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I understand that disrupting the skooma operation is an essential step to being able to buy a house in Riften. Unfortunately, in the course of wandering through Skyrim, I found this cavern and killed all the bandits inside long before receiving the mission.

When I did receive the mission and returned to the cave, two bandits had respawned, but killing them was evidently insufficient slaughter to progress in the quest. I don't have any further dialogue options with the Jarl, and can't buy a house or become thane in Riften. Does anyone know if there is any way around this problem?

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Search the cave thoroughly for survivors. If it fails, wait 31 days in Solitude and check the cave again. –  kotekzot Jul 11 '12 at 8:47
    
As a followup to kotekzots answer, this is why you must wait 31 days uesp.net/wiki/Skyrim:Respawn . You just need not to visit that dungeon for 31 days. –  Ids Jul 11 '12 at 13:54
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Sadly, looking at the uesp.net/wiki/Skyrim:Supply_and_Demand#Bugs page, there is a bug. As you need to kill 7 bandits, at respawn there will only respawn 3. So you need clear it 3 times in total. Or use the console command player.setstage FreeformRiften01 40 to advance to the next quest stage. (Or use console commands to respawn the bandits). –  Ids Jul 11 '12 at 13:55
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@Ids: You should post that as an answer. :) –  Brant Jul 12 '12 at 3:47
    
Done. Even dreamt up a new method :D. –  Ids Jul 12 '12 at 7:34
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1 Answer

Like kotekzot said, normally you have to not visit a cleared dungeon for at least 30 days for it to reset. If the dungeon isn't cleared you have to wait 10 days. Source: Wiki:Respawn.

Looking at the article about the supply and demand quest, you have a problem. Clearing the dungeon before you get the quest is listed as one of the bugs. The quest requires you to kill seven people in the dungeon, but when it respawns it will only have three. So now you have to clear it three more times.

Respawn Fix

Wait 30+ days outside of the dungeon. The best is not even to be near the dungeon. This resets the cleared dungeon. There are now three bandits, kill them. And repeat this process until you get the next quest phase. (at max the dungeon needs to respawn three times).

Console Fix

If you are a PC gamer, you could use console commands (use the ~ key to open the console, and type the following message):

player.setstage FreeformRiften01 40

This sets the quest to the next stage.

Or, you could resurrect the dead bandits. Open the console (~). Click on the dead bandit, type in:

resurrect 1

Close the console, and watch the formerly dead bandit stand up again (that is what the 1 does, try the command without it). Now you can feel smugly superior, you use a PC, you have the power of a GOD!

Untested method

NOTE: probably doesn't work. See comments.

I think there is also a third method to finish the quest in less game days, without the console. But this is the hard method, and I'm not sure it works. As you need to kill seven bandits, and each time the game spawns three in the dungeon. The least time is spent by NOT clearing the dungeon. Sneak in, kill two of them, keep the third alive. The dungeon is not NOT cleared. Wait 10+ days, go in again, kill two of them. (Total kills 4). Get out, do not visit the dungeon for 10+ days. The two bandits have respawned, get in, slaughter three of them. You have now finished the quest!

Not 100% certain this should work, but it uses the least time, 50 days, and the repeatedly clearing one uses 90 days. I'm actually pretty sceptical, as I think that a dungeon that respawns doesn't lose it's cleared tag. Might be interesting to test and update the wiki with.

If the wolves also respawn, you might be able to keep the dungeon uncleared by not killing the wolves. I'm not sure if killing the wolves counts for clearing the dungeon.

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I believe the cleared status is set permanently for a location, and leaving something alive in it will not help the respawn times. –  kotekzot Jul 12 '12 at 12:11
    
Well that sucks. There goes my brilliant plan! (And introduces a new irritating way to play, never fully clear your well liked dungeons, or they respawn later). –  Ids Jul 12 '12 at 12:37
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