Skyrim EP28: Specialist Olympics

By Shamus Posted Thursday May 8, 2014

Filed under: Spoiler Warning 105 comments

Link (YouTube)

I’d like to interrupt this special episode of “hoarders” for the following political commentary: The whole “Ulfric is a sleeper agent” idea pretty much ruined the entire political questline for me. Once I discovered that, I lost all interest in it.

I like the idea of idealism vs. practicality that the quest represents on its face. Do we support the religious freedom of a nation of people who are partly, but not entirely racist? Do we condemn all based on the way some have lashed out at non-Nords? Do we side with the Empire, who are really just trying to make the best of a bad situation? I mean, sure, we could fight to defend Talos worship now. But we would lose badly to the Thalmor. Wouldn’t it be better to just keep the Talos-business secret while we try to build up enough power to crush the murderous and genocidal Thalmor? Then again, if Talos worship is diminished, that might also diminish the power of Talos, who might be key to overcoming the Thalmor. Then again again, if the Nords are so hell-bent on shoving their Talos in everyone’s face, wouldn’t it just be better to let the cede from the Empire? Let the Thalmor and the Nords duke it out for a decade or so, rather than expending our finite supply of imperial power basically fighting the Thalmor’s battle for them? On the other, other, other hand, don’t the Stormcloaks kind of have a point? Why serve and pay taxes to an empire that’s clearly unable and unwilling to do its job and protect you from foreign powers? Can we blame the Stormcloaks for wanting to keep fighting about something that means so much to them? They’re not the only people in Tamriel who would rather die than give up their god, they’re just the only ones being asked to do so.

I’m sure we can do another couple of paragraphs of pro-and-con. The point is: This is a really interesting setup and there are lots of ways of looking at this.

And then in this stupid message it’s revealed the whole thing is a massive waste of time. The idealistic Stormcloak leader is just a brainwashed puppet, the whole war is a plot of the Thalmor, and the only winning move is not to play. Okay Bethesda. You talked me out of it. I won’t play the political questline. Not sure why you wanted to reduce the most interesting problem in Skyrim to an uninteresting reveal, and I don’t know why you’d want to dissade players from playing the second-biggest questline in the game. But whatever.


If someone at least SAID this out loud, then we could have fun with it. Were they telling the truth? Were they mislead? Who do we believe? It would also give us a justification for why we can’t show the proof to the various leaders. I mean, every other piece of paper in Skyrim is considered irrefutable evidence of this-or-that. But the same apparently isn’t true for this, the most important document in Skyrim that isn’t an actual Elder Scroll.


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105 thoughts on “Skyrim EP28: Specialist Olympics

  1. Alan says:

    I was also frustrated that a lot of reasonable options were simply off the table. It would have been nice to at least have the game acknowledge the information. “Maybe this was orchestrated by the Thalmor, but does it change anything? The politicians back in Cyrodiil already suspected and don’t care. The orders may damn us, but I swore an oath and will carry them out.” Or something similar from Stormclock, perhaps about how the faith itself demands that it practiced loudly and in public, or how the cause is too strong for even he to stop, it must go forward and it will go far worse without him leading.

    That said, I didn’t see the Thalmor evidence as a reason to abandon the political quest line. The war (in theory) would continue anyway. The best thing for both sides is for the war to end quickly, and I was in a position to do that. So I picked what I felt was the less awful choice and pushed it through. (In practice, if you don’t follow the quest line the war will remain in a sort of half-assed limbo. My investment with the story was enough to not be willing to take such a mechanical solution.)

    1. newdarkcloud says:

      Indeed. The Thalmor’s interest are not in either side winning. Rather, they come out on top so long as the war goes on.

      Once a decisive victory has been had, which only a player character can do in a TES game, then the Thalmor come a bit closer to defeat.

    2. MrGuy says:

      You could have your character say it in New Garrett’s voice, which is the voice I now associate with all semi-inner monologue of plot exposition that doesn’t actually make sense.

      1. Humanoid says:

        I have no idea what new Garrett sounds like – or indeed what old Garrett sounds like – so I’ll instead monologue it in Belethor’s voice.

        1. newdarkcloud says:

          Belethor is voiced by old Garrett, so it wouldn’t be too far off.

          1. Humanoid says:

            Yeah, that’s the point. :) That said, is he actually using his normal speaking voice in Skyrim or is it vastly exaggerated for effect?

            1. modus0 says:

              He speaks with a bit of a rougher voice as Belethor, but I at least was easily able to recognize him.

              Of course, if you really want to know for sure, there are plenty of Thief 1 and 2 videos online. ;P

  2. Tizzy says:

    Another good question: to what extent do we let the Stormcloack decide for *all* of Skyrim what is best for Skyrim?

    1. Zukhramm says:

      Do what extent do we let the empire decide the same?

    2. Groboclown says:

      That’s an easy one.

      “Ulfric, what is best in Skyrim?”

      “To crush the enemies, see them driven before you, …”

  3. TMTVL says:

    Ooh, Solid Snaking it up this week, eh?

