Dirge and Maul, two thugs employed by the Thieves' Guild.
One of the followers is named GhorbashThe Iron Hand.
All the named Dragon Priests, in Dragon language at least: Hevnoraak (Brutal), Krosis (Sorrow), Morokei (Glorious), Rahgot (Rage), Nahkriin (Vengeance), Volsung (Horror/Air Horror), Vokun (Shadow), and Konahrik (Warlord).
With the Dragonborn DLC, we get Ahzidal (Bitter Destroyer), Dukaan (Dishonor), and Zahkriisos (Sword Blood/Finite Kill Blood/Bloody Sword). Only Vahlok (Guardian), Qahnaarin (Vanquisher) and Miraak (Allegiance Guide) break the tradition.
All named dragons.
The Dark Brotherhood, which is also nicknamed the "Black Hand" after their personal symbol. Bonus points for the rite to call them being called the "Black Sacrament".
They call Molag Bal the King of Rape for a reason.
Lycanthropy renders you immune to all diseases (outside of a glitch) and gives you a powerful werewolf form. In exchange, the player can never get resting bonuses from sleeping, the werewolf form levels separately from the player's normal form, the interface is completely disabled except for the skill tree while transformed, and you have to listen to everyone complain about the signs of it.
Vampirism is similar. Contracting vampirism gives the player a number of cool abilities, but it's regulated by lack of feeding and going too long without it renders everyone hostile to you, forcing you to balance your feeding carefully. Sunlight also cuts off your ability to regenerate magicka, health, and stamina barring enchanted apparel or potions. The more powerful Vampire Lord introduced with Dawnguard removes the hatred weakness and gives you a transformation even more versatile than the werewolf form.
The Necromancer: You encounter a fair number of these in Skyrim, most of them enemies. With the right spells and perks, the Dragonborn can become one too.
Alduin himself is this to his draconic brethren, and is the reason that the dragons are returning to Skyrim.
Necromantic: Calixto Corium, the Butcher of Windhelm, who commits serial murder in order to gather parts to create a new body for his beloved sister.
The Need for Mead: Naturally, being a fantasy Norse-like culture, mead abounds. Skyrim has two major brands of mead, Honningbrew (brewed near Whiterun) and Black-Briar (brewed in Riften), and a generic "Nord Mead". In one sidequest, a group of drunks lambast you if you favor Black-Briar Mead over Nord Mead. If you share bottles of Honningbrew instead, they will be overjoyed and give you a magical amulet as thanks. Jarl Siddgeir of Falkreath, on the other hand, hates Nord mead (he calls it "local piss") and asks you for a bottle of Black-Briar to prove your worth.
Random Bandits: Mead, mead, mead. Would it kill 'em to get a beer now and again? Stupid bees and their stupid honey...
Never Forgotten Skill: As of the Legendary update, the game has this trope. Once you've learned a spell, you will always know it, even if you reset the skill. Keep in mind that Master-level spells require you to be at level 90 to unlock the associated quest for them, and most Adept and Expert-level spells do not appear until you've passed 50.
Never Say "Die": The game is very weird about this. While characters obviously have no problem saying "kill," "death," "murder," or variations thereof, the journal entries almost always provide the objective to "defeat" the enemy, never "kill" the enemy.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Several examples; while some are not your doing, many of them come from the assorted questlines, none of which can be avoided if you want to complete that particular questline.
During the Companions' questline, after Skjor is killed during a raid on a Silver Hand encampment, Aela the Huntress sends you on a campaign of targeted vengeance against the rest of the Hand. This results in the Hand launching an attack on the Companions while you're away finding a cure to lycanthropy for Kodlak so he can enter Sovngarde when he dies, rather than be claimed by Hircine. And of course, Kodlak is the only casualty, and now his death as a werewolf means he cannot enter Sovngarde. To make matters worse, the Silver Hand also absconded with all but one of the fragments of Wuuthrad, the axe of Ysgramor that the Companions were guarding, and only Wuuthrad can open the way to the place where lycanthropy can be cured. Luckily, this is all fixable. Even Kodlak's lycanthropy can be posthumously erased.
To explore the Dwemer ruins beneath Markarth, you first have to get through a nest of frostbite spiders. At the end of the nest, guarded by a huge spider, you find a dead Legion soldier, with a note on him describing an expedition that delved deep into the ruins. If you follow the quest to find the missing researchers, you find the ruin crawling with Falmer, and, as one journal says, the spider nest was the only thing keeping them from flooding into the city. Your next target after that is to fix the problem you just created... by firing up all the dormant Dwemer animunculi to kill them.
In "The Blessings of Nature," if you choose to manipulate the Eldergleam in order to access your destination, you also give life to a number of Spriggans who turn hostile on both you... and some friendly visitors who were only there to confine themselves in the peace and tranquility of the grove. Unlike many other examples, however, this one can be avoided if you're willing and patient enough to bring a certain NPC with you, who can bring about a different outcome.
In "The Forsworn Conspiracy," choosing to aid Madanach in escaping the mine will likely end with about half of Markarth dead as angry Forsworn rampage through the city on the way out.
Bringing the mysterious artifact from Saarthal back to the College of Winterhold results in the death of its Archmage and his assistant, near-releasing a dormant dragon priest, destroying part of the College and ravaging the countryside, and nearly causing the world to end.
As you progress through the game, you learn that the Stormcloak rebellion is in large part responsible for bringing the Thalmor's attention to Skyrim in the first place. They might never have bothered to enforce their ban on Talos worship if Ulfric hadn't started a civil war. Related to this, if Ulfric had talked to Torygg instead of killing him, he might have been persuaded to declare independence and no war would have been needed in the first place. Justified since the Thalmor instigated the Stormcloak rebellion in the first place to weaken the Empire and to give them an excuse to establish a foothold in Skyrim for their eventual invasion. They are concerned that Ulfric is becoming too successful, though.
When the Dragonborn ventures to Sovngarde in hot pursuit of Alduin, it's discovered that to regain his strength, Alduin has been feasting on the enormous number of souls that have been caused by the Civil War. If the war has been won in the name of Ulfric before this point in the game, Legate Rikke can be found in Sovngarde despairing on how all the Legion's war did was make Alduin stronger. Ulfric has the same view if the war has been completed for the Imperials.
A villainous subversion "you're a bandit, you see a random guy walking down the path, for some reason you decide he should die. You manage to kill him... before you gloat we should mention he was the prophetic hero destined to save the world, and now an evil dragon god is going to kill everyone in existence, even you. Great job"
In Dragonborn, before embarking on their planned assassination of the "False Dragonborn", one of Miraak's cultists makes sure to carry written instructions with them mentioning both Miraak and Solstheim. From this, the Dragonborn is surprisingly able to figure out who wants them dead and where they can be found!
The Night That Never Ends: The goal of Harkon, the lead vampire in Dawnguard. He fails, thanks to you, but you can blot out the sun for a day by dipping your arrows in Serana's blood, then shooting the sun with Auriel's Bow.
Ninja: The Dark Brotherhood armor has a distinctly ninja-like vibe to it this time around. Kinda appropriate when you think about it.
Ninja Run: Sprinting while dual-wielding any one-handed weapons becomes this.
No Arc in Archery: A very subtle aversion. While most players have been trained by other games that arrows fire in a straight line, in this game, if you do this you may often find yourself missing. Unlike in most games that do have arcing arrows (like, say, Oblivion), the arrow is not fired directly at your cursor, but somewhat above it, so that a mid-range shot will hit where the cursor is pointing. For long ranged shots, you need to aim at or slightly above your target, as arrows fall due to gravity as they fly; for short-range shots it may be necessary to aim slightly down. If you pay close attention, you might notice that the arrow's path tilts slightly toward the nearest enemy in the targeting cross-hair. This can be a problem if you're trying to set up long range lead shots at moving targets, as the the arrow will hit where the enemy was rather than where it will be.
Somewhat less averted with Crossbows in Dawnguard. These fire a bit more straight than regular bows, making them a bit more attractive to players used to this trope.
No Campaign for the Wicked: Neither the Thalmor nor the Forsworn can be joined, despite both being arguably valid factions in the Civil War questline.
On the other hand, inverted by the Dark Brotherhood questline - while you can in theory side against them, all you get is one short mission with no significant rewards, compared to the lengthy and detailed Dark Brotherhood campaign itself. Particularly painful if playing a good-aligned character who wouldn't go near an organization like the Dark Brotherhood; you miss out on all the achievements related to that questline.
On top of that, there's no way to go against the Thieves' Guild or Maven Black-Briar. The fact that Brynjolf forces the first of the Thieves' Guild quests on you the first time he sees you (which is pretty easy, as he stands in the center of Riften every day) has caused a few mods to pop up specifically to invoke this trope just so players won't be accosted by him. (You can tell him no, when he asks you to do it, but some players would just rather not be asked at all.)
No Hero Discount: Averted in a sense. While being a good person doesn't net you a discount when it comes to purchases, merchants for whom you've done favors will allow you to take some items off their shelves without considering it stealing, and they regularly restock. This can even include gold pieces scattered on the countertop. As long as an item's name isn't red when you interact with it, help yourself with no repercussions!
Some quests have an optional rider of "wiping out X" where X is the enemy faction. Some have bonuses that can later be used (such as obtaining more Glenmoril Witch Heads) while others are entirely up to you. Similarly, in the Dark Brotherhood quest, you are free to kill Commander Maro for his treachery as an optional condition to the quest, and you are also free to completely annihilate everyone on the Emperor's ship if you so choose, depending on how much retribution you want. Neither of these actions will earn you a bounty, even if you do them in plain sight of the guards.
The Master-level Destruction spells, but in particular Firestorm and Blizzard. The former is basically a fantasy nuke centered on you, obliterating anyone without fire protection in the area. The latter conjures up a devastating hailstorm that constantly chews away at the health of everyone within the vicinity. Both will pretty much guarantee that you kill anything and everything with an HP bar dead. The problem is this would often kill friendlies too, which will cause everyone you didn't hit to start attacking you (and potentially racking up an impossibly huge bounty). This makes both of them completely unusable if you're running around with allies, or fighting in a neutral zone with people you don't wanna piss off.
Also, Flame Atronachs and Spriggans. Flame Atronachs do at least have the excuse of being Daedra, to which different sexes are nothing more than a mortal contrivance and they simply choose to take a female form because of their whim (as is the case for Daedric Princes too).
Non-Nude Bathing: A few hunters can be seen relaxing in the hot springs south of Windhelm in their underwear.
No Ontological Inertia: Zig-Zagged. Attacking summoners and necromancers plays this straight: their zombies and/or atronachs will vanish or disintegrate. However, unlike in Oblivion, where the gates vanish after banishing Dagon, the dragons are still around after you kill Alduin. Justified in that Alduin revived a bunch of dead dragons, but he isn't keeping them alive, so they can continue to exist after he's gone.
Noob Cave: Helgen Keep and the adjoining caverns. Several locales around Riverwood are also toned down in difficulty.
Noodle Incident: Unlike the previous games, this time we know why and how the player character ended up being imprisoned. However, it's unclear why the player character was crossing the border into Skyrim in the first place, nor is there any set canon on whether or not the player ever did anything more illegal than just being around a bunch of Stormcloaks. (Dialogue at a few points will let the player decide this, but it's just for flavor.)
There's a bard named Talsgar wandering the wilderness. If you find him, you can ask him for speechcraft training, but he'll refuse, saying something about an incident with a roguish lad and the daughter of a prominent thane.
The "radiant" conversations for the Dark Brotherhood members are basically nothing but a huge pile of noodles; see directly above.
No Sell: If you hit an atronach with a destruction spell of its elemental alignment, it just stands there. It doesn't aggro, it doesn't stagger. You get a notification that it "resisted" the attack too.
Easily invoked by the player character, in several possible ways at that:
The most straightforward way is to simply raise your armor/blocking effectiveness or elemental/magic resistances up to the caps, depending on which type of attack you're facing. Combined with a respectable health pool, this results in you taking barely noticeable amounts of damage even on the highest difficulty setting.
The Deflect Arrows perk out of the Block tree describes itself as causing arrows that hit your shield to "do no damage." In practice, it's not quite that effective; it automatically raises the percentage of damage blocked to the maximum (85%) when blocking arrows, which is still pretty close to the described effect.
Once they are fully charged up, wards can achieve this with respect to blocking magic spells. Even dragon shouts can be negated by them!
