Skyrim EP31: Richard Scarry’s Busy Markarth

By Shamus Posted Wednesday May 14, 2014

Filed under: Spoiler Warning 92 comments

Link (YouTube)

I love how Eltrys decides that the best place for a clandestine meeting is the most illegal building in town. It’s always a little strange trying to figure out how this “Talos is outlawed” stuff works. You can find Talos shrines in the wilderness where the Thalmor have slaughtered everyone. But here we have an obvious temple and nobody seems inclined to do anything about it. We’re always having discussions about what stuff like this “means”. See? The Empire aren’t really enforcing the Talos ban! Or maybe this shows that the Thalmor are actually incompetent spies. But it’s possible this doesn’t mean anything. This setup could easily be the result of different teams of designers who weren’t all on the same page.

We mentioned the Oblivion Paranoia quest. You can read my write-up on it here. (Warning: This is a post from 2006.)

I agree with Rutskarn: Some of the accents here sound kind of Austrian to me. Actually, I guess it’s just one particular guard voice. (Also the voice of Balgruuf’s brother, if you remember him.) I’m not saying that’s wrong or anything. Skyrim can have whatever accents Bethesda wants. If the inhabitants of their quasi-Norse fantasy world speak faux-Italian, then fine. We already have iron Norwegian katana, so this is obviously a cultural free-for-all. But is this deliberate on the part of the game designer? Or is this a case of a voice actor who couldn’t nail down the requested accent and drifted off into something else? Or am I just not parsing this accent properly? I honestly have no idea.


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92 thoughts on “Skyrim EP31: Richard Scarry’s Busy Markarth

  1. Roofstone says:

    Wow.. You guys are having a field day with this town. Also I think the reason this temple of Talos is there is simply because it is just not used.

    That doesn’t excuse it of course, but meh.

    1. MadTinkerer says:

      In my experience, Markarth has the most location/quest-specific bugs of any town. I think it’s less to do with Q&A and more to do with the fact that they cram so many specific scripted events into a single location. But also a little but Q&A.

      Fun fact: My brother recently started a new playthrough and decided to go to Markarth after the bit where you kill the first dragon and then go to Whiterun and then go somewhere else.

      What is supposed to happen is this:
      The Markarth introductory event in Vanilla Skyrim is that a Forsworn attempts to murder a woman inside the town and you can succesfully try to save her but you can fail or miss that it’s happening until too late and it won’t mess anything up. Then, after the game figures out that her attacker is dead (via you or the guards), What’s-his-name will approach you with a note and a very brief forced conversation.

      Meanwhile, in a town shortly after you get to a certain level or however it’s triggered, if you have the Dawnguard expansion installed, a supporting character from the expansion will have a brief forced conversation inviting you to join the Dawnguard.

      Meanwhile, in any town right after you find out you’re dragonborn, if you have the Dragonborn expansion installed, the cultists will confront you in a forced conversation.

      So in my brother’s game, he made the mistake of going to Markarth after Whiterun. He still has the save right outside the town gates. If you go in, it triggers a conga line of characters wanting to talk to you, attack you and/or attack each other. The most hilarious outcome we’ve found is to sit and ignore them all. Characters that are never supposed to meet will aggro each other while others are calmly waiting their turn to talk to the dragonborn (or whoever this complete stranger to the city is). Add in the poor town guards trying to figure out who they need to defend from whom, and other combat-ready normally peaceful townsfolk who happen to be wandering by. Sheogorath would have been so happy…

      EDIT: By the way, according to my brother, the guy who wants you to meet him in the temple can be killed by the dragon cultists, completely screwing up the Forsworn Conspiracy quest. Also, if you have a sufficiently high bounty on your head, some of the guards will join the conga line and then bug out and aggro seemingly random passers-by if there’s enough chaos.

  2. hborrgg says:

    I think it’s just that germanic accents tend to be more guttural and sound tougher, so they just went with Arnold?

    I don’t really know accents that well either.

