An Elder Scrolls Lore Primer for Noobs
The Elder Scrolls series of games has built a massive pool of lore, all
of which will serve as a resource for the forthcoming MMO, the Elder
Scrolls Online. This is the first time the Elder Scrolls universe
will be presented in MMO form, and the gigantic backstory built up over
the previous five single-player games may be overwhelming to newcomers who
will be experiencing the world for the first time.
style="float: right; margin-left: 5pt;" />Since so much of the lore can
be gleaned from the vast library of books in all of the single-player
games, the easiest and most fun way to bone up on Elder Scrolls history
and lore is to spend some time in those games. Starting with TES II:
Daggerfall, there are readable books everywhere, and they all
contain some kind of accounting of the events in history. Of particular
interest will be books dealing with the various creation myths, First and
Second Era history, nature and the supernatural. Some prime places to hunt
for relevant books:
- the library in Vivec (Morrowind)
- any Mages Guild guildhall
- chapels, temples, castles
- fully upgraded player houses (Oblivion and Skyrim)
It's also possible to learn a lot about Tamriel's rich history by paying
close attention to the quests. The Daedric shrine quests in Oblivion,
for example, give a profound insight into the alien natures of the Daedric
Princes - they are neither wholly evil nor wholly good, but can be as
capricious and cruel as the gods of the Greeks. Joining the Dark
Brotherhood in Skyrim gives the player a glimpse at the very
foundations of the universe - it's not just murder-for-sale, but serving a
much greater purpose and following the laws of the universe itself.
Even the character creation process of the single-player games gives a
glimpse of the lore: the player is asked to pick an astrological sign to
represent the month of his birth. All of these astrological signs
represent constellations which can be seen in the in-game sky at night. In
the Elder Scrolls Online, the Serpent constellation (representing
the Daedric Prince Molag Bal, who has a
distinctly-serpentine appearance) dominates the night sky, reflecting
Molag Bal's influence on events of that setting.
Nirn - The planet on which all Elder Scrolls games
take place. It is the center of the plane of Mundus, and the eight planets
are believed to orbit around it. Nirn has two moons - Masser, the big one,
and Secunda, the small one.
style="float: right; margin-left: 5pt;" />Oblivion
plane of existence lying between Mundus and the Aetherium, the plane where
the Aedra exist. Oblivion is home of the Daedra and the Daedric Princes,
who have constructed their own realms within the plane of Oblivion.
style="float: right; margin-left: 5pt;" />Oblivion- a
Coldharbour - the realm of Daedric Prince Molag
Bal. It is essentially a copy of Nirn, including physical features like
the White Gold Tower, but filled with desecration and destruction.
Tamriel - The continent where all the action
takes place. Tamriel consists of nine provinces:
- Cyrodiil - the central province, home of the
Imperials and the location of all of TESO's PvP. Setting of TES IV:
- High Rock - northwestern province, home of
the Bretons; also the location of the city-state of Orsinium,
home of the Orcs
- Hammerfell - northwestern province, home of
the Redguards. Setting of TES II: Daggerfall
- Skyrim - north-central province, home of
the Nords. Setting of TES V: Skyrim
- Morrowind - northeastern province, home of
the Dunmer. Setting of TES III: Morrowind
- Black Marsh - eastern province, home of the
Argonians. Ground zero of the pandemic Knahaten Flu
- Elsweyr - southeastern province, home of the
Khajiit. Consists of desert in the north and jungles in the south.
- Valenwood - southwestern province, home of
the Bosmer. Largely uninhabited rainforest.
- Summerset Isles - a pair of islands located
off the southwest coast of Tamriel, home of the Altmer.
White Gold Tower - The central structure of the
Imperial Palace in Imperial City, Cyrodiil. Location of the Ruby Throne,
the seat of the Emperor.
Aedra and Daedra
There are two main classes of supernatural beings in the Elder Scrolls
universe: Aedra and Daedra. Initially, they were all formless spirits that
existed prior to the creation of the universe. The Aedra are the few
spirits who took part in the creation of the universe under the leadership
of Lorkhan the Trickster, and the Daedra are the ones who did not.
style="float: right; margin-left: 5pt;" />Most of the Aedra
were trapped by the act of creation, becoming mortal in the process, and
some of them actually died, or became physical parts of the universe - the
planets, the moons, etc. A very few of them took humanoid form and went on
to father the various races of men and mer (elf-kind). For the most part,
the Aedra are kind, benevolent beings with fairly narrow spheres of
influence in the daily lives of the inhabitants of Nirn. For example, the
Aedra Mara is the god of love, the Aedra Stendarr is the god of mercy, and
so on. Because they are bound to Nirn and their power was greatly reduced
by the act of its creation, they cannot take physical form, and may only
interact with the world and its inhabitants in a magical or spiritual
manner, through shrines and altars.