This is the whole point of the Become Ethereal shout, which causes not just enemy attacks but even fall damage to No Sell against you.
No Sense of Direction: Plautis Carvain and Salonia Carvain, two Imperial nobles who are on their way from Cyrodiil to Solitude to attend a wedding. You can encounter them all over Skyrim, except near the place they need to be. In fact, they'll never make it to Solitude and instead end up in Windhelm, which lies in the northeast of Skyrim, while Solitude lies in the northwest. Quite the accomplishment, because while Skyrim is a big place, sticking to the main roads and following the signs normally gets you where you need to be.
Golldir's backstory. When he was a kid, his father (or brother, it's vague) locked him inside his family's tomb for almost a week. Just imagine, you're a little kid, locked in a massive crypt with nothing but dead bodies all over. Scary, right? Now imagine having this happen in the Elder Scrolls universe where Zombies and Draugr are an everyday occurrence.
Dwemer ruins are often full of hallways lined with hatches on the floor and ceiling that constructs can come out of. You know at least one of them, likely more, is going to spit something out at you, but which one is a mystery. And some of them wait for you to pass by before the construct appears.
The Falmer hives that often interconnect with the Dwemer ruins mentioned above are even worse. There are distinctly shaped crawly-holes in the walls of these places which Falmer like to pop out of in the same manner as the constructs described above.... but their lairs tend to be more dimly lit and claustrophobic, and the Falmer themselves are more frightening in appearance.
After it happens to you a couple of times, you'll probably get more anxious when exploring cave areas coated in spider web, expecting a giant one to drop down from the ceiling at any moment.
All dragon words literally glow, have a vortex of wind that clouds your vision of everything but the word as you get close; and if that doesn't clue you in, the crescendo chorus of dragon words will.
Lampshaded in the Dragonborn DLC, where one of the walls is buried under the Red Mountain ash, but you can hear the chorus calling you.
Not Me This Time: During the "Diplomatic Immunity" mission, you can ask someone to do you a favor and distract everyone at the party so you can sneak off. Unless you're asking Razelan himself (who gives a sarcastic toast) or Erikur (who hits on a serving girl), the distraction will usually consist of the person walking up to Razelan and accusing him of saying something horrible. Razelan protests, claiming that this time he's completely innocent! It's an example of this trope because Razelan is a notorious drunkard, so whatever he's being accused of saying would not be out of character for him to say; it's just that this time he didn't actually say it.
No True Scotsman: Heard on both sides of the Civil War. The Stormcloaks believe that the Empire is weak, and no true Nord would surrender to the Aldmeri Dominion or agree to the White-Gold Concordat; while the Imperial-allied Nords believe that Skyrim has always been a loyal part of the Empire and no true Nord would be only a fair-weather ally.
Dragons too. Alduin fleeing from the player after being beaten at the Throat of the World makes other dragons question his leadership, as a true dovah would either die fighting or submit to his superior.
If you're a High Elf Dragonborn, Thalmor goons will utter some phrases to this effect at you as you have at them.
General Tullius and Ulfric Stormcloak are on opposite sides of the Civil War, but both hate the Thalmor and the White-Gold Concordat, which bans the worship of Talos, one of the main reasons Ulfric rebelled.
This is also exemplified by the bard songs "Age of Aggression" and "Age of Oppression", sung by bards in pro-Imperial or pro-Stormcloak holds, respectively. The song tunes are identical and both songs have parts where the lyrics are the same.
Try saving before the peace treaty and take different dialogue options to favor the Empire or Stormcloaks, and make note of how often the two sound just like the other between dialogue trees.
If you finish the Civil War before the final battle, you'll meet Rikke if you sided with the Stormcloaks, or Ulfric and Galmar if you sided with the Empire, in Sovngarde. It seems as far as the gods, or at least Shor, is concerned, they're all honorable heroes worthy of the afterlife. Tullius is only excluded because he's not a Nord and so couldn't enter Sovngarde.
Paarthurnax points this out to the Dragonborn, as s/he has the soul of a dragon and therefore is driven by the same urges as all dragons: to hurt, kill, dominate, and destroy. Takes on an extra-vicious edge if you've been indulging in Video Game Cruelty Potential by that point.
The lethality of the most famous Shout, Unrelenting Force, is not from the blast wave but from the potential of inflicting this. If the sudden stop at the end doesn't kill a foe outright, oftentimes they'll still be really hurtin'.
The Nudifier: One of the random effects of Sheogorath's "Wabbajack" staff is to strip an enemy of their armour.
Obfuscating Insanity: Jarl Idgrod Ravencrone of Morthal purposely adopts the persona of an eccentric old mystic. If you've already ingratiated yourself with her and ask for her help during "Diplomatic Immunity", she'll use this to provide a hilarious distraction to allow you to infiltrate the Thalmor embassy.
Obvious Beta: While not to the level of Daggerfall, this game is close. For starters, it has many, many broken quests, wonky user interface issues (especially in the PC version), and is very poorly optimized both CPU and GPU wise. The PC version requires a fanmade EXE patch to curb most of the CTDs by extending the memory allocation cap (this has been fixed in an official patch; it now is large-address-aware by default), and the PS3 version can suffer dramatic save game bloat and subsequent crashing/corruption issues. The game also has bad default settings, including a default field of view that gives many players motion sickness.
The earlier patches also introduced some additional serious glitches, including the notorious "Backwards-Flying Dragons".
Alduin. Is there any way to make a dragon look more menacing?
Ancano from the College of Winterhold, a rude Altmer who happens to be part of the most unsympathetic faction of the game.
Mercer Frey, the extremely rude guildmaster of the Thieves' Guild.
Odd Friendship: In Dawnguard, this can potentially occur with Serana (Vampire) and the Dragonborn (Vampire-Hunter).
If you've contracted lycanthropy through the Companions questline and refused to cure it either at Ysgramor's Tomb or when Harkon offers to turn you into a Vampire Lord (staying loyal to the Dawnguard), this relationship's oddity can be taken even further.
An Offer You Can't Refuse: When you return Meridia's Beacon, she will task you with purging her temple of the necromancer defiling it. Your character can lampshade that they have little option but to accept, given she makes this offer while magically suspending you above the clouds.
Offing the Offspring: Done in a very twisted and tragic fashion, by a certain man in Morthal. Turns out it was an enthralled vampire who actually did the act, but he himself was also enthralled to not give half a donkey's ass about it. Ironic because children can't be killed in the game.
Lord Harkon's plan in Dawnguard.
Part of the Night Mother's backstory in the Dark Brotherhood questline.
Bethesda later fixed their mistake by adding dragon riding to the Dragonborn DLC.
Off with His Head!: Happens to one unfortunate Stormcloak. Almost happens to you before Alduin unwittingly saves you by attacking the town, causing the execution to be interrupted right as the headsman is poised to swing. You can also watch another beheading when you first enter Solitude.
There are perks in the one-handed and two-handed trees that let you decapitate your foes.
Also with the very first dragon the Dragonborn will slay.
Mirmulnir: "Dovahkiin!? Niid!"
When you fire an arrow at mid-long range, the target becomes "alerted" and is reported as such in your HUD for the split second between the point where they hear the arrow being fired and the point when the arrow actually hits. One can only imagine what's going through their head... before the arrow does.
Omnicidal Maniac: The Thalmor are attempting to unmake the Mundus by stamping out belief in Talos, which will help them break the last of the pillars holding up reality. In the College of Winterhold questline, Ancano attempts to shortcut this process using the Eye of Magnus.
Ominous Draconic Chanting: A rare heroic version in the Dragonborn's theme songs: Dragonborn and One They Fear, as well as Watch The Skies which alternately plays when a dragon attacks.
One-Hit Kill: Easily performed by the player character with sufficiently high abilities and/or if playing on lower difficulty settings, usually accompanied by a flashy execution sequence. Meanwhile, Legendary difficulty is notorious because of how easy it is for certain enemies to do this to YOU.
Only Smart People May Pass: Subverted with the combination locks on the claw-operated doors in Draugr barrows. One of the books you can read in-game contains speculation as to why these puzzles were made so easy (the combination is engraved on the key itself). The answer, according to the author, is that the combination is there in order to ensure that the door is being opened by a sentient being, rather than a mindless undead. In other words, the doors aren't there to keep people from getting in - they're there to keep things from gettingout.
Opium Den: Redwater Den. It's a Skooma bar that, while being patronized by otherwise innocent addicts, is run by sadists who drug their personal brand, then take any unconscious victims into a jail below to be turned into Vampire Thralls.
During the tutorial, you and your companion come across a sleeping bear. The NPC will advise you to sneak past it (thus teaching you the Sneak mechanic), but he also hands you a bow and suggests you could just try and kill it.
The Thieves' Guild will dock your pay if you get caught or kill someone during Delvin and Vex's side missions; but for the purposes of the main quest, no one minds if you choose to hack or blast your way through the areas where you're supposed to be stealthy.
Boethiah's quest is stated by the Daedric Prince herself to be a stealth mission, with her telling you to kill all the bandits in the mine without them seeing you; but it doesn't matter if they see you or not, as once you get the Ebony Armor, the quest ends with Boethiah using the same dialogue.
Subverted during the Companions' questline when you and Vilkas storm the Silver Hand's hideout; good luck sneaking up on anything with him around, since he just runs in and attacks as soon as he's aware of the enemy's presence.
Orichalcum: Primarily used by Orcs. Because... they start with the same letters?
Orphanage of Love: Once Grelod is out of the way, the much kinder Constance Michel (herself another poor soul who chafed under Grelod's tyranny) takes over tending the orphanage.
The Order: The Imperial Legion. And you can join it again!
The Blades, too - though unlike in Oblivion, you can't join them, as the Order proper has long since fallen apart and almost entirely died out. Plus they are nominally supposed to serve you, as their purpose is to serve a Dragonborn and you are the last one (not that this oath of "service" stops them demanding that you kill Paarthurnax, and refusing to talk to you or help until you do). However, you can help rebuild the Order by recruiting new members for them after a certain point, and have them accompany you on Dragon-slaying missions.
The Companions also qualify, at least to an extent. Flavor Text on one of the Loading Screens even points out that the Tamrielic Fighters' Guild has no presence in Skyrim, but the Companions make up for it.
The Vigilant of Stendarr, although if you have Dawnguard installed, they get wiped out once you reach level 10.
Opposed Mentors: In Skyrim you have the choice of being backed by the Greybeards (who are Actual Pacifists) or the Blades (who want to slay every single dragon in existence). In the end, the Blades ask you to kill the dragon who serves as the mentor to the Greybeards, forcing you to choose one side or the other. Siding with the Blades gives you access to dragon-hunting potions and skills, and the option to fight a dragon whenever you want, while siding with the Greybeards allows you to skip the Civil War questline (making you not have to side with either the Stormcloaks or the Legion) by negotiating a temporary truce. It's also an argument of practicality/caution versus idealism/loyalty. Despite being a generous and helpful ally who has done nothing to slight you, Paarthurnax is a dragon, and even though he tells you that he's reformed, he also makes it clear that he fights to retain control of his aggression every single day and that it's wise not to trust him.
You've got a regular rainbow of dragons running around, too. There's your standard garden-variety Black Dragons; blue Frost Dragons, which are more sinister-looking; green Blood Dragons, which kind of look like iguanas; bronze-colored Elder Dragons, which look bulkier than the other dragons; and the most powerful of all, red and black Ancient Dragons, which have thick armored plates instead of scales. Dawnguard adds two more classes even more powerful than the Ancients: Revered Dragons (which look almost snake-like with rows of spines, empty eyes and shiny pink skin) and Legendary Dragons (like the Ancient Dragons but with a more intense black-and-orange color scheme and having four eyes in one socket).
Beyond the visual, Dragons are like Tolkien's Elves, who will live for as long as Time itself lasts, to the point where the very idea of mortality is incomprehensible to them. That very inability to understand mortality was weaponized into a Thu'um, Dragonrend.
Rather than have 4 legs and 2 wings, they have just 2 legs and their wings have clawlike hands, making them more wyvern-type dragons.
Inverted during a conversation with Paarthurnax:
Paarthurnax: Do you know why I live here, atop the mountain you call the "Throat of the World"?
Dovahkiin: I don't know. Dragons like mountains, right?
Paarthurnax: Hmmm... True.
