Elder Scrolls Online,  Marwyth Playthrough

In Which Marwyth Quests Across Vvardenfell

Way behind on my ESO posts again, but honestly, haven’t much felt the groove of playing ESO lately. I am feeling kind of fatigued by the sheer size of the world, and am taking a bit of a break to recharge. I’ll be back soon enough, I’m sure!

Meanwhile, here’s some catchup on what’s going on with Marwyth. Main action here: running the Scarlet Judge plot on Vvardenfell, which I liked quite a bit; running the side plot with the ebony mine in Balmora, which I did not enjoy at at all; and continuing with Vvardenfell’s main quest line.

Play by play

  • Play dates: 8/10, 8/20, 8/23/2023
  • Session numbers in this run: 57-59

Thursday the 10th

  • Picked up in Vvardenfell where I left off
  • Talked to the guy who yelled for help who told me his father’s wagon had been attacked by bandits
  • Ran over to check out the situation and found someone calling himself the Scarlet Judge had already sorted it
  • Talked to him to find out what was going on and learned of a possibly corrupt local official in Suran that this guy was investigating
  • So he sent me over to check out a nearby plantation with prisoners that may be slaves
  • Enslaved people needing help? LET ME AT IT, said the Ashlander
  • The first slave I talked to wouldn’t talk to me unless I took out the overseer, CAN DO
  • Took out the overseer as well as a bunch of mercenaries guarding the place, and that got the slaves to be willing to talk to me
  • Next I had to investigate a couple of houses for evidence that the slaves had been illegally arrested and forced into hard labor
  • Broke into two houses to find that evidence
  • Next had to go raid the mercenary camp just outside Suran and destroy their weapons and supplies while the judge tried to rally the non-corrupt constables; killed a bunch of the mercenaries while doing so!
  • Returned to Suran only to find out that the Scarlet Judge had been captured and thrown into the prison by the official we were trying to investigate, so had to get hold of a key to sneak in
  • Which required me visiting a locale I recognized from Morrowind, Desele’s House of Earthly Delights
  • Questioned a probable courtesan who hit on me 😉
  • Also questioned a drunken constable and bribed him for the key, and used that to trespass into the prison
  • Invoked a few potions of invisibility as well as Nightblade abilities to hide; found one basket to hide in
  • No guards spotted me, woo!
  • Found the Judge (Melar) who’d been stripped of his regalia, and also had his knees broken, ouch
  • He sent me out to go raid a hunting lodge run by one of the wardens and get the regalia back
  • Once I got that, returned to the constable who was allied with him, and learned from her that the councillor we were trying to investigate had retreated into a nearby kwama egg mine
  • Got a key to get in the back way
  • Headed over there and retrieved the bits of stolen evidence
  • Had to kill a bunch of kwama workers and warriors
  • Killed the councillor when she flipped out at the threat of her being arrested
  • The constable captured some of her cronies trying to flee, and sent me back to check up on Melar, who granted me his regalia and told me to be the hero Vvardenfell needs, aw <3
  • That was also enough adventuring for one day, so blipped back to Cliffshade for inventory managing and signed off for the night

