Trying to murder a tavern full of people with Oblivion's poisoned apples

It's Food Week again, but before I get to food let me first talk about something way better than food: pickpocketing. In games, there's really no activity I enjoy more than picking someone's pocket. This activity reaches its natural peak in the Oblivion DLC Mehrune's Razor, where if your fingers are deft enough you can even pickpocket a 'soiled writ of assassination' from inside the butt—that's where it's hidden—of an imprisoned Morag Tong assassin. Yes, that's right, you can become so deft at picking pockets that you can slide a note out of someone's butt, while they're fully clothed, without them even noticing.

Almost cooler than secretly taking something out of someone's pocket (or ass) is secretly putting something in their pocket. Reverse-pickpocketing, or planting something on someone, is like what happens in the film Inception only instead of planting the idea of selling a company in someone's brain, you plant an object in their pocket. And, the best part is—wait, was that really what Inception was about? It was, wasn't it. A huge, crazy, multi-dream heist just to make some guy sell his company. Sheesh. What a terrible story.

Anyway, food! Oblivion's Dark Brotherhood questline gives you access to poisoned apples, and using them requires reverse-pickpocketing the tainted fruit into someone's inventory. They find it, they eat it, they die.

Which, really, is almost as ludicrous as Inception. Let's say you were walking around in real life, and you had a delicious snack in your pocket. A little later you reach in for your candy bar or trail mix or Go-Gurt or whatever, but instead you find an apple. What's your reaction? "Well, this isn't the snack I prepared earlier, but it is still food, so I'll just go ahead and eat it because who really cares what's in my pocket as long as I can put it in my mouth." I'm going to accept that premise, though, and see if I can use Oblivion's poisoned apples to murder an entire tavern full of people.

First, I add 100 poisoned apples to my inventory using a cheat, then head to Imperial City's market district, where there's a tavern called The Feed Bag. As I arrive, I pass a beggar who tells me: "I'm so hungry."

That statement feels too apt to ignore for an evildoer en route to make people eat poisoned apples. Maybe a test run is in order before the main event? I'll slip an apple into this woman's pocket and see if she eats it. I crab-walk a safe distance away and slip on my Gray Cowl of Nocturnal which fortifies my stealth. Unfortunately, it also fortifies my wanted level, so I'm promptly accosted by a nearby guard who thinks I'm the Gray Fox, a wanted thief. Whoops! It's been a while since I've played Oblivion—I forgot that important detail. I also forgot it was broad daylight and there are guards everywhere. I have to reload my save to stem the bloodshed.

This time I decide to skip the beggar and head straight to the tavern. In addition to planting the apple on the people I want to kill (everyone) I also have to remove any food they're carrying, as well as additional meals from the surrounding area. There's lots of food in the tavern, so I need to sneak around, taking away bread and cheese wheels and meat hunks from every container and surface. I'm more than a bit clumsy about it: while trying to steal oranges out of a bowl, I accidentally steal the bowl itself. Trying to collect a rolling berry I wind up swiping a mug. Twice, I accidentally read a newspaper.

But the real issue is Delos Fandas, the proprietor of The Food Bag. He's standing behind the counter and he keeps interrupting me with cries of "Thief!" I leave and come back in the middle of the night, but he's still there. I crouch, I cast spells on myself, I do everything I can to increase my stealthiness, but he continues staring in my direction at all times, even when I'm essentially invisible, and he catches me stealing repeatedly. I keep reloading my saves, but the outcome never changes.

I decide to ditch The Feed Bag and try a smaller tavern, so I head to the Brina Cross Inn near Anvil. It's mostly empty, just the innkeeper behind the counter and a woman, Kiara, standing in the hallway. Figuring tavern-goers will arrive later, I creep around, pilfering all the food I can find and putting poisoned apples in their place. The innkeeper doesn't catch on, though Kiara makes it tricky since she's rooted in one spot near a ledge containing a few onions.

I employ some masterful stealth, however, nonchalantly hopping onto the ledge, maneuvering behind Kiara until she finally turns her head away. Nothing to see here, Miss! Only normal things are happening! I finally collect the onions.

With my deadly apples sprinkled all around the pub, all I need to do is wait, and I do wait, for a very long time that could easily be approximated as 'forever'. Something seems to be wrong with this tavern. The innkeeper occasionally goes to sleep in the basement, but Kiara never moves from the hallway and no visitors ever arrive for a nice meal.

With no one feasting on the dozens of apples I've laid around, I leave (somewhat annoyed at this point) for a new tavern, settling on the Roxey Inn north of Imperial City. There's a decent crowd, I suppose: a man sitting on a bench outside, a guard sitting at the bar, and a tenant in one of the rooms, plus an innkeeper. Not quite the mass poisoning I imagined, but it'll have to do. I sneak around, planting poison apples on everyone, including the guard and slumbering guest, then begin collecting the rest of the food. It's all going well until I reach over the shoulder of the guard to swipe the wheel of cheese on the counter in front of him. He promptly arrests me, takes me to the castle and strips me of my stolen goods (which is basically just a bunch of pub food at this point). I head back to the taven, where I find the guard sitting at the bar again, and I manage to steal the remainder of cheese without alerting him.

Eventually, the guest comes down from his room, stands around a bit, then sits at one of the tables and begins eating. A-ha!

I have done it! Well, I have done part of it. The only question left, besides why did I murder this innocent man, is which apple did he eat? One of the (several) on his chosen table or the one he found in his pants when he awoke? Searching his body (the guard who was so offended by me picking up some cheese doesn't seem alarmed by any of this, by the way) I see the apple I incepted into his trousers is gone. So, yes, he woke up, found an apple in his pocket, and decided what the hell, I'll just eat this mystery fruit.

Now, to kill everyone else, which begins to seem like a problem since no one else is eating. The guard simply slugs back his drink for hours on end, the innkeeper stands inert behind her apple-covered counter, untempted by my offerings, and the fellow who has been sitting outside only drinks when he enters the pub. For hours. Right next to the dead body.

Maybe our guest just needs a little encouragement to put down the beer stein and have a healthy snack. I casually attempt to place the tainted food a bit more within reach.

He is not swayed by apples and crockery levitating all over the pub, however, and soon goes back outside to sit on the bench and continue his habit of not dying. The guard returns, but again he only drinks. The innkeeper, I notice, is a protected NPC, an unkillable quest-giver, so even if she does eat an apple she won't keel over. And there's simply no other visitors to assassinate.

Well, I spent roughly six in-game days crouching in various taverns in the hopes that everyone would eat my murder apples, and only had one taker, and quite frankly, watching him twitch and die wasn't even as much fun as I'd hoped.

Only one thing left to do. This is Food Week after all, and I hate to see good apples go to waste. I step outside, take a bite, and say goodbye.

Christopher Livingston
Senior Editor

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.