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Unwinnable By Insanity / The Elder Scrolls

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Examples of Unwinnable by Insanity in The Elder Scrolls series:

  • Series wide, it's possible to quicksave right next to enemies about to kill you. If don't have any other save files with this character, you've effectively blocked any further progress.
  • Morrowind:
    • It is possible to kill main quest essential characters, such as Caius Cosades. The game helpfully warns you when you've made it unwinnable like this. Sometimes this could be Unwinnable by Mistake (for some characters, there's no indication that they're important), but for others, it's glaringly obvious that killing them will break the plot.
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    • Of course, the devs think of everything, so there's a built-in backpath method to beating the main quest to use if an essential character has been killed. It only requires leaving Yagrum Bagarn alive long enough to make you a jury rigged Wraithguard. You can then use it to defeat Dagoth Ur without any other characters needing to be alive.
    • Keening and Sunder are a special dagger and hammer, respectively, which need to be used in conjunction with the Wraithguard to sever the Dwemeri enchantments on the Heart of Lorkhan, necessary to kill Big Bad Dagoth Ur. However, even using the backpath method, you still need these tools to beat the main quest. You can make the game unwinnable by permanently losing them, such as by placing them on a corpse and waiting 3 in-game days for the corpse to be cleared.
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    • The enchantments on the Heart of Lorkhan are supposed to be severed with Keening and Sunder, which are specifically scripted for this task, and the Heart is protected from other damage by instantly regenerating health and a large (but finite) health pool. Exploiting the Alchemy system to create a potion that massively buffs your strength or attack, then hitting it with a normal weapon can oneshot it without triggering the endgame scripts, making the game unwinnable.
    • In one of the quests for the Tribunal Temple, you must convince an old Dunmer lady infected with the Corprus disease to leave Vivec before she infects others. If the player chooses to attack her, they have a small chance of contracting the disease. Unlike the Corprus disease in the main quest, this one cannot be cured by anyone. This breaks the main quest because Dagoth Garus is supposed to curse you with the disease and you need to get it cured by Divayth Fyr.
  • Oblivion:
    • There's a cage in Fort Carmala that contains some rats. The handle to open the cage is right outside it, and you can very easily close the gate and rush in before it actually drops. Seeing as there's no way to open it from the inside, you're now stuck. In the event you're on a console version and you don't have a previous save to load from (you can autosave by waiting), then the entire character is worthless.
    • The "Blood of the Divines" quest requires you to sacrifice a Daedric artifact. Fifteen exist in the game, and it is possible to obtain (and potentially lose) fourteen of them before starting this quest, but one of them (the Oghma Infinium) can't be obtained before "Blood of the Divines" is started. This means that players who have lost the first fourteen artifacts still can get hold of an artifact to sacrifice. However, there is nothing stopping an especially insane player from destroying the first fourteen artifacts, obtaining the Oghma Infinium (knowing, by this point, that it is needed for the sacrifice) and destroying it as well, rendering the main questline unwinnable.
    • The Water Walking effect also works on lava. This means that you can freely travel across lava. The problem comes in if you're crazy enough to go so far out of the map that you fall off the world and didn't save before hand. Good luck swimming up from the bottom of an ocean of lava.
  • Skyrim:
    • Unlike the rest of the series, it was initially possible to quicksave while in mid-air. This means you could jump off of a mountain and quicksave, leading to your inevitable death with each reload. Patches have since disabled quicksaving when you're airborne or on a steep slope.
    • If you are fleeing dangerous foes with whom you're in combat, you may flee through a door that's an area boundary but be taking continuous damage from poison; the damage does not stop while you are transitioning areas, and your autosave on the other side may be of a dead character, leaving you endlessly reloading a dead character unless you interrupt the death animation by loading an earlier save.
    • There seem to be a number of "prisons" and similar places where you can get permanently locked into with seemingly no way out. One example is in Brinewater Grotto. There are three levers, two of them open and close doors leading to a barred room with some fish inside. By standing close to the gate, pulling the lever and activating the shout Slow Time, you can run in before it shuts. However, there doesn't seem to be any way out, other than loading a save. You can't seem to reach the lever, there's nothing that can kill you to respawn outside, you can't Fast Travel, so you're stuck forever.
    • "The Wolf Queen Awakened" quest can only be triggered by leveling up after completing "The Man Who Cried Wolf". Prior to patch 1.9, you could make this quest unobtainable by reaching the max level. Reaching max level requires you to max out all skills. After patch 1.9, you could reset skills and gain more levels, but the problem wasn't quite solved — the game crashes if you have more than 255 unspent perk points, effectively capping your level at 510. The probability of doing this by accident is zero.
    • Major NPCs, such as important quest givers, are flagged as essential by the system; if you attack them until they reach zero health, they will simply fall into a crouching position until they recover. However, the "essential" flag doesn't protect them from the insta-kill transformations the Wabbajack staff can inflict. For instance, it may turn them into a sweet roll, which you can then eat.

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