A popular series of computer and console RPGs produced by Bethesda Softworks. The Elder Scrolls games (or TES for short) are set in Tamriel, a landmass roughly the size of Africa. The games are renowned for their open-ended style of gameplay, allowing the player to play as a heroic or diabolical character, to pursue the main quest with vigor or to ignore it entirely, and to gain prowess and fame through working for guilds, military legions, and the like. The games are also noted for the largeness of the game world — Daggerfall in particular has a game world roughly the size of Great Britain, with approximately 750,000 NPCs to interact with. Though later games in the series are considerably smaller, they remain much larger and more finely-detailed than the typical RPG game world.The principal games in the Elder Scrolls series are:
Arena (1994): The benevolent Emperor of Tamriel, Uriel Septim VII, is secretly overthrown by his own Battlemage Jagar Tharn, who traps him in Oblivion, assumes his appearance, and reigns in his stead. However, the ghost of his late apprentice Ria Silmane teams up with a minor noble (the Player Character) to fight the usurper. Together, they travel through all provinces of Tamriel to collect all pieces of the Staff of Chaos, which the PC then uses to kill Tharn and restore the rightful Emperor. The game was originally going to be about, well, arenas, but that idea was scratched in favor of adapting the developers' home-brew D&D setting, Tamriel, into a computer game. The fast-paced gladiatorial combat style remained, though, and Arena was much more action-oriented than other RPGs of the time. The game met with lackluster sales, but developed a strong enough cult fanbase to warrant a sequel.
Daggerfall (1996): The PC, a personal acquaintance of Uriel Septim VII, is sent to the Western province of High Rock to investigate the ghost of its former King Lysandus, who now haunts the city of Daggerfall. Cooperating with the Emperor's Blades, the PC uncovers a sinister plot to reactivate the Lost Superweapon Numidium, which was originally used to forge the Third Tamrielic Empire. Several factions in the region enter the fight for controlling the Numidium, and it depends on the PC who wins it. Also of note is the emphasis on side-quests—after seeing how much time Arena players spent on them, the designers decided to put them in the spotlight. Daggerfall featured several different factions for the player to join outside of the Main Quest, all of which will give players hundreds of hours of side-questing. It also had positively HUGE randomly generated dungeons, often "designed" in the silliest ways possible.
Morrowind (2002): A convict from the Imperial City Prison (the PC) is released in the North-Eastern province of Morrowind on the Emperor's direct orders. Guided by the Blades, the PC fulfills countless local prophecies and is acknowledged as the Chosen One who will save the land from the Blight (no, not that Blight or that). Tracing the Blight to the evil god Dagoth-Ur, the PC destroys the source of his (and other local gods') immortality and kills him, bringing relative peace to the province. The game was significantly smaller in scope than its predecessor (a "mere" 18 square miles as opposed to hundreds, and a non-infinite number of side-quests), but managed to come off as much more epic anyway due to the quality of the writing and the diverse, exotic landscapes. It's also notable for being much, much weirder than the rest of the franchise, being set in an alien landscape populated by Dunmer, dinosaurs, giant bugs, and tiny Cthulhu lookalikes.
Tribunal (2002): An attack by the Dark Brotherhood brings the PC to Morrowind's capital of Mournhold. After a while, the PC finds themselves at odds with the local deities and has to kill them, now that their immortality is lost.
Bloodmoon (2003): Arriving on a Northern island of Solstheim, the PC runs into ravaging werewolves and is soon embroiled in a ritual conducted by the Daedric Prince Hircine to determine the strongest fighter on the island. Naturally, the PC has to participate.
Oblivion (2006): Emperor Uriel Septim VII is assassinated by the Mythic Dawn, but not before seemingly accidentally freeing yet another convict from the Imperial City Prison (the PC). The PC then joins the Blades in their search for the last remaining heir to the Empire, Martin Septim, against the backdrop of an ongoing invasion from Oblivion by the Daedric Prince Mehrunes Dagon, whom the Mythic Dawn worships. Eventually, the PC, Martin, and the Blades manage to repel the Daedra but... at a price. This was the first big-name RPG for the 7th generation of consoles, and made full use of the Xbox 360's and Playstation 3's technical abilities. However, some complained that it had been dumbed-down for casual gamers, what with arrows pointing to your objectives and simplified role-playing elements.
Skyrim (2011): Set 200 years after the Oblivion crisis when the empire Tiber Septim founded is in bad shape, being slowly picked apart by the fascistic Aldmeri Dominion through means of subterfuge, imposing treaty terms, or outright war. The PC barely survives crossing over to Skyrim after Alduin, the Nordic aspect of Akatosh, decimates a village the PC was planned to be executed at. Now with dragons appearing all over Skyrim, the PC discovers that they're the Dovahkiin (Dragonborn) and the only one able to stop Alduin from ushering The End of the World as We Know It, all in the midst of a civil war.
Dawnguard (2012): The Dragonborn gets involved in a conflict between the newly reformed Dawnguard and a race of vampires in Eastern Skyrim, who wish to fulfill an ancient prophecy and permanently blot out the Sun.
Hearthfire (2012): The Dragonborn gets into homebuilding and childrearing.
Dragonborn (2012): The Dragonborn visits Solstheim and faces off against the FirstDragonborn, an undead Dragon-Priest named Miraak who, like the Dragons, is now seeking to return to life.
The Elder Scrolls Online (2014): An MMORPG prequel to the main Elder Scrolls series, set during the Second Era interregnum between the fall of the Akaviri Potentate and the rise of the Septim Dynasty.
The Elder Scrolls Novels: The Infernal City and Lord of Souls by Greg Keyes. Set forty years after Oblivion, they tell of the appearance of the floating city of Umbriel in Tamriel and the devastation it wrought.
Bethesda has also produced several other games set in the Elder Scrolls universe which are not RPGs:
The Elder Scrolls Legends: Battlespire (1997), basically a long, trippy dungeon-crawl. Set during the time of Arena, and originally planned as an expansion pack for Daggerfall. A Wizarding School for Imperial Battlemages is attacked by Mehrunes Dagon, who aims to use it as a conduit for invading Tamriel. A single graduate (the PC) has to fight their way to Dagon through Oblivion, defeat him, and free their partner. It is the only game in the series to include multiplayer, though that addition proved a spectacular failure and Bethesda never tried it again. A good chunk of the information of the things known about the Daedra originate in this game.
The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard (1998), an action-adventure game with very few RPG elements. Some 400 years before Arena, a Redguard by the name of Cyrus travels home to find his sister missing and himself embroiled in a web of political intrigue. It was well received by critics and fans, but due to the cost of production and being built on outdated technology, it was a financial flop. The Pocket Guide to the Empire is the origin of most of the background lore on Tamriel.
These last three were released for mobile phones. Generally, only Shadowkey is considered canon.
Additionally, a "remake" of Oblivion was released for mobile phones. A PSP version was also planned and demonstrated, but is currently presumed cancelled.In 2004, Bethesda released the original version of Arena as a freeware download. In 2009, it was joined by Daggerfall.In 2011, a rewrite of Daggerfall's game engine, known as DaggerXL, started development under an independent programmer.Both Arena and Daggerfall run quite nicely under DOSBox, though, so grab them here and here and enjoy.An Elder Scrolls Anthology was released in 2013 for the PC. It includes every game in the main series (Arena, Daggerfall, Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim) along with all the addons and expansions for the most recent three.Has a page listing the Tropes applicable to each race.
Provides examples of:
Abusive Precursors: The Ayleids were not very nice people, to put it lightly. The Dwemer too, particularly towards the Falmer.
Though this may have been only the Skyrim Dwemer: there is no reason to believe the Morrowind Dwemer similar in cruelty, and the Hammerfell Dwemer left because they were getting tired of all the wars with the Chimer and Nords.
Adam Smith Hates Your Guts: Even when the player is famous, what he pays still largely depends on his skills. Even members of a guild a player is in will still usually charge unfair prices. But the biggest example is in the Thieves' Den DLC for Oblivion, where the player's fellow pirate underlings will give the player gold from the plunderings he didn't even participate in, but won't give up a bit of their equipment without charging more than 1.5x its value.
Prices are offset by disposition, though how much depends on the game.
Through a quirk in the coding (specifically, they lack disposition and skills, including Mercantile), creature merchants in Morrowind buy and sell items at their base value.
Affably Evil: Dagoth Ur of Morrowind. He will talk and explain all his actions before battle, and waits for the player to strike first in battle. One of his underlings will offer you a glass of fine ancient brandy and a friendly chat before the battle.
Most of the inhabitants in the Dark Brotherhood Cheydinhal Sanctuary in Oblivion can be quite charming.
"Hey, I don't know who the Night Mother is, but she pays me to kill people. My own mother never loved me so much!"
The Dark Brotherhood in Skyrim is even more like this. They mostly get rid of the nihilistic religious basis of their religion and are mostly a loveable Ragtag Band of Misfits if you forget they kill people for a living.
A Homeowner Is You: Except in Arena, all games of the main series allow you to either buy or build homes. Morrowind uses them as rewards for climbing up in the hierarchy of certain factions; Daggerfall and Oblivion lets you buy them if you have enough money. Skyrim is a bit of both—Gain a good reputation with a town, and the Jarl will allow you to buy a house there, or purchase land on which to build one in the Hearthfire expansion.
What a fool you are. I'm a god! How can you kill a god?! What a grand and intoxicating innocence!
Almalexia is like this too (something Vivec himself notes). Jarring in Vivec's case who is renowned to be the one least prone to those, but will give such a spiel if you confront him on what the Tribunal has done, asking you who you are to question a god.
Notably averted in Morrowind. The entire plot revolves around obtaining the tools with which it's possible to achieve godhood and getting them to the source from which said godhood can be obtained. But there's no way to actually do so, the only option is to use them to release it. It's not all bad for the player in Morrowind though, as you get to become The Ageless thanks to the positive effects of the corprus disease that are not cured. You're not exactly a "god," but no longer aging and being immune to disease aren't bad consolation prizes.
In Skyrim, the protagonist is the Dragonborn, a rare mortal gifted with the blood and soul of an Aedric Dragon.
The Ageless: The Nerevarine becomes this, as a consequence of having Corprus but getting negative effects cured. If brought to sufficient heights of power, they can also gain enough regenerative power to leave this trope and enter another.
Alien Hair: The Argonians, the closest thing to an 'alien' playable race, have horns, flexible spikes, fins, rigid spikes and feathers in place of hair.
The two moons are the rotting corpse plane(t)s of a god's divinity.
The Third Moon which appears/is when the two moons overlap appears when the leader of Khajiit, the Mane is born. Or perhaps the Mane is born when the Third Moon appears. The Mane is also the incarnation of the previous Manes, meaning he shares their souls and is also the incarnation of the Third Moon.
Stars and Sun are holes in reality, through which magic flows to Mundus.
The nebulae are the result of magic flowing to Nirn from the Stars and Sun.
The other plane(t)s are infinite plane(t)s that represent the gods' divinity and are floating within the infinite Oblivion. They and the Moons appear as planets because You Cannot Grasp the True Form.