Our Dwemer Are All The Same:Played with, as per Elder Scrolls norm. While the Dwemer were reclusive master smiths who lived underground, did not get along with most elves, and had long beards, they are also currently extinct, were master steam engineers - a trait more commonly associated with gnomes these days - and were actually a subrace of elves themselves. They also weren't particularly short; they got their moniker of "Dwarves" from giants, not men.
In addition to the three playable Mer races, there's also the Falmer (Snow Elves), Maormer (Sea Elves), Dwemer ('deep ones', the Dwarves), Chimer ('changed ones', ancestors to the Dunmer), and Aldmer (the precursors to all Mer races). The Dwemer disappeared after the War of the First Council, all at the same time. Theories vary wildly on just what happened. The Falmer were slaughtered en masse by the first Nords to arrive in Tamriel, which drove them to seek sanctuary with the Dwemer, who enslaved them. After the Dwemer disappeared, the Falmer took their cities as their own, becoming mutated, twisted versions of their former selves (essentially they are now the game's version of goblins). The Chimer became the Dunmer after Azura cursed them at the end of the War of the First Council, due to the Tribunal betraying Indoril Nerevar (possibly killing him) and using the Heart of Lorkhan for themselves. The Aldmer, of course, became the various Mer races. Only the Maormer remain, on a continent to the south of Tamriel.
Our Ghosts Are Different: After a certain point in the Dark Brotherhood questline, the ghost of Lucien Lachance from Oblivion becomes a summonable companion. He has been dead for a little over two centuries, but apparently he fully retains all of his memories. This is likely an attempt to please the fanbase, given the fact that he's an immensely popular character, especially among fangirls.
Our Giants Are Bigger: Giants are enormous humanoids about three times the size of humans. They are roughly comparable to cavemen, and form camps with mammoths, which they apparently use as pets, guard animals, and a source of milk and cheese. Giants are generally peaceful unless you intrude into their camps, though you periodically get bounties on giants that have been stealing cattle or raiding farms; if you have Hearthfire installed, random encounters at the homes you build may include a giant showing up to kill your cow. Otherwise, anyone provoking a giantgets exactlywhat they deserve.
Vampirism is a contracted disease that eventually turns you into a traditional blood-sucking fiend, but in an inversion from the typical rules, the strength of your powers is proportional to how hungry you are. This results in a careful balancing act as you become more conspicuous to townsfolk as your hunger increases. Vampires in Skyrim also show a marked preference for ice magic and cold environments.
Dawnguard introduces a new version of vampirism which is much more powerful than in the standard game; both Harkon and Serana give you the option of acquiring it. Unlike regular vampirism, it will cure your lycanthropy if you're a werewolf.
Our Werewolves Are Different: As with Morrowind, they're the man wolf variety. If you become one by accepting the Companions' offer, you can transform regardless of the time of day, but the transformation only lasts for 210 seconds, plus 30 for every human you eat while transformed. Dawnguard adds a skill tree mirroring that of the Vampire Lord mentioned above.
Dragonborn adds werebears, which are essentially shorter, stockier werewolves. They're also universally hostile and, unlike lycanthropy, the condition causes insanity.
Our Zombies Are Different: No, they're not zombies, they're Draugr. And they're cursed with undeath for having served Alduin the first time around - at least, some of them are; others may have origins closer to what was indicated in Bloodmoon, the game that introduced them. (In this series, "zombie" usually refers to corpses which are magically revived by necromancers.) Draugr are closer to Mummies than zombies in many ways, as they are artificially preserved and haunt cursed tombs, and many have magic powers of their own (including Shouts). They also bear many similarities to the Draugr of Norse mythology.
Outside-Context Villain: Alduin. Skyrim was in the middle of a long and bloody civil war when the World-Eater and lord of all dragons showed up out of nowhere and began resurrecting long-dead Dragons from their burial mounds. Justified in that we later learn he was sent through time from the Merethic Era to the Fourth Era via an Elder Scroll.
A quick look around the room and it's pretty obvious which of the corpses lining the walls are going to stand up when you pass by. Hint - the ones wearing armor and carrying weapons.
You in the Dark Brotherhood storyline. Because the chef you're impersonating is an aloof mysterious figure that no one has ever seen (because he's an orc), you can show up as any race, dressed in anything from Daedric Armor to a Jester's outfit, and no one will question it. Your assistant will only ask that you put on a chef's hat to cook (even though you're just telling her what ingredients to add).
Related to this is an encounter in which vampires pull a similar stunt with some Vigilants of Stendarr (killing them, donning their clothes, and then asking the player character to come near). As described below, Dawnguard makes vampires easy to spot, and even if you don't face-check them, they're still standing right next to the naked corpses of their victims and the abrasive voice calling out "You there! Traveler! Over here!" sounds nothing like any of the real Vigilants in the game.
"Captain" Valmir is a Thalmor agent posing as either an Imperial or Stormcloak soldier (depending on the player's standing with either faction). The latter is especially egregious since he's obviously an Altmer, and the Stormcloaks are not known for being the most tolerant of other races, especially elves. This gets even funnier if you read Valdir's Orders, wherein his boss/commanding officer says that nobody in Skyrim could possibly be clever enough to see through the disguise.
With the Dawnguard DLC, vampires become incredibly obvious, with glowing yellow eyes and twisted faces, while somehow maintaining their ability to pass as normal. This can lead to hilarity when the local Jarl demands proof that the visiting advisor with glowing yellow eyes, wearing what the game calls Vampire Robes, Vampire Gloves, and Vampire Boots, might possibly be a vampire. This also completely blows the cover of resident Friendly Neighborhood VampireSybille Stentor.
Parental Incest: An intrepid player can piece together some very squicky hints about the Black-Briar family: Maven has three children, Hemming, Sibbi, and Ingun. She calls them her children, they call her their mother. However, Hemming will also refer to Sibbi and Ingun as his children, and peeking at the character files shows that Maven is designated as Sibbi and Ingun's grandmother. It's possible that this is just an oversight, as this is a Bethesda game, but they've yet to clarify the issue and thus the implications remain, whether erroneous or intentional.
Given that Sibbi is Axe Crazy and Ingun is fond of poison, this actually would explain a lot.
An alternate explanation is a Family Relationship Switcheroo in which Hemming is actually their father and Maven is their grandmother, but for whatever reason it was more socially acceptable for her to pretend that he's their brother and she's their mother. Again, as there is no spelled out explanation for this, the implementation of either of these tropes is ambiguous.
Pet the Dog: You can do this for Braith, the brat in Whiterun who always remarks, "What're you lookin' at? I'm not afraid of you, ya know. Even if you are my elder." If she should become orphaned for whatever reason, you can adopt her in the Hearthfire DLC.
Physical God: Alduin takes the form of a dragon, and is the Nordic aspect of Akatosh, as well as his firstborn (despite being older). Therefore, he is the physical incarnation of an aspect of Time itself. He is unable to be slain within the bounds of Mundus.
Plant Person: Spriggans are a hostile, bear-summoning variety. They're often found in certain wooded groves, can turn nearly invisible (or turn into swarms of bees), and when near death, revive themselves to full health with magic. (They did that back in Daggerfall, too. "Spriggans die three times.") In this case, at least if you kill them quickly you avoid the revivification.
Playing Possum: Some Draugr like to hide in alcoves with the (completely) dead Draugr, only getting up after you've walked past them. It works if you aren't paying attention, but the only ones that do this are the ones wearing armor and it's easy to catch them in the act. Then you get free hits until they stand up.
Police Are Useless: In regards to you, at least, there may as well not be any guards in town. As long as you don't commit any major crimes like murder, guards can be bribed through use of a perk or your membership with the Thieves' Guild; and if you're Thane of the settlement, you can pull rank to get them to leave you alone (but only once). If you've committed a minor crime, like trying to break into a locked house or stealing a potion, you can just convince them you aren't worth the time. Walking around town while you have a small bounty will prompt mutters of "wait, I know you" from guards you pass, but none of them will actually try and apprehend you.
The guards would be able to defeat most, if not all intruders in town, which includes thieves, vampires, werewolves, bandits and even dragons (at high level, that is.)
Up to Eleven in Riften where everyone knows the city guards are corrupt and in the Black-Briars' pocket, and they will easily forgive you of any crimes for just half the bounty you incurred if you're in with the Thieves Guild.
The mine in Shor's Stone has become infested with spiders, but the guards apparently can't be bothered to do anything about it (despite the fact that they'll gladly draw steel against much nastier things that might wander into town, up to and including freakin' dragons). Filnjar lampshades this, stating that there's no point in defending the place if they can't get anything out of the mine. Probably not coincidentally, this town is located in Riften hold.
The Pollyanna: Shahvee, despite living in the docks of Windhelm, with the Nords being intensively prejudiced towards her race and being paid a pittance for her work, is very cheerful and upbeat. In her own words, "There's nothing to be gained by being miserable."
"Sometimes life puts you in difficult circumstances you didn't choose, but being happy or unhappy is a choice you make, and I've chosen to make the best of things that I can."
The Rieklings in Benkongerike have numerous copies of The Lusty Argonian Maid, Vol. 1 & 2 collected in a disorganized pile. The porn stash itself is used as concealment for the Telekinesis spellbook found underneath it.
Copies of the books are found in numerous bedrooms of Skyrim, most notably under the bed of Joric, the son of the Jarl of Morthal.
Powered by a Forsaken Child: All active Dwemer automatons in Skyrim are powered by filled Soul Gems. And it turns out the souls in Soul Gems are still conscious, and in constant agony. And might only be necessary to power the weapons, with the actual motion being powered by some other mechanism.
Power Copy: A variation. You learn a Word of Power simply from hearing someone speak it or reading it on Word Walls, but you can't "decode" them without using the knowledge in a dragon's soul. So it's a two-part deal: steal their voice weapon, then steal their ability to use it.
Power Glows: All enchanted items have a colored glow around them.
The Power of the Sun: With Auriel's Bow and sun-hallowed arrows, you can fire arrows directly at the sun itself, causing it to ignite and rain fiery bolts upon all your enemies. Alternately, you can use this same bow to squelch the power of the sun with bloodcursed arrows.
Members of the Thieves' Guild tend to abstain from murder and strongly encourage you to do the same in their quests - not because they have anything against it, but because it's bad for business. They leave that sort of thing to the Dark Brotherhood, unless it's an in-house issue.
In one quest, they send you out to intimidate a wealthy estate for cutting off the honey to Maven by destroying some of the beehives. If you destroy too many hives though, your superior will chastise you for it because now you're responsible for no honey.
Previous Player-Character Cameo: The Hero of Kvatch has had plenty of time to 'grow into the role' of Sheogorath, as Jyggalag put it, and fondly notes that the Dragonborn reminds him of him/herself at a young age. However, there are several hints that the Hero hasn't been completely subsumed by the mantle, since s/he still remembers the adventures s/he had in Oblivion. Curiously, s/he looks and sounds like Sheogorath did in Oblivion, but a daedric prince can look and sound like whatever s/he wants.
The Nords are the most prominent example, the game being set in their homeland. Part of the tension between Skyrim and the Empire comes from the Nords seeing the Empire's surrender to the Thalmor as a cowardly betrayal.
The Orcs are like this, with special mention going to the old Orcish warrior you can find standing by the road, surrounded by dead sabre cats, waiting for someone to give him a "good death."
The Redguards are supposed to be one, although this isn't as thoroughly explored. Their pride in warrior ways seems more focused upon skill with weaponry than bravado or testing how much punishment they can take.
Pride: A central motif in Dragonborn is how pride influences people with regards to enemies and power, and ultimately whether or not they can look past it. The player character is attacked and further insulted by people who claim they are not the true Dragonborn and is later able to recognize that they need Hermaeus Mora's help; Bujold is reluctant to acknowledge her own shortcomings and weaknesses; the Riekling Chief isn't and both supplicates the Dovahkiin and considers them a threat; Storn is willing to look past his pride as a Skaal (who have resisted Hermaeus Mora for eons) for the greater good. On the villainous end, Miraak shows more arrogance and hubris than possibly any other character in Skyrim, simultaneously plying the Dragons and then Hermaeus Mora for power, only to immediately thereafter act as if the alliance is beneath him and that he shouldn't need to honor it. He even claims that Alduin is nothing more than an annoyance to him, in spite of it being extremely unlikely he knows how strike at Alduin. On the other hand, Hermaeus Mora shows himself to be extremely humble, giving the Dovahkiin rewards in exchange for their efforts, encouraging them to search his realm for tomes of power and later, in spite of Miraak's treachery, displays a willingness to work with whichever Dovahkiin comes out alive and, in this conversation at least, barely even taking notice of Miraak's loathing for his present situation.
