Kirkbride is credited in particular for establishing the series' famous "lore", essentially taking the loose assembly of fantasy elements that existed as of Daggerfall and forming them into a unique Constructed World with a deep backstory, mythology, and cosmology. He still contributes "Obscure Texts" to the series, essentially supplementary items treated as canonical by a portion of the fanbase (or at least the equivalent of the series' famous in-universe Unreliable Canon). Kirkbride still does some freelance work on the series, and as of Skyrim, some of the concepts in his works have been officially referenced in-game (the idea of "kalpas", Ysgramor and his 500 companions, and some of the motivations of the Thalmor), moving them to Canon Immigrant status.
A detailed list of Kirkbride's contributions to both in-game texts and "Obscure Texts" can be found here.
- The Elder Scrolls:
- At Telltale Games:
Tropes Common in Kirkbride's Works:
- Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Introduced the idea of three "ascended" metaphysical states that exist in the Elder Scrolls universe. The first of these states is CHIM, where one becomes aware of the nature of Anu's Dream but exists as one with it and maintains a sense of individuality. (Dunmeri Physical God Vivec claims to have achieved this level.) Taking another step, the second is Amaranth, where one exits Anu's Dream to create one's own. If one fails to maintain their individuality in either step, they instead experience Zero-Sum, where one simply fades into Anu's Dream. (Dagoth Ur, Big Bad of Morrowind, is said to have found a dangerous middle ground between these three. Instead of exiting the Dream, his twisted, traumatized, and broken mind is being imprinted on the Dream of Anu, making him something truly terrible and Eldritch.)
- Blue-and-Orange Morality: Frequently discussed. Unsurprising, given that many of his writings revolve around deities of all sorts (Daedric Princes, the Tribunal) and the utterly alien Dwemer. To note:Kirkbride: "That's why the Dwemer are the weirdest race in Tamriel and, frankly, also the scariest. They look(ed) like us, they sometimes act(ed) like us, but when you really put them under the magnifying glass you see nothing but vessels that house an intelligence and value system that is by all accounts Beyond Human Comprehension. (...) There isn't even a word to describe the Dwarven view on divinity. They were atheists on a world where gods exist."
- Censor Decoy: During Morrowind's development, Kirkbride got frustrated with director Todd Howard's complaints that Kirkbride's character designs were "too weird". Kirkbride started drawing two alternate versions of every design - the one that was the one he wanted to be in the game, and one that was, in his words, "fucking crazy". He would show the "crazy" design to Howard, who would ask him to tone it down, then present the real version, which Howard would say was perfect.
- Eldritch Abomination: A number of characters he has written extensively about qualify including the Daedric Princes, Sithis, Dagoth Ur, and Numidium (which also crosses over with Mechanical Abomination).
- The End of the World as We Know It: According to C0DA, Nirn (the planet on which The Elder Scrolls series takes place) is destroyed in the late 5th Era in an event known as "Landfall". Rather than being destroyed by the Underking as previously believed, Numidium was instead caught in a time warp and emerges in the distant 5th Era where the Aldmeri Dominion, led by the Thalmor, dominates Tamriel. Picking up where it left off in the 2nd Era, Numidium wages war on the Dominion and uses its "ancestroscythe" to refute the entire Altmer race from existence. It then proceeds to destroy the rest of Nirn with all attempts to stop it being temporary distractions at best. A group of survivors is able to flee to Nirn's moon Masser in a special ship, but Numidium eventually follows it there. Finally, a Dunmer noble known as Jubal-lun-Sul is able to "verbally defeat" Numidium. The Landfall ends when Jubal-lun-Sul creates the first of the "New Men" with the Physical God Vivec. Yes, it's just that sort of story.
- Humongous Mecha: Numidium, which is one of his most written-about subjects. In addition to in-game works, the 64-page online graphic novel C0DA features it as a major character.
- In-Game Novel: Has written several. Most notable is the 36 Lessons of Vivec series, which is a series of 36 "books" which tops out at over 100 pages.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: His 36 Lessons of Vivec series, penned from the perspective of Physical God Vivec, explains (drenched in metaphor) that his "godhood" comes from realizing that he was in a video game and using that knowledge to edit the situation around him, such as when he defeated an opposing army by deleting their gamefiles. He makes vague references to things like the Player Character ("The ruling king who only he can address as an equal"), pausing the game, console commands, and the Construction Set Level Editor. His explanation on what happens if he should "die" also sounds a lot like reloading a saved game:Vivec: "When I die in the world of time, then I'm completely asleep. I'm very much aware that all I have to do is choose to wake. And I'm alive again. Many times I have very deliberately tried to wait patiently, a very long, long time before choosing to wake up. And no matter how long it feels like I wait, it always appears, when I wake up, that no time has passed at all."
- Light Is Not Good:
- The Dwemer, who were very much Abusive Precursors despite their gold/bronze technology and use of enchantments.
