Tamriel Infinium: The secret plot of Elder Scrolls Online’s Morrowind

More than a handful of die-hard Elder Scrolls fans do not like the direction that Elder Scrolls Online Morrowind is taking. As someone who did not play TES III: Morrowind, I didn’t quite understand the significance of this disdain for the announced story when we know so very little about the story in the first place. After all, the primary reason behind ZeniMax‘s choice of this time period for ESO was that there is so very little written about it. The only thing really said was that this was a time of upheaval, that there were many short-lived Emperors and that eventually Talos would unite Tamriel again. Most everything that had happened with the Chimer and Dunmer had already taken place centuries ago.

As someone not as heavily invested in the lore of Morrowind, it was hard to grasp what the issue was. I was told over and over that it has to do with the fact that this was supposed to be the golden age for the Tribunal, the three living gods of Morrowind. During the golden age, there is no way for one of the Tribunal to be losing his power, right? Well, according to the announcements coming directly from ZOS, Vivec — the warrior poet god of the Tribunal — is sick and losing his power. When I visited ZOS a couple of weeks ago, I asked Creative Director Richard Lambert about this supposed controversy. Unfortunately, the only answers I received was “You will have to play through the story” and “It will all make sense.”

Of course, that wasn’t enough for me. I had to take a deep dive into the lore and figure out why in the world this all-powerful being could possibly be getting sick, but to understand that, we have to crawl into the rabbit hole that is Morrowind history and discover how the Tribunal became gods in the first place.

A matter of the heart

In poetic justice, it takes a dead god to create living gods. The Aedra named Lorkhan give up his life so to create Nirn, the mortal realm that Tamriel sits on. But pieces of the god apparently survived, the most infamous being his heart. Early in Tamriel’s history, the Dwemer discovered the heart and believed that it was the key to immortality and power. The Dwemer were correct, but unfortunately, it was also their undoing.

The Chimer, an exiled subgroup of the Altmer, discovered that the Dwemer were using the Heart of Lorkhan to build a powerful golem that was seen as a threat to the Chimer. Because history is told by the victors, we will never really know whether the golem was actually the threat it was supposed to be, but we do know that later Tiber Septim used a less powerful version of the golem to secure his position as Emperor of all Tamriel.

The leader of the Chimer, Indoril Nerevar, along with his High Council, battled against the Dwemer and eventually struck at the Heart of Lorkhan. During the battle, (almost) every Dwemer in existence disappeared, never to be heard from again. What actually caused the Dwemer disappearance is unclear, a secret only known to Nerevar and his High Council: Vivec, Sotha Sil, and Nerevar’s wife, Almalexia.

The reality is that the events following the battle of Red Mountain are blurry. We know that three major things happened. Nerevar and the Council swore an oath to their god, the Daedra Azura, that they would never use the Heart of Lorkhan; Nerevar was killed (we’ll get to that in a moment); and the High Council utterly broke its oath.

The personality of a god

Depending on where you’re from and whether you ascribe to a modern religion, you might not give much thought to the idea of “gods” as being anything but perfect. However, if we step back to Greco-Roman, Norse, or Egyptian mythos, we find that gods were not perfect. In fact, the only thing that makes gods gods in those myths was the fact that they were all-powerful.

To most of the Dunmer, the Tribunal were all-powerful too, and to an extent, they were also perfect. Many believed that everything they did was for the good of the Dunmer. The Dwemer wanted to destroy the Chimer, so they destroyed them. The task of ruling the Chimer was too difficult for mortals, so the High Council made themselves all-powerful in breaking their oath. And the new ashen skin of the Chimer, a result of Azura’s curse, was actually treated as a blessing. Although Sotha Sil was a recluse, Almalexia and Vivec were initially hands-on and caring for their people.

But perhaps their motivation was not as pure as the Dunmer were told.

Godly guilt

Amlalexia was married to Nerevar; Vivec was a trusted adviser. Could it be possible that they turned on their Lord? That’s exactly what the Ashlanders believe.

