Skyrim EP32: Arrested for Lollygagging

By Shamus Posted Thursday May 15, 2014

Filed under: Spoiler Warning 81 comments

Link (YouTube)

I really feel like I’ve failed you here. How it usually works is that once Josh begins a quest the intro will trigger a few memories and the whole thing will come flooding back to me. I’ll recall my initial impressions and be able to talk about the game. But for some reason it didn’t happen here. I remember having a lot of complaints about this quest back in 2011. I remember being annoyed, frustrated, and bored. But now can barely remember any of it aside from the forced-surrender thing.

The stuff Rutskarn said about the horribleness of the Nepos conversation is really important. It’s not that this game sucks. It’s that this game could be so much better if there was even the slightest glimmer of emotional impact. There’s an entire dimension to this game that we’re missing out on because nobody has a character and everybody talks in exposition.

And while we’re here:

Note the contrast between the entrance to Markarth and the entrance to Solitude:

In Solitude, we have a long lead-up to a very public execution that’s just begging for the player to intervene, but inflexible scripting prohibits you from altering events. On the other hand in Markarth there’s a murder you CAN prevent, but it happens so quickly that you can only do so with foreknowledge. The person killed has no build-up, no identity, and their death means nothing. Since this is your first time in town and this is a huge vista, it’s very likely you won’t even be looking when the murder happens. So the game denies you agency when you really want it, but is happy to give you lots of agency when it doesn’t matter and you don’t care.

How much more powerful would this moment be if the victim was someone we knew? Even if we just shared a few lines of dialog and she mentioned that she was really looking forward to X someday, it would at least give us some impact. Something. Anything.

It doesn’t take a lot, either. I know I slag on BioWare a lot, but this is something they’re really good at. In Mass Effect, they managed to set up a small cluster of characters on Feros (the planet with the mind-control plant monster) that set the tone and gave the adventure some emotional heft. I wasn’t turning on the water because I wanted the XP, I was turning on the water because I wanted to help these people. And when I met the corrupt ExoGeni exec, I really hated his guts. I wanted to cave his face in. Compare him to Nepos here in Skyrim. Both are despicable guys, but I really didn’t get any meaning or satisfaction when we settled up with Nepos. He was just another NPC to kill between us and the end of the quest. His servants had the same depth of characterization as the average Drauger.


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81 thoughts on “Skyrim EP32: Arrested for Lollygagging

  1. ACman says:


    This quest. So many opportunities for open ended story telling.

    I broke this quest by pick pocketing Nepos and then backstabbing him. I’m pretty sure it would be the work of a few hours for someone good with the dev tools to fix this quest so that you could go tell the Jarl that some of his nobles are supporting the forsworn. Even if his adviser throws you in the silver mine anyway that would be way more interesting (and believable) than the forced surrender to personality free guards.

    1. ACman says:

      If this was an Obsidian game there would be 5 other endings to this quest (Admittedly at least 2 of which would not work due to bugs)

      -There would be an ending for siding with the Forsworn early.
      -There would be an ending for reporting it all to the Jarl.
      -There would be an ending for going into the mines early and killing/freeing the forsworn.
      -There would be an ending for just going into the silver-mines and slaughtering everybody.
      -And there would be an ending where if you were a vampire; the vampires(? Why are there vampires in this quest again?) in this quest would recognize you.

      1. Chauzuvoy says:

        What frustrates me is that even with the limited arrangement they’ve set up, it was done really ungracefully.

        I mean, look at the shell of this quest:

        1: Upon entering the city, CATBERT witnesses a murder. ELTRYS enlists our hero to investigate the conspiracy surrounding this and similar killings.

        2: CATBERT investigates the VICTIM, THONAR SILVER-BLOOD, and NEPOS, while learning about the conspiracy. The SILVER-BLOOD FAMILY uses THE FORSWORN as assassins against those who resist their business interests.

        3: CATBERT is thrown in CIDNHA MINE, home to MADANACH, the leader of the forsworn. Upon meeting Madanach, Catbert can choose to kill him and escape or to help him and his fellow forsworn escape.

        That’s actually a fairly interesting skeleton, or rather, one where a skilled storyteller can hang a lot of interesting stuff, and where a skilled quest designer can add a lot of player choices.

        I mean, here’s a few possible routes that lead through the same skeleton.

        Upon meeting Thonar, Catbert agrees to kill Madanach to avenge his wife. Thonar has him thrown in Cidnha mine, but he keeps some of his equipment and has an easier time.

        Catbert is thrown in Cidnha mine on unrelated charges, and still goes through meeting Madanach and blah blah blah.

        You could also add a lot of subtle variance in outcomes. Maybe if you agree to help Thonar early on he uses his pull in Markarth to make you Thane. Or maybe he turns on you after you solve his problems for what he percieves as your role in his wife’s death. Maybe if you’ve joined the stormcloaks Madanach becomes hostile on sight and you can’t side with him. Maybe Thonar doesn’t trust you if you’re an imperial and tries to kill you.

        I actually really liked this quest, but like all the things I liked in Skyrim I was equally frustrated by all the really cool or interesting things that they didn’t do.