    Edit: Swedish accent-

    1. Hitch says:

      You’re not fooling me. I know a Swedish accent when I hear it:

    2. This is my favorite story about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s accent, as it’s both funny and primer on a seldom-heard accent (at least in America) from the UK (apart from a few Monty Python sketches like the one about The Killer Sheep).

      1. Grudgeal says:

        And pirates in film.

    3. swimon says:

      Speaking as a swede I think the accents are pretty good, I think they’re just a bit flatter than most swedish/norwegian/(icelandic?) accents. I think they tried to get a slightly more “rough” and gritty version of a nordic accent to fit with the whole frozen vikings vibe instead of a more authentically stupid sounding accent.

      It’s like if the game was set in fantasy america and everyone sounded like Will Arnett, not wrong technically but slightly strange.

      1. Eruanno says:

        I’m a Swede too, and I disagree on that notion (I also did in a comment further below, but… uh… yeah.)

        I think their accents don’t sound quasi-Scandinavian at all but rather some sort of unknown Germanic-Austria-mix that almost but not quite hits Scandinavian accents.

        1. swimon says:

          Some are better than others certainly (most characters don’t even seem to try which creates this weird feeling that no one in Skyrim is actually from skyrim) and again the flatness of it all makes it sound sort of german (flat swedish basically is german after all). But the tempo is definately swedish/norwegian.

          I think the female guards are a good example. They don’t do the same Will Arnett impression the male guards are doing so it sounds a lot better. It’s not perfect of course, some times it sounds more Fargo than Norway, but it’s pretty good. it’s especially good considering how most “scandinavian” accents in american media sound.

    4. Kai von Eggenburg says:

      Sometimes it’s tough being an Austrian, when the most famous living representative speaks a dialect that sounds stupid even to other Austrians…

      Schwarzenegger is from Styria, a part of Austria where they have a strange fetish for diphthongs and other weird sounds. Mix that up with bad English pronunciation, and there you go.

  3. AdmiralCheez says:

    The guards sure are dedicated to upholding the law here. Steal a sweetroll? They’re on you like you just committed murder. Committed murder? They’re on you like you just stole a sweetroll.

    Markarth: City of Extreme Justice

    1. MichaelGC says:

      Possibly because the two great mainstays of the Markarth economy are (a) revenues from the silver mine; & (b) Catbert’s bounty payments.

    2. Whoever they’ve got in charge of their law enforcement orientation is probably being paid far too much for the effort they’ve put into their work.

      1. Maybe they used to be a horse veterinarian? If my extensive research into jokes about horses has taught me anything, just about any equine ailment is curable by death, so perhaps the person in charge of the cops decided to stick with what they knew from their days in the stables.

  4. JupiterCobalt says:

    When I first went to Markarth, the Forsworn guy actually was acting more like a “terrorist”, setting things on fire with the flames spell and taking swings at everyone around him. I thought, “Wow, some kind of sleeper agent who’s trying to kill everyone. I wonder if I was supposed to be able to stop that.” Then the next game he stopped after killing the one girl, and was ganged by myself and about a half dozen guards. The inconsistency is what jarred me, really.

    1. The UESPWiki says the assassin is a “Witchblade” with 3 skill points in Destruction Magic, so him casting spells isn’t odd. Perhaps his tactics (and maybe even his potential damage) scales with you so it’s different depending on when you decide to enter Markarth for the first time.

    2. Tizzy says:

      The flames would have been helpful. In my first play through, I totally missed all the events, I was too busy looking at the scenery. Plus, the colors in this game are drab and dreadful, and don’t really make the characters to stand out from the background.

  5. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Young markarth,welcome to markarth,the markarth markarth of this markarth.

  6. guy says:

    I would point out that the crazy Talos preacher is in Whiterun, which is imperial territory, and he yells day and night about how Talos is the true god of mankind and the elves are just mad at him because they’re just jealous of how cool he is, and no one tries to stop him. I really don’t think the Empire is “with” this religious suppression thing.

    Also, someone tell Josh that when he pays the fine they take his stolen goods. Although they specifically mention that every time they arrest him, I do not get the feeling Josh has grokked that concept.