    But I think I know why Josh couldn’t replicate the glitch: you can’t get through the floor when the enemies go through the door, unless you’re a dinosaur.

    1. MrGuy says:

      Open the door, get through the floor,
      but only if you’re a dinosaur.

  4. Thomas says:

    Walk into a room, talk to some people and then detect they’re alive. Best ability ever :P

  5. Entropy says:

    That’s not really true though. The only winning move is *to* play.

    What the Thalmor want is no clear winner and mutual attrition. Winning the war – for either side, is a defeat for the Thalmor

    1. guy says:

      Specifically, their best-case scenario is a stalemate and their worst-case scenario is an Imperial victory.

      1. Shamus says:

        I think their worst case would be for the two sides to not fight at all. No matter which side wins, both will be weaker and easier prey when the Thalmor renew their attack.

        1. modus0 says:

          “I think their worst case would be for the two sides to not fight at all.”

          Since the war has already started, that’s a bit off the table.

          If the war ends before the Thalmor are ready to renew their attack on the empire, regardless of who wins, then the chances of a Thalmor victory go down dramatically.

          If the Stormcloaks win, then the Talmor will have to contend with both the Empire and Skyrim as separate entities. And fighting a war on two fronts is (almost) never a good idea if you can help it.

          If the Empire wins, then the Thalmor will have to face the combined might of the elf-hating Nords and the Empire. And the Aldmeri Dominion might not have enough people to ensure a victory.

          Also, if the Empire wins, they might decide to attack early before the Talmor have fully rebuilt their forces, leading to a defeat of the elves.

          Ulfric’s not doing what the Thalmor want because he’s a sleeper agent, he’s doing what they want because they want the empire distracted and weakened by continued conflict in Skyrim.

          If you finish the Civil War storyline before the Main Story, you encounter Ulfric in Sovengarde, and he admits that his desire for Skyrim to break from the Empire was wrong, and the Imperial victory was actually for the best.

        2. “No matter which side wins, both will be weaker and easier prey when the Thalmor renew their attack.”

          Actually, I always liked the idea of the Empire making a secret truce with Ulfric, but they let the conflict continue. If the empire and stormcloaks worked together to coordinate their war like a ‘hardcore’ mode wargame scenario and the imperial legion kept a constant rotation of troops into the region, it’d be a great way to battle harden all the green recruits they would’ve replaced their lost forces with and it’d have the added benefit of giving the impression the Empire is weak and encouraging the Thalmor to attack before they’re truly ready.

          1. el_b says:

            I think it would Have been a pretty cool idea if you could have found the letter early and shown it to ulfric. that way you could continue the war, or you could negotiate a peace treaty, maybe doing something you said. Personally I think it would be better if he surrendered honourably with two conditions, his troops are not punished for their actions, and while talos worship would be technically illegal, it would not be punished. meaning as long as the elves don’t see it, it’s okay. Both sides get what they want and the thalmor think they weakened the nords hard enough that they would no longer be a threat. you could actually be part of the negotiations and maybe even work as a thalmor spy during them to even more choice.

            1. krellen says:

              Item 2 was the deal that was made after the Markarth incident, which the Empire didn’t honour and led to Ulfric pushing the Civil War in the first place.

  6. Mersadeon says:

    To be fair, from what I remember, the note is very ambigous. Sure, they had him as a sleeper agent, but maybe he just played along to get out? If I remember correctly, they haven’t been able to “activate” him ever since and don’t know if he truly is in their hand.

    Also, the Stormcloaks had lost ANY support in my head from the second I heard about the Forsworn. The Stormcloaks did the EXACT SAME THING to them. That just kills it for me. The gigantic, racist hypocracy. How the hell can you be in favour of these guys? But in the end, shoot the messenger, not the message.

    1. newdarkcloud says:

      Oh god, the Foresworn. I fucking hate everything to do with them. That quest sucks.

      The whole thing is a terrible, poorly executed setup. On top of that, the payoff is absolutely pathetic.

      1. stupiddice says:

        I really hope they do that quest, because screw that quest. Everyone in that quest is a murderous asshole, and you have to pick a side. I ended up killing the forsworn and then killed what’s-his-face when I got out. Then I died when a courier ganked my camera when I was running away.

        I later read the message when I did it a second time and turns out it was a will from the guy I just murdered. So apparently he heard (somehow) that I killed the other idiot and immediately wrote me into his will and went to see me, where he promptly died, and ancient magics released the courier in his basement to give me 100 gold (or something).

        Also, Bethesda, when an named NPC dies, it is usually the fault of the player, so having character include you in their will is never not going to be ironic.

        1. Alexander The 1st says:

          “Also, Bethesda, when an named NPC dies, it is usually the fault of the player, so having character include you in their will is never not going to be ironic.”

          Not entirely true – I’ve had Gerda/Alvor die to a dragon that I fought off after quick traveling to Riverwood and finding it there, then fast-travelling to Whiterun and apparently ending up with their will and only then realizing they must have been killed by the dragon.

