The Elder Scrolls lore community is like no other fantasy/sci-fi lore community I have ever seen.
Now partially this is due to the TES community’s tendency to spend less time talking about, say, characters or worldbuilding and a lot more time talking about gods, dreams, arcane metaphors, and giant robots powered by literal dwarven souls (which is where the Dwemer went, by the way).
Mostly, though, it’s about canon.
Canon is that word used in fandom to denote what is “official” lore. In most cases, this includes the original source material– whether it be a book, movie, TV series, comic, video game, or what-have-you– and occasionally peripheral but related spinoff material. In some cases (example: Star Wars), the “extended universe” is so vast that the canon is broken down further into “levels” of canon. And then, of course, there is the fanart and fanfiction, which is often playfully defined as “headcanon”– i.e., not approached as canon by anyone but yourself and maybe a few devotees.
The newcomer to the TES lore community, then, is promptly shocked when they ask for a source for some lore term and are directed to, say, twelve-year-old off-hand forum statements, or the archives of some nebulously-termed “semi-official” roleplay, or the drunken ramblings of a rogue ex-dev.
That’s because Elder Scrolls fans play loosely with canon. Really loosely.
Basically, if it’s good, unique, and fits, it’s essentially canon.
What do I mean by “fits”? Well, it’s got to be creative and fanciful. Most diehard fans will tell you that it all sort of winds back to Michael Kirkbride, who wrote a lot of really weird stuff for Morrowind (see: The 36 Lessons of Vivec) and, who due to his enthuisasm for the series and the fact that he has never quite gone away despite leaving Bethesda long ago, has become the sort of unofficial arbitrator of TES lore. This means that statements he made, even after leaving the company, are usually considered canon. This means that statements by fans that he simply likes are often considered canon. And in a truly respectful nod to its community, Bethesda often listens to this community and “canon” as they work on their games. A term called “monkey truth” arose to describe this unusual relationship: we’re all just monkeys playing around in Tamriel (or Tam! RUGH! as we call it in monkeyspeak), but sometimes we collectively come up with something great (and usually Kirkbridian in style) that we all realize rises above simple fanfiction.
The cult of the monkey truth has crystallized so much that monkey truth is not only considered valid lore, it is sometimes placed above the acutal in-game lore.
As an example, the province of Cyrodiil was long deemed a thick jungle before Bethesda retconned this in the game Oblivion and made it a picturesque English meadowland. Michael Kirkbride (or MK) wrote a bit of fanlore that said Talos transformed it to be this way to show his love for his people. This was then accepted as the new canon by the fans, and, by the way, made it into Skyrim.
All sorts of other monkey truths that did not make it into the games are frequently nonetheless considered to be de facto canon by the community as a whole. How much of this is okay, exactly, continues to be much debated, but the fact that the debate exists to begin with is fascinating.
Recently, MK wrote up and released a script called “C0DA“. C0DA is… difficult to read, to say the least. It’s thick with arcane lore, and anyone whose only experience with TES is through the games is going to have a horrific time trying to make heads or tails of any of it. The long and short of it, though, is that C0DA is the prologue to an open source TES universe, and MK’s way of saying that both everything and nothing is canon. This, of course, also means that C0DA itself also both is and is not canon.
What is the truth, then, and what is canon in TES lore?
Bethesda will tell you the games are the lore. But when they need ideas for their next game, they’re going to look down at all the monkeys scrabbling around with dragonbreaks and dreamsleeves and memospores and they’re going to weave bits and pieces of those into their universe.
And then, much like Vivec and Talos themselves, the fans will be the ones who reshape and take control of Bethesda’s dream world.
CROSSPOST from someplace else I say words because I put all this effort into it!
Okay I’ll make an effortpost about mods for y’all, because despite the brilliance of vanilla Morrowind it’s even more mindblowingly amazing with mods installed.
Essentials Morrowind Overhaul: As Pike says this includes a bunch of different mods. This is mostly a graphics and sound pack with some unofficial patching but it makes an unbelievable difference and unless your computer can’t handle it, you need it.
Galsiah’s Character Development: GCD single-handedly fixes all problems with vanilla leveling. It makes everything so much more natural and smooth, lets you go above 100 in stats and skills (not without work!), and in the 50~ hours of playing with it since I reinstalled it’s seemed to be pretty much perfectly balanced in most regards. Playing without this is an indicator of the most depraved masochism. Note: There’s another leveling mod our there known as MADD Leveling which has pretty good reviews, but I’ve never used it myself. Consider that if you don’t like GCD. But for Vivec’s sake get one or the other.
Morrowind Patch Project (Formerly known as Unofficial Morrowind Patch): A project which has persisted in one form or another pretty much since release and which aims to fix anything it can, from typos to incomplete quests to actual game-breakers.
