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Norman Barrows

should i kill paarthurnax?

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should i kill paarthurnax?

 

i'm at that point with one of my charcters in skyrim. maybe the fourth or fifth time now. maybe sixth.

 

for some reason, this is the only real moral dilemma that really hits me in the game. 

 

which leads to a number of questions:

 

does it affect you that way? or do you just min-max it? from gameplay point of view its basically "the ability change what word you mediate on" vs "followers with blades armor" and "esbern's dragon slaying prayer buff" as far as i'm aware.  

 

a quick google returns a number of hits related to the "paarthurnax dilemma" - as its apparently referred to (i have yet to peruse them all).

 

what about it is so vexing for some (like me) ?   based on the in-game evidence presented, pretty much every fiber of my being says its wrong to kill paarthurnax. i've probably let him live 4 out of 5 times so far. but the quest line seems to be written such that you're supposed to kill him to complete the "Blades faction" quest line (and become head of the blades faction).

 

assuming many people find it as challenging question as i do, what about it make its a challenging question? and can we reproduce that in other games somehow?  for some reason the moral dilemma presented is somehow setup just right to touch me on an emotional level. most games don't mess with me like this! <g>.  is it that you have to choose between friends? and even worse - kill one to keep the other?

 

aside from discussion of this interesting design topic, i'd also like to do a bit of an informal poll as to whether this particular character of mine should do the deed or not.

 

her name is Electia Atrillius. she's a fine daughter of Cyrodiil, grand daughter of the legendary Imperial General Atrillius (made up backstory). she was my playtest character for the imperial faction quest line when i was evaluating skyrim (my game Caveman is inspired by The Elder Scrolls and The SIMs). She's an Imperial Legate (retired), having completed the Imperials quest line. She's 35th level, Fighter stone, dual wield sword and dagger, heavy armor. both xbow and bow. legendary 1x on enchantment. one handed and heavy armor skills in the 80's. law and order type. loyal imperial subject, but also worshiper of talos (hey - he founded the empire!). one the one hand, she could be the leader of the blades. on the other hand, she could gain a number of dragon allies, such as paarthurnax, the dragon you can call with a shout, and the dragon from dawnguard. what would the the in-character role playing move for her to make? do the deed or not? she can always buy / find / enchant / smith gear better than blades gear. I use UFO and follower mods, so she could create her own blades type faction if she wanted. but she's more of a loner type. no follower, one horse, no house, maybe 20K gold. but the girl rips though stuff like i've never seen. she went though the Alduin end quest alone without using healing potions!  that dual flurry standing power attack is unbelievable!. granted, she did get pinned down by a couple drauger death lords and a dragon priest just before entering soverngard, but i only died a few times. in the end the xbow (double enchanted of course!) got her out.

so - would she do the deed? i'll not kill him for a while to see what folks think. being an imperial and all, i'm thinking maybe so. its just one dragon, and she'd be leader of the blades, a natural place for the dragon born grand daughter of a famous Imperial General, and a Legate of the Empire, the one who declined the honor of taking Ulfric's head (she let Tullius do that deed). what do you think?

Edited by Norman Barrows

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I think the crux of the issue here is that this choice (whether or not to kill a prior ally) is really one of the only choices with both signifiant prior investiture and significant meaningful impact in the game, and that makes it stand out (for better or worse). If you look at many of the other similar choices available to you in the game, they either don't require much investiture of your or don't have much impact or both.

 

You can pick a side in the civil war. Ultimately this affects the color of some enemies you face and some flavor dialog around how you face them, but the fundamental quests play out very formulaically and it really doesn't matter much which side you pick (or if you pick no side).

 

You can choose to destroy the Dark Brotherhood. This cuts off an entire quest line and kills some interesting characters. But of course you have no relationship or investment in those characters anyway, so it's really not that much different from that perspective than any draugr clearing expedition.

 

Skyrim is very much an RPG designed to let you "do everything at once," which means the moments where it does force some exclusivity and consequence to your actions stand out that much more. If you wanted to replicate the effect the decision has on you, introducing more consequence would not be a bad direction to explore.

