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).


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

Friday, December 6, 2013

Main Quest (Katnyss): Before the Storm to Dragon Rising

Having survived the chaos of Helgen and Pinewatch, Katnyss took stock of her situation.  She was alone in an unfamiliar place and on the run from the Legion.  While she had certainly been in some tough situations before, this time was different.  Until now, Katnyss had focused her efforts on providing for her little sister and keeping her safe.  With Prym gone, all Katnyss had left was a rage that was as aimless as it was intense.  Of course she wanted revenge on the Empire, but she had barely managed to handle a gang of thugs.  Although Katnyss was not exactly a "people person," she had learned the value of allies from her time with the Alik'r. She needed to make some friends, and fast.

Upon reaching Riverwood, Katnyss made her way over to Gerdur and Hod’s house.  There, she caught up with Ralof and finally got some clarity on the Imperial ambush that killed her sister and led her to the executioner’s block.  During her conversations with Ralof and Gerdur, Katnyss began to feel a new sense of purpose – more accurately, her vengeance began to find a shape.  While she could care less about Talos and the cultural identity of the Nords, she certainly identified with the Stormcloaks’ sense of betrayal.  Joining the Rebellion would give her the opportunity to avenge, at least in some way, her sister’s murder at the hands of the Legion.  She decided to set out for Windhelm as soon as she feasibly could.

Katnyss’s experience at Pinewatch had taught her that Skyrim was going to be a dangerous place to travel alone, so she decided to spend a day or two in Riverwood in order to get some supplies and make some friends.  She took an immediate liking to Faendal, owing to his status as an archery trainer and fellow “fish out of water” in the Nord homeland.  She agreed to help him out-maneuver Sven in A Lovely Letter; Katnyss had no qualms about deceiving a Nord “bro,” nor did she really care that they were fooling Camilla – if Faendal wanted this Imperial girl for himself, so be it.

Now that she had a friend and follower in Faendal, Katnyss set about seeing how she could be useful to the people of Riverwood.  One of the many important lessons she had learned during her time in Hammerfell was that proving one’s usefulness could be the difference between life and death.  The Alik’r warriors were not about to play nursemaid to two Dunmer girls, but Katnyss demonstrated a willingness to do whatever they asked in exchange for their protection and provision.  As a result, she had not only saved herself and Prym from the abuse they suffered at the orphanage, but had also learned a little bit about alchemy, destruction magic, and combat - -especially archery.

Gerdur had already provided one important task: go to Whiterun to inform the Jarl of the dragon menace.  Katnyss would certainly do that as she travelled to Windhelm.  She was also smart enough to learn some basic smithing from Alvor, which gave her a little extra money to work with as well.  Furthermore, she agreed to assist Lucan by retrieving his golden claw from the bandits.  She had already managed to take out an entire gang by herself; with Faendal’s help, she could surely handle this job and thereby gain the favor of the owner of the general store. 

Getting the golden claw back proved to be more eventful than Katnyss had anticipated.  Aside from encountering her first draugr, she had no idea what to make of the word wall and her obvious connection to it.  How could she know a word in a language she’d never seen before?  Why didn’t anything happen to Faendal, who was standing right next her, looking at the very same thing she was looking at?  Prior to her adventure in Bleak Falls Barrow, Katnyss saw the dragon attack at Helgen as a happy (though dangerous) accident, of which she was going to take full advantage.  But it now began to dawn on her that there might be some kind of link between the events at Helgen and the word wall.

It was with these thoughts in her head that she returned to Riverwood, collected her reward from Lucan, and decided to spend the night at the Sleeping Giant Inn before heading to Whiterun in the morning.  While relaxing at the bar, the keep let slip some gossip about an orphan in Windhelm who was trying to employ the Dark Brotherhood, and another piece fell into place for Katnyss.  Her parents had told her stories about the Morag Tong and the Brotherhood to keep her in line while they lived in Hammerfell, and hearing the name again – in connection with an orphan like herself – inspired the next step in her plan.  She would report to Whiterun as promised, then make a bee line to Windhelm to join up with the rebellion and to see if she could learn more about the Dark Brotherhood.  The Stormcloaks and the Brotherhood were going to help her avenge her sister one way or another.

