Skyrim EP23: Praefect Strangers

  By Shamus   Apr 10, 2014   91 comments


Link (YouTube)

Welcome to Riften, where everyone is a dick to you for no reason, everyone insists on talking to you for no reason, and everyone is invincible for no reason. (No good reason, anyway.) It’s also ugly. It’s also the home of the Thieves Guild Questline, making this the most awesome concentration of awfulness in all of Skyrim.


2020202011There are now 91 comments. Almost a hundred!


  1. Rutskarn says:

    THIS WEEK’s TES RIDDLE:

    A lizard’s best friend
    With an unfriendly end
    You’ll only find me
    In Morrowind

    What am I?

  2. Starkos says:

    The way cart prices work is based on whether the city is in a major hold (Whiterun, Windhelm, Solitude, Riften, and Markarth) or a minor hold (Winterhold, Dawnstar, Falkreath, and Morthal).

  3. Gruhunchously says:

    You want to make Janessa carry thing for you, but she’s in the middle of a fight so you can’t talk to her. It would be nice if there was some sort of separate interface that allowed you to give your followers instructions without have to enter conversations with them.

    • Kamica says:

      I believe you can hold the “Use” button on a companion, and then the context-sensitive command cursor pops up. You can give orders, just not go in their inventory I think =P.

  4. TMTVL says:

    Now I wonder if it’s possible to kill the horse pulling a cart and then taking the cart somewhere.

  5. MichaelGC says:

    Campster – I was wondering: did you try out the drinking game when you played it? (The one in the actual game, I mean, not the SW Drinkalong With Cuftbert one.) It doesn’t quite do as you suggested – i.e. messing with your inventory – but it does involve the same general ideas. Sorta. (I’m being purposefully vague because I don’t trust myself not to screw up posting with spoilertags!)

    PS A decent attempt at Jenny’s accent and idiom, there! Like omg totally.

    • Alexander The 1st says:

      You mean the one that gets you so drunk that it starts the questline where you have to track down the person you apparently married after cleaning up the Mara temple that you apparently trashed?

      At least, I seem to remember that on the Skyrim wiki when I was looking for something entirely unrelated, but I’m guessing that’s what you’re referring to.

    • Jabrwock says:

      Everquest handled being drunk by blurring your vision, wobbling your vision, randomly making your movement commands be backwards or ignore you (so you staggered all over the place, VERY dangerous in elf towns with no guardrails), text speech was randomly unintelligible, etc.

      But I think dropping gear and random blackouts would be an awesome addition.

      • Alexander The 1st says:

        The thing is, what should be added is a gradient. Unless you’re well noted for having a weak stomach or similar, not all of those happen at once.

        So, you know, one drink might blur vision, a second staggers movement, unintelligible text on the third, dropping gear on the fourth…and so on.

        But yeah, what you mentioned would be awesome. That said, an addition in Skyrim:

        By the sixth drink, every once in a while Skyrim chooses a shout you’ve already learned and has you shout it as long as you can shout. Or perhaps even when you can’t (Seventh drink?) with shouts you may not already know (Eight drink?).

        I’m now picturing an instance where, when meeting Alduin at Kynesgrove, the Dragonborn slumbers up to the dragon burial mound and shouts Dragonrend at Alduin *way* before he’s supposed to know it.

    • Lilith Novale says:

      That was my absolute favourite quest in the whole of skyrim – it really shows what Bethesda could do if they took themselves a little less seriously.

  6. MichaelGC says:

    You complain about the unkillable NPCs, but if they made it so you could kill e.g. Jarl Billygoatsgruuf, they’d also have to remove invincibility from the likes of Nervous Patron! And Indolent Farmer!! And then where would we be?!?

  7. MikhailBorg says:

    Josh was definitely putting cart before the horse, there.