Sunday the 20th

  • Ran writs and cleaned up inventory
  • Leveled up to 40, took three more skill points, and dropped them on blacksmithing and woodworking and clothing
  • Boinged to Vvardenfell to resume plot mileage there
  • Went to the mage tower in the east to investigate the place
  • Talked to the mage there and helped him with his experiment; had to activate controls in rainbow order, which took me a few minutes to figure out, but did so without the wiki!
  • Got him to tell me about a tool Sotha Sil had made to extract a tiny bit of his divine essence
  • Proceeded over to Balmora to investigate there, but first got sidetracked by a local plot
  • Dunmer outside Balmora asked me to investigate goings on in a mine he and his brother owned
  • Agreed to do this but first had to steal a key to get in there
  • My options were:
    1. Pickpocket the key off the foreman, or
    2. Break into the manor house and steal the key there
  • Chose option two but this turned out to be annoying 😛
  • Got spotted by a hireling who promptly attacked me
  • Won the fight but also got a Murderer achievement and don’t feel that’s entirely fair, see below 😛
  • That commotion alerted a second guard who I also had to kill
  • And a servant yelled at me about trespassing
  • So in general the whole breaking and entering thing DID NOT FUCKING GO WELL, nice work, thief
  • Whipped out a Counterfeit Pardon Edict scroll to take care of my bounty problem
  • Then got the fuck out with the key and went over to break into the mine
  • Had to kill a couple of Iron Hound guards too and well, those fuckers had it coming
  • Found evidence that a poison gas was turning the miners into “stonefiends”, several of whom I had to kill
  • Finally found the alchemist who’d created the poison, and he too was being affected by it, so didn’t bother to kill him
  • Swiped the formula and got the fuck out
  • Reported back to the brother who told me to go find the other brother back at the manor house, while he arranged to meet a House Hlaalu councillor in a nearby tavern
  • Found the brother dead, and his assassin attacked me; took her out, and also took her orders
  • Then went to go interfere in that meeting with the councillor, who was very, very interested at my word of an effort to turn living flesh into fake ebony
  • He sent me to go take out the brother who’d doublecrossed me, which I proceeded to do, after taking out a few more assassins in his house
  • Also stole some shit out of his house because fuck this guy 😛
  • Went back to the councillor who asked me for the scroll with the formula, which I immediately destroyed because fuck this guy, too
  • Then got the fuck out of Balmora to head for Ald’ruhn
  • On the way out passed a couple of women, one of whom yelped about a strange dog biting her, and the other one told her to leave it be, that there was something strange about that dog
  • Closed on Ald’ruhn and found an Ashlander named Seryn fighting three opponents that she promptly killed
  • She asked me for help investigating the whereabouts of her brother, the Ashkan of the Urshilaku tribe
  • Had to sneak into a camp of the Red Exiles, who were Ashlanders kicked out of their actual tribes
  • Snuck into the camp and managed to find the evidence of her brother being up to shenanigans, and in fact trying to pass himself off as the Nerevarine
  • Got into the camp without fighting anybody
  • Got out but got spotted and had to run like hell to avoid having to fight fellow Ashlander exiles
  • Found Seryn nearby and told her what was going on
  • Then saw a projection from Vivec’s archcanon that told me to get back to his office immediately; was near Ald’ruhn’s wayshrine so boinged straight back to the Vivec City Temple
  • Talked to the archcanon, found out Vivec was doing worse, and the people were starting to get nervous, so the priesthood had had to deny them access
  • Gave him my findings, then went in to talk to Vivec himself
  • Going past a citizen begging the guards for access and being denied
  • Told Vivec what was going on; archcanon came in to talk to us as well
  • Got directive to go back to talk to Seryn and get more info on her brother
  • Paused there for now though
  • Boinged back to Cliffshade to clean up inventory and log off for the night

Wednesday the 23rd

  • Writs, but didn’t have materials for everything
  • Went off to Vvardenfell to run a daily quest there
  • Found the daily writ vendors in Vivec City
  • Also found Andarri, a Khajiit NPC who finally gave me a message from Zeira to follow up on Thieves Guild stuff
  • Took a daily that sent me north to a Daedric shrine in the northwestern corner of the map
  • Discovered West Gash and Gnisis Wayshrines on the way
  • Had to disrupt four different Daedric rituals at the shrine
  • Also found Galur Rithari, who appeared to be a Dark Elf vampire who’d killed some of the Worm Cultists in the place, and he seemed like an intriguing character
  • Took out the delve boss and got the skyshard
  • Got out and found Urshilaku Camp Wayshrine nearby
  • Used that to return to Vivec City and turn in the quest
  • Boinged back to Cliffshade to finish out writs
  • Had to boing to Daggerfall and buy spidersilk from one of the Guild traders there, and stole just enough armor off the Lydia to get mats for dwarven items
  • Finally finished off writs and logged out for the night

Scarlet Judge plot in Suran

I really liked this one. Great mileage for striking a blow against illicit slavery in Suran, and it tied in well with what I see as my character’s background.