- Almalexia, whose Catchphrase is "come, bask in the light of my mercy" and her home city of Mournhold is known as "the City of Light, City of Magic." As the Face Heel Turned Big Bad of Morrowind's Tribunal expansion, she shows that she is definitely not good.
- Loose Canon: The most prolific contributor of "Obscure Texts" in the Elder Scrolls canon. These works are essentially treated as canonical by a portion of the fanbase (or at least the equivalent of the series' famous in-universe Unreliable Canon), but Bethesda has no official stance. As of Skyrim, some of the concepts in his works have been officially referenced in game, moving them to Canon Immigrant status.
- Multiple-Choice Past: A number of his works give alternate histories and explanations for in-game events, with elements of Written by the Winners and Historical Hero Upgrade at play. Examples include The Rashomon style storytelling around the Battle of Red Mountain (which results in the death of Nerevar, the disappearance of the Dwemer, and the rise of the Tribunal) and the "heretical" version of Tiber Septim's rise to power and later ascension to godhood as Talos (detailed in The Arcturian Heresy). In each case, it is implied that divine power was used to make all of the versions of events true, regardless of the contradictions.
- Nay-Theist: Explored in his writings on the Dwemer. There is no denying the existence of god-like beings in the Aedra and Daedra, but the Dwemer held them in no special regard. They were said to especially despise the Daedra, mocking and scorning the "foolish" rituals of their followers (primarily the Chimer). They would even summon Daedra specifically to test their divinity.
- New Weird: His writing style and the subjects of his writing often qualify. Some of the characters/concepts he created or expanded upon include Pelinal Whitestrake (a time-traveling cyborg who is the manifestation of the spirit of a dead god), Vivec (a Magical Depraved Bisexual hermaphrodite Physical God who may be aware that the true nature of the world is that he's in video game), Numidium (a Humongous Mecha powered by the heart of a dead god with an alarming tendency to break time and warp reality), Kinmune (an AI from the far future who got caught in the crossfire of a war, was driven insane, and sent back to the late Merethic era where she then acted as a soothsayer for a while) and many more.
- Our Dwarves Are All the Same:
- One of the major sources of lore regarding the Dwemer, he went to great lengths to cleverly Subvert the trope. Yes, the Dwemer do have some classic "Tolkien Dwarf" traits such as living underground, having prominent beards, and conflicting with Elves (Mer). However, they themselves are a sub-species of Mer (Dwemer meaning "Deep Elves" or "Deep Folk"), are of average height (they were called "dwarves" by a race of giants), are masters of technology right up to being able to Warp Reality with it, and are presumed extinct by the time period of the games.
- One living Dwemer remains at least up to the events of Morrowind; he was planewalking when the Dwemer disappeared, and has no idea what happened to them. (He also turns up in a later Kirkbride work, C0DA, as an Arc Villain known as "The Intellective", "a bionic despot of a parallel reality".)
- Our Gods Are Different: Really explores godhood and divinity in his works, and what it means to be "a god".
- Physical God: Perhaps his most famous characters, the Tribunal and Dagoth Ur, are these. He has written extensively about them, especially Vivec, and fleshes out some of the more bizarre aspects that would come with this trope. (As opposed to many instances where "Physical Gods" are simply powerful and unkillable 'mortals', Kirkbride explores how achieving this status would affect the minds and perception of reality of these beings.)
- Rage Against the Heavens: A common trend in many of the characters he writes about is a distinct hatred of the divine (Pelinal, Umaril, the Dwemer) or they are themselves divine but do not get along with other deities (the Tribunal, several of the Daedric Princes).
- Romanticism Versus Enlightenment: Explores the debate in his works, as well as the flaws of each side. The ancient Chimer/Dwemer conflict he writes about extensively is one example, as is the Tribunal/Imperial Culture Clash following Morrowind's Voluntary Vassalization.
- Schizo Tech: A common element in his writing. The Dwemer, Sotha Sil, Pelinal, Kinmune... all possess (or are) massive technological innovations over their contemporaries in Tamriel.
- The Tower: A series concept he really expanded on, especially in regards to the Dwemer Tower (Anumidium/"Walk-Brass") and Red Tower (Red Mountain with the Heart of Lorkhan).
- Time Travel: Heavily implied regarding Pelinal Whitestrake (said to be a cyborg from the future ala The Terminator) and outright stated with Kinmune (a mining AI from the future accidentally sent to the past where she acts as an important oracle in Elder Scrolls history).
- Unreliable Narrator: The vast majority of his writings, both in-game and "Obscure Texts", are written from an in-universe perspective. In line with the series' famous Unreliable Canon, these writings offer additional perspectives and interpretations of in-universe events, rather than simply using Word of God powers to dictate "what is". This is most evident in any of his works regarding Vivec, especially the 36 Lessons of Vivec series, as well as numerous others.
- Vicious Cycle: Repeatedly implies in his works that time in the Elder Scrolls universe is cyclical, running in "kalpas". At the end of every kalpa, the "world is eaten" so that it can be remade anew. This is confirmed in Skyrim.