Punched Across the Room: Give your Khajiit character two perks in Heavy Armor, the best gauntlets you can get, and enchant them and a ring with Fortify Unarmed. Go seek out some bandits or wildlife. C'mon, it'll be fun.
Mehrunes Dagon does not appreciate reluctance to kill Silas Vesuius:
Dagon: Only Dagon can declare if a pawn is worth keeping. I. Have. Spoken.
One of the guards' lines:
Guard: You see those warriors from Hammerfell? They've got curved swords. Curved. Swords.
Punny Name: Hearthfire is obviously named in reference to the home building and family building it allows the PC to do. Heartfire, however, is the in-universe name for September, the month in which the DLC was released. Some books (and previous games) even spell the month as "Hearthfire."
Puppet King: The Jarl of Riften (the hyper-corrupt home of the Thieves' Guild) is pretty clueless about the state of her town. Her own advisor is in deep with the Guild, and the Guild gets most of its work from the local mead-brewing dynasty.
Puppy Love: A one sided variant between the two children Lars Battle-Born (who is meek) and Braith (who is belligerent). In the latter's words:
Ragnarok-Proofing: The dwarves have been gone for several thousand years, but their Death Traps and robots are still working perfectly fine. There is an explanation for that: the Dwemer bent/changed the laws of physics to make their materials impervious to wear, tear and corrosion, plus some of them (specifically the little worker spider-bots) are designed to repair one another. Destroyed spiders sometimes drop ore, implying they collect new materials where necessary for upkeep.
Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The titular Dawnguard from the Dawnguard DLC - a rag-tag bunch of weirdos dedicated to hunting vampires. In fact, they were such a bunch of misfits that they split up years ago, and you (if you choose that path) have to help with Putting the Band Back Together if you want to have a shot at defeating the blood-sucking menace.
Interestingly, the 'minor', low-ranking members of the Dawnguard, who don't play any particular role in the story, seem to be fairly normal people who simply decided to do their part in fighting the (genuinely dangerous) vampires. So apparently, being a ragtag bunch of misfits isn't a requirement for joining, it's just a requirement for advancement.
Railing Kill: Extremely common due to the number of ledges, catwalks and balconies and the physics engine. It can get slightly annoying having to jump down a mountainside or into a pit to loot the body.
Railroading: While the world is indeed wide open and lets you do quests in almost any order, the quests themselves tend to be extremely linear Point A to Point B to Point C-style quests, with a few rare exceptions that allow you to do various objectives of the quest in whatever order you want. Finding the Sky Forge is one such example of the latter.
Dragons start randomly spawning after a while, scaling with level.
Most of the factions can spawn on the roads in small groups. Imperials and Thalmor are usually escorting a prisoner, Stormcloaks are on patrol and may run into Imperials, bandits may try to shake down travelers, etc.
With Dawnguard installed, vampires can appear almost anywhere, even in towns, which is extremely hazardous to the health of the locals.
Dragonborn adds cultists, though they stick to the south near the mountains.
Randomly Generated Levels: Some of the sidequests will randomly generate based on your playing style, like setting the target of the quest in a dungeon you haven't explored yet. Bounties for example, just tell you go to to X location and kill Y. That means that a bounty quest given in Riften may have you traveling to Markarth to kill a Forsworn bandit.
In Dawnguard, Serana and her mother are "Daughters of Coldharbour" and became vampires during a rite to the Daedric prince Molag Bal. (Coldharbour is the portion of Oblivion which Molag Bal rules.) Molag Bal, known as the King of Rape, raped a girl to make the first vampire, and it's implied that the event is re-enacted during this rite. Neither of them like to talk about the details, and Serana herself calls what she experienced "degrading".
Rated M for Manly: In particular, the Nords, who are big and burly and mock the player if they favor magic. Even the ladies.
It's worth noting the only school of magic they respect is Restoration. Because if you live in Skyrim, you're going to need healing soonerorlater.
If you're Imperial and wearing heavy armor, a Nord might say you "clang like a kitchen and should stay in one." However, regardless of race, wearing a set of dragonbone armor will elicit nothing but envious awe from anyone who comments on it. A lot of Nords would give just about anything for a set of those.
Walking around in elven armor or with an elven weapon gets you a lot of flak from Nord guards who prefer steel. Wearing elven gear while being an elf gets you even more mockery.
The very idea of the plot is Rated M for Manly: a god of destruction returns and sends forth dragons to eat the world. You slay them. You gain powers by eating their souls. You exert these powers by shouting. And it's all set in the land of fantasy Vikings.
Normal magic has you studying and using mana to cast spells, along with hand gestures. Thu'ums just have you shouting at reality itself, and reality listens. And you power it with the souls of slain dragons, in their own tongue. If it was any manlier you would grow hairs on your chest every time you used a Thu'um.
Honorable mention goes to the book King Olaf and the Dragon, which is about an earlier Nord High King dueling a dragon, first with shield and axe, and then with Thu'um, and finally wearing it down and taking it prisoner. The book - which is a scholarly work that simply recounts various versions of the oral lore - mentions that the only way the story could be more 'Nord' would be if King Olaf beat the dragon in a Drinking Contest.
Reality Warper: Dragons (and, by extension, the Dragonborn) have the innate ability to use the Thu'um, or Shouts, a power that causes magic-like effects through speech alone rather than spells. Dragons in Skyrim don't breathe fire or cast a fire spell; they simply command fire to appear, and it does.
Really 700 Years Old: Elves, naturally. Also vampires, with special mention going to a 300-year-old vampire assassin who takes advantage of looking like the ten-year-old girl she was when she was turned.
Serana. She was put away during the Interregnum in the Second Era, before the Third Empire of Cyrodiil, at least 635 years before the game's time period. Probably even longer, as the Third Era was only declared when all of Tamriel was brought under Tiber Septim's banner, and it took the closing years of the Second Era for Tiber to achieve that.
Dragons, due to being biologically immortal. Paarthurnax, for instance, is one of the few to have survived unscathed from the Merethic Era. He might even be the only one, since all of the other dragons encountered in the game were resurrected by Alduin. Alduin himself has also survived unscathed since that time, but it doesn't exactly count because he was flung through time, so to him the Merethic Era was last week.
Knight-Paladin Gelebor and his brother, Arch-Curate Vyrthur, the last surviving Snow Elves. Given that it's heavily implied that Auriel himself is keeping the former alive, they may even come from the Merethic Era.
Reasonable Authority Figure: Many, many examples abound. On both sides of the Civil War, in various joinable factions, and even with one-note quest NPCs. Examples include, but are not limited to;
Ulfric Stormcloak, who is an effective military leader and is well loved by his hold and half of Skyrim. He takes into account the opinions of every member of his court, including his steward and mage, when making decisions. He takes a great many steps to tend to the security of his city in spite of being very short of manpower during the civil war. He is easy to approach during the campaign and shows on various occasions to believe very strongly in your capabilities. He is also regretful of having caused the civil war and wishes an end to it would come soon.
Ulfric's replacement, should the Imperial Legion win, is basically in the running for some "Best Human Being Alive" award. Brunwulf Free-Winter is kind, decent, and polite. Within hours of getting his new job, he's already met the dark elves of the ghetto-like Gray Quarter to work on plans to renovate that part of town, and is trying to find a way to let the Argonians into the city without increasing the town's already huge racial tensions. And that's along with his plans to rebuild Windhelm's economy and reputation following the war. He even keeps most of Ulfric's staff on hand since they know their jobs well enough, and offers lodging to the deposed Jarls who were supporting Ulfric.
Kodlak Whitemane, Harbinger of the Companions of Jorrvaskr, is an incredibly wise old man and a fearsome warrior well into his old age. His very job depends on him being a good leader and a good man as well. He fully endorses your entry into the Companions despite the protests of his subordinates and is able to shut them up on that count. Later, when you avenge a fellow member's death at the hands of a rival guild by slaughtering their members at large, he reprimands you for this, as it means to invite an even greater war in the future. Despite this, he still thinks highly enough of you to involve you in his far more important plan for ridding the Companions of their Werewolf curse.
Balgruuf of Whiterun is likely the first Jarl with whom you will have any meaningful interaction. He is well respected within his hold and would rather it be neutral in the civil war; he would prefer to deal with the omnipresent dragon problem, and takes tangible steps to combat it. He is also respectful towards the Dragonborn and rewards them generously for their services in his hold.
General Tullius is quite rough along the edges, but it's clear that he cares about his men (listen to his speech after the battle of Windhelm) and does not like to slaughter the Stormcloaks, fully aware that the only faction who will gain from the war is the Thalmor. And while he calls your execution at the start of the game a "slight misunderstanding," he at least recognizes the fact that you got dragged into it for no good reason.
Rebel Leader: Ulfric, the leader of the Stormcloak rebellion, and Madanach, the leader of the Forsworn rebellion in the Reach.
Recurring Riff: Besides the obvious re-use of the "Elder Scrolls" theme (sung to a "Barbarian Choir" as Todd Howard described it to Jeremy Soule), an astute ear can hear several recurring riffs in the musical soundtracks.
In Dawnguard, the new vampire armors come in red/black, black, and grey, all with silver trim.
Alduin himself fits the description.
Red Eyes, Take Warning: Maybe. The Dunmer aren't evil as a race, but their red eyes are the result of evil. Long before the events of Skyrim, the Tribunal, a trio of Physical Gods, broke a sacred promise in order to obtain their divinity. The goddess Azura punished them and their entire race by giving them the dark skin and red eyes they now have... or, if you ask Azura, it just happened without her interference.
As of Dawnguard, vampires and Vampire Lords have glowing red/yellow/orange eyes.
Red Herring: You'd think that Ulfric's ability to use the Voice would imply a stronger connection to the plot about Alduin and his dragons trying to eat the world, but it never really comes up. It's just something he used to get victory when he challenged the last High King to a duel. Though Imperials and Stormcloaks have the expected opinions on the matter, when met in Sovngarde, Torygg bears him no grudge over it.
It is worth noting that despite not being totally involved in the main quest, Ulfric will gladly tell you all you he knows about the Greybeards and your destiny as the Dragonborn if asked. This is significant when compared to how little information on them you can get from only other Jarl with some tangential involvement in the chain, the Jarl of Whiterun.
Delphine initially suspects that the Thalmor are behind the appearance of the dragons. They're not, and after you find that out and rescue Esbern from them, they stop being important in the main quest.
Red Oni, Blue Oni: Ulfric is brash, prideful, and aggressive while Tullius is calm, caring, and defensive; this is ironic, seeing as though the Empire wears red and the Stormcloaks blue. Even then, the game makes strides proving they're Not So Different.
Red Shirt: When you go to trap the dragon Odahviing in Dragonsreach, the people on the Dragonsreach balcony are you, the Jarl of Whiterun, his adjutant, and some nameless guard. No points for guessing which one gets snapped up and spectacularly flung into the distance on Odahviing's first pass.
The Vigilant of Stendarr are an entire faction of this in Dawnguard. The moment the DLC is installed, everyone at their headquarters is killed by the Volkihar Vampires.note Well, almost the moment. If you have the DLC installed prior to starting a new game, the Hall of the Vigilant will remain intact until you reach level 10.
Not just killed. Before Dawnguard is installed, the Hall of the Vigilant is a fully stocked home base for a sect of Daedra hunters. After installation, it becomes a burned-out husk filled with corpses.
Regenerating Health: Your health bar will slowly refill - emphasis on slowly. This is so you don't have to waste your precious health potions between battles; it's not really meant for recovery in the middle of one.
This also seems to apply to all humanoid NPCs as well. Possibly a fix for the issue seen in Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas where caravans and traveling NPCs would slowly run out of health and eventually die due to fighting minor enemies over the course of several days.
And the Argonian special ability, Histskin, multiplies their health regen by 10, bringing them up to Healing Factor levels.
There are also several enchanted amulets, rings and the like which will boost the speed of your health recharge. And though you can only wear one example of each type of clothing at a time (i.e., one ring, one pair of boots, etc.), the game has no problem letting you wear multiple pieces/accessories that all have the same effect, thus making the overall percentage benefit a cumulative one.
Notably absent with werewolves. If a werewolf needs to heal, it needs to eat someone. On the plus side, one or two feedings is usually good enough to get back to full health.