          But yeah – in that case, I didn’t even *realize* the person had died.

          1. Viktor says:

            I cleared a mine, walked out, and got the reward from the mine owner. While we were talking, a dragon attacked. Yeah. I got added to his will despite never actually finishing the conversation.

          2. Jokerman says:

            Somehow half the town of Falkreath (uhh 4 people) was wiped out like that, i got a letter from Mathies (the guy who’s daughter was killed by a warewolf, thankfully after i had taken the quest, i completed it after he died in his honor ;))

            Jarl’s steward Nenya, Lod the blacksmith and that racist nord Bolund were also killed.

            Thing is, i only assume it was a dragon attack, since there was one and i found all 4 of them in a bush while looking for the blacksmith.

            1. Grudgeal says:

              In my experience, vampires kill much more people than dragons. Nothing quite brings that first impression of Whiterun than the sight of a master vampire killing the town blacksmith and that guy she’s scripted to talk with before you’re able to respond (and yes, that’s happened to me).

              In fact, in my over 100 hours of skyrim I think I’ve only seen two dragon attacks inside towns (Riften and Falkreath) and neither of them killed anyone, while the vampires have a two-figure death count by now. It sort of underplays the whole “dragons are returning” thing, really.

              1. Destrustor says:

                It’s probably a matter of simple mechanics.

                The dragons do a lot of damage and are thus dangerous, but:
                -They are usually alone,
                -Attack slowly,
                -And have such a huge area from which to pick targets that they rarely stay focused on any one thing long enough to kill it easily.

                The vampires, on the other hand, can probably do about as much damage as a dragon (Volkihar/master vampires especially), but then the vampires also have the following advantages:
                -They attack in packs, forcing the defenders to split their attention on more than one target while allowing the vampires to attack many different targets as well,
                -They have a smaller area to watch, avoiding the whole “distracted by a random fox on the other side of the hill” phase of dragon attacks,
                -Their attacks heal them, making them a lot tougher against pretty much anything but prolonged, concentrated aggression; something the game’s AI has notorious difficulty in doing.
                -And they attack constantly, pumping their DPS to ridiculous levels.

                Of course they kill more villagers; they’re basically specialized to do just that, whether that was intentional or not.

      2. Henson says:

        The Markarth quest is a situation that really does piss people off. All the parties involved are jackasses, the player gets jerked around by people with power, and in the end, there is no way to satisfactorily resolve this mess.

        And I think that’s the point. The trouble with the Forsworn has been going on for a long time, much longer than the Dragonborn has been in Skyrim. The idea that this newcomer will be able to fix a problem with this much history, to make everything better, seems kinda ridiculous. If anything, this quest acknowledges what a thorny and complicated issue these political matters can be.

        Of course, this occurs in a game where almost everything feeds into a power fantasy, where the player is expecting to be able to change the world how they like. In light of that, a story like this might feel like it doesn’t belong.

      3. evileeyore says:

        I love the Foresworn, always side with them.

        Though it would be nice if they were a “faction” and you could become aligned with them. That’s my only beef with them in the game.

        1. IFS says:

          I’m curious, what exactly do you love about the Forsworn? The only thing I really think is neat about them is you can kill some by pickpocketing their hearts, so I’m interested to hear what about them appeals to you.

          1. Humanoid says:

            Their relaxed dress code perhaps?

            1. Corpital says:

              I like the Forsworn for their ridiculous damage scaling, on later level one hitting you even with nearly maxed out armor rating. And their steel weapons made from sticks, bones and tied together with vines.
              These poor people, that have constantly been harassed and mass murdered for thousands of years also probably outnumber all the Nords and bandits in Skyrim put together.

          2. evileeyore says:

            The basic concept behind them, the “giving themselves to ‘elder nature gods'”, the “underdog” aspect, the look, etc. And yeah I think the Briarhearts are kinda messed up in a “I like that idea” way.

            But even if you side with them, fight for them, etc, they’ll always be aggro to you.

      4. Vect says:

        I had a buddy who describes the Forsworn as the meth-cooking hillbillies of Skyrim. Kinda hard to take them seriously after that.

    2. Mersadeon says:

      Also, in this episode: How many Sid’s is it from your bow to your stomach?

      1. Akri says:

        Depends on how many Sids tall you are.

    3. straymute says:

      Yeah, that was the point where I could no longer even picture a decent scenario where the stormcloaks win. You would have to kill Ulfric and then rebuild them into something else to even have a shot.

  7. Veylon says:

    In real life, sleeper agents who succeed often forget who they’re supposedly taking orders from. Ulfric could just as well be telling the Thalmor whatever they want to hear so that he can get what [i]he[/i] wants. Mao Zedong was once Stalin’s puppet to keep China destabilized and corporal Hitler was ordered to infiltrate and report on something called the ‘National Socialist Party’. Even the Thalmor note that their catspaw is ‘uncooperative’.