  2. I feel weird about the fact that i love the forsworn when no one else does really at all. Also it felt weird that they didn’t factor into the main quest at all. Like i was expecting some kind of New Vegas like quest where you get minor factions to join the Empire or the Stormcloaks. but its all invading cities.

    1. Corpital says:

      Funny you mention New Vegas, because the Forsworn and the Legion are so similar. They apparently both have a lot of civilians and ressources you never see, but with easily compensate for the horrible losses they suffered a while ago, respectively the Battle of Hoover Dam where the Legion lost its whole army and tousands of years of oppression culminating in Ulfrics massacre in Markarth. Also sending the young ones on suicide missions for two decades.
      You meet both leaders in a heavily guarded camp, both force a mission on you if you ever want to leave and, again, both are surprisingly friendly towards you. And nearly every single other person of their faction you meet is horrible, violent and delighted by displays of cruelty and gore.

      Saying that, I rather like the people behind the Forsworn and I’d love to help them. The poor families, the mistreated servants and so on. I just utterly hate 98% of them you meet ingame, because they all snapped sooner than later and attacked.

      1. Vect says:

        Well, thing is that like Caesar, there’s nothing stopping you from killing Madanach when you meet him. At the least, Caesar is surrounded by his guards while Madanach’s just got a little pit of his own.

        1. Jeff says:

          Strange, my Ceasar was surrounded by remotely triggered explosives.

      2. I liked the Forsworn just for being a little different. Dudes with veggies in their chests? And they’re sometimes a challenge to kill? Beats mowing down more Drauger…

        1. modus0 says:

          Mmm, I love pickpocketing Briar Hearts, it’s so satisfying.

          1. “How could I have known putting a vital organ in a highly visible area with a less robust barrier to its removal would backfire like this?!”*

            * Actual in-game dialog. Seriously. Look it up.

      3. Grudgeal says:

        They sound more like the fiends to me. Minor faction, all evil, no idea how they survive, leader is the only non hostile one and lives in the bottom of an underground lair full of guards that aren’t actually guarding him…

        1. Raven_Sloth says:

          Oh god, they don’t guard him at all! I decided to follow him to the cave and there is a forsworn camp that you need to pass by. I was laughing as the leader of the forsworn and his “body guards” ran away from a couple of other forsworn. The only way it would have been better is if the guard outside the cave didn’t kill them when they tried to enter.

    2. Tizzy says:

      But there is so little to love about the forsworn! Not so much because they’re bloodthirsty daedra worshippers, but because they are so damn one dimensional. Outside of this quest, they are raving lunatics (as I recall, even if you side with them, for once, not everyone magically gets the memo), so the only interaction with them is kill kill kill.

      Gets really old after a while. At least, even though the interactions with them are equally limited, falmer have a tragic backstory.

    3. evileeyore says:

      I loved the Forsworn. Would’ve joined them if it were possible, as both sides (S’cloaks and Imps) f-ing annoyed me.

    4. guy says:

      The quest just never really sold the Forsworn to me. I just always felt like the statute of limitations had run out on this being “their” land centuries ago, because the only explanation I had for their gear was that they’d been fighting a guerilla war in the hills since that stuff was modern. But according to the wiki, they actually just lived in the city and were racist against Nords so they took advantage of the war with the Thalmer for a racial purge, and “centuries of oppression” is code for “were part of the Empire with equal rights like literally everyone else”

  3. newdarkcloud says:

    Ugh. I hated that supposed to lose fight. I had the problem that when I did this quest that I was really, really powerful in One-Handed, Stealth, and Invisibility. I must have mowed down at least 20-30 guards before I realized I was supposed to surrender. I (and I have no idea where I got this impression) figured that if I just kill the guards and report what happened, I’d get another way to finish the quest.

    Then, the whole prison segment. Again, thanks to my skills, I was fine with losing most of my equipment. I could just go Invisible and shiv people all day. Finding out that every fucking person I wanted to kill was Essential really, really pissed me off.

    I think you CAN kill the “king of Rags” though. I took the chance as soon as I could.

    This. Quest. Sucks.

    1. Protocol95 says:

      Are you sure about that? I had no problem killing them. I just checked the wiki too and does say they should be killable.

      1. stupiddice says:

        Yeah I killed the king in rags, then I killed the “my wife died, whatevs” guy. I think I tried to kill everyone in jail, but kept dying

    2. You can kill most of the people in the mine just fine. Like Borkul the Beast is killable. i don’t know what happened in your game but unmodded i could kill them in mine.

      1. newdarkcloud says:

        It’s entirely possible I’m remembering. It’s been a while since I did this quest.

        1. newdarkcloud says:

          I meant to say *mis*remembering.

          1. guy says:

            One of the problems with Skyrim is that so many minor random people are invincible players just assume anyone who plays a significant role in a quest must be invincible too, because why would you let them be killed when you’re so overprotective of everyone else? So when they actually design a quest where you can just murder your way through it, the players don’t even try.

            If they didn’t flag all the sidequest people as essential, people would actually try the murder route in other quests, but the game teaches you that if someone does a camera grab and doesn’t start a fight afterwards, they’re immortal at least until the end of the quest.

      2. hborrgg says:

        It looks as though when they got him down to a sliver of health he was knocked back a couple feet for some reason meaning that josh’s swings were out of range and thus did no damage.

