Franchise / The Elder Scrolls

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"Go ye now in peace. Let thy fate be written in The Elder Scrolls..."

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 to restore the rightful Emperor. The game was originally going to be about, well, gladiatorial combat 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 was 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, overdone Level Scaling, 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.

Bethesda has also produced several other games and media set in the Elder Scrolls universe:

  • 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 PC has had their soul stolen by the Daedric Prince Molag Bal, and they must stop him as he attempts to take over Tamriel. Meanwhile, the Ruby Throne is empty, and three alliances vie for control of Cyrodiil and the Empire. Originally subscription based, it went "Buy to Play" in March 2015, meaning you only need to buy the game to play it.
  • 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.
  • Dawnstar (2003)
  • Stormhold (2004)
  • Shadowkey (2004)
    • These last three were released for mobile phones. Generally, only Shadowkey is considered canon.
  • Legends (2015), a digital strategy card game for PC and tablet.
  • The Elder Scrolls In-Universe Books covers the various In Game Novels found in the games from Daggerfall on.
  • 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.

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.

The Elder Scrolls has inspired many world-building projects, such as The Uutak Mythos.

Has a page listing the Tropes applicable to each race.


Provides examples of:

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    A-C 
  • Abandoned Mine: Appear quite frequently in the series as places to explore. A good number of still-operational mines are also seen.
  • Above Good and Evil: Admittedly the series tends to Gray and Grey Morality, but special mention goes to the spirits and deities of the series; while considered variously good or evil depending on where you are and who you ask in a case of in-Universe mass Alternate Character Interpretation (see also All Myths Are True), most in-'verse scholars claim they are simply above human understanding and therefore human conceptions of moral actions. Also, see the Vivec example from the above A God Am I.
  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Found frequently throughout the series, though usually Justified. For example, Vivec and Riften are each a City of Canals, so the large sewers act as flood controls and extra storage space. Mournhold and the Imperial City are built on top of the ruins of older cities, of which the sewers are part.
  • Abusive Precursors: Several examples.
    • The Ayleids were not very nice people, to put it lightly. They kept the early races of men as slaves, and some of their more horrific mistreatment of their slaves included forcing them all to work naked, force-feeding them hallucinogenic drugs and watching their reactions, creating sculptures out of their bones and gardens out of their entrails, and setting human children on fire and setting hungry animals on them. It's little wonder that the slaves eventually rose up against them, overthrew them, and eventually drove them to apparent extinction.
    • The Dwemer. While they mostly wanted to be left alone, they warred against just about every other race they came into contact with. Special mention goes to the Skyrim Dwemer, who took in the Snow Elves after they had been displaced by the invading Nords only to enslave them and mutate them into the modern Falmer.
  • Adam Smith Hates Your Guts: Throughout the series, even when the player is a famous conquering hero, what s/he pays is still largely depends on skills. Even members of a guild a player is in will still usually charge unfair prices. The disposition of the NPC merchant also plays a role, but even if that merchant really likes you, it's rare to get fair value.
  • Adjective Animal Alehouse: Countless throughout the series. Frequently, they are named for fictional animals within the ES universe, such as the "Winged Guar" or "Winking Skeever."
  • Adventure-Friendly World: Tamriel is dotted with countless ruins, smuggler dens, bandit caves, cultist hideouts, necromancer lairs, ancient tombs and just about any other standard fantasy "dungeon" you can imagine. A large part of the series' popularity is the openness of the world that allows you to explore all of these place whenever and however you want. Need some quick gold? There will always be some sort of dungeon within a stone's throw of wherever you are at, full of things to kill and items to take.
  • Adventure Guild: Various Guilds and Factions are joinable in each game starting with Daggerfall. They tend to be more function-specific and function more like actual medieval guilds than the odd job clearinghouses that epitomize this trope. The Fighters Guild comes closest to the standard definition of the trope, along with the Companions in Skyrim.
  • Aerith and Bob: Played with. You can find a vast mix of names within the Elder Scrolls universe, from the exotic (Mannimarco, Wadarkhu) to the common (Jon, Jim) but most of the races have their own naming conventions (based heavily in their Fantasy Counterpart Culture,) and stick to those naming conventions. So it's generally played straight for the world as a whole and ranges from downplayed to averted within the races themselves.
  • Affably Evil: Quite a few villains throughout the series. Special mention to Dagoth Ur of Morrowind and the members of the Dark Brotherhood in the games where it is a joinable faction.
  • A God Am I: Dagoth Ur.
    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.
  • A God Is You: Several instances.
    • 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.
    • Specifically, at the end of Shivering Isles, A Sheogorath Is You.
    • In Skyrim, the protagonist is the Dragonborn, a rare mortal gifted with the blood and soul of an Aedric Dragon.
  • The Ageless: Several examples:
    • Those suffering from the Corprus disease. They become immune to all other disease and stop aging completely. However, they also slowly lose their minds and develop a bad case of Body Horror. The Nerevarine in Morrowind has the negative effects cured, leaving only the positive ones in tact.
    • Vampires. Though there are some regional differences between vampire clans, as a whole, they fit the trope. Those who go long periods without feeding will become insane however.
    • Dragons combine this with Resurrective Immortality. They are Aedric entities with immortal souls. Their bodies may be destroyed, but they can be recreated as long as their soul persists to go back into it. They can only truly be "killed" if another dragon (or Dragonborn) absorbs their soul.
  • Alchemy Is Magic: Alchemy is a magically classed skill throughout the series which allows you to ItemCraft potions from combinations of 2-4 raw ingredients. Rather than mixing the mundane natural properties of those ingredients, you actually seem to be extracting magical properties from them in the potions you create.
  • 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.
  • Alien Sky:
    • Nirn has two moons, Masser and Secunda, which go through technically impossible phases and are actually the remains of the dead creator god. When they aren't full, you can see stars behind the dark parts. The sun and stars are holes punctured in reality by spirits escaping during the formation of the mortal plane, and magic flows through them (which is visible as nebulae.) The other plane(t)s are infinite plane(t)s that represent the Aedra's divinity and are floating within the infinite Oblivion. And it is frequently implied to look this way because You Cannot Grasp the True Form.
    • The various Daedric planes of Oblivion all have very alien skies. Mehrunes Dagon's Deadlands have swirling red storm clouds. Sheogorath's Shivering Isles have huge, multicolored stars and nebulae streaked across a deep purple night. Hermaeus Mora's Apocrypha has his floating tentacles blotting out the sky. Sovngarde and the Soul Cairn, while not technically Daedric planes, also qualify as otherworldly realms with alien skies.
  • All Deserts Have Cacti: Hammerfell, despite it being otherwise closer to a North African desert. Averted in places which are desert-like (the Ashlands on Vvardenfell, for instance,) but don't fit the traditional idea most people have of deserts.
  • All Genes Are Codominant: Averted. According to in-universe sources, racial hybrids favor the mother's side almost completely. (And all races except for the egg-laying Argonians are believed to be able to interbreed, though there is no evidence in the lore for Khajiit hybrids yet.)
  • Alliance Meter: Daggerfall and Morrowind each have "faction reputation" as a hidden stat. As you join and progress through the ranks of the various guilds and factions, the disposition of NPCs in allied and rival factions will increase or decrease accordingly.
  • All in a Row: Starting with Morrowind, followers and escorts will follow you in this manner.
  • All Monks Know Kung-Fu:
    • Prior to Skyrim dropping classes, the series had Monk as a standard class. Hand to Hand tends to be the main combat skill of the class, though Blunt Weapon also gets a boost.
    • True for the Blades, an order of knights sworn to protect the Emperor as spies and bodyguards, although it's less kung fu and more swordfighting. Retired or undercover Blades frequently take on the role of Monks.
  • All Myths Are True: All myths in Tamriel's tradition, that is. There are many different variations of these myths, though, so good luck figuring out which versions are true. For instance, every culture in Tamriel seems to have their own creation myth, with many shared elements, but with major differences as well.
  • All Trolls Are Different: Huge, hairy three-eyed simians that regenerate remarkably quickly.
  • Allowed Internal War: In the early Fourth Era the Imperial government was severely weakened by the aftermath of the Oblivion Crisis, armies decimated by the Daedra and left in a regency by the destruction of the Septim dynasty, making it unable to keep the peace between its vassal states. With Morrowind trashed by the eruption of Red Mountain, Argonia invaded the Dunmer in revenge for centuries of slave-trafficking and reconquered areas that had historically belonged to them; Imperial inaction in all of this led to Morrowind's government seceding altogether and the ruling House Hlaalu being deposed in favor of House Redoran. Meanwhile the Bretons of High Rock and Redguards of Hammerfell sacked Orsinium. And all this was before the Thalmor entered the picture.
  • Almighty Idiot: Most of Tamriel's religions include Anu and Padomay, the primordial forces of Order and Chaos respectively. A few of them however, like the Khajiit and Dark Brotherhood, actually personify these forces.
  • Alternative Calendar: The series has a system which is actually our own calendar system, but with different names for the months and days of the week. October becomes "Frostfall", Saturday becomes "Loredas", and so forth. The number of the year is determined by the amount of time since the beginning of that particular Era. Oblivion begins on the 27th of Last Seed (August) in the 433rd year of the Third Era, which began with the unification of Tamriel and founding of the Septim Dynasty and ended with the events of the game. Skyrim begins on the 17th of Last Seed in the 201st year of the Fourth Era, which began following the conclusion of the Oblivion crisis.
  • Alt Itis: Unsurprisingly common with all of the character creation options available in each game, including everything from race and class to facial features and hairstyles. This trend is usually called "Restartitus" on the official forums.
  • Altum Videtur: The Imperials, the native race of Cyrodiil who've established multiple empires across most or all of Tamriel, have primarily Latin sounding names. Their culture is also heavily influenced by the Romans, though exactly how much varies from game to game.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Goblins, Ogres, Minotaurs... Dremora seem to be Always Lawful Evil.
    • 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. Basically, they're the Elder Scrolls equivalent of Mole People.
  • Always Check Behind the Chair: Starting with the jump to 3D and hand-crafted environments in Morrowind, the developers have come to adore this trope. Thorough players can find everything from helpful stashes of items like gold and potions to flat out Disc One Nukes by checking every little nook, cranny, ledge, and tree stump they come across.
  • Always over the Shoulder: When in third person. The games do allow you to rotate the camera angle when standing still, which lets you admire your character customization and gear, but if you move or draw your weapons they'll snap right back to this.
  • Ambiguous Gender: The Daedric Princes are not bound to a certain form and can change appearance, including gender, as they please. Some, like Azura and Nocturnal, always choose to appear female while Sheogorath and Malacath always choose to appear male. Boethiah takes full advantage of this ability, switching genders between games frequently. Mephala sounds and appears female, but is, according to the lore, actually a hermaphrodite. (As is Vivec, her "anticipation" in Morrowind, though he generally appears as and is referred to as a male.)
  • Ambition Is Evil: Mehrunes Dagon is the Daedric Prince of Destruction, Big Bad of two games and the Greater Scope Villain of a third, and widely considered to be unambiguously evil. He is also the Daedric Prince of Ambition.
  • Anachronism Stew: Designs for architecture, fashion, armor, weapons and other items mixes elements from the Antiquity (like the very Roman-inspired Imperials,) the Middle Ages (Viking-inspired Skyrim,) the Renaissance (Daggerfall and the Bretons,) and Colonial America all the way up to the 1800s (with the Steampunk Dwemer and Sotha Sil's Clockwork City, as well as minor examples like Sheogorath wearing a pocket watch.)
  • Anatomy of the Soul: Souls have a part that houses the consciousness, and a part that houses the spirit energy that can be used to enchant items. When the trapped soul of a sapient creature is used for enchanting, the consciousness part goes to the Soul Cairn, realm of the undead, and the separated spirit energy is stored in the item. "White souls" (souls of unintelligent creatures) apparently lack the consciousness part.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: House Dagoth, the Mythic Dawn.
  • Ancient Order of Protectors: The Blades. They initially started as an Akavari order of dragon hunters, but would eventually find their way into the service of Emperor Reman Cyrodiil I, who they declared a Dragonborn and swore to serve. They took up service as an Honor Guard for the Reman Emperors while continuing to hunt dragons. When the last emperor of the Reman line was assassinated, the order officially disbanded, though some were kept on by the Akavari Potentates as covert special forces and spies. The Blades reformed when another Dragonborn emperor, Tiber Septim, rose to power. They resumed their duties as bodyguards and spies for the Septim Emperors, with a particular devotion to Talos, the ascended god form of Tiber Septim, after his passing. Following the events of Oblivion, with no Dragonborn emperor on the throne, they withdrew from the affairs of the fractured Empire to await a new Dragonborn leader to follow. When they realized the threat the Thalmor posed to Tamriel, particularly their intent to outlaw Talos worship, the Blades used their resources to resist the Thalmor throughout the continent. Without support, however, these efforts could not last forever, and in 4E 171, an Aldmeri ambassador delivered to Titus Mede II the severed heads of every Blades agent in Summerset and Valenwood, sparking the Great War. By the time of Skyrim, the few surviving Blades have gone underground in order to avoid extermination.
  • Ancient Tomb: Appear frequently as dungeons to explore and loot.
  • And Your Reward Is Clothes: Articles of clothing, jewelry, and armor are common quest reward items.
  • And Your Reward Is Edible: Food items, drinks, and potions are common quest rewards. Often, these add flavor to the game, coming from quest givers who are too poor to give you anything else.
  • Angels, Devils and Squid: Loosely with the Aedra, the Daedra, and Sithis, respectively. The Daedra in particular are a very diverse group, ranging from the generally "good" (if not always nice) ones like Azura and Meridia to those who are very devil-like such as Mehrunes Dagon and Molag Bal. They even have a "squid" represented if you include Hermaeus Mora.
  • Announcer Chatter: In the Imperial City's Arena in Oblivion.
  • Annoying Arrows:
    • There's something really off-putting about a particularly powerful enemy 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.
    • In Skyrim surviving being shot by arrows is fairly easy at low levels. It's even profitable, as you get to keep arrows that hit you, if they're still intact.
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: The primordial forces of Anu (Order) and Padomay (Chaos) are personified by some of Tamriel's religions, including the Khajiit and Dark Brotherhood.
  • Anti-Grinding: Each game uses some form of "increase skills to level up." As you improve your skills through successful uses of said skills, it becomes increasingly difficult to raise the skill further. This makes high-level skill grinding quite tedious.
  • Anti-Human Alliance: The Altmer of the Summerset Isles and Bosmer of Valenwood were traditionally a unified nation known as the Aldmeri Dominion. Their stances were quite anti-human toward the mannish races, and they strongly opposed an empire of humans controlling Tamriel. They were only brought under the rule of Tiber Septim's Empire when he used the Reality Warping Numidium against them. When the Septim Empire fell following the Oblivion Crisis, the Dominion wasted little time before reestablishing itself, now under the leadership of the xenophobic, elven-supremist Thalmor. Through deceit and manipulation, they robbed the Empire of Elswyr, Black Marsh, and indirectly, Morrowind. They also initiated the Great War, which further weakened the Empire military, cost them Hammerfell, and created civil war in Skyrim.
  • Arc Number: The number 9, often expressed in the form "8+1." There are 9 Divines in the Imperial religion, comprising 8 conventional gods and 1 human who became a god. There are 9 provinces in the Empire, and 9 districts and principal cities in the provinces of Skyrim and Cyrodiil. The Amulet of Kings has 8 small jewels and 1 large jewel. Eight 'towers' sustaining the barriers between the realms, and one 'zeroth stone' that is the origin of their power. Even the universe itself is shaped like a wheel with 8 spokes, the '+1' being the solid line made when viewed on it's side.
