Follow TV Tropes


Video Game / The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall

Go To

"Rest well this night, for tomorrow you sail for the kingdom... of Daggerfall."
Emperor Uriel Septim VII

The second game in The Elder Scrolls series, developed by Bethesda and released for MS-DOS in 1996. Daggerfall takes place in the region around the Iliac Bay where several petty kingdoms are vying for power in the wake of the increasingly-absent Empire which rules them all.

In the kingdom of Daggerfall the local King Lysandus, a personal friend of The Emperor of the Cyrodiil Empire of Tamriel, has died. Despite seeming to be a good person with no regrets, he comes back as a powerful ghost and terrorizes his capital every night. Troubled by these accounts and in light of the bickering factions, The Emperor has sent a letter to Lysandus' wife but it became lost in transit. Deeply troubled due to the letter's sensitive contents, he sends the player character to investigate both events, sweeping him into the complex politics of the Iliac Bay.


Daggerfall saw the series' transition into full 3D. The world is mostly flat with some hilly and mountainous areas, but the cities themselves feature solid houses and walls that are climbable and the dungeons just revel in the fact that you can cross over your own path on three or four different levels. Daggerfall is also the last game where Bethesda Software implemented procedural generation as a major part of the game. The size of the game world is massive (at 161,600km2 it is second only to Arenanote ) and they really wanted to implement a go anywhere and do anything feel, limited only by time constraints and a legendary inability to keep the game stable and store things in cabinets. The game has multiple endings, multiple routes to get to those endings, and there are many things to do, as long as you didn't miss your appointment.


Daggerfall has been re-released as freeware by Bethesda along with its predecessor Arena to commemorate the fifteenth anniversary of The Elder Scrolls series. It can be downloaded at their website and will work, though a variety of technical tricks may be required (You can also get a version that will automatically set up). Its successor is Morrowind.

It was also released in an anthology collection with the four other main series games, bypassing Dosbox entirely.

A source port-like clone, called DaggerXL, was in development since 2009 but later officially announced to be dead in 2020. A separate project called Daggerfall Unity, which renders the entire world of Daggerfall in the Unity engine, is also in development at the Daggerfall Workshop, and is currently playable as a beta version. Additionally, the game has been recreated in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim as a mod, found herenote  and herenote  as Skygerfallnote  - however, it's not a total conversion mod, since upon completion of the mod, you'll have the option of using your Skygerfall hero as a Dragonborn.

In September 2019, some of the game's leading developers, most prominently The Elder Scrolls co-creators, programmer Julian LeFay and designer and writer Ted Peterson, announced that they are working on a Spiritual Successor to Daggerfall, and are putting together a small team for the purpose under the banner of OnceLost Games. The project, titled The Wayward Realms, is as of this writing in the early planning stages.

Daggerfall provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality: Averted for the most part when it comes to money. Gold pieces have weight, requiring you to deposit them in a bank and/or exchange them for lighter letters of credit to avoid becoming overencumbered. Banks are specific to each province (e.g. an account in Daggerfall can't be accessed in Anticlere), and charge a 1% transaction fee on withdrawals.
  • All Deserts Have Cacti: Hammerfell has cacti despite not being based on New World deserts.
  • Alliance Meter: Although you can't see the standings, the game has an incredibly intricate reputation system, with hundreds of different factions that grow to like or hate you depending on who you're helping/screwing over.
  • Alt Itis: An inevitable result of some of the most flexible and complex character creation systems ever.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: This game does away with the Save-Game Limits from Arena, allowing players to save their game whenever and wherever they wish.
  • Artifact Title: You are told, after you complete the final quest in the main quest, that you will "read fate as it shall be recorded upon The Elder Scrolls", putting it alongside Arena in how much of an impact the Elder Scrolls has in the story. At least this time the subtitle is relevant; and technically speaking the Elder Scrolls part is not artifact title, since it was equally-meaningless the first time it appeared.
  • Artificial Atmospheric Actions: There are hordes of randomly-generated townspeople just walking around. There are also tons of ordinary houses, which may then be populated by more randomly-generated townspeople. They also all have rumors and random things to say on any subject.