        It sounded like they were hitting and there was blood squirting around due to all the other forsworn beating on josh with pickaxes.

    3. Corpital says:

      The only unkillable person I encountered was a named guard captain in the temple, so after beating everyone else this guy always came back up and also triggered every guard in the city to attack on sight after leaving the temple and somehow breaking the questline.

    4. Sciencegar says:

      I turned into a werewolf and killed everyone in the prison easily. Murdering them all is totally a viable solution, the problem is unless you’ve got good magic or a lot of patience and high One-handed skill, or Lycanthropy, you don’t have the tools to kill them all before being swarmed. Which is a problem because if you can’t the game forces you to ally with them and help some terrible people escape the prison, while also getting almost nothing out of it (you help the Forsworn Leader and yet all the Forsworn still attack you on sight). Its got a basis of an interesting quest, but doesn’t work it through properly, and as a result I ended up hating Markarth and all its problems, like the Spoiler Warning people hate Riften.

      It`s like Chris said, this game is crying out for New Vegas’s Faction System, or something like it, so that quests like this can actually let you choose sides with some degree of feedback and in-world effect. As it is, quests like this that try to drag you into the lore just end up seeming pretentious, overreaching what they’re capable of.

      1. Sciencegar says:

        Further to this, I feel I should point out: I did not surrender to the guards. I fought my way out of the temple, out of the city, and left the city for several play sessions to do other, less dumb things in the other parts of the game. It was only much later I went back and handed myself in, in order to get the bounty and the quest off my record. See, the second quest kept nagging me ‘Find out the secret of Cidnha Mine and the Forsworn’, like it was a huge deal, but I went there and did it, and it was an old man being whiny about something that had happened 20 years previously, which didn’t seem to affect anything in the current day aside from all these terrible mountain people doing human sacrifice all the time. I went through the quest growling as I was forced to help this old asshole get his way, and only when he was begrudgingly congratulating me for helping it at the end did I realise ‘Wait, I’m a werewolf’, reloaded the save in the prison and took GREAT SATISFACTION in mauling him and his cronies to death.

        Then I had to go through the dungeon on my own, which took several tries.

        Fuck Markarth.

        1. patrick johnston says:

          I did the exact same thing. Except I didn’t even go to jail the first time if i remember correctly. I believe the exact sequence of events was find guards, kill guards, leave Markarth, get filthy rich, pay of bounty when I felt like coming back. Didn’t even see the crazy forsworn dude until my next visit. Probably why the quest didn’t bother me that much.

  4. Thomas says:

    You guys are really making me hate Skyrim despite never having played it :P But not the hate where it’s a bad game, the hate where it’s always just on the brink of not sucking but they never quite manage it.

    It doesn’t help that I really want to play an non-Apocalypse version of New Vegas right now and Skyrim could (should) have been it.

    1. evileeyore says:

      Pick up Oblivion.

      1. TMTVL says:

        Oddly enough, the miscellaneous stuff in Oblivion (Dark Brotherhood, Thieves’ Guild, Mages’ Guild,…) is a lot more fun then the Skyrim equivalents. At least, that was my experience.

        And if so inclined, you can make an effort to not level-up in Oblivion. No such luck in Skyrim, where bandits become ridiculous.

        1. newdarkcloud says:

          Like Rutskarn said, Oblivion had great quests.

          Like that Dark Brotherhood quest where you’re a guest at a party… with the objective to kill the other guests.

          1. Tse says:

            That was really fun. Watching the burly dumbass murder an old woman, cry out in joy that we were saved and then.. I drew out my weapon.
            Some questlines could interact in remarkable, ill-thought ways. For example, the Thieves’ guild asking you to steal your own staff if you had finished the Mage guild questline.

  5. Imposing Snail says:

    My favourite way to describe Skyrim is a sandbox where someone has meticulously glued every grain of sand to the box.

    1. Tizzy says:

      I love it.

  6. Sean Riley says:

    FWIW, it’s exactly that phenomena that leaves me constantly going back to Bioware RPGs but bashing through Obsidian and Bethesda ones: Character. For all their faults (and good golly, they are legion) Bioware knows how to use cinematics, solid pacing and good shorthand to characterise people in ways that are recognisable and memorable. End result? When Isabela betrayed me in Dragon Age 2 I seriously wanted to murder her. Really. If she’d come back, I’d have just handed her right back over to the enemy without a second thought. I was passionately livid.

    I’ve never once felt that way about a character in a Bethesda/Obsidian game. And Obsidian gave us Caesar’s Freaking Legion. How the hell did I not get angry about Caesar’s Legion?

    1. James says:

      on the topic of the Legion, they were not characterized ingame well at all, they were the villan, and evil. the didn’t aspire to really any Roman values despite being based on them. all we really know is they have strength through force and stability through strength.

      The real Roman Empire, was a place of power and discrimination, but also of technology they were technology of the time, the only thing Rome sucked at was sailing, which was funny for a nation who’s capital country was surrounded on 3 sides by water. but in warfare they were unstoppable.