  • Arc Welding: The first four games in the main series consist of largely unconnected stories set in the same world. Skyrim, however, reveals that the events of the previous titles were all milestones in a prophecy heralding the return of Alduin.
  • 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 of Doom: Numerous examples: The Staff of Chaos, the Mantella, the Heart of Lorkhan, and the Mysterium Xarxes were all major plot elements. Other artifacts, such as Umbra, also qualify.
  • 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.
  • Artificial Script: Four have been created for the series to date: The Daedric Alphabet, the Dragon Alphabet, the Dwemer Alphabet, and the Falmer Alphabet.
  • Artificial Stupidity: The series has long had issues with this, especially where dialogue is concerned. Certain phrases, especially once voiced dialogue started being used in the later games in the series, were repeated ad nauseam, often reaching Memetic Mutation status. ("We're watching you, scum." "I saw a mudcrab the other day..." and "... until I took an arrow to the knee" come to mind.)
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety:
    • Starting with Morrowind, the series puts several measures in place to downplay or avert this trope with weapons. For instance, talking to someone with your weapon drawn will cause their disposition to drop. In Skyrim, non-hostile NPCs will comment if you have a weapon drawn (or magic spell readied) near them, particularly guards.
    • Played straight in some cases with weapons that have been sheathed. Some weapons, like axes for example, are simply stuck through the belt rather than safely put into a scabbard.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Several examples. It's important to keep in mind that most examples get a little Mind Screwy.
    • This is what the Dwemer race was trying to do when they tapped into the power of the Heart of Lorkhan, the dead creator god. No one still living, including a few deities, knows what really happened. You can come up with a fairly plausible theory in a Morrowind quest that states the Dwemer broke themselves down to their base elements and then attempted to reforge themselves into ascended beings, but they got the reforging process wrong and blinked themselves out of existence. It's also possible that they got it right, and have actually ascended. How would those still around know the difference?
    • Following his death, Tiber Septim, founder of the 3rd Empire out of Cyrodiil, ascended to godhood as Talos. The leading theory on how he accomplished this was by spending so much time campaigning with the Reality Warping Numidium, which was powered by the Mantella, a jewel created from the soul of the Underking, who was believed to be a "Shezarrine," which are incarnations of the spirit of Shezarr (aka Lorkhan,) the "dead" creator god of the ES universe. Got all of that? Well, this allowed Septim to "Mantle" Lorkhan following his death, effectively tricking the universe into treating them as the same being. (Tiber Septim is, according to some sources, also believed to be a possible Shezarrine, furthering the connection.)
    • Mannimarco, the King of Worms, is an interesting case. After many failed attempts at achieving divinity in some form, he finally managed to do so as part of the Warp in the West. In his case, he used the Mantella to achieve apotheosis and become the God of Worms. The "Necromancer's Moon" is said to be his heavenly body (in the same way the Aedra have planets among the stars) and when it eclipses Arkay, it allows sapient souls, normally protected by the divine, to be soul-trapped. Interestingly, due to the Reality Warping effects of the Warp in the West, he also remained as a "mortal" being (or at least, as mortal as a Lich can be.)
  • As Long as There Is Evil: The Daedra, most of whom are evil or amoral enough to be perceived as such, are almost impossible to truly destroy. They are manifestations of the primal forces of reality, so even if their avatar was somehow destroyed, a new avatar would form to take their place. The best anyone can do is shatter their link to the mortal realm and banish them back into Oblivion.
  • Assassins Are Always Betrayed: In any game with an assassin's guild, or that simply features assassins at some point, expect this to happen at least once.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority:
    • Usually the case for the various guilds and factions within the games. By simply kicking so much ass in whatever field that guild or faction is in, you can rise through the ranks quickly.
    • This is how the Dragon hierarchy is organized. If there's a question of pecking order, a fight ensues. A dragon either wins, submits, or dies.
  • Attack Reflector: Reflect Damage and Spell Reflection variously appear as mechanics throughout the series. The first reflects damage back to the attacker based on a percentage, and does not work for ranged damage. The second reflects harmful magic, but has a percent chance of working (20% Spell Reflect has a 20% chance to bounce back magic; it does not automatically reflect 20% of damage like Reflect Damage does).
  • Background Magic Field: Magic on Mundus flows in from Aetherius, visible as nebulae in the night sky. It flows through the sun and stars, which are actually holes punctured in reality by escaping spirits during the creation of the world. They fled in order to maintain their divinity, rather than become bound to the mortal world like the Aedra.
  • Backstory: There is some 4000+ years of incredibly detailed backstory which happens before Arena even takes place. Much of it can be learned by reading the many in-game books or conversing with NPCs which give bits and pieces of the world's history.
  • Badass Army: Plenty to go around.
    • The Imperial Legions have forged no fewer than four empires spanning most or all of Tamriel at different points. As individual soldiers, they pale in comparison to the warriors of many of the other races, but their emphasis on training, discipline, and teamwork have allowed them to come out on top of the Soldier vs. Warrior debate.
    • Any army of Nords in general counts, but special mention to Ysgramor and his 500 companions. They managed to take on and nearly wipe out the entire civilization of the Snow Elves. Later, the Nords would create one of the first empires of the races of men under the leadership of the "Tongues," masters of the Thu'um.
    • When asked in-universe, many members of the Imperial Legion are quick to point out the respect they have for the Dunmer Great House Redoran, also known as the "Warrior House," who prides themselves on honor and martial prowess. When the legions under Tiber Septim were threatening to invade Morrowind, the Redorans were planning to defend Morrowind on their own after every other Great House chose to capitulate to the empire or remain neutral. (The armistice was signed between Septim and Vivec before the war went beyond minor skirmishes, however.) Then during the Oblivion Crisis, they led the defense of Morrowind and fought the Daedric forces to a standstill before they were eventually wiped out. (Though they make a comeback by Dragonborn.)
  • Badass Preacher: Appear frequently, even outside of the more Church Militant organizations. Priests and the like are usually quite able to defend themselves, and many come with offensive spells to blast the non-believers.
  • Bad Moon Rising: The "Bloodmoon" is an event typically associated with the Daedric Prince of the Hunt, Hircine. The event itself is where Hircine collects the greatest warriors at a given time and brings them to his hunting grounds. The Bloodmoon expansion for Morrowind features one such occurrence.
  • Bag of Holding: Throughout the series, your carrying capacity is limited only by the total weight of the items you are carrying, not their size or shape. One can easily carrying around multiple suits of armor, several massive weapons, a library of books, a shop's entire supply of potions, etc. while only being slowed down a little bit, as long as you don't go beyond the encumbrance limit. This is also true of containers, where it is possible to store items far larger than what would realistically fit within.
  • Baleful Polymorph:
    • Wabbajack, an artifact staff associated with Sheogorath, forces the target to transform. This being the staff of the GodOfMadness, the change is, of course, completely random. You could turn a bandit into a sheep...or a lesser Daedric monster. It's more for fun than anything else.
    • In Redguard, the main character Cyrus is transformed into a Scamp for a portion of the game.
  • Ban on Magic: In various parts of Tamriel at different times, Necromancy has been banned. It was considered blasphemous by Morrowind's Tribunal Temple, and practicing it was punishable by death. Shortly before the Oblivion Crisis, it was also banned within the Mages Guild, something its practitioners were none too happy about.
  • Barbarian Hero: Common among the Nords, who consider this to be the ideal type of warrior.
  • Barbarian Longhair: Used extensively with male Nords, given that they're basically expies of the Norse. Particularly prominent in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, which is set in their homeland.
  • 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.
    • Talos, the ascended god form of Tiber Septim, is revealed to be one in Skyrim. Following the events of the previous two games, he is the last thing keeping the mortal plane extant. This is why the Thalmor, who believe the destruction of the mortal plane will allow elvenkind to reclaim the immortality they lost long ago, have outlawed Talos worship, believing that if no one worships him, he will cease to be.
  • Beastess: Frequently played straight by female Orcs, Argonians, and Khajiit.
  • Beast of the Apocalypse: Alduin, the World Eater, is a black dragon who is said will come at the end of days to devour the world so it can start anew. Complicating matters further, Alduin doesn't seem particularly interested in fulfilling his purpose as it should be done. (The main quest of Skyrim revolves around him attempting to do so before it is time.)
  • Beat Still, My Heart: The Heart of Lorkhan, the "dead" creator god, is still beating away deep within Red Mountain. At least until the events of Morrowind. Depending on the storyteller, his heart ("divine center") was ripped out after he convinced/tricked the et'Ada (Aedra) into sacrificing much of their power to create Mundus, the mortal realm. Auri-El, one of those et'Ada, tied the heart to an arrow and fired it across Tamriel where it landed in modern day Morrowind, forming Red Mountain.
  • Becoming the Mask: Both played straight and inverted thanks to the act of "Mantling." Essentially, to mantle someone, one must become so like them that there ceases to be a functional difference between the two entities; it seems that at this point the universe itself ceases to distinguish between the two, and they become one entity. Several famous examples:
    • Tiber Septim and Lorkhan. Mantling is theorized to have been what caused Tiber Septim to become the deity Talos upon his death; he spent much of his life campaigning around Tamriel with the Numidium, which was originally constructed to draw power from the Heart of Lorkhan. While the Numidium in Tiber Septim's possession was powered by the Mantella, not the Heart, it is possible that so much time spent around and controlling the Numidium's power was enough for him to effectively mantle Lorkhan, and take his place among the Nine. This also supports the theory of the Thalmor that the cessation of Talos would also end the mortal realm, as it was created by Lorkhan and the two are now the same entity.
    • The Champion of Cyrodiil and Sheogorath. The Champion of Cyrodiil was given the mantle of Sheogorath at the end of the Greymarch. The exact nature of this mantling is difficult to understand in full. Rather than acting like Sheogorath until the universe effectively combined the two entities, Jyggalag surrendered the Mantle, or role, of Sheogorath to the mortal Champion of Cyrodiil.
  • Beneficial Disease:
    • In addition to the main effects of Vampirism and Lycanthropy, they render the diseased immune to all other diseases as well.
    • Corprus Disease, a "divine" disease created by Dagoth Ur using the Heart of Lorkhan, makes the sufferer The Ageless and immune to all other disease. It also unfortunately comes with a nasty case of Body Horror and severe mental degradation.
  • BFS: Mostly averted. With a few exceptions, the weapons in the series have always had fairly realistic sizes, which make them seem small compared to most other video games.
  • Big Bad: Each game in the series has had one for the main quest, with others present for expansions and faction questlines. One main quest exception is Daggerfall, where, due to the game's emphasis on Gray and Gray Morality as well as having Multiple Endings, there is no definite big bad. Instead, it's whoever you choose to work with/against.
  • Big Book of War: The in-game book "The Art of War Magic" appears in most games in the series. An homage to Sun Tzu's Art of War, it consists of a series of proverbs by Imperial Battlemage Zurin Arctus dealing with applications of magic and military strategy, with commentaries on the proverbs supplied by other mages.
  • Big Dumb Object: The lore of the series mentions metaphysical " Towers," structures with the ability to alter reality in the surrounding area. The Adamantine Tower, The White-Gold Tower, and Red Mountain are some structures believed to be Towers.
  • Bigger on the Inside: Generally averted, as most locations in the games are reasonably to scale on the inside and outside. There are exceptions however, such as the interior of some houses in Morrowind and castles in Oblivion.
  • Big Good: Emperor Uriel Septim VII serves in this role throughout the series until Oblivion, which begins with his assassination. Each game also features their own versions, heavily involved in the main quest.
  • 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 Black Marsh. Not to mention the fact, that the main hero, eventually starts slowly transforming into the new Sheogorath. Retaining memories of his/her past self, yet adopts Sheogorath's personality and mannerisms (as well as insanity) becoming a tragic shell of what he/she used to be
  • Black and Gray Morality: The series tends more toward Gray and Gray Morality, but Daggerfall and the Tribunal expansion for Morrowind have their fair share of black. Daggerfall, coming before PC games were subject to much censorship, even includes things like Sentinel's king and queen burying their sickly firstborn son alive and the Player Character killing a child to cure him/herself or Lycanthropy. And then there is the series' Blue and Orange Morality, detailed below, which can look pretty black from ther perspective of a non-deity.
  • Black and White Morality: Not as common as shades of gray, but it exists. The main quest in Oblivion is a mostly straight-up good vs. evil adventure, as is the main questline of Skyrim. While there are some twists, the former is pretty much a tale of saving the world from all hell breaking loose, and the latter involves saving the world (and the afterlife!) from an evil dragon. They even illustrate this with the two good and evil dragons in a major fight being black and white, respectively. The gray shades come in when one considers many of the side quests, certain daedra, Skyrim's Civil War, and much of the game of Morrowind.
  • Black Magic: Played with in general. Any type of magic being considered uncouth largely comes down to philosophical disagreement. While some people consider necromancy or Daedric rituals evil, it does not involve any corruption like black magic does in many other settings. In this setting, magic is neither good nor evil, it is a tool and depends on how you use it. More specifically:
    • Necromancy is the type of magic most likely to be considered "evil." In Morrowind under the Tribunal Temple, it was considered blasphemous and punishable by death. It was also banned by the Mages Guild shortly before the events of the Oblivion Crisis. However, the Empire considered bodies and souls personal property to be willed away to whoever the deceased would, so it was never illegal in the Empire.
    • Daedric rituals and summoning can be considered this, depending on where you are in Tamriel and which Daedra you are trying to summon. Summoning the generally nastier ones (like Mehrunes Dagon and Molag Bal) pretty much ensure that something bad is going to happen after the fact.
    • Using the powers of the divine may come closest to true black magic, given the Reality Warping effects that power usually has one the world. Examples include use of the Numidium, the Elder Scrolls themselves, or anyone tapping into the Heart of Lorkhan.
  • Black Swords Are Better: Ebony and Daedric are generally the two best weapon crafting materials throughout the series with few exceptions. Both are dark metals, with Ebony looking like a dark metallic purple/brown/gray (depending on the game) and Daedric universally black and red. Weapons of both fall only behind legendary artifact weapons in terms of power.
  • Blind Seer: Blindness and prophecy are two of the side effects associated with reading the titular scrolls.
  • Blood Knight: Hircine is the Daedric Prince of this. The entire plot of Bloodmoon turns out to be a plot for him to find a worthy foe.
  • Bloodless Carnage: While there is a "blood splash" effect when hit, it doesn't persist. You could come out of a fight with only a small sliver of health while stuck with a dozen arrows, and you won't bleed a single drop. Corpses too will be devoid of any wounds, no matter how they were killed.
  • Blood Sport: Most games feature a gladiatorial arena. Sometimes it is used for duels to decide conflicts (such as in Morrowind) and other times for sport (such as in Oblivion.)
  • 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:
    • Any of the various forms of deity in the series qualify. Most lore scholars (in-universe and out) paint this as being especially true of the Daedra. While some are generally regarded as "good" (if not always "nice") like Azura and Meridia and others are regarded as "evil" like Mehrunes Dagon and Molag Bal, these are mortal minds attempting to understand beings Above Good and Evil.
    • Alduin's role as World Eater is this. To mortals, him ending the world is obviously a bad thing. However, when this comes to be, it will simply be him fulfilling his divine duty. (The reason he is the Big Bad of Skyrim is because he attempts to do this before it is time.)
    • This plays into the beliefs of the extremist Altmer, notably the Thalmor. They seek to destroy the mortal world, while also happily killing any children they deem "defective" in the belief that their spirits will eventually be reincarnated into a superior body.
  • Bonus Boss: The non-randomly generated games starting with Morrowind each feature at least a few of these. For the most part, they tend to be in out-of-the-way places you may only stumble upon by accident or only start appearing once you've reached a certain level.
