Skyrim EP13: Escape Guard

By Shamus
on Mar 5, 2014
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning


Link (YouTube)

There’s usually a tradeoff in player agency. The more freedom you have, the less detailed the story. Minecraft offers freedom to go anywhere, kill anything, build whatever you want, but has no story”Maybe go kill the Ender Dragon if you want” does NOT count as a story in this discussion.. Tomb Raider has lots of story, characters, and dialog, but almost no freedom. Quests like the Bard’s College or the Mage’s College have this strange thing where you kind of have the worst of both worlds. The story is mostly generic “go to X, and kill Y or retrieve Z”. But then the mechanics are set up to keep you from breaking these boring and uninteresting quests. A majority of the NPC’s are invulnerable, the dialog is perfunctory, the story is bare-bones, and there’s usually no overarching theme or idea. It’s just a series of stuff to do.

If the quests are going to be this railroad-y, then we ought to get some rich characterization or thematic depthThis is not to suggest I’d actually trust Bethesda with a job like that.. Or if the story is going to be this barebones, then we should let the player break it. Heck, make the quests procedural. I understand that Bethesda wants to keep players from breaking quests by killing annoying / important people, but this is a sledgehammer approach. A better solution would be to only give plot armor to people involved with the two main quests. (The war and the dragons.) Who cares if the player breaks the questline for the Mages College? They’re certainly not at risk for missing out on anything particularly riveting.

And maybe – hear me out here – maybe the player wouldn’t be so keen to murder NPCs if the game didn’t go out of its way to make them so intolerable. Maven Blackbriar’s dialog can only be explained by saying that she knows she’s invincibleAnd enjoys being stabbed anyway..

Can you actually rescue Uncle Rogvir? Based on Josh’s shenanigans, it sort of looks possible. Although, maybe if you saved him the townspeople would still talk about the event as if he died.

Enjoyed this post? Please share!

Footnotes:

[1] ”Maybe go kill the Ender Dragon if you want” does NOT count as a story in this discussion.

[2] This is not to suggest I’d actually trust Bethesda with a job like that.

[3] And enjoys being stabbed anyway.



A Hundred!2020202016I bet you won't even read all 196 comments before leaving your own.

From the Archives:

  1. Retsam says:

    Second footnote is broken. For the curious it reads “This is not to suggest I’d actually trust Bethesda with a job like that.” The apostrophe in “I’d” is apparently a quotation mark, which is breaking the html.

    Also, anyone else click on the footnotes several times before realizing they were alt text? I’m not sure it’s possible on WordPress, but I really like how Randall does footnotes for what-if.xkcd articles.

    • Shamus says:

      Good catch. That’s actually a bug / design flaw in my plugin. I can’t use apostrophes, since I’m using those to enclose HTML. I could use quotes, but then I couldn’t use quotes, as in the first footnote.

      The correct solution is to turn those characters into HTML escape characters. Which I really should have realized in the first place.

        • Bryan says:

          Hmm, what happened to the direct YT video link — am I missing it, or is it gone with the new setup?

          The reason I ask is that YT does html5, while the embed that you’re using — as good as it is at not picking up dumb YT interface changes — forces flash. Which means that YT spoonfeeds the video data to my browser and only allows me to buffer about ten seconds ahead, instead of letting the browser build up a buffer all the way to the end of the video. Which wouldn’t be a problem except that this net connection decides to drop all packets for 20-30s randomly, which is way longer than the buffer that their flash player decides to let me have.

          Going to try to find this one over there, but a direct link would be appreciated if it’s not really hard to reimplement.

          • Shamus says:

            I don’t understand. The video is right there at the top of the post. Is anyone else not seeing it?

            • Humanoid says:

              Not the video, just a literal text link to it on YouTube itself. If you look at the previous episode, the embed is in the post body, underneath the link to the previous post which itself is under the subheader that says “Spoiler Warning By Shamus Mar 2, 2014 176 comments”. Directly under the video is a link that just reads “Link (YouTube)”. Now that the embed is in the post header section, that link is missing.

              That said, Bryan, you can get the same result by clicking on the YouTube logo at the bottom right of the flash embed, which will take you to the same place the text link did and correctly plays HTML5 video. I guess a plain text link would be useful for people who have Flash disabled altogether and don’t see the player at all though.

              • Dragmire says:

                Can’t you click the Youtube button that’s part of the video in the bottom right hand corner? That links to the page as well.

                • Bryan says:

                  Well, flashblock being enabled is part of it too. Loading up the video (by clicking on the flashblock replacement box) and hitting the YT button inside said video would work, yes — as long as it always opens in a new tab. I don’t know if that’s the way it’ll continue to work or if they’ll ever start replacing the current window with the YT page. A plain link is either left- or middle-clickable at *my* choice. :-)

                  Looks like the links are back now too, both this video and the next one. Thanks! HTML5 in all its glory. :-)

  2. Rutskarn says:

    Here’s an easy riddle for this week:

    Why don’t Bosmer like comedians?

  3. Humanoid says:

    I remember reading a post somewhere saying that no, Roggvir dies anyway. The UESP page corroborates that. Indeed it says it “teleports him to a test room” where he’s killed, which is the worst kind of undisguised railroading.

    • Hal says:

      Apparently they still execute him if you end the Civil War in favor of the Stormcloaks before setting foot in Solitude, too. (At least, the Wiki indicates such. I need to visit in-game to confirm this.) I have no idea why that would be. It’s like they included this scene, then found it too complicated to undo it if the player finishes the Civil War first, so they just changed the soldiers’ dialogue to compensate.

      It just makes no dang sense.

  4. Lydia launching!

    So here’s a question. I know a lot of grief is given to morality meters, but I think we all find it cool/funny when NPCs react to the player being a jerk.

    Is there a method anyone can think of that would be an acceptable “Really had it with your shit, Dave” reaction from an NPC that wasn’t a simple point system that’s easily gamed, measured, or seems artificial?

    • Humanoid says:

      With a game like this where it’s hard to distinguish between what’s happening as a result of player intention and what’s an issue with the UI or bugs, I think a hard-coded system would be undesirable even if it were possible. I mean a few days ago I got killed by the Companions fighting the giant outside Whiterun as a result of wonky pathing while I was using Flames. On the other hand, Josh was able to quite intentionally murder several guards during the first dragon fight with no negative repercussions. They’re diametrically opposite scenarios that have one thing in common, that being the game trying to guess the player’s intentions and failing miserably at it.

      I’ve also been playing a bit of SR3 lately and have been getting annoyed at homies suddenly leaving during a firefight, and indeed sometimes turning hostile, until the recruit button was hit to ‘reset’ them. Apparently this is happening because the game thinks you’re engaging in a bit of friendly fire, but in none of the cases was it intentional, and in the vast majority of them I couldn’t even tell what action set off the trigger since the first I knew of them was the text message saying that they’ve left.

    • newdarkcloud says:

      I’ve always thought Reputation systems made more sense than morality systems.

      The systems in Alpha Protocol and New Vegas were crude, but I think they could work.

    • syal says:

      You could make a more complicated point system that’s only moderately easily gamed, measured and artificial-seeming.

      But it’s a pretty hard problem to solve because videogames are the one place where someone who rescues an entire refugee camp from a tree is just as likely to slaughter everyone the next camp over. Good luck making the reaction to that seem realistic.

      I’d try to add traits you can get from specific actions; if your actions are inconsistent you get the “unpredictable” trait and everyone becomes more cautious around you. Another one for “extreme” if you overreact to things (a beggar asks for change so you give them a thousand gold, or someone insults you and you kill them). Maybe make it so if you’ve earned a trait then everything else you do has dramatically reduced effect on overall opinion, and if the trait is overridden it’s way easier to earn a second time. (Maybe for humanoid’s friendly fire example, you can have an ‘enemy’ or ‘menace’ trait that triggers on the dragon and the giant so everything you do has drastically reduced effect until the ‘enemy’ is dead. You have to hit the people several more times than usual before your actions override that ‘enemy’ trait and they start trying to kill you, unless you have a similar trait already.)

      But then you also have to ask whether you want to cut people off from quests for the sake of realism, especially when they don’t know about the quest before they can cut it off. If you don’t, then any reaction system is pretty much inherently doomed.

      • Abnaxis says:

        That sounds a lot like Crusader Kings 2, which actually is a reputation system I like a lot.

        Of course, there’s no dialog in that game, only “likes you/doesn’t like you, accepts proposal/doesn’t accept proposal” so I don’t know how well it would translate into the fully-animated fully-voiced Skyrim.

      • rofltehcat says:

        One problem is that there is a lack of variety of NPC (re)actions.

        When people get into a fight they are not limited to fight or flight even if it is their first reaction. People might not run away as fast as possible, they might just stay out of reach of the other person or might try to get obstacles between themselves and their opponent and then try to calm them down by talking to them. They might try to keep someone else at a distance. Other might try to move in whereas some others would still try to not hurt their opponent (as much). Or they might change their strategy once the situation or their thinking changes.
        Their decisions might also be heavily influenced by their training and skills.

        The options I mentioned are still very basic but they are still a lot more varied than what most video games do. Attacking any enemy like dragons or psychopathic adventurers with your fists while wearing a dress simply doesn’t make sense.

