For the moral agent, the Thieves’ Guild questline provides a veritable minefield of ethical problems. I almost did not join the Guild for precisely that reason, but as I revealed in a previous post, I thought that joining was necessary for completing the main quest and that the Dragonborn should tie together as many factions as possible; while I was mistaken about the first point, I still stand firmly by the second.
Joining the Thieves’ Guild involved going to Riften – a town so rife with corruption that the first guard I met tried (unsuccessfully) to shake me down before I even passed the gates. Once inside, I met a proud warrior name Mjoll the Lioness who lamented the dissolute influence of the Guild on the town, and vowed to bring the thieves to justice. Eventually, I asked the right person the right question, and learned where I could find Brynjolf -- a friendly, high-ranking thief who could lead me to Esbern (the former Blade who would help me defeat Alduin) and who could provide the information I needed in order to solve the mystery of the Stones of Barenziah I kept finding all across Skyrim. Brynjolf’s help, however, came at a price: I needed to help him frame a Dunmer merchant named Brand-Shei who had been making trouble for the Guild – the same Dunmer merchant whom I had helped with a personal matter just the other day.
The task was designed to not only eliminate a potential threat, but also to test my Sneak, Lockpicking, and Pickpocket skills. While Brynjolf distracted the shoppers in the marketplace, I was to break into a jeweler’s strong box, steal a necklace, then plant the necklace on Brand-Shei – all in broad daylight. When I completed the task, the town guard arrested Brand-Shei and Brynjolf gave me the information I needed, and then invited me to join the Guild.
The moral ramifications here are obvious. I committed a crime and sent an innocent man – one whom I had befriended earlier – to jail. What follows is a list of rationalizations:
- I (mistakenly) believed that I needed to join the Guild in order to complete the main quest.
- I (mistakenly) believed that I needed to complete the crime successfully in order to join the Guild.
- I figured that Brand-Shei would eventually be found innocent or simply allowed to serve a short sentence and be released. I was wrong, but this appears to be a bug; he is scripted to leave the jail after 10 days, but he has not left to date (several in-game weeks later).
- I figured that, if the above turned about to be incorrect, I could break him out of jail. Wrong again; even when I open the door, he won’t leave.
Not surprisingly, the next few quests further complicated matters.