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Welcome! This blog is devoted to considerations of morality in the The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim by Bethesda. Rather than a fansite, review, or walkthrough, it is a serious attempt to examine the game through a moral lens. Please note that the purpose of this blog is to discuss morality within the context of the game, not to determine whether playing the game is immoral in and of itself; the latter type of "discussion" tends toward tedium and inhibits, rather than promotes, a meaningful conversation.

If you have not visited this blog before, it might be helpful to read the posts labeled "Orientation," most of which are the first few entries in the blog archive (see right). These posts include a short introduction to this project, a content-specific author bio, and a few other pieces that explain key concepts relevant to this study. These posts are of particular use to those readers less familiar with Skyrim (or video games in general).


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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Night to Remember

The conflict in most Daedric quests is that you find yourself doing the bidding of a powerful, supernatural entity, and your success is often rewarded with a powerful artifact.  Playing with a concern for moral agency can make these kinds of quests complex: am I a puppet of a Daedric Prince, or do my aims just happen to coincide with the desires of this being?  Furthermore, as most of the Daedra encountered in TES V: Skyrim are malicious (or at least not beneficent), the morality of one's actions can become quickly tangled.

I completed two Daedric quests before starting A Night to Remember, both of which were morally uncomplicated.  The first, The Break of Dawn, required me to clear out the draugr and necromancers from Meridia's Temple.  Because I fight those two hostile groups very frequently, I had no problem doing so at the behest of a Daedric Prince.  Besides, Meridia is one of the few "good" Daedra, so there was no real conflict for me.  The second, The Mind of Madness, required me to track down Sheogorath inside the mind of an insane, deceased Emperor and convince him to vacate. While Sheogorath, as the Daedric Prince of Madness, is unpredictable at best, the whole surreal quest occurs inside an NPC's mind, so none of the actions are "real" (i.e., taking place in Skyrim).

A Night to Remember, however, provided more opportunities for moral conflict.  The quest began when I accepted a drinking challenge from a stranger in Whiterun's The Bannered Mare.  The stranger, Sam Guevenne, bet me his staff that I couldn't drink him under the table.  While a drinking contest might not seem like a morally sound scenario, it is well to remember that Skyrim is a hard-drinking culture; "milk-drinker" is a standard insult.  I soon blacked out and woke up in the Temple of Dibella in Markarth -- a town I had not visited before, and did not remember visiting now.  Apparently, I had trashed the place in my drunken stupor, and the priestess was demanding that I help her clean up, which I did...after I failed to Persuade my way out of it.  She then mentioned the town of Rorikstead, where Sam and I had apparently caused even more trouble.  When I arrived, I was accosted by the farmer Ennis, who claimed that I had stolen his goat and sold it to Grok the Giant.  After failing again to Persuade a victim of the previous night's shenanigans, I peaceably lured Gleda the goat back to Ennis.  He then told me that I owed my friend Ysolda of Whiterun some money.  I traveled to Whiterun and spoke to Ysolda, who told me that she gave me a wedding ring on credit, but apparently my fiancee (whoever that was) and I had some sort of falling out, and she had gone back to where we met: Witchmist Grove.  I needed to pay for the ring or go get it back from my intended; this time, however, I managed to Persuade her to let me slide on my debt.  While laughing good-naturedly at my drunken stupidity, she informed me that I was supposed to get married at a place called Morvunskar.

Morvunskar, as it turned out, was an abandoned fort, full of hostile wizards.  I fought my way through them, thinking that Sam and/or my mystery bride might be hostages.  What I found, however, was a glowing portal to what looked like an evening garden party.  When I found the main banquet table, I encountered not my betrothed, but Sam -- who quickly revealed himself to be Sanguine, Daedric Prince of Debauchery.  The whole quest, it seemed, was an elaborate prank for his amusement.  For my troubles, he made good on his original wager; he gave me Sanguine's Rose, a powerful staff indeed, then transported me back to the Bannered Mare.