Falmer in Skyrim, due to a combination of the original Snow Elves being brutally driven out of Skyrim and underground by Ysgramor, and then being enslaved by the Dwemer and turned blind by being forced to eat a poisonous fungus and then being biologically altered into relying on said fungus to survive. The Falmer have since been twisted into hateful monsters who want to kill and eat anyone who isn't Falmer.
And the wonky physics system in Oblivion made it outright impossible to place more than one item anywhere in a room without knocking everything else about. Thankfully, modders came to the rescue creating mods specifically to make decorating your house easier.
Averted in Skyrim, since houses now include wall mounts and weapon racks, both of which are can be activated to display your equipped weapon- the bookcases also allow the player to stack books somewhat neatly.
Annoying Arrows: Kind of justified from a game mechanic standpoint, as everyone has health points to take damage from. Doesn't stop it from seeming odd when a particularly powerful enemy's still attacking you with 20 arrows jutting out of his chest.
Using a weak bow and arrow and stealth, you can end up shooting a target from the shadows and not killing them. Even with an arrow jutting out of their head, they usually just wander about for a few seconds before declaring "It must be nothing" and going back to whatever they were doing. With the arrow still in them.
Armor and Magic Don't Mix: Downplayed overall. Pure mage NPCs typically don't wear armor, as how effective it is depends mostly on your skill level with that armor class, and NPCs typically don't have many skill points outside of their class skills. However there's nothing that actually stops them from equipping it (look what happens if you cheat armor into their inventory in Morrowind), and the series has always had several types of Magic Knights on up to the heavy armor-wearing Battlemage. Oblivion and Skyrim add mechanics that gently encourage spellcasting characters not to wear armor (spell damage reduction varying by armor skill in the first case, and an Alteration perk that's only usable unarmored in the second), but it's still a valid choice.
Artifact Title: The Elder Scrolls are the namesake of the series, but they often only have a few plot specific uses per game and often afterwards become useless. They don't appear at all in the first three games, and appear just once or twice in the most recent two, to do things like rewrite history, and to kick a god out of the stream of time.
Actually something overlooked in Arena. The Queen of Rihad offhandedly remarks that she used an Elder Scroll to locate the first major dungeon "Fang Lair" for you. Though this has since been retconned seeing what the scrolls have since become. Unless the Queen is a Moth Priest.
Artificial Atmospheric Actions: Present in Oblivion. Less so in Morrowind, but still there since the AI wasn't programmed to do many specific things. Many times the wandering AI will get stuck on something or try attacking you when their friend is in their way. Can also lead to a Funny Moment or two... or three.
It's worth mentioning that in Morrowind, people's greetings to you would change depending on their affection to you. This sometimes leads to people breaking character.
Potentially justified in the Shivering Isles, where everyone's insane.
"I saw a mud crab the other day." "Horrible creatures, I steer well clear of them." "Farewell." [Turns away from other NPC and walks face-first into a wall.]
"Kvatch is under attack!" [Runs back in the direction of Kvatch.]
Non-player characters will often walk into each other, walk into walls, or walk into objects you place on the ground. In the case of the latter, they never, ever consider jumping or going around the object.
There's something wrong when two people are staying entirely still in one place and one of them is repeatedly saying "I don't know you, and I don't care to know you!" over and over and over. If he doesn't want to know him, why does he keep bugging him about it instead of just walking away?
Apparently, 99.999% of Tamriel is above the law. Guards pre-Oblivion will regularly ignore anyone who is trying to kill you and only fight back about enemies who attack them. Oh, and apparently, sleeping in public is a bad thing... but only if you do it.
Hearing "Hmm... body's still warm. Looks like there's a killer about", from a guard, in reference to the bandit/marauder/etc. That he just killed himself.
If you were popular enough among the masses, the citizens will rise to defend you if the guard attacks you. If the guard accepts a yield, he has a chance to attack another guard to defend the citizens.
In Oblivion's woods, you'll occasionally encounter two Imperial Legion Foresters attempting to kill one another and failing miserably. Lord only knows how that got started...
That would be because Foresters are programmed to sometimes hunt deer. Shame that deer are friendly towards soldiers, so the other sees it as an assault...
Also from Oblivion, NPCs helping you fight an enemy will sometimes decide they need to follow said foe off a cliff to finish the job. Sometimes into lava.
Barrier Maiden: Several examples in the series. Unusually for the trope, they are all male.
Morrowind has the Tribunal who power the Ghostfence, a magical barrier that keeps Dagoth Ur and the Blight contained within Red Mountain. By the time of the game, due to being unable to replenish their divinity, only Vivec is powering the gate. Vivec is actually one twice, since his power also keeps the Ministry of Truth from crashing into Vvardenfell. In large part due to the player's actions during the game, Vivec disappears early in the 4th era, causing the Ministry to continue its descent with its original momentum uninterrupted. The impact causes Red Mountain to erupt, destroying most of Morrowind.
Martin in Oblivion is another. Like the other Emperors before him, he is the only person who can carry out the ritual that seals the barrier between the mortal world and Oblivion. At the end, Martin sacrifices himself, sealing the barrier forever.
Becoming the Mask: Both played straight and inverted thanks to the act of "mantling." Not only can one become like a historical figure or god, the reverse can also happen!
Binding Ancient Treaty: The Bosmer and their "Green Pact", which forbids the consumption of any kind of plant matter. Though Bosmer living outside of Valenwood appear to be exempt from it.
Bittersweet Ending: In Oblivion Mehrunes Dagon and the Mythic Dawn cult that worships him are both defeated for good, and the gates of Oblivion are sealed forever, preventing any kind of Daedra invasion of the mortal world from ever happening again. The main hero is rejoiced across Cyrodiil as its savior and everyone rejoices. However, the disappearance of Martin Septim, Uriel Septim's bastard son, leaves the Septim line without an heir to assume the throne. Though the Elder Council may be able to keep the Empire together, it is heavily implied that the Empire is far from out of the woods. The Empire falls, Morrowind especially being mostly destroyed by Vvardenfell's eruption and wars with Skyrim and Black Marsh.
Black and Gray Morality: Daggerfall is quite 'black-gray'. Daggerfall's king may have helped sell-out his own father to a power-hungry lord from Wayrest, Sentinel's king and queen killed their firstborn son (by burying him alive) because he A) was constantly ill, and B) preferred scholarly pursuits over swordcraft, and Wayrest... just Wayrest. Oh, yeah, there's a quest where you kill a kid to cure yourself of Lycanthropy.
Blind Seer: Blindness and prophecy are two of the side effects associated with reading the titular scrolls.
Blood Knight: Hircine. The entire plot of Bloodmoon turns out to be a plot for him to find a worthy foe.
Bloody Bowels of Hell: Molag Bal's Daedric Plane of Coldharbour. It's a ruined parody of Tamriel, with every surface covered in bloody excrement. He is the Prince of Violation, so...
Blue and Orange Morality: The Aedra, Daedra, and any mortal that ascends (Tiber Septim, the Tribunal, Mannimarco, et al).
It's revealed in Skyrim that the Falmer, losing ground to the Nords fast, pleaded with the Dwemer for help. The Dwemer proceeded to feed them a fungus which made them blind, engineer their biology so they depended on the fungus to survive, and then keep them around as a slave race. The slaves rebelled, fighting an endless underground war against the Dwemer until they disappeared, leaving the Falmer as blind cave-dwelling beasts.
The Caligula: Pelagius the Mad certainly lived up to his name. He had extreme weight fluctuations and tried to hang himself at the end of a royal ball, among other things. When it was determined that he was no longer fit to rule, he was institutionalized, and, shortly before he died, he declared that dying would be illegal.
Call a Smeerp a "Rabbit": An upper-tier material is called ebony, with no relation to the real-world wood. Instead, it is some manner of volcanic/metallic glass that can hold an incredibly sharp edge when shaped into a weapon, withstand heavy blows when used as armor, or is more valuable than gold when used as bullion. It's also hypothesized by lore students in the fan base to be the petrified blood of Lorkhan, since most of its deposits are around Red Mountain (which was the landing place of His heart).
Similarly, Skyrim features a solid metal called "quicksilver", and corundum ore is refined into metal ingots.
There's also glass from which both armour and weaponry can be made which don't shatter on impact with anything. This glass is kinda like ebony above as it can be mined and is nothing like the material which shares its name. This is made even more confusing in Hearthfire as actual glass is available to buy from merchants to make windows for your home. However, the mineral used to make glass armor and weapons, malachite, is quite real.
Card-Carrying Villain: Egregiously so in Oblivion. Morrowind was much more morally ambiguous, with even the local assassins' guild operating within legal framework and according to a strict honor code. There was also less of the trope in Skyrim — Alduin is an example, but the secondary conflict of the civil war is much, much more ambiguous.
The Daedra can look like this at times — their Blue and Orange Morality tends to focus on whatever their Sphere is... meaning Boethiah is a card-carrying betrayer, Mehrunes Dagon is a card-carrying destroyer, Molag Bal is a card-carrying enslaver/corruptor of mortals...
Actually zigzagged at first. In Arena and Daggerfall, the playable Khajiit were a subspecies known as Ohmes-Raht Khajiit, which were basically humans with a few vague feline features. From Morrowind onwards, the dominant Khajiit sub-species has been the Suthay-Raht, which are your standard Cat Folk.
Chaos Architecture: Geography and city layouts vary greatly between Arena and its sequels.
Characterization Marches On: In Arena Khajiit "are a fair-skinned people" who appear perfectly humanoid, and "legend has it" that they descend from cats. They would eventually become the series' Cat Folk, because that's really more interesting. Some hand-wavey over-complicated backstory about different types of Khajiit has since been made up to deal with the discrepancy. (See above.)
All of the races have had some of this seep in over the years. The Dark Elves and Orcs are particularly noteworthy in this regard:
Originally, the Orcs were simple "hurr durr smash hoomies" Warhammer-style orcs with nothing particularly noteworthy about them (they weren't even playable in Arena or Daggerfall). By the time of the beginning of the "modern trilogy" with Morrowind, however, their characterization has shifted massively - they became an elf subspecies of all things (in what is actually a very clever Shout-Out to the grandfather of modern fantasy), and rather than just being dumb, they'd been severely marginalized for ages - even their god reflected this. The Imperial Legion of Uriel VII's time, among other things, however, helped them to begin to properly integrate into the Empire better - thus making them playable.
The Dark Elves, meanwhile, were typical Drow wannabes in Arena; this makes sense given that Tamriel started life as a D&D setting. Their history and personalities began to get more complex starting with Daggerfall, however, and Morrowind is more or less dedicated to transforming them into a very alien culture unlike anything else in Tamriel. These days, a lot of people might see some of them as "evil", but it's really just that their view of the world really is that different. Read the mind-blowing insanity that is the Lessons of Vivec for a good example of this.
Charm Person: Several useful and valuable spells have this effect.
Chekhov's Volcano: Averted in that the Red Mountain from Morrowind never erupts, but instead simply keeps spewing ash, which in the world serves an entirely different purpose until the book. Probably explains why the people of Morrowind have probably never seen a Pastel in their life, or anything that wasn't smeared brown.
By the time Skyrim rolls around, the Red Mountain has erupted, destroying most of Vvardenfell in the process, which does make the entirety of Morrowind seem like a bit of a Shaggy Dog Story. Oh, and it's implied the eruption was indirectly caused by the player's actions in ''Tribunal''.