  8. hborrgg says:

    I had a mod installed when I played which caused your character to randomly trip and ragdoll when drunk, that was pretty entertaining. When I was doing my nondrickian playthrough I had just gotten married and returned to my wife’s house drunk when I noticed that I could get on the roof if I climbed up a nearby hill. So I did that and then my character slipped off the roof, fell about 8 feet onto his head and died.

    I didn’t even know Skyrim worked like that.

  9. hborrgg says:

    @15:30

    Yes Rutskarn, exactly like that, minus the “Makes complete sense” part of course.

  10. Tizzy says:

    A cat takes a nap in the middle of the day. Of course!

  11. Did I imagine it, or did Josh actually remember to buy health potions?

  12. Hitch says:

    WoW had (probably still has) a nice effect of drunkenness. Besides your screen getting blurry and wobbling from side to side a bit, you also perceive enemies as lower level than they are. How much lower depends on how drunk you are. Would occasionally create entertaining moments. “Why are these guys two levels lower than me kicking my ass?”

    “Because you’re drunk and they’re actually three levels higher than you.”

    • Humanoid says:

      It did, but with the advent of flying, it for whatever reason varied your vertical movement a lot more than your horizontal movement. When on the ground it was only a minor inconvenience in getting where you intend to go, but a different story when you’re trying to fly there.

    • Disc says:

      The various house item kegs in Lotro are probably my favorite ones. One sample and you’ll wake up in some random, often ridiculous place in Eriador/Moria without your pants (you don’t literally lose gear but your character model will be pantless [barring you’re wearing a custom outfit] and you need to re-equip whatever you had in the pants slot to get the benefits back) and still drunk as a skunk.

      • Melfina the Blue says:

        Lotro has the best drinking system and games I have encountered. Running around the Shire with a time limit, having to chug X beers at each pub, is a blast and also thematically appropriate. Plus the drunken singing and hiccuping your toon does is hysterical.

  13. aldowyn says:

    Don’t forget how hard Riften is to navigate!

  14. straymute says:

    I always found it really odd the Stormcloaks start with Riften. It borders Cyrodiil so if the Imperials had any kind of foothold in Skyrim at all you’d think it would be there. It borders Morrowind too so you’d think the Dunmer refugees would be there instead of Windhelm.

    • Indy says:

      Funny thing about Riften: the Jarl is incredibly insulated from reality, not only does she not believe the Thieves Guild is a problem, she thinks her son is sick because he hates Ulfric. Her housecarl, steward, court wizard, the sane son and Maven Black-Briar are all telling her about the Empire’s “lies” and supposed raids. So she supports the Stormcloaks.

      I like her insanity. It’s better than the collective insanity of the Thieves Guild.

      • Klay F. says:

        Honestly the entire city is like a case-study in how few fucks Bethsoft gives about you wanting your actions to affect the world to any degree. The world is more static than an early 2000s era MMO.

  15. Kavonde says:

    Ugh. Riften. Watching this episode, I was starting to get the itch to fire up Skyrim and tool around for a bit, but then… Riften. Ugh.

    Everything about Riften sucks so much. It’s ugly. It’s laid out annoyingly. The quests are awful. The first time you arrive, your camera gets grabbed three times while some macho dick tries to shake you down/intimidate you/recruit you into his terrible, terrible guild.

    There’s a guy who wants three hard-to-find-at-lower-levels flawless gems. Another dude wants ten Fire Salts–which are only dropped naturally by like three monsters in the entire game. An apprentice apothecary wants SIXTY freaking herbs, forty of which are only found in the crappy marshes around Swampy Nord Town With The Vampires.

    There’s a complex dock area that isn’t used for anything, a supposedly important meadery that you never really have any reason to explore, you have to spelunk your way through a friggin’ sewer level to reach a group of (invincible, of course) thieves who are either unfriendly and confrontational or just too dumb to live, and then there’s Maven freaking Blackbriar.

    Even the house you can buy there kind of sucks.

    On the other hand, there are a lot of merchants there, and if you’re playing with Frostfall, you generally won’t die of hypothermia.