        I sometimes think that today’s (non-strategy game) AI is a lot worse than some of the shooter AIs of the late 90s, early 2000s. At least some of them knew when to dodge, when to run away for the next health packs and when to switch weapons based on the situation.

        Just increasing AI behaviour by a few states already allows for a lot more varied reactions and thus a lot more logical behaviour, not to mention fun.

        With more fine-tuned reactions there is also less space to game the system. When an enemy only has two extreme, binary, behavioural states then bouncing him into one or the other is a lot easier. Bouncing an attacking enemy from “offensive attack mode” into “defensive attack mode” makes a lot more sense than bouncing them directly into “fleeing” mode.
        The same counts for other actions. That town guard just hit me while our mob was attacking that Khajit psycho? Either letting the guard do the work while hanging back or just trying to give the guard more space would be a lot more logical than suddenly attacking the own mob.

        • Ateius says:

          I’d have to agree with the impression that modern AI, particularly in FPS games, seems measurably worse than those of the past. I recently re-played Half-Life, and the difference between its soldiers and those in, say, a Call of Duty title was striking, because while CoD’s enemies are content to sit behind a chest-high wall and pop up at regular intervals to be shot, Half-Life’s soldiers do a quick head-count, determine that there are, in fact, six of them and one of you, and then just bumrush your position with automatic weapons from multiple angles.

          I’m sure the actual coding behind it is much more complex for CoD’s AI than that in Half-Life, but the actions of the Half-Life infantry just seem so much more vicious and believable by comparison to the whack-a-mole game.

    • MrGuy says:

      What do you mean by “being a jerk”? Being a jerk to the NPC specifically, or being a jerk in general?

      If we’re talking about stuff like being a jerk to the NPC specifically, a good start might be a friendly fire meeter – how often does the NPC get damaged by the player character? Maybe have something like an incredibly large hidden health-like bar, with a very slow recovery time. Shoot the NPC occasionally with an arrow when aiming at a critter or having them walk into a AOE spell, no problem – they’ll recover. But deliberately shooting them/setting them on fire repeatedly, and you’ll eventually piss them off. Maybe you can have environmental damage the NPC takes “count.” If the bar gets below a certain point, have the NPC start changing their behavior. Exhaust it completely, and they won’t talk to the player again (or will attack the player on sight).

    • Hal says:

      Skyrim already does a rather basic version of this, in that generic NPCs (i.e. guards) will respond based on your skill levels, groups you’ve joined, quests you’ve completed, etc.

      Even gear would be a good indicator for this. There are non-hostile Thalmor, such as the guy in the Markarth Keep. He really ought to have a response if you approach him wearing an Amulet of Talos. If you’re also an Altmer, his response should be suitably confused.

      I don’t know if it would be too complicated for them to add qualifiers like this to every NPC in the world, but it would really go a long way towards making the world more coherent.

    • Peter H. Coffin says:

      First, you’ll have to find a morality system in the real world that cannot be gamed. As long as you’ve got a means of atonement and people know what it is, you’re into a system that can be gamed.

      The rest of it comes down to keeping the system you’re using absolutely hidden from the player. The game records how much of an asshat or angel the player’s being, but never tells the player other than by how others react. Do they give you stuff for cheap, do they charge you a lot, do they just call the guards the instant they see you?

  5. Wide And Nerdy says:

    Roggvir will stand there confused if you kill his executioners. If you talk to him, he’ll drop dead.

    Think of how awesome a Dragonborn Bard could be. I’ll bet he could do something awesome with his shouts.

    • What, talking to someone and making them die isn’t awesome?

    • Michael says:

      I ran across a video of this exact thing a couple days ago:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fAxpAU3qigU

    • MadTinkerer says:

      Unfortunately Rogvir doesn’t seem able to acknowledge being rescued. My first impulse upon witnessing his execution was to load and try to rescue him and all I managed to do was aggro dozens of guards and the more confident citizens of Solitude. Rogvir didn’t even run, instead getting killed in normal-combat after I died.

      To be fair, in character Rogvir may be attempting to martyr himself to preserve Ulfric’s honor. Which is why he might not want to flee. But even then, I was annoyed that I couldn’t later tell Ulfric about Rogvir’s noble sacrifice. Even if nothing came of it, I wish there was something like “Hey Ulfric, I was at Rogvir’s execution. His last words were defending your honor and right to be King and that’s why I was inspired to join the Stormcloaks.” “Trying to mount a rescue operation at that time would have just resulted in more of my men killed, but it saddens me to lose such an honorable ally. We will meet again in Sovngard some day.”

  6. Chris apparently has never played an RPG bard. As the movie Gamers: Dorkness Rising demonstrates, Bards suck (there’s a staff of resurrection involved which is why he comes back).

    Also, musicianship used to be a kind of sub-skill one could take if performing was needed. It was handy in role-play as it let players charm a crowd or a key figure, like an action hero revealing they can ballroom dance or something. If one has a desire to buff one’s party, there are more combat-effective classes for that.

    But specifically for Skyrim: I can understand them not letting you become an actual bard… if they hadn’t made musical instruments lootable objects. I was ready to see my sword replaced by a lute and some canned music come flying out of my headphones, but they couldn’t even be arsed to do that. It would’ve been better if the Bardic Community College just hired you to perform quests and then honored you somehow in their festival. I mean, they made becoming a bard seem even more ludicrous than becoming Archmage, since even the biggest meathead can cast spells…

    • krellen says:

      Bards in First Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons did not suck. They were bad-ass Fighter/Thief/Druids with access to Wizard spells. The Harpers actually make sense in First Edition.

      The proto-bard of myth, Taliesin, also did not suck. “Bards suck” is a bad meme.

      • Jenx says:

        Taliesin? Please, Vainemoinen is where it’s at! I do agree, the way bards are portrayed in RPGs, and by that I mean in D&D, is honestly kind of sad. The ability to dance, play music and recite poetry are important aspects of many heroes in many cultures and myths, and the fact that those people are reduced to “casts buffs on party” sucks.

      • One might say the “final form” of the Bard didn’t suck, but having to get there was the long, hard, death-filled road of the multiclasser, which was often un-fun for both the Bard player and their party members. Unless the DM let you start with a bunch of XP so you could begin as a bard, the only thing more fragile than you was the Magic-User with his d4’s worth of hit points.

      • Michael says:

        I’ll just stick my neck out and say, even in 3.5, Bards do not suck. They’re the beefiest arcane spell casters in core 3.5, the only arcane spell casters that get heals. Sure, their spells aren’t as flashy (they don’t get a lot of the basic damage spells), but they do have access to a large array of crowd control options. They should be at least as good at manipulating NPCs as any rogue, and the inspirations are a fairly significant party wide buff.

        Ironically, because of how it handled inspirations, Bards broke Neverwinter Nights 2 over their collective knees. You could make nearly every significant skill check (except Intimidation) without wandering out of your class skills. It was even more significant in Mask of the Betrayer, where you could literally hit every party member skill based influence check.

        Finally, if you find you’re wanting to skew them towards combat, Dragon Disciple becomes available at level 6 for all your egregious game breaking needs (in both Tabletop and NWN2).

        The class might come across as kinda goofy, and it can certainly be played the way Elan is in OOTS, but the class can make a pretty scary party leader in the right hands.

        • Alex says:

          Bards in 3.5 have some awesome prestige classes. Like the Fochlucan Lyrist, which basically says “You jumped through the hoops to join this organisation so here, have full B.A.B., full arcane and divine spellcasting, and advance your bardic music.”

          Or my personal favourite, the Sublime Chord/Ultimate Magus combo. Sublime Chord lets you jump straight to casting 4th level Sorcerer spells and lets you add your Sublime Chord caster level to your other arcane caster level, and vice versa. Combine that with Ultimate Magus and you can level your Sublime Chord caster level and your Wizard caster level and then add them together, to get a Wizard/Sorcerer with a caster level twice as high as anyone else.

      • Peter H. Coffin says:

        That “bad-ass” combination tended to make them the favored class of rules-lawyers, min-maxers, and munchkins of every stripe. Most of whom spec for personal advantage, not party, and tend not to play well with others. Which leads to a lot of the “bards suck” sentiment one saw early on; it’s not that the class is bad, it’s just that those that tended to pick bards tended to be … suboptimally helpful players.

    • Cybron says:

      There wasn’t a staff of resurrection involved, he just keeps coming back/joining the party with a near-identical character. Hence the 50 character sheets.

  7. Corpital says:

    I have to say these credits are getting better every week.

    But the Bards College isn’t THAT bad. You can rewrite history after this quest! And you get some sweet rolls and candy! And then you can go to a couple dungeons to collect more irrelevant garbage!

    • The Rocketeer says:

      That’s the thing that I can’t stand about the end of the Bards’ quest! You get options X, Y, and Z for determining exactly what fashion King Olaf was an awful prick… And then come to find out at the end of that game that none of the options were correct, and Olaf was in fact a Pretty Cool Guy. Who then takes in stride your (and your predecessor’s) being such a savage to his reputation. A real class act.

  8. Coblen says:

    I honestly never felt that way about Rogvir. I always thought that he had purposefully let Ulfric go because he was a storm cloak sympathizer.

    Every time I saw that execution I just felt like I was seeing justice being done. It’s harsh justice, but I never felt like Rogvir was not deserving of punishment.