  • Ascended Extra: The provinces of High Rock and Hammerfell (or at least the parts surrounding the Iliac Bay) are greatly expanded on from the previous game, and several settlements that could be visited in Arena are given proper attention and world-building instead of just being dime-a-dozen Adventure Towns. Similarly, many of the guilds and factions in Arena that were (with the exception of the Mages Guild) only present during side-quests are not only given a larger presence in the game, but the player can potentially join a good chunk of them.
  • Artificial Stupidity: Behold as a civilian witnesses you sticking a sword into another civilian and walks away as if nothing has happened!
    • Liches have the unhealthy tendency of blowing themselves up with their own spells.
  • Artistic License – Geography: The game's geography is slightly different from how the Iliac Bay appears on full maps of Tamriel. For example, the landmasses of High Rock and Hammerfell extend from East to West, when they should run Northeast to Southwest. In addition, most more recent maps of Tamriel, plus The Elder Scrolls Online, show Daggerfall (the city) as being on the opposite side of the peninsula from the Iliac Bay.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The Knight class. You get a bonus to Etiquette and are immune to paralysis (which comes in handy when facing monsters like spiders and scorpions), but you're barred from using any form of Daedric equipment.
    • Daedric equipment itself - weapons do the highest damage, armour has the best protection, but it weighs 25% more than the next best material (considerably limiting the amount of loot you can carry) for only a 7% stat improvement.
    • Houses. They cost a LOT of money, yet only offer a place to rest for free (virtually useless, since most of time you'll rest in dungeons anyway or while travelling) and to store your items.
      • Ships are in the same boat, but they do allow you to travel for free by sea, and can be accessed at any time from anywhere outdoors, so they have at least niche applications. There is absolutely no advantage to having a house when you can have a ship, though.
    • The Wabbajack artifact. Having trouble with that vicious harpy? Turn it into a rat! The tradeoff? That very same harpy could also become a much more dangerous ancient lich, since you can't choose the monsters you wish to turn the target into.
  • Back Stab: In a case of Early Installment Weirdness, it's luck-based and tied to a skill. Attacking an enemy from behind has a chance to do triple damage, with higher Backstabbing skill making it more likely.
  • Badass Preacher: Your character can become this if you rise in the ranks in a Temple.
  • Big Bad: Interestingly subverted, as due to the Grey-and-Gray Morality, there isn't actually a major evil force you have to fight. The closest things this game has to a Big Bad are Mannimarco and Lysandus' murderers, Lord Woodborne and Princess Elysana, and you are more likely to do quests for Mannimarco than against him.
  • Blatant Lies: Some nobles will request you to simply bring an item to a friend which happens to contain smuggled goods which in turn must be delivered to a third party individual. Oh, and you'll be targeted by the thieves' guild.
    • Others will plead you to recover an item stolen by orcs and when you enter the dungeon the item is located, you'd wish you were fighting orcs.
    • Some individuals may give you false direction to your quest target.
  • Blessed with Suck: Vampires (which the player can become).
  • Boss in Mook Clothing: Vampire Ancients
  • But Thou Must!: Averted. You can turn down each and every quest you're offered, even those related to the main quest. Though refusing those, makes the game unwinnable.
  • Canon Name: Lhotun's missing brother you are quested to find out about is given a random name, but the Morrowind book Night Falls on Sentinel (which details an agent of his dealing with the murderer) gives the brother's name as "Arthago".
    • Same with Uriel Septim's sons. In the randomized backstories for the PC, s/he may befriend Uriel by saving one of his sons from Cannibals or Assassins. Yet their names are randomized. Their canon names (Excluding Martin) are Geldell, Enman, and Ebel.
  • Cat Folk: The Khajiit race.
  • Character Customization: You can design a custom class at the beginning, with a lot more freedom than most games — you can add a huge variety of unusual and highly-specific advantages or disadvantages, all of which will affect your leveling rate.