Edited by Josh Petrie

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I'd agree - it all comes down to "what are the consequences for this choice". Often the only consequences of choices in an RPG are the line of dialogue you get to see and hear, or an item that appears in your inventory, or whether you have to fight someone or not. And many of those choices can be undone or replayed so they mean little. It's rare to make a choice which can actually mean you fail a quest, or - perhaps more troubling to many players - keep it lingering as unfinished in your quest log.

 

There's a similar dilemma in the new Deus Ex game - at one point you're asked to make a choice which is a moral choice in the game fiction but is an apparently irreversible quest selection in mechanical terms.

 

It's hard for game developers to support these decisions with big consequences, because it implies a branching structure where you'll only experience one half of the content - and that gets expensive to develop. I expect that contributes to their rarity.

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is really one of the only choices with both signifiant prior investiture and significant meaningful impact in the game

 

actually, i've always found the impact rather minimal.  whichever way i choose, i never make use of the benefits gained.  maybe that's why its hard for me. from a min-max point, its more or less a wash, perhaps with a slight nod to paarthurnax. so for me it becomes more a matter of principle. 

 

so perhaps its the significant prior investment that makes it a more weighty decision. that puts it more in the same category of scripted death of a long term follower - IE forcing some form of tragedy on the player.

Edited by Norman Barrows

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It's rare to make a choice which can actually mean you fail a quest, or - perhaps more troubling to many players - keep it lingering as unfinished in your quest log.

 

the online concenus seem to be to never kill paarthurnax.   newbies might kill him for treasure, not realizing they can get the same stuff from ANY dragon. and then there are the obsessive compulsive types who complete it to clear their quest log.  

 

by the time they tell you to kill paarthurnax, you've completed the quest line. this more like an optional add-on mini quest, as opposed to a branching questline.

 

clearing the quest log is really about the issues that you can't decline some quests, and you can't abandon any of them - its not really about the paarthurnax dilemma at all. its could just as well be kill 10 skeevers.

 

so if the consequences are not that big a deal...    is it the fact that the consequences are inconsequential? <g>.  which leaves only the moral dilemma? am i over thinking this? am i the only one constantly vexed by this dilemma?

 

i really don't think they purposely designed it to have as much effect on players as it apparently does. i think its was a bit more of an accidental discovery. i think they tried to present a dilemma and somehow accidentally got it right for a change! <g>.  which makes me wonder what it is about it that makes it "done right".

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I've never played the game so I'm just guessing.

 

But maybe it's some sort of Lima Syndrome effect? I only looked briefly but I'm not seeing much information about it. It sounds to me to be some sort of thing where looking outside the group you get a glimpse of something larger and start to question the dogma that you've become accustomed to. In this case it seems (to me) to have tapped into players compulsion to protect something they see as unique. It's easy to kill thieves or members of an opposing faction because there will always be more or the threat of more.

 

Or perhaps it's something coming from a compulsion to explore. Like getting a glimpse of a world outside your home town and you want to know more about what is out there, except in this case it's a desire to explore and know a character. Like, it feels as though there's something more there to find out so you don't want to close that avenue of exploration yet.

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maybe it's some sort of Lima Syndrome effect?

 

i don't really think that's it.... 

 

it seems to be more a case of: 

mankind has a former enemy who has repented and become perhaps your most helpful ally.

but your other major ally demands their death for their past sins - if your wish to remain allies.

do you show mercy and forgiveness?

 

out of curiosity, i checked, and the Blades gear is not all that. Electia already has better armor. But i did steal the sword! <g>.

so unless you're low level, the benefits of either choice are not that significant.

 

Most of the postings seem to argue against doing it on moral grounds. with about 95% against, and 5% for killing paarthurnax.

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It's a great dilemma to experience choice and consequence, having a few of these in an open world game make memorable moments, and allow you to distinguish your characters personality.

I think the typical Nord might honor native tradition, while a foreigner might deliberately spite Nord values. There's a lot of antisemitism in TES.

As a player, it also distinguishes the experience you have on playthroughs, so your not isolated to a singular set of events each playthrough.

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