      If the game rather then making them the big bad, made them something better, make them like Rome Power, Strength and advancement that could have been a choice, Either Idealism (House/Indepedant) Freedom (NCR) or Stability (Legion). but the main theme of the game must be Good vs Evil mustn’t it lets the players get confused who to pick, heaven forbid that happens in a game.

      NOTE: this started as a Legion sucks cus its given no character and turned into a rant. oops

      I will add this Mass Effect 1, Saren wasn’t evil in my mind, misdirected indoctrinated and wrong but not evil, i missed that in ME2 and ME3 where the main villain was mustache twirling evil. the same can be seen of Tyern Loghain, i miss “old” Bioware guys. at least we have CD Projekt Red, granted they could represent women and sex in a less sleazy achievement based way, not that Geralt as a womanizer no that’s actually consistent with his persona from the books, but the fact that the player is meant to feel rewarded for sexing the ladies, or rewarded with that.
      in the Witcher no one is good, like no one at all.

      Time to stop before this gets out of hand

      1. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

        I don’t full know how to count this. The legion has quite a bit of character -and Caesar will explain quite a lot of his ideas and views -but to get that you have to side with the Legion. The explanations given by Caesar are fairly vague up until the point you have to decide between Legion and NCR. Nonetheless, Caesar makes clear that his inspiration is not Rome, per se, but Hegel. He has created the Legion to be the antithesis of the Followers of the Apocalypse -which accounts for their dislike of technology -but he fully intends for their conquest of the NCR to result in a superior synthesis which would use technology (which is why he’s only very hypocritical, rather than totally hypocritical about having the autodoc to fix the brain tumor).

        To some extent, I feel the same thing in Skyrim. I’m just back from a long sojourn on Solstheim and I’m tooling around in Windhelm -rather liked the Butcher questline -and if you don’t actually go investigate a lot and ask a lot of questions it does feel like a fairly bland city. Got some of the same feeling in Solstheim -but there is a lot of interesting stuff going on if you go looking for it.

        Alas, in both cases I don’t know whether this is good or bad. On the one hand, it means you have to work to understand the setting -and given that I know little about The Elder Scrolls, I’ve chosen to play a character who has never been to Skyrim and knows little about it. Hence, it works with my character to do all this investigating. In fact, my greatest frustration is lack of space to put all my books. On the other hand, this means you have to work to understand the setting -so confusion, rather than drama, is the more common outcome.

        1. Tizzy says:

          i agree:I never felt like New Vegas was a good vs evil deal, thiugh obviously some factions are more palatable than others…

          But in NV, it felt like the factions corresponded to an actual choice, a philosophy, and its up to you to determine what is the lesser evil.

          In Skyrim… No redeeming value anywhere. Factions are too thinly characterized…

      2. Gruhunchously says:

        I think that having a clear bad guy in a story about conflicting ideology isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I like to point at the difference between Deus Ex, where MJ12 is the clear villain, and Deus Ex: Invisible War, where all factions have some sympathetic qualities and can be sided with.

        I think the former template tends to work better, because it still presents moral ambiguity while still providing a strong story structure and a satisfactory payoff. Whatever ideology you end up siding with, you still get a nice ‘hell yeah’ feeling of having defeated an obvious threat.

        The latter template can end up being very messy and confused, with a whole bunch of faction leaders yammering in your face trying to explain why their worldview is the best way forward. It can lead to a somewhat empty feeling when you help your chosen faction into power by stomping a bunch of other, potentially sympathetic people into the dirt simply because they opposed you. It’s realistic, mature even, but not something I find satisfying in my vidya games. Not sure what that says about me.

        My point is, having Caesar’s Legion being jerkfaces serves as an important anchor for all the other decisions you make in a (non-Legion) play-through. Maybe you’ll secure Vegas for Mr. House, maybe you’ll help the NCR take over, or maybe you’ll betray them both and take control yourself, but regardless you’ll still be doing the wasteland a favor by kicking out those nasty slavers. The NCRs expansionism seems more appealing in contrast to the Legion’s savagery. Mr. House’s detached, calculating egomania doesn’t seem unreasonable when contrasted with Caesar’s violent, brutal egomania.

        Basically, I think that a story about this sort of thing needs a common enemy for all potentially sympathetic factions in order to work. They could have had the environment of the Mojave Wasteland itself be that threat, but that would have been very difficult in the context of a Bethesda RPG. It’s hard to properly simulate all of the physical, psychological, and sociological difficulties of the setting in such a structure.

      3. Thomas says:

        Caesar’s Legion aren’t meant to be a take on Roman society. That’s important because it’s very easy to forget that. Specifically a person chose Roman accoutrement and phrases because it would seem strange but powerful to people who don’t know what a Roman was.

        And I don’t think you can call New Vegas a story about Good vs Evil. The biggest problem most people had with the game (including Josh) was there was no ‘nice’ faction to pick. Everyone was horrifically flawed.

        I even think you can make a good argument for the Legion. The Apocalypse isn’t like ordinary times and our standards of society aren’t comparable. First you need someone to unify the lands and stabilise the culture and then you can worry about the good things. Some Brutality is needed for that, Genghis Khan couldn’t conquer half the world if he respected social norms.