    1. Raygereio says:

      Whiterun is neutral before the Civil War questline.
      Also if the Imperials get control of Whiterun, Heimskr is sent to jail (though this event is buggy and can fail to happen).

      1. guy says:

        Moderation queue got it.

        Anyways, I’m pretty sure that event never fired for me.

      2. Michael says:

        Whiterun claims to be neutral. There’s a pretty solid argument, with a lot of miscellaneous evidence, that it was Imperial leaning already. Then when the civil war starts, if you’re Imperial, you’re defending the hold against a Stormcloak invasion, while if you’re Stormcloak aligned, you’re assaulting the city.

        1. aldowyn says:

          The Jarl is personally imperial leaning, but officially Whiterun is neutral and it’s only when forced to pick a side in the civil war questline he throws in his lot with the Empire.

      3. KremlinLaptop says:

        The best thing? He keeps preaching once he’s been dragged off to jail. I sort of want a mod that makes all the guards in the Whiterun dungeons walk around covering their ears and complain about the preaching.

  7. TMTVL says:

    In the sacred language of Scandinavia: bork bork bork.

  8. StashAugustine says:

    Reminds me of that one random Khan in New Vegas with a New Zealand accent.

  9. Henson says:

    So, a couple of thoughts…

    1. There are actually only, like, two or three voice actors in the whole game who have a Nordic accent. They’re so ubiquitous (or at least one of them is), and yet it’s so obvious that it’s only one guy.

    2. Having children of different ages would imply that the people of Skyrim get older.

    1. Kana says:

      But don’t they already have old people, like the greybeards up at High Hrothgar? Maybe the Elves just took a page out of the Combine’s book and stopped everyone from having kids.

      1. Henson says:

        Yes, there are young people and old people. But no one actually gets old. Arngeir was born old. And the children will be children for all time. So it was and so it shall be.

        But seriously, NPCs can’t age, since the player can stay in Skyrim for years and years. If NPCs age, they can die. If they die, it breaks quests. Ulfric Stormcloak gets too old to fight. By omitting teenagers and babies and all sorts of indications of the multiple stages of the life cycle, Bethesda can hide the static nature of the world’s populace for a longer period of time. Players will eventually catch on, but maybe not before they get hooked.

        1. ET says:

          Hold on a second. If the player plays long enough to age their character by years, then they’d already be hooked on the game. So really, there’s no good reason to not have more ages of people in the game.

          1. Henson says:

            Yeah, I guess I am kinda talking out of my ass. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that adding children of so many different ages would just highlight the bigger oddity that no one in the game ages. But maybe I just wouldn’t notice anyway. Never mind.

  10. Merzendi says:

    Josh, you need to give Jenessa a sword! She’s only got a bow right now.

    1. Dovius says:

      I’d say leave her with the bow, to minimize the risk of her running into the Catbert Crossfire Extravaganza and getting her ass Fus-Ro-Dah’d off of a mountain.

      1. AdmiralCheez says:

        Minimize the risk? Let’s not kid ourselves here. We all know she’s getting shouted off the mountain at some point.

  11. tzeneth says:

    My question isn’t the number of times arrested but the amount of gold he’s spent paying for his crimes.

    1. guy says:

      I count 128 this episode, but I think I missed the value on one of them. Maybe another 40.

      1. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

        So… new entry in the drinking game, right?

      2. Veloxyll says:

        There was at least an 80, a 40, and a 3. So unless the others were all 1, it’s more than 128.
        No, must’ve been more. His first one would’ve been 40 when he shot Jenessa at someone. I forget what he was doing to get the 80. And he got another 40 when he was fighting that guy.

        Which is possible. Considering after the first time Josh didn’t learn to CLOSE THE DOOR WHILE ROBBING.

        1. guy says:

          I counted five arrests. The 80 was from the initial incident, 40 from another shouting incident, 3 from the inn robbery, and five from the lockpicking. I forget what the last one was, probably another fourty.