The Dark Brotherhood has been reduced to nothing more than a remote sanctuary in a Skyrim forest, and they're short a Listener. Without a Listener, they don't know about any of the contracts that come from people praying to the Night Mother, the Dark Brotherhood's patron saint and bride of Sithis. They've had to abandon the five Tenets, the only rules the Brotherhood has ever had, and actively go out and look for people seeking their services, just to survive.
The Thieves' Guild is reduced to a leaky old tavern in falling-apart sewer ruins, surrounded by gutter-trash; they've lost every single resource and connection they'd ever had; they've lost the fear and respect they once had, instead being looked on as little more than thugs pretending to be civilized, and they're one flash of interest by the guards away from extinction.
The Blades have been all but wiped out in the 200 years since the Oblivion Crisis. During the Great War between the Empire and the Aldmeri Dominion, most of their members were hunted down and killed by the Thalmor. Only a handful managed to survive the war, and any remaining members live in hiding as they are still being hunted by the Thalmor. In fact, Delphine straight up acknowledges that it should come as no surprise that nobody knows who they are anymore.
The Empire itself is a mere shadow of its former glory, with only three provinces remaining under its control. Three (Summerset Isle, Elsweyr and Valenwood) have seceded and have become part of what is now the Third Aldmeri Dominion while the other two (Black Marsh and Hammerfell) have gone completely independent (Black Marsh has also expanded north, conquering a fair quantity of what is left habitable in Morrowind). Out of the three provinces that the Empire still controls, only High Rock has been untouched by either war or natural disaster.
The Dovahkiin can further this decline by helping the Stormcloaks throw out the Imperial Legion and assassinating the Emperor.
The Forsworn are little more than guerrilla warbands while their king is imprisoned and used by Thonar Silver-Blood to control the Forsworn.
The Companions, the honor-based warrior guild in Whiterun, have been around for literally as long as Skyrim itself; they were founded by Ysgramor, who led the Five Hundred Companions across the sea to settle the land. Membership has dwindled down to a whopping dozen members by the time you join the ranks. Two more then die in the course of the questline. Unlike some of the other factions whose numbers have shrunk, however, the Companions don't seem particularly troubled by this.
In Dragonborn, it's revealed that Great House Hlaalu has become this, being kicked off the council of Great Houses and being officially disbanded by the Dunmer after the Empire basically abandoned Morrowind following the Oblivion Crisis (and Hlaalu had been the Empire's biggest native supporters). The few Hlaalu members who still exist are basically little more than revenge-obsessed bandits, and there's a small quest chain where you deal with a Hlaalu revenge plot against Raven Rock.
The Renfield: Vampires found in dungeons will usually have thralls on hand.
Rerouted From Heaven: Kodlak, Harbinger of the Companions, wants to go to the Nordic afterlife of Sovngarde, but since he's a werewolf, he knows that the Daedric Lord Hircine will claim his soul after death instead. Kodlak is killed when his home is attacked by werewolf hunters, but the Dovahkiin is able to break his curse after his death, freeing his soul from Hircine's realm and allowing him to go to Sovngarde.
Retcon: Hermaeus Mora's appearance (a dark purple vortex) in the vanilla game's main questline has been changed to reflect his Dragonborn appearance Yog-Sothoth Lite.
Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: One of the late Dark Brotherhood quests has this. After you poison the Emperor, General Maro arrives to tell you that you just killed a Body Double. He tells you that one of your own betrayed you, and set up a deal with him to keep the Empire away from the Brotherhood. However, he's angry that you killed his son in an earlier quest, and has no intentions of honoring his end of the bargain, and while trying to kill you, he's already sent a large group of soldiers to your hideout. The "traitor" turns out to be Astrid, who wanted to do this to keep the remnants of the Brotherhood alive. A later quest allows you to kill Maro, should you decide to take revenge on him for this.
Retirony: Players can invoke this - bandits and similar criminal NPCs will sometimes mention their hopes to buy a secluded island and retire.
Revenge Before Reason: The Blades insist that Paarthurnax die, despite his role in saving Skyrim from Alduin, because of his past atrocities. Refusing this request causes them to stop helping you. They do this even after Esbern chides the Imperials and Stormcloaks for nursing petty grievances, if you hold the peace conference.
Reviving Enemy: Trolls and Frost Trolls will fall prone and appear dead when they have a small sliver of health, but continue regenerating their health... although the fact they don't get knocked back is a bit of a giveaway. See I Surrender, Suckers for some honorable mentions.
The Revolution Will Not Be Civilised: The Forsworn, though they spend most of the game trying to kill you on sight, are still arguably more sympathetic than their enemies in Markarth. They'd probably be even more sympathetic if their modus operandi wasn't "Murder everyone we don't like because we once ruled this place thousands of years ago."
They also consort with Hagravens, conduct sinister blood rituals, and will attack the player on sight even if he or she has sworn to fight for their cause. All in all, not a nice bunch.
The Revolution Will Not Be Vilified: Subverted: the game opens with the Empire appearing rather overzealous in their desire to execute members of the rebellion, and most of the PC's fellow prisoners are rebels, giving the player a far better initial impression of the Stormcloaks. However, as the game goes on, it becomes quite apparent that the Stormcloaks aren't as good as they seem, being rather racist, and there's several doubts cast on their leader, Ulfric Stormcloak, and his true goals in starting the rebellion, while the Empire is shown to be flawed, but not completely irredeemable. The situation soon turns into a Gray and Grey Morality situation.
Riddle for the Ages: The Headless Horseman. Who is he? Why does he haunt the night? What does he want? The game offers no answers.
The game does offer some small clues, though. If you follow the horseman, he eventually leads you to Hamvir's Rest, a very remote graveyard located at the foot of the mountains southeast of Morthal. There's little of interest here, but on the northwest side of the graveyard is a tomb with an axe, a helmet, and a skull beside it (quite unusually, this skull cannot be picked up by the player), implying that this is where his remains are buried. The horseman occasionally speaks, and has unique dialogue; if he does not reach Hamvir's Rest before sunrise, he may comment, "Such an abrupt end to our game".
If you join the Dark Brotherhood, you get to do this on another character's behalf in the early questline, killing both a bandit leader name Alain Dufont and optionally a girl in Windhelm named Nilsine Shatter-Shield. This mission is a revenge scheme concocted by the client, Muiri; Alain used her to get close to and rob the Shatter-Shields, of whom she was a close friend, and then framed her for it, causing them to cast her out of their lives. She feels that both Alain and the Shatter-Shields need to pay for ruining her life, and contacted the Dark Brotherhood to do it for her when she lost the nerve to do it herself.
Near the end of the Dark Brotherhood questline, one of your optional objectives in the final mission is to kill Commander Maro, who intimidated Astrid, the leader of the Brotherhood, into betraying you, then went back on his word and orchestrated the destruction of the Falkreath Sanctuary and the killing of most of the assassins of the Sanctuary.
The Companions questline allows you to go on two of these, one of them against the Silver Hand for killing Skjor and later Kodlak Whitemane himself, and the other against the Glenmoril Witches for their role in turning the Circle into werewolves.
The Thieves' Guild questline turns into one of these after Mercer Frey betrays you at Snow Veil Sanctum, and really picks up when the rest of the Guild members learn the full extent of his treachery and join you in taking him down.
One of the quests in Solitude, "Lights Out!", involves you doing a job for an Argonian pirate by the name of Jaree-Ra, involving running a ship aground so that he, his sister Deeja, and the Blackblood Marauders can loot the thing, promising you a cut of the treasure. Turns out that neither of them have any intention of even leaving you alive, let alone giving you any cut of their haul — and as an added bonus, the Blackblood Marauders have murdered everyone on board the ship despite Jaree-Ra's assurance that they would be left alive. The rest of the quest turns into an object lesson in why you do not betray the Dovahkiin.
Fourth Date Marriage: So long as you've spoken to the priest in Riften about marriage customs and have an amulet of Mara, you can get engaged to someone after having known them for all of an hour, and your sole interaction with them being beating them bloody in a bare-knuckle brawl. Most of the marriages are more complex than that, though some simply involve a fetch quest. The priest of Mara explains the custom: in the land of frigid blizzards, hungry trolls, temperamental giants, unpleasant undead, insane bears, and an endless supply of vampires, bandits, wizards, and wizard bandit vampires, the people of Skyrim don't really value long courtships - aside from the inherent lack of romanticism, one might easily kick the bucket before the courtship is complete. If you like someone, you tell them, and if they care enough about you, marriage ensues.
Rouge Angles of Satin: The game's conversations and book texts contain a number of errors of this nature. The "unofficial patch" mods list pages and pages of corrections.
Rousing Speech: There are several notable ones on both sides of the Civil War.
For a specific example, try this early speech by Ulfric Stormcloak:
"I fight for the men I've held in my arms, dying on foreign soil! I fight for their wives and children, whose names I heard whispered in their last breath. I fight for we few who did come home, only to find our country full of strangers wearing familiar faces. I fight for my people impoverished to pay the debts of an Empire too weak to rule them, yet brands them criminals for wanting to rule themselves! I fight so that all the fighting I've already done hasn't been for nothing! I fight... because I must."
Royally Screwed Up: Sheogorath states that Pelagius the Mad was not normal in comparison to the average person, but he was pretty par for the course as far as the Septim royal family went.
Royals Who Actually Do Something: Ulfric fought in the Great War, put down the Forsworn Rebellion, and is now leading one side of the Skyrim Civil War. Balgruuf presumably fought in the Great War (or some other conflict) as well - he and his housecarl Irileth are old battle buddies - and he eventually picks up a sword himself during the Battle for Whiterun.
Rubber Forehead Elves: Less so than in previous games, though; elves look much less human than they used to, with elongated skulls and strangely shaped and colored eyes.
Rule of Three: Every shout consists of three one-syllable words, each one escalating the power of the shout as they're said.
When the beggar Narfi asks you about his sister, you can either crush his spirit by telling him the truth of her death, or fill him with false hope by lying and saying she'll be home soon, which is likely to hurt him even more in the future.
Hearthfire added four orphans to the game, who are living in equally miserable circumstances. You can only adopt two of them. Whoever you pick, you know there are always two children left, somewhere in Skyrim, who you couldn't give a better life. And that's not even talking about the children suffering from Abusive Parents, such as Sissel, or the children from Honorhall Orphanage, though you can at least help the latter by taking care of Grelod "the Kind".
The first chapter of the main storyline revolves around the mystery of dragons returning. Eventually you will have to defeat their leader, Alduin the literal World-Eater
In the College of Winterhold questline, you initially find a strange orb in a Nordic ruin. It later turns out to be the 'Eye of Magnus', an immensely powerful artifact. Then it gets into the hands of an insane Thalmor mage and guess who has to take care of that...
The Scapegoat: You in the "Forsworn Conspiracy" quest chain in Markarth.
Scenery Porn: Par for the course for a Bethesda game. Someone most definitely put a lot of work into the sky textures this time around. The water physics have also vastly improved. Case in point, this timelapse video. For a nice view, go to an iceberg in the middle of the northern sea, use Clear Skies, and marvel as you can see from Winterhold to Solitude. And if you've been delving into Dwemer ruins, you'll likely have come across Blackreach... it's a sight to be seen, for sure.
Many dungeons have pedestals with objects on them. Picking them up triggers a Booby Trap. Subverted in one case where it opens a hidden treasure room, and in another where it unlocks a Word Wall.
One Dwemer ruin has a particularly amusing example - when you enter, all you see is a single room with a bright light floating in midair. Right next to it are a couple of dead bodies, and if you have a follower, they'll say "I have a bad feeling about this," which is usually saved for boss rooms or horrible occurrences. Unsurprisingly, choosing to "Touch the Mysterious Orb" results in being caught in a trap (although it's mostly harmless, and is the only way to access the rest of the ruin).
One dungeon contains a Word Wall with a trap door rigged to send you plummeting down into an evil necromancer's lair. Another dungeon reverses this equation by having a lethal spike trap guarding a chest which is revealed to contain only useless junk. And beneath the spike trap? A spiral staircase leading to a Word Wall. Luckily, your backstabbing partner for the dungeon will take the bait if not killed.
A stealth-oriented player can invoke this on the AI by firing arrows to draw their attention elsewhere in the room and causing them to investigate the sound. The player can then sneak by while they're distracted, or get an out of sight enemy to come into view for a proper shot.
In Blackreach, you will find several of the giant Dwemer Centurion animunculi, inactive in their storage rigs... and a lever switch right next to them. One guess what the switch does.