        …not that I’d ever support them. But I think they aren’t without a case. House mainly cares about Vegas, the NCR are struggling to form a democracy just the same as all cultures struggle when they switch to it non-gradually, You are a Tyrant, like it or not. The only people who you can argue have a stronger chance of unification are the NCR

        1. guy says:

          One of the problems with the Legion is that they’re supposed to be in a pragmatism vs idealism conflict with the NCR, but the game just totally blows it. The NCR has its problems with the Powder Gangers and the Fiends and protecting caravans, but I always got the sense that all of those problems were because they were sending all their troops to Hoover dam to fight the Legion. So if they win at Hoover dam, they’ll survive in the apocalypse just fine.

          Now, the game tries to sell the idea that the NCR commander in the region is incompetent and a sign of the NCR’s corrupt politics, but I never quite bought that either. Yes, he wanted to settle everything with a decisive battle at the dam. So? Given that the NCR has assault rifles for everyone and a majority of the Legion troops don’t have guns period, resting everything on a battle over a long, narrow passage the Legion has to launch an assault across sounds good to me. If he went on the offensive, terrain and logistics would favor the Legion.

          1. Microwaviblerabbit says:

            For me the pragmatism versus idealism conflict in NV worked. The NCR is having all these problems, and winning the battle of Hoover Dam would probably fix them. But, the Legion is also preparing for the same battle and has none of these problems in its territory. Plus, four years prior the Legion had a large chunk of its army annihilated in the first battle, but still maintains the same level of control.

            The problems of the NCR are incompetence and corruption. Multiple NPCs complain about problems will the trade routes and their best troops (rangers) are being disregarded – the same ones who won the first battle.

            Also the Second Battle for Hoover Dam is not one ‘a battle over a long, narrow passage the Legion has to launch an assault across’. Give the Legion credit for learning from their past mistakes, they come out of the walls attacking everywhere with artillery support.

  7. Phantos says:

    I am ashamed at this hobby, this undustry for looking at something so lifeless and so restricting as Skyrim and then heaping praise and awards on it. It’s like people care more about how “BIG” a game is than how GOOD it is.

    1. Indy says:

      That’s not fair. Part of Skyrim’s charm is its size. There really is a lot of content in this game and that means longevity for RPGs. Furthermore, for all the bugs and outright stupid quests in this game, the combat is pretty engaging and the vistas are just pretty. A lot of people are right to call this a “good” game even if I don’t personally agree with them on why.

    2. I wonder how much of the praise comes from the fact it’s so (relatively) easy to mod. It’s almost like Bethesda is releasing a core RPG rulebook and a bunch of adventure modules and the fans just fix what’s wrong and write their own stories using the provided framework.

      I think a lot of people buy the potential for non-Bethesda content almost as much as they buy it for the vanilla game.

      1. Indy says:

        Oh, dude, you’ve got to play GURPS. It’s AMAZING.

        1. Michael says:


          I’ve actually got a full shelf of GURPS books because they’re ridiculously good writing references, but… just, please, don’t ask me to play it again.

          EDIT: I blame a GM who was so freaking detail retentive it turned the entire system into a massive, endless chore to sort out.

          The game I literally made in a spreadsheet, as a kid, was more entertaining.

  8. Ironically, one of the biggest things we seem to want from Skyrim is more choice, yet one of the biggest problems is that most NPCs you want to kill are immortal. Don’t they realize that by making (almost) all NPCs killable, they’ve effectively doubled the outcomes the players have to choose from?

    1. James says:

      if be happy to “fail” the quest if i killed x, ‘cus a failure is still a choice, so i killed x, now i cant help him escape, and now maby the foreswarn are forever gonna hunt me, or i cant do x later, LET PLAYERS HAVE THE CHOICE.


  9. IFS says:

    The best (worst?) thing about the forced arrest is that if you just exit the conversation with the guards who are supposed to arrest you nothing happens. They just stand there waiting for you to talk to them again so that you can submit to being arrested, it was actually kind of hilarious when it happened the first time I did the quest. Also being able to summon weapons (as well as most magic I imagine) pretty thoroughly breaks the challenge of being stuck in the prison with none of your equipment, you’d think they would take precautions against spellcasters but apparently not.

  10. Henson says:

    Skyrim sure does a lot of railroading and story bullshit, but I really don’t understand what’s wrong with the arrest scene in the shrine of Talos. The guards are corrupt, and they’ve been ordered to arrest you. If you resist arrest, they’ll have no problems in just killing you, since they’re corrupt.

    If you kill all the guards in the shrine, then when you exit to Markarth, the city guards will try to arrest you for the murder of the guards you killed. If you resist, they also try to kill you. The whole city will become hostile.

    Yes, to complete the quest by the book, you have to get arrested. But why is resisting arrest and becoming a fugitive of justice a less valid choice? Why is completing the quest chain any more important than rejecting it? Bethesda gave the option to resist arrest, and the consequences for doing so make sense; if you can’t survive the assault, it’s because resisting an entire police force is not easy.

    The problem isn’t that the quest is railroading you. The problem is that, if you leave the city, the guards will probably forget all about your crimes after a few days. Similarly, with the Thieves’ Guild quest, the problem is not that Karliah won’t help you get even until you pledge your eternal afterlife to the service of a god. The problem is that, even after refusing and leaving, she’ll stay there and wait until the end of time for you to change your mind.