    • Viktor says:

      Ulfric isn’t a murderer, though. He won a legal dual and left town afterwards. If the guard had kept the gate closed, he’d be an accessory to the murder of Jarl Ulfric by the Imperials.

      • Humanoid says:

        If he’s a city guard though, it’s really just a matter of being disciplined for not following the wishes of his employer. It was probably in his employment contract. Whether the disciplining involves peeling potatoes for a week, one hundred public lashes or being beheaded is immaterial.

        • newdarkcloud says:

          ^This. He was a guard in an Empire-controlled city. Letting a suspected criminal just walk out with full knowledge of what you’re doing is a traitorous action.

          As far as I am aware, most militaries don’t suffer such insubordination.

          • Shamus says:

            Think of it this way:

            Jarl-duels are apparently legal in Skyrim. Ulfric had just killed the king, which – according to tradition – made him the king. Rogvir could be beheaded for treason for stopping the new king from leaving as he pleased. Rogvir didn’t have the right or authority to detain the Jarl/king, and the only person who could give him such orders was dead.

            It’s an ugly, brutal sort of injustice to expect peasants to take sides and make complex rulings in situations like this, since he could wind up beheaded either way.

            • Humanoid says:

              Perhaps a point of contention is that he apparently specifically opened the gate, rather than leaving an open gate open. It’s choosing to get involved, where a smarter man might have pretended he was having a bathroom break at the time and pretended to not see the whole incident.

              Due to how the game engine works, it’s actually pretty hard to tell whether the intention is for town gates to be open or closed by default when all is business-as-usual. i.e. when you the player walk up to the town doors and hit the ‘E’ key, are you just walking in by yourself, or are you calling for the guard behind the gate to open it for you?

            • stratigo says:

              That’s murky. The legality of killing the king is very much in dispute. I made a comment about this on another of the videos, but the law is more a technicality. Like, an old law that no one dismissed, but not one anyone would believe is legitimate, unless they had a personal stake already. For example when you get there, Ulfric doesn’t show up whiterun himself and challenge Baalgruf to a duel for the city, he sends his army to take it.

              Skyrim isn’t a modern state with an easily compiled system of laws written down and archived, and even a modern state, like say england, has a bloody mess of contradictory laws. And Skyrim, as a feudal state, will have multiple sets of laws laying upon it, from local jarl’s, to the high king’s, to imperial law.

              The fellow getting executed likely already supported Ulfric and so has a stake in interpreting his actions legal. So what the guy did was legal according to a specific old tradition (which is really stupid), but illegal in the eyes of the empire. Ulfric doesn’t care, because he wants to secede from the empire anyways, but this guy lives in the imperial heart in Skyrim and thus he pays the price for siding with the rebellion.

              Also if killing the king made you king, then you’d not need a king’s moot, so the tradition Ulfric is relying on is multiple thousands of years ancient.

              • Artur CalDazar says:

                This wasn’t some technicality, nobody but the imperials really disputes it, and they don’t respect any Nord laws to begin with.

                Don’t forget the old king accepted the challenge, and had the ability to reject it and call a new moot to settle the issue. Even the old king recognised the laws as legitimate.

                • stratigo says:

                  Considering Skyrim is under imperial authority, the laws that the imperials consider legitimate are very important. Adherence to ancient nord custom of you keep what you kill (of which a quick trawl through the wiki showed me no other precedence, but a long and storied history of kings moots) verse a more progress and less stupid “hey picking your rulers by the guy most able to murder the other guy, totally not going to get you very good rulers”.

                  Also the legitimacy of the duel itself comes under question when Ulfric used the voice, which may or may not be kosher. The Greybeards certainly would be opposed to using the voice in such a manner.

                  • acronix says:

                    At the very least General Julius, I mean, Tullius, believes that using the Thu’um in the duel was some harcore cheating.

                  • Artur CalDazar says:

                    It’s not a matter of “you keep what you kill” there is still a moot to be called. And given the proud history of Nord Kings who used the voice I doubt its considered a violation at all, nobody ever says it was they are just shocked at how it happened. Seeing somebody blown apart by the voice is shocking after all.

                    Also it is telling that the people in Skyim need to consider not what the King considered legitimate, but what Imperial military officers do after the fact.

                • CLuhrsen says:

                  Almost everybody I asked about it(except for a few hardcore Ulfric supporters) said the king didn’t actually accept the duel. Ulfric simply rushed in and shouted him to death before the king could even draw his sword. Which was pointlessly unnecessary since the king wasn’t a trained fighter anyway. Also it suggests that there is no good reason my PC can’t then kill Ilfric and become king himself. Why do Ulfrics guards rush to defend him when I start a duel with him the same way?

          • hborrgg says:

            He’s not an empire soldier though, there’s not even any indication that he had any superiors order him to shut the gate.

            The sense I got was that Ulfric challenged the high king to a legal duel, the king agreed and promptly got himself killed, and then members of the crowd suddenly started shouting “wait, wait, wait. . . Backsies! Backsies!” and then tried to have Ulfric killed as well.

            You’re talking as if a police officer should be responsible for trapping someone being chased by a lynch mob just in case he did something illegal.

            Edit: Really, just the fact that it has taken so long for the guy to finally be arrested and executed seems to support the idea that most people didn’t really see him in the wrong at the time, rather he was retroactively found guilty of something once the imperial army showed up and took over the local government.

            • Viktor says:

              I doubt the delay was for a fair and just trial. Solitude has a torturer in-residence and it’s stated that she enjoys the work. I always figured Rogvir lasting this long was a result of being repeatedly electrocuted and healed until she grew bored or Elesif decided the screams were getting annoying.

            • Artur CalDazar says:

              Him being arrested under imperial orders make sense.
              I mean none of the other guards are being held to account for letting Ulfric leave. Not even palace guards stopped him, which makes sense since Ulfric hadn’t broken any of their laws and the old King was accepting the challenge.
              Then somebody sent in by the Empire comes in, and what do they care about the laws of Skyrim? Just execute somebody directly involved, send a message to these lawless Nords.

          • Alan says:

            Ignoring the issue of being unable to save Roggvir, that people have taken strong stands on both sides of “is the execution moral” suggests Bethesda got something right there.

            Adding my own two cents: it’s not clear that it was a legal duel; I don’t think the Imperials think it was.

            • scowdich says:

              Even if it was a legal duel, I seem to recall the implication somewhere in the game that Ulfric Shouted the king senseless, then killed him. Which as far as honorable dueling is concerned, counts as “uncool, bro”.

              • Neruz says:

                He actually Shouted the king to pieces; it’s mentioned a couple of times by people who saw the fight that Ulfric literally tore the High King apart with his Shout. (Speaking of which I want that shout, where’s my “Shred Person” shout Bethesda?)

                It probably was a legal duel, but I doubt anyone expected Ulfric to use the Voice. Kind of like challenging someone to a duel and everyone shows up expecting it to be a sword fight and it turns out you brought a shotgun.

                • Protocol95 says:

                  Just a note, if you go talk to Ulfric he says that him shouting the King to pieces is an exaggeration. The only shout he knows is Unrelenting Force and he states that he simply shouted him down and quickly ran him through with his sword. I guess it happened incredibly fast causing the observers to get a little confused as to what happened.

                  As to whether what Ulfric did was ‘honourable’ from what I understand he basically walked up to the Torygg, brought up some obscure law and said, “Either duel me and lose or refuse and be shamed.” meaning that whatever Torygg chose Ulfric would get some degree of support. That doesn’t come across honourable to me. Though I take this idea with a grain of salt.

                  • Khizan says:

                    If you try to kill Ulfric in Windhelm outside of the appropriate Civil War quest, his Shout will ragdoll you across the room and slam you into the wall at Mach 3.

                    I’ve got no problem believing that he Shouted somebody to pieces.

                    • Amnestic says:

                      If you try to kill Ulfric outside of the quest line, you’ll find him unkillable. Which I hated. One of the first things I did when I’d got a few levels under my belt and some enchanted magic gear was go to put down the Stormcloak Rebellion, Dragonborn style. Being able to solve the Rebellion your way rather than Bethesda’s way would’ve been really nice.

                    • MadTinkerer says:

                      My way of solving the rebellion is to put Ulfric on the throne. Everyone likes to point out how the Stormcloaks are racist but they’re not much more racist than everyone else in Skyrim. And every time, every time I try to give the Thalmor a chance to not be total xenophobic jackasses they take the opportunity to be total xenophobic jackasses.

                      So:

                      1) The Forsworn, as a group, totally deserved it. This is established if you do their quest. There’s a bit where some of them explain why they hate the Imperials and Stormcloaks so much but none of it justifies them rampaging through Morthal killing named NPCs, sacrificing children to their dark gods, etc.

                      2) The Thalmor are jerks, always, without exception. There are high elf characters which are perfectly fine folks, but all of the Thalmor are always written as jerks. The war is completely their fault, and all Thalmor characters in every quest line are written as villains or, at best, antagonistic.

                      3) The Imperials are supposedly slightly less racist than anyone else, but they have a bad habit of chopping peoples’ heads off on a whim and they’re basically puppets of the Thalmor.

                      4) The Stormcloaks are just possibly a tiny little bit more racist than anyone else but that doesn’t stop them from letting you join regardless of any race/class/gender decisions you made as long as you’re not a stinking Imperial. The only ones who lose out in the long run from a Stormcloak victory are the Forsworn and Thalmor.