  12. spades says:

    Markath is a stormcloak city. Thats why they have an open talos temple

    1. Raygereio says:

      Before the Civil War questline, Markarth is Imperial controlled.
      There’s even a Thalmor Justicar hanging out in the palace who can give you a quest to fetch proof that a local bard is worshipping Talos. Personally I like to think the Thalmor guy is just that incompetent.

      1. Henson says:

        It’s hard to know there’s a Talos shrine in town when you spend all day patrolling one hallway of the Jarl’s keep.

      2. Michael says:

        Doesn’t he have specific dialog that the Talos Temple was shut down, and it’s part of why he’s stationed there? Just, with the war on, they have more important things than tearing down a temple… of course this gets kinda weird in that the statue inside is unmolested….

        1. MichaelGC says:

          Everyone’s probably been too busy molesting the statues upstairs in the Temple of Dibella…

        2. Rutskarn says:

          Okay–I’ll bite. How exactly is this shrine “shut down?” It seems to be set up to do exactly what shrines are supposed to do.

          1. Grudgeal says:

            Maybe the heaps of flowers bunched around the Talos statue are rotten and smell really, *really* bad?

          2. Tizzy says:

            It doesn’t have anyone in it, normally?

            I have to admit it’s a little bit weak, given that the altar is still there. And with a Thalmor envoy pacing just around the corner, looking for hidden Talos worshippers; but you never get a dialogue option to say: “hey, there is a shrine”.

            (Also, very disappoint that you can talk to the Thalmor dude while wearing a Talos amulet and he won’t even notice…)

            1. Grudgeal says:

              You’d expect that, if it were closed down, they’d at least have locked the door. Or posted a guard outside. Or torn the statue down. Or nicked the shrine. Or put down a sign saying “enter here and the Thalmor will be very cross with you”.

          3. guy says:

            There is admittedly no priest. Normally you’d expect someone to talk to worshippers, keep the place clean, and maybe run sacrifices. But I think it’s another sign that the Empire is not exactly trying very hard to suppress worship of their patron god for some reason.

            As for the Justicar not caring, maybe he’s an imperial sympathizer or just really lazy.

            “Oh, yeah, I’ve been working really hard on tracking down Talos worshippers. I’ve managed to finally track down proof against this bard with great difficulty.”

            “Isn’t this the guy you say is a talentless hack with a voice like nai-”

            “That’s a coincidence! “

            1. Hitch says:

              Perhaps when josh isn’t in town on his one cat crime spree, the guards are instructed to arrest anyone who enters the temple of Talos. How better to ferret out the heretics than to leave a convenient shrine sitting around as bait? Arresting Catbert every two and a half minutes doesn’t leave much time for other enforcement.

          4. Wide And Nerdy says:

            The Justicar’s resources are stretched thin pacing back and forth in front of the throne room. Give him a break.

  13. djshire says:

    New rule to the drinking game: take a shot everytime Josh gets arrested….and then you die at the end of this episode

    1. MrGuy says:

      I am disappoint that this wasn’t part of the original Official Rules.

      Who came up with those, anyways?

      1. guy says:

        Rutskarn provided the original set for Fallout 3, which didn’t believe in arrests.

        1. It made it far easier to code when the sentence for any crime is death and all slates are wiped clean in three days.

          Though the mechanic could’ve been instituted for New Vegas, since the NCR, Powder Gangers, and Caesar’s Legion all had prisons/holding cells. Still, I guess Dead Money could be seen as one big prison break.

  14. Distaff Pope says:

    Okay, so from my understanding, I think that the reason the lady got assassinated was because the Silver Bloods basically have the king of the Forsworn in their pocket (They allow him to live in jail if he occasionally stages Forsworn attacks on people they don’t like). The Silver Bloods support the stormcloaks, and that lady was an Imperial spy trying to take the mine from them so they had her killed. I bring all this up because I think it is one of the less stupid quests in the game and in no way deserves to be compared to the atrocious Thieves Guild questline that sits atop a mountain of plotholes.

    1. Michael says:

      That… mostly meshes with my recollection. Though, as I recall, you do have to go digging to get that information.

