Please read this first.

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).

PLEASE NOTE: HERE BE SPOILERS!

If you have visited this blog before, thanks and welcome back!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Pieces of the Past

After completing Waking Nightmare, I returned to my original objective in Dawnstar: visiting the Mythic Dawn museum.  When I finally met the curator, Silus Vesuius, I learned that the Mythic Dawn had been the cult of Mehrunes Dagon, Daedric Prince of Destruction, Change, Revolution, Energy, and Ambition; in other words, the group most directly responsible for the Oblivion Crisis that formed the basis of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.  The fact that Silus was so proud to be part of the bloodline that almost ended the world as we know it, along with my previous Daedric experiences, made me very wary of Silus from the beginning.  When he asked if I would be willing to help him find the scattered pieces of Mehrune's Razor -- for his museum display only, he assured me -- I agreed, but fully expected to end up killing him at the end of the quest; I assumed that once Silus got the fragments of that powerful weapon in his hands, he would find a way to restore it and use it to restore the legendary doomsday cult -- something I could not allow.

I kid you not -- the original caption for this UESPWiki image is: "This can't possibly end well..."
The first stage of the quest focused on finding the three pieces of the Razor, scattered all over Skyrim.  Two of the pieces involved standard raids on orc bandits and hagraven cults, but the third piece was held by Jorgen, a law-abiding citizen of Morthal.  I approached Jorgen and asked him to give me the hilt of the Razor; when he refused, I tried to Persuade him, but he resisited, citing a very reasonable argument that no good could come from collecting the pieces.  I was now left with a serious dilemma.  Silus seemed rather driven, so if I could not collect the final fragment peacefully, he might try to collect it through violence.  Furthermore, as much as I agreed with Jorgen's reasoning, I knew that I, as Dovahkiin, was in a better position to prevent disaster than he was.  I therefore decided that theft was my best option from a moral perspective.  Jorgen didn't need or even want the artifact; he was holding it for the greater good.  Because I could not convince him to give me the hilt, I was placed in the paradoxical position of stealing from Jorgen in order to fulfill his noble intent.

That done, I returned to Silus with the pieces.  He then informed me that we would need to go to the Shrine of Mehrunes Dagon to repair the Razor.  When I voiced my discomfort with that plan, he left to do the deed on his own.  Having failed to dissuade Silus, I knew that I would have to supervise him, because I fully expected him to repair the Razor and use it to, if not try to summon the Daedric Prince once again, at least wreak havoc on the townspeople.  When we finally got to the shrine, I was surprised to find that Silus could not repair the Razor, despite his supplications to Mehrunes Dagon.  He asked if I would try, and keeping in mind the necessity of controlling this potential disaster, I agreed.  Despite my established distaste for dealing with Daedra, Mehrunes Dagon seemed willing to speak to me rather than the Mythic Dawn devotee.  The Daedric Prince told me that he would be willing to repair the Razor only if I agreed to kill Silus.  I had thus been presented with the second major moral dilemma in this quest.

So far, Silus had only shown the potential to do evil; his obsession with the Mythic Dawn aside, he had not actually done anything wrong.  Because he had not attacked, provoked, or even given me a good reason to do so, killing him would be an act of murder.  On the other hand, I had little doubt that, had our positions been reversed, he would not have hesitated to kill me in order to obtain the artifact. Another factor in the dilemma was the artifact itself.  Like Dawnbreaker, Mehrune's Razor is a powerful weapon that could have helped me in my quest to rid Skyrim of its monsters.  It might be worth the life of a man who was probably up to no good anyway.

It was that "probably" that finally persuaded me to spare Silus and purposely fail the quest.  I simply could not justify killing a man who had done nothing wrong yet.  He might be a weak-willed fool, but he had not actually hurt anyone to date.  Furthermore, if I'm being honest, I relished the idea of telling Mehrunes Dagon to get stuffed, especially if it meant doing battle with him or his minions as a result.  When I declared my refusal to sacrifice Silus, I got my wish: Mehrunes Dagon summoned two Dremora to dispatch Silus and me -- naturally, they failed.

