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The Elder Scrolls: Letters From A Thief

The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind

I remember stepping off the boat into the strange land of Morrowind. I had never seen anything like it in my gaming years, which were mainly on consoles. Now playing on the PC, everything was new to me on every level. The land was foreign and strange, but it lived and bustled with people (even if the looked like strange scarecrows, animated through puppet strings) who lived and worked without any influence from me.

I stumbled through the mechanics and controls of the game, flipping through the manual trying to figure out the combat... but more importantly, the stealth. I found out that heavy armored shoes and armor made noise that my opponents could hear and detect. I found out the closer I got to the target, the more chance I had of alerting them to my presence. And I learned the pros and cons of ranged weapons vs melee; sure staying at a distance increased my chances of not being seen, but the damage was far greater with a knife or a short blade.

One thing you have to understand about Morrowind, though. It was difficult as hell, and double so for stealth based characters. Even if you wore the right equipment, took all the right precautions, and lowered the difficulty, you were still likely to be found out and have to fight your way to your prize. But there were few things as satisfactory as leveling up your stealth abilities. When your character could finally avoid detection and evade battles entirely. Stealing treasure, silently dispatching foes from the shadows, escaping without ever being known... these were the things I lived for.

Rogues Gallery

My stealth talents were still low, my level pitifully small, and my skill level was raw. I stumbled into a city called Balmora. I was ragged from fighting, my equpiment was damaged, people had tried to kill me in the night as I slept. It was a rough time. I found a strange building called the "South Wall Cornerclub". Instantly, I was questioned and sized up by the denizens there (even if it was only text based dialog). They told me that they were the Thieves Guild, a company of burglars, acrobats, smugglers, pickpockets, and other scallywags. They offered me a place in their ranks... provided I could pull off a job to satisfactory results. It was a simple test of stealing an item from a chest in a house... but I had to wait for just the right time to not be seen. It was something I found out after many attempts.

After their little test was completed they told me I was officially a member with the guild and given the rank of "toad". And then I was given the rules. "Rules" I thought? We were a band of brigands and thieves. But there were a loose set of rules, I would come to find out that were never to be broken. If they were, they would know and I would be out on my ass, and even worse, without the protection of the guild. You see, to be a thief was easy, but even the best thief or lock picker would be caught eventually. The guild offered sanctuary for their members, a way to pay off bounties without having to be thrown in jail and my equipment confiscated, the ability to fence stolen items, and even a few perks that would be only be given if I increased my standing. That protection could be rescinded, though. Then everyone I had ever wronged and all the guards would seek to arrest or kill me on sight. Even worse, the direct criminal enemies that opposed the Thieves Guild could now pick me off because I would be alone... and easy to get to.

I was never to steal from the poor, as they were often the guild's eyes and ears in the city. They were our allies and as such, we were theirs. I was not to steal or assault other members of the guild, for obvious reasons. Most importantly, I was never to kill anyone while on a job for the guild (unless incredibly rare permission was given to do so IF I couldn't help it). A minor infraction or confusion resulted in me having to pay a small fee, a major disrespect to the rules and I was out, perhaps for good.

From Poverty to Kingpin

The first true mission for the guild was easy as pie. Steal a diamond from a house for a lower level handler in the guild. Her next mission, however was damn near impossible with my lower rank. So I had to go out in to the wilds and beef up my shadow power. Sure, I slunk around some caves and dangerous areas, but mostly I just pilfered a few things from people that could afford a more luxurious life style. Slowly, over time I gained more bearing as a jack-of-all-trades stealth user. I could complete that job that had given me so much trouble before, and no one was the wiser.

And, oh, how the money rolled in. Stealing from the noble houses, our rival factions (all in good fun), or legitimately opposing the Comonna Tong (a guild of cut-throats and thieves with no honor or skill) caused my purse strings to stretch. Occasionally I found a few items in my travel that fetched such a price or outclassed my items that I could not help but take them... such was the world of thieving. And as my pocket became heavier, so too did the difficulty of the assignments I was given. But the more I did, the better I got, and the better I got the better my reputation in the guild became.

I was no longer a toad or a wet ear. The lower ranks of guild came and went, footpad, blackcap, and operative were now below me. I was a bandit of rank and status. I had access to better fences for my stolen merchandise, privileges were mine to use, and the lower ranks now recognized my worth and spoke with respect. The next rank was "captain" and I wanted it... but I had to improve my actual skill level. I had done all the jobs I could be given, but I had to level up my character and his stats to earn the next step.

A Change in the Wind

I was eventually called upon by the leader of the guild, an unknown man who dealt in shadows and secrecy. After all, the less that was known about our higher-ups, the better. The man, I would find out was "Gentleman Jim Stacey". He told me he was not only the leader of the guild but head of a sub-faction called the "Bal Molagmer". It was their job to steal from the unjust and give to those in need. So I was to be a Robin Hood like character, and an ideal thief for the other members. Then, I was given my most important assignment.

The leader of the fighters guild was corrupt and worked for the Comonna Tong. This was taboo on so many levels. There may not have been much love for the Thieves Guild by the Mage or Fighters, but there were many unspoken or understood rules. Never hurt anyone one from the other factions, never screw with their jobs, and never get involved in their politics. Now, I was not only going to break all of those rules, I was going to kill the man in charge. I was conflicted about this... I was no assassin. But, this had to be done, the future of the guild, our safety, and the destruction of our malevolent rivals were paramount.

And I did it. I was a master of stealth by now. I sank so many hours into this game, that I was impressed and a little embarrassed. But I spoke with my contact in the Fighters Guild (of which I was also a member) and was told this was for the best. When I completed my task I was given a mighty reward. Now, I was the head of the Fighters Guild, given possession of a relic called the "Skeleton Key" which made being a thief much easier, and now leadership of all thieves in Morrowind. With that, Stacey disappeared, confident I would lead the guild into a much more prosperous and lucrative future.

Confessions of a Thief

We didn't rely on mysticism like the Mage guild, and we didn't solve our problems with brute force or battle like our Fighter friends... but we did our jobs. Guile, stealth, trickery, mischief, helping the downtrodden... These were our tools. And they served us well. We prayed to no gods or Deadra, we relied not on artifacts of forbidden power, we had only our wits and skills. After my time with Morrowind (I think this was about 2005-2006 for me) I was always a stealth master at heart. Whenever a new Elder Scrolls game would launch, I would dable around with some of the new things, but always I would seek out my home, my true purpose: The Thieves Guild.

And while I've always had fun with it, never was their a better experience than I had all those years ago. I wanted that respect from my peers, I wanted that better rank, I wanted the money, the power, the glory for the guild... I wanted it all. And I got it.

I was the King of Thieves.