"Do you know what's wrong with Skyrim these days?" asks a Nord, "Everybody's obsessed with death!" I've certainly been thinking about death recently, but in the context of Skyrim. The main thing that has grabbed my attention is the sheer scope of it. I'm like a plague. Sure, I'm saving lives by burning out covens of vampires, cleaning crypts of undead, thinning out the wolf/cave bear/saber cat population, taking out dragons, and preventing the rise of ancient evils, but at the same time, I'm taking out tons of bandits, thieves, animal abusers, necromancers and random ruffians. If you add up the amount of bandits I've killed, it's more than the population of some of the major cities of Skyrim. I'm severely reducing the population, even though it is a seedier, villainous portion of the population.
I can't help but wonder what sort of economic effect I'd be having if Skyrim were real? I should be making the economy more prosperous by making the roads safer and allowing for the easier and more reliable transport of goods. Unlike a plague, I'm targeting people leading a variety of destructive or evil lifestyles. I'm leaving the burghers and merchants and farmers alone and removing their predators. I feel this should improve the economy, especially in light of the brisk trade I do at the stores scattered across the land. Actually, at this point in the game, my crafting skills are good enough that I'm flooding the market with high price goods, such as daggers that banish Daedra (demons). I'm also buying goods at about a 60% markup. That's got to pump up the economy.
However, I wonder about the negative effect my slaughter of the guilty would have. I would guess that a lot of bandits are not full time bandits. Probably they take to being highwaymen and women when times are rough and they can't make it at farming, or the economy is down and laborer positions are in short supply. In these times of desperation, they may leave their plows and docks and take to thievery. But as the economy improves these would be people that would flow back into the honest workforce. When times are good, they would leave their villainous ways and start contributing to the economy again. Even when bandits are plundering instead of plowing, they're still contributing to certain sectors of the economy. Judging by the amount of wine and mead in the haunts of thieves, local inns and meaderies are doing a bang up business. All that gold lifted from travelers is going into the pockets of barkeeps and brewers. That in turn would be flowing to the farmers who grow the grain for the brewers. And that money that might be spent by a person replacing their stolen horse or sword, will stay in their pocket or go to other parts of the economy. The purveyors of necessities might actually see their profits fall, but the sellers of luxury goods might increase. So, perhaps my activities are just causing money to flow from one side of the economy to another. Anyway, I digress.
Not just bad people have fallen to my blade. A pack of traveling merchants were attacked by a dragon, and while I was helping them fend off the dragon, I must have accidentally hit one of them with the edge of a fireball. Once the dragon was dead, part of the group came after me. I tried to calm them down, but they resisted my efforts and I had to kill them in self defense. There in my stats I saw 5 murders. It felt very weird to later be trading with the remnants of that band of traders. I did not sell any of their companions' goods back to them.
Of course, I'm taking this far too seriously. Yesterday I was reminded at how capricious Skyrim is at dealing out death. I was hunting for a beloved helmet lost in a cave by a disabled war veteran (good cause, right?) when I was set upon by spriggans. Spriggans are tree-like beings that guard ancient groves of trees and can command beasts to do their bidding. They were defending their territory, but I was fighting for my life. I felt bad about killing them, as they seem to be a positive force in Skyrim. Even the Detect Life spell shows them as non-hostiles until they find you and shoot bees at you. (Yeah, bees. Really.) So, when I got to the end of this beautiful, forested cave, there were two spriggans with two pet bears. To avoid more death, I decided to try to sneak past them to get to the helmet, so I donned my sneaking gear and chugged some invisibility potions. I then crept through water to the chest and lifted the helmet. But with invisibility, as soon as you take any actions, you lose it. So for a split second, I was visible and the spriggans were pissed. But then I slammed another invisibility potion and disappeared and crept away. The spriggans then proceeded to kill their bears. Uh ... I don't get it. Maybe spriggans aren't so good if they kill their pets in frustration when they can't find an intruder. I'm thinking rather it's a bug. Point is, Skyrim does not care about life or killing. And my aghast reaction didn't stop me from stealing the bears' claws for use in alchemical research.
One final thought came when I ventured into a sea cave and found it populated by horkers, a Skyrim analog to the walrus. One charged me and I blasted it into horker loaf. But again, I felt bad. This animal was just defending its territory. I didn't need anything from it. Its meat and tusks weren't even worth hauling back to market. I was able to hop up onto a ledge and avoid confrontation with the remaining beasts while I explore the cave. Skyrim is a rich and beautiful place, and I should try to leave it as intact as I can. Except for ice wraiths. Those guys are bastards.