Plus, the Scarlet Judge–or at least, the particular NPC who held the title for most of this plot–was a lot of fun. I’m sad that he got injured to the point of having to retire as part of the events of this plot, but he was also super gracious about handing off his regalia to me.

A++. Would run this plot again.

And, since Marwyth rides a fine line between acts of moral uprightness and acts of thievery, she was not above totally robbing the houses of the slavers when she broke into them looking for evidence. Because seriously, fuck those guys. 😆

My one point of confusion was why the hell Desele’s Guardian of Earthly Delights was named exactly that in ESO. Given that as I understand it, it’s named after a woman who isn’t even alive yet, in ESO’s timeframe. I suppose you can handwave this off by assuming it’s been a property of House Desele the whole time, but it’d have been nice if there was at least an owner NPC on hand with that surname to provide a little bit of continuity there.

Mine plot in Balmora

By contrast, I did not enjoy running the mine side plot in Balmora, and this was entirely because of dissatisfaction of getting dinged for a murder in circumstances I feel were a little unfair.

This plot required me to choose between pickpocketing a guy in the city streets (and run the risk of getting caught doing that), or breaking into a manor house. I chose the latter option.

But while I was doing that, I got spotted and attacked by a hireling. I won the fight, but I also got a Murderer achievement, which rubbed me the wrong way. And here’s why:

  1. I have the Prevent Attacking Innocents option on,
  2. The hireling was outlined in red and therefore CLEARLY HOSTILE, and
  3. HE ATTACKED ME FIRST so this was self-defense 😛

And okay, yes, fine, I was somewhere I wasn’t supposed to be, and moreover, I was stealing. So not trying to pretend my hands were all clean in this scenario or anything. But I feel like if the UI is clearly marking an NPC in red and therefore as hostile, and that NPC is actively attacking you and hit first, then it shouldn’t count as murder if you’re defending yourself. Manslaughter, at best.

Also, apparently the “Prevent Attacking Innocents” option doesn’t apply if you’re trespassing? It would have been nice to know that, because if I had, I would have not tried to fight that guy and instead run like hell.

I’m assuming at this point that killing that hireling counted as murder explicitly because they were a hireling of somebody who was not actually the bad guy in the plot. Problem is, near as I could tell, the plot gives you no hint about this. If there was a hint about this, I missed it.

Then, I find out that the guy who put me onto this quest to begin with is actually corrupt as fuck, and so was the House Hlaalu councillor I had to talk to when I found that out. So in review, this was a plot where I had to actively commit crimes to proceed with it, to the point of the game deciding I was a murderer when I defended myself, and then I found out that all the NPCs involved in the plot were horrible.

No real option here to resolve this plot to my satisfaction except to destroy the formula, which I did.

But in general, booooooo. I don’t know if Gyllerah will have any reason to set foot on Vvardenfell at this point, but if she does, I will not be running this plot again with her. It’s vexing, because I otherwise kind of liked the core idea, i.e., a conspiracy to create fake ebony by turning unwitting miners into stonefiends. That’s pretty grim, and I could absolutely see all the horrible people involved with this plot as the kinds of people who’d do that. It was just hugely unsatisfying to me as to how it played out.

And now I have the shadow of having committed a murder hanging over Marwyth’s head. I whipped out a Counterfeit Pardon Edict scroll to get rid of the immediate risk of guards attacking me, but still, it was an unpleasant surprise. ‘Cause it’s not like how in Skyrim, if I commit a crime accidentally, I can roll back to a previous save. No rolling back to be had in ESO, so I have to live with this.