The Redwater Skooma den. A new type of Skooma? Awesome. Let's just ignore the dead bodies in some of the stalls and partake... why am I in a cell?
As you're taking your tour of the Dark Brotherhood's Lair, you encounter a monster spider you'll probably kill out of reflex like you have dozens of others. The Dark Brotherhood will then turn on you because that was Lis, the familiar of another guild member.
In the Dragonborn DLC, you just know that the Black Books are something special. They're much thicker than normal books. What could possibly be written inside them?
Schrödinger's Gun: A very early one whose effects can be seen immediately at the beginning of the game. During the chaos of the dragon attacking the garrison at Helgen, you can run into the keep with either a Stormcloak lieutenant or an Imperial lieutenant. If you're with the Imperial, the keep is full of hostile Stormcloaks; if you're with the Stormcloak, it's full of hostile Imperials (including the female captain that ordered your execution without trial).
Scooby-Doo Hoax: Subverted in the Shroud Hearth Barrow sidequest. The "spirit" haunting the barrow is a treasure hunter who's invented a potion to make him look like a ghost to scare everyone away while he works out how to plunder the tomb... but after six months without finding a way in, he's gone crazy and thinks he really is a guardian spirit. note Though it's heavily implied that most of his insanity is a result of getting amnesia from drinking too many of his potions However, the barrow is actually full of Draugr and skeletons... but they're deeper in than where the treasure hunter was.
Screw Destiny: An interesting example since no one is certain whether it's The Hero doing this or the Big Bad. Paarthurnax muses on the possibility that Alduin is the one acting against destiny by trying to end the world before its time. The vagueness of the prophecy concerning Alduin and the Dragonborn doesn't help matters. Throughout the game the Dragonborn always has the option of saying s/he doesn't care about destiny whenever someone brings it up, despite being The Chosen One of destiny.
This is an actual element of the setting; there are certain individuals who are born who do not have destinies at all. These individuals are able to dramatically change history simply by existing. To date, all player characters in The Elder Scrolls series have been such. You can actually read a "Book of Fate" in Windhelm that is supposed to be a magical artifact that tells something about the future of whoever reads it, and that certain individuals only see blank pages because they have no fate. (It's not clear, however, if this is the truth or if the owner of the museum involved is just talking out his ass, especially as said owner is the insane serial killer haunting the streets at night.)
Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: If you've worked your way through the Thieves' Guild questline, guards can be bribed to forgive your crimes and erase your bounty. It's a flat rate, too, which means they'll erase bounties far higher than the payoff.
Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: The reason for the Nords' rebellion? Outrage over the White-Gold Concordant, which outlawed the worship of Talos and basically made the Empire the Dominion's bitch.
Dragons will, on rare occasions, retreat when fighting the Dragonborn if they take enough damage.
Having a high stamina meter will let you do this in a pinch. Especially useful for mages and in the event of a bear attack.
Can also be pulled off by the player if there's a nearby door or passage that transitions to another area, and the enemies are too dumb to follow.
It's a game effect as well: Fear effects on the living in the Illusion magic discipline, Turn Undead effects in the Restoration discipline, or using the Shout "Dismay" on anything. If an enemy has a low enough Confidence (a hidden stat, and what the magic effects work on), they may also turn tail and run as well.
Screw You, Thalmor!: Neither the Imperials nor the Stormcloaks have much love for the Thalmor, and for very good reasons.
Second Hour Superpower: The Dragonborn gains the ability to use their first Shout only after completing one (relatively easy) dungeon and slaying one dragon (with significant back-up) in the storyline missions.
Sealed Evil in a Can: The Dragonborn's defeat of Alduin is only temporary, as confirmed by Arngier. Alduin is, in fact, a god, and therefore will return at the end of the world, meaning all your efforts have only extended the time until the end of the world. The difference is that it will occur when the gods plan it, rather than according to the caprices of a power-drunk domineering dragon entrusted with the task.
Isran says "sleep is for the weak," and urges the player not to, for vampires will be able to sneak up on them. This pokes at how you could complete an entire game without sleeping, and how the only way to join the Dark Brotherhood is to fall asleep and be abducted by them.
Self-Imposed Challenge: Skipping the very first quest of the game that, among other things, unbinds your hands and allows you to pick up objects and interact with people. Link.
Some roleplaying or hardcore players go the "DiD" (Dead is Dead) route when playing Skyrim. If their character is killed, he or she is deleted.
Sequence Breaking: One particular example for the quest "Lights Out!", received from Jaree-Ra. It's possible to get a random quest from Falk Firebeard, Jarl Elisif's steward, to take out some bandits in Broken Oar Grotto... which happens to be the lair of the Blackblood Marauders, the pirates Jaree-Ra and his sister Deeja are working for. You can then read Captain Hargar's journal and find out that they're looking for a fall guy to put out the lighthouse for them. You can continue with the quest anyway, and after dispatching Deeja, you'll find Jaree-Ra alone in the grotto with the dead Marauders you took out earlier; apparently he's unfazed by the fact that the crew he's been working with has been slain to a man and he just attacks you on sight. Unfortunately, there is no option to let Jaree-Ra and Deeja know you're wise to the fact that they're trying to set you up and rub it in their faces before you kill them without breaking a sweat.
While exploring the Dwarven ruin Raldbthar (either on your own or as part of the Dawnguard quest "Lost to the Ages"), you will likely fight a bandit lord named Alain Dufont. Turns out he's a Dark Brotherhood target, and killing him before his quest is actually initiated unlocks unique dialogue from your questgiver. It also prevents your from going after an additional target for an extra reward, though it's nothing special if you miss it.
Serial Killer: One of these is on the loose in Windhelm. A quick count of the skulls in his lair indicates he has killed at least 14 victims in Windhelm before you got involved.
Serious Business: Mead in Skyrim is serious enough that there's a budding criminal empire based around it.
Implying that someone doesn't drink mead (a.k.a. a 'milk drinker') is a fairly serious insult in Nord culture, to the point that you can get into deadly fights with random mercs on the road who call you such.
The ban on Talos worship. In addition to being the main impetus for the Stormcloak Rebellion, it's the one thing that Nords on both sides of the conflict actually agree on and believe should be lifted. Indeed, many Imperial-aligned Nords are shown worshiping Talos anyway.
Shapeshifter Baggage: You can put on a fair amount of bulk turning into a werewolf or vampire lord, which then vanishes when you change back. Vampire lords even have their clothes on when they turn back.
Salvianus, one of the mentally unstable people living in the Ratway Warrens, was a Legion veteran of the Battle of The Red Ring, the battle that ended with the smashing of the Dominion army. He's burned out pretty bad, and long since fallen into the Despair Event Horizon. The poor guy freaks out big time when the Thalmor come in after you trying to find Esbern.
Salvianus: No! You can't be here! You're all dead! I already killed you over and over!
Skyrim is BRIMMING with them. Poor Salvianus is the most striking example, but Brunwulf, Runil, Madena, Galmar, and Ulfric all qualify to some extent. Ralof/Hadvar (depending on whose side you joined) also displays a touch of PTSD after the Battle of Whiterun.
Shining City: Solitude, the Imperial capital of Skyrim, is this as far as Nord standards go. It's the seat of the High King, a place of wealth, culture, and power, and a thriving merchant hub.
Giants and frost atronachs will do this to stun people. Giants do it with their clubs. Frost atronachs do it with their club-shaped arms. In each case, they're trying to pound you into the ground, not slamming the ground just to stun you; the shockwave is merely the result of a near miss (and a reminder, especially in the case of giants, that you really, really don't want to get hit).
Karstaag is the ultimate example of this. The very same frost giant king that the player killed in Morrowind can be fought again as a ghost if you summon him by reattaching his skull to his body in the ruins of his castle found in Dragonborn. He has a ground stomp that will send you flying across the room. He also uses it often, so good luck getting into melee range.
Shoot The Shaggy Dog Story: A remarkably short example: you find a roughly circular area where everything was torched. In the middle, a spell tome of fire cloak. Next to it,a burnt, doubled over corpse. This is one of four apprentices of the Mage College in Winterhold who recently left to perform experiments in the field. The other three can also be found; one as a corpse surrounded by skeevers, with a few scrolls of fury and calm (perhaps he tried one and found it too much a success to try the other), and the other two as (respectively) a frostbitten corpse and riddled with arrows, both as a result of failures to find ways to keep mead magically chilled.
Shoplift and Die: While shopkeepers will draw weapons and attack (and report you for crimes) if you do take stuff in front of them, they finally don't put steal-able items in front of them so you don't accidentally bump the mouse or the analog stick and the game interprets this as theft. On the other hand, if you do steal from them and don't pay with your life... they might send thugs after you to "teach you a lesson", telling the thugs on their contract they don't have to kill you but the hirer doesn't mind if they do. That's right, the victim may try even harder than just attacking you to ensure you will die for theft even if it was something incredibly small and you paid off your bounty! Sometimes they'll even send thugs after you when there were no witnesses to prove it was you—or when they're dead!
Shown Their Work: Skyrim is geologically accurate, with minerals most commonly occurring in regions that they would naturally form (i.e. gold in the Reach, where there's lots of compression and mountain building, iron in Whiterun where there's lots of metamophism, etc.).
The forts are usually found at important intersections of roads or at other important locations.
Shut Up, Hannibal!: Can be evoked in some boss fights, occasionally combined with Killed Mid-Sentence. Ulfric also drops a very satisfying one on Elenwen, if you let her stay during "Season Unending".
Silly Reason for War: Played for Drama. One the surface, the Civil War is about religious freedom and humanity's fight for survival against evil elves, started by the Empire signing a peace treaty with the Thalmor that bans Talos worship. The Stormcloaks accuse the Empire of being oppressed elven puppets, while the Empire accuse the Stormcloaks of being racist elven pawns. The thing is, the Empire never enforce the ban except in the most flagrantly public of instances; practically every house in Skyrim has a small Talos shrine inside, and heck, even many of the Imperial high command still worship Talos in secret. And no matter how much they hate each other, they still hate the Thalmor more. To make matters worse, the pro-Empire High King Torygg is speculated to have actually agreed with Ulfric, if Ulfric had merely asked instead of shouting the King to death. So in practice, the war is being fought over who wants to openly worship Talos and fight the elves right now, and who wants to worship Talos privately to buy time and gather strength and fight the elves when they're ready, and everyone is so caught up in blaming each other and accusing the other of being wrong that they won't admit that the whole mess is utterly pointless and playing right into the Thalmor's hands.
Slave Race: The Falmer spent many generations as slaves to the Dwemer before rebelling and warring with them until, for unrelated reasons, the Dwemer all disappeared. The Dwemer were so thorough in their enslavement of the Snow Elves, who turned into the Falmer, that now only two remain... and one of those is a vampire.
The Falmer have no qualms with giving the same treatments to humans. Human slaves can be found in the Falmer stronghold of Blackreach. They are surprisingly loyal to their masters, and will attack you even if you kill the Falmer.
As of Dawnguard, Pure-Blood Vampires views humans as both free labor and a renewable food source.
Slouch of Villainy: In the mission where you're vetted for the Dark Brotherhood, your observer Astrid spends the whole time lounging on top of a bookcase, lazily swinging one foot.
Smash Mook: Giants. All they can really do is swipe at you, stomp on you and hit you with their clubs, but you reallydon't want to be on the wrong end of those clubs.
Smug Snake: Thonar Silver-Blood. Even his wife getting murdered makes him no less unsympathetic, and seeing him get explosively atomised by Forsworn magic is immensely satisfying.
Soft Water: Played with. Landing in water will break your fall to some extent but don't expect a quarter inch of water to save you from dying from a long fall. It has to be deep enough for you to swim in at least, and maybe even deeper if you want to survive longer falls.
So Long, and Thanks for All the Gear: On occasion, a quest will prevent a follower from tagging along. Sometimes, the follower will just announce that he/she will be waiting where you found them, but other times, the follower just won't be there when you go through a door or talk to a certain person. This can be maddening if you have them carrying something important for you, like a weapon too heavy for you to carry or specialized gear you bring for specific situations. Also, it's not unheard of for the game to "lose" them. It's possible for followers to "die" on the way back to the meeting spot or to get glitched someplace else, which is the final nail in playing this trope straight.