A Night to Remember is certainly one of the more light-hearted quests available in the game, but it still offered a few moral decision points.  As with all quests, Daedric or not, it is always possible to turn down, purposely fail, or refuse to complete a quest at any point.  Had I not felt like dealing with the aftermath of my carousing, I could have just walked away from the temple in Markarth and gone on to other things.  Additionally, with each interaction, my dialogue options included Persuade, Intimidate, Bribe (sometimes), or just do the thing I was asked to do.  As I explained in a previous post, I usually prefer Persuade to Intimidate, and Intimidate to Bribe.  For this quest, however, it felt wrong to go past Persuade; I obviously had given these three people a rough time the previous night, so if I couldn't talk myself off the hook, I didn't feel right threatening them or buying them off. 

The tasks themselves were a mixed bag.  Cleaning the temple was tedious, but easy.  Finding the goat, on the other hand, was much trickier, both strategically and morally.  According to Ennis, I sold Gleda to Grok, so fighting the giant seemed both wrong and foolish.  I opted instead for stealth, luring Gleda away while keeping my distance from Grok and his cyclopean club.  Because I used Persuade successfully on Ysolda (who was probably still grateful for the mammoth tusk I found for her earlier), I unwittingly skipped the very last task.

According to the walkthroughs, if I had failed to Persuade Ysolda, she would have required me to go to Witchmist Grove to reclaim the wedding ring.  After I finished the quest, I felt a bit guilty about talking Ysolda into cancelling my debt, and I was curious about the woman to whom I had proposed, so I traveled to the aforementioned Grove.  There I met my fiancee:
Apparently, I had been drunk enough to propose to a Hagraven.  When I asked for the ring back, she attacked me, so I was forced to kill her (not that I lost sleep over killing a Hagraven, given my previous experiences with them).  I tried to return the ring, but there was no dialogue option when I spoke to Ysolda.  I have therefore decided to hang on to the ring; after all, I have been considering Ysolda as a candidate for marriage.

The other problematic aspect of this quest is the fact that I had become the pawn of a more powerful being without my consent.  The two previous Daedric quests avoided this issue -- the first by allowing me to chose a quest already in alignment with my established habits, the second by being done at the behest of a worshipper, rather than the being itself.  A Night to Remember rewarded me for jumping through a Daedric Prince's hoops, and I did not like the feeling.


  1. You know, regardless of whether or not you felt manipulated, it's kinda not to laugh at what the heck happened to you during this quest. I mean, come one; you got engaged to a HAGRAVEN~! That's hilarious in and of itself.

    Out of curiosity, who DID you wind up marrying? Personally, I married Sylgja (on my second playthrough; I married Lydia on my first (Course, it doesn't matter now, seeing as how I deleted both save files to create more refined characters))

    1. I do really appreciate this quest as a moment of farce in an otherwise grim and earnest game. It's like "Beowulf" meets "The Hangover."

      I haven't written about my character's wedding yet because I delayed marriage until after I completed the Thieves Guild questline. I will say, however, that I married Ysolda --primarily because she was one of the first people I met in Skyrim who expressed real racial tolerance (in her dealings with the Khajiit). I also admired her wholesome ambition to learn about trading so that she could take over the Bannered Mare when the time comes. That kind of balance between gentleness and assertiveness fits well with this playthrough.

    2. It also helped that she found my character's drunken antics amusing.

  2. Nice analysis. I played this quest a bit differently, notably by using "bribe" as a way to pay damages when I could not repair. Namely :
    - I helped clean Dibella's temple : that seemed natural after having trashed the place.
    - I took note that I had SOLD the goat to the giant : the poor giant actually paid a price to have the goat, and since there was no way to compensate, I just paid the price of the goat to its former ower (it comes under the "bribe" option) and let the giant have the animal (who was actually happily following him).
    - I don't know why I didn't try to Persuade Ysolda, despite having strong Speech skill : maybe curiosity. I could not compel myself to kill a poor hargraven who was looking for love, so, if memory serves me right, I pickpocketed the ring from her (with an invisibility potion to escape her wrath after the initial speech). I still felt for her since her love was never to show up again.
    - Last I stealthily infiltrated Morvunskar, since those demented magicians did not have to pay my drunkenness with their lives.

    All in all, the "stealth/thief" build really, really helps to play a benevolent character.


  3. I have to say, Ran, that I'm really interesting in your approach: stealth as a means to a more traditionally moral playstyle. While the game does lean toward violent resolutions, you seem to have hit on a way to subvert that tendency.