For his part, Silus was grateful for my decision and promised to keep the fragments of the Razor on display under lock and key in his museum.  So far, he has kept his word, but if he ever changes his mind, I might have to change mine.

15 comments:

  1. I'm sorry but it's just a game a man that would get sad because they would kill an imaginary character from a game most likely as no manhood you should have killed him you would have gotten the dagger out of the quest and the key inside where you would have gotten 2 more daedra hearts and a handful of ebony ingots and a few ebony ores.

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    1. Mr. Risk, I think you may have misunderstood the point of this blog. At no point did I claim that I was writing a strategy guide, nor did I suggest that I would "get sad" about killing an NPC. I am well aware that Skyrim is "just a game"; that fact is precisely the reason the game works so well as an opportunity for moral engagement. The lack of real-world consequences allows the player (if he or she so chooses) to explore different and conflicting ethical paradigms in a virtual setting. My blog is merely meant as a record of my own experiences as I attempt to play a character with a coherent ethos.

      However, since you pointed out an apparent shortcoming in my strategy, I should point out in return that the key to the shrine actually appears in the inventory of one of the slain Dremora. I used the key, entered the shrine, killed the additional Dremora, and looted everything. I did not mention these acts in the original post because there was nothing of importance to say about them. I had already established in previous posts that killing and looting Dremora were actions well within the moral profile of my character.

      With regard to your speculations about my manhood, I am afraid that your apparent allergy to the rules of standard written English prevent me from taking you seriously on that point.

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  2. As a stormcloak general, when Dagon asked me to kill Silus, I did it and retrieved the weapon, but in the next dialogue option when Dagon said "use my weapon to wreak havoc" or something along those lines, I responded with "I will use it however i please, Dagon". I then went to the museum and took everything, and went to my house in windhelm and hid it away. Skyrim is for the nords, and it does not need demonic imperial artifacts infesting it. My housecarl will gaurd them with his life.

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    1. It's interesting to me how many other players have come up with this solution. Obtaining the artifact then deliberately not using it is a great way to stick it to the Daedra.

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  3. You know, there's another factor that you failed to consider in this quest (one that was only recently brought to my attention), and it requires some thinking of the future: If you fail this quest and don't complete the Razor, Silus keeps the pieces, as well as everything related to the mythic dawn that he could find. However, is that really the wisest course of action? Silus has these pieces in a MUSEUM, a place that ANYONE can just walk into willy-nilly and walk around. While Silus may be a mage, he's kind of an idiot, and do you really think he'd be able to safe-guard the pieces of an extremely powerful daedric artifact from anyone who would find out he had them and want to use those pieces for thir own purposes (again, he keeps them in and runs a MUSEUM, on FULL DISPLAY)? And chances are that whoever WANTS those pieces would most certainly NOT have good intentions in mind. In all frankness, the things probably better off in the Dragonborns hands. Let's see someone try and steal it from the dragon born (or otherwise try and KILL the dragonborn (HA!) to get the pieces.) Not sure if this argument is completely valid, but it's still a good point.

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    1. Dang it, I thought I was being grammatically correct; there are at least a dozen mistakes in that post!

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    2. That's a great point -- I really only considered Silus and ignored other security issues. I will probably return to Dawnstar, break into the museum, and steal the pieces back. I think the danger you point out balances the crime inherent in that action.

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    3. Sounds like a good plan, though there's probably going to be some minor backlash when Silus inevitably sends thugs to "teach you a lesson". Also, in the captions, you mentioned that the UESP wiki formerly listed the captions "this can't possibly end well" under his picture-thing is, they still do.

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    4. Actually, you can't open the display case in which the pieces are kept. And if you reassemble the pieces, well ... what will the dagger become when you die ? Someone bad would eventually find a way to acquire it.
      And if you don't start the quest, someone else may go and see Vesuius.
      So whatever you do, their's no good end. Unless you take the dagger and drop it at the temple only dragons can go to, but that's cheap.