Morrowind Code Patch: Going deeper than the above this, unsurprisingly, touches the game’s code itself to make even more repairs and improvements. Fixes a huge number of issues which were in the base game and remained through patches and expansions. Some things are vital like crash fixes, some are quality of life, but this thing is indispensable.
Delayed Dark Brotherhood Attack: Exactly what it says on the tin. In base, with Tribunal installed, you’ll get attacked when you’re a prisoner fresh off the boat in Seyda Neen by elite assassins. Not only does this unbalance things when you kill them because their gear is great and valuable, but it also makes very little sense that the person sending the assassins would even know you exist, let alone care. So with this you’re safe from the DB until you’ve reached a position of power in various guilds or have progressed to a certain point in the Main Quest.
Expansion Integration: Bethesda were lazy fuckers with Bloodmoon and especially Tribunal, and this mod goes a long way to helping that. Basically it brings everything appropriate from those expansions into Vvardenfell, so you can encounter Durzogs in the wild and alchemy ingredients can show up for sale and so forth.
That’s pretty much it for what I would class as essentials, and even the last one of this short list is debatable. Everything else is really up to the player in question, but I’ll link to a few of my favorites and then a couple of the bigger lists and important sites.
Mister Adequate’s favorites Tamriel Rebuilt: I strongly considered putting this in the essentials section because it’s just that good. TR is a project that has been running since the early days of Morrowind with the original aim of recreating all of Tamriel. They’ve since scaled back this absurd ambition to ‘just’ the whole of the Morrowind province, which is still only slightly smaller than Vivec’s Spear. They’ve recently released part 3 of this vast effort and already the game is literally twice the size.
Those of you who’ve played the game will realize just how vast an expansion this project is. And although I’ve only seen a very little bit of it so far I can assure you what is there is great. Firewatch is a better-made settlement than any Imperial one in the native game. (Note: The small island south-west of Vivec/Ebonheart is not a part of TR, but a seperate mod named Dulsya Isle.)
Piratelord’s Creatures XI: There have been a great number of creature adding mods over the years but this is the best one currently. Everything added is well-made and fits perfectly with the theme of Morrowind and the aesthetics and stuff.
Executor Zurg’s Merchant Money Mod: Some people may dislike this. Those people are wrong. This mod increases the amount of money carried by merchants (not those added by mods though) tenfold. Very simple, and incredibly welcome, because you don’t have to go traipsing off to Caldera or the Mudcrab Merchant to sell anything worth more than five septims anymore. Don’t worry, when you start getting more expensive gear you’ll still struggle to find places to sell them.
abot’s gondoliers, boats, and silt striders: This triune of mods by abot does something that some of us have longed for for years. It adds the ability to choose a ‘scenic travel’ option from various ports, which means you can actually ride the stuff as it takes you to your destination in real-time! It also adds some ambient stuff like gondoliers paddling around Vivec City and stuff. It’s tremendously good for gigantic nerds like Pike me who just looove to act as if they’re really in the game and write up huge backstories for their characters and stuff!
Traders 300: Adds a locked chest to most merchants, within which will be a leveled list of appropriate goods. The end result is that merchants will be far more variable in what they carry, giving a lot of flavor and life to them and encouraging you to check back with them now and then.
Homes to Let: This is a really nice little addition that does, well, exactly what it says. You can now rent homes on a monthly basis. Excellent alternative to most of the housing mods out there, as this lets you rent something in, say, Hla Oad for all of 60 septims a month. Superb for anyone who can’t afford other houses or who hasn’t progressed enough to gain them, or who fancies a change of pace, or who just wants more housing options.
The Less Generic NPC Project: A huge undertaking which seeks to give unique dialog for most topics to every single NPC in the game. So far they’re up to about 1/3 of the game, which is pretty damned impressive, and most of what I’ve seen so far has been decently written and kept to lore and stuff. It tends to add some minor quests as well, but the general overall effect is to make the world a much richer place. I happened to rent a place in Vivec with the above mod and it was next to a store; I went into the store and the Khajiit in there was affected by this mod, so we sat and talked forever. They worked together superbly to create a great little experience for my character!
Service Requirements: This mod is for masochists. What it does is when you try to trade with a faction-aligned person, they’ll tell you to fuck off if you’re not a member of their guild/house/etc. Want to port to Sadrith Mora? Best be a member of the Mage’s Guild! You can also pay surchages to access their services. Altogether a pretty stupid mod that only makes the game harder, I couldn’t play without it.
Now, this game’s over ten years old now and still has active modders. Unsurprisingly there are an immense number of mods out there, and my little list of mostly personal taste doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. If you’re interested in looking more into what is out there, here’s some resources to do just that!
There are two main download sites these days. There used to be many, many more but most have fallen off the Internet.