Or maybe Fridge Brilliance, since the prophecy was that the Nerevarine would drive the outlanders from Morrowind. And the Dunmer themselves are not native to Morrowind, but came from Summerset Isle originally.
It's also worth noting that while the Nerevarine may not have saved Morrowind in the long term, he/she did prevent a Physical God from taking over the rest of the world using a Humongous Mecha powered by the heart of the dead creator god. Bullet dodged there for the rest of Tamriel...
Chivalrous Pervert: "Oh, why I am just certain that Crassius Curio counts, dumpling, but it is sooooo nice to hear you say so yourself."
Circle of Standing Stones: Various types of magical stone formations dot the landscapes of Tamriel bestowing different blessings upon those who seek them out. Some, such as the Doom Stones in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, have specific requirements like only being usable at night or after a certain amount of renown is acquired.
Conspiracy Theorist: A side quest in Oblivion concerns a Bosmer named Glarthir who is convinced that several people in town are involved in a conspiracy against him, and wants the player to help him find proof.
This is apparently a VERY common trait with the Dukes and Duchesses of Dementia.
Contemptible Cover: The promo and cover art for Arena and Daggerfall had Rob Liefeld-esque female warriors dressed in outfits that consisted solely of a few black leather straps. The modern Elder Scrolls games from Morrowind onwards have been more sensible in that regard.
Continuity Snarl: A deliberate one, in that much of the background material is written from multiple points of view that often contradict one another in some way.
Corrupt Church: The Tribunal Temple, though not always. Despite its dubious origins, it did a fair amount of good in its early days for the Dunmer people. Once the Tribunal members began to withdraw from the day to day affairs of the church (to conserve their power after losing two of the tools of Kagrenac) and the mortal priests took over, things started to go downhill quickly...
Religion of Evil: Dagoth Ur's Sixth House, the Mythic Dawn. In Oblivion there is a town called Hackdirt where the villagers are insane cultists who worship underground beings called "The Deep Ones" (Speculated to have to have in actuality been Falmer or Sload, or most likely Daedra since their bible seems to use Daedric lettering); the entire concept of this village, and the quest associated with it and even the title "Deep ones" themselves are all inspired from H.P Lovecraft's Novel "The Shadow Over Innsmouth"
Cosmic Retcon: The Warp of the West, most famously. Due to all of the different possible endings in Daggerfall which depended on the player's choices, the developers decided that, due to divine interference, all of the possible endings happened at once, within the same timeline. Needless to say, the world became a bit messy after that.
Their tendency to mess with reality is the reason why Elder Scrolls are typically considered dangerous artefacts.
Crapsack World: Alas, what Tamriel has essentially become after the conclusion of the Oblivion storyline. Pretty much everyone has shared a miserable fate.
Not to mention the fact that people can't go half a mile anywhere without being attacked by wildlife, bandits, demons, undead, or monsters in general.
Also, while in the real world people would debate whether the devil is real or not, in Tamriel not only is this concept real, but there are 16 variations of them. Even if random people have no desire to make deals with them, many times they seek out certain people forcing them to do their evil bidding or have horrible things happen to them. Or they just curse random people for fun.
Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Maybe. It is possible the Khajiit have a subrace looking like common housecats. That are quite powerful spellcasters. However, the book that mentions this notes that the source of the claim is notorious for being unreliable with the truth (especially in that context — it is the Bosmer, and the Bosmer have fought more than a few wars against the the Khajiit over the years), and that he personally doesn't believe it.
Vampirism. It grants players with increased speed, health, damage, etc and the ability to suck blood from people but makes them take damage out in the sun, and so ugly that people (including quest givers) will not talk to you.
Morrowind and Oblivion seem to handle vampirism in different ways. While in Morrowind, you'll definitely get ostracized by virtually everybody (except the Telvanni, where you pretty much count as normal) no matter when you fed last, this is not the case in Oblivion. There, you'll just get ostracized if you haven't fed for a few days, else you usually pass for human... or at least mortal.
A book recounts an example of this, in the form of a story about a man who sought advice on how to handle vampires of different sorts; a mysteriously helpful source would educate him as to the special traits of vampires in different areas, and the man would then go destroy those vampire clans. He later gets eaten by his source, who reveals, in order, that some clans of vampires could pass for human, and then that he, himself, was one such vampire and hadn't fed in a long time. (To spice things up, one game later you actually meet said hunter turned Vampire and put him out of his misery)
The province of Morrowind has a very strong cultural bias against vampires, so no matter how human they look, they will still refuse to do anything with them.
Daggerfall has different vampires too. Canon justifies these discrepancies by having different types of vampires, depending on the location. There's even an in-game book on the subject, entitled Immortal Blood, and in which the plot involves surprising a vampire hunter who thought he knew enough.
Lycanthropy, once a night you turn into a several hundred pounds of flesh, fur, claws and teeth capable of killing even the most powerful creatures, but have to at least kill (devouring is optional depending on the game) a sentient humanoid every night or suffer crippling withdrawals when you return to normal. Skyrim also revealed that Werewolves, upon death, are kidnapped to Hircine's realm, even if they don't want to, for an eternity at Hircine's side as one of his pack hounds (which, if you're fine with all of the above, probably won't be an issue for you).
In addition to not receiving the well-rested bonus upon sleeping in your own bed.
Although the Companions in Skyrim appear to have a unique form of Lycanthropy, which allows them to remain in complete control whilst in beastform, don't need to feed on people and only suffer from being slightly Hot-Blooded whilst in human form. They're also completely immune to poison and disease. The only drawback is that sleep is rather fitful.
Daggerfall's werewolves were a massive double-edged sword. You got very very powerful stats. But you have to kill one person a month or else your stats will plummet to almost zero. So if your stats plummet while you're in a dungeon, you're screwed.
Damn You, Muscle Memory: Go from any installment to any other installment and you'll run into this problem, guaranteed.
Worst off is probably Skyrim (on the PC at least)—the Z key was the button used to pick up and move objects around in Oblivion, but was in this case remapped to trigger a shout—so there's a good chance you'll accidentally FUS RO DAH while trying to decorate your house, sending items flying every which way.
This was the same on the PS3 which used the R2 key to move items, also remapped to use shouts. Coupled with natural lag on the PS3 at higher levels, and the lag brought on from processing the bytes that make up the items flying around the room, this can be incredibly agonizing.
Dangerous Forbidden Technique: The Pankratosword technique, which is said to be why most (around 97+ %) of Yokuda (the place the Redguards used to live) sank. (To elaborate, through years of training and experience, Redguard swordsmen could become so skilled that they could cut the uncuttable with their blades.)
Darker and Edgier: Battlespire is possibly the darkest ES game, despite being only a spinoff. Unlike virtually every other game, you're utterly alone, trapped in a horrific Oblivion Realm filled with equally horrific monsters just waiting to tear you to pieces. Throughout the game, you are subjected to various nightmarish imagery, forced to fight against seemingly impossible odds as the Big Bad viciously taunts you the entire time.
Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Minor Daedra are fought and killed as regular enemies, especially in Battlespire and Oblivion. There are also several times when you get to fight and kill a physical incarnation of one of the Daedra Lords, i.e. Mehrunes Dagon in Oblivion, Hircine in the Bloodmoon expansion to Morrowind (but he is going easy on you), Jyggalag in the Shivering Isles expansion to Oblivion, and Molag Bal in Online.
Averted at the end of the main storyline in Oblivion when Mehrunes Dagon himself (not an avatar, the real bloody thing) appears in the Imperial City. You can fight him, but your attacks are so utterly ineffective that he doesn't even bother countering. Cue Crowning Moment Of Awesome from Martin.
Also averted with Sheogorath, who any attempt to attack leads to a rather spectacular and untimely death.
Averted again in Battlespire, where any attempt to attack Mehrunes Dagon results in instant death. Although you do banish him by striking him (once) with a sword, that's only the last of a chain of actions resulting in him getting banished (not killed).
Probably averted with Jyggalag, as you had the powers of Sheogorath by that point.
More or less played straight with Alduin in Skyrim, as he is truly supposed to be unkillable. Although by the time you fight him properly you have the heroes who banished him in the first place helping you out, so perhaps it makes sense.
Well, technically you don't actually kill him, his soul escapes to places unknown instead of getting absorbed by you, so even if you destroy his body, he is not truly dead.
Dropped a Bridge on Him: The fate of various characters/places from Morrowind during the Daedric invasion of Tamriel in Oblivion. Particularly annoying since it's only mentioned in a few throwaway lines from random characters.
Though granted, originally in Oblivion you were to meet St.Juib before Kvatch was destroyed. But that was cut.
Drugs Are Bad: Skooma and Greenmote. Inverted somewhat in that alcohol is worse and of negligible value, alchemic or otherwise, and the illegal drugs are very useful for alchemy.
In the one quest involving Felldew, it's much, much worse than alcohol. Finishing that quest renders you largely immune to it, though.
In Dawnguard, Redwater Skooma is even more dangerous than regular Skooma. It was used to knock people unconscious, have the Skooma dealers drag the people into the basement, then locked in cells to soon be turned into Vampire Thralls.
Early Installment Weirdness: The first couple games retained a lot of gameplay influence from D&D, but also notable is the appearance of Orcs as monsters instead of a playable race, and the appearance of Khajiit was decidedly humanlike instead of feline. The classic concept of Daedra also didn't appear until the second game, though the first did have (tough) enemies referred to as fire demons. The first two games also lacked the Imperial race, instead considering The Empire to be a melting pot of all races found elsewhere.
Eldritch Abomination: The Sixth House, and also some of the Daedra, Hermaeus Mora in particular. But especially Sithis, who is the primal Is Not according to the Dark Brotherhood.
Played horribly straight with the Dwemer and the Snow Elves The Dwemer offered the Snow Elves sanctuary from the Ancient Nords, only to enslave them and mutilate their bodes, slowly transforming them into the subterranean Falmer.
The Empire: Played With, frequently and mercilessly. The Third Tamrielic Empire is constantly trying to centralize authority in Cyrodiil and to force Cyrodiilic law and culture on the provinces, but in many cases the "traditional customs" they're wiping away were really just an excuse for the locals to be oppressive and xenophobic. The conflict is especially played up in Morrowind and Skyrim. Oblivion presents the Empire as unambiguously good, while Redguard presents it as evil (though not entirely unambiguously, given that the game ends with the main character brokering a treaty with better terms for Hammerfell's inclusion in the Empire). On the other hand, the Empire's main rival, the Aldmeri Dominion, plays the trope straight.
Empty Levels: In Oblivion, you can only level up three stats a level, so you'd better make sure you're getting a lot from them. That or just never go to sleep.
Escort Mission: A large number of them are in Morrowind. The escort usually runs about as fast as you walk, and can barely defend themselves. And the reward is usually chump change. And they all went to the Halfway Tavern in Pelagiad, the one city with no fast travel services.
Oblivion had two of these as part of its main quest. Fortunately the escort characters were unkillable.
Even Evil Has Standards: Although the Morag Tong in Morrowind is a guild of assassins, those assassins have very strict rules as to whom you can or cannot murder.