    That’s how I see it, anyway. There’s a line somewhere between ‘this quest is stupid’ and ‘the people in this quest are stupid’, and I’m not quite sure when it’s a valid in-universe occurrence and when it becomes an immersion breaker. I just don’t see it in this instance.

    That said, Skyrim could certainly use more options in quest choices, more reactivity from what you do, and more ways to interact with the quest material. More nuance and complexity in general. And better characters, holy mother yes. Or ANY characters, for that matter.

    1. MrGuy says:

      The thing that’s wrong, in my opinion, is that it’s just such a ham-handed way to do things.

      It doesn’t make sense tonally. You’re someone the Empire has routinely sent on missions like “go to this fort and slaughter everyone there.” So making the town guard an unsurmountable obstacle feels “off” tonally. Especially in a game, where we want the player to feel agency and empowerment. This is almost worse than being captured in a cutscene – you’re expected to willingly PARTICIPATE in being captured in a cutscene.

      This is a LAZY way to do things.

      So, we want the player to go to the prison/mine next in the quest? Great! Come up with something better than “show up at the next quest marker and be forced to surrender.”

      Get the player to WANT to go to the mine to meet the Forsworn, and suddenly you have tons of options. You can sneak past the guards. You can overpower guards and fight your way in. You can bribe a guard to take you to prison. You can commit crimes and get yourself arrested. You can have it be that you have an option to intimidate Silver-Blood that gets you sent to the mine. There are LOTS of ways to have the player get into the prison that make more sense than “we framed you because reasons.”

      Oh, and by the way, what’s the point of the frame up? Silver-Blood runs the place. He IS the law. You’re some drifter that just blew into town. If he wants you in prison, he just THROWS YOU IN PRISON. He’s not accountable to anyone. This isn’t a society with an open court system. There’s no habeas corpus. You don’t have a public defender telling your side of the story. No one but his loyal guards will ever see you again. For all anyone in town knows, you must have just packed up and left. Not that they’d even bother to wonder “what happened to that guy?” Or care.

      What it boils down to is “it’s more fun and immersive to have the player want to do thing you want, than to force them to do the thing you want.” Half-life 2 (drink!) is really good at making you go to a certain place or follow a path in a way where it feels like you wanted to do that anyways. Here, Skyrim basically tells you “ok the author of the quest wants you over there now, so I guess I’ll pick you up and drop you there, since I can’t think of a single way to make you come voluntarily.”

      1. Henson says:

        Well, I can see where you’re coming from, but it seems you’re arguing that forcing the player to get captured is never a good story choice in a game, and I’m not sure I buy that. Making the player want to go where you want them to go is a good attitude, but I don’t think it’s necessary all the time, and I don’t think we should docket a particular quest for employing a forced action, so long as it makes sense in-universe. Skyrim’s problem is that it railroads all the time; in this case, I guess it makes sense to criticize this quest line, so long as it’s treated as part of a whole, and not per individual incident. (EDIT: Well, except that I don’t quite see it as railroady, given the legitimate ‘resist’ option…)

        I will certainly agree that the forced capture conflicts tonally with the game’s aesthetic of a supercharged power fantasy; it’s in the wrong game. I get the feeling that a few of Skyrim’s writers are trying to break the mold somewhat, to delve into more ambitious territory, but the tone on the staff overpowers their efforts. If Elder Scrolls games want to fix all the narrative problems we point out, they have to make a joint effort, and I just don’t think they’re that interested.

        1. spades says:

          The resist option isn’t legitimate. All that happens is that you rack up a huge bounty and no way to resolve the quest.

          1. Henson says:

            Well, it is a bit of a Hobson’s Choice, but I don’t see how that’s necessarily bad, in this case, for either storytelling or roleplaying. Perhaps the problem is not that there isn’t a continuation of the quest after resisting, but that the player is expecting there to be one. But is that a problem with how the quest is constructed (or quests in general), or with the assumptions the player brings to it?

            1. spades says:

              The problem is how the quest is constructed.

    2. spades says:

      Except the alternative is complete bullshit. If you resist arrest and manage to escape the city whilst killing a bunch a guards then there’s no aftermath or resolution to the quest. You can’t team up with the Forsworn to dismantle the Silver Blood conspiracy, you can’t break into Cidna Mine and free Mandanach on your own, and you can’t inform the Jarl. The only way to move forward with the quest is to surrender.

  11. hborrgg says:

    So, the first time I did this quest I didn’t realize you could just murder the forsworn king and I was so mad about being forced to side with him that I reloaded a 5-hour-old save. :\

    Also, I don’t know if josh is going to remember to do this, but you can fence stolen gold and silver ingots by turning them into jewelry before the cops take them..

    Also, does Josh have the transmutation spell yet? If not then why not? It’s fun!

  12. hborrgg says:

    Huh, I seem to remember that you can just kill all the prisoners (actually, according to the wiki you can). It’s just really difficult because you’re all alone with no equipment and no potions against a ton of forsworn magic-users.

    In either case the easiest thing to do is just challenge him to a fist fight and he responds with “Hey, you beat the **** out of me. Sure I’ll let you in to see our king with no supervision, you seem like a man I can trust!”