The “official” account of the event following the Battle of Red Mountain held that Nerevar left Voryn Dagoth to look after the Dwemer tools and the Heart of Lorkhan to seek advice from his Council. When Nerevar returned, Dagoth had been driven mad by the Heart and slew the Chimer leader. The Council arrived in time to catch the dying breath of Nerervar and swore an oath not to use the Heart. Then the Council supposedly killed Dagoth and swore their oath to Azura.

The Ashlanders, however, believe quite a different account. According to their legends, Nerevar returned to Dagoth with the Council to reclaim the tools following the disappearance of the Dwemer. The Council believed that the Heart of Lorkhan should be used to make them more powerful; Sotha Sil had discovered and perfected the Dwemer experiments, after all. Nerevar disagreed and was slain by the Council, all three playing a part in the leader’s demise. Some believed that it was a power play against Azura, and Nerevar being a devout follower of the Daedra directly opposed the Council — he may have been killed because of his devotion. Once the Council was now god-like, Azura couldn’t oppose them directly, so she changed the Chimer people, giving them ash-colored skin and red eyes.

In a non-canon roleplay Trial of Vivec, Morrowind writer Micheal Kirkbride confirmed that the Tribunal did in fact kill Nerevar. Vivec calls himself Vehk and Nerevar by his title Hortator during the roleplay. “Vehk the mortal did murder the Hortator,” he pleads. “Vehk the God did not, and remains as written.”

My suspicion is that Vivec’s sickness is directly linked to this event. What can weigh a god down more than guilt and depression? Indeed, his in-lore book, The Battle of Red Mountain, is a rare first-hand retelling of the events that notably omits the details of Nerevar’s death and contradicts the official record of the Dwemer’s disappearance and the Tribunal’s elevation to godhood, further suggesting he’s got a guilty secret to hide. But it doesn’t appear the book exists in ESO — yet.

I highly doubt that we will venture into Red Mountain during the Morrowind story, but that doesn’t mean that the ghost of Nerevar isn’t somehow haunting the Dunmer god — literally or figuratively. My guess is that the story of ESO Morrowind is Vivec’s redemption and forgiveness.

How close do you think I am? I’m sure there are many Elder Scrolls lore junkies out there. Let me know how far off I am in the comments below. Also, let me know what your thoughts are regarding the expansion coming in June, and I will see you again next week.

Traverse the troubled land of Tamriel in the Elder Scrolls Online. Larry Everett will be your guide here in Tamriel Infinium every other week as you explore together the land created by ZeniMax and Bethesda. If you have any burning questions, send them his way via email or via Twitter.
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38 Comments on "Tamriel Infinium: The secret plot of Elder Scrolls Online’s Morrowind"

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Stace Burroughs

This is probably accurate that the Tribunal murdered Neverar Indoril- I remember also having the feeling that maybe Neverar wasnt quite *so* mortally wounded after the fight with Dagoth, but that he certianly was after making them swear to not use the tools of Karnak/ heart of Lorkan. I’d always thought V an A felt guilty because they didnt go with Neverar when he went to get Dagoth- or stopped Sotha Sil- and because they did the very thing that Neverar wanted them to not do. I had always felt that those responsible were Dagoth Ur (first) and Sotha Sil, and had manipulated Almalexia (in her grief) whom coerced Vivec into joining them into striking the Heart of Lorkan to diefy and make themselves gods. (or something like that- its been a while since ive played TES 3 Morrowind- but i do remember thinking Sotha Sil was a d#ck, and felt he deserved his fate in TES 3, but was angry at the turn of events with Almalexia and bummed out about Vivec.(remember liking him the best of the 3 of them). I really did love that game- one of my faves of all time- in spite of the horrible combat system/mechanics.

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Dobablo

I got the impression that by TES3, Almalexia ruled as though she was a perfect God with her decisions always true and just because she was making them. Sotha Sil had decided that non-interference was best (and he could go back to his study). Vivik was reconciled with the fact that he was an imperfect murdering superpowered being so he limited his role to cataclysmic emergencies and led mostly through trying to set a good example

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Anthony Clark

It’s the Russians

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Danny Smith

Much as i think that the games pretty fun -and mechanically a far better elder scrolls than the casual trash par excellence that is skyrim- why is this surprising old school pre toddposting bethesda fans?

