes. Cicero’s journals mention that only the listener knows this password in the entire guild.
    Then how is it a password? How can anyone recognise it as such? If everyone knows it, what makes you special for saying it?
    It would have been better to have some kind of item or some such that only the listener can wear, because then it could fill the two most important roles of a proof of exclusivity:
    1: everyone knows about it, and
    2: only one dude can use it.
    When applied to a string of common words, these two qualities are mutualy exclusive.
    At that point, the dark brotherhood plot fell apart for me.

    • thebigJ_A says:

      No, you tell it to Cicero, and he knows it because he’s the Keeper. The others more or less take his word for it. (Less, in the case of Astrid, for instance).

      It never says NOBODY knows. It’s something only very very few people would know, like the Keeper, or perhaps the Speakers back when the old ways were still followed.

      In his journal, he talks about how, as his last family collapsed, one of the members tried pretending to be the Listener. He didn’t know the words when Cicero asked him, though, so Cicero killed him for his blasphemy.

      Unrelated: Who else noticed the awesome bit at the end of Cicero’s first journal? He kills the Grand Champion of the Arena: “I ultimately decided to pose as a starstruck fan, and immediately got into the Grand Champion’s good graces. While escorting the arrogant fool through the Great Forest, I slashed his throat and left the corpse for the bears.”

      He’s the Adoring Fan!! I knew that little creep freaked me out for some reason.

      • Aldowyn says:

        Yeah, an obvious reference, though 170 years or so later. I found it particularly creepy how he assumed the persona of his last victim. Those jounals were… Quite interesting.

    • guy says:

      It’s written down in the Dark Brotherhood secret archives. Cicero is the only person who read what it was written in, and the Night Mother tells Listeners who need to convince Keepers of their identity.

  40. Cain says:

    I assumed they kept a vault of gold around to have the money needed to grease palms, commission enchanted uniforms, lure shopkeepers into the sewers, pay the guild master their special share, etc. Could have probably done with a single chest though, a whole vault is a bit extravagant.

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