                      The Empire actually benefits somewhat from a Stormcloak victory because Talos.

                      So math makes Stormcloaks the best.

                    • newdarkcloud says:

                      I think no matter which way you swing on the whole Imperials vs. Stormcloaks issue, it really doesn’t make sense that you as the Dragonborn are unable to…

                      a.) Kill Tullus or Ulfric or both outside of the main questline, sending their forces into chaos.
                      b.) Win the Civil War for yourself.

                    • If only there was a third option. Maybe via a Dwemer construct that someone had altered to allow you to manipulate enough power to make Skyrim independent. I’m thinking a one-wheeled automaton, capable of speech, with a pleasant face in its midsection. It would do whatever was asked of it, so it’d probably have a name like, “Aye-Man.”

                      This sounds familiar, somehow…

                    • newdarkcloud says:

                      It doesn’t even have to be that. You can simply have the player character get an option like that in a dialog tree.

                      Even better, you could do that at the end of the Civil War questline as well. Just as Tullus/Ulfric wins and ends the war, you could reveal your machinations now that the mutual enemy has been disposed of.

                  • guy says:

                    I got the distinct impression that Ulfric walked into the throne room, announced that he was dueling the king, and proceeded to kill him. Certainly, a number of Jarls appear convinced that the duel was improper. For one thing, generally one would expect a king to have a champion to fight duels on their behalf. And I find it entirely likely that proper Nord duels have a strict weapons-only and no wizard tricks clause.

                    The Imperials might also dispute the grounds for the duel, because I seriously doubt that oaths of fealty permit dueling your king because you don’t like his face. Of course, in that case, the basis was probably “by supporting the Empire you have failed your people” and the Empire disagrees.

                    Certainly, the execution is entirely consistent with the Empire’s stated legal position, as it would make Rogvir an accomplice to regicide. No one seems to think he was unaware of the circumstances of the fight, and not understanding the details of the law is not generally considered a defense.

                    Plus, while the king might have been an adult, he was probably about twenty and definitely not a hardened veteran.

                • Michael says:

                  There’s a couple places in the game where it suggests that the “shouted to pieces” bit was hyperbole. The loading screen says “nearly shouted to pieces”, which could just be unrelenting force over and over.

                  EDIT: …and somehow I missed Protocol95’s post.
                  *facepalms*

                • The Rocketeer says:

                  Oh, don’t be squeamish. What, it’s bad form to kill someone too hard in a duel to the death? Is Ulfric supposed to let Torygg get a pity slash in before shattering his ribs with the Voice and then impaling him?

                  The real pity of the duel is that Torygg respected Ulfric greatly, and had permitted him an audience under the expectation of an earnest discussion of his views before being challenged to a hopeless duel apparently out of the blue.

                  But the thing that bothered me about the duel, on the other hand, is that I seem to recall reading somewhere that Torygg was very young, if not a child, even. Yet, I cannot find reference to this anywhere and Torygg himself seems to have been a grown man, indeed.

                  • Disc says:

                    Anybody under 30 would be considered young when compared to Ulfric. The guy is at least in his late 40s to mid 50s given how he’s a war veteran. You can also find Torygg in Sovngarde proving he was definitely an adult at the time of his death. There’s also the fact of his wife being an adult anyway, so I don’t think there should be much question about it.

              • hborrgg says:

                Well, presumably they knew ahead of time about Ulfric’s ability to shout (it’s the whole reason he was regarded as a war hero). Plus, once you meet the former king’s ghost later on he doesn’t really seem to put off by the whole “got killed in a duel” thing.

                @Whether the Empire thought the duel was legal.
                Well, that would sort of assume that had Torygg won the Empire would have tried to have him arrested.

                Really the whole thing just seems to be setting up that any respect for rule of law had broken down and that civil war was becoming inevitable.

                • stratigo says:

                  XD I kind of want to point up to my post replying to shamus on the supposed legality of the duel.

                  EG, legality of multiple thousand year old traditions predating imperial rule is murky.

                • newdarkcloud says:

                  If Torygg won, I think the Empire would’ve just called it self-defense.

                  • Ateius says:

                    What I like about the ‘city-intro’ to both sides (Execution and racially-motivated harassment) is that, on the surface, Solitude’s seems the more actively harmful and isn’t something you can, as Shamus does for the Stormcloaks, try to explain away as “Oh it’s just some ignorant peasants, what are you going to do.”

                    But as you take the time to talk to the various people around each town, it becomes increasingly clear that what Ulfric did was less an honourable duel in the traditional laws of his people and more brutally murdering a trusting whelp of a boy through a questionable legal technicality, and that ‘Uncle Roggvir’ is thus guilty of aiding and abetting regicide by opening the gates (city or palace, it’s unclear, though given that he knew about the duel, probably palace) to let Ulfric escape. Similarly, in Winterfell it becomes increasingly clear that, no, it’s not just some ignorant peasants, this sort of racism towards non-Nords is endemic throughout the Stormcloak organization and Ulfric is actively encouraging it via his ‘Skyrim for the Nords’ rhetoric.

                    It’s not the only time Bethesda does this thing in the game, presenting a surface impression of an issue which contrasts with the more complete picture you can assemble if you look around. The Empire’s relationship with the Thalmor is another good one, particularly the Thalmor stance on the civil war (the discovery of which is what finally prompted my first character to take sides).

            • Will Riker says:

              I would agree, with the caveat that they didn’t really follow up on it. As far as I remember, the whole “it was a legal duel” wasn’t ever mentioned outside of Roggvir’s scene. It makes it seem less like a legitimate disagreement on the part of Skryim’s citizens and more like the dude who’s about to lose his head is grasping for excuses.

              I think that’s a big missed opportunity for them to add more depth and nuance to the whole conflict.

            • Rutskarn says:

              That we argue it means Bethesda STARTED to do something right.

              That we can’t do anything about what we decided means that Bethesda ultimately fucked up.

              • hborrgg says:

                Which I guess is the ultimate failing of the Civil War questline. Despite any interesting complexity they decided to add, any discussion seems to end up being completely theoretical since the in-game question still boils down to “Ok, which side do you think is 100% in the right and are willing to support no matter what?”

                • Which illustrates a larger problem with ongoing series that rely on lore. Unless they’ve planned REALLY far ahead, even the devs don’t know what the canonical outcome of a game is going to be when it ships. They can do what they did here, which is make your choices nigh meaningless in-game, or they can give you more freedom to arrive at an outcome you like, but with the caveat that when/if a sequel comes out, your ideal ending could be erased.

                  Of the two, I prefer the latter. Look at Fallout 1, 2, and New Vegas. All of them let you do various things to affect the game world, but they later have results that are like the endings to the movie “Clue”: It could’ve happened this way, maybe it happened this way, but it definitely happened this way. And I’m fine with that, especially since multiple outcomes for a game usually has me playing the game more than once.

    • Corpital says:

      Ulfric went into the palace, the building with several guards and ripped the king apart with his voice. Then, he apparently left the palace without any of the resident guards doing anything about it? THEN went from the palace to the city gate, passing rather close to the freaking command center of the imperial army, were dozens soldiers hang around. And again nobody seemed to do anything to stop him?

      And at last he reached the city gate and Rogvir let him through. If Rogvir knew about the duel, then everybody in the city knew about it and they’d have to execute every single guard. If he didn’t know about it, then this is indeed just to get rid of a scapegoat believing in Talos.

      • Humanoid says:

        Catbert has already demonstrated that if you run in this engine, it’s impossible to catch you without physically forming a wall in front of you to block your path.

        In all seriousness though, if we ignore that engine silliness, then we can also ignore the ban on horses existing within the city map. So it’s not much of a stretch to think that he shouted away the closest pursuers, climbed on a horse and fled for dear life. Roggvir could have even closed the gate behind him to slow pursuit.

        • Corpital says:

          Catbert also demonstrated the power of archers by being killed and propelled several meters through the air. After shouting his closest pursuers away several times.

          Still, his crime is only ever stated as opening the gates for Ulfric, isn’t it? Well, all right, the empire doesn’t always bother with reasons as shown in Helgen. The cat is not on the list? Meh, just kill him anyway, they are always trouble.

          • Mikey says:

            That the Imperials don’t even bother charging you with a crime is why I go Stormcloak in the opening every time. I hate how the dialog option referring to it when you report to Jarl Balgruuf is responded to with “Not being coy about your criminal past, I see,” and the first time I saw that I was like “What NO-“

            • newdarkcloud says:

              I always go Stormcloak in the opening of the game too, despite usually either going Imperial or abstaining from the Civil War entirely out of protest for the lack of a Wild Card option.

            • Amnestic says:

              You were caught crossing the border illegally, no? Sure, probably doesn’t warrant execution, but still, there was a crime there.

              For that matter, the whole crime system in the Elder Scrolls games is a bit weird. Shamus touched on it in his Thieves Guild writeup, but the fact that you can always “serve your time” or “pay a fine” to get out of crimes is ridiculous when the game shows execution and life imprisonment are used as a punishment. If you commit crimes serious enough – mass murder, killing important people, even espionage for the enemy faction – maybe there shouldn’t be a way to clear your name and that you become Kill On Sight for certain cities.