For those who dont know one of the big reasons TESO was being labeled “the next tortanic” on release was how it butchers the lore to the point of being impossible to share the same universe as the single player games. Amphibious species can drown in a puddle, secret gods whispered only in hushed tones in the darkest shadows are name dropped on a casual level comparable to “thanks obama!” was a few years back and so many things were just wrong. Giant elven city of glass? here its the same human village set. hundreds of years old eleven warrior queen? well here shes “a few centuries old at the age of 28” to give one example of a flub.

The game mechanically is fine, its a hoot. But the story was butchered to none canon levels from the outset at best and at worst it just gets so many crucial parts of the lore wrong.

So surely if you stuck with it at this point you learned to accept this and not go nuclear? its like getting mad pokemon snap doesnt follow the hard set rules of red and blue.

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Robert Mann

You missed the entire coastline of the area around Daggerfall going through a massive upheaval which is never mentioned despite the fact that it must have been a cataclysmic event.

I mean, the idea is cool and all, but so many of the little points just don’t match up, despite efforts to ‘explain’ them.

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Emiliano Lozada

The whole city of glass reminds me of when 4chan /v/ went on a nerdrage with fake info like saying how the summerset isle was filled with human settlements but in reality such location doesn’t even exist since we can’t even go into summerset proper ingame.

hurbster
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hurbster

You mean Alinor ? That’s not in the game ? And Ayrenn was born in 2E555, making her 25 when she takes the throne and 28 at the time of the year. Unless you are thinking of Kimmune ?

As has been said this era was deliberately chosen because the history is so vague.

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Emperor Caligula

Hm, ok it sounds convincing what you say, the inflation of heroic moments. BUT: if you take this view serious, MMORPGs would never have evolved beyond the UO stage, and all we would ever do is kill wolfs, kill boars and oh look kill more boars and wolfs. The proverbial rats in the proverbial cellar.

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Emperor Caligula

Honestly, why do people take entertainment religiously serious? Like with Star Wars or Riverdale, fans are up in arms, everytime a canon is altered. I love old time canon like the next person, but it is still JUST entertainment. So things may change.

I really would be curious to know with any final certainty what actually happened to the Dwemer.

I am, however, quite sure I will NOT pay 40 bucks for a new zone and 20 hours gameplay.

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Castagere Shaikura

I won’t be buying this either. I was hyped for it but the 700 year difference should make Morrowind totally different from TES3. So i see this as a huge cash grab about an old tes game. I would rather have seen something new added.They have plenty of lore they could be using.

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Jokerchyld

Well you know its not just 20 hours of gameplay (from that perspective its at least 30). But that is just straight quest story content. If that is your barometer for good content for value you are missing out on a great deal.

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Stace Burroughs

omg, so would i- Id love to *really* know wtf happened to the Dwemer. Seriously. Were they destroyed or just transported somewhere else?

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Rottenrotny

In ESIII, like almost all Bethesda RPGs, I just kept starting over… and over and over… and never beat the game. So I never really got invested in the lore.
I’m not as much concerned for the lore as much as the monotonousness of the gameplay.
Ever since they did the forced scaling my interest in the game was waned dramatically.

It’s really a sad time in MMOs for me right now.
WoW and ESO were the two MMOs I’ve played the most for the past ~6 months.
I’m getting bored of WoW’s AP grind and forced scaling.
Oh. Hey what do you know? More forced scaling in ESO!

I find myself returning to the Secret World and once again diving back into Vanilla WoW on Kronos 1, so I guess it’s not all bad. but this forced scaling trend is really irritating. I feel leveling and the challenges therein are integral to the RPG experience and they’re taking that away.