  • Bootstrapped Theme: The main theme of Morrowind, titled "Nerevar Rising" was reused in various permutations for the games that followed.
  • Boring but Practical: Throughout the series, there are many exotic and interesting methods of killing enemies. However, at the end of the day, simply being proficient at stabbing, slashing, and/or bashing something to death with a melee weapon will always be extremely useful.
  • Bow and Sword, in Accord: The player can obvious use numerous weapons in combination. However, as the games have gotten more advanced, NPCs gave gotten in the action too. For instance, enemies who start with a ranged weapon will switch to a melee weapon if you close in, but will then switch back if you back off or get into a position where they cannot reach you with their melee weapons.
  • Breakable Weapons: Standard for the series until Skyrim, which does away with the mechanic. Also applied to armor in Morrowind and Oblivion. These items would need to be taken to a smith for repairs, or the player could do it by using repair hammers (with the item condition improvement based on the player's Armorer skill.)
  • Breeding Slave: According to the lore, this is how the Breton race came to be. Human slave women were selectively bred with Aldmeri men during the earliest era of Tamriellic history. To this day, members of noble Breton families are said to still have slight points to their ears.
  • Bribe Backfire: Until the Disposition mechanic was dropped for Skyrim, bribing was a means to increase the disposition of NPCs with the increase depending on the amount of money you offered and your Speechcraft skill. It could also fail, lowering the disposition of the character.
  • Broad Strokes: How the multiple contradictory endings of Daggerfall are handled in-universe. Due to the "Warp in the West'' caused by the activation of the Numidium at the end of the game, each ending happened simultaneously. However, none of the endings occurred to the same extent as they would have individually. For instance, Mannimarco did ascend to a form of godhood as the God of Worms, but it is in a rather minor station. It also seems to have created another version of him which did not ascend, remaining on Tamriel as a Lich who leads a cult which worships the God of Worms, who seems to be treated as a different entity.
  • Brotherhood of Evil: The Dark Brotherhood, a cult of assassins who worship Sithis, the primordial "Is Not" according to their doctrine.
  • Brown Note: Use of the eponymous Elder Scrolls. To anybody who doesn't know about the Scrolls or their effects, the contents are inert and incomprehensible symbols that vaguely resemble constellations. The "unguarded intellects," those who know what the Scrolls are and have some ability to read them, are immediately and irrevocably struck blind. Only those initiated into the mysteries of the Cult of the Ancestor Moth retain most of their sight after reading a Scroll and seeing the future. Unfortunately, there comes a day when even an Ancestor Moth cultist reads a Scroll for the last time. The Dwemer built a machine to safely read the Scrolls and record its results to get around this effect.
  • 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": Many examples, particularly when it comes to materials.
    • 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).
    • "Quicksilver," another name for real-life Mercury, is a solid mineral.
    • "Corundum" is a metallic substance which can be formed into ingots, rather than the real-world crystal.
    • Glass, which can be made into weapons or armor without shattering. This glass is similar to 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.
  • Call That a Formation?: A major case of Gameplay and Story Segregation. In each of the games, no attention is paid at all to formation. NPCs will run straight at the nearest enemy with no regard for tactics. However, tactics and formations are mentioned frequently in the backstory. For example, they are one of the greatest strengths of the Imperial Legion. While individually, they are not on the level of the warriors of the other races, their use of formations like the shield wall and ability to work together have allowed them to forge no fewer than four empires covering most or all of Tamriel at various points in history.
  • Canon Immigrant: Former developer Michael Kirkbride (as well some other former and current devs) have posted "Obscure Texts" to the official forums covering a number of topics and greatly expanding the series' lore. These texts are generally treated as canon (or at least the equivalent of the in-universe Unreliable Canon) by a good portion of the fan base (though not all,) and some concepts from these works, particularly as of Skyrim, have now been officially referenced in-game. (For example, the idea of "kalpas," Ysgramor and his 500 companions, and some of the motivations of the Thalmor.)
  • Card-Carrying Villain: The main quest villain tends to be one in each game, which is especially notable because the rest of the game features much more Gray and Gray Morality. Jagar Tharn in Arena, Mehrunes Dagon in Oblivion, and Alduin in Skyrim each fit the trope to a "T." Dagoth Ur in Morrowind is a less clear example, especially if you dig into the backstory. Depending on your interpretation of the events, he can come off as a particularly extreme Well-Intentioned Extremist. Daggerfall averts it with the most morally ambiguous main quest of them all.
    • 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...
  • Can't Argue with Elves: The various races of Mer all play with it to some degree or another.
    • The Altmer play it straight with their extremely haughty attitudes that condescend to all other races as being inferior in their achievements, and typically scorn the other races for their failings (despite the Aldmeri Dominion being vastly responsible for many ancient wars and calamities of Tamriel...) The Thalmor, an extremist and highly Altmer-supremacist sect, basically believe that the mortal world is a horrible, forsaken prison and that the creators of it are evil beings. They wish to destroy it so that the High Elves, the only beings who are truly descended from the Aedra according to their logic, can be free once again. (What makes it crazy is they're not exactly wrong per se.)
    • The Dunmer are isolationist, preferring to stay in their homeland and have a strong dislike for outlanders there. They stick steadfastly to their traditions (including slavery) and oppose change in any form where they can. Following the events of the Red Year, their way of life has been shattered and they've seemed to learn some humility in the process.
    • The Bosmer tend to be curious by nature, and invert the trope. They tend to cause more trouble than the human races do by sticking their noses into other people's business. Their long association with the Altmer hasn't helped matters for them.
  • Cargo Cult:
    • There is a minor race of gorillas called the Imga who worship High Elves and seek to emulate them, to the point of shaving off their fur, powdering their skin, and acting condescending and haughty towards humans and non-elves. In game literature describes the attempts as pitiful.
    • The Rieklings, a race of short gnome/goblin primitives native to Solstheim, hoard all sorts of detritus from Tamrielic civilization and worship it, including the remains of a crashed airship.
  • Cat Folk: Khajiit, with some zig-zagging throughout the series. In Arena, the playable Khajiit were a subspecies known as Ohmes Khajiit, which were basically humans with a few vague feline features. Daggerfall switched to the Ohmes-Raht, who had somewhat furry bodies and tails, but were otherwise fairly similar to humans or elves. From Morrowind onwards, the dominant Khajiit sub-species has been the Suthay-Raht, which are your standard Cat Folk. Though Khajiit can range from many many variations, depending on what the phases of the moons are when they are born. Whether rather human-like, the common anthropomorphic cats, giant jungle cats that are used as steeds for their own kind, note  or even common housecats. note 
  • Cat Ninja: Khajiit unsurprisingly make for good thieves and assassins thanks to their propensity for stealth.
  • Cave Behind the Falls: Part of the series' propensity toward Always Check Behind the Chair, it's a good idea to check behind every waterfall you come across. Not ALL of them hold secrets or treasure, but quite a few of them do.
  • Chameleon Camouflage: The series features the Chameleon spell, which has this effect. Unlike the standard Invisibility, which always makes you completely invisible but also wears off as soon as you perform an action, Chameleon comes in different levels of strength based on the percentage you become invisible, and the effect continues for the duration of the spell, allowing you to perform actions.
  • Changing Clothes Is a Free Action: Bringing up the menu in any game in the series pauses the game world. Here, you can change clothes, switch weapons, ready spells, gulp down food/potions, etc. all without any time passing. The only thing you can't do is change weapons mid-swing.
  • Chaos Architecture: Geography and city layouts vary greatly between Arena and its sequels. Some in-game texts discuss events such as Dragon Breaks and the intervention of various gods in between games to justify/retcon this.
  • Character Customization: Each game in the series allows some degree of customization of your character's appearance, with more advanced options becoming available as the games progress.
  • Characterization Marches On: Each of the races have experienced this over the course of the series. In particular:
    • 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 backstory about different types of Khajiit has since been made up to deal with the discrepancy. (See Cat Folk above.)
    • 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). Beginning 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 Dunmer (Dark Elves) 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 36 Lessons of Vivec for a good example of this.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: A few examples.
    • Training one's physical skills high enough can bring them to superhuman levels of ability. For example, one can train their Athletics to the point where they can outrun deer and out-swim fish, or train their Marksmanship to the point where time slows down while they are aiming.
    • Use of the Thu'um. Anyone can learn to do it, if they're willing to dedicate decades of their life training to do so. In fact, it was one of the ancient Nords' most powerful weapons and aided them immensely in their conquests. What makes those who are Dragonborn special is that they can do this innately.
  • Charm Person: Several useful and valuable spells have this effect.
  • Cheap Gold Coins: Standard for the series. Even the cheapest items in the game generally cost at least a few gold coins (called Septims,) with no lower value currency anywhere to be found. Hilariously, a gold ingot can be sold for more gold coins than that ingot would reasonably be able to produce.
  • 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.note  Oh, and it's implied the eruption was indirectly caused by the player's actions in Morrowind.)
  • Chivalrous Pervert: "Oh, why I am just certain that Crassius Curio counts, dumpling, but it is sooooo nice to hear you say so yourself."
  • Choice of Two Weapons: Just about any of the non-gunpowder options are available. Bow and melee weapon? Yep. Melee weapon and spell? Yep. Two melee weapons? Of course. (Use, for example, your big claymore to take down slower enemies and then switch to your short blade to take out faster ones.)
  • The Chosen One: It's been played straight, zig-zagged, averted, subverted, and is frequently deconstructed depending on where you look; the series really is all over the place with this one. The various Player Characters have generally been the chosen one, as prophesied in the Elder Scrolls themselves, but the series lore has an act known as "Mantling," where if you do what the chosen one was supposed to do, whether you actually are him or not, you become the chosen one. Morrowind has an interesting zig-zag where it isn't clear if the PC really is the chosen one or The Unchosen One. In Oblivion, Martin is the chosen one while the PC is more his Lancer/Hyper-Competent Sidekick. In Skyrim, the Dragonborn is very definitely the chosen one, having been blessed with the soul of an Aedric dragon by the series' chief deity in order to stop Alduin.
  • Chupacabra: The Hunger, a type of lesser Daedra, comes close to the "spiky alien" version of a Chupacabra. They also fit the myth by attacking with their tongue and possessing a strong Drain Health spell.
  • Church Militant: Several are seen throughout the series.
    • The Dunmeri Tribunal Temple has the Ordinators. Decked out in the sacred Indoril armor of their order and typically wielding Ebony Maces, they are a militant force to be reckoned with in Morrowind. They closely hold the most conservative values of the Dunmer and have a very wide definition of what qualifies as blasphemy. In addition, the Temple also has the Buoyant Armigers, elite special forces hand-picked for service by Physical God Vivec himself. Almalexia has the High Ordinators in her service, even stronger and better equipped than their standard counterparts.
    • Retired or undercover Blades agents tend to become monks in the Order of Talos. They're quite capable of defending themselves with the skills of their past profession if needed.
    • The Vigilants of Stendarr formed after the events of the Oblivion Crisis, and are dedicated to wiping out all manner of supernatural evil in Tamriel. Oddly enough (or, perhaps fittingly,) they are dedicated to the God of Mercy.
  • 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.
  • City Guards: Standard across the series. They'll attempt to arrest the player if the player is caught committing a crime.
  • City of Canals:
    • The city of Vivec from Morrowind.
    • Riften from Skyrim
    • As all cities in Arena are randomly generated, which can include canal-like rivers and lakes. any city can be considered this.
  • Clairvoyant Security Force: Played unerringly straight throughout the series. Reaches ridiculous levels when City Guards sometimes chase players across the entirety of the map in order to apprehend you for that 40 gold assault charge. Even if you use a teleportation spell to zap instantly across the game world after committing a crime, the guards there will already be aware of it and will try to arrest you.
  • Classical Tongue:
    • Ancient Aldmeris is the closest to the real world Latin example. It hasn't so much been lost, as it's simply evolved into several distinct but clearly related languages. It tends to pop up in scholarly works, again similar to Latin.
    • The languages of the Dwemer and Falmer have been lost to time, which is logical since those who could read it have either vanished or have been deformed into unintelligent, goblin-like creatures. Translating each is a plot point in Morrowind and Skyrim quests respectively.
  • Clingy MacGuffin: In addition to some actual items which behave this way as part of quests, there is the meta example of "Quest Items." Starting with Oblivion, items essential to completing a quest cannot be dropped until the associated quest is completed. Unfortunately, quite a few of them are bugged so that they remain undroppable even after the quest is completed, leaving you stuck with these items as eternal inventory clutter. One popular mod for both Oblivion and Skyrim removes the quest item tag altogether, which means being careful not to lose the items, just like the earlier games in the series.
  • Colon Cancer: The tie-in books to Skyrim' and Online that contain in-game lorebooks and art, with titles like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - The Skyrim Library, Vol. 1: The Histories.
  • Combat Breakdown: In the games with Breakable Weapons, it is possible for a weapon to break in the middle of combat, leaving you to use a lesser backup weapon or even your fists.
  • Common Tongue: While the series features many languages in background lore, both extant and extinct, there is only one common language spoken in the games, which is an Acceptable Break From Reality for the player's convenience.
  • Compelling Voice:
    • Those of the Imperial race have natural talent for diplomacy. They typically get a racial ability in the games that reflects this, in the form of "Calm" spell or something similar.
    • The original Nerevar from the backstory was said to have one of these. Whether it was actually a supernatural ability or if he was just that persuasive is never elaborated upon. This was further enhanced by his Azura-blessed ring, Moon-And-Star, which moderately raises Speechcraft and Personality.
  • Compilation Re-release: The series got one for PC only in the form of the ''Elder Scrolls Anthology", released in 2013. It contains the 5 main games in the series and the expansions/DLC for the last three.
  • Composite Character: In-Universe cases.
    • According to some sources, this is a possibility for Talos, the deity. Whatever Mind Screwy, Reality Warping process was responsible for his ascent to godhood, it brought together multiple timelines where he was all of Ysmir, Hjalti Earlybeard, and any other historical figures attributed to him, regardless of the conflicts.
    • Similarly true for Dagoth Ur and the Tribunal. Their use of the Heart of Lorkhan to achieve godhood is said to have brought together two timelines: one where they were the mortal advisors Voryn Dagoth, Vehk, Ayem, and Seht who ascended to godhood, and another where they had always been gods. If you can decipher the insanity, Vivec's 36 Lessons explains some of the details of this.
  • Compressed Hair: Played straight. No matter how much hair your character has, it will all fit neatly under a helmet once equipped. This even applied to the ears/horns/frills of Khajiit and Argonians.
  • Con Lang: The series boasts several. The most complete is Daedric, the alphabet of which is simply a cypher for Roman. Falmer, Dwemer, and Ayleid also appear. Skyrim introduced the Draconic language, spoken by dragons and in the form of Dragon Shouts. It also has a 34 character alphabet, based on the symbols a dragon would be able to make with its claws.
  • 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.
  • Constructed World: The series has a very deep and well-constructed world. The games themselves have so far only taken place on one continent: Tamriel.
  • 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. These even happen in-unverse, with Time Crash events known as "Dragon Breaks." Essentially, the Dragon God of Time (Akatosh) is tampered with in some way, causing the reality of the world to change in some way. (Mortal beings ascending to godhood or otherwise tapping into some sort of divine power are the most frequent cause.)
  • Controllable Helplessness: Later games in the series have this if you choose to go to jail after being arrested. You find yourself in a cell with a single lockpick if you had one in your inventory when arrested. If you fail (or choose not) to escape, your only option is to hang out in your cell until released. You can thankfully rest in the provided bed as a quick way of doing this.