    • To go into detail, you have a difficulty dagger that shows how long it would take to level up. Picking up special advantages would raise it, while picking special disadvantages would lower it. It is also affected By how many hitpoints per level you want to have, from 1 to 30. What is even more interesting is that you can also change reputations between merchants, peasants, nobles ect and they react in positive/negative towards you. That is also not mentioning about how you can raise/lower attributes, pick up random generated questions to give more boost towards the skills you picked (the questions are formed upon what skills you are specializing for) and that based upon the questions you answered, it generates a background for your character, based upon your picks. In contrast to the next games, you can at best tag few attributes and skill increases, that would end up maxing the skills either way.
  • Characterization Marches On: To take one example, the personalities of the various Daedric Princes tend to be very different from their incarnations in other games.
    • The relations between the various factions and gods are also mostly abandoned in later games.
  • Church Militant: A couple of Fighters Guild locations in Hammerfell are also temples to Ebonarm, making their members this. They appear on the map as "Fighter Trainers" and since they're temples, they're always open 24/7 (normal Fighters Guilds are open only from 11:00 to 23:00 and only allow 24/7 access at high ranks), and vampires take damage while in them.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Enemy versions of the PC classes don't have to obey equipment restrictions. It's actually possible to find Dwarven armor on a Spellsword corpse.
  • Covers Always Lie: The sickly-looking fellow on the cover can be an ally, and in fact just wants to die.
  • Crazy-Prepared: You better be. You never know if the cave you're about save the drunk priest from is a vampire coven or not. You better stock up on healing and resistance potions and extra weapons and enchantments.
  • Cursed With Awesome: It's hard to feel sorry for super-strong immortal undead creatures with magic powers.
    • Werewolves and wereboars. Being forced to kill civilians once or twice a month and transforming on days when there's a full moon is a small price to pay for immunity to diseases and permanent +40 boosts to Strength, Speed, Agility, and Endurance.
      • Though werewolves and wereboars have a massive downside. If you fail to feed, your stats drop massively to single digits as well as hitpoints causing you die in one hit. So, if you fast travel to the dungeon you want to traverse, and rest there for a long while. If you didn't pay careful attention to your werewolf schedule, you're going to have a bad time.
      • It gets even better if you have the Ring of Hircine. While wearing it, not only do the two main disadvantages above no longer affect you but the transformation spell can now be cast as many times as you like, as opposed to being limited to once a day.
  • Cut-and-Paste Environments: There are about 40 different buildings, spread across hundreds of towns and villages, which have about 5 different layouts each (the cities also use those same buildings, but due to being randomly generated their layouts are at least unique). Similarly, the infamous dungeons are a few dozen pieces put together in different (insanely lengthy and complex) configurations ad infinitum.
  • Cutting the Knot: Don't have time to pick a lock? Just kick the door down!note 
  • Dark Is Not Evil: The Underking, undead-minion-commanding sort-of-lich that he is, is probably the closest thing to a good guy the games have had.
  • Dem Bones
  • Disc-One Nuke: if you choose, during the chargen, to define your character's personality by answering some questions, you could start the game with an ebony dagger, which is significantly more powerful than anything you'd find till level 6-7 (since equipment scales with player level).
    • Also, the game allows to create a custom character class. Among other options, you can define special advantages and disadvantages, each one of them affecting the "difficulty dagger", i.e. how fast or slow you level up depending on how many hitpoints you get per level. Now, high elves are immune to paralysis - in spite of this, you can still choose a high elf and put "critical weakness to paralysis" as one of his weaknesses by creating a custom class. This dramatically lowers the dagger, hence allowing to gain levels far easier than normal without additional handicaps - if you know what you're doing it's possible to gain 3-4 levels before you exit the first dungeon. The same applies to other weaknesses as well (for instance, if you create a warrior you can choose "inability to regen spell points" and "lower magical ability", again climbing up the level ladder in no time).
    • Some special advantages are also hilariously unbalanced: for instance, if you choose "spell absorption general", which unsurprisingly lets you absorb enemy spells, not only you don't take any damage, but also regenerate your spell points whenever someone throws a spell at you. Since in mid to late game most of the enemies are spellcasters (though they also have melee attacks), you can see where this is going...