    1. Humanoid says:

      Thus proving above all that Reginald Cuftbert is the ultimate sleeper agent as he never remembers who he’s taking orders from.

      1. newdarkcloud says:

        We do know that he can’t be paid for those orders though. After all, he is not a mercenary.

        1. Humanoid says:

          Reginald Cuftbert: Comatose Agent

  8. I don’t know why anyone believes any note they read in Skyrim. They’re all in the same font– er, I mean, handwriting.

    1. Jokerman says:

      They’re all written by the dragonborn!

      1. Humanoid says:

        Only logical, really, when you consider that Catbert has stolen every pencil in the land.

        1. Jokerman says:

          Haha Very true.

  9. Ateius says:

    He’s an “asset” only insofar in that he’s undertaking actions which indirectly benefit the Thalmor. It says right in the note that he’s not taking messages from them anymore, in fact stopped doing so well before he raised his banner in rebellion, and that trying to contact him directly would be a spectacularly bad idea. Note also that him winning is not their desired scenario.

    Right now the situation is spinning beyond the Thalmor’s control, and the best they can do is try and keep it running in the way that most benefits them (continued conflict) rather than a settled peace or victory for either side.

    The only reason this note affected my position on the Civil War was because my primary motive was “screw the Thalmor”, so I decided to work for their worst-case scenario.

    1. Tizzy says:

      Reading your post, it suddenly occurs to me that, for all its sandboxy “do whatever you want” glory, Skyrim does not allow you to actively side with the Thalmor.

      Not that I’d want to, and I don’t think it would improve the story.

      But. still…

      1. Grudgeal says:

        Skyrim doesn’t really let you affect the Thalmor much at all either way, barring killing some foot soldiers. You can win skyrim for the stormcloaks first and the embassy mission is completely unaffected, in spite of how at that point it probably would be burned to the ground and the ambassador crucified in front of it.

  10. MelTorefas says:

    …Rutskarn reminds me of Griff from Red vs. Blue. (In a good way.)

    1. Phantos says:

      For some reason Tucker comes to mind when I think of Rutskarn.

      …Wait, who do you suppose the rest of the SW cast would be? Would Josh be “Sarge”? Or maybe O’Malley?

  11. “Why are these barrels so dusty when there’s fresh food inside of them?!”

    They make them out of the same food-preservation magi-tech that they construct the food-filled tombs and burial urns out of, duh!

    1. Akri says:

      This is also why there are so few farms. The food can all last for centuries, so once they had a good surplus built up they no longer needed as much farmland.

      Of course, that may change with Reginald Catbert gobbling up everything in sight.

      1. This makes me think Tamriel is really a sci-fi post-Age of Dreams place. Nanites preserve everything, making farming something that’s done every 3 generations or so, the medical tech has been turned into undead/lichdom, and the flashier “apps” they perform are now called “magic.”

        Either that, or it’s a poorly-thought-out video game. :)

  12. Henson says:

    Oh my god, shooting arrows over ledges in Skyrim SUUUUUCKS.

  13. 12:29 I need to express disappointment at both Rutskarn and Mumbles.

    A cat-person phases through the floor and not one utterance of “Kitty Pryde” was to be heard?! A pun and a comic book reference in one and you missed it?!

    I have to go lie down and mourn the Spoiler Warning that was…

    1. Mumbles says:


    2. Rutskarn says:


    3. Asimech says:

      @Mumbles & @Rutskarn – I guess this really wounded your Pryde?

      1. guy says:

        It’s a catastrophic blow.

  14. Ira says:

    Um, yeah, I think Shamus might have misread the note. It doesn’t say that Ulfric is a brainwashed plant. It establishes that Ulfric was once a prisoner of the Thalmor, that they made him believe that his confession under torture was responsible for the Imperial City’s fall (it was not; and cracking under torture is most emphatically not a sign of weakness or lack of conviction), that they allowed him to escape because they thought he would make trouble for the Empire, and that he’s uncooperative.

    Ulfric is an enemy of the Thalmor, and they’ll atill be very put-out if he wins. The note is more of an interesting look into his psychology than anything else. Why is Ulfric so fanatically opposed to accommodation with the Thalmor? Why does he want to immediately continue the war, and why is he angry at the Empire? Part of it is to do with his past, and what he may feel guilty for.

    In practical terms, the dossier just says the obvious: the Thalmor don’t want either side to win, they want the rebellion to drag on as violently as possible, and they’re not above sneakily helping the Stormcloaks to make that happen.

    All that said, my experience is that almost everyone still sides with the Empire, but that’s nothing to do with the dossier. It’s to do with the Stormcloak cause being pretty much indefensible on its own merits. I suspect the first four TES games trained a lot of players to defend the Empire as well, and one of the other big issues is that the Stormcloak quest line requires you to screw over Balgruuf, who the game has already established as very sympathetic.