The Eight Divines are eight Aedra who are
embodied in the planets orbiting the same sun as Nirn. These are the ones
that willingly gave themselves to the creation of Nirn even after they saw
through Lorkhan's ruse. Shrines and altars to the Eight Divines are built
all over the human provinces of Tamriel. The elves worship different
"sets" of Aedra, typically favoring the Aedra who escaped Lorkhan's trap
and retained most of their divinity and power.
Most Daedra are beast-like supernatural
creatures, usually of low intelligence. Lesser Daedra are relatively
common and come in many varied forms, from the elemental Atronachs to the
beastial, fire-breathing Daedroth to the demonic Dremora. Lesser Daedra
are believed to be created by the Daedric Princes as servants, and are
often found in the company of powerful mages who summoned them for the
same purpose. The humanoid Daedra tend to be more intelligent and tougher
than the others, and are far more rare.
Daedric Princes are the most powerful Daedra,
and are commonly worshiped as gods. Since they took no part in the
creation of Nirn, they are much stronger than the Aedra and are able to
manifest themselves physically in their own private planes of Oblivion.
Daedric Princes are not all monstrous, cruel demons; some of them, like
Azura, Meridia or Nocturnal, are benevolent and helpful.
Molag Bal, the Daedric Prince shaping the
events of the Elder Scrolls Online, is neither benevolent nor helpful. He
is seeking to pull Nirn into his own private plane of Oblivion, called
Coldharbour, which is essentially a recreation of Nirn but corrupted and
ruined. He is associated with domination, corruption, slavery, vampirism
and rape. Definitely not a nice Daedra.
Elder Scrolls history is divided into eras of varying lengths.
The Dawn Era is the time of the creation of
the universe and the eventual rise of the peoples of Nirn. This era likely
encompasses many millennia.
The Merethic Era involves the first
settlements of Tamriel, the creation of different cultures and the
erection of the first great man- and elf-made structures.
This is followed by the First Era, a roughly
3000-year period dominated by the struggle between Ayleid culture, which
died out by the beginning of the Second Era, and the Cyrodiilic Empire,
which grew to dominate Tamriel for thousands of years to come.
style="float: right; margin-left: 5pt;" />The Elder Scrolls Online
takes place in the middle of the Second Era, a
roughly nine-hundred-year era defined by strife and conflict as the
Cyrodiilic Empire struggled to bring all of Tamriel under its control.
Specifically, it is set during the Interregnum, a period where the Empire
is at its weakest because of a combination of internal conflict, the
combined efforts of the three alliances vying control for control of the
Ruby Throne, and Molag Bal trying to drag the whole world into his own
private hell. The Second Era ends when Tiber Septim finally unites all the
provinces of Tamriel under Imperial control.
style="float: right; margin-left: 5pt;" />The Elder Scrolls Online
The Third Era, which lasts for 433 years, is
defined by the succession of Septim emperors. It ends after the Oblivion
Crisis in TES IV: Oblivion, with the death of Martin Septim. The
events of Arena, Daggerfall and Morrowind
also occur during the Third Era. These events happen within a 34-year
span, starting 714 years after the events of the Elder Scrolls Online.
The events of Skyrim take place in the Fourth Era,
roughly 200 years after the events of Morrowind and Oblivion,
which are only about 6 years apart at the end of the Third Era. That
places the Elder Scrolls Online about 948 years before Skyrim.
Though the events of Skyrim are pretty epic, it is unknown whether the
defeat of Alduin ushers in a new era, or whether the Fourth Era soldiers
on for another few centuries.
One of the defining events of TESO's Second Era setting is the rise of Tiber
Septim during the 9th Century, roughly 250 years after
the setting of the Elder Scrolls Online. Because Tiber Septim has not yet
been born, and his conquest and unification of Tamriel have not yet
occured, there will be a few notable differences between TESO's setting
and those of the later games. For starters, money won't be called Septims.
It may have some other kind of Imperial-type name - denari or sesterce,
perhaps, in keeping with the Roman-inspired names - but it won't be named
after a man who has yet to be born.
Likewise, there are only Eight Divines instead of the Nine Divines of the
later games. Tiber Septim has not yet transcended mortality to become the
Ninth Divine, Talos, and is not yet worshiped as a god.
If you want to do your own lore research, all of the Elder Scroll games are
still available for download. Skyrim
(and its expansions), Oblivion
and Morrowind are
all available through Steam, and Daggerfall
and Arena are both
available as freeware from the official Elder Scrolls website. Be warned
that Daggerfall and Arena require DOS emulation to function on modern
machines and may require some third-party patching to make them compatible
with recent operating systems and hardware.
What bits of lore tripped you up the first time you fired up an Elder
Scrolls game? Let us know in our comments!
To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our The Elder Scrolls Online Game Page.