Solve the Soup Cans: Played with. The puzzle to unlock a specific quest item consists of four buttons that move elements of the machine holding it when you press them. The solution is actually simple: press one button until one of the covered buttons opens, press the new button until the other covered button opens, and then press that button to open the machine. However, even though you can see what's happening with each button press, the goal in pressing them and what is actually happening isn't very clear. When the puzzle is done you can see your objective was to align the lenses overhead with the ones on the floor, but they aren't positioned in a way that looks like they're aligned, you know they are only because the next button opens. There's also two buttons at the start and the two other buttons that eventually open up, so just pressing one button at a time over and over runs counter-intuitive to what most players will assume, which is that there's a particular combination.
Sophisticated as Hell: At the end of Sheogorath's quest: "Feel free to keep the Wabbajack. As a symbol of my... Oh, just take the damn thing."
Particularly noteworthy in Skyrim is the complete removal of about 4-5 small towns entirely from the world map, and 3 are now just random inns along the road. This wouldn't be so notable if it wasn't for the fact that one of towns reduced to an inn is Old Hroldan, which was the site of a major battle that would be the start of The Empire. The game even mentions that Hroldan should be a town and calls attention to it with a quest due to its historical significance with Talos.
Spam Attack: If you time your castings right, you can put out an impressive volume of fire with two-handed non-dual-cast Destruction spells. Special shout-out goes out to a non-destruction-school attack spell provided by Dawnguard: Vampire's Bane, which charges up ready to cast even faster than the Destruction spells, allowing you to put out a blinding amount of area-effect Light 'em Up damage and emptying your magicka bar in very short order.
Can also be done by dual wielding daggers with the appropriate perks from the One-handed tree. Goes Up to Eleven if combined with the Elemental Fury shout.
Thieves' Guild: Mercer would have easily been able to dispose of Karliah and then leave the Guild high and dry while he made off with the loot if the player never came into the picture.
Civil War: The Thalmor wanted to stretch out the civil war to drain the resources from both sides so that they could eventually and easily conquer Skyrim, but the Dragonborn appears and brings a decisive end to the battle in favor of either side, allowing their defenses to recover and prepare. So now the Thalmor have to face a fully prepared army led by a Physical God.
Alduin pretty much ruined Tullius's clean capture and execution of Ulfric in the beginning of the game. It would likely have ended the civil war then and there.
Very annoyingly, dragons and vampires do this all the time by attacking you out of nowhere. Even if you survive the encounter, there's still the chance of an NPC you were trying to talk to/protect getting killed. The "Run For Your Lives" mod was created very specifically for everyone who isn't a guard to make a beeline straight to the nearest door.
The Dark Brotherhood, should you elect to destroy it rather than join it.
Spear Counterpart/Distaff Counterpart: Thongvor Silver-Blood and Maven Black-Briar. Each is the head of a commercially successful family - who owes that success to shady and illegal dealings. Maven works with both the Thieves' Guild and the Dark Brotherhood; Thongvor employs mercenaries to bully mine owners and Forsworn assassins to silence his enemies. Both are replacement Jarls for their respective holds if said holds change sides. In both cases, they have so much influence in the hold and have bribed the local guards so successfully, they arguably have more power over the town than the rightful Jarls do. Also, each of them have goons in town who will warn the player of their respective family's influence over the town (Maul for Maven, Yngvar the Singer for Thongvor), and said goons become Housecarls if Thongor/Maven become Jarl.
Spell My Name with an "S": If you have subtitles enabled, a lot of characters' names are misspelled. Special mention goes to Sanguine's mortal avatar, whose last name has been spelled "Guenvere", "Gueyenne", and even "Guinevere" when it's supposed to be "Guevenne".
While they aren't explicitly stated as collective creatures, and no Queen has been featured yet, you usually meet Frosbite Spiders in large numbers. They usually are met by group of five, but you can easily meet several groups in the same dungeon, as well as one giant one as an occasional boss.
Then Dragonborn gives us the Albino Spiders and their variants, which are all significantly smaller but much more numerous than the Frostbites.
Spikes of Villainy: The Daedra and Daedric armor. Falmer and Forsworn equipment are also pretty spiky and evil-looking; the Falmer don't seem able to make huts that aren't covered in spikes. But then, the Falmer do make everything out of chaurus chitin, and chaurus are spiky by nature.
Spiritual Successor: The Dragonborn expansion can be seen as this to Morrowind's Bloodmoon. They both take place in Solstheim, both have quests involving the Falx Carius and Fort Frostmoth, and both expansions are the only times you'll run into the Skaal.
Dawnguard features the Soul Cairn, a graveyard-like hell (well, Oblivion Realm) which houses victims of black soul gems. More accurately, the remnants of their souls go there after the main part of their souls are used in enchantments. Makes for a subtle Player Punch if you use them a lot.
The Squadette: Gender makes very little difference in most professions, but standard nameless town guards or Imperial/Stormcloak soldiers have about a 1:7 ratio of women to men.
Sssssnake Talk: Averted! Argonians have a slight rasp to their voices, but otherwise speak completely normally this time. They don't even mutter "The prey approaches!" anymore if they don't like you. They sometimes hiss in combat, but it lacks words.
The males have a slight rasp to their voice. Females sound like they've been smoking three packs a day for the last ten years.
Stealth-Based Mission: Ideally, most of the Thieves' Guild missions are set up to be completed by stealth and guile rather than brute force; enemies are often much stronger than you can take on in multiples at your current level and are better off backstabbed or avoided entirely. However, as Maven Black-Briar herself puts it, all that matters is results, so you could run around in the open stabbing enemies if you feel like it.
In Dawnguard, one of the Dawnguard's radiant quests requires you to eliminate a vampire disguised as a civilian, but it must be done stealthily; otherwise, the guards will view it as a murder.
Stealth Pun: Dragons' powers, such as breathing fire, are powered by speaking words of their ancient language. The game describes this as "deadly verbal debate", or in other words, a flame war.
Stealth Run: As noted above, this is encouraged by the Thieves' Guild, but the Dark Brotherhood also encourage this to some extent, and a large number of quests can be completed this way, if the player so chooses. Boethiah demands you do this for her quest, though there are no consequences for being detected.
Storming the Castle: The second main plotline (the Civil War) culminates in you doing this to your opposing faction. Also, the good path of the Dark Brotherhood has you pulling one on their Sanctuary.
Story-Driven Invulnerability: Alduin. Also happens for many, many others, either for the whole game or until their parts are done. This is particularly vexing after the civil war plot is resolved; you are as-good-as-told to find the remaining enemy camps and wipe them out, but each one will be overseen by an "Essential" enemy leader who cannot be killed.
Stripperiffic: Refreshingly averted (mostly), since the female armor actually looks like it could protect vital areas in combat (also, it gets cold in Skyrim). Don't worry, though, there are plenty of mods that are all over this trope.
Stupid Crooks: The bandits who pretend to be Legion soldiers. Trying to squeeze "taxes" from either a Stormcloak or a real Imperial Legion officer who also happens to be the walking divine intervention against giant fire-breathing god-lizards is not a good idea.
"I am in the Legion and I am damn sure you are not!"
Similarly, the random Thieves encounter. Especially if you're both a member of the Thieves' Guild and wearing the armour at the time they try to rob you. You can point this obvious oversight out to them, but if you're the Guild-Master, you get the infinitely better option to shake them down for money for having the gall to try and rob their boss!
Stupidity Is the Only Option: One quest that involves tracking down the corpses of a fallen expedition into a Dwemer ruin includes the objective to find and activate the Dwemer defenses, namely their golems, which you then must fight to escape. However, justified - in a Nice Job Breaking It, Hero moment, the player killed the giant spider that was stopping the Falmer from invading Markarth from below, so reactivating the defenses is necessary to prevent this from now happening.
In both the Companions' questline and the College of Winterhold questline, you have to activate something that would lock you into the room with no way to get out without a scripted scene. There is absolutely nothing you can do to avoid this; the only way to proceed is to use the event flag to open the doors to go further.
Same with the Thieves' Guild/Nightingale questline, where you need to jump into a pit with no way out, and you can find the skeleton of the last guy who did the same and starved to death. Good thing you picked up that Skeleton Key, right?
This ties in nicely with Story-Driven Invulnerability for some questlines. In the Winterhold quest you encounter Ancano, who has Thalmor spy written all over him in big glowing letters and is a pompous, arrogant Jerk Ass to boot. You can't kill him until he almost brings about the destruction of the college and the town of Winterhold. May also count as You Can't Thwart Stage One.
Succession Crisis: The death of Skyrim's old High King led to this. The new High King is supposed to be elected from among the nine Jarls, but with a civil war going on, nobody is willing to convene the Moot to hold the election.
Gameplay and Story Integration: As the Dovahkiin is tutored by the Graybeards and kills more of the dragons, he understands more of the Dragon Tongue, so this extends to the player as well. It is also likely that dragons understand some amount of the language spoken in Skyrim and switch between this and their own language when speaking to humans, as many people unfamiliar in a language often do. Dragons which actually speak to you - Paarthurnax and Odahviing - will swap midsentence; but Alduin and a few of his named lieutenants will do so depending on whom they're speaking to.
Suicidal Overconfidence: Aside from what we've grown to expect, occasionally NPCs will try to pick a fight with you, accepting which starts hand-to-hand combat. While all this is by no means unusual, said NPCs will pick fights with you even after it becomes known nationwide that you're the Dragonborn - which means you've killed at least one huge dangerous dragon. This doesn't seem to faze them. They'll also challenge Khajiit (who have huge claws) to unarmed combat.
Summon Bigger Fish: As noted above under Stupidity Is the Only Option, clearing out one Dwemer ruin of the Falmer that would invade the connecting city requires the player to activate the Dwemer golems, which will then wipe them out. The golems, at least, will stay in the ruin.
At the the end of the main questline, the player can do this at will in an open area with Odahviing, a dragon that has pledged to serve you until you die.
The Werewolf and Vampire Lord forms fit this mold, particularly with the Dawnguard DLC. Werewolf form, in particular, is time-limited, and you have to feast on the corpses of your fallen (non-undead, non-construct) enemies to maintain it, lest you revert to your original race... quite naked and unarmed.
You can craft your own Super Mode through Alchemy - the right combination of potions could vastly boost your regeneration of health, stamina and magic, heal you, make you more resistant to damage, do more damage with your chosen weapon, and a host of other effects - until it wears out.
With the Dragonborn DLC, the "Dragon Aspect" Shout sets the Dragonborn into overdrive, vastly increasing the power of their Thu'um and the amount of damage dealt with weapons, as well as covering them in a set of ethereal Dragonbone armour.
Surplus Damage Bonus: Any damage done to an enemy over its total health will translate into physical momentum, to the point where hitting a nearly dead enemy with a strong attack will make it shoot across the room.
The Dawnguard DLC gives you a quest to find a lost Aetherium Forge. There's a cache of potions at the door to the Forge itself, right before you face a rather formidable amount of enemies and a particularly punishing boss fight.
There's a couple of prominently placed Resist Shock potions placed right before the door where you have to face Potema's council of draugr while a giant beam of electricity circulates around the room.
Sword Beam: In the DLC Dragonborn, you can find part way through a dungeon a unique Two-Handed sword that launches Sword Beams with each power attack. Said beams are mainly used to solve a puzzle, and aren't all that strong, nor is the sword in comparison to higher tier equipment, but still, SWORD BEAMS!!!
Take a Fourth Option: In the quest "With Friends Like These..." you are locked up in a cabin by the Dark Brotherhood and may only leave when you kill either a Khajiit gangster, a Nord mercenary, or an insufferable old widowed mother. Or all three. Or the Dark Brotherhood member ordering you to kill them. She even lampshades this by saying that you may only leave when 'someone' dies.
Takes One to Kill One: The only way to permanently kill a dragon is for another dragon (regardless of whether it has the body of a mortal or that of a dragon) to devour its soul.
Take That, Us: In addition to telling off fans, M'aiq even takes cracks at the developers.
"Nords are so serious about beards. So many beards. M'aiq thinks they wish they had glorious manes like Khajiit."
"M'aiq carries two weapons, to be safe. What if one breaks? That would be most unlucky." note A reference to weapons breaking from use in earlier games of the series.
"M'aiq is very practical. He has no need for Mysticism." note The Mysticism school of magic, a longtime mainstay of the series, was removed for Skyrim, with the spells mostly shuffled into Conjuration.
"It does not matter to M'aiq how strong or smart one is. It only matters what one can do." note Before Skyrim, TES games used an attribute system in addition to skill levels.
"M'aiq loves the people of Skyrim. Many interesting things they say to each other." note The highly repetitive NPC chatter of Oblivion drew quite a bit of criticism.