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      I think maybe the note is just somewhat poorly phrased and it doesn’t help that the Stormcloak side does feel less sympathetic to most people (probably unless you’re head-roleplaying a specific character). And while I agree with your point about breakind under torture and the note probably isn’t meant to actually undermine Ulfric quite as much it still leaves the aftertaste that he is/was on some level manipulated and regardless of which side the player is on this affects their perception of the civil war.

      1. The Thalmorian Candidate.

      2. Ira says:

        I can see that to an extent, but I honestly think it’s incredibly minor. The dossier doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know save that Ulfric has Thalmor-related trauma in the past. If I wanted to make the Stormcloaks seem like a credible option next to the Empire, but without darkening the Empire too much…

        Well, firstly I’d tone down the racism. A Dunmer ghetto in a major city is a fine idea, especially considering Nord-Dunmer history, but the ghetto they have is too associated with Ulfric’s rule, and with Stormcloak xenophobia more generally. Move the slum to a different city, perhaps, or let the player ask Ulfric about it, and give him a plausible response. (“We shouldn’t be fighting the Dunmer when the Thalmor are the real threat. My father chose to welcome the Morrowind refugees to this city, and despite the grumblings of a few bigots, I intend to continue that policy.” etc. etc.)

        Secondly, I’d try to make Ulfric’s overall game plan look more credible. As it is, we know the Empire are arming for another go at the Thalmor. Just introduce a few more doubts about that: the Elder Council is divided, everyone knows X councilors are in Thalmor pockets, and so on. Make the balance of power a bit more ambiguous as well, so that Ulfric can credibly argue “If we attack now, we can bring the Dominion to its knees!” One idea that might work would be giving the Stormcloaks more foreign sympathisers. Having a few Redguards voice a sentiment like “We beat the Thalmor, so can they, together we can bring down the Dominion!” could help.

        Thirdly, show a bit more of the ban on Talos worship. The situation in the game is very much one where everybody worships Talos, even in the Empire. The Empire just quietly puts the shrines away when the Thalmor are in the room. Moreover, the crackdown on Talos worship is pretty explicitly due to Ulfric making it an issue. Previously the Empire didn’t even pretend to enforce it. At present their enforcement of it is incredibly half-hearted. (And note that all the people enforcing it you meet in the game are Thalmor. Not Imperials.) But if you made the ban a bit stronger, changed it so that it wasn’t the Stormcloaks’ own fault that it’s enforced, and showed the player sympathetic characters getting in trouble with the Imperial authorities for worshipping Talos, I think the Stormcloaks would have more of a case.

        Fourthly… I really think the way the civil war questline treats Balgruuf is a problem. The player is definitely positioned to like Balgruuf, and only a few quests in Balgruuf highly rewards the player with a title, Lydia, and so on. Attacking his city feels like a betrayal. Perhaps allowing the player to convince Balgruuf to join either side would help.

        There are probably a bunch of other things you could do. These were just a few thoughts off the top of my head. Really, I think the dossier is the very least of the Stormcloaks’ problems. The dossier wouldn’t matter at all if the Stormcloaks were morally credible. But they’re not.

        1. Jeff says:

          Which is the point. They make the Stormcloaks a somewhat viable faction, but they are supposed to be the “bad guys”, because the Elder Scrolls series as a whole is strongly Imperial.

    2. Grudgeal says:

      Funnily the game did the opposite to me when it put me on the “rescue that guy from the Thalmor prison” quest on my way up to see Balgruuf.

      Any government that stands aside and lets death-squads, foreign or no, come and take away their citizens, unopposed, is not a government worth supporting.

      Or maybe I’ve just hated “the big empire that owns everything” cliche since ever.

      1. guy says:

        I don’t really think too much of that argument. The Empire lets foreign death squads take away their citizens because there was a war and they lost. They could, of course, have kept fighting, lost again, and had foreign death squads take away their citizens, or they can stop fighting, wait a while, come back for round two, and resolve the foreign death squads issue.

        Now, one of the history books does provide a somewhat alternate perspective. Namely, even though the capital was sacked and the Legions were virtually wiped out, it’s not altogether clear the Empire was actually losing, because the Thalmor put everything into their big push and the Imperial counterattack completely destroyed it. The Emperor offered a surrender because he apparently overestimated the remaining Thalmor forces.

        However, in a sense that changes nothing. Even if it was the wrong call, splitting off Skyrim is simply not a winning proposition. The way the Stormcloaks are going about it, the Thalmor will teach them the meaning of “defeat in detail”, picking off one nation after another. Even with a more peaceful split, the last war was entirely too close. It’s a good bet that Free Skyrim and the Empire will have separate command structures for the next war, and that’s a recipe for disaster.

        1. Artur CalDazar says:

          “The way the Stormcloaks are going about it, the Thalmor will teach them the meaning of “defeat in detail”, picking off one nation after another. ”
          That didn’t work for them in an utterly devastated Hammerfell, and Skyrim is a harder target.

          Invading each nation one after the other is actually the hardest way to go about things. The only person to ever pull it off became a god as a result.

          1. Sebastien Roblin says:

            Warning! Impending Godwyn’s Law Violation!:

            Tell that to the Nazis?