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Jokerchyld

I agree with some of your points. I too got tired of the AP grind in WoW, But I view ESO as the opposite. In WoW the problem from me was ‘gear cap’ I was too good for Mythic 0 but not good enough to get beyond Mythic +3. Thus no new gear, no new loot and the only thing I could do to progress realistically was quests (were were fine) and grinding AP. I got tired of the same old dynamic events.

ESO, which I started again recently since I left after launch, I agree is the same type of grind but somehow it is different. I attribute the difference to the freedom of character building. As a WoW rogue I had two sabres and a gun, which while fun, is restrictive. In ESO I have a 2h axe and a bow (or whatever other weapon I want to use). That makes playing the game fresh for me. I find the questing to be more engaging for me (over WoW). I tend to skip text in WoW but listen to all quests in ESO adding to my immersion. The ability to craft my own USEABLE gear from the start is a huge boon. But the most important thing to me is the gaming world feels alive and encourages me to explore. And I honestly never get bored of that.

To me ESO feels like a sandbox from the fact that I can login and do whatever I want, go wherever I want, and play with whoever I want. It puts the RPG back in MMO for me.

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Rottenrotny

Valid points. ESO to me is much better than one WoW in one respect: Being able to equip a variety of weapons. Switching between them greatly varies your playstyle and that’s a great thing.

xpsync
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xpsync

Then in my case, scaling saved ESO for me as it became a world.
However i feel what you are stating and not discounting your view, as i can agree in some areas of thinking as I’ve done levels literally forever. There have been a couple times I’ve said “Oh i so can’t wait to out level that, then do… it… damn!” Seriously what do you do then? Practically have to rework your entire build to get through one solo instance, play like a machine, make zeros mistakes, pull out all the stops. Which when you think about it is so much more satisfying, rewarding and oh so much more cooler than waiting to out level it and practically one shot it like it was a half dead rat in a sewer. So… dunno?
I think allot depends on your build too, if you got a decent build and gear stuff is for the most part easy, but as you are working on a build, getting gear you can die… allot.
In a nutshell you’re not alone, it at times is weird to me too, when i get my build hunmming i’m like i wish some mobs were more challenging, but when I’m building i wish mobs weren’t so brutal. LOL, it’s fucked up i know.

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Rottenrotny

I understand why they did it. The avg ESO/WoW/2017 MMO player probably just wants to jump in there, kill some mobs, do some quests, get some gear and get out without having to spend an hour dying and trying to figure out why. It’s a casual fest these days and I get that.
But I preferred the days when MMOs were challenging and, frankly, rather unforgiving.
They’re much more accessible and getting more so all the time and thus profitable, but something was lost along the way.
I love stumbling into a high level area and being like “whoa, guess I’d better avoid this area until I’m higher level.’ This adds danger and mystery to the world. ESO completely lacks that for me.
My main character in ESO is not great gear or build wise and I still find the game pretty faceroll except for Cyrodil and maybe vet dungeons.

xpsync
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xpsync

As the saying goes “you’re preaching to the choir”. Don’t even get me started on this topic. The only advice i can give is “if you can’t beat them join them”
SWTOR with a heal companion is pure faceroll, go play that for a few days then come back to ESO. It’ll probably help.

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Rottenrotny

Oh yeah. I know all about SWTOR haha.
I’m probably exaggerating slightly about my disdain for ESO, I still play it a bit as I enjoy the visuals, character and class design. Also I think Cyrodil is pretty fun. But the level scaling really bums me out. I wish it was just a button you could push to toggle it on and off.

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Jokerchyld

I agree, I guess I don’t like the level gating. Being restricted to a set area until I reach some arbitrary number then can go to the next. I much rather would want to be able to go to where I want, but in each area there are mobs that are extremely challenging. This way I get to explore, there is danger, and I can avoid or engage as I chose.