    • Other "disadvantages" that are practically free include the inability to use Orcish weapons and armor (this material being vanishingly rare in the game), and decreased Magicka in sunlight (since most players will only use magic in dungeons).
  • Dummied Out: Prostitutes, and one of the multiple endings. Oh, and about half of the magic spells, which can still be learned at the Mages' Guild, and either do nothing or cause bugs when cast. (Later patches removed them.)
    • Many, many, many other things as well. According to a pre-release FAQ: at least three additional guilds (prostitutes, necromancers, the Order of the Lamp), wars between nations in the gameworld with city sieges, a working barding system, multiple additional terrain patterns, roads and more detailed wilderness, burglary on player-owned houses (which were meant to be furnishable: carpentry stores are still in the game), Non Player Characters reacting to player's clothing, active NPCs actually competing against you during the main quest and so on and on.
    • An entire live action introduction was removed from the game. The footage would have shown the battle where King Lysandus was slain. Clips from this footage was shown at the 1995 CES.
    • There exists a full quest named 'A Test of Determination' in the game files that goes unused. And unlike most examples, it was completely accidental: The binary and text files are named differently, and it can be easily fixed by editing the name of one so it matches the other.
    • Sheogorath will have a higher chance to be summoned (even if you don't want him to) if the current weather is "Thunderstorm". Unfortunately, there isn't an implemented "thunderstorm" weather effect.
  • Dungeon Crawling: The majority of the game - in fact, a Daggerfall dungeon can be more complex than dozens of Skyrim dungeons put together!
  • Early-Bird Cameo: High Chancellor Ocato, who would later play a larger role in Oblivion, appears in the game's live-action intro as Emperor Uriel Septim's torch-carrying companion.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: While Daggerfall laid the framework that all its successors would follow, establishing the "true" Elder Scrolls canon, and is overall much more recognizable to newer fans as a TES title than Arena is, there are still elements that aren't... quite in their final form.
    • The Daedric princes have significantly different personalities than they do in Morrowind and on, aside from perhaps Azura. That said, they are at least called "Daedra" here.
    • While the original Eight Divines are properly introduced here, Talos is not a Divine (he would be Ret-Conned into one in Morrowind).
    • The idea of "elves" as a very distinct race of people with very different ideas on how the world works and a long history of conflict with Men, even with the High Elves, does begin to get established here, and they begin to pick up a distinct set of names for elf subtypes... but these are not Altmer, Dunmer and Bosmer (for High, Dark and Wood Elf), but instead Salache, Moriche, and Boiche, with -che being the apparent denominator for elf, not -mernote .
    • Although one of their creations does feature, the "dwarves" of Arena don't get mentioned much, and as one might glean from the above, they are not yet called Dwemer.
    • Orcs remain unplayable, although one of the quest thrusts of the game more or less sets up why they're playable in later titles.
    • There are no "Imperial" humans (Colovian-Nibenese humans from the central province), and the in-game book The Fall of the Usurper heavily implies that Tiber Septim and most of his descendants were Bretons. (Which fits in with Tiber's alleged birthplace, Alcaire, being located in High Rock.) And like in Arena, Emperor Uriel Septim remains the only named major character later confirmed to be of the Imperial race. As Players choose their race by selecting their province of origin, the manual lists the Imperial Province as cosmopolitan, with no native species to it.
    • Khajiit are on the way to becoming the cat-people so familiar to modern fans - while the playable ones still look more humanoid, they do now have very distinct tails, which Arena lacked.
    • In terms of the real meat of the gameplay, Daggerfall is still basically a first-person roguelike with a ton of other features and a main quest thrown in. Guilds are mainly focused on benefits & training, though unlike Arena they can be joined, and some of them have mini-arcs of two or three quests that follow on one another interspersed in the mainly random quests. Later games, beginning with Morrowind, would focus more on pre-written content and have a dedicated questline for each major joinable organization.
    • In an exact opposite to Arena, the Dark Brotherhood act as professional assassins for hire, but lack the religious cult aspects of the Oblivion Dark Brotherhood.