Most "evil" Guilds (such as the Thieves Guild and the Dark Brotherhood) have some sort of comradery or kinship that maintains you uphold a certain level of honor. The Big Bad of the Thieves Guild in Skyrim mocks this, as he sees no point to honor amongst thieves.
The Thieves Guild of Morrowind come out looking as good guys, thanks to being led by a somewhat Robin Hood-esque figure (with his own subset of 'steal this and give to this needy person' quests) and fighting against the native Camonna Tong (who are xenophobic racists as well as more murder-happy).
In Skyrim it's revealed the Dark Brotherhood used to have standards but has degraded in that regard. The only rule they have now is if you kill a fellow guild member, you pay a 500 gold piece fine. They had even gotten in the habit of taking any jobs given to them as opposed to waiting for the Night Mother (since no one could hear her.)
Everybody Hates Hades: Depends on the culture. Arkay is the Cycle of Life and Death; he is one of the Divines, and rather popular in other cultures. However, the Nords vilify him as Orkey, or "Old Knocker."
Mannimarco and his Order of the Black Worm are pretty much the Evil Counterpart for Necromancers in general. No wonder Necromancy's been banned with psychos like them around...
As well as to the Mages' Guild in general.
Also, the Aldmeri Dominion to the Cyrodillic Empire, by the time Skyrim starts.
EvilProtagonist All Along: The in-universe book Immortal Blood. The master vampire hunter Morvarth Piquine consults the narrator for his considerable knowledge of vampire cults, never realizing that his knowledge is so great because the narrator is himself a vampire. At the very end, he reveals his nature to Movarth. In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, you learn that Morvarth became a vampire himself.
Face-Heel Turn: Supplemental material reveals that Black Marsh and Elsweyr, the homelands of Argonians and Khajiit, respectively, betrayed the Empire shortly after the events of Oblivion and are now openly at war with every other race.
Elsweyr is politically chaotic at its core (and actually fares better for it). Black Marsh's inhabitants, on the other hand, are deservedly distrustful to other races (and why not, after being enslaved). Technically, both Elsweyr and Black Marsh only seceded (the latter focusing on attacking the Dunmer), leaving the Empire open to a conflict with the Aldmeri Dominion made up by Bosmers and Altmers.
According to the Novels and Skyrim lore, the Argonians got much stronger by the will and leadership of their deities/creators, the Hist, to resist the Oblivion Crisis. They actually managed to drive back Mehrunes Dagon's armies back to Oblivion and close the portals. After Red Mountain's eruption the Aldmeri Dominion influenced the Argonians to attack Morrowind and get revenge over centuries of slavery and to free the remaining illegal slaves there. Their profit was the further weakening of the Empire by losing two more provinces (Elseweyr was lost some time before this) in preparation for their invasion of Cyrodiil and Hammerfell.
The Imperials have a first name and a last name which both sound Latin, given their Romanesque culture. The latest installment, Skyrim, changes some Latin last names to Italian ones, reflecting the evolution of language.
The Nords have a Norse or Germanic sounding first name and a clan name, or sometimes a first name and a nickname (you can tell the difference by the presence or absence of the "the" article; if there is one, it's a nickname, for example "Sild the Warlock". If there's no "the", it's a clan name, for example "Lars Battle-Born".
The Bretons have a French-sounding name and last name (in the main Breton culture) or a single Celtic name (for the Reachmen). English-sounding name sometimes appears in books and references to pre-existing characters, due to the shift to French-sounding names not happening until Morrowind.
The High Elves and the Wood Elves have single "elvish" names, sounding vaguely like Tolkien's Quenya and Sindarin respectively. For example "Manwe" or "Glarthir".
The Dark Elves have a first name and a last name with a characteristic "Dunmerish" sound (for example, Falanu Hlaalu, Nels Llendo, Hlireni Indavel). The Dunmer nobility also uses the name of their Houses as prefix to their names (for example, Redoran Hlaren Ramoran). The Telvanni Masters use one name only (Mistress Dratha, Master Neloth).
The nomadic Ashlanders, a 'primitive' culture of the Dunmer hinterlands, tended toward lengthier names with a Babylonian feel, such as Ashibael and Ahemmusa.
The Khajiit have single names with prefixes and a Punctuation Shaker, for example Ra'Virr, Dro'Zel. Sometimes no prefixes.
Fantastic Racism: Practically all of the major races of Tamriel hate (or are hated by) at least one other race, usually one from a neighbouring province. During the first four games, however, they were all ruled by one big, liberal empire, which kept the worst of it at bay. The Argonians and Khajiit were among the worst victims, being enslaved by the Dunmer even though slavery in the Empire is illegal outside of Morrowind. The Empire's ongoing collapse as of Skyrim has brought it all to the fore. Now, it's the exiled Dunmer getting the short end of the stick, suffering discrimination and abuse from nationalist Nords who blame all elves for the tyranny of the Thalmor.
An oversight in the first game, many NPC's are programmed to insult your PC's race. Whether or not they share the same race.
Fantastic Rank System: There's a set of ranks for each faction. The ranks for Imperial Legion and House Redoran in Morrowind are explicitly military, and they are nothing like real-world ranks, medieval or not. The Redoran ranks are, in fact, Dunmer titles of nobility, and they are also fantastic.
Cyrodiil, in the first Pocket Guide to the Empire and Morrowind was a mix of Rome, Japan, and possibly China, with a bit of Venice (or Tenochtitlan) added to the Imperial City. In Oblivion, they turned into a Medieval European Fantasy with only a trace amount of Latin influence remaining. In Skyrim, they are a mix of Italy (many of them having Italian names) and the Roman Empire.
The Nords have much Norse influence, along with a vaguely Scottish axis of politics, and some Saxon organization of nobility. Their ancient culture also has a lot of ancient Egyptian influence, with sarcophagus and mummies.
Norse culture in particular seems to be a primary source of inspiration for much of the series' mythology. Parallels can be drawn between the dragon Alduin in Skyrim and the snake Jörmungandr in Norse mythology, both of whom act as heralds for the prophesied destruction of the world. Likewise, both Talos and Thor are similar in that they are both god-protectors of mankind, and are represented by a hammer-like symbol.
High Rock, depending on the region, either has feudal French or English influence. In Skyrim, a tribal Celtic angle has been introduced in the form of the Forsworn, whose cultural origins predate the current Breton norms.
Morrowind is Mesopotamia with a hodgepodge of other influences sprinkled in, with the Ashlanders having some Mongolian influence. Their ancient culture shares some similarities with the biblical Israelites/Hebrews as well, with the prophet Veloth in the role of Moses and the messianic Nerevarine Prophecy.
The Blades are an interesting cross between Japanese samurai and medieval knights. On the Japanese side, they use katanas, and Cloud Ruler Temple has some very Japanese architecture. However, their language and organization has much more in common with European knights. Their armor is a hodgepodge of Roman Lorica Segmentata and Japanese-style Lamellar, with a Greek Illyrian helm that as a back frill akin to a Japanese samurai's kabuto.
Interestingly enough, by the time of Skyrim, Orcs seem to have become Fantasy Counterpart Native Americans. A once tribal people, who had their land stolen from them under threats of violence, and now live on compounds remarkably similar to reservations. The parallels aren't hard to see.
Gunpowder and cannons exists canonically (or is it cannonically?) but have only been used in-game once, by the East Empire Company against a band of pirates in Skyrim.
It's a setting where simple magic is far cheaper, and battlemages regularly adopt the role of heavy artillery. Even someone not-so-skilled in magic can learn to spittle out at least tiny fireballs with enough practice. Sure, there are some who are hopeless and could benefit from using a firearm, but even those people can just swing a Staff of Firebolt or something.
Fantasy Kitchen Sink: Even though the different races of Nirn may have different religions and forms of worship to varying Gods or representations of similar Gods, it's possible to experience the divine influence of all their religions, suggesting the coexistence of these Gods and divine constructs.
Fictional Document: Hundreds of them, most all of which the player can read in-game. All of them are also written by authors of varying (non-zero) bias and knowledge levels.
Final Death: Apparently, Tamriel has every form of magic except resurrection.
The gods do seem to reserve the right to reincarnate anyone at any time though.
And death is meaningless to ruling kings; their death is merely a map back to the waking world.
Actually a wizard "DID" almost perfect resurrection. In the Dragonborn Expansion for Skyrim the wizard managed to bring Falx Carius back to life, but it was half-success. He was brought fully back as a living breathing average looking person, but the process drove him into complete insanity.
In OnlinePrince Adrien of Evermore is resurrected by a Harvester. However, he suffers a distinct change in personality, but it is unclear whether it is due to the nature of the magic, or because he believes Arkay resurrected him to lead an army of undead.
Flavor Text: Each games offers a lot of it, and in many forms.
Foreshadowing: In Morrowind, the first thing you hear, even before the main menu appears, is the deep rumble of a beating heart. The rhythm continues throughout the whole piece, and, as the music plays during regular gameplay, permeates the entire island of Vvardenfell.
Freeware Games: Arena and Daggerfall have been released as freeware on the Bethesda website - despite being glitchy and having the devs deny it would ever be re-released. They're still unplayable on modern systems without DOSBox (which is included in most of the file bundles), however.
What the devs said, is now subverted. Arena and Daggerfall are getting a retail release on September 10th in a bundle with the other three games for PC only.
Freeze-Frame Bonus: While the camera pans over the library in the Redguard intro (and more clearly in the E3 trailer), one can pause on a set of five books with the following titles: The Elder Scrolls Arena, The Elder Scrolls Daggerfall, The Elder Scrolls Morrowind (which was in pre-production), The Elder Scrolls Oblivion, and The Elder Scrolls Romanelli (this is simply a meaningless placeholder name since Bethesda hadn't settled on "Skyrim" yet). The amazing thing is that Bethesda had already decided on "Oblivion" for a title as far back as 1998 (The Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion being released eight years later) and the developers had also decided on making a fifth game in the future.
From Bad to Worse: Oblivion leaves the Empire without an heir and the entire future uncertain. Between the events of Oblivion and Skyrim, the province of Morrowind is destroyed and conquered by the Argonians, the Empire collapses and a reborn unified nation of the Altmer and Bosmer ascends in opposition to what remains, a large amount of Black Marsh is ravaged by Umbriel and its undead army, the nascent nation of Orsinium is sacked by the Bretons and Redguards (AGAIN). And most of this is in the first FORTY YEARS. There's another HUNDRED AND SIXTY until Skyrim takes place. A couple of decades before Skyrim takes place, the Empire is slammed by the Great War with the Aldmeri Dominion, which ends with Hammerfell forced to secede from the Empire and the worship of Talos being banned, which leads directly to the civil war in Skyrim which threatens to shatter the entire Empire. And then in Skyrim you can weaken the Empire further (by siding with the Stormcloaks in the civil war) and/or by assassinating the current Emperor.
Fungus Humongous: Vvardenfell and the Shivering Isles are covered in giant mushrooms. The Telvanni wizards live in giant mushrooms and other plants.
In Skyrim, there is a gigantic underground dwarven city named Blackreach that is lit up partially by giant, glowing mushooms.
Game Mod: Literally thousands of them are available on the internet.
Morrowind in particular has an extremely active modding community, which has improved on every facet of the game and quintupled the content of an average copy. Up to and including fixes to the Game Engine itself.