"M'aiq saw a mudcrab the other day. Filthy things." note A reference to a much-parodied bit of Welcome to Corneria from Oblivion.
The scatterbrained court mage of Riften may babble that "once, you could find calipers all over Tamriel, but not anymore!" Which is yet another thing M'aiq can comment on.
Take Up My Sword: The Harbinger of the Companions posthumously appoints the Dragonborn as his successor.
Take Your Time: No matter what you're doing or how urgent it seems to be, you can put it on hold and go off and spend months of game time doing something else. Delphine will wait patiently for you to attend a party while you're busy working your way through the ranks at the Thieves' Guild or the Mage College. The only thing that seems to be time sensitive is how long your followers will wait for you before returning home.
Tattered Flag: A skeleton can be found in Winterhold clutching one, apparently from the last stand of the Knights of the Nine.
Team Pet: Lis the frostbite spider, in the Dark Brotherhood sanctuary.
Teleporting Keycard Squad: On a much larger scale. Due to the way quests work in this game, the item the NPC sends you to fetch may not necessarily exist in the dungeon they point you to beforehand, especially if you've murdered your way through it once before. As such, if the NPC sends you to a dungeon you've already happened to clear, the game will repopulate it so you still have to fight your way through it. In some cases, there may in fact be more enemies than when you did it the first time.
Tempting Fate: Just inside the door of a Nordic tomb called Volunruud, you can find a journal, the last line of which reads 'It's not as if the thousand-year dead will mind if I take a look around.' This journal is clutched in the hand of a picked-clean skeleton whose skull has been pierced through by a dagger. Nearby is an ax embedded in the ground and a (different) skeleton which will attack if you approach.
There Is Another: While the Prophecy of the Dragonborn heavily implies that you are the Last, Arngeir seems to suggest there might be another. Finally confirmed in the Dragonborn DLC, which deals with the First Dragonborn seeking to return.
They Walk Among Us: Plenty of examples. You can be talking to a character and have no idea that you're conversing with a vampire, werewolf or daedra. There are ways to root them out, such as casting Detect Life or going into quests which expose them; but going by appearance, sound and behavior, you'd never know.
That is until Dawnguard is installed, then all vampires gain glowing orange eyes.
This Is Gonna Suck: You know pain is coming when Lydia utters this line (or whatever follower you're with uses their variation):
Lydia: I've got a bad feeling about this.
Three-Stat System: Health, Magicka, and Stamina (which were derived stats in the previous games).
Tiered by Name: Many enemies in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim have auto-leveled variants distinguished from the base mook by some power ranking slapped after the name. For example: Draugr Wight, Draugr Deathlord, Reaver Marauder.
The Faceless: Miraak's face is never shown. Even after you kill him, you eat his soul, so his flesh dissolves, meaning you still can't see his face even after looting his gear.
Console commands, however, reveal that he's a Nord, with receding hair and Black Eyes of Evil, the latter presumably a side effect of either learning too many of Hermaeus Mora's secrets or spending too much time in Apocrypha.
Time Skip: By far the largest one so far. With Oblivion taking place only forty years after Arena (the very first game), the previous four games were extremely close together in the Elder Scrolls timeline.
Time Travel: Alduin couldn't be defeated the last time someone fought him, only sent forward in time to a point when there was someone who could defeat him - namely, the Dovahkiin. The Dovahkiin travels the opposite way on two separate occasions.
Title Drop: Done for an individual quest. During peace negotiations in "Season Unending," Ulfric may warn Tullius, "Remember, evgir unslaad," which is Dragon tongue for "Season Unending." In other words, "This [war] isn't over".
A little bit earlier during the same quest, Arngeir also does a Title Drop. He tells you that he hasn't much faith that these negotiations will produce lasting peace, as the ancient Nord words for war translate to "season unending".
Too Dumb to Live: Many bandits and criminals who get involved with the Dragonborn. Here are examples:
Arvel the Swift in Bleak Falls Barrow is probably the first example of this trope you encounter. After you save his life and free him from the web in which he's trapped, he'll refuse to hand over the Golden Claw and run recklessly ahead into a cave that at this point has proven to house all sorts of dangers, potentially pissing off someone who was skilled enough to kill a Giant Spider. Even if you don't kill him, he'll inevitably awaken all the Draugr up ahead, who will happily do the deed themselves. And if he somehow survives the Draugr gauntlet, he won't survive the swiveling spike wall trap tied to the pressure plate switch his running route takes him right over. Swift in body, maybe...
In Ravenscar Hollow, you find a raider in a cage who begs you to free him from the Hagravens who imprisoned him. After dealing with the Hagravens and freeing him, he attempts to mug you. The one who just took on three Hagravens. And he wears nothing but rags. And he doesn't attack you without announcing it.
Similarly, the mad necromancer in Rannveig's Fast smugly explains how he's going to kill you while slowly walking away with his back to you. The number of players who let him finish his speech is likely very low.
Following the Thieves' Guild storyline, some bandits in the Pilgrim's Path come under this. Stealing from Nocturnal is not exactly recommended at the best of times, but they really couldn't have picked a worse place than her conduit to Mundus.
The random 'your money or your life' type of thieves you encounter in the wilderness. Sometimes they see you fight and kill a dragon, and then decide it's a good idea to attempt to rob said dragon-slaying badass. You can tell them that they're literally not worth your time and they will still attack you.
A female dark elf in a dungeon asks you to clear the way for her. The dungeon is full of undead and dangerous traps, and she has only basic clothes and maybe a low grade dagger. After you've done all the work, she rushes into the main chamber, shouting "It's my treasure! Mine!", and runs right into the most deadly trap in the dungeon. The "treasure" is in fact the lure to said trap, containing mostly worthless loot, while the trap itself reveals a staircase to the real treasure: a Word Wall, which would have been useless to her anyway.
One of the wizards at the college attempts to recreate the circumstances that led to the extinction of the Dwemer, who have vanished from reality. You find him the materials, he begins the experiment and... he vanishes from reality. Uh, success?
Malkoran, a necromancer, sets up shop in Daedric Prince Meridia's temple. Meridia is a very powerful godlike being, and she passionately hates the undead - and those who would raise them.
During the College of Winterhold questline, an aide of Ancano's follows you to Labyrinthian and waits at the exit to try to take the artifact you've just collected. Because clearly, someone who can survive a trek through a centuries-old tomb filled with ghosts, Draugr, and an undead dragon priest is going to be a complete pushover.
Rochelle the Red for getting the brilliant idea of kidnapping the Dragonborn's spouse.
Just about any dragon who thinks it's a good idea to attack the College of Winterhold.
Sunderstone Gorge is a cavern complex absolutely full of burning oil and other flammables. It is inhabited by a group of fire mages, who apparently cannot make the obvious equation.
Special mention has to go the skooma/moon sugar dealers you can find on the road as random encounters. Sure enough they will just straight up attack if you mention that what they're doing is illegal—that's not what makes them stand out, as tons of people throughout the game are dumb in this manner. What makes these guys different is that they're not even armed! They come at you with just their fists, dressed in rags! At least most of the other idiots in the game have some kind of equipment..... although to be fair, their reasoning could easily be impaired due to being high on their own product.
Another great example is Saadia in the "In My Time of Need" quest. She says that she can't trust anyone because "Jarls and guards can be bought," then immediately offers to pay you for help, despite the fact that she knows nothing about you (the player could even be playing as one of the races with a reputation for being lowlives and thieves, or even wearing the Thieves Guild outfit!). In fact, some random adventurer is a lot *more* likely to be bought off than the Nords running the city, who at least have a sense of honor ingrained in their culture and have already kicked the Alik'r out of their city once.Sure enough, you can betray her and get paid by the Alik'r instead.
Remember Netches from The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind? Those flying jellyfish with hitboxes twice their size that were fairly easy to kill despite their Informed Ability to be dangerous? Well, now, as of the Dragonborn DLC, they really ARE dangerous.
One of the random encounters on Solstheim is a group of hunters out to kill a netch. You can choose to simply wish them luck, and let them go to it without your help. They usually die in hilariously short order.
Took a Level in Jerkass: The Altmer (high elves) go from snobbish and stuck up to truly astounding levels of dickery, even before you include the Great War and the White-Gold Concordat. For example, they've annexed Valenwood and vassalized Elsweyr, making the Bosmer and Khajiit into servants. Also, if you kill one of their kind, just one, even if he just tried to destroy the world, they'll put out a hit on you.
That describes the Thalmor, the government of Alinor/Summerset Isle and the Aldmeri Dominion. Altmer not hailing from the Dominion tend to be slightly less dickish, if for no other reason that they aren't true Altmer to the Thalmor.
The Blades. There are only two in game, but for people whose purpose is to serve the Dragonborn they have an odd tendency to treat you as a lackey, making demands and presenting ultimatums unless you follow those demands.
To be specific: Delphine has dialogue where she specifically and unequivocally states that the entire purpose of the Blades (and, by extension, her life's goal) is to find and serve the Dragonborn. And yet, she orders you around like a lackey, belittles you when you question her, and eventually gives you an ultimatum to kill Paarthurnax in revenge for his actions in the Merethic era, thousands of years ago, despite that he had a Heel-Face Turn regarding that and was responsible for teaching the Thu'um to humans back then so they could overthrow their dragon overlords, and it is his actions and advice which make the final defeat of Alduin and saving the entire world from destruction possible - without him, you never would have gotten Odahviing on your side and been able to travel to Skuldafn to save the world. And no, you can't refuse - your choices are to kill Paarthurnax in revenge for deeds done so long ago they're part of myth and legend and in doing so earn the everlasting hatred of the Greybeards, or don't do it, and never have Delphine and the Blades aid you ever again.
Too Stupid To Live: Saadia, the Redguard woman that the mercenaries are searching for. You casually enter the tavern and say "Some people are looking for a Redguard woman, do you know anything about this?" While any fugitive on the run with half a brain would deny any involvement, she immediately cries out, "Oh no! They've found me!!" - completely giving herself away.
Torches and Pitchforks: When they learn about the vampire lair close to their town, the inhabitants of Morthal decide to form a mob and confront the vampires, complete with torches (but sadly no pitchforks). However, when you get to the lair the mob chickens out, sending you inside on your own.
Trash Talk: Apparently a time-honored tradition in Tamriel - literally everyone in Skyrim will taunt you in a fight, including the dragons. The "Throw Voice" shout also allows you to mock and confuse your opponents with ventriloquism.
Alduin is particularly fond of it. This is not surprising, given that he's a ridiculously arrogant, semi-divine dragon. If you hear the word joor (mortal) come out of his mouth, it's a good bet he's mocking you.
Her whole spiel runs into a bit of Fridge Logic if the Dovahkiin is a werewolf running around eating people to stay in beast form, or even just a dedicated alchemist who ate some human flesh to find out what potions they could make from it. Or if they're a Bosmer, for whom cannibalism would be a normal and accepted part of their race's culture.
Treasure Map: You can filch some off bandits, leading you to hidden chests.
Trial by Combat: To get into Shor's Hall in Sovngarde, you first have to give your credentials to the guard, then fight him to half health. Depending on how high you get your level before reaching this point, it can actually be laughably easy, considering that your opponent is a demigod.
Quite often, these exploding crossbow bolts are recoverable from the corpse of whatever was shot with them. An exploding arrow that rematerializes afterward is perhaps the trickiest of all.
Trophy Wife: In the orc stronghold Dushnikh Yal, Chief Burguk's latest wife, Shel, is all tarted up, and basically does nothing but be the Chief's arm candy. His other wives man the defensive walls and work the forge with their respective children by Burguk.
Try Everything: One of the two ways you find out an alchemy ingredient's properties is tasting it to learn the first property. The other way is by combining it willy-nilly with whatever else you have on hand; the game helps you with this by keeping track of combinations you have already tried and greying them out. The Experimenter perk makes tasting items more efficient, eventually revealing all four properties if you get all three ranks.
Twenty Bear Asses: Temba Wide-Arm goes halfway towards a literal example, requiring you to bring her ten bear pelts.
24-Hour Armor: Not only is the player character free to wear the same set of heavy plate armour all day and every day, the guards of holds can be seen sleeping in their armour in the hold's barracks. They don't even take off their full-face helmets.
This is actually a game bug, though. All characters who have a "sleep" routine were given outfits to wear when sleeping, but the "lie down and sleep" part of the script doesn't call on them to change clothes.