Planet Elder Scrolls has a huge repository of mods. Problem is some of them were on off-site hosting, and said off-site hosting has now disappeared. Still one of the most valuable resources for getting mods though, and if you check the comments on a missing mod you’ll often find someone pointing folks to a new upload someplace.
Morrowind Modding History is a place which is trying to salvage and preserve pretty much every Morrowind mod it can get a hold of. If you can’t find something on PES it’ll almost certainly be here. Also great to just browse through and see what’s on offer.
Aside from those there are various lists out there which… list different mods, usually grouped into categories like “New buildings” and so on. Like anything these lists will be based on the personal taste of their authors but you can usually find some pointers towards stuff you’re after. Great House Fliggerty is a good resource anyway and this thread has a list of lists (of lists, in a couple cases). Well worth checking out are Telesphoros’ List, Empirical Morrowind, and BTB’s list. Also try the TESNexus Wiki.
A couple of closing notes! There’s a very widely-used mod named “Necessities of Morrowind” out there, which adds the need to eat, drink, and sleep into the game. I’ve not yet tried it myself though I plan to with my next character. There are also a couple of mods which add NPCs walking around settlements. A lot of people swear by Morrowind Comes Alive but I prefer Starfire’s NPC additions; it really does help add life to towns to see people wandering around and having different people when you leave and return and stuff.
Okay I hope that helps anyone looking for mods get an idea of some of the most important ones currently around and points them to where to look for more! If you’ve got questions go ahead and ask, I’ll probably know the answer or where to find it!
So at some point over the last few days we’ve surpassed 100,000 views on this blog. A big thank you to anyone who has ever visited, read, and/or commented! Mister Adequate and myself really just started this as a little side project and knowing that sometimes people like to read our vidya rambles makes us both feel all tingly inside.
Now then, let’s get down to business. Mister Adequate and I are recently doing nothing but playing an old game. This should surprise nobody since playing old games is what we do 95% of the time. The game we are playing this time, however, is one Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, and the problem with this game is that once you start playing it you will never stop for like the next month.
Anyways you can all blame this game for the reason that these two bloggers have disappeared off the face of the Earth and are currently ranting and raving about journeying far ‘neath moon-and-star.
I’ll tell you what, though. Talking about Morrowind has a tendency to cause most people to suddenly itch to reinstall it, which is why the number of my Steam friends who own this game has jumped from five to eleven in the past week or so. Because I won’t shut up about it. Anyways, if you, too, are now feeling this same itch, I have a present for you! It’s called Morrowind Overhaul and it’s an absolutely delicious mod pack that installs everything great for Morrowind and makes it look even more beautiful than it already is. Best of all, it pretty much does everything for you, so you just have to click the “Next” button a million times and do little else. Easy mode. Highly recommended for both longtime Morrowind players and also new players who perhaps are wary about the graphics, which, I won’t lie, haven’t aged particularly well.
What are you currently playing as you enter the new year?
Hello, my name is Mr. Adequate, and I’ve got a problem.
In any game where you can make characters who are quite varied in nature, well, I’m going to do so. Over and over and over again, and I’m going to abandon existing ones and start anew with a new character, no matter what I have achieved with a previous one or how far through the main plot I am. It’s especially bad in games like Morrowind and Fallout New Vegas; if I combined the time I’ve spent playing the former, I’d probably have a level 9001 living god. But every time I play, I think “Oh hey what if I made an Argonian who wants to join the Legion?” Then I do that, and then I think “Oh wait I totally want to make a Breton monk who uses unarmed, unarmored, alchemy, and restoration to get things done.” and off I go to do that, until I take a notion for something else.
So in actual fact I’ve seen the first half of Morrowind more times than I can remember, and the second half like twice. Oblivion is the same story. So was Fallout 3. New Vegas is somewhat better, perhaps because the writing is so strong and immersion so great that it’s hard even for me to abandon a character. MMOs are the same way; I start, play for awhile, then I want to be a Mage/Priest/Hunter/Whatever and off I go to do that instead of carrying on with my Warrior.
I know I’m not alone in suffering this affliction. Regale us with your tales of altoholism!
Alrighty, so as you may have gathered by now I’m a pretty big fan of the music in some videogames, and I feel it’s often a vital part of completing the experience. This said, sometimes when you play a game a lot, the stuff in the game just gets so repetitive it’s crazy. Right now I’m playing a ton of Minecraft, working on a stupidly overambitious project, and I’ve been playing Daft Punk pretty much constantly while I do so.
Back when I was a young teen, my mom got me Morrowind and System of a Down – Steal This Album on the same day, so I can’t listen to the latter without thinking of the former. They are inextricably linked for me.
Do you have any particular games and musicians who are linked for you? Any preferred artists for particular games or genres? Tell us in the comments about the music you listen to while gaming!