    • Daggerfall has little diversity in its population. Since the game is set in the Iliac Bay, it is reasonable to expect the game's population to be mostly Bretons, Orcs, and Redguards, but there are very few NPCs of the other races, just a few Nords and Elves here and there (the Night Mother, who is Dummied Out in the actual game, is the only Khajiit NPC in the entire game). Compare to Morrowind through Skyrim, which each have at least a handful of members of every playable race present, so that the player doesn't feel singled out if they play as a race that isn't native to the province.
    • Daggerfall is also the only game in the main series where the player character does not start as a prisoner: instead, they're one of the Emperor's close friends sent there as his agent. It isn't completely gone, however, as the dungeon-and-release story still appears in the background of four of the optional classes.
    • The Direnni Clan on the Isle of Balfiera is depicted as just another Breton noble family; later lore would retcon this, presenting them as a group of High Elves who came there from their homeland of the Summerset Isles millennia ago, having once ruled most of High Rock.
  • Early Game Hell: Privateer's hold, the starter dungeon, is liable to be the doom of many a newbie adventurer. First of all because there's no guarantee you'll be offered the Ebony Dagger during character generation. Second it's entirely possible for you to spawn with a weapon you have no skill at using, and not find a useable weapon in the first few rooms. Lastly, at the end of the first corridor is a room with an archer, who has far more HP than the bats, rats and imps met already (who are no walk in the park for an under-equipped player). Furthermore the Archer has a ranged attack (duh) and is located behind some tables, meaning players either have to jump the table (which can be awkward in the original version of the game), or run around the room to reach him, allowing him several chanced to get free shots in. He's no slouch in melee either. The room after him features a Skeleton, who while less damaging, is more durable. Once Privateers' hold is completed, players are likely to have enough gold to go into a town and purchase semi-decent equipment, making the rest of the game at least easier.
  • Escort Mission: Many of the randomly-generated civilian (non-guild) quests are escort quests. Thankfully, the escort target usually gets absorbed into your body.
  • Evil Pays Better: The highest paying quests? The shadier ones for corrupt nobles. The lowest paying (in fact, they pay nothing at all except for some extra equipment and a house after you do a few of them)? The Knight Orders' quests.
    • The real reward for Knight Orders' quests, though, is that once you're higher rank in the guild they'll send you out to quest for artifacts, which you're allowed to keep. At higher levels those artifacts can be worth a lot more than mere money. A secondary reward is that doing Knight Order quests gives you standing in the Knight Order, which after a while raises your rank — and those ranks makes more things free as you rise through them.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Mannimarco.
  • Face–Heel Turn: In an official "semi expansion", one of the new Fighters Guild quest involves major NPC Lord K'avar attempting to betray the Queen of Sentinel and take the throne for himself. You have an option of revealing this to the Queen, siding with Kvar, or going directly after him.
  • Faction-Specific Endings:
    • The game has seven endings: one for each of the four rival kingdoms of the region (Sentinel, Wayrest, Orsinium, Daggerfall), one for the Tamriel Empire (represented by the Blades), and two for supernatural forces (the King of Worms and the Underking).
    • And all of them, as well as the cut ending, are canon. Welcome to "The Warp in the West", a Dragon Break. What's a Dragon Break? The lore term for causality taking a time out. During one Dragon Break in the past, the longest, things like giving birth to your father happened.
  • Fantastic Racism: Pretty much every race hates at least one other race. And everybody hates the Orcs.
  • Fantasy Counter Part Culture: High Rock to medieval Europe, Hammerfell to medieval Arabia and North Africa. In fact, the Iliac Bay (which is located between the two provinces) is laid out like Earth's Mediterranean Sea, with High Rock on the northern side, Hammerfell on the southern side, stretches of land connecting the two as well as a few rivers on the eastern side, and open sea to the West.
  • Fantasy Gun Control: There are cannons and Humongous Mecha, but no guns.
  • Fetch Quest: Many of the random quests are about going and getting something. Of course, the thing is usually on a powerful monster deep inside a roguelike dungeon.