And I am not aware of any means that ESO gives you to have your character make actual amends for a crime, other than paying off a bounty. So there’s not much I can do here with my lingering dissatisfaction except try to be more mindful of the need to avoid fights, if I’m working on Thieves Guild stuff.

And maybe more mindful of avoiding plots outside the Thieves Guild where the quest giver is explicitly asking me to commit a crime.

For now though I think I’ll work Marwyth’s nagging guilt about this into her motivations for why she’s helping the Tribunal. Mostly because Azura wants her to, still–but now also because I think part of her feels like she has to do the work to protect Morrowind. Even if most of Morrowind seems to think she’s an outsider these days.

Which brings me to…

More of the main Vvardenfell quest

There were two bits of visiting Balmora for the Vvardenfell zone quest that I did actively enjoy, and those were:

  1. Just seeing Balmora rendered in ESO era graphics, vs. Morrowind’s. The place was visibly the same city as what you see in Morrowind, but a lot more detailed and alive, and that was really cool.
  2. Coming out of Balmora after doing the side quest and the main quest things as well that I needed to do, I went past the two women discussing the strange dog.

And, LOL, hey, I know what dog they’re talking about! Apparently Barbas has some background cameos all over the Vvardenfell zone quest, and I missed the first one. But now that I know to keep an eye out for him, I’ll be watching for any further signs of him.

Meanwhile, though, I hit the part of the zone quest where I had to start interacting directly with Ashlanders. It was kind of vexing that the encounter with Seryn didn’t have any option to allow for the player character being an Ashlander, as I envision Marwyth being. For that matter, most of this plot is totally assuming I’m an outlander, and nobody is treating me like a fellow Dunmer.

All of which would make a fuckton more sense if I were playing this plot as Gyllerah, but I’m not.

And as I’ve said before, I get why the conversations are written this way–because this is an MMO, because they need to allow for the possibility of the player actually being new to Dunmer/Vvardenfell lore, because it’s simpler logic-wise to build the conversational options that way, etc.

I still wish I had some way of actually having my chosen backstory impact my plot choices! Ah well.

Anyway, Seryn asked me to go sneak into a nearby Red Exile camp–and I found out finally that the Red Exiles are Ashlanders who’ve been kicked out of their original tribes. I suspect Marwyth probably had considerable sympathy for that.

And she also gave me shit about working for the Tribunal. Which I don’t think Marwyth took well at all.

So I guess I’ll need to assume for narrative purposes that Marwyth is deliberately hiding her Ashlander identity as a safety measure. She obviously can’t hide the fact that she’s a Dunmer. But she can simply decline to fess up to anybody that she did, in fact, get kicked out of her original tribe.

Which also clearly can’t be Urshilaku. Heh.

Also of note: Seryn kept pronouncing Nerevarine differently than how Septimus does it in Skyrim, which drives me a little spare. Doing an internet search shows I’m not the only ESO player this bugged, either. I don’t particularly care one way or another what the official pronunciation of the term is supposed to be, mind you–but I do care about consistency across games, and this seems like a strange place to drop the ball. But, c’est la vie.

I got in and out of that Ashlander camp the first time without fighting anybody, which was a relief. I don’t think Marwyth wanted to fight any of them at all, particularly with that incident in Balmora still shadowing her mood.

That led me off to having to report back to Vivec City, and finding out from the archcanon that a) Vivec was doing worse, and b) the people were starting to get nervous and the priests were having to deny them access to the god. This did not improve Marwyth’s mood any, especially after she had to go past a citizen begging the guards to be allowed to speak to Vivec. She was all um yeah don’t mind me, I’m actually authorized to be here, but very, very salty about it.

Next time

I need to get back to do more of the Vvardenfell plot.


Editing to add

  • 11/25/2023: Restored missing gallery.

As Angela Highland, Angela is the writer of the Rebels of Adalonia epic fantasy series with Carina Press. As Angela Korra'ti, she writes the Free Court of Seattle urban fantasy series. She's also an amateur musician and devoted fan of Newfoundland and Quebecois traditional music.