  • Convenient Questing: Played with in different instances.
    • Averted when it comes to specific quests. Any given quest can occur on the other side of the game world as easily as it can occur in the same area. For example, the very first mission of the main quest in Morrowind sends you two towns over on a journey that can take upwards of twenty minutes, and that is if you don't stop along the way to explore the locations in between.
    • Played straight in most early faction quests. They rarely take place very far from the quest giver. Justified for groups like the Fighters Guild, who are generally going to be contracted by locals for their services. As you advance in the ranks, however, quests can be given which will require you to travel quite far.
    • Played straight in general, when you consider that absolutely anything you may need to do or find as part of the story will be located within the province the game takes place in.
  • Cool Sword: Umbra, Goldbrand, Eltonbrand, True Flame, Chrysamere, Dawnbreaker, The Ebony Blade...and many, many, many more.
  • 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 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.
    • When Dagoth Ur and the Tribunal tapped into the Heart of Lorkhan to become gods, they performed one of these in regards to their own pasts. (Vivec has two contradicting origin stories which are both technically true, for example.)
    • This event, as well as other instances of "Dragon Break", is implied to account for some of the differences between the earlier and later games in the series. Perhaps the biggest example is the province of Cyrodiil itself, which, before Talos came around, was all tropical jungle. These days it is more of a temperate forest. The Elder Scrolls Online shows it as a temperate forest before Talos was said to have made it such, but this is also possibly an extension of the retcon, with Talos having made it so that Cyrodiil was always a temperate forest.
    • Their tendency to mess with reality is the reason why Elder Scrolls are typically considered dangerous artifacts. (In addition to the fact that possessing them generally leads to insanity, and attempting to read them leads to incurable blindness.)
  • Court Mage: The Imperial Battlemage is an advisory position to the Emperor of Tamriel. They have traditionally advised the Emperor in all matters of the arcane. Lesser leaders also tend to have a mage in a similar role, such as the Jarls of Skyrim.
  • 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.
  • Creation Myth: All of the cultures in Tamriel have their own, with many similarities but also many irreconcilable differences. One that seems to be universally shared (though with names and details changed) is that of one specific creator god. Depending on a mortal's opinion on this one particular god, he is either Lorkhan, the Doom Drum, who tricked the other gods into weakening or sacrificing themselves to create the Mundus (world of mortals), and was punished with his own death and binding to the world, or he is Shor/Shezarr, someone who wished to break everyone out out of the boring pre-creation state by taking a necessary but arduous interim step in creating mortality and was killed for it (and planned for this, with his failure being a cautionary tale of what not to do to achieve his goal). Elven religions tend to be more of the former, while religions of the races of men tend to be more the latter.
  • 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.
  • Cryptic Background Reference: Much of the background of the series is only hinted at in the games, either through dialogue with various characters or in the many in-game books.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: While the religions or creation stories in the series draw from many different sources outside of Christianity (particularly, Hinuism and Norse mythology,) this trope is definitely in play.
    • The official religion of the Empire involves eight beings known as "Aedra" who took part in the creation of the world, sacrificing part of their power to do so, and a ninth divine, a mortal who ascended to godhood. They are formulated into a polytheistic faith called the Nine Divines. The cathedrals serving them are notably Gothic and its knights wear Knights Templar-like armor. (Previous games gave each god their own knightly order, though that may be a practice of only the Iliac Bay region.) The chief deity of this pantheon is Akatash, the Dragon God of Time. Akatosh's firstborn son is Alduin, a dragon whose second coming heralds the end of the world. Given that Alduin is simultaneously Akatosh's son and Akatosh's very own Nordic persona/avatar, the Jesus connection is even stronger. The religion has messianic figures, known as "Dragonborn," who come along at times of crisis to save Tamriel. (It's telling that the most hotly debated sideplot of Skyrim is the civil war, which was touched off by the Thalmor effort to outlaw the worship of Tiber Septim ne Talos, the Dragonborn whose descendants ruled the Empire for over 400 years.)
    • The Tribunal Temple of Morrowind also heavily draws from the Catholic church - hagiography, apocrypha, an Inquisition, sainthood, and the idea of a "new covenant" supplanting the older Daedric cults of the Dunmer. The Nerevarine (said to be a Dragonborn as mentioned above,) is the second coming of Nerevar, and is seen as a messianic figure by those ostracized by the Temple (include the Ashlanders and Dissident Priests.)
  • Crystal Prison: Soul gems can be used to trap the soul of living things. Once trapped, they can then be used to enchant an item or recharge an already enchanted item.
  • Cultural Posturing: The Altmer and Dunmer are particularly fond of this.
    • As of Skyrim, the Altmer have taken this up several notches. Even to other Altmer.
  • Culture Clash: All over the place. The Dunmer traditionally enslave the beast races (Khajiit and Argonians), which they are understandably not fans of. In the other direction, the Imperials consider Dunmer ancestor worship to be equivalent to necromancy and severely frown on it, although they stopped short of outright banning it in order to avoid rebellion. The Khajiit have a somewhat loose view of personal property. The Altmer consider themselves better than anyone else and think they should be in charge, which is a bit of a problem for the Imperials as they think exactly the same thing. Often blows past this straight toward Fantastic Racism.
  • Cursed with Awesome / Blessed with Suck/ Beneficial Disease: Corprus disease renders you permanently immune to all other diseases, boosts your strength, and stops you from ever aging. On the downside, it's also The Virus, and eventually turns you into an Eldritch Abomination.
    • 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)
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • Cut-and-Paste Environments: The first two games in the series relied exclusively on these to fill out their absolutely massive game worlds. Morrowind averts it by being entirely hand built, though significantly smaller than it's predecessors. Oblivion leans back toward it, with areas outside of towns and especially with Oblivion Gates. (There are 90 gates to Oblivion, but only 7 distinct maps. There's slight variation in the layout of the central towers, but not enough to shake the feelings of deja vu.) The regular dungeons are also examples, though less blatant; they were procedurally generated before release. Skyrim then skews away from it again, going back to a mostly hand-built world with hand-built (though not necessarily unique) dungeons.

    D-L 
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory: Go from any installment to any other installment and you'll run into this problem, guaranteed.
    • 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.
    • Also happens if you've been playing Fallout3 or Fallout: New Vegas which use the same engine and were developed by the same company, to the point they are sometimes considered sister series. These games feature similar controls to Oblivion and Skyrim, particularly in the overworld. However, open a chest and each game has a different response as to what is gonna happen.
  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique: Redguard warriors known as "Sword Singers" could become so skilled with their blades that they were said to be able to split atoms using a technique known as the "Pankratosword." It is said that their original homeland of Yokuda was destroyed by this technique, so it became forbidden and was lost to history. (Though according to other sources, the "destruction of the homeland" story is hinted at being an embellishment, and the Redguard people left Yokuda to escape much more traditional violence and oppression.)
  • Dark Age Europe: Tamriel went through their own version during the Interregnum, a 500 year span between the fall of the 2nd Empire under the Akaviri Potentates until the rise of Tiber Septim's 3rd Empire. And much like the real world "Dark Ages," this period wasn't as bad as it is made to seem. Yes, there was a lot of warring between petty kingdoms and many of the achievements of the fallen empire were lost, but factions like the Dark Brotherhood and Fighters Guild grew in popularity while many former enemies (Daggerfall/Hammerfell/Orsinium and Skyrim/Morrowind/Argonia) formed Enemy Mines to repel outside invaders (Reachmen and the Kamal, respectively,) showing that the former provinces of the empire could still work together when they had to. The Elder Scrolls Online is set during this time period, giving it an up-close look.
  • 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.
  • Dark World: Molag Bal's Daedric plane of Coldharbour is said to be this. It's a copy of Nirn of with every imaginable catastrophe having occured and the world is covered in bloody excrement. (Fitting for the Daedric Prince of violation.)
  • Deader Than Dead: Several instances:
    • In general, there are several cases in the series where you kill a powerful sorcerer/necromancer only to have him/her reconstitute as lich/wraith/etc. to be fought again.
    • In Knights of the Nine, where you must kill Umaril twice, first his body and then his soul. That's after he was trapped in another dimension for centuries.
    • To fully kill a dragon, you must first destroy its body and then absorb its soul. While anyone of sufficient ability can do the former, only another dragon (or a dragonborn) is capable of the latter.
    • When fighting Necromancers, they have a tendency to revive fallen allies as zombies (Though only once per ally)
  • Dead Star Walking: Uriel Septim VII, voiced by Patrick Stewart in Oblivion.
  • Death of a Thousand Cuts - Cliff Racers drove the dragons out of Morrowind despite being small annoying things that die quickly.
  • Death Seeker: Appear quite frequently in the series, usually as Nords or Orcs in old age who are looking for a good death in battle. Technically, any Nord seeking entrance to Sovngarde also qualifies, since getting there requires death in battle (or at least a very honorable violent death.)
  • Defeating the Undefeatable: The Gray Prince in Oblivion. Alduin in Skyrim.
  • Deity of Human Origin:
    • The ALMSIVI and Talos of Atmora/Tiber Septim.
    • Cyrodiilic legends have Arkay be one, but that probably is a misinterpretation of the actual situation.
    • Sheogorath heavily implies in Skyrim to have once been The Champion of Cyrodiil. Which makes perfect sense, given the events of the Shivering Isles expansion to Oblivion.
    • An attempt by the Dwemer to do this is how they met their end. It could also have been a success or one of the many Jerkass Gods in the setting killing them for their attempts.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: This is sometimes seen in the in-universe writings, as well as character interaction.
  • Dem Bones: Skeletons of varying strength are an extremely common enemy throughout the series. Plenty of variants also exist, such as Bonelords (skeletal mages assembled from multiple corpses), Dark Guardians (who serve the Dark Brotherhood), and even skeletal dragons.
  • Demi Human: Three forms of elves are seen in the games so far, along with Orcs and "Dwarves" (who are just variations of elf.) Additionally there are the Lizard Folk Argonians and Cat Folk Khajiit "beast" races to go along with the four races of men.
  • Design-It-Yourself Equipment: Spellmaking is an option throughout the series, allowing you to create spells of varying strengths and durations, or to combine the effects of multiple spells. Once these become available (and the player can afford them,) they usually render the majority of the games pre-made spells obsolete.
  • Devil but No God: This concept is explored and played with.
    • The Daedra, who many see as devils or demons. Some are seen as quite "good" by the mortal races, and others quite "evil," but they're really deities Above Good and Evil who operate on their own scale of Blue and Orange Morality. Regardless, they are near-universally reviled as "evil", and their worshipers are considered misguided at best, and dangerous lunatics at worst. They are, however, very much present in the world. They speak directly to their worshipers, sometimes even appearing in a physical form, and are perfectly willing to offer immediate, tangible rewards for those that choose to do their work.
    • Conversely, there are the Aedra. Referred to as the Nine Divines (really, eight original Aedra who surrendered a portion of their power to create the mortal world plus Talos, ascended god form of Tiber Septim.) They intervene very rarely or directly in the mortal world apart from their altars supposedly granting blessings and healing diseases, which any semi-competent spellcaster can do. A reason for this, as explained in the lore, is that Aedra can be destroyed, while Daedra are eternal. It would make sense that they rarely intervene directly when it's possible that it could destroy them. Given all of this, there are quite a few mortals who wonder if the "gods" (meaning Aedra) really even exist.
    • Clouding these waters further is the presence of Lorkhan (aka Shor, Shezarr, etc,) the dead creator god of the mortal realm. According to virtually every creation myth (with a few variations,) he convinced/tricked the other divine pre-creation spirits into sacrificing part of their power to create the world. He was "killed" as a result, his "divine center" (heart) torn from his body and cast down in the world he helped to create. The moons are said to be his "rotting corpse" and his spirit is forced to wander Nirn, occasionally taking form as a "Shezarrine," great champions of mankind who usually show up to help in wars against the Elven races. So it's possible that rather than there being "Devils But No God," it could really be "Devils, weakened Angels, and a Dead God."
  • Did We Just Have Tea with Cthulhu?: Happens frequently in interactions with various deities, particularly the Daedra. The games alone provide examples of having dinner with Sheogorath and a drinking contest with Sanguine.
  • 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.
    • Defied with Sheogorath, who any attempt to attack leads to a rather spectacular and untimely death.
    • Defied 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).
    • Justified with Jyggalag, as you had the powers of Sheogorath by that point.
    • 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.
  • Difficult but Awesome: Being born under the Atronach birthsign eliminates your ability to naturally regenerate magicka. That said, it gives you a 50% chance of absorbing any you're hit with, and it gives the largest magicka boost of any of the magic birthsigns. Taken Up to Eleven if you play a High Elf born under the Atronach (considering High Elves are weak to magic, but have the highest starting pool of any race).
  • Dimension Lord: The Daedric Princes each reign over their own plane of Oblivion. Mehrunes Dagon's "Deadlands" plane and Sheogorath's "Shivering Isles" planes are visited in the eponymous game.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Azura toward the Chimer/Dunmer in the series' backstory. While everyone involved has their own version of exactly what happened at Red Mountain all those years ago, we do know that Nerevar ended up dead and the Tribunal (and Dagoth Ur) ascended to godhood. Neither of which Azura was happy about. She then (possibly) cursed them with the dark skin and red eyes of the modern Dunmer. Years later, she played a prominent role in guiding the Nerevarine to destroy the Heart of Lorkhan, and with it, the Tribunal's divinity. They all end up dead or disappeared, plunging Morrowind into chaos and indirectly leading toward its destruction with the subsequent Red Mountain eruption and Argonian invasion.
  • Divinely Appearing Demons: Ranges from being played straight to being averted depending on which Daedric prince you consider. For instance, Meridia, whose domain is life and light, appears as a brilliant glowing light, yet is actually considered one of the Daedra.
  • Downer Beginning: Every main series game except for Morrowind has this happen. In Arena, you learn that the Emperor has been kidnapped, and you need to rescue him. In Daggerfall, King Lysandus is killed, and you are sent to figure out who did it and why. Oblivion has the Emperor assassinated by psychotic cultists. Skyrim starts with the village you are in getting destroyed by the first dragon seen in Skyrim in centuries.
  • Down the Drain: Larger cities usually have an Absurdly Spacious Sewer ripe for exploring. At least one city in each game following the 3D jump has some.
  • Driven to Madness: Finding inventive ways to drive people to complete madness is within the realm of Sheogorath. He even considers it a blessing.
    "Madness is a bitter mercy, perhaps, but a mercy nonetheless. It is better to be seen as mad than hopelessly despondent."
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: The fate of various characters/places in between games usually turns out to be rather sad and anticlimactic, if they're mentioned again at all. Those from Morrowind seemed to have gotten particularly harsh treatment when mentioned in Oblivion and especially Skyrim, which takes places after Vvardenfell, the island where Morrowind took place, was completely destroyed by an erupting Red Mountain.
  • Drop the Hammer: Warhammers are a classic heavy blunt weapon in the series. They generally deal massive damage, but are extremely heavy and slow to swing.
  • 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.
  • Dual Wielding: Fans had been requesting this for years when the developers finally delivered in Skyrim. Now, melee weapons, spells, or one of each can be dual wielded.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Pops up frequently in the series. For example, even if you've advanced to the highest rank of a given faction, people's reaction to you doesn't always change to match. (You're often regarded as a newbie still.) Completing the main quest in each game will usually get you respect from those involved, however, others may not recognize your world-saving accomplishment at all.
  • Due to the Dead:
    • Arkay, one of the Nine Divines, is considered the god of life and death. He has "do not profane the spirits of the dead" as one of his commandments. The souls of sapient beings are specially protected by him, normally preventing them from being used for profane magic. However, when Mannimarco ascended to godhood as the God of Worms during the Warp in the West event, he became a celestial body that orbits Arkay. When he eclipses Arkay, this protection is blocked, allowing grand soul gems to be converted to black soul gems which are capable of trapping sapient souls.