Oblivion has an even larger one; there are no less than four overhaul mods for the game, and there are well over 15000 mods on the net. To expand this to even further ridiculous levels, there is a mod that actually combines the above four overhauls into one single mega-overhaul mod. Yes, Oblivion has mods for mods.
Daggerfall had some surprisingly large mods back in the day, and you can still find some of them floating around on some of the older Elder Scrolls sites.
Bethesda even teamed up with Valve to create a mod distribution system on Steam for Skyrim mods.
Gameplay and Story Segregation: Some of the in-game books describe situations that contradict how things work in the game. In some cases the books are "in-world" fictional, so this may simply be a case of simulated research failure. In other cases the books did present situations that worked as they would in-game... for the game when it was first written, even as relevant game-mechanics were changed for the sequels. The size of the game worlds is also toned down to make the games reasonable sized, considering the Imperial Isle in Cyrodiil which houses the Imperial City is supposed to be around the size of Britain.
Gender Bender: A couple of Daedra Lords seem to have trouble having only one gender, and some switch between games and in-game lore.
Physical God Vivec claims to be both a male and a female. Once he even said he had kids with a rapist god (the tale of this includes a part where they compare the size of their "spears".) The Dissident Priests in Morrowind explain that Vivec just made most of that stuff up in order to appear more divine than "Some guy who stole his Godhood while betraying his friend". There are even some holes in his story, such as the aforementioned "Having kids with Molag Bal" as Daedra can't create life. However, you can be sent on a quest by Molag Bal himself to banish a daughter of his back to his realm.
Also, the Argonians. They're sequential hermaphrodites, meaning they can switch genders (Supposedly. The evidence is very loose and small). The time spent as either male or female is called a "life-phase".
Gentleman Thief: Your character can be this if you're a thief with high personality points. Even further in Daggerfall in which you can give your thief character the "Etiquette" skill.
Getting Crap Past the Radar: The first two games in the series, Arena and Daggerfall, had no censorship issue at all. Daggerfall had a surprisingly high amount of soft nudity in the game, even by 1996-97 standards, and even had a biography with an extremely graphic sex scene. (The "star" of said scene has a quest for you to steal the manuscript from this particular book of the series to prevent it from being published. You will not find it anywhere else. In Morrowind, the book can be found but with the scene removed and a comment explaining it was edited at the behest of the Temple.) One of the (optional) Wayrest plotlines has you blackmail a prominent local lord with a letter showing that he's VERY CLOSE to his sister. Who's married. However, with computer games becoming more scrutinized, the supposedly libertine Dunmer, according to Daggerfall books, became very prudish in Morrowind. But censorship doesn't get everything.
Metaphysical mumbo-jumbo is boring, right? Nobody will ever read the obscure and confusing Lessons of Vivec. Sermon 14 of the series describe an orgy that happened when Vivec decided to teach "the ways of belly-magic" to the "King of Rape". There was much "biting of spears" and "piercing of the second aperture".
One alchemist in Oblivion asks you about the punishment for necrophilia in Cyrodiil. "No reason, just curious." She'll be very happy if you tell her it's just a fine, even for repeated offenses. (Note that the alchemist was a Dunmer from Vvardenfell, where religious law gives any tampering with the remains of the deceased an extremely harsh sentence.)
Those who are able to read the eponymous Elder Scrolls the way they were meant to be read, but lack the special mental training to keep things under control or who lack some special trait like being the Dovahkiin and thus having a soul outside time, will go quite mad. Another effect is being struck blind; training just decides when and how long it persists (and it can be permanent). It's said that even people who study the nature of the Scrolls, not the Scrolls themselves, go insane with almost monotonous regularity.
The Moth Priests, who do have both the reading skills and mental control, are still a little bit off. Every one of them loses their sight with time.
Gravity Barrier: Attempted in Oblivion, but imperfect because of all the glitches that game had. There was a back-up Invisible Wall behind the barrier.
Gray and Gray Morality: Every game has various factions struggling against each other, but there is almost never a "right" side in any conflict. You can usually choose a side or remain neutral.
Half-Human Hybrid: Averted. Almost all the major races descend from one ancient race from the Dawn era, so they're largely compatible with each other genetically. In fact, one race of Men, the Bretons, are descended from a host of human/elf mongrels born to Elven lords and human concubines, and eventually outpopulated the purebreds in the region. In most cases, it's the race of the mother that determines what the child will be.
Hammerspace: The Bound Item spells basically consist on pulling an Infinity+1 Sword (or axe or mace or bow or dagger or suit of armour) from Hammerspace.
The only real limit on what you can carry is your Strength attribute. The PC can also carry multiple heavy weapons, suits of armour, literally enough food to feed an army, a library's worth of books and magic scrolls, millions of (effectively weightless) separate coins, hundreds of arrows, bolts, throwing knives and ammunition, dozens and dozens of sets of clothing, hundreds of potions, and many, many more items.
And in Skyrim, that's just the limit for *running*; if you don't mind being forced to walk or ride everywhere, your carry capacity is effectively limitless.
Handicapped Badass: The Moth Priests, who are blind from reading the Elder Scrolls but are all the more powerful for it.
Arena: You rescued the king and defeated Jagar Tharn? Too bad, that short coup caused the empire you were trying to save to fragment!
Daggerfall: You chose a faction and gave them the MacGuffin, leading them to take control of Illiac Bay? Nope, you gave it to every faction, leading to time itself breaking and ruining everything.
Morrowind: You defeated the Big Bad and saved the Vardenfell! Oh, wait, remember that big meteor floating over city-Vivec with the odd lore around it? When Vivec's power failed, it fell so hard Vardenfell's volcano erupted, destroying everything and wrecking Dunmer civilization.
Oblivion: You defeated the Big Bad and saved the world! Oops, the disruption caused by his attacks allowed the Thalimor to rise to power and take credit for beating him.
We haven't seen the after-effects to Skyrim yet (since it's the latest game), but just wait...
The Sixth House and the Camonna Tong in Morrowind. The latter is disputable, since you can (kinda) work for them during the Fighters Guild questline, but the former is indisputable and it's glaringly obvious that despite Dagoth Ur's constant invitations to join his cause, there's no real way to do it.
Healing Shiv: The Dagger of Friendship and Truncheon of Submission.
Hegemonic Empire: Tamriel, while initially forged with the iron fists of Imperial Legions, is held together only through massive schemes of the last Emperor. It finally falls apart prior to the fifth game.
Heroes Fight Barehanded: In the series you can make a hero who fights barehanded. Though Skyrim makes it much harder, as there are very few and limited options to get better at it.
Hide Your Children: Every installment except for Daggerfall and Skyrim. Daggerfall once provided the example image for the trope, but it's now on the Image Links page instead.
The High Queen: Azura and Almalexia, both heavily deconstructed. Even before those two, it was heavily subverted and deconstructed in Barenziah's unofficial biography.
Hit-and-Run Tactics: On the highest difficulty, this is possibly your best bet in Oblivion. Screw the heavy armour and sword, normal clothes, a bow and high speed and athletics stat are your best bet for survival. Oh, and spells, for the mages out there. Of course, you then have to worry about archers and spell casters, but its better than certain death at the hands of overpowering melee opponents. Indeed, the game so heavily favours the patient, stealthy approach that a good sneak/archer can make it through 90% of the game without ever experiencing melée (or even risking melée).
Humans Are Average: Averted, the three human races all are noticeably tilted to physical or magical abilities. Jack of All Stats are the Dunmer. Imperials come closest to it, though. While their primary slant is social skills/swordsmanship, they don't have any particularly deficient attributes and can be perfectly functional in a nice variety of builds.
Immortal Procreation Clause: It's never made clear exactly how long Elves live, but they evidently live much longer than humans do. Thus, elven races have a much lower birth rate, and the fertility of both males and females is greatly reduced, and children are very scarce. Interracial couples are more likely to produce offspring, though - i.e an elven man would have a considerably higher chance of impregnating a human woman, and an elven woman would be much more likely to become pregnant from a human man, rather than a man of her own race.
Immortality Seeker: Something that characterizes Elven (especially High Elven) ways of thinking, since TES elves actually are not immortal. According to their version of the origin myth, the creation of the plane of Mundus was a cruel trick and deception on the part of evil gods (which are, in most human tellings of the stories, hero-gods and champions of Men), which severed the Elves from immortal, spiritual life. Thus the elves (again, especially the High Elves) try to regain their lost immortality.
Then there's Trueflame and Hopesfire in Tribunal. They're fast, light, durable, capable of immense amounts of damage with minimal effort on your part, and they're on fire.
Instant Armor: The 'Bound Armor' spells allows you to summon a full suit of Daedric Armor, to quickly de-squishify your Squishy Wizard.
Particularly noticeable in Oblivion, where the Daedric Cult you spend most of the main quest-line fighting, makes heavy use of Bound-spells - usually appearing as fully-armored monsters, and then disintegrating into cloaked corpses when you take them down.
It's Probably Nothing: For something hyped so much, the AI in Oblivion is pretty stupid, dismissing arrows stuck in them as the wind.
This remains in Skyrim.
Info Dump: Morrowind has serious problems with this.
Katanas in Morrowind are only surpassed by claymores; the high-ranking Orcish armour also looks very Japanese. Goldbrand can be further upgraded to Eltonbrand, a definite Infinity +1 Katana of near Game Breaker quality.
Mostly subverted in Oblivion, though. Orcish armour now looks like stuff out of a gladiator movie, and Akaviri Katanas and Dai-Katanas are excellent starting weapons but nowhere near the cream of the crop. That said, one of the best obtainable weapons, Goldbrand, is an enchanted katana won from a Daedra Lord's quest. It's not quite an Infinity+1 Sword, but it's close.
Last of His Kind: There is one Dwemer to be found in Morrowind, but he's been horribly mutated by corprus disease and has had his lower body replaced by a mechanical spider-like contraption.
An Argonian in Skyrim's Dark Brotherhood is the last of the Shadowscales, Argonians born under the sign of The Shadow who are sent to the Dark Brotherhood.
Dawnguard's main quest ultimately leads you to the last true Snow Elf, who avoided his race's gradual transformation into the Falmer.
Level Grinding: Often, skills outside of the standard combat abilities require major level grinding or obscene amounts of gold in order to increase.
Taken to a new extreme in Skyrim, where one can make a couple thousand "hide" items to increase their Smithing skill to 100 easily.
The Law of Conservation of Detail: The five major games are a shining example of this trope. Arena has a ludicrously humongous world the size of Europe, but most of the villages that are not major or plot-significant are automatically generated. Daggerfall later limted the world to only part of two provinces, Hammerfell and High Rock, but made the world way more detailed and less repetitive, Morrowind then scaled further down to part of the eponymous province while making every single village significant and adding all sorts of detailed features to the terrain. Oblivion, while slightly bigger by raw space than Morrowind, is less detailed, as everything not related to geography is randomly generated outside of towns. Skyrim is about the same size as Oblivion, but the level of detail is noticeably higher — the majority of locations, even random, out-of-the-way dungeons, will probably have some unique features or a quest.
