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Skyrim adds an awesome feature, that lets you know if you have cleared a dungeon or not. This saves a lot of time and effort, because you do not have to revisit every dungeon you have been through like in Oblivion. Now I was wondering, how does the game determine if you have completed/finished/cleared the dungeon. I figured there are some options, including:

  1. You have killed every enemy.
  2. You have obtained every 'important' treasure.
  3. A combination of the above

There might be even more options that I have not thought of. Can anyone shed some light on how the system works out if you have finished a dungeon?

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  • Fully mapped, perhaps? Once I get home, I'll be clearing the golden dragon claw dungeon, so I should have an answer by tonight.
    – Arkive
    Nov 11, 2011 at 16:57
  • Just defeated the boss in the golden dragon claw dungeon, and got the 'important' treasure. Haven't looted the final chest by the boss, and I haven't fully explored the local dungeon map. Dungeon is marked "Cleared". Still uncertain if you need one, or both of: defeating the boss/getting the 'important' treasure
    – Arkive
    Nov 12, 2011 at 0:29
  • So that doesn't make the system real accurate.. Thanks for the research.
    – Wimpey
    Nov 12, 2011 at 9:07
  • Technical (but mostly useless) answer: Dungeons are cleared when some script, either in vanilla or in any mod, calls the SetCleared function on the location in question. This could theoretically be triggered by a quest, by an NPC's death, through dialog, or in a variety of other ways. As far as the core engine is concerned, this is purely a scripting issue, so the level designer is free to use whatever criteria they wish for any given dungeon.
    – Kevin
    Sep 27, 2021 at 23:29

8 Answers 8

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Most dungeons are cleared when you have killed all important inhabitants, and as a result of doing that, you have seen the whole dungeon. The game doesn't force you to loot stuff (e.g., Werewolf form can't loot) so it comes down to just killing; you don't have to do your quest.

A victorious sound will play once you clear the dungeon, and the ambient sound will stop.

If you don't kill all important inhabitants, inhabitants might respawn and the dungeon will not be seen as cleared. Another occasion where inhabitants respawn in a dungeon is when you start a new quest that involves that dungeon; however, it won't change the cleared state of a dungeon.

There are reports that some dungeons don't get cleared, or are cleared a different way. Some report that whatever they try to do, the dungeon doesn't get cleared; this might be because they still have a quest to do in the dungeon. Other report that a dungeon gets cleared after looting a chest or learning a new dragon shout word. Please note that not every dungeon has a word wall.

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This other answer is actually incorrect.

With the dungeon bounty given from Whiterun (Valtheim Towers), I went to the mountaintop adjacent to the keep, and from there was able to kill the chief bandit in that keep (I have mad archery skills). Once I did that, the dungeon showed as 'cleared' on my screen, and I was able to collect the bounty.

However, I didn't kill all the inhabitants. I killed 3 of them (there are six inhabitants to that keep, plus the outdoors guard on the road if you approach the keep from the road like you're supposed to).

The dungeon is considered cleared once you kill the 'boss' for that dungeon, whether or not you kill all the inhabitants.

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    If this is true, the other answer may not be wholly incorrect. It may be that some dungeons 'clear' under different conditions. Nov 15, 2011 at 17:04
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    Hmm! More research required. Nov 15, 2011 at 17:10
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    @AndyPerfect I took the 'bolded part' of the answer to be his answer (that it's cleared when you kill all of its inhabitants). That's false, since killing the Chief Bandit marked it cleared for me. The difference is, most keeps/caves/dungeons you go into, you can't make your way through them without killing most/all of the inhabitants, so it seems like that's what causes it to clear. But it just so happens that for that particular bounty, you can kill the chieftain without engaging anyone else. Nov 15, 2011 at 17:24
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    @George To test this, it might be interesting to find of of these dungeons that takes you past all monsters, storm through it quickly without killing any enemies to the boss, kill it, and see whether or not the dungeon has been declared 'cleared'. Nov 15, 2011 at 17:33
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    Invis potions and sneek! Be like the fart, wafting through peoples legs, ready to strike!
    – David Yell
    Nov 16, 2011 at 15:23
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Most dungeons are cleared by defeating its respective boss. There are some exceptions:

Most dungeons are "clearable", meaning that once the boss is defeated, the dungeon is tagged as "Cleared". A (somewhat quiet) tone will play once this occurs. A cleared dungeon may still have unkilled enemies and uncollected loot. This status is shown on the in-game map, allowing you to identify which dungeons you have or have not visited. If a dungeon has been cleared, it will take longer for its contents to respawn. Its status remains as "Cleared" even if the occupants have all respawned.