    • Despite Arkay being one of the deities of their official religion, Imperial law was always a bit more flexible, considering the body and soul of a person to be possessions. This allowed them to be sold, traded, or willed away as any other property. Necromancy wasn't even illegal in the Septim Empire, as long as the dead being used was a willing volunteer.
    • During the height of the Tribunal Temple's power in Morrowind, Necromancy was considered a highly blasphemous and profane act. Necromancers were to be killed on sight by Temple faithful. However, those very same faithful would summon the spirits and bodies of their ancestors to protect their tombs and other holy sites. They considered this to be a holy act, though were called out by outsiders for their hypocrisy.
  • Dummied Out: Exploration of the Construction Set files for the games shows that quite a bit of content is developed but never finished or implemented in the final product. Famous examples include the ability to join the Sixth House in Morrowind and the more complex Civil War questlines (with additional city battles) in Skyrim. In many of the cases, enough of the code still exists for modders to complete it and implement it themselves.
  • Dump Stat: Personality throughout the series usually falls into this. Both it and the skills it governs (particularly Speechcraft) can be increased temporarily by numerous means when needed. Since the game time freezes when you enter into a conversation, you can easily create a spell or enchantment to increase Personality considerably for 1 second. Cast it, then enter the conversation. The effect will persist until you leave the conversation.
  • Dungeon Crawling: A staple of the series. The majority of quests send to you one type of "dungeon" or another, usually to retrieve a particular item and/or slay a particular foe. It is also the typical way of making money. Simply go to a dungeon, kill everything within, loot the place until you can't carry anymore, then go sell it all.
  • Early Game Hell: Every game in the main series except for Oblivion features this is some form. Arena and Daggerfall are absolutely hellish, where even basic enemies like rats can kill you in a couple of hits if you aren't careful. Awkward controls, no health regen and the ability to only cast one or two spells before magicka runs out means players will usually die a myriad of times in the tutorial dungeon alone until they figure out what they are doing. Morrowind starts you off in an easy-going starting town, but from there, things get hellish very quickly. Once you've gained experience and better equipment, this turns around, allowing you to go quickly from schmuck to god-slayer. Skryim is similar, though not quite as harsh as the other games.
  • 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.
  • Earth Drift: The series has this as a Cyclic Trope. The first two games are basically standard RPG settings. Morrowind then swings to a very unconventional and alien setting. Oblivion swings back to a standard "medieval Europe" setting. Skyrim swings back, yet again, into a more fantastical setting with random dragon encounters and draugrs, the Nordic equivalent of zombies.
  • Easy Exp: Skill books can be found which automatically increase one of your skills upon reading them.
  • Egomaniac Hunter: Hircine is the Daedric Prince of the Hunt. He hunts solely for the sport, including having his own pack of hunting dogs (read: werewolves), and partakes in Hunting the Most Dangerous Game every so often.
  • Elaborate Equals Effective: The effectiveness of a weapon can usually be easily judged just by looking at it. A basic iron or steel weapon will inevitably be less effective than an iridescent-green Glass weapon or a black, red, and spiky Daedric weapon. Usually applies to artifact class weapons as well, which have unique models almost always more elaborate than the basic weapons of the same class.
  • Elaborate Underground Base:
    • The Dwemer were fond of these, creating entire city complexes deep underground. Thousands of years later, during the time the games take place, the Dwemer have been long gone and their ruins now function as these for new inhabitants.
    • Common as standard "dungeons," usually inhabited by bandits, smugglers, and the like. They can range from a few rooms with crates and hammocks to massive complexes with multiple entrances and exits. Some are natural caves, while others are in places where they would have needed to be dug out by hand.
  • Eldritch Abomination:
    • Sithis. He is related to (or may even be) Padomay, the personification of the primordial state of chaos, and is typically represented as a "great void." He is the patron of the Dark Brotherhood, who refer to him as the primal "Is Not."
    • The Daedric Princes are alien beyond human understanding, though they can take any form they like, and so will often take a humanoid form to deal with mortals. Gender has no actual meaning to them and some appear as female, but they are referred to as "princes" as a whole. They don't share the sense of "good" and "evil" mortals have. How they feel about the mortal races varies from prince to prince; many enjoy being worshiped, some just enjoy toying with mortals' lives for their own amusement, but all of them have demonstrated a willingness to reward mortals they find particularly helpful, loyal, or amusing.
      • Hermaeus Mora doesn't even bother with the "humanoid form" thing. His true form is a mind-shattering, seemingly infinite mass of eyes and tentacles.
    • The Sixth House minions of Dagoth Ur. Using the divine power of the Heart of Lorkhan, Dagoth Ur has twisted them into Body Horror abominations. Eventually, they cross the Bishonen Line, as his most powerful followers revert back to mostly humanoid appearance, though with occasional extra parts.
  • Eldritch Location: Any of the Daedric planes qualify. These are spaces within the infinite Oblivion surrounding the mortal realm where the Daedric Princes have total reign. They can vary from beautiful places, like Azura's Moonshadow, which is so beautiful that it is said to "half blind" mortals who lay eyes up on it, to Fire and Brimstone Hell places like Mehrunes Dagon's Deadlands. And then there are the places that Cthulhu himself would find cozy, like Hermaeus Mora's Apocrypha.
  • Elemental Crafting: Played straight throughout the series with an occasional variation. It is based on the weight/defense ratio of the armor or lethality of the weapon and gear made of different materials are more clearly crafted differently.
  • Elemental Embodiment: Atronochs, also known as "Elemental Daedra," commonly come in Flame, Frost, and Storm varieties. While they are lesser Daedra, they are not aligned to any particular Daedric Prince. They are the Daedra most commonly summoned by conjurers.
  • Elemental Powers: The three main varieties of Destruction magic are Fire, Frost, and Shock.
  • Elves vs. Dwarves: In this universe, however, "dwarves" (Dwemer) are actually an extinct sub-species of elves (mer), the name "dwarf" being an archaeological misnomer.
    • 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.
  • Emotion Bomb: Several varieties. For added effect, each can be crafted into a massive area of effect spell, making it even more "bomb"-like. Examples:
    • The Calm spell will turn hostile foes non-hostile for the duration of the spell.
    • The Frenzy spell will turn non-hostile foes hostile for the duration fo the spell.
    • The Rally spell will turn neutral targets into allies for the duration of the spell.
  • Empathic Weapon: The artifacts associated with Daedric Princes have a tendency to leave their user if that user abuses them or starts to become too dependent on them. Depending on the wishes of their associated Prince, they can reappear in a different time or place, sometimes being handed out directly by their Prince. They tend to show up where important events are unfolding, which may draw the Princes' attention.
  • 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: Exists throughout the series. Taken Up to Eleven in Oblivion, where the Level Scaling was so broken that many veterans of the game avoid sleep at all costs so as to never level up. This was largely rectified in Skyrim, though still possible there if you invest a lot of training and perk points in non-combat skills.
  • Empty Room Psych: Happens frequently throughout the series. Given that exploration is one of the main focuses of the series, it would make sense that some places have nothing of interest or value in them at all.
  • Enslaved Elves: Unusually for the trope, both examples are cases of Elves being enslaved by other Elves.
    • When the Nords came to Skyrim and began eradicating the native Falmer ("Snow Elves",) the surviving Falmer were taken in by their Dwemer cousins. However, they were not benevolent. The Dwemer enslaved the Falmer, blinded them, and twisted them into barely-sapient creatures along the lines of Goblins. Prior to this, the Falmer had a civilization to rival even the Altmer.
    • While it may not be full blown slavery, the Bosmer of Valenwood are treated as second-class citizens to the Altmer under the Aldmeri Dominion. Things became even worse when the Thalmor rose to power, as they even treat other Altmer as beneath them if those Altmer do not subscribe to the beliefs of the Thalmor.
  • Escort Mission: Plenty in the series. After numerous complaints about the Suicidal Overconfidence and Artificial Stupidity of your followers in Morrowind, the later games took steps to improve this by making (most) followers "essential" so that they could only be knocked out, not killed. Skyrim took it even further by allowing you to trade equipment with most followers to make them more combat proficient as well as give them instructions to make escorting them less burdensome. It is still not a perfect system, but it is improved.
  • Eternal Hero: The various incarnations of the spirit of Lorkhan/Shezzar/Shor, the dead creator god. Known as "Shezzarines," these heroes appear as great champions of mankind during times of crisis, usually fighting against elves. The best example (apart from the god-emperor Talos) is Wulfharth Ash-King, who has died and come back to life at least three times.
  • Eternal Recurrence: The timeline of the Elder Scrolls universe works in kalpas, or cycles of time. At the end of each, the world is destroyed so that it can be made anew. Alduin is set to "eat the world" to end the current cycle, and the events of Skyrim are him trying to do so before it is time. His soul not being absorbed at the end by the Dragonborn implies that he will one day return to fulfill his duty as "world eater."
  • Ethnic God: Many of the races worship many of the same gods, but they manifest as different aspects. For instance, Stendarr is known as the god of mercy in the Imperial and Aldmeri pantheons, but his Old Nordic aspect Stuhn can be better understood as the god of ransom.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: 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.) Some more specific examples:
    • Although the Morag Tong is a guild of assassins, those assassins are sanctioned by the Dunmer government and have very strict rules as to whom you can or cannot murder.
    • The Thieves Guild of Morrowind come out 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."
  • Everyone Is a Super: Essentially anyone is capable of using magic. Some races are born with this inherent as a natural ability, while those who are not can still head to the local chapel or Mages group to be trained. Those who do not use magic simply have chosen to focus on other areas, rather than being incapable of spells. Many races also start with free skill points in at least one magical discipline and/or supernatural special abilities which require no training, skill, or even magicka. Even Nords, who typically ridicule magic users, can call on magical frost once a day and get skill points in Restoration magic. Your birth sign can grant you further powers, including turning invisible.
  • Everyone Is Bi: Seems to be the case for much of Tamriel. Starting with Morrowind, the response to many of the "Admire" persuasion options appears to be a response to a come-on or pickup line, regardless of the player character's gender or race. Taken Up to Eleven in Skyrim, where every marriageable character can be married, once again regardless of the player character's gender or race. Seems to be a bit of a case of Gameplay and Story Segregation though, as in-universe gay couples not involving player characters are extremely rare, though there still doesn't seem to be any prejudice against them.
  • Everything's Better with Rainbows: According to the First Pocket Guide, Alinor has towers that are "designed to catch the light of the sun and break it to its component colors."
  • Evil Counterpart: The Camonna Tong to the Thieves Guild in Morrowind.
    • Amusingly, the Dark Brotherhood to the Morag Tong in the same game. Both of which are assassin guilds. Only the Morag Tong is playable, however, because the Dark Brotherhood is trying to kill you.
    • 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.
  • Evil Protagonist 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.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: There are metaphysical "rules" in place that bar most from being able to summon Daedra, specifically to prevent this sort of thing from happening. This doesn't always work, however. One in-game book, for example, tells the story of a boy who summons a Dremora to practice his Conjuration. The Dremora says the boy will need a soul gem to advance further, and hey! He just happens to have one on him that the boy can use. The boy accepts the soul gem... and the Dremora demonstrates how to use it by tearing the kid's heart out and trapping him in the gem. The book ends with the moral that you never accept a freely given gift from a summoned Daedra, because this breaks the magical bond that keeps them from killing you.
  • Evil Makes You Ugly: Subverted by the Dunmer. Previously, they were known as the Chimer and had pretty golden skin. According to one legend, when the Tribunal betrayed Nerevar, Azura cursed the whole species with eyes as red as fire and skin as grey as ash. Somewhat subverted in that the Tribunal kept their former appearance; the evil-looking Dunmer really had nothing to do with the betrayal. Also, the whole story may just be allegorical for the physical changes caused by living in a blasted hellscape of ash and lava.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Many, many examples. Jagar Tharn from the first game, being the most cliche example. Members of House Telvanni are encouraged to be Evil Sorcerers due to its rules about Might Makes Right and Klingon Promotion.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Many of the voiced Big Bads of the series have deep voices. Included are Dagoth Ur, Mehrunes Dagon, and Alduin, as well as numerous villains in the various guild and faction questlines.
  • Evil Weapon: While the Blue and Orange Morality of the Daedra tends to put them Above Good and Evil, you will need to do some fairly evil things in order to obtain and/or power up some of their associated artifacts. A few examples:
    • Umbra is a powerful soul-stealing sword created by a witch for Clavicus Vile. It tends to take over the mind of its wielder, turning them into insane Blood Knights.
    • The Ebony Blade is an artifact associated with Mephala, and in order to power it up, you need to use it kill people who trust or love you.
    • In order to receive any artifacts from Mehrunes Dagon, Molag Bal, Malacath, or any of the other traditionally "evil" Daedra, you are almost certainly going to have to do something evil for them, ranging from corruption to outright murder.
  • Evolutionary Ret Con: The series has surprisingly averted this for the most part, despite major overhauls to the graphics with each new game release. Most of the races and creatures that appear in each game have kept the same look, with only improvements in the quality of their appearance, not to the appearance itself. One area where it has been played entirely straight has been with the Argonian race. Arena displayed them as gray skinned humanoids. Two games later, Morrowind turned them into bird-legged, iguana-looking people. Oblivion returned them to more traditionally bipedal dinosaur-looking people. Finally, Skyrim has them looking like, well, traditionally bipedal iguana-looking people (they use the same model as other races, apart from the lizard head and tail). This evolution is ostensibly justified in-universe by the fact the Argonians worship the "Hist," a race of sentient trees in their homeland of Argonia (or "Black Marsh"). Hatchling Argonians drink the sap from the Hist that changes them physically. After the events of the Oblivion Crisis, it is believed that the Hist have been strengthening the Argonians, turning them into more formidable warriors over time.
    • This possible justification is backed up by the fact that the Khajiit, who otherwise had the same development as the Argonians (with cats instead of lizards) actually did get a more-or-less official explanation involving physical differences between breeds (each individual's appearance is based on the phases of the moons under which they are born).
  • Excuse Plot: Downplayed, but present. Each game does have a deep main quest, but the series' emphasis on freedom and exploration means you are free to never touch the main quest while still playing for potentially hundreds of hours.
  • Exploited Immunity: The Argonians have a racial ability which allows them to breathe underwater. They also have a reputation for being skilled at guerrilla warfare, constructing underwater camps (which are naturally hard for non-Argonians to assault) and one of their favorite tactics being to grapple their victims, drag them underwater, and keep them there until they drown. (Unfortunately, due to a lack of grappling mechanics, Argonian players are unable to do this in the games themselves.)
  • Face–Heel Turn: If one can count the Empire as the "face" side of things, the provinces of Black Marsh and Elsweyr (home of the Argonians and Khajiit, respectively,) pull one off between Oblivion and Skyrim. Specifically:
    • 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.
    • Through some clever manipulation, the Dominion convinces Elsweyr to abandon the Empire and join their side in the conflict as a client state.
  • Fantastic Drug: Moon Sugar and its derivative, Skooma.
  • Fantastic Caste System: Dremora, a type of lesser Daedra, have one. They're divided into three "soldier" classes (Churls, Caitiffs, and Kynvals), two "officer" classes (Kynreeves and Kynmarchers), and two "noble" classes (Markynaz and Valkynaz).
  • Fantastic Fighting Style: The Khajiit are said to have many forms with colorful names like Goutfang, Whispering Claw, Two-Moons-Dance, and Rawlith Khaj (translated as "Raining Sand").