            Seriously, I think its easier for an aggressive military power to swallow countries up in bite size chucks than fight a big one that can resist over greater time.

            The Germans in World War II steam-rolled the many small and medium sized countries next to them (even when they fought together) until they ran into a country (Russia) which was large enough in resources and sheer geographic space. Even though the initial German attack was wildly succesful, the other country’s army could retreat far enough and call on enough reserves to recover from that blow and settle in for a long fight.

  15. Eric says:

    I paused the video so that I can say I mimed the drawing of a bow along with Mumbles and I can say without a single doubt that it is an amazing way to stretch out your back. I love it so much I’m going to do it some more while I watch the rest of the episode.

    1. TMTVL says:

      Well, it is one of the stretches that constitute the Shaolin 8 Pieces of Brocade. And it appears in modified form in Jion, the “stretching kata” of Shotokan.

  16. Otters34 says:

    All this other stuff is great and all, really cool political and philosophically complex, but I’d just like to say this:


    That should not have worked! That makes not the least bit of sense, but IT HAPPENED, and it is GLORIOUS. This is why I watch Spoiler Warning, so you guys can have deep conversations while stuff like that happens right on screen!

  17. Disc says:

    I just figured the never-ending dialogue Ulfric has with Galmar at the Windhelm keep was where it’s really at and the rest is just in-universe speculation etc. Ignoring the fact they’re out in the public and anyone can hear them, it acts out very much like a private conversation and there’s more than enough in both the dialogue and between the lines there that he’s really serious about the rebellion.

    1. I would’ve found that dialog more interesting if Ulfric hadn’t been sporting sweetroll residue on his hinder.

  18. Neko says:

    Yay, Spoiler Warning \o/

    As for Stormcloaks vs Imperials: If I’m siding with the Stormcloaks, the #1 reason for me to do so is that the Imperials tried to execute me and I’m still holding a grudge about it.

    1. Phantos says:

      I kind of wish you didn’t HAVE to the join the Empire just to fight the Stormcloaks. Or at least, defeat them. Would’ve preferred to be a sellsword of sorts.

      But nope, Bethesda wants you to hear the oath stuff they wrote that they think is so important, epic and cool, even though no one’s character has any motivation to side with these people after how the game starts. And they don’t care if they have to jam it down your throats. Now go into the Nth tomb and fight more draugr, you peasant!

      10/10 goty

  19. Mathias says:

    On the note of archery:

    So, this is purely based on historical accounts of English longbowmen, who represent a very, very, very, very small minority of the overall archer population of the world throughout history, but English archers were trained to never look down the bow when firing, but instead hone their instincts through constant practice.

    When you draw a bow to its full length, you are actually drawing the string all the way back to your ear, at least if you’re using a medieval longbow, which means that your view of the arrow’s trajectory is really inaccurate. As a result, archers would train themselves to let their reflexes do most of the heavy lifting in order to retain both a degree of accuracy and a degree of speedy shooting. The latter was actually fairly important – longbowmen were not allowed to join the English army until they could fire ten shots per minute.

    1. Entropy says:

      of course, the significant difference between fighting as a massed army of archers vs a single archer is that accuracy vs rate of fire calculation.

      When your army has 10,000 archers, you don’t need them all to hit individual targets, you just want them to put as many arrows in the air as fast as possible towards the mass of the enemy.

      Whereas with a single archer, ten shots a minute doesn’t really matter all that much if they all miss.

      1. Point taken, although I think it’s really more about the number of targets than the number of archers. 10,000 archers vs. 1 dragon or, worse, human-sized Thing Man Was Not Meant To Know, might still find accuracy more useful than size of arrow storm. And one archer doing a hit-and-run hoping to wound a few people in an army before beetling off might find high speed more important than accuracy, unless he’d decided to try for important people.

        1. Sleeping Dragon says:

          Now I want to read some kind of “Lovecraft Mythos in Middle Ages” story…

  20. Raygereio says:

    And then in this stupid message it's revealed the whole thing is a massive waste of time. The idealistic Stormcloak leader is just a brainwashed puppet, the whole war is a plot of the Thalmor, and the only winning move is not to play.

    I didn’t interpret that note as Ulfric being brainwashed. He’s concidered an asset because Ulfric’s action directly benefit the Thalmor and they could steer him in the past by feeding him (mis)information.
    Wether or not the Markarth Incident was a setup by the Thalmor is open to interpretation (though there is some conflicting information about what the Empire did or didn’t promise to Ulfric for retaking the Reach). But whatever the outcome of the Civil War will be, the Thalmor benefit. This would be the case even if Thalmor had no involvement at all – direct or indirect. The winning move has always been for Ulfric to not be frigging idiot and start a pointless civil war.
    Empire for life.