      1. Mintskittle says:

        It is possible to save the lady from getting murdered, and you can question her for that info, with the persuade/intimidate/bribe dialogue options.

        1. It’s just a shame that there is no forwarning, so the only way to know you can save her is if play through again. Would be nicer if you overheard him talk with somebody else about killing her ad then you could follow him half a building first or something.
          Most players will probably just walk through he gates and look around and boom somebody gets stabbed.
          In that sense it was better done with the head chopping “scene” as it had more buildup (but no possibility of influencing it so it’s just as bad I guess, would have been nice to be able to try even if failure was scripted anyway).

      2. hborrgg says:

        Well, if by do some digging you mean walk into her hotel room and read her super-secret spy diary, then yeah.

    2. Grudgeal says:

      I found that the over-all “plan” of the Forsworn Conspiracy sort of made sense (if you ignore that, given all the guards are in the Silver-Bloods’ pockets anyway, they could just have the guards push all the troublemakers down a flight of stairs discreetly instead).

      It’s when the main character gets involved and you see the particulars that things start to get really stupid.

    3. aldowyn says:

      It’d be a lot better if it wasn’t pretty broke (I think) and super railroady (definitely)

  15. Chris, you’re thinking of the Richard Scarry character “Lowly Worm.”

    Though in Skyrim, I suppose he’d be “Lowly Wyrm.”

  16. “And no one ever spoke of sex in Skyrim again.”

    Unless they visited the Skyrim Nexus, because HOOOO BOY!

    1. modus0 says:

      You’ve obviously never visited LoversLab…

      1. I have to admit I’d missed that one. It does bear a lot in common with the Nexus if you have certain search parameters checked off, but it goes above and beyond, I’ve got to say…

  17. Paul Spooner says:

    I don’t know about all of you, but the high-res textures in Skyrim just seem to bring out how poorly the engine is designed for this kind of thing. The whole city of Markarth (and many of the other locations as well) suffer from locally convincing textures that fail to connect on a higher level.

    Where the stairs meet the ground, for example. There should be wear on the stones, but it’s as if the whole thing was plopped down brand new. It’s almost like a theme park in that way, where the details look right, but hasn’t had the time to be worn in properly.

    I understand this is probably a limitation of the engine. Perhaps if they were using Rage style mega-textures this could have been avoided.

    But then there are the doors! They use the same super heavy apparently solid bronze double doors both for exterior (which I understand, I guess) and interior (which is massive overkill). And then people are eating off of wooden plates. There’s just no high-level cohesion anywhere!

    1. aldowyn says:

      the doors are probably dwarven. The keep in Markarth was originally built by the dwemer, explaining how it eventually turns totally steampowered if you go far enough into it. (There’s a whole dungeon back there, I think.)

      1. There is, it’s the first Dwemer ruin I ran. Just don’t ask me where the entrance is, the last time I tried to find it I got lost in the museum, then arrested and the game crashed. I blame Josh somehow :)

        1. Veloxyll says:

          I have vague memories of the dungeon being off the tombs. Which are all interconnected as I recall.

  18. Eruanno says:

    As a Swedish person I can say that the accents do not sound very quasi-Scandinavian at all. They mostly sound like Americans attempting some sort of Norwegian accent without actually having a Scandinavian person around and then actually ending up with some sort of quasi-German/Austrian accent that doesn’t really fit anywhere.

    1. MichaelGC says:

      How about Farengar, the court wizard from Whiterun? (Dragonstone dude.) I was thinking he sounded fairly Nordic, in addition to sounding just absolutely bored out of his mind. But maybe I’m mishearing or misremembering, and he’s actually towards the Arnie end of the spectrum.

      1. Mathias says:

        I second the notion that these people do not sound like any English-speaking Scandinavians I can think of.

        Like, the common “joke” amongst Scandinavians is that Danes have an accent that sound like we’re eating a potato while talking, but even Danes don’t sound that bad when speaking English.