  • Fantastic Naming Convention:
    • 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.
    • Many Argonians have names, that refer to skill or profession or their race itself, such as "Scouts-Many-Marshes" or "Quill Weave" (A writer) or "Basks-In-The-Sun"
  • Fantastic Nuke: The Pankratosword technique mentioned above was supposedly one. Its use is said to be why most of Yokuda, the original homeland of the Redguard, sank into the ocean. (Though other sources state that this is unlikely, and that the Redguard people left Yokuda to escape much more standard problems, such as a corrupt government.)
  • 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.
    • Also noted, is when going up the ranks in The Stormcloaks, Ulfric named them himself, so accordingly, the higher you rank the more badass the titles become.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Changing depending on the game and/or point in history:
    • 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.
    • Although we never see Akavir, it's apparently based on China and Japan.
  • Fantasy Gun Control:
  • 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.
  • Fantasy Metals: Several forms are staples throughout the series.
    • Ebony is a dark grayish/brownish/purplish mineral with some characteristics of volcanic glass. It's extremely dense, worth more than gold when used as bullion, and forges into some of the most powerful weapons and heavy armor available in Tamriel. Lore scholars have long theorized that ebony may in fact be the petrified blood of the dead creator god Lorkhan, as it's greatest deposits are near Red Mountain where Lorkhan's heart fell from the sky.
    • Daedric metal is a special kind of Ebony which is infused with demonic souls. It's dark gray with red veinlets, and when forged, usually comes out very "spiky." It's almost always the high-end, top of the line metal in the games.
    • Dwarven Metal is a Lost Technology alloy that looks like copper or bronze, though its exact composition (and even its proper Dwemer name) is forgotten. According to the lore, the Dwemer would bend the laws of time, physics, and nature in order to make their creations last.
    • "Glass", like Ebony, is treated here as metal-like. It is an iridescent-Green mineral mined primarily in Morrowind. After most of Morrowind was rendered uninhabitable, it is smelted artificially by melting moonstone and malachite together.
    • Stalhrim is a type of enchanted ice which can be used like a mineral to craft weapons and armor. It is found only on Solstheim, as are the only people who still know how to smith it.
    • Mithril is a lightweight, mid-level metal used to make armor. It's otherwise typical and fairly unremarkable.
    • Elven and Orcish steel are both stronger alloys of standard steel, with Moonstone added to create the former and orichalcum added to create the latter.
  • Fantasy Pantheon: While names and details vary wildly in the religions of the races of Tamriel, there are some consistent elements:
    • Anu and Padomay. They are the primordial forces of Order and Chaos respectively. Creation myths paint Padomay as Anu's brother, and the interplay between them created Nir, a personification of the Aurbis. Padomay was embittered by the love between Anu and Nir, and sought to destroy their love child, Creation. He killed Nir and sundered Creation, but Anu salvaged the remnants, then saved them from further harm by pulling his brother and himself outside of Time forever.
    • Lorkhan, also know as Shezarr, Shor, Lorkhaj, and quite a few others, is the closest thing to a "creator god." Depending on the culture, he tricked/convinced the "original spirits" (et'Ada) of the creation era to help him create the mortal world, known as Mundus. This cost those et'Ada a large portion of their divinity, binding them forever to the world they helped create. For this perceived treachery, these et'Ada "killed" Lorkhan, tore his "divine center" (heart) out of his body, and cast it down into the world he created (where it landed in modern Morrowind, forming Red Mountain.) His spirit too is forced to wander Mundus, occasionally taking form as a Shezarrine, great champions of mankind who usually show up during times of crisis, most often fighting against the races of Elves in some form.
    • The Aedra, also known as the Divines, are those et'Ada who helped Lorkhan to create Mundus. Originally eight in number, they were joined by a ninth, Talos, the ascended divine form of Tiber Septim. Because of their sacrifice during creation, they can be destroyed. They are seen as unambiguously "good" by most of the mortal races. There are also lesser Aedric spirits of all sorts, most notably the Dragons.
    • The Daedra are the original spirits who did not participate in the creation of Mundus, leaving them truly immortal. (Their physical forms can be destroyed, but their spirits will always return to Oblivion where they can be reformed.) Chief among them are the 17 Daedric "Princes," who govern over "Spheres." They rule over their own planes of Oblivion and occasionally interact with mortals, usually to accomplish goals within the mortal plane where they can only manifest as avatars, though sometimes simply for their amusement as well. Depending on the culture, most are viewed as "evil" with a few typically "good" ones also in the mix. However, most in-universe scholars are quick to point out that the Daedra are really Above Good and Evil, operating under their own divine Blue and Orange Morality.
    • Additionally, there are numerous other minor gods and powerful spirits worshiped as gods in the various cultures of Tamriel. For 4000 years, the Dunmer worshiped the Tribunal, a trio of Physical Gods who tapped into the aforementioned Heart of Lorkhan to achieve divinity. The Redguard believe in Hoon Ding, the "Make Way" god who manifests as a great Redguard hero whenever their people are in need of a place to live. Cyrus the Restless, hero of the game Redguard, is believed to be one such manifestation. The Argonians worship the Hist, ancient sentient trees who grow and shape the Argonians by letting the Argonians drink their sap. Magnus and the Magna-Ge are spirits who escaped Mundus to Aetherius during creation in order to avoid being bound like the et'Ada, puncturing holes in reality as they did so. (Those holes are now the sun and stars, through which magic flows in to Mundus.) The list goes on.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: Anybody who dies while under the effects of a Soul Trap spell, has their soul sent to a Black Soul Gem. When this is used up (or just used with The Black Star), their soul is sent to the Soul Cairn, a depressing and tormenting plane of Oblivion, which they are forced to walk in for all eternity.
  • Feeling Oppressed by Their Existence: This is one of the primary motivations of the Thalmor. They play the Altmer belief that the creation of the mortal world was a cruel trick that robbed the Elves of their pre-creation divinity Up to Eleven. They believe that, not merely existence of mankind, but the existence of the possibility of mankind, keeps the elves trapped in the mortal world, which explains why they can't accept the ascension of Talos, a mortal man, into the ranks of the Divines, and why they want his worship stamped out at all costs. (And according some lore sources, this belief isn't entirely incorrect...)
  • Fictional Currency: Gold coins referred to as "Septims" are the main currency of Tamriel.
  • 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.
  • Fictional Zodiac: the thirteen birthsigns that the player can choose during character creation for certain bonuses.
  • Final Death: Tamriel has seemingly every form of magic except resurrection. (One wizard did manage to bring Falx Carius back to life in Skyrim's Dragonborn expansion, but it was only a half-success. (He was brought fully back as a living breathing average looking person, but the process drove him into complete insanity.) In another instance in Online Prince 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.
    • Though not quite resurrection, the various gods do seem to reserve the right to reincarnate anyone at any time if they see it fit.
  • Final Solution: The Nords toward the Falmer in Skyrim and Solstheim. The Falmer once had a civilization to rival the Altmer, but the Nords crossing over from Atmora slaughtered them. The survivors were taken in by the Dwemer, who proceeded to twist them into blind, goblin-like creatures.
  • 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.
    • If you're playing Skyrim for the very first time, without spoilers. At the beginning of Skyrim, when a "seemingly random" Dragon attacks Helgen, if you get close enough to it, the HUD labels it as "Alduin". 'Hmm... that name sounds important, I'd better remember that' Though this example is heavily lessened due to It Was His Sled regardless.
  • Founder of the Kingdom:
    • Ysgramor created the earliest empire of men in Tamriel, after he and his 500 companions traveled to Skyrim from Atmora. They slaughtered the native Falmer and expanded into High Rock and Morrowind at the height of the empire. The Nords of Skyrim still revere him to this day.
    • St. Alessia, the "Slave Queen," led an uprising against the native elves and created the Alessian Empire, the first empire of men out of Cyrodiil.
    • Reman I Cyrodiil founded the Reman empire, the second great empire of men out of Cyrodiil. (There is some debate as to whether the province was named after him, or if he took the name of the province.) He was the first to be recognized as a "Dragonborn" emperor and his empire conquered most of Tamriel, failing only to conquer the Altmer (protected by their powerful magicks) and the Dunmer (protected by their Physical Gods).
    • Tiber Septim founded the third empire out of Cyrodiil, and became the first to conquer all of Tamriel. He ascended to godhood after his death, becoming Talos, the ninth divine.
    • Lord Indoril Nerevar is treated as this by the Dunmer people as the great unificator of Morrowind. The Tribunal rule in his name (even though they very likely may be responsible for his death) and he is revered as a saint in the Tribunal Temple.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Future Primitive: The Falmer have degenerated from graceful snow elves into a race of blind, subterranean Morlock-like beasts with a primitive, xenophobic tribal culture. Possibly it has something to do with the dwarves, who forced them to blind themselves with poison in exchange for saving their race from genocide, used them as servants and slaves, and may have performed experiments on them that caused them to mutate into their present form.
  • Game-Breaking Bug/Obvious Beta: Unfortunately common. Each game in the series has had its fair share of issues when released, but thankfully, most are usually patched fairly quickly. (On PC, modders will usually put out Game Mods as unofficial patches until Bethesda is able to release official ones.) Some of the more notable examples:
    • Daggerfall may be the shining example of Obvious Beta in video games. It couldn't actually be completed when it was first released due to bugs. Even with patches, it was still so prone to game breaking bugs that the developers eventually released 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.
    • Skyrim on the PlayStation 3 had a save issue that would cause the game to bog down the more you discovered and larger the save file got. When the majority of locations had been discovered, the game was nigh-unplayable. This led to some controversy as Skyrim won awards and was highly praised by critics despite being virtually unplayable on one its systems.
  • Game Mod: Literally thousands of them are available on the internet. Each PC version of the game comes with a simple-to-learn and very flexible Level Editor, known as the "Construction Set," which can be used to create them. Mods are one of the biggest draws of the series and can increase the content of each game many times over, as well as fix bugs not covered by official patches.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • Skyrim continues the tradition, with a massive amount of mods available. Bethesda even teamed up with Valve to create a mod distribution system on Steam for them.
  • 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".
  • Gender Is No Object: Ranges from being downplayed to being played straight depending on the specific game, but it is always present. The early games in the series had purely male generic guards, soldiers, bandits, etc. but named characters in these roles could be of either gender. The Backstory is also chock full of notable female monarchs, faction leaders, and great heroes.
  • 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.)
    • Moon Sugar and Skooma are Fantastic Drugs. 95% of Morrowind's vendors would not even deal with you if you had them in your inventory (although you could simply drop it on the floor and nobody would say anything).
    • It's quite obvious what Mirabelle Monet in Anvil gets up to behind closed doors. She even says that the beds in her inn are reserved for seamen.
    • And of course, everyone's favorite play, "The Lusty Argonian Maid".
      • Skyrim adds "The Lusty Argonian Maid, v2" in addition to the original, which is still in the game.
      • Now the ladies can get in on the Argonian-fetish with "The Sultry Argonian Bard, v1" added by Dawnguard.
    • Haelga, owner of the bunkhouse in Riften and a notorious, um, "worshipper of Dibella", keeps a horker tusk under her bed. Consider the approximate size and shape of a horker tusk if you're confused. Horker tusks can also be found in the bedrooms of several other female NPCs in the game as well.
  • God Emperor: Several.
    • Tiber Septim, founder of the Septim Empire, ascended to godhood as Talos at the end of his life.
    • Though they don't legally count themselves as emperors, the Tribunal of Morrowind are Physical Gods who exert great influence over the affairs of the Dunmer. At least until the Nerevarine brings an end to that...
    • From the backstory is the immortal tiger dragon, Tosh Raka, leader of the Ka Po' Tun, an Akaviri race as of yet unseen in the games themselves.
  • God in Human Form: Many instances.
    • Whenever one of the Aedra or Daedra manifests in Mundus, it is usually as an avatar fitting the trope. For example, in Morrowind, three of the Divines (including Talos as "Wulf") are encountered this way. Sanguine as "Sam Guevenne" is a Deadric example from Skyrim.
    • A historical example are the "Shezarrines," famous heroes in Imperial/Nordic history who are believed to be connected to Lorkhan ("Shezzar" being the Cyrodiilic name for Lorkhan.) Pelinal Whitestrake, Hjalti Early Beard, Harrald Harry Breeks, Wulfharth, and Talos are some of the many heroes thought to be Shezarrines.
    • The player characters from Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim qualify as well.
      • The Nerevarine catches the Corprus Disease and has the negative effects cured. Corprus is also known as the "Divine Disease" and was created by Dagoth Ur using power from the Heart of Lorkhan. The Nerevarine keeps the disease and positive traits (immunity to other diseases, being The Ageless,) even after the Heart is destroyed, leaving him/her with a permanent connection to the divine.
      • The Champion of Cyrodiil takes the mantle of Sheogorath, Daedric Prince of Madness, at the end of Shivering Isles. When encountered in Skyrim, Sheogorath is heavily implied to be the Champion, now a full blown god.
      • The Dragonborn is a rare individual born with the immortal soul of an Aedric dragon, and all of the benefits that brings. (The ability to absorb the souls of other dragons and an inherent understanding to use the Thu'um.
  • God Is Dead: The creator god Lorkhan (aka Shor, Shezzar, Sep, Lorkhaj.) Though there are many different creation stories, his inclusion is one of the few consistent elements. He is generally better regarded by the races of men than by the elven races, who view him as a trickster. (The Altmer have a particular dislike for him.) After he convinced the et'Ada (Aedra) to create Mundus (the mortal realm,) he was killed and his "divine center" (heart) removed. It was tied to an arrow and launched across Tamriel by Auri-El, one of those et'Ada, where it landed in modern day Morrowind and formed Red Mountain. The moons are said to be his rotting corpse and his spirit was forced to wander Mundus, occasionally taking form as a "Shezzarine," great champions of mankind.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Almalexia does not take the loss of her godhood well in Tribunal.
    • 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.
    • This can be said for those who give in to Sheogorath's will, and embrace the insanity.
  • 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.
  • The Greatest Story Never Told: Poor Martin. His sacrifice will be a footnote.
  • Green Hill Zone: Most games start the player off in a place fitting the trope. (The Ascadian Isles in Morrowind, central Cyrodiil in Oblivion, Whiterun Hold in Skyrim.)
  • Guarding The Portal: The Oblivion gates.
  • 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: Several.
    • The Moth Priests, who are blind from reading the Elder Scrolls, are all the more powerful for it.
    • Tiber Septim, early in his campaigns, could use the power of the Thu'um. However, a failed assassination attempt left him with his throat slashed and unable to speak in more than whisper. That still didn't stop him from completing his conquest of Tamriel.
    • Several famous heroes have been missing an eye. St. Jiub is one famous example, as well as Hakon One Eye and Olaf One Eye from Nordic history. A massive scar over one eye is often a frequent option for Player Characters during creation, and it doesn't hinder them a bit.
  • Happy Ending Override: No matter how happy then ending, future games in the series almost always override it by showing the consequences of the player's actions on the world.
    • Following Arena, the coup is stopped and the true emperor returned to the throne, but later games show that irreparable damage has been done to the empire, sending it on a downhill path to it's eventual dissolution following Oblivion.
    • Each of Daggerfall's mutually exclusive endings is shown to have happened simultaneously due to a Dragon Break. While peace is temporarily brought to the region, the Player Character is dead, High Rock's various factions (including Orsinium) eventually fall back into strife, and the King of Worms ascends to godhood only to return and cause problems during the Oblivion Crisis.
    • Morrowind may get the worst of it. As a result of the player's actions, the Tribunal are cut off from their source of divinity and two of the three are killed. When Vivec disappears early in the 4th era, the rogue moon over Vivec City resumes its descent with its original momentum, causing Red Mountain to erupt and destroy Vvardenfell along with a good portion of Morrowind. The Argonians then invade prior to the events of Skyrim, putting an end to the entire Dunmer way of life.