    Also taking credit for things is the Thalmor’s thing:
    Oblivion portals open up all over the place with invaders pouring out of them, which then close just as suddenly as they opened? Some Thalmor raises his hand and goes “I did that. I closed them. Was totally me.”
    The moons disappear and then reappear a while later? Some Thalmor raises his hand and goes “I did that. I brought them back. Was totally me.”
    The Thalmor’s enemies starts fighting amongst themselves. Two Thalmor look at eachother, shrug and one of them goes “I did that. Was totally me.”

    1. Artur CalDazar says:

      “He's concidered an asset because Ulfric's action directly benefit the Thalmor and they could steer him in the past by feeding him (mis)information.”

      That is how I read it as well. The report and the civil war makes it clear Ulfric is on quite murderous terms with the Thalmor at current.

      Even for Bethesda I don’t think “Ulfric is secretly a Thalmor” would be done this way.

  21. Yanni says:

    I can only draw off personal experience but speaking as someone who has used a bow to hunt in my tribe the ability to shoot a bow holding it sideways depends on a great deal of factors.

    Firstly, the type of bow and the manner of draw and grip used. With some it isn’t physically possible at all. When I tried it with my tribes bow the arrow shaft nocked incorrectly and the sting upon release would rip my wrist to shreds simply because it was impossible to correctly hold the bow at that angle. In other bows the side grip will fuck with accuracy and destroy your entire ability to aim as you don’t have it anchored against your face. And again in some further variants it is possible to hold and draw without killing yourself or losing an arrow and it still ends up being a weird way to draw a bow as you have no way to anchor. I don’t know if there is any historical precedent for certain cultures doing it with short bows (which iirc were predominantly used from mounts) or if TES just enjoys it as a “more stealthy” way of drawing the bow but I get the feeling it may just be a strange misconception on their part. Bows are rather stealthy as is when drawn correctly and stance has a lot to do with moving quietly with a bow in a fashion that won’t startle or disturb things.

    1. Disc says:

      So it’s basically even more useless than firing guns ghetto-style.

      1. Humanoid says:

        On the other hand, your leg has more reach than your outstretched arm. So holding the bow with your foot might provide enough reach to compensate for the inability to draw the string past your ribs.

    2. Hitch says:

      The idea is supposed to be that while you’re crouching with a longbow, the bottom of the bow will hit the ground unless you hold it sideways. Never mind the geometry of the situation which would require drawing the string through you body, unless, of course, if the bow was short enough that you could draw the string without pulling it into and through your armpit. In which case you wouldn’t need to turn the bow sideways because you were crouched.

      TL/DR: It looks kewl.

  22. KremlinLaptop says:


    The writing in the game is HORRENDOUS. The dialogue options are non-existent in the vanilla game and nothing makes it more obvious than the absolutely wonderful Interesting NPCs mod. Example going to Falkreath to the smithy you’ll meet Lod (vanilla game) and Isobel (from the mod) there guess who has the railroady poorly thought out dialogue that completely breaks immersion? Yeah, it’s not the wonderful lady from the mod.

    That’s her. Honestly, that mod has sort of ruined Skyrim for me because … I expect every NPC to have thoughtful dialogue now and it’s freaking jarring to go from talking to someone like her and then talk to Lod. Lod who will refuse to trade with me unless I accept his quest to go look for a stray dog outside of Falkreath. That is to say the town blacksmith. Who won’t trade with a random stranger who came to town until that random stranger promises to go and look for a dog for him.

    A game can’t anticipate everything players might want to do, but Skyrim stock doesn’t put in even the bare minimum of effort.

    Edit: And another one! Honestly I could post all of these little minute long examples from Interesting NPCs and they’re all more interesting and varied than what the stock game has … agh!

    1. KremlinLaptop says:

      Also I’d like to mention how this season of SW has made me laugh more than any other since New Vegas. I think open-world games suit SW so… so well. At least they suit Josh so very well.

    2. Humanoid says:

      Y’know maybe I didn’t give it enough of a chance, but my memory of Interesting NPCs was walking into the inn at Riverwood, talking to a (purposefully) annoying NPC, and after concluding the conversation, finding out that somehow he was now in my party despite my never having explicitly saying so. Uninstalled the mod immediately thereafter and forgot about it double quick.

      1. KremlinLaptop says:

        I’d suggest giving it a chance. There are some janky NPCs and some not-so-good voice acting, but I’d say the good parts of the mod far outweigh the bad parts. And it’s gone through so much development that well … by now you might not even be able to find that NPC anymore.

        And in fairness in vanilla Skyrim I seemed to get most of my followers by beating them to a bloody pulp and then asking them to tag along … sensible!

  23. Darren says:

    I could very easily be misremembering, but I got the impression that Ulfric’s hatred of the Thalmor was in large part a result of having been captured and interrogated by them. It gives his rebellion a whiff of trying to make up for a personal failure on his part.

    The problem is that, as you say, you can’t do anything with the note other than read it, and nobody ever references its contents. So an interesting plot point becomes a bizarre non-sequitur.

  24. Abnaxis says:

    Y’know, I’m sure someone else already brought this up, but I just thought of it on this video.