              • Destrustor says:

                There was a bug in Morrowind that somehow did that. If you racked up a big enough bounty in a given city (something like 10000+), the guards in that town would become forever hostile to you and try to kill you on sight, even after clearing your name with the thieves guild or retconning the whole crime spree by reloading.
                I have no idea how that works, but hey.
                Accidental, meta-realism!

                • McNutcase says:

                  If said city was Vivec, the Ordinators were just permanently looking for any excuse to off you. They hated your guts on general principles, and you could rack up a kill-on-sight order by wearing the wrong armour – that you got as a quest reward from their own boss.

                  I mean, their “generic greeting” bark was “We’re watching you. Scum.” with serious menace in it. Some of the best voice acting Bethesda’s HAD, and it was used to make sure you knew these guys hated you.

      • guy says:

        Was he the gate guard? I thought he was a door guard in the palace. From his dialogue, he definitely knew about the duel.

    • Tizzy says:

      Skyrim is almost pathologically commitment-phobic: the writers could decide Rogvir is a Stormcloack sympathizer, or could decide that he just acted out of respect for Jarls and Nord tradition. But nooooo… They have to have it both ways. Or rather, they have to let the players decide for themselves.

      Now, I like things being open to interpretations every so often, but, really, Skyrim, do we really need to have two sides to EVERYTHING? This must be the thing I found most tiresome about the writing in this game, along with the adamant refusal to allow any interesting permanent change in the world.

  9. Artur CalDazar says:

    The reason I think they included the bards college is that previously in lore it was mentioned as being a thing, and the Nords have their Poetic Edda thing that records history that is kept by them. People were disappointed there were no werebears in skyrim and those don’t seem as important to the lore as the system that records Nord history.

    I’m pretty sure you can intervene in the Stormcloak version of the beheading, tell the racists off and get some thanks form the elf.

    • MichaelGC says:

      Aye – well, you can get into a brawl with one of the two nords, but I don’t think the dunmer acknowledges that afterwards (just as – if you’re playing a dunmer – she doesn’t acknowledge that either). But getting to slap the nord around does at least provide a thin veneer of pseudo-agency.

      • Artur CalDazar says:

        I distinctly remember telling the drunk to back down and getting thanked by the Dunmer.
        Maybe its another unrelated incident, or perhaps those are each separate events and I am mixing them together because they can happen at about the same time?

        • MichaelGC says:

          Aye, I’m sure you’re right! – I’m just going by memory, which is always a bad idea in my case as I basically have all the mnemonical capacity of a slightly-stunned goldfish…

          (Maybe I’ve somehow got hold of a rare copy of Skyrim: Impolite Edition. No thanks from the dunmer; none of the friendly NPCs have ever given me a free potion; grumble grumble; sniff.)

      • Amnestic says:

        I distinctly remember that if you beat the racist Nord in a brawl, he starts treating you as a friend even though you challenged him to a fist fight over his racism and then took his money when you won.

        • MichaelGC says:

          Weird! I don’t think I’ve ever given him the time of day after the fight (which took about 10 bloody minutes last time I tried it, as a mage – fortunately, although magic is supposedly a no-no during brawls, that doesn’t seem to apply to the Restoration school). Sounds like he has some sort of superiority/inferiority issues.

        • Lisa says:

          I rather liked that. But then I’ve been in a lot of places where strong friendships were started by violent disagreements.
          (Though to be fair, a lot of feuds were started that way too)

  10. newdarkcloud says:

    I stated this in a previous comment section, but I really hate the way they handled Illusion college magic.

    The way it works is that every spell has a maximum level of enemies that it will work on. (I think the Fury spell Josh is using works on enemies level 6 or lower, which explains why it is now so useless.) Further, some enemies like automatons have an innate resistance to Illusion without the prerequisite perks.

    In order to boost the levels, there are two things you can do.
    1.) Purchase the perks to do that.
    2.) Overcharge the spell by using it in each hand at the same time (perk required). This usually doubles the effect of the spell for most classes, but Illusion magic gets the maximum level doubled instead. (The Turn Undead spells in the Restoration college work the same way iirc.)

    Effectively, this style makes Master-level Illusion spells even more useless than the Master-level spells of other colleges since they take both hands to cast anyway, so they don’t benefit from overcharge. Further, it punishes the player for leveling up thanks to the level scaling mechanic. It also REALLY forces you to acquire perks in Illusion to get any use out of it. (Even Invisibility sucks without Silent Casting.)

    I think the perk trees for the magic colleges really needed revision. Honestly, magic sucks in this game. Illusion is just a particularly bad example of a shitty system. (Which is sad, because on the whole I like the way Skyrim’s character development works.)

    • Michael says:

      I thought Dualcasting was usually x1.6, not doubled.

      Which actually makes most of the perks extra useless. The dualcasting destruction stagger effect, illusion’s doubler, and alteration’s boost (because the armor spells can’t stack) are the only exceptions I can think of.

      • acronix says:

        2.2x spell effectiveness for 2.8x spell cost, according to the wiki. It makes no sense.

        Illusion is actually pretty powerful early on but if you do not invest in it it becomes useless. And alter on, once you have enough level, you might as well start a new character.

  11. Neko says:

    At the very least, the introductory Bard’s College quests should have sent you off to various inns to do some busking. You’d need some bad singing recorded for each race x gender option but the “strum lute” animation is already in there. And it could make the player pay attention to whether playing “Ulfric the Brave” or “Ulfric the traitorous dog die die yay Empire” is the right choice in each hold.

    • Rutskarn says:

      At the very least, it is a crime this game didn’t give you the option of requesting the wrong song and getting into a fight. Even fuckin’ Mount and Blade: Fire and Sword has this feature. How did Skyrim miss it?

      Think about how hilarious it would be to walk into Windhelm, politely ask for “The Age of Aggression,” and then take on every sad sack in the building as they collectively bum-rush you.

      On a more serious note: it’d be funny to do it by accident, AND it would reinforce just how important this war is to people and how much everyone needs to walk on eggshells.

      • Humanoid says:

        Better yet, have Sven sing the wrong song and have the collective citizenry bum-rush *him*. It’d almost be worth solving the Riverwood quest in his favour just to enable this to happen.

      • It’d be great if you could speech/bribe an NPC bard into doing it:

        “If I sing that in here, they’ll kill me!”
        [Speech 50/200 gold] “Not the way you sing it.”

        “Look, can’t I just play something else? I’ve got a really bawdy tune about a Jarl and his favorite goat!”
        [Speech 75/500 gold] “I’d rather have my patriotic song.”

        “Come on, you can’t be serious.”
        [Speech 90/700 gold] “I want you to stomp your feet in the part about the army marching over the bodies of the slain. Get to it.”

        For added fun, you could stand in front of the bard and try to play defense. If the musician makes it through the whole song, you get an XP bonus as well as run out of town.

        • The Rocketeer says:

          The great part about this? You could take all that money back from the bard’s residue once the din settled.

          • What I’d really love to see is the possibility that the crowd doesn’t react. They sit through the song, the Bard finishes, and he goes and sits down.

            After a few seconds, one NPC says, “Hey, wait a minute…”

            Then everyone jumps up at once and starts the fight.

        • SyrusRayne says:

          See, this sort of thing could be the roots of a propaganda-like system. You have to spread the word and gather up support for your faction! Undermine the Machine by convincing, bribing, or coercing bards and local figures to speak in favor of your cause.

          That’d give plenty of excuses to do side-quests and junk (perhaps similar to the Nerevarine stuff Caius Cosades sends you on). Maybe also a potential reason to join the Bard’s College; Get the bards on your side, write some songs, sing ’em in places to rile up the crowd? Maybe do some revisionist history in favor of your side; that one quest where you find out the history of that guy and can kinda say what you want comes to mind. “Oh yeah this guy from a couple thousand years ago? Well-loved King in that time, he challenged the old king to a duel and won.” You know, provide some legitimacy to your side, or destroy the legitimacy of the other side. Like a bard might do.

          • Why do I envision someone from Bethesda, a large, unkempt man in a suit wearing a tie too wide to even look good on a wrecking ball, suddenly startle awake, coughing and snorting. He hears your idea, slowly reddening, the veins on his temples throbbing, his chair creaking as it bears his shifting weight. From behind his desk he growls, “That sounds like… ROLE-PLAYING! GET OUT OF MY SIGHT!”

      • Artur CalDazar says:

        That would be amazing. In places like Dawnstar you could even have people not react and you’d be saying so much about the attitudes of the people that live there.

      • Benjamin Hilton says:

        Of course another problem with this is that there is no coding for “bar fight where in the end the only damage is to pride and ego”. Bethesda only has two speeds: no combat or entire town murder-kill.

        • acronix says:

          They did implement ‘brawls’ in this game, though they are only for two specific people (the player + an NPC). I wonder how hard it would be to implement for a whole tavern.

        • LadyTL says:

          Brawls can start up in taverns the the Companions guild hall between NPCs. I’ve had it happen a few times on my most recent round of Skyrim. I even waited to see if anyone died but it was using the brawl system and so everyone was fine in the end.

  12. Neruz says:

    I consistantly found it amusing how throughout Skyrim whenever someone is being publicly executed the adults try and make sure the children don’t see.

    Someone really needs to go tell the guys at Bethesda that public executions were things that people specifically brought their children to both for the spectacle and to serve as an object lesson.