      2. Eruanno says:

        Looked him up quickly on YouTube and he does sound a little Scandinavian, but it’s like he’s drifting in and out of the quasi-Scandinavian accent. And he does indeed sound EXTREMELY bored xD

    2. Grudgeal says:

      Still better than the Dunmer attempt at… Whatever the heck accent male Dunmer have (Australian?), though.

      1. Entropy says:

        G’day Outlander.

    3. Tizzy says:

      So, the people of Skyrim should sound more like In Fargo?

      Say, like this:

      It sure opens up some interesting possibilities…

  19. @12:30: I want that to be a dragon shout. OH-FUK-OHF!

  20. thebob288 says:

    The women in question turns out to be an imperial agent whos life you can save if your fast it turns out shes in town investigating the forsworn or somthing so yes the assassin actually did have a purpose

    1. Tizzy says:

      To be precise: the jarl is pro-empire, but not the mine owners. The mine being such an important source of revenue, the empire was trying to dig up some dirt on the owners to ensure cooperation. Turns out, there was a lot more dirt than they expected…

      1. guy says:

        I don’t think the mine owners are anti-imperial as such, just really, really shady.

        1. Tizzy says:

          They are. One of the Silver Bloods (the whiner in the corridor of the palace, I think) becomes jarl if Markarth falls to Ulfric.

  21. Neko says:


    Kerah: I’m sorry, I don’t think I can bare to sell anything right now

    (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

    1. Henson says:

      Yeah, I noticed this for the first time, too. Markarth’s jewelry vendors are part-time strippers.

    2. Abnaxis says:


      This is my one, ONE grammar-nazi pet peeve. I just want to scream when I see people use “bare” instead of “bear.” It’s even worse when I see “bare with me.”

      I’m glad someone pointed it out punctually, since I’m behind on Spoiler Warning.

  22. RTBones says:

    On accents…I never really gave them much thought. At times they do sound vaguely reminiscent of Arnold, but that’s about it. But I’ve heard a few Danes sound similar trying to speak English after having a few pints. There is really no telling what the devs were actually going for.

    On the quest…you can actually save the lady. The quest probably makes a little more sense if you do.

    On FusRhoDa and Josh’s penchant for getting arrested…you know, an interesting study might be to start from Episode One of this season and document just exactly how much cash he has spent on fines. In fact, at the end of the season, that might be a pretty cool montage – 10 second snippets of every time Josh got arrested or a bounty added.

    1. MichaelGC says:

      We could have an episode where we just scroll slowly up & down the stats page which is accessible from the menu – it keeps records of things like:

      Total Lifetime Bounty
      Largest Bounty
      Fines Paid

      That should be a nice change of pace for those that don’t enjoy the inventory-heavy episodes! ;D

      Actually, we can probably guess what Josh’s stats page looks like:

      Horses Owned

      Horses Stolen
      All of Them

      Bunnies Slaughtered
      Mumbles wouldn’t let me. Why is there no stat for Chickens Slaughtered?

      Times Shouted

      Times Shouted A Companion Off A Mountain

      1. RTBones says:

        Number of Health Potions Purchased:
        Number of Health Potions which SHOULD have been Purchased:
        92348150 and counting
        Useful Items Added To Inventory:
        Times Josh Stopped Running Due to Inventory Issues:
        Uh, yes.
        Number of Dead Meatbags of Holding:

  23. Vect says:

    Now I’m reminded of how Brynjolf’s Sean Connery impression bothered me. It just seems so jarring and out-of-place. I guess it’s a reference to Morrowind, but it just seems weird for just this one character to have this accent.

  24. Skyrim Cops should be watched after this ridiculousness. Because Josh’s antics are even funnier when you imagine the guards as the Cops.

    Edited to close link because I forgot.

  25. Michael says:

    Fun Katana trivia for Shamus: the cultures in Northern Europe actually did use the same iron folding technique that the Japanese used for the Katana. Off the top of my head, this would have been roughly 8th or 9th century. Though, they abandoned it, fairly quickly, in favor of more durable weapons, it as their forging techniques advanced.

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