  • Fictional Document: A couple dozen of them, mostly books that can be purchased at bookstores in the game. A lot of them took advantage of the ESRB's lax policy on PC games.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: When Daggerfall was first released, it could not actually be completed due to bugs. It would later be patched, but it is still one of the buggiest video games you'll ever see.
    • One of the bugs allows you to wait inside a shop till it closes, then rob it blind.
      • Not to mention you can then sell back the stuff to the very same shopkeeper whose shop you burgled before his very eyes.
    • Another one made you able, again by using the save system in a non-orthodox manner, to gain daedric weapons (the best equipment in the game) as soon as you were out of the first dungeon.
    • Most famously, crashing into a wall at some angles would cause you to slip through it and end up in the black void between dungeon rooms, usually resulting in a fall to your death. (Or you could use flying and other tricks to explore the dungeon from this outer void and slip back into it wherever you want.)
  • Gentleman Thief: If you choose the thief class, give your character as high personality as you can, and make him/her high in the etiquette skill.
  • Gray-and-Grey Morality: There's no karma, only a complex reputation system. And almost every character in the plot has multiple skeletons in the closet.
  • Guide Dang It!: See here.
  • Hammerspace Police Force: Perhaps the most blatant example in the series. Not only are the guards infinite in number, but entire squads will appear seemingly out of nowhere when you commit a crime, even if it happened in an isolated cabin miles away from any major settlement, without any signs of a barracks, guardhouse, or other fortification nearby that the guards could've come from.
  • Hide Your Children: The only Elder Scrolls game before Skyrim where this is averted (excluding mods). They're unkillable, though. Well, at least most of them. If you become a vampire and wish to get cured, you actually have to kill a child because you need his blood.
  • Holy Burns Evil: Standing in a temple or Fighter Trainers hall hurts you if you're a vampire. While "evil" might not be the most accurate descriptor, it's possible to enchant items to have this effect, either by having the holder or the item itself take damage.
  • Hotter and Sexier: Daggerfall is, despite the comparatively primitive graphics, easily the most risqué of the Elder Scrolls games. It includes uncensored nudity on both NPCs like witches and priestesses and the player character if you removed all their clothing, and is the only game in the series where 'The Real Barenziah' isn't censored by the church to remove explicit sex scenes (such as a scene where Barenziah has sex in public with a Khajit thief, including observations made about the shape of his penis). It was originally going to be even more mature, with Dummied Out content that included the ability for the player to have sex with NPCs and even a Guild of Prostitutes that they would possibly be able to join. As the series gained broader mainstream appeal, it would never dare be this bold again (although players would proceed to pick up the slack themselves).
  • Humongous Mecha: The Numidium.
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate:
    • Zurin Arctus wants to use the power of the Numidium to die.
    • Or King Wulfharth, depending on how you look at some of the books from later games.
  • I Have Your Wife: The focus of many non-guild quests.
  • Inadequate Inheritor: The weakness of the more recent Emperors has allowed the Empire's hold on the region to falter, leading to the competing factions that make up the main plot. As it says in the intro narration, "The unworthy heirs of the Septim Dynasty have allowed the bonds of the Empire to weaken and crack..." Part of it, as well, is the ten years that the usurper Jagar Tharn spent on the throne leading up to the events of Arena. Uriel VII is generally considered a very good emperor, but it's hard to keep your empire together when you've been imprisoned and replaced by an imposter.
  • Jump Scare: Most human-type enemies don't make any sounds. Also, this is always possible if an enemy you haven't seen suddenly wakes up next to you, or ambushes you from the side of a door.
  • Large Ham: The Emperor.
  • Level Grinding: Since the levels are calculated by skill, not experience points, you do not necessarily have to kill enemies to level grind. But imagine one of your primary skills is "etiquette" or "streetwise". In that case you would have to endlessly start random conversations with people, does not matter what you say, only to say anything politely or bluntly respectively. Smart players tag Athletics, Jumping and Climbing and when traversing areas run and continually jump and climb over any wall or building in the way.
  • Live-Action Cutscene: The game starts with a live-action cutscene of Emperor Uriel Septim VII telling you why he's sending you to High Rock.
