- Bethesda’s modern take on essential NPCs in Skyrim prevents players from killing certain characters, ensuring the continuity of the game’s quests and storylines.
- Dead bodies of certain named NPCs in Skyrim are moved to a junk cell inaccessible to players to prevent crashes when trying to delete them.
- The freedom offered by the Creation Kit has allowed the Skyrim modding community to experiment with making fewer NPCs essential, giving players more control over their playthroughs.
Not every Skyrim location is designed to be seen by players, as one fan stumbles on a room full of NPC corpses. While these dead bodies sound like the setup to a creepy Skyrim secret, the truth is actually a rather interesting insight into how the fifth Elder Scrolls installment handles its NPCs. Ever since Morrowind, Bethesda established its modern take on essential NPCs – story characters whose death severs the thread of prophecy. However, unlike Morrowind, subsequent Elder Scrolls titles took away the possibility for players to kill these NPCs, and thus persist in a doomed future of their own making.
While this made sense for pivotal characters such as Martin Septim, Serana, or even M’aiq the Liar, some felt that Bethesda had started to apply the essential tag far too liberally. Ultimately, it was a tool to keep the game organized, and to make sure that all the quest flags were fired off properly. However, many NPCs in Skyrim also belong to the protected category, which means that they can solely be killed by the player. This is where the game’s genius sandbox design comes through, but also where some of its quirks show up.
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Whenever a named NPC, such as Skyrim‘s popular punching bag Nazeem, gets killed by the Dragonborn, their corpse doesn’t actually disappear from the game. Rather, it gets moved to a junk cell normally inaccessible to players – as deleting a dead NPC that isn’t a generic enemy results in a crash. However, if a Skyrim player decides to use console commands to teleport to one of those dead NPCs, they will inevitably find themselves in this macabre storage, as was the case with Catcannnnn, who shared a video of their experience on the main Skyrim subreddit.
An explanation was provided by get-tps, who explained the nature of how NPC deaths are handled by the game’s code. Though Bethesda has cultivated a reputation for its bugs, this type of creative solution is quite common in game development, and the freedom offered by the Creation Kit has allowed Skyrim to foster a modding community on an unprecedented scale over the years. Some Skyrim NPC mods have even dabbled with making fewer NPCs essential, thus giving the freedom of “bricking” a playthrough back into the hands of players.
This tradition of essential NPCs has continued into Starfield, but whereas Skyrim accounted for killed merchants or inn owners by having replacements take their place, Starfield is less rigid by comparison. Ultimately, players hope that Bethesda will reexamine the way it treats essential NPCs for the next Elder Scrolls game, and that the developer will lean more toward the system it perfected with Skyrim.
Franchise The Elder Scrolls Platform(s) PC, PS3, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Xbox One X, Xbox Series S, PS4, PS5, Switch Released November 11, 2011 Developer(s) Bethesda