    1. Mikey says:

      I first did this quest as a goody-two-shoes character with whom I’d reload the save if she got as much as a single-Septim bounty, so I was Hell-bent on doing this quest without siding with the Madanach.

      I actually did manage to kill everyone else in the prison, since I’d already been making heavy use of the Bound Sword spell (Because with two perks in the Conjuration tree it becomes a weightless Daedric Sword with a Soul Trap enchantment on it) and took down the really beefy guy by slitting his throat as the first kill.

  13. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “Even if we just shared a few lines of dialog and she mentioned that she was really looking forward to X someday”

    She was really looking forward to her retirement,the day after tomorrow.

    1. evileeyore says:

      … she says as she pulls out a cameo of her boyfriend…

      1. MichaelGC says:

        …which she was about to sell at the nearby jewellery stall thus securing the final vital funds required to save the Markarth Kitten Orphanage from closure…


        It’s weird – when I read that sentence from Shamus I felt a tiny twinge of sorrow for Whatsherface and the X she would never see/do/swim with/fondle/etc. (Just a nanotwinge, I mean – I’m not sitting here weeping inconsolably into my cornflakes.)

        Which just goes to show either that I’m an emotionally weak-minded fool or that it really doesn’t take much to engender a bit of emotional buy-in.

        Actually those possibilities aren’t exclusive… but anyway, as the X sentence both says and, in a way, demonstrates, a teeny-tiny bit of flavour or character can go a long long way.

  14. Hitch says:

    The first time I came to Markarth I got caught up in this stupidity. I was there for some other reason, but the woman got murdered in front of me. Some guy is sticking notes in my pocket. I stumbled around picking up clues I didn’t bother to read because I didn’t care, it wasn’t what I was there for. Suddenly I’m being arrested and thrown into the “inescapable prison.” I died a couple times in the temple before making my escape to the streets. A mad dash to the city gates got me into the countryside and no one was trying to arrest me. Then I realized I still had business in town and I couldn’t complete it because if I stepped foot in town I was being arrested, no opportunity to pay a fine. I finally realized that the game would not accept me not going to the “inescapable prison.”

    I escaped 20 minutes later. *sigh*

    I think I ended up Jarl of Markarth by proving I was as dumb as the rest of the game.

  15. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

    I’m playing through Skyrim for the first time -though I’ve long diverged from the Spoiler Warning Crew. The only other Elder Scrolls game I’ve played was a couple hours of Daggerfall 15 years ago, give or take.

    I am having the opposite feeling of the SW crew. I feel spoiled for choice. There are so many quests, most of which aren’t really related to the “story.” In fact, I’m not even sure what “the story” is. Is it the Civil War questline? The Blades questline? The Greybeard’s questline? Truth be told, my story is the story of a Redguard corsair who got caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, escaped with no way out of Skyrim, and decided that there’s good privateering to be done in Skyrim -and that if said privateering can occasionally involve hurting either the Thalmor or the Empire, so much the better. Every time I come across an Altar to Talos with a bunch of dead bodies pile over it, I lay out the bodies and give a proper funeral to them -complete with laying a Talos Amulet at the head of the bodies (I’ve taken to carrying several just for the purpose). And then I go find a quest that will involve killing Thalmor.

    Because this isn’t a formal quest, does that make it a problem in the game?

    The only thing I’d like the game to include is the ability to turn down quests I’ve already accepted. I ran into Barbas the Dog, and I now have his quest stuck in my queue, and I have no desire to do it because I don’t make deals with Daedras. (Though in desperate enough situations I’ll make an exception -ie, Hermaus Mora on Solstheim, but I’m looking forward the opportunity to betray Herma Mor if it ever comes).

    Is it a problem that the game gives you a quest, even a slightly railroady one, given that you don’t have to do it? I’m not even sure -does the game even have an end? Once you fight Alduin -which I assume you must eventually do, it just seems the way the game is rigged -does that mean you have to stop playing? Or is it like Fallout 3 with Broken Steel. Now the main quest is done, do as you like in the Wasteland.

    Me, I plan to build a home and stock it with trophies of my victories, prowl the woods of the West and kill Thalmor and leave the bodes on the nearest alter of Talos. And I’ll simply turn off any quest that doesn’t advance those goals.

    And when I’m bored of that, maybe I’ll play a blacksmith, or a Legionary, or a mage…

    1. Indy says:

      You keep playing after the end of the main quest. You get rewarded and can carry on as if it never happened. The dragons keep attacking, too.

  16. Bryan says:

    Borkul the Beast, who’s in for arson, murder, *and jaywalking*.

    And no, I won’t link to that particular tvtropes article, but only out of respect for everyone’s sanity. :-P

  17. Neko says:

    I seem to remember I actually managed to save Thonar’s Wife from the assassins – abusing quicksave to do so, of course. Poor guy was still mentally scarred by the attack and believed his wife was dead anyway.