Katnyss and Faendal set out for Whiterun the next morning.  Along the way, just before the bridge outside the city, they encountered a small band of Thalmor Justiciars transporting a prisoner.  While she certainly hated the Thalmor for killing her parents, she had little trouble holding her tongue while the leader of the group condescendingly described his duties to her.  As awful as the Thalmor were, they hadn’t betrayed or abandoned their people the way the Empire had.  With the Thalmor, you knew what you were getting.  This particular group, however, had no idea what they getting in return.  Katnyss managed to slip the prisoner a weapon, then all hell broke loose.  When the dust cleared, the Justiciars were dead, the prisoner had bolted, and Katnyss was now in possession of the perfect disguise to fool any Legionnaires whom they might encounter.

Upon entering the city, Katnyss decided to stop off at The Drunken Huntsman to buy arrows and maybe sell off some Thalmor loot.  After transacting her business, she turned around to see something she had not expected in this Nord stronghold: a fellow Dunmer relaxing in the alcove.  Katnyss approached her, introduced herself, and within a few minutes became smitten by Jenassa’s dark, almost nihilistic banter, which made a refreshing contrast to the hale and hearty conversational habits of the Nords.  Talking with Jenassa felt good in way that Katnyss had not felt before – almost like being with her sister again, but different in some way she couldn’t put her finger on just yet.

Excusing herself for a moment, Katnyss turned to Faendal and realized that she would have to let him go home.  Faendal was a good guy – he had taught her a lot about archery and had even gone along with her foolhardy attack on the Justiciars – but things were about to get a lot darker, and Katnyss needed someone by her side who would be at home in the shadows.  Promising that she would return to Riverwood someday, she bid Faendal farewell and hired Jenassa on the spot.

The irony, of course, is that once Katnyss and Jenassa paid Jarl Balgruuf a visit, they met yet another Dunmer – Irileth, the Jarl’s housecarl.  The fact that this accomplished Dark Elf warrior had placed herself in Balgruuf’s service out of a sense of loyalty spoke volumes about this Jarl, and immediately placed him in Katnyss’s good graces.  He continued to impress her by being more concerned about the safety of his own people than about the politics swirling around him, but the fact that he seemed to favor the Empire a bit troubled her greatly.  Putting aside the latter misgiving, she agreed to join Irileth in defending the Western Watchtower; she had fulfilled her promise to Gerdur and was eager to get to Windhelm, but deserting these people just as a dragon was attacking their city seemed wrong.  And, if Katnyss was being completely honest with herself, she was curious about the dragon after her experience at Bleak Falls Barrow.

The battle with Mirmulnir thrilled Katnyss.  Fighting alongside her kinswomen inspired her to take risks she would never have before.  Knowing that her strength was in her bow, she ran to the top of tower to get more clear shots at the dragon.  While this position exposed her to attack far more than she liked, the danger was a fair exchange for the clearer vantage point.  When the combined efforts of the Whiterun guards and the trio of dark elves brought the dragon down, Katnyss raced down to get a close-up look at her first dragon.  Needless to say, she was prepared for neither the dragon's soul entering her body nor the thunderous call of the Greybeards.

Strange things were afoot, and Katnyss needed answers. Windhelm would have to wait a little longer.


  1. So, you jumped into the MQ straight away. I usually wait a bit before starting it, since all the tasks in it once you start battling with Mirmulnir are so urgent, you either have to break the "urgency" context or place the "open world sandbox" aspect on hold.

    Oblivion was the worst in regards to it.

    Morrowind did this aspect the best. The urgency wasn't that big in the beginning, and you were provided an in-universe reason for wandering off to do random tasks - you have to establish an undercover "adventurer" identity.

    1. I gave up on the urgency problem early on; there really is no good solution other than to role-play reasons for your delays. For example, when I did the Civl War line with Katnys, I wanted to be able to do Season Unending, so I had to carry Ulfric's axe around for ages. I pretended that he had privately instructed me to wait until he sent word that the moment was right for me to deliver it. It wasn't a great role-play maneuver, but it got me where I wanted to go.

    2. That's what I also did with my game - I pretended that Jarl Bagrulf would be absent for some time before I could speak with him personally.

    3. My excuse was much simpler, being able to survive the places I was told to go. The road I initially took on the way to Invarstead had a troll that killed me repeatedly, so I finally decided that my character took one look at the thing, said "nope," and went off doing odd jobs until she felt worthy of approaching High Hrothgar.