In ESO for challenge I try to take on public dungeons solo. Or tag a bunch of mobs at once and let them taste the enchanted blade of my mighty axe MUHAHAHAHAHAHA… *ahem*.. excuse me.

xpsync
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xpsync

Oh so that’s you… /jk

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Jokerchyld

*shhhhhh* none the wiser ;-)

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Ben Rubinstein

So I’ve newly rejoined the game but can’t find much in terms of recent newbie resources. Everything is two years outdated. Is there a good source of up-to-date “must-know” info? Thank you!

xpsync
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xpsync

Start a new toon. Seriously. Don’t delete any, just create a new one and learn as you play.

In my case i kept one character and started 3 new ones and learned as i played. I left after launch so I warmed up the game again on my original NB, created a DK, Sorc, and Temp.

Got much deeper into the game with the Sorc and am currently in love with my Temp, and i can tell you there are allot of things i did on my NB, and few on the Sorc i will not be doing on my Temp, she’s perfection in motion right now. Killer class, but that goes along with everything I’ve learned on the NB and Sorc.

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Ben Rubinstein

Oh, I never hit max. My main is a 23 Templar. I’m mostly referring to things that I would have had no way of knowing without reading a guide anyway. Like that you should go to a stable once per day to train.

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Jokerchyld

The best thing I did was check Youtube for the “What’s Changed in ESO” or “Is ESO Worth Playing in 2017” type videos. From watching them you will get a feel for which ones are outdated (they will mention VR, etc) and which ones are up to date.

As a side note, one of my favorite ones I came across by accident was something along the lines of “Francis quits ESO in Rage” or something like that. If you haven’t seen that (I was obviously late to the party) I highly recommend. I couldn’t stop laughing.

xpsync
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xpsync

Ahh ok, not aware of much then.
When i came back i kept using gold to fast travel it was several days before i was like DAMN!!!!!!!! i forgot it’s free at the way shrines, i wasted so much gold. I wasn’t training my mount either, having a home to zone home to every night with a horse trainer handy is huge.

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Jokerchyld

Wait! You can zone to your homestead??!?

xpsync
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xpsync

Great read, thanks! There can’t ever be enough ES news, keep it coming.

CMA is that right, Choose my Adventure? Whatever it’s called, ESO has to be next!

Bree Royce
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Bree Royce

Ahh, we probably won’t do it again for a while! We did LOTRO before WildStar and ESO before that. :D

xpsync
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xpsync

Ahhh OK, I’ll settle for a Morrowind run then :-)

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Targeter

I think you’re pretty close to the mark. But honestly, just because we were told that this was a ‘golden age’ of Morrowind doesn’t mean it ACTUALLY was. Maybe the ‘golden age’ narrative was created by the ruling powers in order to obfuscate something unseemly that happened?

Whoops, hit publish too soon. The lore folks on the forums that are up in arms have to be able to question the established narrative; as you say, history is written by the victors. Maybe we’ll be living that story and adding to the long-lost truth?

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Tobasco da Gama

It’s funny to me when self-proclaimed TES lore experts start taking certain things as the gospel truth. The remarkable and cool thing about the in-game TES lore books is that they’re all written by actual characters in the world who have imperfect information to begin with that is further distorted by their own perspectives and agendas. And, even with that aside, those books often directly contradict one another. Just like real-world histories!

That’s not even getting to Dragon Breaks, either, which accompany the events of most of the games and literally allow multiple mutually exclusive events to occur simultaneously…

So, yeah. TES lore is always in flux, all the books are wrong, and every possible sequence of events is true at once. THAT’S WHAT’S COOL ABOUT IT.

xpsync
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xpsync

Exactly, and that is what’s is so cool about ES lore. My perspective is my own.

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Wendigo Runner

Ayup, you can’t really be wrong about TES lore. It has the most convenient retcon tools possible. Retconning is actually a legit thing to do to the story and at the same time it doesn’t change anything.

It’s absurd, but that’s TES.

Theryl
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Theryl

Or concepts like CHIM which allow events (like Vivec’s godhood) to happen retroactively. Compared to some of the changes in the single player games, what’s in ESO is pretty minor.

I’ve found that the people who get bent out of shape about TES lore being “wrong” have a shallow understanding of it.

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