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Non Violent way of dealing with Grelod the Kind

Discussion in 'Hearthfire' started by KayO199X, Sep 6, 2012.

  1. jarif

    jarif Well-Known Member

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    Original game? If you are referring to Skyrim, I don't think you can just say that because its a expansion, isn't that saying like for example Bend will shout didn't exist because it wasn't in the ''original'' game. Anyway nice response.
     
  2. The Yogi

    The Yogi New Member

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    Wow, this quest got me thinking, (which is always a good grade) and when that happens I like to write down my thoughts.

    I present to you the resulting essay:

    THE “KILL GRELOD THE KIND” QUESTLINE
    -A MORAL KOBAYASHI MARU SCENARIO

    Let me begin by stating how much I prefer the Skyrim morals of lighter and darker shades of grey (all the way to blackest black) than the good/vs evil dichtonomy present in so many fantasy games. My favorite stories have always been those with heroes and villains on both sides of the conflict.

    It is also obvious that Bethesda has put some effort in putting the players in moral dilemmas. The Markarth main quest, as well as the side quest with the cursed house of Markarth both make the player think about what is acceptable and what is not. And if there is no really “good” way to escape the Markarth mines, well, that’s just the way life is when it really sucks. There is always the choice of not escaping at all though.

    Also, I’m not overly concerned with finishing quests. Just leaving them unfinished is an acceptable consequence of not doing something that feels really wrong. As long as they do not become so numerous that they clutter up the journal, I don’t really care about that.

    However, regarding the quest “Kill Grelod the Kind” I belive Bethesda has missed the mark. The idea was, I venture to guess, to force the player to make a choice between two systems of value – one metaphysic, for lack of a better word, where the rule “thou shall not kill” is the guidning principle and the utilitarian one where each action is judged based upon overall consequences of it. This is an interesting proposition, but as with virtual all thought experiments where these two principles are juxtaposed, the choices open have been reduced to the point where the exercise becomes purely theoretical. In reality our choices are never nearly so limited – only under circumstances of threat and coercion (kill or be killed scenarios) are such limitations even relevant. But the “Grelod” quest is not such a scenario.

    The problem facing the player is to either act in a way that would seem very wrong to most people (and especially according to most metaphysic systems of morality), or fail to act allowing an unacceptable state of affairs to continue. Being a Catholic myself, I can attest than not even in every metaphysic-based system of values needs such a choice be clear cut – in every mass, a Catholic confess to sins made through “thoughts and words, actions and omissions”. Killing Grelod is clearly sinful, but so is doing nothing and allowing the situation to continue. For a failure to act to become wrong or sinful, having the power to do something meaningful to improve the situation is required. If you are powerless to affect a situation, then you cannot really be blamed for failing to do so. What Bethesda very deliberately does in this scenario is to render the player absolutely powerless to improve the situation of the orphanage children except for the power to kill. But such limitations are absurd given the scenario presented to us. In the real world, as well as in Skyrim one would expect, power comes through any number of means aside from ability to do bodily harm – great wealth, political office, military rank of friends in high places. For the Grelod quest though, these venues are closed.

    The authorities are corrupt, but even a bribe fit for a spoiled Emperor will not get Grelod sacked. The Dragonborn might become Thane and rise high in the favour of the city rulers, but he will not have the political clout to have one dirt-poor commoner fired as head of the orphanage. He might enter the city a war hero at the head of a conquering army, but not even then does he have the influence to have the hateful hag ejected from leadership of the orphanage. In contrast to the many ways in which the Dragonborn player should have the power to affect the situation with the orphanage, Grelod should be in a very weak position. She is poor, old, a commoner and loved by no one. She should have very little power to oppose the potential wealth and influence of the Dragonborn. But no, for purpose of job security, this nobody is the effing Pope!

    And so the player is left with a stark choice; kill or do nothing. At first I thought this very artificial scenario was designed to promote a utilitarian system of morality – to show the player that even killing an old defenseless lady could be right under specific circumstances. But once carried through, some of the comments of the children disprove this. It is clear that the murder of Grelod will deeply affect their lives in a way that has the potential to cause untold misery in the future. So if anything, the lesson is the opposite – do nothing, and you’ve done nothing wrong. But at least for me, that is just about equally abominable.

    This is why I call this quest a moral “Kobayashi Maru” – this is a scenario in which you cannot possibly act in a way that is morally acceptable. And just like cadet Kirk, I reject the scenario and the lesson it is supposed to teach (whether that be “sometimes there just is no right thing to do” or “Do nothing and you’ve done nothing wrong”) on the grounds that the assumptions of the scenario – that you are absolutely powerless to act, except for killing – are as wildly unrealistic in the scenario as they would be in any remotely similar real world situation. They are not credible even in a “in the clutches of a sadist”-scenario either; “kill a person responsible for causing misery and suffering or allow the suffering to go on for a few more years”, no it definitely doesn’t sound like a dilemma Saw would present a victim with. In any remotely realistic scenario of this kind, there are ALWAYS options to act, short of committing cold-blooded murder. Not necessarily efficient, convenient or affordable options, but options. Thus the lesson imparted by the “Kill Grelod the kind” quest becomes wholly irrelevant.