    • Humanoid says:

      I like that the Riften house opens directly to the outside world. Even the people who built it recognise that nobody would want to exit to Riften.

    • Hal says:

      One of the odd things about Riften/The Rift that was odd to me was the description. When I first played, there were the loading screens saying things like, “There’s a rift in Skyrim that no magic can heal,” and I’m thinking, “Oh, there must be this yawning abyss of magical darkness. Cool!”

      Nope. Riften is just a valley. If Winterhold/Windhelm is perpetual winter, Riften is perpetual fall. Yawn.

    • ET says:

      Ugh. I’m like, level 33, and I Still haven’t found a second flawless sapphire to give to Madesi. I’ll bet the reward is like, fifty gold, too. Who built this horrible quest?

      • Hal says:

        The wiki tells me that the reward is 100g for each of the sapphires (200 altogether), but I seem to recall getting more like 1000-1500. Perhaps it’s level-based. Either way, he’ll also give you a level-based amulet once he gets everything, so it’s not a terrible quest, but it’s one of those quests that can’t be purposefully completed because you can’t control the spawning of a flawless sapphire.

        • MichaelGC says:

          There’s one in the inner chamber of the Temple of Dibella in Markath, although I don’t think it respawns. (I like doing that quest not because the reward is commensurate but because the argonian seems like a good guy! Although maybe that’s just because he’s surrounded by the usual Riften assholes.)

    • Disc says:

      You can use the Hearthfire garden/greenhouse to get around some of the ingredient quests by planting the ingredient in question and then harvesting them after they’ve grown. The usual yield is 2-4 ingredients per plant. It still takes some time, but at least you don’t need to run around wasting time hunting down all the regular plants in Skyrim.

      • Ciennas says:

        Yeah, that translates to ‘we built some broken/bad quest designs, would you like to pay us money to fix our goof?’

        And even then only partially.

    • Corpital says:

      I always do the quest with the 10fire salts, because I like Balimund, the smith.
      Now that food vending dunmer woman, on the other hand…she wanted five ice wrath teeth and after getting rewarded me with, like, three pieces of meat. And every single time I passed by her after that, she droned the rudest greeting in her reptertoire. Over and over again.

      One positive thing about Riften though: In the Bee&Barb you can hire Mercurio, who is a pretty cool companion. I think Mumbles even married him?

      • The Rocketeer says:

        Speaking of, well, both of those things, I got the biggest reward of all out of Balimund’s quest: a husband! And completely by accident. I didn’t recognize the new line of dialogue when trying to dump some bloody trousers on him, and proposed by accident. When he said he’d totally go for it, I laughed it off like it was a joke and fled the hold with a red face.

        Of course, every Dovahkiin gets tired of adventuring someday, and I did already own the house in Rifton…

  16. abs1nth says:

    I think most would agree that the Thieves Guild quest line is the best quest line of the game. My only complaint was the annoying shift in tone and story in the later third and that they force you to bind your soul for eternity to a daedra. Yeah that didn’t fit my character at all and came out of nowhere. Everything before that was about being criminal scum and suddenly you turn into noble thief power rangers, wtf?

    @Shamus: Why do half of my comments never show up? It’s like a 50/50 chance if the comment appears. At first I thought it was due to moderation but no, I checked back after weeks and the comment still isn’t there, besides one time it was pending for moderation and it still appeared and said that. I’m using the latest Firefox if that helps.

    • Raygereio says:

      I think most would agree that the Thieves Guild quest line is the best quest line of the game.

      Well, I suppose one can’t argue over personal taste, but just… damn. I’m pretty sure that questline will be shown on SW, so I’ll save everyone my ranting on this topic for now. But in my opinion the Thieves Guild easily wins the worst-questline-in-Skyrim-award.
      Though I will admit that the Nightingale armour appeals to my inner, ninja-loving, 12-year old self.

      • newdarkcloud says:

        I love the Nightengale Armor.

