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I was fighting bandits in the sewers when one of them went into a "cower" animation, and began screaming about how he had given up.

Given that I found his terror endearing, I deigned to spare him. I tried talking to him, to no effect. Then I tried sheathing my weapon - upon which the brigand thought he had a chance, and resumed hostilities with due haste!

Sadly, he did not offer to yield again before I slew him.

And so, the question remained unanswered: do enemies actually surrender, or was this just a clever ploy to catch me with my pants down?

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IT'S A TRAP!!!! –  user9983 Nov 11 '11 at 23:55
Not had a chance to try it yet, but if it's like Oblivion, you might be able to guard and hit the Activate key (E by default I believe...), however that's usually done when you mean to yield, not the other way around... Maybe, though? –  Aeo Nov 12 '11 at 14:53
@Aeo - have tried that, that was "I tried talking to him". –  Raven Dreamer Nov 12 '11 at 15:52
At one point, I ran into a drunken Bosmer on the road near Riften who came at me bare-handed while I had my full arms and armor. I beat him down and he begged for mercy, which I freely gave. As soon as he recovered, he started swinging again. We went through this half a dozen times before I just held up my shield and watched my health bar not go down as he pummeled me. I eventually got bored and just killed him, but he really should have died of embarrassment long before that point. –  Dave Sherohman Nov 28 '11 at 15:11

3 Answers 3

up vote 54 down vote accepted

It's a ploy. You have to use your judgement. Honorable people will usually yeild and fall to their knees, if you leave them, they will revert to being a friendly. Bandits, in my experience, haven't.

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Yep. I thought it was so cool that after killing a group of bandits and then beating the last one severely he failed a morale check, dropped to all fours and began to grovel. But no matter what you do, he'll continue attacking you if you don't kill him anyway--which is kind of a drag. –  sXe Nov 17 '11 at 17:09
I agree that's a drag. It'd be nice if you could actually spare foes who realize they've lost. Then you can just imagine that the rest of their lives they live in solitude and just contemplate their life and being a coward. Oh man it'd be so nice. –  Mkalafut May 13 '14 at 16:22

When you cant kill someone and they go down on their knees they are usually either a quest character or you have gotten their health to just that right amount. if you are attacking a bandit or any other hostile NPC and you leave them they will regain a little health and resume attacking you and you can kill them if they are a quest character you cant, for example, I joined the Stormcloak rebellion and at the end of the questline after you kill Tullius you are supposed to "Go and do as you damn well please, for starters killing any legionares you find in the wilderness" and when i found the camps there is always a "legate" that you cant kill

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The unkillable legate is fixed by the unoffical patch: gaming.stackexchange.com/a/97642/429 –  Douglas Leeder May 14 '14 at 12:17

There is a console command(PC) that allows you to turn someone back into a friendly target if you really wish to spare someone. Sometimes you might find yourself attacking a guard that won't yield, and the command helps a lot for that. There is also a command to kill someone(literally"kill" while selecting a character) if you come across a character(quest or not) that you dislike.

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What would that console command be? –  aytimothy Mar 22 at 1:52

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