Legendary Weapon: The Daedric Artifacts (at least those that are weapons) are the most legendary weapons. Each is associated with a particular Daedric (daemonic, more or less) deity and passes from owner to owner according to the wishes of those deities. Famous ones include the hammer Volendrung, the dagger Mehrunes' Razor, the Mace of Molag Bal, the sword Dawnbreaker and the staff Wabbajack.
Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards: Making a class's specialization "Combat" (and Stealth in Morrowind) wastes a good number of skills (as there is no point in multiple weapon types, making the bonus wasted), while "magic" specialization has none of the skills contradict.
Living At The Speed Of Plot: Elder Scrolls elves live as long as the writers need them to—they've never officially clarified elven lifespans, and it's impossible to piece together a consistent picture of elven lifespans from the lore.
Lizard Folk: The Argonians. Arena also had lizard men deemed too brutish to be related to the Argonians, but they have not appeared in later games.
Design-wise, Argonians have gotten less "Lizard" and more "Dinosaur" with every game. Morrowind featured them with similar features to iguanas and frilled lizards, whereas Skyrim's Argonians have a distinctly velociraptor-like look about them, with forward-facing eyes and even feathers.
Oblivion's sense of urgency for the main quest makes a stark contrast with the still sidequest focused gameplay.
Skyrim integrated the sidequests with the main quest; the "Civil War" questline was a fully fledged B-plot which tied into the main one (with some parts of each changing based on progress in the other).
Lockpicking Minigame: In the post-Morrowind installments, lockpicking is framed as a minigame. All locks can be opened if you find a matching key (some locks can only be opened this way), but otherwise, you must use lockpicks to try and pick them. Lockpicks are cheap and break easily on a failed attempt (except at highest Skill Score levels or when using the unique Daedric artifact called "Skeleton Key").
The companies making those competing games also ended up going out of business (3DO) or dissolved by parent companies (Origin Systems). Meanwhile Bethesda ended up growing into a larger company (ZeniMax Media) and maintained their independence.
Magic Knight: Most games include a few player classes that mix both martial and magical skill specializations. The best example is probably the Battlemage, a heavily-armored warrior equally comfortable with spells and blades.
Magical Society: The Mage's Guild, which players can join. Skyrim also has the College of Winterhold.
Master of None: Medium Armor in Morrowind is the worst armor type, having few obtainable sets and nothing comparable to the best options for light and heavy.
At least partially fixed in Tribunal, with the addition of Adamantium armor. But the sheer difficulty in obtaining a full set - you are forced to scrounge in dungeons for various 'veins' of ore surrounded by high-level monsters and then are forced to pay out the nose for each individual piece to even be made - means that its still not as easy to obtain as, say, Glass armor, the best light armor set. Or you could commit, you know, murder.
Medieval Stasis: Technological progress seems to be completely nonexistent in that universe. The games span centuries of history, and none include an engineer, inventor or scholar that is not a mage or an alchemist. And unlike some other fantasy settings, that universe has known significant periods of peace, prosperity and development, and has its share of daring merchants, crafty blacksmiths, visionary scholars, and other people that usually make progress happen just by existing and meeting. And the whole thing is especially weird considering the abundance of partly functional Lost Technology (Dwemer, Ayleid, etc.) everywhere you go; there is no explication why at least part of it could not be studied and eventually replicated. (You can meet a few people studying it — mostly mages — but they never come up with anything really interesting, except of course the occasional Pointless Doomsday Device.)
Then again, considering what happened to the Dwemer (whatever that was), the well-educated might be right to fear Cosmic Ret Con after crossing some invisible but unforgivable threshold.
Also, what if the Dwemer never seeked Godhood? What if they simply continued studying and inventing? Perhaps Tamriel would eventually have become a technological age.
Misplaced Vegetation: Evidently Tamriel's a hybrid of Europe and America, because they not only have cacti, but nightshades growing amongst the edible ones like potatoes and tomatoes, and corn amongst other things. See All Deserts Have Cacti.
The Mole: The leader of the Fighters Guild to the Camonna Tong in Morrowind.
Multiple Endings: Daggerfall had seven possible endings depending on your actions in the game; Morrowind takes at least five of them as canon through a Cosmic Retcon known as a "Dragon Break." The entire region Daggerfall takes place in experienced the "Warp in the West" and in the course of three days, 44 citystates become four, someone became a lich, a god and a man at the same time causing all three to exist, orcs joined the Empire, the Underking was laid to rest, and the Hero (you) died.
Murder, Inc.: A considerable number of organizations qualify, including the Morag Tong (a government-sanctioned assassin's guild in Morrowind Province) and the Dark Brotherhood (a fully criminal offshoot of the former).
Non-Combat EXP: The series uses a levelling system which gives the player experience for doing a given task (so you level up in sneak if you sneak, destruction magic for killing things with magic and so on) and awards levels (with respective stat increases, as well as perks in Skyrim) every 10 ranks (so you could become quite high level by doing nothing but sneaking, smithing and learning to talk really well).
Noodle Incident: The Republic of Hahd was this for the Summerset Isles and the Septim Empire.
Numerical Hard: Changing the difficulty slider in Oblivion only changes your damage multiplier against your enemies and your enemies' damage multiplier against you. This allows for an engine exploit on 100% difficulty, as even though you do only one-sixth base damage to your enemies and they do six times base damage to you, allies and summoned creatures do not suffer from this.
Obvious Beta: Daggerfall; even though several games were shipped with design flaws or glitches, Daggerfall was the worst. How bad? You could at least complete the main quest in the other games without a bug making the game unwinnable.
Daggerfall was also the game where one of the patches included an official tool entitled FIXSAVE.EXE which as its name implies was meant to repair errors in savegame files. Because they were too common to tell all affected players to restart the game. They also ended up publicizing some cheats, such as a dungeon teleportation spell, because the glitchy collision system in the engine tended to let people slip between the world geometry and into the void where they'd fall forever otherwise.
Odd Job Gods: Among the many ones in the pantheons you can find Stuhn (God of Ransom) and Malacath (Patron of the Spurned and Ostracised) and Peryite (The Daedric Taskmaster, who essentially makes sure everything that doesn't have a place in Oblivion is taken care of).
Malacath also happens to be the patron deity of the orcs, historically one of the most oppressed peoples in Tamriel. Additionally, as Trinimac, he was a major player in the creation of the Mundus, severing the Heart of Lorkhan. This is All In The Manual, of course.
Older Is Better: Ancient Elven and Dwemer gear is better than modern gear. Dwemer were known to tinker with the laws of reality in order to make their creations last a really, really long time.
Omnicidal Maniac: Mannimarco, Dagoth Ur, Mehrunes Dagon... let's just say it has its fair share and leave it at that.
Once an Episode: Every game except Daggerfall begins with the PC as a prisoner, and Daggerfall still has a starter dungeon.
Orwellian Editor: The name and address of the RPG Codex, one of the bigger sources of criticism of Oblivion, cannot be posted on the official forums, as the auto censor treats it as a swear word.
Otherworldly And Sexually Ambiguous: While all of the Daedra princes (a loose analog of Demon Lords And Archdevils, only with Blue And Orange Morality) lack a default sex, most do appear as one specific sex. Except for Boethiah and Mephala, who have both been described as being hermaphrodites.
Our Elves Are Different: First off, they refer to themselves collectively as Mer. More specifically, our Wood Elves (Bosmer) are cannibals, our Dark Elves (Dunmer) aren't particularly evil, our High Elves (Altmer) are snobbish jerks at best and genocidal Nazis at worst, our Orcs (Orsimer) are a sub-breed of Elves and aren't wholly evil, our Snow Elves (Falmer) used to be really advanced but were driven to barbarism, and see Our Dwarves Are Different below.
Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Subverted rather ingeniously. TES Dwarves (Dwemer, a race of Elves) actually are very dwarfy - they're reclusive, they live in underground strongholds carved into the mountains, they're superb metalsmiths and engineers, they don't get along with the (other) mer, and they have big, long beards. Bethsoft managed to keep the archetype almost completely intact, yet the way in which a simple change of the visual portrayal makes it new and unique and exciting again is quite remarkable.
And they're also as extinct as the dinosaurs. Despite being so much more technologically advanced than everyone else in the world, for some mysterious unexplained reason they all died out, and all the Dwemer are officially dead and gone by the time the Elder Scrolls games take place.
Their size is also ingeniously subverted. According to historical evidence, they were no smaller than the average Mer. The reason for their "Dwarf" name was due to giants interacting with them and viewing them as short. This eventually made it into common knowledge of all of Tamriel.
More specifically, Vampire characteristics vary between region to region. To list a few, vampires in Skyrim have dens under frozen lakes, and attack their victims from under the ice (without breaking it), vampires in Black Marsh capture victims alive and keep them in a magicka-induced coma, and vampires in Valenwood, depending on the tribe, disintegrate into mist, eat people whole, prey on children, take their place and then kill the whole family, or are indistinguishable from normal people unless seen in candlelight.
Our Werebeasts Are Different: Features a variety of therianthropic creatures, including werewolves, wereboars, werebears, werecrocodiles, werelions, werevultures and even weresharks; though only the first three have ever made an appearance in the games (the others are only mentioned in game lore), and werewolves are the only type of lycanthrope the player can ever become.
Our Werewolves Are Different: In Daggerfall, werewolves transform once a month. In Morrowind (or rather Bloodmoon), they transform every night. Both varieties have to feed (i.e. kill a sentient NPC) at least once per transformation or gradually lose health. In Skyrim, werewolves may transform once a day, and stay transformed as long as they eat NPCs. This comes at the cost of magic, healing, and the inventory system in general, while in wolf form.
The Overworld: The series boast some of the largest Overworlds in gaming
In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, the Vvardenfell island is a single continuous explorable location, dotted with countless entrances to smaller dungeon and indoors levels.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is similar to Morrowind, except that entire cities are also rendered as smaller sub-levels accessible from the overworld.
Passion Is Evil: You have deities called the Aedra and Daedra. The Aedra represent aspects such as Time, Life, Beauty, Commerce and Air—all natural things which have little to do with emotions. The Daedra, however, represent things like Deceit, Desires, Knowledge, Competition, The Spurned, Ambition, Manipulation, Madness, Domination, etc—or things sparked or perpetuated by emotions.
Paying In Coins: In The Elder Scrolls series, this seems to crop up when you buy more expensive items (such as houses in Oblivion and Skyrim). Since there is no higher integer to the currency than the septim [gold coin], you would be dumping at least 5000 coins in the lap of the local steward just to get a foot on the property ladder.
Petting Zoo People: Argonians and Khajiit, Lizard Folk and Cat Folk respectively. There's also a few other "animal" races in the lore, such as the ape people/Imga, monkey people/Tang Mo, slugmen/Sloads, and the extinct fox people/Lilmothiit, but only the Argonians and Khajiit have appeared in the main series, and the only one of the others to appear in any game are the Sloads (one can be found in Redguard, as a villain).
Physical God: ALMSIVI, and Dagoth Ur as well. The Daedric Lords to a certain extent. Also, the player at the end of Shivering Isle.
Powered by a Forsaken Child: Depending on how empathic you are, normal Soul Gems can qualify for this seeing as how they use a monster's soul to power magical items. Black Soul Gems certainly fit the trope, being that they use the souls of mortal races to power magical items. Mortal souls count as Grand Souls, which can make the most powerful enchantments.