        I hate the questline attached to getting it. (Although instead of finishing the questline, I just took the skeleton key from Mercer and kept it for myself. Fuck the Thieves’ Guild. )

    • spades says:

      Nope. Dark Brotherhood is the best questline, IMO.

    • abs1nth says:

      @Raygereio: Now I’m curious why you disliked it so much. I’ll try to remember to check back when/if they do the quest.

      @newdarkcloud: Hah that’s what I did too!

      @spades: I hadn’t finished the Dark Brotherhood questline but from what I saw it seemed promising. Story seemed cool quest design aside from those generic kill x person seemed interesting. It’s funny though how they reference at that marriage part things that were cut from the quest.

      @Jarenth: I read through his post. I can’t argue against opinion but his post seemed like he was at a point where the game’s writing already annoyed him so much that he was purposefully looking for flaws to complain about. If you are in that mindest very few games (or books, movies) really hold up. I think a lot of what he deemed a plot hole can be explained.

      • MadHiro says:

        I recommend you read what Shamus has written on Plot Holes and Story Collapse. I think it neatly sums up a lot of discussion on story coherence. Essentially, if its gotten to the point where we notice these plot holes (which many things have), it means that the story has already failed.

        I used to work in live theatre on the technical end of things; sometimes, often in fact, there would be a minor mistake. The lights shifted too soon, a sound effect wasn’t quite synched with a door slaming, lots of small things. One of the things we would say to ourselves was,” Don’t worry about it; if the audience noticed it, it means they’re not paying attention to the play because it sucks, and we lost them already.”

    • Humanoid says:

      I play a thief first-up in just about every CRPG I play, and I despised the Thieves’ Guild questline – I tabbed out of the idiotic conversation where you had to ‘commit yourself’ and just walked out.

      On the other hand, if not for that quest, I wouldn’t be here and be a member of this community. You see, I had my own whinge about that questline on another forum, and another poster pointed out Shamus’ series of then-recent articles about the same thing (albeit in a couple magnitudes more depth). I had never heard of this place before. So in that regard I guess you could say it was the best questline, funny how that turns out.

    • Kavonde says:

      Others already mentioned Shamus’ analysis of the Thieves’ Guild questline, and I already bitched about how much I hate Riften in general up above, but I think some small amount of credit is due to the Guild quests. Not the main quests, which are nonsensical garbage, but the sidequests where you slowly build up the Guild’s presence in various towns, and each town that comes under the Guild’s sway nets you a new shop down in the sewers. It’s a cool (and useful) mechanic that rewards you for doing thiefy stuff.

      • abs1nth says:

        I think those quests are like all radiant quests in Skyrim worthless. The idea of radiant quests has a lot of potential but I don’t see how you could do something cool with it with a voice acted game, you just end up having generic quests without context.

        They seem pointless to me. Why give me a quest to do something that I can do by my own volition? I already can steal from people, I already can clear dungeons, I don’t need a quest to tell me to “do dungeon, get gold”, “steal item, get gold” I’d much rather do that because I want to do it. The value of quests lies in providing context, telling stories/world building and mixing up the way you play the game. Radiant quests do none of those things. This whole thieves guild thing would have been so much better if they’d just put a bunch of specific valuable items in the cities and it was your quest to find them and bring them to the guild but NOT in a “accept 1 quest, find 1 item” way but as in “there is treasure, go find it”. Skyrim is so concerned with showing the player everything “cool” that they made when the beauty lies in discovering those things for yourself.

    • BeardedDork says:

      “I think most would agree that the Thieves Guild quest line is the best quest line of the game.”

      I think you are the only person, I’ve ever heard say that, and I personally don’t agree with you. However I am very interested in hearing what in that quest worked for you, that made you enjoy it so much.

      • abs1nth says:

        The reason I said that is because I saw a lot of people expressing that same opinion.

        I’ll try to explain why I like the Thieves Guild by focusing on the first two thirds of the story because I already made clear why I don’t like the later part.