    The adults shouldn’t be saying “Children, go inside.” they should be saying “Children, watch very closely and remember what happens to people who piss off the king.”

  13. I was really looking forward to the Bard’s College! Being able to play an instrument, and maybe help in the recitation of great epics (also assuming this would’ve been halfway decent, it probably would’ve been asking waaaaaaaaay too much to break away from the DnD bard archetype, but anyway). What I’m trying to say here is, I really have a thing for the epic Beowulf–also the concept of warrior poets.

    So disappointing. :(

    If I were free to make some changes, I think I would personally go one step further than simply fix the Bard’s College. I’d combine that faction and the Companions into one. Breaking away from the stereotypes of both fighters and bards as they are commonly portrayed in heroic fantasy, playing around with the Norse/Anglo-Saxon concept of warrior poets, and showing a warrior faction to have some culture and appreciation of the old songs, tales, and histories. You’d walk into mead-hall Jorrvaskr to see everyone gathered at the long tables while the Harbinger recites the tales of old. Looking around, you’d see a great tapestry (or tapestries) along the walls, telling these various stories through woven images. The Companions would travel the lands not just to offer their martial services, but to share their stories and their songs–and subsequently offer their sword if the need arises. Each aspect would serve the other, going hand in hand as the reason for their travels.

    I so badly want this to be a thing. :(

    • aldowyn says:

      Oh, that’d be pretty cool.

      There’s at least one or two bards in the game that other people don’t like specifically because they don’t fit the warrior-bard mold, though. The guy in Riverwood, maybe? Or in whiterun. Maybe both.

    • The Rocketeer says:

      Ooh, a guild of warrior skalds? Now THAT would be worth the price of admission. I mean, if Bethesda could pull it off, I mean.

      Shoot, I would play a game that was just that.

      • Mathias says:

        And this is so much more disappointing because of the fact that in Norse culture, words (and, by extension, poetry) was considered a form of magic called galdr . Hell, Odin was literally the god of magic and poetic inspiration*! The übergod of the Norse pantheon, the god of warriors and aristocrats alike, was god of poetic inspiration. Think of that for a moment.

        Here was a golden opportunity to do more with the idea of voices and words as a metaphor for power -and- tie the world’s Norse mythology aspects closer, and they blundered it magnificently.

        How cool would it be if the Bard’s College gave you a list of some abilities that had to do with reciting epics and telling stories that gave you alternate means of doing quests or boosted your Speech in various ways? Maybe even gave you a set of magic spells that were useful in conversation/engendered sympathy/admiration from the nobility? That could be really fun.

        …Dammit, if I knew how to program I would make this mod.

        *As well as a whole mess of other things. Oh, and poetry was eventually overtaken by Bragi, but we don’t mention him.

        • Raygereio says:

          Dammit, if I knew how to program I would make this mod.

          Papyrus isn’t really a complex language and a lot of edits don’t even require messing with Papyrus.
          The CK wiki has a pretty good tutorial section that handles the basics. Also this site has a decent write-up for people really new to scripting.
          And the Creation Kit section of the Bethesda forums is a good place to ask question and find answers.

          • Mathias says:

            Also, considering the game’s artstyle, I’m surprised nobody has tried to actually throw in characters who emulate Germanic deities. Not in a literal sense, maybe – that would feel like a copout – but tried to look at some of the sagas and Eddas, look at the portrayal of the gods and the way they involved themselves with mankind, and tried to find ways to fit that into the Elder Scrolls universe. Really, the only quest that comes close to that is when you get challenged to a drinking contest with Sanguine , which is cool and all.

            I guess because a lot of these gods have a lot of modern interpretations, they didn’t really want to go for that. Only so many times you can have a grey-cloaked, wizened old man with a wicked hat show up before people accuse you of ripping off Gandalf.

        • And this is so much more disappointing because of the fact that in Norse culture, words (and, by extension, poetry) was considered a form of magic called galdr . Hell, Odin was literally the god of magic and poetic inspiration*! The übergod of the Norse pantheon, the god of warriors and aristocrats alike, was god of poetic inspiration. Think of that for a moment.

          Here was a golden opportunity to do more with the idea of voices and words as a metaphor for power -and- tie the world’s Norse mythology aspects closer, and they blundered it magnificently.

          Oh my gosh, yes! Very much this! The emphasis on the power and significance of the spoken word (this is something that very much influenced Tolkien and his “magic”, btw). The Dragon language in the game glimpses at this. I think this is something you could work with, the idea of just how much weight the words you speak can carry. Culturally, words would be very important to the Nords, and would maybe echo, at least symbolically, the power of the Dragon language. Because it was by the Thu’um that Men were oppressed, and by the Thu’um that they learned to speak and break free of draconic dominion. Epics are important to Nords because you’re doing more than telling a story. For them, it’s evoking something old, powerful, and otherworldy–holy even. Words would generally be held in high regard and not spoken lightly. The treatment of their own tongue would echo their reverence for the Thu’um, which would be raw power made manifest. The Dragonborn taking up the lyre (even to the glory of the gods, as the Greybeards suggest)? Big freaking deal!

          What I’m trying to say is, bard’s should have been extremely important to Skyrim, and more could’ve been with the Dragon Words of Power gameplay wise. I think you’re on to something.

          • Mathias says:

            This. -All- of this. Stories, sagas and the spoken word were some of the most important things in Norse culture, and it seems so -weird- that it’s only given lip service in the form of the Thu’um. And it’s something that almost every fantasy counterpart culture to the Norse leave out, focusing instead on:

            1) The ancestor worship, which is true, but is, again, tied up to sagas and stories being passed down through the generations.

            2) The raiding and pillaging. Which is a thing, yeah, but Norse culture was more than Vikings. Not everyone was a bearded, helmeted killing machine. Farming, trade, and seafaring were just as important, if not more so, than popping down on foreign shores and burning a few monasteries.

            3) The horned helmets. And do not even get me started on the fucking travesty that is the perpetuity of the myth of the horned helmets. Not even for a minute.

            Another thing that’s sort of interesting, and frames Ulfric’s murder of the High King differently, is that the Norse people believed -very- heavily in the idea of ‘guest rights.’ Every member of Norse society was expected to play host to guests. Guests were expected to not attack their host, and in return, the host was obligated to feed and host them for the night. In fact, one of Odin’s identities was as the Wanderer – a man who would visit the halls of nobles and ask for room and board. Those who refused would have an ironic punishment visited upon them, while those that were good and gracious hosts would meet with good fortune.

            When Ulfric, presumably with Torygg’s invitation, attended the High King and killed him with the Thu’um, he not only used galdr for violence, but he also completely SHATTERED the idea of guest rights by murdering his host while under his hospitality. That, if nothing else, is probably what unites the Empire-loyal Nords. The fact that the man is an oathbreaker, the worst sort of criminal in Norse (not Nord, I know that can be confusing) society, short of kinslayers.

            • Good stuff. Though on the last point on guest rights (well, concerning Torygg and Ulfric anyway), I would say that I’m not sure we could pin that particular crime on Ulfric. As I understand, he very much rode straight up to the palace, challenged the high king right there in the throne room, cheated with the Voice, then rode right back out–as opposed to being invited and all that. However, I don’t think that makes what Ulfric did any less despicable. Everything he did there was for his own sleazy, selfish ends. He used some old, (largely) forgotten law as a loophole justification to murder someone’s husband, then used the Voice (given to him by the Greybeards in trust) to win what was suppose to be an honest fight, all so he could claim the kingship for himself. I would imagine using the Voice in such a way would be darn well near blasphemy, or some such. On top of all this, he would be a kinslayer: the worst crime, as you say.

              Unless by “kinslayer”, you mean a blood relative, as opposed to referring to someone of the same race. In which case, nevermind (although it did seem to me that Nords “spilling each other’s blood” line in the teaser trailer implied that that was somewhat of a big deal).

              On another note related to word power: wouldn’t it be great if (taking a page from Tolkien), we could use our Thu’um to heal a darkness/depression from a Jarl or some such? (Whiterun, for example, is already Edoras to a freaking “t”.) I’m trying to think of other applications for Words of Power, like actually using it in conversation. Using it to build people up, tear them down; to free them, or bend them to your will.

              • Mathias says:

                I do mean a relative, yes. Murdering your own family was the greatest sin in Norse mythology, and it’s the reason why Loki is so despised. He caused the death of his own nephew (since Loki was Odin’s blood-brother) out of jealousy, and as such, he was given a punishment that the Norse thought would fit his heinous crime.

                And that would be amazing! Being able to influence the world with the Voice in a more direct way than by ragdolling everything would be great. If you could actually act like Odin, wandering around from city to city, using a silver tongue and a bit of magic to further your own agenda or to help and hinder others as you saw fit. That would be The Best Thing.

    • It’s hard to evaluate warrior-poets as being good or having talent, since they are capable of dealing with criticism in a way not open to most other artists.

      • Axe Armor says:

        That is, unless you happen to be a battle-critic, trained in martial liberal arts and capable of reviewing any swordplaywright, pianist-militant, or CQSeamstress.

    • Alternatively, the Bard’s College could still be its own thing. A warrior poet, could be one of the vocations offered, and could be considered significant to the Companions (or the people in general). For some flavor: the college could be the only place in Skyrim where written records of ancient epics and poems exist (since oration of such things is considered important). Outside the Mages’ Guild, perhaps, the Bard’s College could also be the closest thing the Nords have to their own Library of Alexandria. This could give way to bards and mages potentially not liking each other very much because “those darned wizards cheapen our craft by bringing their own mountain of books into our lands,” if that makes sense.