Powers That Be: The Daedra & The Nine Divines, Sithis may qualify too.
It was alluded too in Skyrim by Boethiah, a Daedra, that this may not be the case.
Pragmatic Villainy: With only a few exceptions, the Thieves Guild doesn't allow killing... It's bad for business.
Proud Warrior Race: The Orcs/Orsimer, as well as the Redguards, although to a slightly lesser extent. Redguards usually dislike magic, with a Redguard Mage in Oblivion claiming that its common belief that "If you use magic, you're either Weak, or Wicked" in Hammerfell... There is an exception for Destruction magic though, they're a warrior culture who happens to think that more damage is a GOOD thing regardless of the source.
The Nords may also count, if not for the fact that they're less Proud Warrior Race and more Drunken Warrior Race.
Precursors: The Ehlnofey for every race except the Argonians, which are descended from ancient sentient trees called Hist.
In addition to those, we have the Aldmer (the First Elves) of Aldmeris, who are the ancestors of all the modern Elvish races (particularly the Altmer), and the Nedes of Atmora, who are the ancestor race of the humans except the Redguard (who come from Yokuda).
Randomly Generated Loot: Subverted. Equipment appears to follow the "X weapon of Y" naming format note [craftsmanship] weapon of [adjective corresponding to a power level]ous [enchantment effect]]ing, to be exact., however it only Randomly Drops and has its enchantment scaled to the player's level.
Morrowind averts it with loot outside of containers, which is hand placed and never changes. Savvy veteran players can find extremely high level loot well before it will start being randomly generated in containers this way.
The Rashomon: The entire creation mythology in the Elder Scrolls universe is significantly different between cultures, but all follow a very similar pattern. In Morrowind, the Tribunal Temple's gospels differ from the Ashlanders' apocrypha, which both conflict with the firsthand accounts of Vivec and Dagoth Ur...
Real Is Brown: Morrowind, which has a plague in the story which has robbed the countryside of all colour and replaced it with a depressing brown. As with everything in Morrowind, there's a mod for that.
Skyrim is somewhat similar, though Real Is Grey might be a more appropriate description. Especially notable when comparing weapons and armor (except dwemer) to the previous games. Steel blades no longer shine like in Oblivion, Elven gear is dark brown-greenish rather than gold-greenish, the shiny mithril and adamantium are nowhere to be found, glass is dark blue-greenish rather than neon, ebony now has grey details rather than yellow and daedric armor notably has far less red detailing than it did in Morrowind.
Reality Is Unrealistic: Response to some of the criticisms of the Argonians being plantigrade in Daggerfall, Oblivion and Skyrim. Actually... Morrowind is the most unrealistic, seeing as reptilians and amphibians walk plantigrade in real life.
For those of us without a medical degree, plantigrade is walking with the foot flat against the ground as opposed to walking on the toes with the heel raised (digitgrade). The latter is used in Morrowind.
The Dark Brotherhood sidekicks in Oblivion deserve a special mention - considering they're all highly-skilled assassins, they have a remarkably poor understanding of stealth and tend to charge headlong into battle as soon as they spot an enemy. Sensible players kill their DB sidekicks right away to save time (and loot the bodies).
Recurring Riff: Starting with Morrowind, the "Elder Scrolls theme". Dun dun dun, dun dun dun, dun dun dun, da da dun dun dun...
Reptiles Are Abhorrent: The Argonians, despite being no worse than the other playable races in general, are long-standing victims of Fantastic Racism. This trope is also invoked to emphasize the average Tamrielic denizen's fear and hatred of the Akaviri snake-men/Tsaesci.
Rock Monster: Storm Atronach are conglomerations of floating boulders in a more-or-less humanoid shape.
Running Gag: Most of the games begin with the player character imprisoned. And your sweetrolls keep getting stolen (The Sweetroll reference has been in almost every game in the series, usually seen in the Questionnaire at the start, but it's more of a Bethesda running gag since they even snuck it into Fallout 3)
Scenery Porn: A staple of the series. Each game tends to have some of the best scenery graphics by the standards of when it was released, and each new one significantly ups the ante from the previous. The modding community further contributes with their own graphics upgrades, such as Dagger XL and the Morrowind Graphics Extender.
Screw Destiny: People meant to be heroes are able to do this, up to and including out and out defying the futures predicted by the Elder Scrolls themselves.
The Elder Scrolls tend to write themselves as prophecied heroes left their mark on the world. Before being fixed, they're blank or ever-changing. There's also the idea that it's not so much the hero that fulfills the prophecy, but that it's the one that fulfills the prophecy that becomes the hero. Morrowind features a crypt for failed attempts.
Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: You are able to murder people all you want and just pay a fine for it. You can literally steal something, pay the guard to leave you alone, murder the shopkeeper, pay a fine, kill the guard (if you're lucky), pay the fine, then murder a random person on the street, pay the fine, take a nap on said street next to their corpse, then pay the fine....
However, you can't murder people who're important to the story: in Morrowind, you receive a message that says "You've doomed the world" and have made the game Unwinnable.
Technically, you can still win, it's just difficult and you'll probably need to look it up online to figure out how.
Screw You, Elves!: Happened thousands of years before the time of the games, when an enslaved human population rebelled against their Elven masters and eventually formed their own Empire. Relations between the Human and Elven races were better, but still somewhat strained during the Third Era. By the Fourth Era, the Altmer have taken over much of Tamriel and are doing their best to restore the pre-Empire human/elf dynamic. Needless to say, the humans are pretty pissed about this.
Shoplift and Die: Any shopkeeper in the franchise fits, although with the way the game is programmed and the inconvenient locations of stealable items, it's more like "accidentally pick up a random object when trying to access the shopkeeper and die".
Sidequest Sidestory: The games typically have the main quest, the standalone sidequests, and major story arcs consisting of sidequests for each big faction in the setting (Fighters Guild, Mages Guild, Thieves Guild, etc.). The latter are often almost as expansive as the main quest.
An amusing side effect of a Game Breaker in Morrowind is the ability to turn yourself into a one-man Singularity. Craft intelligence-enhancing potion. Use intelligence boost to craft better intelligence-enhancing potion. Repeat until intelligent enough to craft a weapon capable of killing the final boss in one hit. It was also possible to make spells that did this - hike up the damage and other stats enough and the mana cost became so stupidly high it ran full circle and you could have a low-level mage chucking out magical nukes like they were Spark.
Skyrim lets you do the same, though this requires two skills: alchemy and enchanting. Craft alchemy potion to improve enchanting. Use that to enchant gloves and helmet and rings and necklaces to boost alchemy. Rinse and repeat until satisfied, then use both ridiculously-boosted skills to enchant equipment to improve smithing and brew smithing-boosting potions. Go visit a blacksmith and forge an iron dagger that can one-shot the final boss.
Skyrim also lets you do the same much faster with the infamous Fortify Restoration exploit. Make a set of clothing (head/gloves/ring/necklace) with Fortify Alchemy and equip it. Make a Fortify Restoration potion. Drink it, and un- and re-equip your gear, then make another Fortify Restoration potion and repeat several times. Once you have sufficiently high numbers (which with the right Alchemy perks only takes a few iterations), make Fortify Smithing and Fortify Enchanting potions, which can now be used to enchant gear that completely negates magicka cost/gives you millions of HP/instant hit point or magicka regeneration/complete immunity to certain types of damage, and to improve said gear and weapons to the point that even Alduin dies in one hit... or just plain crashes the game.
Skeleton Key: The Skeleton Key artifact, an unbreakable lockpick that fortifies your "security" skill, has appeared in every main game of The Elder Scrolls series so far, as an artifact primarily associated with the Daedric Prince Nocturnal.
Space Compression: Averted in Arena and Daggerfall. The other games in the series, however, use this trope for good reason. (Daggerfall also has a fast travel mode... and unless you want to go crazy, you'll have to use it to get everywhere.)
Spontaneous Weapon Creation: You can use the "Bind [weapon]" spells to summon the most powerful generic equipment in the game for a while.
Stealing from the Hotel: Your character can do this. Prior to Skyrim, no repercussions result; in Skyrim, the innkeeper can send a few hired goons after you if you do so.
The Golden Saints also fall under this trope, since they were all silent during their debut in Morrowind, and began speaking in the Shivering Isles expansion of Oblivion.
Surpassed the Teacher: You can find trainers who can automatically increase your skills for money (rather than grinding). However, each skill has a trainer for each rank of experience in that skill and can only train you 5 times. If you ask for training when you're too high level then they'll say something to the effect of this trope.
Take That: M'aiq the Liar in Oblivion: "People always enjoy a good fable. M'aiq has yet to find one, though. Perhaps one day."
M'aig returns in Skyrim, still delivering these to devs and players alike.
Take That, Audience!: The Daggerfall manual has this line "People who play role-playing games need more than some pretty graphics and nonstop action to whet their claymores; they want depth and character and wit and drama. They want the thickest, most involving novel that they've ever read translated to their 15" screen, with themselves as the hero. That's what I love about people who play role-playing games. They're so reasonable."
M'aiq, even before Oblivion, was basically telling people asking for all sorts of features to implement the game to just can it.
Subverted only in Skyrim - talking does not pause the world around you. Feel free to chat about the Civil War while a dragon burns everything around you.
Although enough chaos and battle happening nearby will usually distract NPCs and automatically end the conversation. (Although I don't know if this was in Vanilla, or added by patches to avoid the silliness of said trope.)
The problem was present in Morrowind, but minimized since there was so little voice acting—mostly you got sick of the same few snippets of dialogue. Things are much worse in Oblivion, as there's much more voiced dialogue, and to save money the number of voice actors for the 20 race/gender combinations was halved to ten.
One of the more amusing examples is an old man who asks you to find his sons and help them fight off goblins. His sons, naturally, are both males of the same race, and when you first meet them they begin holding a conversation with each other that you can listen in on. Since they're the same race and gender, they sound identical, and this is made even more strange by the fact that, unlike most NPCs (who simply have random conversations using stock greetings and responses when they run into each other), this example of an actor Talking to Himself was fully scripted.
As noted by Zero Punctuation, in Oblivion a single character will sometimes have two completely different voice actors. An old beggar woman on the street croaking at you for coins will switch to a far younger and less infirm woman when you actually stop to talk to her.
There's one Priest you can talk to who lapses into a completely different voice unlike any other found in the game for just one line, but you can still tell it's the same voice actor who does Imperial males. This gives the impression that initially, certain NPCs were supposed to have slightly different accents or pitches, but the idea was scrapped early on.
The entire problem was thankfully averted in Skyrim, for the most part. There are now more like four or five voice actors for each gender of each race, so you're much less likely to hear two NPCs conversing in the same voice. Nearly all of the plot-important characters also have their own voice actors whose other roles are minimal.
There's still a fairly limited pool (much bigger than Oblivion, but still). It's just that instead of being assigned by race and gender, they're more closely tied to age and social standing. It's also helped by the fact that there are no more random conversations, all instances of NPC chatter are scripted events that come off as more natural. Though it is noticeable that orcs, Khajiit, and Argonians are still limited to one voice actor per gender, though this is probably because they're the least common races in the game.