        I think the quest line does a good job of establishing what the guild is about and what the basic story will focus on, up until that reveal I also thought the mystery was reasonably interesting. The Thieves Guild is rooted in the world, it makes sense how they function or why they exist which can’t be said about the the Companions or the College. Every quest enforces the feeling of being a thief by Skyrim’s interpretation which is being a criminal. I also like how you gradually work your way up in the guild as quests start with low-level tasks and become increasingly more elaborate and you are being rewarded with better gear. I enjoyed the gameplay of every quest as they were all unique, not the typical “clear dungeon” but crafted with care and a lot of them offered different approaches. My favorite was the Goldenglow estate which just felt like playing an awesome stealth game. The level has two entrances and the area is quite big and non-linear (which is rare in Skyrim). Staying in character I completed every mission stealthily and the levels were designed for that.

        • BeardedDork says:

          Mainly the game play, I can respect that. I got a very different feel from it, but what they have you do, why, and how they treat you for it was a big turn off for me. I felt like the Companions and Dark Brotherhood quests gave a much better feel for how these people fit in to the world than the thieves’ guild quest did.

          • abs1nth says:

            Dark Brotherhood definitely seemed good, I’m planning to start a character soon to complete the quest line. My problem with the Companions is that in lore they are all about honor and being mercenaries, like a rugged version of the fighters guild. But the entire quest line focuses on none of those things it’s all about petty revenge and being a werewolf and hunting the silver hand aside from the very first quest. Which would have been fine to me if I just joined the secret werewolf sect but I didn’t I joined Skyrim’s fighters guild and the things I had to do didn’t make me feel at all like that was the case. It’s a similar problem with the ending of the Thieves Guild: the game sets up expectations and betrays them. One moment you were lead to believe this faction was about one thing and you decide to join and then it ends up being about something completely different. I felt like I was being dragged into their problems, like I was the intern they used to do the dirty work for them. I’m not sure why I should be invested in their vengeance. “Sounds like a personal problem.”

            Looking at the wiki page I actually realize that all the radiant quests that I never did because I find them a waste of time focus on things that make sense for companions to do. I hope they’ll talk about the radiant quest system on Spoiler Warning, it’s definitely an interesting idea with a lot of promise but also something that imo didn’t benefit Skyrim at all. I would even go so far as to say the game might be better if you’d just remove all of them.

  17. The Other Matt K says:

    Every time a quest sends me to Riften, I like to prove my skill as a thief by slipping in and out of the town without ever getting accosted by the jerk who starts the Thieves Guild Quest. That’s how much I hate his smug, annoying, unkillable face.

  18. Benjamin Hilton says:

    I love how Josh essentially became one of the “follow you to the ends of the Earth” npc’s in this episode.

  19. Zastrick says:

    Riften is annoying and not pretty, but it’s probably the most useful city to a player. If you take the time and effort to restore the thieves guild, taking the two loading screens (one way) to reach the vendors there is the hands down best place to sell goods in an unmodded game. I’ve only done the full story arc of the guild once, but I almost always go far enough to improve the guild.

    I use Honeyside as my default house because you can build the enchanting and alchemy table in it, a smith is a short walk away, and it’s close to the city waypoint, which are all helpful for the house relevant things I do.

    • Ravens Cry says:

      That makes it even worse. It’s almost as if they consciously put some of their most useful stuff behind a gate locked with sheer awful and barred with a metric butt load of asshat stupidity.

  20. Asimech says:

    “Quit dragon this out.” Dammit, Rutskarn.

    I’ve had this idea that if someone drinks six tequila shots in succession in an MMO the game logs that character out and doesn’t let you log back in until about 10 hours have passed. Then the character is in their home (if applicable) or in the closest inn with no explanation how they got there.

    This is based on a couple of friend’s experience with Tequila shots in bars.