    • Oblivion ends with the seals between Oblivion and the mortal plane closed forever, but no Septim on the throne. Wars break out, provinces secede, and by the time of Skyrim, only three remain (with the third, Skyrim, in the midst of a civil war.)
    • Only time will tell what future games have in store for Tamriel after Skyrim, but we do know that Alduin will eventually fulfill his role of ending the world one day, as evidenced by his soul not being absorbed after the Dragonborn defeats him. This defeat is only temporary.
    • The expanded universe novel "The Infernal City" chronicles that giving Umbra to Clavicus Vile caused a chain of events that eventually created an evil floating city, that turns everyone under its shadow into a zombie army
  • Hard-Coded Hostility:
    • Bandits are always hostile to everyone.
    • 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.
  • Heel–Faith Turn: Jurgen Windcaller in the backstory. He, like the other leaders of the ancient Nord army which invaded Morrowind, used the Thu'um as a weapon. Despite this advantage, the Nord army was still annihilated at Red Mountain by a coalition of Dwemer and Chimer. Afterwards, he reflected on the defeat and came to the conclusion that it was a punishment from the gods for misusing the Voice. Jurgen would use the defeat as inspiration to discover the Way of the Voice and found the Greybeards.
  • 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.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Martin in Oblivion.
  • 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).
  • Hit So Hard the Calendar Felt It: Eras in the Elder Scrolls calendar are defined by important events; the Fourth Era beginning after the events of Oblivion.
  • A Home Owner Is You: In every main-series game starting with Daggerfall, the player has the option to purchase or build homes. It is also possible to simply take over an abandoned dwelling, or kill the former owner and make it your own. Morrowind uses them as rewards for climbing up in the hierarchy of certain factions; Daggerfall and Oblivion let 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.
  • 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.
  • Humans Are Warriors: Played straight by the Nords, Redguard, and Imperials, though the Imperials tilt more toward the soldier side of things. The only exception are the Bretons, who are the result of Man/Mer interbreeding thousands of years in the past. Thanks to their innate magical resistance, the Bretons do make rather non-squishy Battlemages, however.
  • Humongous Mecha: The Dwemer were fond of creating them. Because everything they made was built to last, some are still up and running thousands of years later.
    • The Numidium is one. It was created by the Dwemer to be a Physical God powered by the Heart of Lorkhan. It is gifted by the Dunmer to Tiber Septim as part of the armistice to join Morrowind to the Empire, and Septim uses it (powered by the Mantella) to complete his conquests. It shows up to play a major part in Daggerfall.
    • Akulakhan is being built by Dagoth Ur from Numidium's blueprint. It, along with the Heart, is destroyed by the Nerevarine in Morrowind.
    • The "Imperfect" is one created by Sotha Sil to guard his Clockwork City.
    • Parts of unfinished mechas can be found often in Dwemer ruins throughout the series.
  • 100% Heroism Rating
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: You can carry enough to supply an army.
  • 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.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: In Morrowind, the Boots of Blinding Speed, of course!
    • In Oblivion, the Ring of Burden.
  • Infinite Stock For Sale: Shopkeepers have a limited inventory (although they might sell infinite amounts of some very basic items). In fact many have a limited amount of gold when selling (meaning you might have to barter a bit when selling a valuable item).
  • Infinity+1 Sword: In Morrowind, it is possible to upgrade Goldbrand - which is itself one of the hardest items to get in the game, to a superpowered version called Eltonbrand. The method of getting it is so circuitous and involved, and there are no clues to figure it out on your own - you need to look it up online. But it's definitely well worth having.
    • 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: The series has an incredibly rich and complex backstory, so much of the information needed to understand the story of the game is thrown at you in one of these. The games have been getting better about it over time though, blending it in much more seamlessly as you go along. And that's without mentioning all of the side quests and in-game books which are full of even more information that is completely optional to read and learn.
  • An Interior Designer Is You: In each of the full 3D games (starting with Morrowind,) it is possible for the player to place items in houses. However, the wonky physics system added 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. Come Skyrim, Bethesda incorporated some of the ideas from the mods such as wall mounts, weapon racks, armor mannequins, and bookshelves, making this process much easier.
  • Just Between You and Me - Almalexia at the end of Tribunal.
  • Katanas Are Just Better:
    • 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.
  • Kleptomaniac Hero: Pretty much encouraged by the games themselves. Especially so for players who join the Thieves Guild. (In the later games where stolen goods can only be sold to a fence, this becomes even more important if you want to play this way.) Basically, if it's not nailed down, it can be stolen by someone smart/lucky enough.
  • 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.
  • Lawful Stupid: The Imperial Guard can be outright vicious, even for minor infractions. Mostly due to AI limitations, though. The town guards of Skyrim are more lax, and will merely note "Wait, I know you" if you've committed minor crimes. Also, if you're with the Thieves Guild, you can bribe them to look the other way.
    • And then pickpocket it back when they turn away.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards: Played with throughout the series. 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. Of course, the abundance of enemies with Reflect spells and/or magical resistances means that being able to bash/slash/stab things to death will always remain useful. The "wizard" types also usually come with a bad case of squishiness unless you spread your skill points around, which of course lowers the ceiling on your magical abilities (or at makes it take longer to reach that ceiling.) Basically, in most of the games, whatever combat style you prefer is viable if you're willing to put in a little work.
  • 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.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Each game has hundreds of unique (in the loosest sense), individual characters to interact with, plus dozens more in the back story.
  • Loads and Loads of Sidequests: Sidequests have been the focal point of the series ever since Daggerfall.
    • Morrowind justifies it, as the player is supposed to get a cover ID as a freelance adventurer.
    • 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").
  • Long Runner: TES is the oldest continuous Western RPG series at the moment, having survived the mid-90ies genre crisis that killed off all of the competition (Ultima, Wizardry, Might and Magic, the Gold Box...) and still going strong.
    • 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.
  • Lost Technology: Dwemer Steam Punk. To note, the Dwemer studied and learned to alter the "Earthbones," which are basically the laws of nature. By manipulating them, they could build their creations to last in a way that none of the other races have been able to match.

    M-R 
  • Mad God: Sheogorath.
  • Mad Scientist: Wizards and sorcerers take on this this role in the setting, and there is certainly no shortage of them in each game. Special mention goes to the Dwemer, who combined their incredible ability as enchanters with Steam Punk technology. The sophistication of their creations is still unmatched by the other races of Tamriel despite them having vanished thousands of years ago. (Even their disappearance is thought to be a result of their experimentation gone awry in some way.)
  • Madness Tropes: Too many of those appear in Shivering Isles (which conveniently takes place in the realm of the Mad God) to list them here individually.
  • Magic Is Mental: Throughout much of the series, the schools of magic were always tied to "mental" attributes (Intelligence, Willpower, Personality.) Additionally, the Mages Guild (or local equivalent) always doubles as the guild for scholars.
  • Magical Society: Several flavors.
    • The Mage's Guild, which players can join.
    • Skyrim also has a local equivalent of the Mages Guild in the College of Winterhold.
    • The Psijic Order is a much more mysterious example. They're an ancient order of magic users based on the island of Artaeum in the Summerset Isles. The island has a habit of disappearing for centuries at a time, with the Psijics themselves giving no explanation of where it was while it was gone. They acted as advisers to various rulers in the past, but became much more secretive over the centuries. About 100 years before the events of Skyrim, the island and the order disappeared once again (rumored to be related to the Thalmor taking over the Altmeri government,) with a few members (namely Quaranir and Nerien) briefly re-emerging to confiscate the Eye of Magnus.
  • 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.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Mehrunes Dagon, Daedra of Destruction, is usually the one ultimately behind the Big Bad's various hijinks threatening the mortal world in the various games. Specifically Arena, Battlespire and Oblivion. There's also some evidence to suggest that Man Behind The Divine Eldritch Abomination Embodiment Of Destruction Mehrunes Dagon himself is Akatosh, Chief God of the Imperial Pantheon!
  • Mass Monster Slaughter Sidequest: Pops up on occasion. Frequently crosses over with 20 Bear Asses as you aren't simply killing the monsters, but collecting their Organ Drops for the quest giver.
  • 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.
  • Mayfly-December Romance: Just about any relationship between mer and man would count, but the relationship between Barenziah and Tiber Septim is a canon example (also a May-December Romance, incidentally).
  • Meaningful Name: Zurin Arctus' The Art of War Magic is, naturally, written in a style reminscient of Sun Tzu's The Art of War.
  • Medieval European Fantasy: Every game other than Oblivion subverts this to some degree, some more than others. Skyrim zig-zags it a bit by being a Northern European Fantasy. Morrowind, easily the most alien game in the series, invokes this a little with its Imperial settlements, but they exist largely to contrast just how different the rest of Vvardenfell is in comparison.
  • 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.)
  • Merging The Branches: Done at the end of Daggerfall in regards to The Warp in the West, making all but one out of Daggerfall's seven endings canon at the same time, regardless of contradiction.
  • Metafictional Title: The series as a whole.
  • Military Mage: The office of Imperial Battlemage is both a high-ranking adviser to the Emperor and a Magic Knight who usually specializes in the Destruction school, implying that they can be deployed as artillery. More generally, "battlemage" is both a character class in most games and an in-universe term for a mage focused on combat, many of whom are enlisted in the Imperial Legion. Averting the Squishy Wizard archetype, they usually use full plate armor.
  • Mind Screw: The Elder Scrolls cosmology is very hard to wrap one's head around. This information may be incorrect, but so far the structure seems to be:
    • At the top level, everything ever exists only as a dream within some utterly unknowable entity called the Godhead. Within the Godhead, there exist multiple sub-dreams known as Amaranths, each separate, but connected in some ways.
    • Between each Amaranth is the Dreamsleeve. This is basically a roiling foam of pure information. When someone dies in the Elder Scrolls universe (and their soul is not otherwise claimed by a Daedra or something) their soul - or rather, the information that makes up their identity - returns to the Dreamsleeve and is broken up and returned back to the chaotic mass it came from. Eventually, Anu (or another Amaranth) will combine bits and pieces into a new identity, attach it to a soul, and send it back to be reborn into a new person.
    • Back to the Amaranth. Within the one we care about, there was Anu and Padomay, which are the actual concepts of stasis and change, respectively. Their derived souls, Anui-El and Sithis were a bit more active, and the interplay between them created the Aurbis (aka, the Universe.)
    • The Aurbis is divided into Aetherius, Oblivion, and Mundus. Aetherius is basically pure magicka, and also where the first immortal souls that would become the gods, Daedra, mortals, etc. came from.
    • Within Aetherius are Mundus and Oblivion. Oblivion is where the Daedra (who refused to be part of creation) hang out. They each carved out infinite plane(t)s within the void that they rule over completely.
    • Mundus is where things get a tiny bit more mundane. Mundus is where the spirit Lorkhan convinced (or tricked; Elves and Men have their own opinion) other spirits (called et'Ada) into giving up their power to create the mortal world, Nirn. These spirits became the Aedra, and eight of them are currently worshiped by the Empire. Some of the et'Ada said "screw this" and bailed, punching holes within the inner sphere of Mundus, which created the sun and stars. Others gave up all their power and became the Ehlnofey, or Earthbones (aka the laws of nature/physics, such as they exist.) At some point Lorkhan was killed and his heart was thrown to Nirn, where it landed in Tamriel and became Red Mountain, but that's a story for another time.
    • And of course at the bottom, you have the planet Nirn, which contains Tamriel. As seen in the games, this is the most normal place in the universe (at least if you don't dig far enough into the lore.) A group of Elves (the Thalmor) is rather mad that their once immortal spirits were duped by Lorkhan and forced to wear stupid mortal flesh suits though, so they're looking to fix that issue by ending the world.
    • More information can (hopefully) be found by reading this post on the TESLore subreddit.
  • 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.
  • Money for Nothing: In general, it is usually quite easy to acquire far more money than you'd realistically be able to spend. Most of the best items and equipment are found or given as rewards rather than purchased. High level enchantments, custom magic spells, and high level training for skills can be quite costly, but the price is still easily covered by doing a dungeon dive or two. Expect to see many players running around with hundreds of thousands or even millions of gold yet nothing to spend it on.
  • 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).
  • Needle in a Stack of Needles: The Shivering Isles expansion.
  • 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).
  • Noob Cave:
    • Each main series game either starts the player out in one, or has one accessible shortly after character creation. Usually, it includes a tutorial and give the player his/her first set of equipment.
    • Morrowind downplays this, as there is no tutorial dungeon, though there is a cave close by the starting town where you can practice fighting and such, but it is completely optional.
    • Skyrim has two! One you have to go through, and another which is basically an easy version of a normal dungeon. It can be found on the way to the next main plot point.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Once the games moved away from Randomly Generated Levels, each has had an early faction quest playing with the Rat Stomp trope. (Morrowind plays it straight with the first Fighters Guild quest, Oblivion subverts it with the first Fighters Guild quest, and Skyrim plays it straight with a nasty surprise early in the Thieves Guild quest line.)
    • M'aiq the Liar has appeared in every game starting with Morrowind, dispensing Take That, Audience! and Take That, Us shots.
  • One Stat to Rule Them All: Before Skyrim did away with attributes, Endurance was this because it determined your starting health and your health gain per level. Unless you wanted a really squishy character, it was essential. The official game guide for Morrowind even suggested making Endurance one of your primary attributes (which gave it a big bonus at the start of the game) regardless of your race or class. This also made "The Lady" a very popular birthsign in Morrowind and Oblivion since it gave an additional bonus to Endurance in those games.
  • Only Sane Man: Sheogorath's Chamberlain, Haskill, seems to literally be the only sane man in the Shivering Isles, although his straight-laced demeanour is an aberration in itself. There is also an NPC named Uungor in Bliss who insists he is not insane, but is so obsessed with proving this and so paranoid that the other residents of the Isles are trying to drive him insane that it counts as insanity.
  • Opening the Sandbox: Happens very early on compared to most series. Usually happens right after character creation and escaping the Noob Cave, which can be mere minutes into the game.
  • Opposite-Sex Clone: Divayth Fyr's "daughters" in Morrowind. They're also his wives.
  • 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 consistently as one specific sex. Exceptions are Boethiah, who seems switch between genders at will, and Mephala, who has been described as being a hermaphrodite (as was her "anticipation" in Morrowind, Vivec.)
  • Our Elves Are Better: They certainly seem to think so. And each race of elves seems to think of itself as better than the rest, especially the Altmer (high elves.)
  • 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 Demons Are Different: Daedra. Scholars in-universe don't even like the label demon, since they're really all Eldritch Abominations with Blue and Orange Morality. The things actually called demons are a race native to Akavir.
  • 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. The prevailing theory is that they essentially Brown-Noted themselves out of existence. That's what happens when you start screwing with the fabric of reality, especially when that reality includes Physical Gods to be offended by your hubris. Another theory is that they succeeded in ascending to a higher plane of existence. (How could the mortals left behind tell the difference?)
    • 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.
  • Our Orcs Are Different: They started out as Tolkien Orcs, but evolved into Blizzard Orcs later on.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Vampire characteristics vary between games, but each are consistently unique in some way.
    • 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.
  • Path of Inspiration: The Sixth House.
  • 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: Almost too many to count. Some of the more prominent examples:
    • Any of the Daedric Princes when they appear as an avatar in Mundus. Some of the more powerful lesser-Daedra may also qualify.
    • Dagoth Ur and the Tribunal, who were mortals who ascended to godhood by tapping into the Heart of Lorkhan.
