Skyrim's Most Disappointing Quest Was Supposed To Be Different
open world narrative means players are given the option to start a large number of quests early on in the game, and not every single one of them plays out as expected - or, as it turns out, how developer Bethesda intended. While some quests are best left to later in the game, when players have achieved higher levels, others can immediately be started, sending players deeper into Skyrim's narrative. One such quest, Missing in Action, can be started as soon as players reach Whiterun, though the way the story ends up isn't what Skyrim's developers actually had in mind.
In the , players will encounter an NPC named Fralia Gray-Mane. She can be found near the street vendors, arguing that her missing son, Thorald Gray-Mane, is alive and being held captive, not a lost cause as others seem to presume. When players speak to Fralia about the matter directly, she will task them with finding her son and rescuing him from the Thalmor prison. Most of the dialogue surrounding this quest, including that of the Thalmor guards, indicates a possibility of completing the quest without any physical conflict, but the reality is the only way to free Thorald in Skyrim's base game is through violence.
Reportedly, while , the intent was to give combat-averse players the option to resolve the quest peacefully. However, it seems as though the feature was never completed (as detailed by ) and Bethesda ultimately decided to cut it. Echoes of the plan remain in the base game, as players can acquire an Imperial missive that should let the Thalmor release Thorald, but the guards won't accept it. Fortunately, dedicated Skyrim players have found a way to bring the peaceful resolution back using console commands and a mod.
Those who want to complete Missing in Action using the Imperial missive should download the , version 1.2 or higher. From there, they will need to obtain the Imperial missive from the Battle-Born clan. Then, players need to go speak to General Tullis of the Imperial Legion before finally going to Northwatch, speaking to a guard, and freeing Thorald.
UESP also details a number of players can use to resolve the quest peacefully. Entering "player.addfac 00039F26 0" will automatically add the player to the Thalmor faction, allowing them to enter the prison and free Thorald with no resistance. Players who wish to leave the Thalmor after completing the quest can then enter "player.addfac 00039F26 -1" and be removed. Alternatively, the command "setav aggression 0" will remove all aggression from a selected Thalmor soldier. Players will need to do this for every Thalmor they encounter in the prison, but it's a surefire way to free Thorald in The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim's Missing in Action quest - peacefully, at long last.