    Of course it needs for other drinks to cause loss of money or items to contrast how strange it is, but there’s something fascinating about a “delayed teleport through alcohol” concept.

    • Ciennas says:

      I like this idea, but it needs to go further.

      When you log back in, you find out that your character did not just wink out of existence.

      They wandered randomly, doing things that sounded like fun in their drunken state (Pulled from a table of funny drunken actions, I suppose, with a couple of character relevant actions based on how you completed prior quests, perhaps?)

      The next day when you’re allowed back in, they’re getting pulled from their drunken stupor in one of a few key areas, including the local drunk tank, or the aftermath of a wild party, or in a cave sixteen levels above them surrounded by a pile of corpses of the local wildlife…. with a bit of loot.

      Just, something to make you try and piece together what the HELL that your character got up to while you weren’t in control.

      Stuff like that would be very funny, to me.

      • MadHiro says:

        One of the interesting ideas from the MMORPG featured in Neal Stephenson’s REAMDE is that characters continue to do things after you log out. Like, they get food and chop wood and do whatever it is that that character would actually be doing.

        So it is possible to log-in and have no idea how it is that you got to where you currently are.

        • That’s kind of what EVE does, doesn’t it? Or is it just purely skill increase?

          And that’s another question: If your character gets drunk and does a bunch of stuff you don’t remember, do you gain XP? It makes one wonder how much of XP is keyed to memory (remembering how you slew that rabbit) vs. actually doing something. I mean, there’s a blackout-drunk quest whose events apparently net you no XP, but if XP can be gained through mental exercise, why can’t you get XP from reading every book?

          XP is both a particle and a wave, perhaps. I need to set up an XPhysics experiment in Minecraft now…

          • tzeneth says:

            Maybe it only increases your skills while drunk out of your mind? You more easily remember things the closer to the state in which those events actually occurred. That’s why it’s easier to remember happy moments when you’re happy and sadder moments when you’re sad. It’s also why it’s a good idea to try and break out of negative mental feed back loops if they are occurring.

            Also, Drunken Darts trophy has to appear somewhere. Are the tattoos your character gets permanent?

      • Asimech says:

        Maybe with other drinks, but the strange thing about Tequila is that no-one else has anything to report after it either. The drinker is usually seen for few minutes wondering about in the bar and then *poof*, they’re nowhere to be seen.

        That’s part of why I mentioned it needs other effects for other alcoholic drinks to emphasise that this a “6 shots of Tequila” only effect.

  21. avpix says:

    Well, until this gets implemented in a game, we’ll have to just do it ourselves.

    • Indy_S says:

      Yes! I’m surprised no one linked to that sooner. This is what has to happen when a godlike PC gets blackout drunk. The quest already in the game is missing the decimation of random towns and a 100k bounty.

  22. Mailbox says:

    Riften is a great city. It has the best house (funtionally speaking) you have a alchemy table and enchanting table right next to each other. lots of storage. it’s close to a blacksmith and the entrance of town. there are shops close by to sell and of course the Thieves Guild shops as well as the fencing vendor.
    I’ll also defend the Thieves Guild quest line. It’s not as bad as you believe it to be. Stop giving people that impression.

    • Ciennas says:

      No, it does have problems though- again, he outlined them starting here.

      The biggest and worst of the complaints he outlined was the problem that the Companions had too- Oh, you mean you don’t want to make a deal with the devil (Or Deadra, as the case may be.)

      Too bad!

      In addition, his complaints were the distinct lack of anything thief-like for a majority of the quest chain, and that the characters actions don’t make sense with what we’re told.

      The story is interesting, but needed some tweaks to flow properly, because fridge logic tore it to shreds.

      And worst of all, in order to avoid the quest chain, you have to look up a guide to avoid it, because the main quest shoves them in your face as well.

  23. I always hated going to Riften–something about the way that city was laid out caused massive slowdown on my aging computer. The running water in Whiterun does the same thing sometimes, but Riften was always the worst.

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