Note that if a clearable location is the target of the quest Kill the Bandit Leader (radiant) it will get the "Cleared" tag only when you report back to the Quest Giver (not when the boss is defeated).

There are a total of 197 places in the game that can be cleared, although two of them (Angarvunde and Mistwatch) are atypical, as detailed in the next paragraph. Once you have cleared any 50 of the remaining 195 locations, the Delver achievement is unlocked. However, a significant number of dungeons cannot be cleared at all; the wiki page for each of these dungeons states "Clearable: No" on the page's infobox.

Angarvunde and Mistwatch are the only locations in the game that are marked as cleared when a related quest is completed, instead of when the location's boss enemy is killed. The specific requirements necessary to clear these locations are detailed on their place pages. One consequence of being marked as cleared by a quest is that these two locations do not increment the Dungeons Cleared statistic or count towards the Delver achievement. In several other cases (detailed in the Achievements section), a "Cleared" tag appears when a nearby location has been cleared.

Also, keep in mind, that once locations respawn, they may be cleared again.

Source: "Dungeons — Clearing" article, UESP Wiki (emphasis mine)

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I believe a dungeon being cleared may also have something to do with it's quest status. If you have an important piece of loot, and there's a retrieval quest related to that dungeon or a 'go kill XXX' quest - even one that you've not yet activated, then the dungeon will not mark itself as cleared.

For example, I've had a dungeon where I completed it and grabbed some fancy loot. Later, I get a quest that is 'go retrieve XXX'. You then say, "Oh, this old thing?" You immediately finish the quest, and then the dungeon gets marked as cleared.

So I think 'cleared' means that there's nothing else important there - where important may be something in the future that hasn't happened yet.

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I'm pretty sure that at least one thing is necessary: killing all important targets. Usually there would be one boss, but some other times there are many.

I'm pretty sure as well, that in some cases mapping is necessary, whilst in others it isn't. I have had more than one examples of both of the above. In some cases I just killed the boss(es) and then gained the cleared exclamation, and in others I killed the bosses and only after completing more mapping got the cleared map.

I am also certain that when one dungeon has future missions that involve killing new enemies it will not say "cleared".

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It definitely varies from dungeon to dungeon. For example, I got "cleared" on Labyrinthian before entering Shalidor's Maze or progressing the mage guild quest-line far enough to enter the main section of the dungeon.

I've noticed giants' camps clearing after checking a particular chest for loot, and I have a short list of about 20 locations that I felt should be marked clear but have not been.

I think some of those are not marked "cleared" because of the way I chose to finish the associated quest (e.g., I choose to clear the Eldergleam sanctuary in such a way that the possible monster spawn was avoided, so I probably was unable to meet the linked-to-cleared "boss").

In other cases I have no idea why a location is not marked cleared. For example, Witchmist Grove is a tiny location with a quest associated with it, and I completed the quest, looted everything I could find and all the stuff located on the UESP wiki and killed every creature that spawned remotely nearby, and it still didn't clear, leading me to believe that there are a few locations that don't have a "cleared" trigger.

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There was a dungeon (shimmermist cave i think) where to access the final fight, all you needed to do was use Whirlwind Sprint thru a nearby waterfall that's at the very start of the dungeon. So for this particular case, shimmermist cave was counted as 'cleared' when the final boss was dead and i had killed less than 1% of the dungeon's regular enemies.

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Not all dungeons can be marked as cleared. Some dungeons will have the 'item,' some may have the boss in them, and some may have both or neither.

The only way to be entirely sure is to run through it twice, make sure everything is dead and/or looted, and possibly, wait for missions that pop up with the designated location.

I had on last night that I killed everything and looted everything, but wasn't marked as cleared until I finished the mission that went with it.

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    Perhaps the answer, is that there is none. We all know Bethesda has a reputation for releasing less-than-perfect games (as far as mechanics go, anyways). So, would it be safe to assume that this great idea was poorly excecuted? Perhaps the developers never got the system down well, but never saw it as a big enough issue, as to create a patch. This being the case, there would be no consitent rule.
    – John
    Jul 7, 2012 at 3:51

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