  • Live Item: Horses, when not being ridden, are kept in the player's inventory.
  • Lizard Folk: Argonians, who are significantly more reptilian in appearance than their counterparts in Arena.
  • Lost Superweapon: Numidium.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Princess Elysana, who teamed up with Lord Woodborne in order to have King Lysandus killed.
  • Multiple-Choice Past: The player character's class, reputation, ethics, abilities, etc can be determined through an extensive survey of his/her background... or just be automatically generated. (One of the questions can even grant an ebony dagger, a Disc-One Nuke for starting characters.) The character's class in particular gives a backstory as to how they came into the emperor's service, with custom class characters getting the one that most closely matches their skills.
    • Abusive Parents: The Battlemage's parents, to the point where the player character turned invisible to get away from them if they specialize in Illusion magic. The Burglar background counts as well, as their father and brothers tried to discourage them from theft by beating them.
    • Action Survivor: The Thief, who survived being kidnapped by orcs because of their language skills, and came into the emperor's service practically by accident.
    • Big Bad Wannabe: The Battlemage's parents were aware that Tharn had usurped the throne during the previous game. They envied him for being so successful. The Battlemage as well if they choose riches or knowledge as their motivation, as they're Driven by Envy of Tharn just like their parents.
    • Big Damn Heroes: The Mage, Battlemage, Spellsword, Healer, and Sorcerer all got in good with the emperor by dramatically saving his family from bandits. The Archer and Burglar made similar rescues by accident when they startled a bandit, and the Ranger, Warrior, Rogue, Assassin, Acrobat, and Bard saved one of his sons in different circumstances. The Knight grabs the attention of the Emperor by thwarting a goblin assassin, the Monk tracks and eliminates the bandits who attacked an imperial carriage, and the Barbarian performs a successful rescue operation. The only classes that don't fit this are the Thief and Nightblade, who instead delivered incriminating evidence on an ally of Jagar Tharn's.
    • Broken Pedestal: The Thief hates a particular group (nobles, wizards, etcetera) because of a betrayal of this type from a member of that group, who left them to be captured by orcs. While some of the other classes can admit to hating the same groups, their backgrounds contain no explanation as to why.
    • Chekhov's Skill: The backstories often detail how the PC first learned the skills they're most talented with.
    • Deceased Parents Are the Best: The Healer's mother and the Nightblade's father.
    • Farmboy: The Acrobat. Unusually, they ran away from home at an early age and became a criminal instead.
    • Glory Seeker: The player character if they choose fame as their motivation.
    • Good Parents: The Mage and Ranger are fortunate among the classes to enjoy particularly warm childhoods with both their parents.
    • Hidden Heart of Gold: The Mage's father appeared to be a fearsome warlock to everyone outside his family, but by the Mage's account he was loving and devoted.
    • Manly Tears: The Healer's father, when he heard that Tharn was finally deposed. The Mage and Sorcerer's fathers almost did the same, but not quite. The Battlemage's parents were just disappointed to hear it.
    • Muggle–Mage Romance: The Spellsword and Nightblade, who mix magic with combat and thieving skills respectively, are both the result of this.
    • Nay-Theist: All classes have the option of saying that they don't worship any of the gods.
    • No Social Skills: The Barbarian encounters this problem when they leave the frontier and enter civilization.
    • Parental Abandonment: The Monk and Warrior were both abandoned (or at least separated from their parents) early on. Subverted by the Archer, who managed to find their way back home thanks to help from some creatures.
    • Parental Substitute: The Monk's forest sheriff.
    • Parents as People: The Spellsword's parents, (a prominent local mage and a mercenary) who were always busy during the Imperial Simulacrum and paid little attention to the PC unless they wanted to learn magic. When they do, an illusionist Spellsword immediately turns invisible to be away from them again.
    • Sink-or-Swim Mentor: The Sorcerer's father, who trained them to absorb magicka by hurling lightning bolts at them.
    • Stop Being Stereotypical: Some of the magic-using classes can say how much they hate the typical diabolic wizards.
    • Street Urchin: The Rogue, Assassin, and Warrior.