  18. RTBones says:

    Random Useless Stat Tally, Current Episode

    Number of Positive Comments about Skyrim:
    Number of Positive Comments about Mass Effect:
    Number of Dead Meathbags of Holding:
    1…errr…2…errr…1. Yes, 1.
    Number of Tables Cleared by Fus Rho Da:
    Number of Bottles of Booze Consumed for Health Reasons:
    Two dozen at least

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      We should totally keep track of number of tables cleared with a fus ro dah.Also the number of shouts used by mistake,number of arrests,and number of conversations started in weird places(during combat,standing in fire,etc).

      1. Trix2000 says:

        You forgot number of suicides via mis-shout (Oh whirlwind charge shout, how fickle you can be…). Or just number of times Josh killed himself in general.

  19. Nick Powell says:

    In my game I killed all the guards in the temple, and the game just gave me a massive bounty for it. The next time I was arrested, it put me in the mine and continued the quest from there.

    1. Kana says:

      I’m curious, does the bounty reset after you do the mine part of the mission, or do you get out and then the other Markarth guards show up and ask you to pay the fee/go to jail?

      1. Nick Powell says:

        I got out and Thonar pardoned me.

  20. lucky7 says:

    This is the 9th time Josh has been arrested, just to keep count.

  21. Grudgeal says:

    This quest reminds me slightly of the Conspiracy quest of Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura. Mainly because every conspiracy quest inevitably reminds me of it: It’s become the conspiracy quest I use as a measuring stick, mostly because it does it so well that I remember it now, some ten years later.

    (For those of you who haven’t played Arcanum and don’t mind the spoilers: It’s a multi-part quest that’s given to you by a madman ranting in the street that, if you follow it, have you running all over Arcanum gathering small but tenuous pieces of evidence that you and the madman piece together to show the gnomish industrial council of Tarant — the most powerful political power block on the continent — conspired to create the Half-Ogre race as a race of bodyguards through a *very* nasty eugenics programme, and eventually overthrew and murdered the king of Tarant. When you finally find the last piece of the puzzle and return to the quest giver, you find he’s been murdered by the conspiracy and anyone else you can give what shreds of evidence you have are either part of the conspiracy or will be murdered by it as well. To rub it in, the conspiracy basically fills in the remaining holes through a messenger, who also tells you that there is no way for you to ‘solve’ the remaining quest and you’re being kept alive because no-one will believe you anyway.)

    I think one of the greatest failures of the Skyrim quest, from a storytelling perspective, is how incredibly little digging is required to get the full picture. It’s a ‘conspiracy’ that isn’t revealed to you gradually so much as given to you in one big expo-dump by mr. Silver-Blood. You feel less like Bernstein and Woodward and more like a janitor who walked in on Goldfinger while he’s ranting about his Evil Plan to his assembly of investors and mr. Bond; you just get everything without having any investment in it (the crappy voice acting doesn’t help).

    In addition, and unlike in Arcanum, you’re not foiled by the lack of evidence or the gigantic web of lies that’s impossible to untangle at this stage or because of the nature of the society the conspiracy was based on, but because the game engine has flagged the mastermind as Essential and you can’t kill him even as he stands two feet away from you and is just asking for a mace in his skull. You’re living in a medieval warrior society in a game during a civil war where might makes right. You’re in a game that’s all about trumpeting the player’s agency. And yet you can’t do anything about it.

    In Arcanum, I killed that messenger at the end. Out of a sense of disgust at what the Conspiracy had done, and at knowing the ‘quest’ was over and I couldn’t do anything about it, I cast the ‘instant death’ spell at him. I watched as the giant red skeletal angel tore his soul from his body and left him a lifeless husk at the floor. And I knew even as I did it that it was nothing but impotent rage against a self-perpetuating monolith I couldn’t touch or expose because of story reasons. But at least the game let me have that.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Ah arcanum.It also lets you royally screw yourself right at the beginning.After the blimp crash,a man asks you to give him the super duper obviously important ring of mcguffin,which a friend of mine did because…I guess he was just dumb like that.I dont know if you can get back on track after that though,I didnt want to experiment myself.

      1. Grudgeal says:

        Yes, you can. Keeping the ring allows you to return it to its owner for a fuzzy feeling later on, but just describing it and who gave it to you will suffice in getting to that point in the plot.

  22. Loonyyy says:

    For me the murder was actually really good. I got lucky and it happened right amid my conversations investigating. The lady was stabbed, cries of horror from the family, and then the Forsworn resurrected her corpse to fight alongside them, so they’re giving their “Oh god what have you done” dialogue whilst hacking down the body of their relative. Brutal.

    A bit of scripting to ensure that something like that happens, rather than it having the potential to happen off screen would really improve it.

  23. Mr. EID says:

    I was really hoping that when they got to this quest, it’d glitch in the same way it did for me. When I returned to the Shrine of Talos, I had Mjoll with me at the time. I surrendered to the guards, was whisked away to Cidna Mine, and stripped of all my equipment…

    And Mjoll came with me. I warped in and she was stood right there, still fully armoured, lugging around an ebony greatsword and another 200 pounds or so of equipment.

    Needless to say, making my way through the mine after Mjoll had apparently smuggled all that gear past the guards for me was like stealing trinkets from an NPC. (And yes, just to reiterate what others have said before, I could kill every single prisoner in the mine. It’s just a lot trickier without weapons, armour and potions.)

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