  • Erin Schram

    You said,
    “1. I have the Prevent Attacking Innocents option on,
    2. The hireling was outlined in red and therefore CLEARLY HOSTILE, and
    3. HE ATTACKED ME FIRST so this was self-defense 😛”

    The Prevent Attacking Innocents option just stops harm to characters with the white outline. That is the quick definition of innocent. I presume that the Murderer achievement uses a different definition of innocent, such as their role in the quest. You could have avoided killing the hireling by running away. Or by letting the hireling kill Marwyth, who can resurrect after all (of course, unless the hireling was a character who appears only during that quest, they will be back, too).

    You said, “Then, I find out that the guy who put me onto this quest to begin with is actually corrupt as fuck, and so was the House Hlaalu councillor I had to talk to when I found that out. So in review, this was a plot where I had to actively commit crimes to proceed with it, to the point of the game deciding I was a murderer when I defended myself, and then I found out that all the NPCs involved in the plot were horrible.”

    I can think of at least two other quests where the questgiver is secretly the bad guy and tricks the protagonist into aiding crimes. And of two more quests that drop hints that the questgiver might be the bad guy, but the questgiver is really on the level. That plot is rare in ESO, but ESO has so many quests that even rare ones show up multiple times. You would have to read the quest in advance to avoid being tricked like that.

    And of course, a lot of Thieves’ Guild quests and Dark Brotherhood quests have the questgiver as an openly admitted bad guy.

    • Angela Korra'ti

      Yeah, like I said in the post, if I’d known for sure that the hirelings in that manor house were actually just citizens doing a job as opposed to renegades/mercenaries/bandits/etc., I’d have run like hell rather than fighting with the guy. But I didn’t know! I was trying to avoid too many spoilers by not reading up on the plot in advance.

      And hell, I’m running Thieves Guild stuff with this alt. She’s not a sweet innocent lamb, she’s willing to steal other people’s stuff. But there’s a difference between “I’m comfortable with stealing NPCs’ stuff”, and “I’m willing to kill innocent NPCs”. I’m okay with the former. Not so much the latter, which is why I haven’t bought the Dark Brotherhood DLC, and why I’ve dragged my feet about running the Dark Brotherhood in Skyrim.

      After months of playing ESO and basically having the game UI train me into thinking “oh shit, outlined in red and attacking me, it’s an enemy and I’d better fight”, it’s very hard for me to break out of that in favor of “oh shit I should not be fighting this person and should run like hell”.

      Between that and the plot basically railroading me into 1) having to commit a crime in order to advance it and 2) committing a more serious crime entirely by accident because I’m in the established habit of fighting with attackers outlined in red who are fucking attacking me and I didn’t know the guy was entirely on the level, it was overall just not a satisfying plot experience. 🙁

      • Erin Schram

        Sometimes, a quest in ESO is badly written. The writers try for variety and that can misfire.

        Sigh, yesterday I was running a Paizo Pathfinder module, A Fistful of Flowers, which is a charming and silly Free RPG Day adventure about leshies (plant peope). Alas, the final battle was not against the Lady Meliosa who was kidnapping leshy children as garden ornaments, but against some leshy guards she had trained. That was not what the players wanted, so I threw Lady Meliosa herself into the battle, which made the fight too hard. I cut it short by having Lady Meliosa’s party guests intervene. I was disappointed and apologetic that a good story was spoiled by a badly written ending and I did not fix it well enough. Next week we mpve on to the sequel, A Few Flowers More, and then I write a third installment based on the Scarlet Pimpernel, who of course will secretly be a pimpernel-flower leshy, so the bad ending will be left behind in the dust.

        • Angela Korra'ti

          Yeah. In a game as big as ESO it’s inevitable that I won’t like some of the plots. This is not the first one I actively didn’t enjoy and I’m sure there will be others.

          And sounds like you certainly have grounds to empathize with the ESO plot writers! I hope the rest of your campaign goes more smoothly.