      Maybe we could even call the Bard faction the “Nightingales”, which would be a far more appropriate use of the name than it is for a freaking thief cult.

      I could see wanting to keep the Bard’s College a separate faction to allow for the game’s more flexible play style, but if I could honestly have my way, I’d combine the Bard’s College and the Companions into one thing. Maybe some of the Companions could also look down their noses at the Fighers’ Guild because they see themselves as more cultured. That could be a reason (though maybe not a definitive factor) why the guild has such a non-existent presence in Skyrim.

    • The Rocketeer says:

      Nevermind the fact that your link doesn’t seen to work; the thong is clearly outclassed by the Codpiece of Infinite Wisdom and Power. At least it is as of last patch.

  14. Daemian Lucifer says:

    So no one noticed that for a few seconds the game offered you to talk to a severed head?

    • Humanoid says:

      I actually noticed when I got to this point in the game about a week or so ago, but having not played the game for a while, just thought it was the detection boxes being a bit tricky and that it was prompting me to talk to one of the other guys on the stage. Was only in hindsight that it clicked that oh yes, Roggvir is the dead guy.

    • Now THAT would be a conversation worth a scripted NPC death, especially if you could take it with you.

      Hmm… A necromantic thief, able to question the freshly dead and use their knowledge to bring swift and personally profitable justice to the lands. That’d be kind of cool.

      And no, I don’t mean Corvo. A talking heart isn’t nearly as awesome.

    • Jokerman says:

      It was very Bethesda.

      Did anyone also notice the little girl saying “I don’t want to talk to you right now…” then when Josh leaves the conversation “Nice talking to you!!!”

      Also very Bethesda.

  15. Brandon says:

    Regarding the “start as Roggvir” option… I think the best part of that scenario is that just before you died, you could look up and see the Dragonborn watching passively with Lydia standing there. Your eyes meet the Dragonborn’s and you silently beg them to pull a Zorro and save your ass. The Dragonborn sadly shakes their head and you get killed.. the last thing you see is them moving in to loot your prized Amulet of Talos.

    • hborrgg says:

      He needs the amulet for a quest later. Might as well grab it now.

      (As an aside, I hope Josh goes ahead and completes that quest. The reaction she gives when you already have the amulet is pretty funny)

      • Corpital says:

        Did they fix this quest? For the longest time, you could not complete it, if you just took the amulet right away. I think you had to use console commands to drop the undropable amulet, talk with the lady, pick it up again and then you could finish? Something stupid, anyway.

        • Raygereio says:

          The quest works as long as you do it exactly as was intended. However if you pick up any amulet of talos for that quest, other then one in Solitude Catacombs, the quest will break and the game will keep the quest item flag on all amulets of talos in your inventory.
          The unofficial patch adresses this bug.

          • Raygereio says:

            Ghetto edit:
            Oh and picking up the amulet from Roggvir’s corpse before starting the quest also breaks the quest in the same way.

            • Destrustor says:

              In my recent playthrough, I avoided his amulet and when the quest lady asked me for it, she seemed content to take the random other amulet I had in my pockets at the time. That amulet was not glitched and I could drop it at any time, but it still worked for the quest and any other amulet I picked since then was still clean. I didn’t really do the quest exactly as intended and it still worked.
              So I guess only his amulet specifically is glitched like that. Just avoid it like the plague and you should be fine. Maybe. 50/50 chance on that.

              • Raygereio says:

                Were you using the Unoffical Patches? If so, it fixes this quest so that you can’t break it so easily.
                If you weren’t, or played on the console; Then maybe Bethesda fixed the quest themselves and no one has updated the uesp, or the documentation about the bug isn’t complete? Who knows.

                • Destrustor says:

                  Played on console.

                  And now I wonder if all those amulets in general have been fixed, because last I heard, they had absolutely no effect on your shouts’ cooldown rate.
                  Kinda makes it preferable to outright avoid any and all amulets of Talos if their only real effect is “likely to glitch in your pockets.”

  16. Kreek says:

    here is my experience with the solitude beheading
    keep in mind, i play my game heavily modded

    so i waited a long long time to go to solitude in my playthrough, by the time i first made it there, my character was already maxxed out on all skills and was about level 147 or so, not sure exactly, i had done all of the master spell quests and played my char mostly as a sneakmage

    so i entered solitude and decided to make it a mission to save that poor smuck, it took me several tries and reloads, but finally i hit on the idea of casting mass paralize while stealthing and invisible

    what happened was, everyone immediately froze and fell over, because i was stealthed, i wasnt flagged as hostile, a quick runup and heal spell on that guy allowed him to get up, and he immediately fled, a minute later, the guards all decided to go after him while he hid in a corner

    eventually everyone calmed down, and i tried to talk to the guy… he had absolutely nothing to say, and then he walked by the captian of the guard, who suddenly decided to murder him, thus makeing everyone run around and flee again

    it was at this point that i decided this venture was stupid, i reloaded and let him get beheaded as scripted

    last time i try to save the life of some poor npc for no reason

    conclusion: the guy is NOT scripted to die reguardless of being saved, however, he is flagged as hostile to the guards and also set as a towns person with no dialog, so he wont leave the city, so even if you do somehow manage to save him, theres no point, and hes going to eventually end up dead anyway

  17. BitFever says:

    You can save him but if you talk to him during the escape he drops dead instantly for reasons I can not comprehend. Even if he manages to get out of town he just shows back up in the city and stands around by the grinding wheel while everyone talks as if he had been killed.

  18. General Karthos says:

    I’m fairly sure you can save Rogvir. At least I remember once accidentally setting off a huge riot, though I’m not sure how I managed to start it, and I can’t remember most details, since it was well over a year ago, on the 360 before this one. Plus I reloaded because I honestly didn’t intend to set off the riot.

    It’s the way you could occasionally accidentally touch off a massive guard murder spree in Morrowwind. A guard would attack a civilian, the civilian would retaliate, and because of the way they were affiliated, every guard in the city would begin to attack the target civilian, except that they’d be intercepted by other civilians, and the guards would proceed to murder every civilian in the area.

  19. MichaelGC says:

    So what’s the deal with the generous carriage driver? Did he recently move to Skyrim from Megaton? (I have sidequest OCD, so pretty much everyone seems to think it’s a fine day with me around, but I’ve never been given a free potion.)

    Hmph.

  20. Raygereio says:

    Lydia is not quite invulnerable:
    In vanilla Skyrim almost all followers have the protected flag (a couple have the essential flag either temporarily or permanently). What “protected” does is force the protected NPC into a “bleedout” state whenever their health goes below a certain percentage of their max health (this is generally set to 10%), even if the damage would have put them at zero or lower health.
    When a character is in bleedout, they are not actively targetted by the enemy AI anymore and they start regaining health. The essential flag does the same thing. Where essential and protected differ is that a protected NPC can still go below 1 hitpoint during bleedout. So the player can still freely damage and kill them. And while the AI won’t target a character in bleedout, they can still be hit by AOE effects and whatnot.

    • RTBones says:

      I was going to say something similar. By way of example- in my current playthrough, I have seen Lydia “fall” down a mountainside because she and the dog (other quest) tried to occupy the same space in space. Dog wins, Lydia slides down mountain. Make own way down the mountain, and there is Lydia trying to get back to me.

      Enroute to the west side of the map to work on dog quest, came across the bandit/falmer dungeon that holds Longhammer. In the middle of it all I lost Lydia. Didn’t think about it, cleared dungeon, went on merry way. Realized after clearing inventory in Whiterun, Lydia was MIA. Back to dungeon I go, only to find Lydia dead – likely from one of my own arrows that I lobbed into the middle of a group of falmer when I was clearing it.

      • Zagzag says:

        The falmer poison can kill protected characters, as it deals damage over time, which apparently wasn’t accounted for by however the scripting for a protected character works.

  21. Macfeast says:

    I still largely prefer the “you screwed up and killed an important guy, reload the game or live with the consequences” of Morrowind. For vast games like those of the Elder Scrolls-series, games that I’m going to spend hundreds of hours on, it’s nice to have the freedom to break the game on occasion, and just kill someone I wasn’t going to bother with anyway. While a more dynamic game like Skyrim might warrant marking some NPC’s as unkillable, particularly as they could otherwise randomly be killed by a dragon through no fault of the player… there is such a thing as going overboard with it. It is amazing just how many unkillable NPC’s there are, even after their respective storylines are concluded, and how many of them seem largely inconsequential.

    Killing certain NPC’s may be story-breaking… but going on a killing spree in Whiterun, and having a third of the town get back up again is immersion-breaking. I dunno, it feels like there has to be a more elegant solution.

    • Raygereio says:

      I dunno, it feels like there has to be a more elegant solution.

      I like New Vegas’ solution. Obsidian gave the player to freedom to kill pretty much anyone they want and consequently the freedom to screw themselves out of almost all quest lines. The only exception is the Yes Men ending which even ingame is the “screw everyone else, I’m doing this on my own”-path.
      Unless they radically change their gamedesign philosophy, Bethesda will never do something like that though. They seem to be almost afraid of allowing the player to miss content. Which can result in such silliness like a player becoming an Archmage who only knows 3 novice level spells, or a master of the Thieves Guild who only runs around chopping people up with a big sword and hasn’t got a singple point in stealth.