Particularly, players will soon get used to Generic Nord Male, Suspect Sounding Shopkeeper, and Ah-nold Impersonator among the male voices.
Even Arena and Daggerfall were this when they came out - both of their graphical capabilities were beyond their time. It may not seem like it since they're obviously way outdated now, but they're really great by early-mid 90's standards. (Daggerfall was a little dated, though. The developers even put in a Take That at fancy graphics in the readme.)
Morrowind has two, though the second one, the Cammona Tong, isn't joinable (they are a bunch of xenophobes, and you're a foreigner).
Mentioned by random characters in Arena, but not actually shown.
Third-Person Person: Most of the Khajiit speak this way. Argonians also occasionally slip into this. Where it gets weird is when the Khajiit don't deign to reveal their own name: they just say "Khajiit," like a nameless merchant's guard saying "Khajiit is just a guard and has no wares to sell."
Thriving Ghost Town: The Imperial City and Vivec are each home to maybe 200 unique NPCs, while settlements like Gnaar Mok have an apparent population of about five.
This trope is averted in Daggerfall, where settlements are realistically sized and have appropriate populations. Of course, they're also randomly generated... with multiple citizens who are virtually clones of each other. And let's be frank - most of them aren't useful in the least bit.
Male Golden Saints and Dark Seducers are the same height as Imperials, whereas the females are as tall as Altmer and Dremora, which are the tallest races (playable or otherwise) in Oblivion.
Token Evil Teammate: Mehrunes Dagon is one of the few Daedric Princes that can be considered pure evil, or at least comes the closest to being pure evil. Naturally, he's the main antagonist of several games, including Battlespire and Oblivion. A few others are extremely not-nice like Molag Bal (whose deal is "Domination," and often "rape") or the ones that see humans more as playthings than people, but the rest can be chalked up to "an elemental force of will that's not inherently good or evil on its own."
Even Mehrunes Dagon has some positive features; aside from being the god of destruction, he's also the god of change and rebellion- this is in contrast to Boethiah, who is very specifically the god of unlawful overthrow of authority, despite being considered one of the "good" daedra by the dunmer. Molag Bal, however, is generally agreed to have no positive qualities at all.
The eponymous Elder Scrolls themselves are these in part. Read them the right way, and you can know the future- but it will cost you your sight.
They're so Eldritch that if you put five of them on a desk and go grab a Skooma, when you come back the number of scrolls on the desk has changed into n.
If you really study them closely, you'll evaporate.
Too Awesome to Use: For archers, the higher level arrows (Ebony, Daedric), mainly before Skyrim's DLC, Dawnguard where you can make your own, can be this. Because they're in short supply where you can maybe find them being carried by the odd Dwemer Sentinel they're very rare and best saved for bosses instead of random enemies.
Too Stupid To Live: Anyone who has ever thought it would be a good idea to betray a Daedric Prince. In Skyrim alone there are three or four.
One example is a nameless female thief in the in-game book "Purrloined Shadows" She spies on a witch coven summoning the Daedric Prince Nocturnal. Why? To mug her of course? She is shown to be shocked by the nature of the mission she was given, and it turns out she was set up to get caught from the very beginning so when someone says "Hey let's rob a Daedric Prince while surrounded by her coven of worshipers" don't listen.
Also a special mention to the priest who is not only stupid enough to worship Boethiah, the Daedric Prince of treachery who has a habit of murdering his worshippers for kicks, but in the process desecrates the altar of Molag Bal, Daedric Prince of enslavement and domination. Needless to say, he comes to a bad end.
Trivial Title: The eponymous artifacts are only a background element in the firstthreegames and play only a small role in one side questline in the fourth. However Skyrim has one as an important piece of the puzzle in the main quest: it allows you to travel back in time to learn the Dragonrend Shout.
Unidentified Items: A low Alchemy skill prevents the player from determining the properties of alchemical ingredients. In some games, such as Skyrim, ingredients that the player has not used in experiments always have unknown properties. However, tasting the ingredients exposes the player to diluted version of their powers — as opposed to the stronger powers of potions brewed from these ingredients — so it's almost always safe to taste them. The worst that might happen is having your health drained by a sliver for five seconds... in a game where you have Regenerating Health.
Unique Enemy: These are liberally sprinkled throughout the games. In Oblivion there's the unicorn, the giant mudcrab, the giant slaughterfish and the painted trolls who inhabit their own unique little pocket dimension that looks nothing like the rest of the game.
Unique Items: Daedric artefacts are the most obvious, but there are multiple examples of quest rewards and unique NPC equipment, many of which have their own textures. The Unofficial Elder Scrolls Pages maintains a list of unique items for each game.
Unreliable Canon: In The Elder Scrolls universe, canon is an almost meaningless concept. Bethesda refuses to invalidate your choices about who your character is and what he/she does. Therefore, there is no definitive version of the Nerevarine/Champion/Dragonborn, etc. and very few canonized events (the main quest line usually being an exception.) Additionally, all in-game information, books, and historical records are biased or otherwise unreliable or contradictory, with the implication that All Myths Are True and everyone is right in spite of the contradictions. From a meta-perspective, canon is complicated by the fact that the majority of the lore that elucidates the nature of the world of Tamriel comes from the work of an ex-dev and were written in an unofficial capacity after he left the studio. Many lore-scholars within the fandom actually consider his work ‘more’ canon than the published games themselves, and the fact that the games reference and quote these works (due in part to said ex-dev still doing some freelance contract work on the series) adds to the confusion. Rather than become frustrated, fans tend to embrace this ambiguity as one of the more fascinating elements of the series.
The character is given a limited perspective of events before talking to the player character. An example would be someone like the Fighter's Guild Grandmaster in Oblivion, or most of the random NPCs in Morrowind.
The in-game book was written by a limited-perspective character. This is the most common, but also easiest to spot. For example, most accounts of Nerevar's death in Morrowind, the Commentaries in Oblivion, or also from Oblivion the "Guide to City X" books.
Widespread propaganda, such as Biography of Barenziah, History of the Empire, and the Tribunal's account of what happened to Nerevar.
Deliberate lies and half-truths. Vivec embodies this one.
Even the player characters have been said to be this by a developer.
Unwinnable: Both forms. You could kill important NPCs and get a message saying it's unwinnable; quests could be made unwinnable due to glitches, and Daggerfall could be made completely unwinnable due to glitches that would make the main quest unwinnable.
Heck in Daggerfall every main quest you get, you have an option to decline it. Which if you do you can't get the request again thus can't advance the game (Why did they put that option in again...?) and in at least two main quests, if you don't finish them within a certain amount of days they become void and you cannot advance.
Unwitting Pawn: The plot of Morrowind is possibly Azura trying to get back at the Tribunal by having the Nerevarine destroy the source of their power. Not exactly a villainous example, but still.
Unless, of course, you perceive what happens AFTER Morrowind as her revenge on the Dunmer for abandoning her.
Anyone who is (mis)fortunate enough to catch the attention of a Daedra, a dragon, Sithis, or any other deity. Heck, even the player character is not immune, as the Daedric Princes will typically use you to play their hands against each other and their enemies. In fact, the hero of another game series summed it up perfectly: "What game is this, where every player on the board claims the same pawn?"
Useless Item: The decorative clutter which can't even be sold in unmoded Oblivion and obviously serves this purpose. Morrowind has the Feather/Burden effects, which do what they say they do (reduce/add weight carried), except that Fortify/Damage Strength is easier to obtain the basic effect for, costs the same, is more effective (5 times as much), and modifies melee damage and jumping on top of that; Oblivion tries to rectify it with premade spells being more effective in Feather's favor and basing movement speed on weight carried instead of percent of encumbrance, but while no longer useless, isn't exactly useful.
Utility Magic: "Alteration" magic is mostly this. Spells that let you levitate, spells to make your weight limit go up, spells to open locks, provide light or walk on water; it's basically all about enhancing your mobility and your ability to explore.
Verbal Tic: The Argonians tend to refer to other races as 'prey', going so far as to greet you by saying things like 'the prey approaches'.
Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Used in-universe. In the immediate aftermath of the main quest, talking to Nords or Orcs reveals that there's already a novel chronicling you and Martin's adventure in production called The Fall of Dagon.
Vestigial Empire: The Tamrielic Empire, as of Skyrim. Jagar Tharn's kidnapping of the Emperor in Arena set off a political chain reaction that has been gradually unraveling The Empire over the course of the sequels.
Warp Whistle: Many different types in Morrowind. The two most common are spells/scrolls that teleport you to either the nearest Nine Divines temple or the nearest Tribunal-worshipping temple. Since Fast Travel returned to Oblivion and Skyrim, from the first two games, it seems Warp Whistle has gone the way of the dodo.
Weapons Kitchen Sink: You can find dealers selling claymores, longswords and wakizashis at the same time. These weapons are actually used by a number of different cultures throughout Tamriel. Nords and Orcs tend to like Claymores, Redguards use longswords, and Wakizashi come from Akavir. There are many exceptions, but odds are SOMEONE wants to buy that Orcish Longsword and Akavir Katana.
Weirdness Censor: People get stuck trying to walk through each other. Guards ignore people trying to punch you out, but when/if you do it, they immediately report your crime. Guards walk away after you pay them money to go away after you murdered someone on the streets. You stick a knife into peoples' back and they just walk around like nothing happened. Guards try to murder each other and they don't mind. You wake up and there's a zombie inside your room and the person you're bunking with doesn't mind.
With This Herring: One quest in Morrowind has you dispatched by Sheogorath to kill a giant bull netch using the "Fork of Horripilation", which, despite its grandiose (sounding - it means goosebumps) name, is merely a dinner fork a curseddinner fork.
Mentioned again in Oblivion, in a quest where you must get the fork back from a bunch of zealots who've stolen the deified eating utensil.
Wizarding School: The Arcane University, The College of Winterhold, and, to a lesser extent, the Mages Guild in general. The Battlespire counted too, until the events of the eponymous game.
Wutai: Though it's never shown in any of the games, Akavir, in at least architecture and art style, seems to be one with tiger people, snake people, monkey people and Ice Demons that are apparently the origin of the Katana style blades in the various games. Bizarrely the Redguards (who look like Earth Humans of African descent and have a civilization reminiscent of the Middle East) had a samurai-esque class (Sword singers) that at one point had the ownership of swords restricted to them (with the really skilled even having the title "Sword Saint") on their original homeland of Yokuda (which may have been destroyed by rogue sword saints splitting an atom with their swords).
You All Meet in a Cell: All the games in the main series, with the exception of Daggerfall, start with the player character as a prisoner. In Skyrim, you are about to be executed when a dragon shows up.
An obvious example in Skyrim, what with the Empire viewing the Stormcloaks as vicious extremists and their leader Ulfric as a dishonorable kingslayer. The Stormcloak supporters see Ulfric as a hero, defending the Nord way of life and deserving to rule Skyrim.
There's also the Forsworn, who the Nords think of as wild madmen but who see themselves as fighting for the freedom of the Reach.
alternative title(s): Elder Scrolls; The Elder Scrolls; An Elder Scrolls Legend Battlespire; The Elder Scrolls Adventures Redguard; The Elder Scrolls; The Elder Scrolls Adventures Redguard; An Elder Scrolls Legend Battlespire