One of my favorite things about the storytelling in Elder Scrolls Online is that the quest-givers don’t fill their dialogue with exposition regarding Tamriel lore. For instance, NPCs will throw around terms like Ayleid and Dwemer as if you are just supposed to know what that means. That’s not to say they don’t share a lot of expository dialogue; it just usually contains the information that you need in your quest, not the story behind the story.
I thought it fitting to give you a list of terms and names that you will run into while playing the Elder Scrolls Online that you need to know, especially if you’re a novice to the franchise. I’ve run into most of these myself, and I reluctantly admit that I wasn’t sure exactly what they meant. For instance, what’s the difference between Tamriel, Nirn, and Mundus? The Prophet seemed to use these terms interchangeably in his dialogue, but they certainly mean different things, and he’s not using them arbitrarily.
So this week, I’m going to do something different from what I usually do. I’m going to make a lexicon of sorts. I have 18 terms that I think you should know going into ESO in order to understand the deeper meaning behind some of the quests that you will be running.
The planet that nearly the whole game takes place on is called Nirn. Sometimes Nirn is confused with the mortal plane, but as far as we know, Nirn is not the only planet on the mortal plane; there are others that have not been reached yet because there are no rocketships in Elder Scrolls.
The mortal plane that we all know and love is called Mundus. Interestingly, some mortals are aware of other planets in Mundus during the time of ESO even though there is no way for astronauts to reach them. These nine other planets in Mundus, and the sun is said to be a rip in the fabric of time and space into Oblivion. The stars are smaller rips.
Tamriel is continent that ESO takes place on. It’s huge, so sometimes Nirn and Tamriel might be used interchangeably, but you should know that they are quite different things. Tamriel is composed of nine provinces, all of which can be explored in ESO: High Rock, Hammerfell, Skyrim, Morrowind, Black March, Cyrodiil, Elsweyr, Valenwood, and the Summerset Isles.
It’s a bit difficult to conceptualize exactly where Oblivion is, but it’s said to surround Mundus, or maybe Oblivion is just anything that’s not Mundus. It’s not entirely clear. However, we do know that it’s real and that Daedric Princes rule their own planes of Oblivion and are generally hostile to those who reside in Mundus.
Although Coldharbour is explained in the first few minutes of ESO, it’s sometimes hard to grasp of what it is. Coldharbour is Daedric Prince Molag Bal’s plane of Oblivion. Clearly, the spirits of some people land on this plane after they die. Your character in the game ends up there specifically after being sacrificed in a ritual, but it’s uncertain how other souls end up there. Some have been other ritual killings, but others, like Cadwell, end up there just because they died. At this point there doesn’t seem to be any rules regarding how you might end up there naturally.
Because the other planes of Oblivion play such a small role in ESO, I won’t mention them, but during the Mage’s Guild questline, you will visit the Shivering Isles, Sheogorath’s Oblivion plane, quite a bit. Generally, it resembles Nirn, but the more time you spend there, it becomes more clear that things aren’t quite right. If you really want to know more about the Shivering Isles, the I would recommend buying the Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion DLC named after that very Daedric plane.
The easiest definition of the term “Mer” is “Elven folk.” However, that’s very simplistic in scope. Mer include Orcs (Orsimer) and Dwarves (Dwemer), not just High Elves, Wood Elves, and Dark Elves. However, all the actual names of the Mer races end in “mer,” like Bosmer, Dunmer, and Altmer. All Mer are descended from Aldmer, an ancient and extinct race.
I probably don’t have to define “Men.” But it should be understood that Men have a different lineage from Mer and Beastfolk. Unlike the traceable history of the Mer, a record of where Men came from doesn’t exist, but they have clearly come to be one of the dominant sentient species on Tamriel. Men are usually divided into Nords, Redguard, and Imperials. Bretons are usually classified as Men, but there is Mer blood in most of them. And the extinct race Nede are the ancestors of all the races of men except Redguard, although it’s clear that Redguard and the Nede have a much older ancestor that’s yet unknown.
This one is obvious, but you should know it. The playable races of Khajiit and Argonian fall under the species of Beastfolk, although there is yet to be a genetic connection. Other Beastfolk include Dragons, Goblins, Giants, Reikling, Hist, Nymphs, and Imga.
A whole article could be written on Dwemer alone, but the important thing to know is that the Dwemer are almost entirely extinct, but their technology still abounds. The Dwemer (or Dwarves, as they are sometimes called) used to be the most advanced society in Tamriel. Scholars still debate why and how the Dwemer disappeared; many believe that they were transported or disintegrated as a result of tinkering with an artifact known as the Heart of Lorkhan. Either way, no one seems to be too afraid to experiment with the technology they left behind.
Ayleids are sometimes referred to as Wild Elves, but no Ayleid has been seen since the end of the second era. Just like Dwemer disappearance, this has become one of Tamriel’s great mysteries.
A simplistic way to describe Daedra is to call them demons. This would be accurate for the majority of them because they are mindless followers of whoever is their master. However, some have heightened intelligence, and some are even more intelligent and powerful than men. These powerful and smart Daedra are known as the Princes (even those who appear female). However, one thing remains for all Daedra: They are never killed, just sent back to their realm of Oblivion.
If Daedra are demons, then Aedra are angels. The Aedra, led by Lorkhan, created Nirn and the Mundus. However, most escaped soon after the plane was created. But eight stayed behind to defend Nirn.
Although all the Aedra are important in their own way, the most impactful Aedra has to be Akatosh, who not only helped create Nirn but became the champion of men by creating the Dragonborn.
Although other Daedra play larger roles in ESO, they are easily defined just as you play through the game. Hircine appears in only one questline but is talked about throughout much of the Daggerfall Covenant storyline. He is the god of the hunt and father of were-creatures.
Another Daedra making a positive impact on Nirn is Azura, the Queen of Dawn and Dusk and a key figure in the original Morrowind plotline. She pops up a few times during the Aldmeri Dominion storylines in ESO, and you should know that she’s generally considered good — just don’t get on her bad side.
The game Skyrim is all about the Dragonborn, but what you need to know is that Dragonborn have been infused with the blood of Akatosh and have the right to bear the Amulet of Kings and light the Dragonsfires in the Temple of One. They are also the rightful Emperor of Cyrodiil. However, it’s been hundreds of years since we’ve seen a Dragonborn sit on the throne.
This woman slave led the rebellion against the Ayleids that would eventually free the races of Men. Alessia was favored by Akatosh, and he infused her with his blood. When she died, her soul was said to be place inside the Amulet of Kings.
Obviously, there are far more obscure lore-infused terms you will run into during your time in ESO. If there is one you don’t understand, let me know in the comments below, and I will do my best to clear it up for you!