      While a more dynamic game like Skyrim might warrant marking some NPC’s as unkillable, particularly as they could otherwise randomly be killed by a dragon through no fault of the player… there is such a thing as going overboard with it.

      It’s not all that difficult to make a system where civilians flee when there’s a dragon attack (or vampire attack for Dawnguard). There are mods that do exactly that. With the Creation Engine’s alias system, you can even temporarily make NPCs unkillable until a dragon or vampire attack has been dealt with it.

      • newdarkcloud says:

        Solution: Use the “protected” flag for townspeople instead of the “essential” flag. And change the protected flag so that only the player can make the kill.

        • Raygereio says:

          That’s not a great fix. I think it’s fine for a player to screw themselves out of content intentionally. But a game should be designed so that you can’t do that by accident. And having killable people be around during a dragon attack, would mean you could kill them by accident during combat.
          Making people run for shelter when a dragon attacks – which is perfectly possible and not really complex to implement – is a better sollution and has the additional benefit of making things feel a bit more realistic.

    • newdarkcloud says:

      I’m glad they finally talked about essential flags, because I bitched about this myself about this same time last year:

      http://pressstarttodiscuss.blogspot.com/2013/03/59-essential-problem-with-skyrim.html

  22. Grudgeal says:

    Just to butt in on the Steve Russell analogy, it’s a valid comparison… Except Mark Hamill was *retiring* from the role, and not willing, able and as expensive to hire as the replacement.

    To me, it’s just another example of the new game’s indecisiveness towards being a reboot/new universe versus homaging the old one: They want the same main character and the same voice, but they don’t want to use the same voice actor to deliver the same voice to the same character. Si non confectus, non reficiat

  23. James says:

    I don’t understand why the people who made elder scrolls keep giving people plot armor like this. We know its possible to tell a story were you can kill EVERYONE, New Vegas did it, you could kill every single person and if they had a quest it went “quest failed” on the top of the screen, so the player now knows a quest failed and if they were interested they could reload. It also helped that their were no less than 4 ways to beat the game so chances are you would choose one of them. Now i just wish a few of the writers of NV had stayed with Bethesda.

    • Thomas says:

      I don’t think it would be good enough. It seems to be a deliberate design philosophy of Bethesda to make the story/questing as bland and uninvolving as possible… and somehow it pays off. Removing the ability to do anything significant so that players can do everything insignificant creates a game which people can devote 100’s of hours to and play again and again and again.

      I would love it if the partnership between Bethesda and Obsidian was strengthened though. If for every mainstream Bethesda game, Obsidian made a spin-off using the Bethesda assets… that would be so good. I would love to see an Obsidian take on an Elder Scrolls spin-off

      • Humanoid says:

        In financial terms, I’d rather it never happened again. For Obsidian it was a single pay-the-bills contract with a lump sum payment that in the end left them no better off than they were before. That’s right, Obsidian receives absolutely no money from any sales of New Vegas. I doubt Bethesda will suffer a sudden bout of generosity so frankly I’d like Obsidian to not come near them ever again. If they were to make another post-apocalyptic RPG then they’re probably better off dealing with inXile for a Wasteland spinoff, given that they’re just about sister studios now.

        At any rate, their new project will be announced at GDC in less than a fortnight, which will hopefully be worth the wait.

        • bucaneer says:

          I think people are making a bigger deal of the Metacritic bonus than it was, as far as Obsidian is concerned. Remember that we only know about it from Chris Avellone’s tweet made in passing (and since deleted). All the outcry comes from fans, not from Obsidian employees. For all we know, this kind of contract is the industry standard for dealings between publishers who own the IP and independent studios that do the development. It’s a crappy standard, to be sure, but it’s probably unfair to say that Bethesda mistreated Obsidian in some special way, or that Obsidian should be holding a grudge against them.

        • Alex says:

          “If they were to make another post-apocalyptic RPG then they’re probably better off dealing with inXile for a Wasteland spinoff, given that they’re just about sister studios now.”

          I’d love to see them do a Necromunda RPG. Cliffs notes: in the abandoned basement of a miles-high arcology, you have the Underhive. The closest thing to the law down there is the Merchant’s Guild, who control the only reliable means of trading with the industry of Hive City proper. You’ve got gangs who set themselves up as rulers of their own little kingdoms, mutants, cyborgs and doomsday cultists, and nobleborn from uphive who consider it a rite of passage to put on a suit of power armour and go downhive to hunt the dregs of society.

  24. Benjamin Hilton says:

    Quests like the Bard’s College or the Mage’s College…

    I live relatively close to Bard College. So when I read the above sentence, there was just a moment before getting to the second half of it, when I thought Shamus was implying that going to college is a quest.

    It made me laugh.

  25. newdarkcloud says:

    Now that I think of it, with so few ways to level/use Speech in this game, Bardsong would be an interesting new mechanic. Use songs to boost/moral, intimidate foes, or restore health/stamina (with cooldown as opposed to magicka consumption).

    It would also be cool if shouts became stronger/weaker with more Speech skill.

    Interesting missed opportunities.

  26. bucaneer says:

    The problem is that Skyrim does have procedural quests. And they absolutely suck, even compared to the most throwaway, boilerplate, filler hand-made sidequests. For example, one time I got a quest from the Companions where some weapon that was a family heirloom of somebody in Whiterun got stolen by bandits. I went to the bandit cave, killed them all, and grabbed the weapon that was conspicuously displayed in the final room – I think it was a silver sword with a minor frost enchantment – nothing fancy, but I figured sentimental value could make up for it. As I headed back to Whiterun, I noticed that the quest marker still pointed back to the cave. Backtracking, I found that what the quest actually wanted me to retrieve was a plain steel war axe in some random crate – no enchantment, no unique name, and of so little value that I had mentally filtered it out when looting the place. Never did any other Radiant quests for the Companions afterwards.

    Then there are Dark Brotherhood Radiant quests that spawn random contractors and random assassination targets with no relation to the rest of the game world. Or Thieves’ Guild quests that spawn urns, pitchers and candlesticks of pure gold in houses where such items don’t fit at all (then again, most drug lords would probably consider them too tasteless and over-the-top) and ask you to steal them. And you need to slog though a bunch of crap like this to get to a reasonably decent ending of the Thieves’ Guild questline.

    My point is: don’t ask Bethesda for procedural quests, because they might listen.

    • newdarkcloud says:

      The Thieves’ Guild radiant quests were terrible. Especially since in order to fully complete the questline, you need to do enough of them in each town where quests are generated.

      What makes that horrible is that you can’t specify which mission you want by location, you can only do so by objective. Meaning, you will often be accepting and cancelling quests from the guild just to find the ones in the city you’re interested in.

      However, the objects that spawn from generating the quests DO NOT DESPAWN, which can lead to horrible load times and file sizes (at least on consoles, I assume PC can either handle it or has a patch).

      Really, the TG is a microcosm of almost all the things Skyrim gets wrong. And since I play Thief, I need to do that questline to avoid wasting Speech perks just to get a fence.

      • Amnestic says:

        And, again, this is something that can be fixed with mods, meaning that it wouldn’t have been too difficult for Bethesda to make it baseline.

        It’s also, for that matter, dumb that you can only do one radiant quest per questgiver at a time, even though they’ve got multiple types of jobs available. Would’ve been nice to just get a big list of them to wipe them all out at once and do a huge mass thieving spree to really strike fear into the general populace that nothing they own is safe.

  27. I’m having a hard time deciding if this Fus Roh Death is funnier than Josh’s attempt to enter the Boomer Air Base in Fallout New Vegas. Both have their charms. This one has the pathfinding quote, but the other has Mumbles singing to Rutskarn: “You don’t know about TF2, you’ll never be maaarieeeed.”

    It’s a tough call.

  28. Goggalor says:

    One of the best fantasy campaigns I played in started with the premise that each player-character had run away from their past lives to join the circus. So in effect, we were ALL playing Bards, although it wasn’t using D&D rules.

    There was a lot more involved than just playing music though —we ended up inheriting what was left of the circus after a couple of unfortunate explosions and had to deal with the logistics of running it, honing our acts and maintaining all the equipment, as well as getting involved in the local politics. It turned out the circus had been running an information network for local businesses trying to circumvent the restrictive prophecies of the guilds. After a while we graduated into full-on heroes just because we were the only people that travelled all across the lands and putting clues together, so we became the only people who had a picture of what was happening and (by then) the toughness and reputation to do something about it.

    So being bards can work very well for a campaign setting if you drill down into it and make everyone a bard, instead of making “bard” a tagalong for an unrelated group of adventurers. I reckon you could do a similar thing with Thieves by running a game set around a thieves’ guild in a fantasy equivalent of Victorian London.

  29. Jack Kucan says:

    The quests in 3089 are the worst. They are literally unconnected actions with no pretense of a story.

  30. Vagrant says:

    All I remember of Solitude was the 3 day siege I laid upon the town. When I realized I couldn’t save the guard I took note of the three characters involved. I followed them home. I laid waste to them and they’re families. I got a bounty. I killed every guard in solitude. In my head cannon I single-handedly won the war against the imperials.

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