    What it comes down to in the end is (I believe) that the metaphysic systems of values with strict rules (“Thou shall not kill”) and the utilitarian system (where the consequences of an action decide how it should be judged), have much more in common than might be apparent at first sight. Whatever the source of the rules of a metaphysic system (a deity, or customs with origins lost in the mists of time), the reason they work is because the forbidden acts predictably have dire consequences that far outweigh any potential gain. You could call them an utilitarian system “for dummies” – there’s no need to reason through the potential consequences of every moral choice, because centuries of experience have already done that for you.

    So now only one thing remains – for the Skyrim Cadets to hack this moral “Kobayashi Maru” scenario and correct its false underlying assumptions, and thus reassert that if you think hard enough, there is virtually always a right, (or at least much less wrong) thing to do.
     
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    Latest Given Reputation Points:
    Daelon DuLac: 16 Points (WOW! Just WOW! Now that is a well thought out post. I still have no idea what a "Kobayashi Maru" scenario is, but I will certainly look it up.) Nov 7, 2013
    Janus3003: 14 Points (Very nice work!) Nov 8, 2013
  3. Daelon DuLac

    Daelon DuLac How do you backstab a Dragon?

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    Bravo! I believe, in one sucinct post, you have summed up the argument we have had on this thread for quite a while here. Of course it still doesn't answer the question, but all I can say is WOW! If this is just an off thought you had, I really, really wouldn't want to be anywhere near you if I wasn't completely sober and in top form or I could never keep up! Points to you my friend.
     
  4. Daelon DuLac

    Daelon DuLac How do you backstab a Dragon?

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    Okay - now I get it. Star Trek reference. A very good one too!
     
  5. The Yogi

    The Yogi New Member

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    Thank you very much for the praise and the rep, you're most kind! Actually, I've found that not being completely sober can make for the most intriguing ideas... :)
     
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  6. Lucid

    Lucid Well-Known Member

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    Everything you say is spot-on from a characters perspective, but does it go far enough into the dilemma from the players perspective?

    My current character knows that her choices are to break her "no murder" code and kill a defenseless old lady, or allow the suffering of innocent children to continue.

    As a player, I know that killing Grelod will result in:


    And so, the questions before me are those faced by leaders far greater than I through the ages: Is it ethical to kill one "innocent" to prevent the deaths of many? Is it ethical not to?
     
  7. Daelon DuLac

    Daelon DuLac How do you backstab a Dragon?

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    As they say - "You can't make an omlette without breaking a few eggs". :)
     
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  8. The Yogi

    The Yogi New Member

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    It would seem we have a very different perspective on the roles of player and character. As far as I am concerned, there are no moral issues at all for the player, who's a dude sitting in front of a screen enjoying a computer game. For me, moral issues arise only when taking the perspective of the character. From the player perspective, it's just a game. No matter what he does in, it's not unethical.

    Since the character does not know about that particular consequence of killing Grelod, it's not something that needs to be considered.

    But that's just me.

    If for the sake of discussion we assume that the player knows, then again, there are or should be options to killing.

    Right you are. I take it to mean not only a no-win situation (which unlike Kirk, I accept can occur) but one deliberately made to be no-win through "cheating".
     
  9. Dovahkiir

    Dovahkiir Member

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    I feel the same way but the kids will be better off thats for sure, thats my justification at any rate. Riften is so corrupt it seems no-one wants to deal with it.

    To be honest I feel worse about intimidating those poor shopkeepers for the Thieves Guild quest because its the only way to get those damn Barenziah stones evaluated, something else that annoys me.

    Strange that you attract no bounty for killing Grelod though.

    How can you divorce yourself from the ethics of the character you're playing? It may not have any consequences in the Real World, at least not directly, but I at least, can't do that.

    I'm not convinced this is an intentional kobayashi maru scenario, I think its simply lazyness on the part of Bethesda that they didn't think that anyone wouldn't want to do it once the opportunity arises (the amount of "evil" questlines indicates they've little interest in anything else (Boethiah, the human flesh eating one, take your pick))
     
  10. tx12001

    tx12001 I will not tolerate failure...

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    there is such a thing as a stray guard arrow or a glitch this is how you kill people if there are any buckets or something laying around a glicth can happen and can kill an NPC sort of like when you walk into those rocks from rock traps you suffer damage just a hint
     
  11. ScottishPeasant

    ScottishPeasant New Member

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    But then aren't you also dishonourable/unkind/a douche for leaving the kids to suffer under Grelod knowingly?
     

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