The Dark Brotherhood of Skyrim

I’ve written about two of the major parts of Skyrim, the Companions and the Civil War, and I thought I might as well continue that trend and write about some of the other major factions of Skyrim. As to what group to start with, that was a tricky decision, and I ultimately decided to go with the Dark Brotherhood, a small family of assassins. Because we all need a little bit of edginess in our lives. Of course, there are spoilers ahead, so read on with caution if you haven’t played much Skyrim yet.

Seriously. Spoilers. They start here.

The actual questline for the Dark Brotherhood doesn’t start until level 10, and unlike most quests, it’s not really forced upon you. The main storyline pushes you towards both the Thieves Guild and the College of Winterhold and pushes you further to choose a side in the Civil War, but the Dark Brotherhood stays out of it. The most you’ll see is the occasional assassin out to kill you – they rarely win though because they’re not that strong.

When you reach level 10, you’ll start hearing rumours about a kid who has run away from the orphanage in Riften. Turns out, he hates that orphanage and wants the horrible evil woman running it to die. In fact, if you go to the orphanage, you’ll find shackles in the back room. You have two options here – ignore the kid, at which point nothing ever happens; or kill the mean old lady.

If you go for option two, everyone wakes up in the orphanage no matter how you do it, so feel free to run in and bash her head in with a mace if you want.

Afterwards, all the kids are happy, the orphanage is under a new ownership and it’s all good. Until the next time you go to bed.

Suddenly, you wake up in an abandoned shack somewhere between Solitude and Morthal. This is where you meet Astrid, the leader of the Dark Brotherhood in Skyrim. She’s got three people lined up and blindfolded, and she’s not letting you out unless someone dies. Unfortunately for me, the first time this happened, I killed Astrid because I was kinda freaked out that she’d managed to kidnap me – in doing so, I never got to join them and ended up destroying the rest of the Dark Brotherhood for 5k in gold coins. But assuming you don’t do that and kill one, two or three of the tied up people, Astrid is amused and tells you to meet her at the super secret evil base outside Falkreath.

All thanks to me. The rest of you are lazy.
All thanks to me. The rest of you are lazy.

It’s the perfect opportunity for anyone playing an evil character. Tons of people to kill, opportunities to put your sneaking skills to proper use, loads of gold to be had, and some super OP items – like a pair of gloves that double your one-handed sneak attack damage, meaning you can get up to x30 damage on dagger sneak attacks.

You then go through various missions, becoming the Listener (i.e. the top dog) and end up plotting to assassinate an emperor. It’s more of a story that’s better off being played than being told. What you get in the Dark Brotherhood is actually one of the best quests in the game, a story with ups and downs and good bits and bad. There might not be any consequences to most of your actions, aside from accepting the mini-challenges and getting more gold, but there are plenty of feelings to be had.

Well fuck you too.
Well fuck you too.

The Dark Brotherhood also has quite a lot of tragedy. You’re joining a guild of murderers, so I don’t expect people to feel sorry for their victims, but I recommend that you don’t get too attached to anyone apart from Babette the 300 year old child vampire, because kids are immortal in Skyrim. It’s hard not to though because the Dark Brotherhood of Skyrim is more of a family than a guild. Everyone’s super nice and warm and welcoming, and before you go out on most missions, your fellow assassins will give you tips and suggestions if you ask them.

Why doesn't this work?
Why doesn’t this work?

Thing is though, although the Dark Brotherhood’s storyline is much, much better than that of other guilds, it still has its faults. Everyone’s still incredibly… static. There’s very few out-of-base antics, everyone just hangs around in that dark, dreary place. Occasionally they’ll move around a bit but that’s about it. You’ll have Veezara, the shadow-scale, assisting you occasionally during a handful of quests, and there’s a chance to see Babette on the road being all vampire-y, but that’s about it.

When you finish the storyline, the Dark Brotherhood sadly fizzles out. There’s not much left over, apart from repeating assassination missions on nameless NPCs. You get two or three (depending on what you do with Cicero) followers, the few remaining survivors hang around in a new base outside of Dawnstar and that’s pretty much it. Well, there is a thing you can do with the torture room you can buy from Delvin in the Thieves Guild, where you can get information on hidden treasure, but that’s about it.

Outside of the story and the friendliness, the Dark Brotherhood is really just like every other guild.

Still, it’s the best guild around for a brutal murderer.

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