    Josh upgraded from dual wielding daggers to an axe and a mace–but he would literally do more damage bare-handed than either of those, with claws.


    1. Grudgeal says:

      Hopefully he’ll switch back to brawling after the Riften Sewers. We need to see ebony-gauntleted unarmed-boosting Reginald piledriving all the things.

  25. Patrick the Ill-Equipped says:

    You know…if you replace terms like Thalmos/Nords/empire/stormcloaks with relevant, modern day terms like Caucasians, Republicans, New Yorkers, Catholics, ect ect….this post would still makes perfect sense.

    Also; Shamus is an anagram for Ass Hum.

    Just sayin…

  26. This was a brilliant episode that encapsulated a ton of what I love about Spoiler Warning… bugs, ridiculous antics, hilarious banter, possibly educational discussions, and a helping of WTF on top of it all. Bravo lady and gentlemen, bravo!

  27. Hitch says:

    I want to know how to subscribe to Rutskarn and Mumbles audio mime course podcast.

    Also, is it my imagination or was Rutskarn trying to draw a parallel between detect life and Batman’s detective visionâ„¢?

  28. BeardedDork says:

    Well Chris I remember tcl being a big part of the vanilla Skyrim experience.

  29. djshire says:

    So this was the best episode of Spoiler Warning, right?

  30. Ciennas says:

    I think I’ve finally managed to nail what the big difference is between Morrowind and Oblivion/Skyrim.

    More than just more freedom available in approaches…

    Has anybody noticed that the human controlled territories in the later games are kinda… standard fantasy setting? Back in Morrowind, home of the rascist elves consortium, you had a bizarre alien landscape that wouldn’t be matched until Shivering Isles, with a different culture that was deliberately at odds with your own.

    I’m not saying they’re BAD renderings, and they’re still doing interesting ideas with them (Increasingly iron fisted DM stylings aside,) But Morrowind was more Alien, and they’re deliberately ignoring the more fantastical areas that they’ve mentioned to look through. Elsweyr, Hammerfell (A place with living tree cities that move!) etc, etc.

    Hell, I bet the High Elven homelands would be neat to explore. All Bethesda would have to do is invent some kind of calamity that would force them to open the borders to outsiders. I dunno, something like a bloody uprising against the Thalmor, while the Legion curbstomps them abroad?

    Either way, where could they take us where we could get away from Standard Fantasy? (And are any of them in the Online game?)

    1. Kalil says:

      Yes, a dozen times this. Morrowinds major success was its otherworldliness. Skyrim and (especially!) Oblivion just felt terribly bland by comparison.

      Morrowind had cliff racers and netch and land striders and dreugh and kwama. Skyrim dropped all those non-standard creatures in favor of.. Spiders and dragons. Morrowind didn’t even /have/ spiders!

  31. DungeonHamster says:

    Nobody else seems to have mentioned this, but there is a 4th gravely voiced stealth protagonist who not too long ago was the subject of a fair amount of discussion here and elsewhere: Adam Jensen. Truth be told, I thought this is who Rutskarn was going for towards the end; Katarn’s series never struck me as stealth based, but then I’ve only played the first, Dark Forces, and the last, Jedi Academy (wherein he is a surprisingly useful NPC companion in a couple of missions; the usefulness is particularly marked in comparison to Bethesda companions).

  32. Vect says:

    As far as the Civil War goes, I generally play a non-human and therefore I generally find my character generally apathetic towards a war that has nothing to really do with them. I find myself not really liking the Nords but not really caring for the Empire. Also, Ulfric always just came off as some pompous short-sighted ass who had a Step Three: Profit approach to the war.

    As such, I usually ended up siding with the Empire more often than not. Still, I agree that the Civil War at large is lacking a lot of options.

  33. Flavius says:

    Shamus, I think it is a mistake to buy in to the Thalmor/Civil War story line at all. The impression I have gotten is that the war was effectively fought to a stalemate: while the Empire endured terrible losses, so did the Thalmor; in the end, their troops in Imperial territory were entirely routed, and the Empire felt like it had the confidence to torture their general to death. Yet despite both sides exhausted by the war and unable to press an advantage, the Empire effectively ceded its rights as a sovereign nation. This is not a treaty. This is practically unconditional surrender; one that would have only come about from utter defeat. I cannot think of any real world example in which a situation like this has, or could ever arise. In real life terms, it would be like the Korean Armistice Agreement stating that while Korea is divided along the 38th parallel, the South Korean government must be communist and that North Korean troops may openly cross the border and are free to arrest or shoot any capitalists on sight without retribution. And say that it was total surrender; wouldn’t the first rebels be the remaining legions, who would fight against the ones enforcing the surrender, the Thalmor? Or perform a coup d’etat against the emperor for accepting such a stupid treaty when they still have sufficient forces to hold the Thalmor back? The whole story exists solely to create a seemingly difficult situation that is difficult only due to its absurdity.

  34. “Fear me and my flying power!”

    Was I the only one to get a Monarch vibe from Josh then?

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