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  4. Thanks for this post. And just ignore the people who are irritated by it. I understand your train of thought. It's not a matter of feeling bad about having your character do (or not do) certain things. It's about staying true to the morality of the character. A morally good character, for instance, would probably only kill in self defense. I took this route with my first character. I finished the main quest-line so now I'm trying a second character. This time around I'm doing the exact opposite.....a morally corrupt character. It's so interesting to redo quests and approach them from a totally different point of view.

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    1. That's a great point, and back in May, I actually started a new character with a different moral profile. I hope to begin writing about those experiences before the end of the month.

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  5. I know this is late, but if anyone is still reading this, there's a way to get the oblivion walker achievement without the premeditated murder of an innocent. Here's how it goes.
    The daedric quests requiring the killing of a humanoid are pieces of the past, waking nightmare, boathiaths calling, the taste of death, and the house of horrors.
    Pieces of the Past-
    Besides the reasons mentioned above for why Silus should be killed, there's a way to kill him without stain on the dragonborns conscience. Wait. Not like in the game, but a few seconds of real time. Shortly after Dagon requests you kill Silus, if you don't answer yes or no, but just wait, Silus gets paranoid and starts attacking you. After that killing him is self defense. The guy needs to learn some patience.
    House of Horrors:
    I had the same reasoning as you. Basically the first guy is fair game because a. There's no other choice and b. the guy attacks you first if you wait before attacking him. It's me or him. The second guy is fair game because he's not by any means an innocent. He's a priest of boethiath, and kind of a douche. I mean he exploits the fact that Daedra can only weakly manifest In Nirn, even around their altars. He purposefully desecrated molag bals altar, and all malog bal could do was trap him in spikes but not kill him (we are informed that he has done this before and the daedric lord couldn't stop him). That's just mean, and frankly bullying, exploiting a Daedra in his own domain. And malog bal didn't have a champion to prevent it from happening. Frankly I pitied him. He's The Lord of Domination and was powerless against a mere mortal. That's where the dragonborn comes in. I saw him as restoring universal order.
    Waking Nightmare:
    This one was a bit harder. Since unfortunately enduran doesn't attack you after you wait (I need to double check), it can't be called self defense. Therefore you just have to justify killing him as the dragonborn believing the Daedra when she says he'll betray you. He admits to murdering many people and was a Daedra worshipper, it's not too much of a stretch to believe he would do such a thing.
    Ring of Namira-
    I failed this one. Killing verulus-an innocent, incapacitated, helpless man is totally unjustifiable. I have no reasonable fear of death of grevious bodily harm whatsoever, forgive the legalese. But I failed it in a certain way. When Eola asked me to clear the cave she becomes a temporary follower-instead of clearing of the cave, I lead her outside and sacrificed her to boethiath. perfect justice. That covers the latter quest. o
    To make up for missing the ring of namira, you need to get both the ring of hircine and the Saviors hide. Obviously it's moral to kill sinding for his crimes, and I found nothing immoral with killing the huntsman, though maybe it's because I hate hunting. Also, it's the circle of the hunt. The hunter becomes the hunted. I'm sure the hunters would understand.

    So yeah, hope that helps.

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    1. I agree with most but Sinding didn't choose to murder, he was forced by thee cursed Ring of Hircine. So killing him for a crime he was forced to commit due to a curse is immoral. Even if he did choose, everyone deserves a chance of redemption. As for the Namira thing. I feasted on the soul and said I felt sick. Then I just kill all the cannibals at the table, and tossed away the ring deep in the Dwemer ruin under Markarth, in the flooded area deep underwater. As for Mehrunes' Razor, I like the idea, and you can just drop it in Sangiune's Oblivion plane, somewhere in the Sould Cairn or in the black goop in Apocrypha if you wish to dump it for futur purposes. Besides, Dagon said Silus and his family served their purpose. And what better way to be an enemy of Dagon than to obey, then betray?

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    2. The Silus part may sound contradicting but you can still do the waiting game and kill him outta self defense. That's only moral if you genuinely couldn't decide and you waited to long. Purposely waiting is like indirectly instigating. But it's more moral than outright attacking him.

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