    • Tiber Septim (possibly by mantling Lorkhan/Shor/Shezzar) ascended to become the god Talos upon his death.
    • The Player Characters from Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim all acquire or are born with attributes fitting the trope by the end of their games. See God in Human Form above for more.
  • Pietà Plagiarism: A large statue in the town of Chorrol in Oblivion.
  • Plant Person: Dryads and Spriggans.
  • Playable Epilogue: These games do not really end until you get bored of exploring.
  • Potion-Brewing Mechanic:
    • Alchemy minigames are an essential part of The Elder Scrolls series and usually revolve around harvesting plants and dead monster parts for ingredients, figuring out which four harmful or beneficial magical effects each of them has, and mixing two or more ingredients with a certain effect to produce a potion of that effect. The Alchemy Skill Score usually determines the potency of the potion.
    • In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, you also need alchemical tools (such as pestles, mortars, retorts, etc.) and their quality has impact upon different aspects of the resulting potions (e.g. effects duration and magnitude). Additionally, your Intelligence stat affects the effects of the potions, so many a Game Breaker has been produced by repeatedly mixing and imbibing potions that buff it.
    • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, you can no longer mix potions anywhere, because the alchemy labs are now stationary level props. They also don't differ in quality any more, so your Alchemy skill (and the associated perks) is the only factor in the potions' potency.
  • Power of the Void: Sithis. A deity neither Aedra nor Daedra, who is said to represent the primordial chaos of the universe. He is worshiped by the Dark Brotherhood, who mention serving him in "the Void" after death.
  • 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.
    • This is rather true in Daggerfall, which takes in place Hammerfell and Highrock, as if you join the Mages Guild, your reputation with every other faction plummets.
    • The Nords of Skyrim may also count, if not for the fact that they're less Proud Warrior Race and more Drunken Warrior Race, they'll actually ridicule most magic users. This wasn't always the case, but they've come to distrust magic over time.
    • The Dremora are a Daedric race that focuses on combat, crafting powerful weapons and fearsome armor, and being exceptionally hammy warriors.
  • 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).
  • Primordial Chaos: The universe started out as this, with "The Void." While the exact details of creation vary from culture to culture, there are a few consistent elements. Two forces would enter this void ("Anu/Stasis" and "Padomay/Chaos.") The two forces would come into conflict over "Creation," with their spilled blood becoming the Aedra and the Daedra.
  • Prison Episode: These games tend to involve prison settings early on.
  • Purely Aesthetic Gender: For about 99% of each game, gender is completely aesthetic. In the pre-Skyrim games with character attributes, the starting attributes were slightly different between genders of the same race, and there is the occasional quest (or set of quests) only available to (or is slightly different for) one gender, but these are only a very small minority. Really, the gaming experience is the same regardless of your character's gender. Taken Up to Eleven in Skryim, where (thanks to Everyone Is Bi) every single marriageable character can be married regardless of your character's gender.
  • Randomly Generated Loot: Subverted. Equipment appears to follow the "X weapon of Y" naming format note , 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, Vivec (giving a different account than the Temple which worships him,) Azura, Dagoth Ur, the Ashlanders, and the Dissident Priests all recount Nerevar's final days and death at Red Mountain in different, highly contradictory ways. The Dissident Priests alone have several differing accounts — that is, one of the things they criticize the Temple for is being so sensitive about different accounts of the events at Red Mountain, so they've taken it upon themselves to gather as many different accounts as they can. They don't make any claim to know which account is true, though they phrase things in a way that make clear that they find something off about the Temple's story.
  • 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.
  • Reckless Sidekick, Leeroy Jenkins: The NPCs in Escort Missions, including a lampshading in which one of them goes charging straight into a deathtrap. Also the various Guild sidekicks in Oblivion.
    • 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...
  • Red Sky, Take Warning:
    • The Deadlands of Mehrunes Dagon (the realm of Oblivion) in Oblivion.
    • Also the skies over Red Mountain in Morrowind, especially during a particularly nasty ash storm.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Possible to avert, but difficult... Eldamil in Oblivion makes a Heel–Face Turn just in time for a Mook Rush followed by a battle with The Dragon.
  • Regenerating Mana
  • 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.
  • Rule 34 – Creator Reactions: In-Universe with The Real Barenziah, a novelized biography of the Queen Mother of Morrowind that in Daggerfall had a notorious case of Getting IKEA Erotica Past the Radar (namely, Barenziah having sex with a Khajiit so he'd induct her into the Thieves' Guild). In later games the Tribunal Temple had it censored, but by some reports Barenziah herself actually enjoyed the books and is friends with the author.
  • 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 Fallout3)
    • Starting with the move to 3D environments and hand-placed items in Morrowind, the devs like to put items with rather...suggestive uses into NPC bedrooms. Potions of Restore Endurance and items of a certain size and shape (like a horker tusk with a strip of leather) are favorites.

    S-Z 
  • Sacred Bow and Arrows: Auriel's Bow, wielded by the god of the same name.
  • 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!: Much of Tamriel's history can be summed up as "elves and men fighting," or sometimes "elves fighting other elves." The first empire of the races of men actually got its start as a rebellion against their elven masters. 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.
  • Serrated Blade of Pain: Daedric weapons.
  • 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".
    • This is extremely prominent in Arena, as the guards will kill you on sight for just failing to pick a lock. While in Daggerfall it's much much more lenient as you actually go to trial and can defend yourself, depending on how high your personality skill is. Though if you're in The Dark Brotherhood or Thieves guild, they can intimidate the judge into letting you go.
  • 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.
  • Silver Has Mystic Powers: Weapons made of silver are one of the few ways to hurt ghosts. Depending on the game, silver weapons are also more effective against other supernatural entities as well (daedra, undead, vampires, werewolves, etc.)
  • The Singularity:
    • 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.
  • Something Nauts: The Imperial Mananauts explored Aetherius during the First Era's Reman Dynasty.
  • Somewhere, an Equestrian Is Crying: Tamriel's horses can take quite a bit of abuse from the player with almost no ill effects, although most horses will eventually die.
  • 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.)
  • Spectral Weapon Copy: The conjuration school of magic usually has spells which can summon daedric weapons (the most powerful basic weapon type) and armour for a short time. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim takes this further, by having summoned weapons actually appear ghostly (in previous games they used the same models/sprites as more permanent versions of the weapons).
  • Spiritual Successor: To the Quest for Glory series, having the same set of guilds, character upgrade system, and multiple paths for progression.
  • 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.
  • Steam Punk: The Dwemer ruins.
  • Stylistic Suck: Crassius Curio's plays.
  • Suddenly Voiced: The Dremora you encounter in Oblivion and Skyrim can talk in English. And they make up for their previous voicelessness with some great lines, uttered in the most over-the-top manner possible.
    • 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, starting with Oblivion, can only train you 5 times per level. If you ask for training once you've exceeded their skill level, 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.
  • Take That, Us: M'aiq again, in Skyrim. "M'aiq saw a mudcrab the other day. Horrible creatures."
  • Talking Is a Free Action: In most of the games talking, lockpicking, looting and checking your inventory freezes time.
    • Particularly noticeable in the Oblivion main quest when a character stops to have a conversation with you while being chased by assassins. He even says "I think they're behind me!" with his assailant clearly visible, frozen in place, behind him.
    • Averted 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.
    • 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.
  • Tech Demo Game: Both Morrowind and Oblivion were the Crysis of their eras.
    • 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.)
  • The Spymaster: Caius Cosades in Morrowind, Jauffre in Oblivion.
  • The Unreveal: We never find out exactly who the Night Mother really is (sort of, her origins are a minor point in the 36 Lessons of Vivec), or what Sithis really is.
    • Sithis Is Not. (At least according to some sources.)
    • Also, exactly what did happen to the Dwemer? It was never revealed in-game explicitly (but hints were there) and had to be explained by one of the writers: They became the skin of Numidium.
  • They Call Him Sword: The powerful sword Umbra is cursed and tends to possess its owners, resulting in them becoming obsessed with the sword and adopting its name as their own.
  • Thieves' Guild: In Daggerfall, Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim.
    • 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.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: How the Snow Prince was finally slain. (By a 12 year old girl, no less.)
  • Time Crash: Happen during events known as "Dragon Breaks," with a dash of Reality-Breaking Paradox also thrown in. They're known as "Dragon Breaks" because the dragon-god of time, known by many names but most prominently as Akatosh, is "tampered with" so to speak. A few prominent prominent examples of this happening:
    • In the first era, a remnant of a once-powerful organization of anti-elf inquisitors carried out a ritual in attempt to purge Akatosh of the elven aspects of the mythological basis that Akatosh was based on, the elven golden eagle god Auri-El. The effort proceeded to break Time for a period of a bit over 1000 years. How could they measure how long that period was? The Khajiit, a cat-like race on Tamriel whose mythology was heavily steeped in the two moons, used those as a basis for time. (The moons are the "rotting corpse" of the dead creator god of the ES universe, and thus were unaffected.)
    • The Numidium, a giant brass golem built by the Dwemer and powered by the Heart of Lorkhan, the dead creator god, was essentially their refutation of the gods made material. Because of this, it frequently caused these when activated, such as the temporal toxic waste dump in Elsweyr where Tiber Septim's mages tried to figure it out after the Dunmer Tribunal gave it to him as a tribute, or the Warp In The West, where all the endings in Daggerfall essentially simultaneously happened and the temporal paradox was so straining on reality that a nuclear-like explosion occurred. Oh, and, during one part of the process, the Dwemer did... something that apparently pissed off reality, ending with their entire raced completely wiped from existence while keeping everything else intact.
    • The Scrolls themselves can cause a mild version of this depending on who reads them. Someone who is completely untrained in the history and nature of the Scrolls just sees the page picture for the main Elder Scrolls page. Someone with slight training is struck blind immediately. People with great training (e.g. members of the Cult of the Ancestor Moth) gradually go blind as they read more of the scrolls. Then we have the Dovahkiin in Skyrim. Dragonborn are mortals with the soul of a dragon, and dragons exist outside of time. Reading the Scroll you obtain as part of Skyrim's main quest results in being momentarily blinded, then recovering.
  • Tiny Guy, Huge Girl: The wood elves. Female bosmer are as tall as Imperials, while the males are nearly a full head-height shorter. Though this is averted as of Skyrim, where there's no notable height disparity between male and female wood elves (females are still taller, but not by nearly as much).
    • 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.
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore: Several.
    • The eponymous Elder Scrolls. Frequently referred to as "fragments of creation," they are completely irrefutable recordings of history/alternate history; what did happen, what could have happened, what might happen. Even the falsehoods in them are true. Especially the falsehoods, as is pointed out several times in the series. Reading them completely untrained will yield just some weird chart that looks like it has constellations on it, with odd glyphs printed over (or under?) the chart. An incompletely trained reader (knows just enough to hurt themselves) will end up getting something out of it but likely useless, and their eyesight is gone. A well-trained reader can glean much and eventually regain their eyesight... for a finite number of times before their sight is gone for good. Even those who merely study the scrolls, never actually using them, are driven to complete madness with alarming regularity.
      • The power of the Elder Scrolls is so great, their truths so irrefutable, that not even the machinations of a daedric prince can overcome them; that's how the curse on the Gray Cowl of Nocturnal is broken in the Thieves' Guild quest in Oblivion. In Skyrim, you get to read one yourself to gain knowledge of a dragon shout lost to time; it turns out you don't read the scroll, you see events happen as if the scroll was a window to another (possibly alternate) time. Trying to read the scroll outside of the Time-Wound temporarily robs you of vision — and the reason you only suffer that much is because you have the soul of a being that exists partially outside of time, not unlike the Elder Scroll itself. Even the Dragons like Paarthurnax and Alduin himself fear the Elder Scrolls' power. Turns out that they don't just reveal events, they can alter reality as well; with no recourse left, the ancient Nordic heroes who faced Alduin invoked the power of an Elder Scroll to "cast Alduin out of time", postponing his reckoning until the age where Skyrim (the game, not the province) takes place. The residue from that event was the Time-Wound mentioned above.
    • The Mysterium Xarxes, an artifact of Mehrunes Dagon. The Oblivion script notes actually call for Martin, the most knowledgeable major character on the subject, to react as if given "a handful of glowing plutonium" when he receives the Xarxes. It's just that sort of book.
    • The Oghma Infinium, which means "infinite wisdom," is bound in skin and is owned by Hermaeus Mora, the Daedric prince of fate and forbidden knowledge.
  • Took a Level in Badass: The entire Argonian race goes through one following the events of the Oblivion Crisis. The Argonians worship the Hist, sentient trees native to the Black Marsh, and drink sap from this Hist which can cause physical and mental changes in the Argonians. Following the crisis, the Hist began making the Argonians stronger and more aggressive, preparing them for the wars to come. This also works to justify their change in appearance throughout the series, especially from Morrowind (where they looked more like dopey iguanas) to the Lizard Folk of Oblivion, and then to the Velociraptor Folk of Skyrim.
  • 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.
  • Training Dummy: In the Fighter's Guild quarters.
  • Trivial Title: The eponymous artifacts are only a background element in the first three games 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.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Most of the series lore is based on this, for several reasons.
    • 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 and the events immediately following it 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.
    • Also pretty much the whole Main Quest of Tribunal. Though the player can be pretty aware of what he's doing, he has no choice but to go along with it.
    • 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.
  • Voluntary Vassal: Morrowind joined the Septims' Tamrielic Empire voluntarily. To be more precise, the god-kings of Morrowind decided to spare the lives of their people and stop the war with the Cyrodiil conquerors, which threatened to desolate the country. For this, Morrowind was allowed to keep many of its pre-Imperial laws (including slavery, which was illegal elsewhere in the Empire).
  • 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.
  • Welcome to Corneria:
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The Medusa enemies from the original game were never used or mentioned again. Which is rather tragic, as they would have looked awesome in Skyrim (Figuratively)
  • Wide Open Sandbox: The openness of the games is one of the series greatest and most famous attributes. Usually, shortly after character creation, you are free to go wherever you want and do whatever you want. It is possible in each game to play for hundreds of hours just exploring and doing side quests without even starting the main quest.
  • Will-o'-the-Wisp:
    • A mid-level monster encounter in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. They're incorporeal like ghosts (meaning they can only be hurt with magic, weapons made of silver or magic weapons) and have lightning based magic.
    • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and The Elder Scrolls Online, there are glowing hostile creatures called Wisps, which are found near feminine, ghostlike beings called Wispmothers. Unlike the Will-o-the-Wisps in Oblivion, these can be hurt by any kind of weapon. Killing a Wispmother disperses the Wisps surrounding her.
  • 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 cursed dinner 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.
  • Word of Dante / Word of Saint Paul: Bethesda Software developers have posted a number of "obscure texts" on the forums which don't appear in-game but are generally accepted as canon (or at least as canon in-universe texts).
  • Wreaking Havok: Oblivion.
  • 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.
  • You Can't Argue with Elves and Screw You, Elves!: Because of the way the story is delivered, it could go either way. Watch for Fan Dumb if you say one or the other, because the other side will come down on you.
    • Considering the actions of the Thalmor in Skyrim, many players are taking joy in attacking Altmer on sight.
  • Your Soul Is Mine: Part of the enchanting system.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: Some Daedra are generally seen as 'good' (for example, Azura), some are generally seen as 'bad' (for example, Mehrunes Dagon). The difference lies mainly in how compatible their specific Blue and Orange Morality is with the survival and prosperity of man and mer civilization.
    • 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): The Elder Scrolls Adventures Redguard, An Elder Scrolls Legend Battlespire, Elder Scrolls

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Franchise/TheElderScrolls?from=Videogame.TheElderScrolls