Since my goal this time was to play with moral agency from an alternate moral profile, I thought it best to lay out some ground rules at the start, just as I did with Lothar. Instead of recreating the exhaustive list from the corresponding first playthough post, allow me to point out those areas in which Katnyss’s moral composition differs from Lothar’s.
As a Nord Legionnaire, Lothar usually thinks more about principles than about people, the big picture more than the immediate situation. He sided with the Empire because he believed a united Empire was the best defense against the Dominion, even though the ban on Talos worship was an egregious offense. He spared Paarthurnax because the dragon had done the right thing in helping Lothar to overcome Alduin, his brother and former leader. He destroyed the Dark Brotherhood because they wanted him to kill potentially innocent people solely on their command. He joined the Thieves’ Guild in order to create a more stable and unified Skyrim. While not all of his actions are laudable, nor all of his rationalizations convincing, he tends to consider his actions in an abstract, impersonal manner (which action is more just?) rather than a concrete, personal one (which action is best for me and those for whom I care?)
Katnyss, on the other hand, considers the world in terms of relationship rather than principle. The rightness or wrongness of an action depends mostly on how it affects those around her; abstractions are useless at best, dangerous at worst. The primary moral obligation of a person is to those with whom she is connected: family, friends, allies. People outside of these relationships are secondary or tertiary considerations, if at all. An action is right if it benefits her “tribe,” wrong if it hurts them, and morally neutral if it doesn’t affect them.
Consider the example of Lothar’s relationship with Uthgerd the Unbroken. During a quest, Lothar accidentally killed an innocent Stormcloak in the midst of a larger battle. Because I received a bounty, I know Uthgerd ratted on me. Using Lothar’s profile, however, I had to admit that I admired her adherence to the law, and dealt appropriately with the bounty. Were Katnyss to find herself in a similar situation, she would see Uthgerd as a traitor who reneged on her obligation to support, protect, and care for her friend. Uthgerd should have valued her loyalty to Katnyss above her belief in the rule of law.
This difference of worldview has profound implications for the game. Her parents, loyal to the Nords who took them in, put themselves on the line for the sake of the Empire to which Skyrim belonged. The Empire, however, abandoned them to the Thalmor. The Empire failed her again when she lived in the Cyrodillian orphanage, allowing her to be neglected and abused by those who were supposed to be caring for her and her sister. Then the Empire killed her sister. The Empire, therefore, must be destroyed, along with the Thalmor they apparently serve.
There is more to this moral profile than revenge, however. Valuing relationships over principles has led Katnyss to form very strong attachments to certain factions and followers. It also provides a lens through which she judges the NPCs she encounters, even if they have no significant attachment to her. I’ll elaborate on these aspects as they come up. All of the other rules for Katnyss’s decision-making follow from this prioritizing of personal connection. When she steals and from whom, how she decides which quests to take, and how she understands her role as Dovahkiin will originate from this moral profile.