    • Uncle Pennybags: The Ranger's father, a successful merchant, supplied them with all the gold they needed for anything. Not that the Ranger ever had any interest in becoming a merchant: their father was just the doting type.
    • Unholy Matrimony: The Battlemage's parents; a pair of equally fearsome Social Darwinists who believe that the transfer of power by murder is a natural process.
    • White Sheep: If the Battlemage or Spellsword selects "helping others" as their motivation, they mention how disgusted they are by Tharn's cruelty, but don't dare say so to their parents.
    • You All Meet in a Cell: The Rogue, Assassin, Acrobat, and Bard all have very typical backstories by Elder Scrolls standards, complete with being freed by the emperor's decree. Subverted by the Thief, Burglar, and Nightblade, who all have criminal pasts, but were never caught and imprisoned.
  • Multiple Endings: So far, the only game in the series with them. Due to nature of the final McGuffin they are all canon (except the one where the McGuffin destroys all Tamriel, maybe).
  • Needle in a Stack of Needles: Sometimes a quest will send the player on a mission to kill some kind of monster in a dungeon that spawns that kind of monster anyway. There is usually no way to tell whether a monster is the quest target or just a regularly spawned monster other than killing it and seeing whether you get a message confirming that it was your target.
  • Nice Day, Deadly Night: Toned down from Arena, but still present. The city of Daggerfall is haunted at night, and the wraiths of King Lysandus' undead army roam the streets until daybreak. Being unfortunate enough to be outside will result in them chasing after you with their appearance heralded by the ghost of King Lysandus crying "VENGEANCE!". Even in other cities and especially the wilderness, there's always a chance that a random enemy will show up and ambush you, with such attacks being more frequent at night.
  • Nintendo Hard: Cheat codes are not only encouraged, but sometimes necessary.
  • Nobody Poops: Possibly averted. Skyrim has confirmed that people use barrels as toilets. One NPC in this game, is a man reading a book while squatting down on a barrel. Make what you will of that.
  • Noob Cave: Privateer's Hold, in which you begin the game. Notably, if you didn't have the paper walkthrough which came with the game, you may not recognize the exit and get stuck in the dungeon for days.
  • No Antagonist: Individual subquests have them, and you could offend or become an enemy to specific factions; but the overarching plot has no built-in Big Bad, just a bunch of factions scrambling for the MacGuffin.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Bethesda said the source code for the game is a Real Life example when asked to release it.
  • Obvious Beta: Resulting in some unbeatable quests (including, prior to the first patch, the story itself), frequent opportunities to fall through floors and fly around in the Void, and some very confused monsters.
  • Obviously Evil: Mannimarco.
  • Older Is Better: Ancient Elven and Dwarven gear is better than most modern armors. Many guild quest deal with "Ancient scrolls of great powers".
  • Only the Chosen May Wield: Only those of great power or the right bloodline may wield the Mantella. Notably, your character is not among them; this game averts you being The Chosen One, so if try to use the Mantella yourself, you will die.
  • Our Orcs Are Different: Daggerfall had Blizzard Orcs before even Blizzard did.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different:
    • On the NPC side, there are the werewolves and wereboars, who are a bit stronger; both are very weak to silver weapons. On Lycanthropy mentions five other varieties not seen in-game because they're endemic to other places: werebears, werelions, werevultures, werecrocodiles, and weresharks, which the author says he has never seen personally but does exist according to his peers. The author also speculates that since werecreatures can harm beings normally unaffected by non-magical weapons, their claws must be naturally enchanted.
    • Player can randomly contract lycanthrophy upon getting hit by said werewolves and wereboars, and its onset is heralded by a bizarre dream upon resting. There is some element of Cursed With Awesome with lycanthropy; see its respective example above.
    • In addition to werecreature bites, the Cure for Lycanthropy quest reveals a few more ways people can contract lycanthropy. Drinking a lycanthrope's blood is said to be the surest way to get the disease, and it is also said to be hereditary, though generations can past before it actually manifests.
  • Pixel Hunt: If you don't know the name of a dungeon or town and search for it...expect to do this.
    • Some of the quest objects in the dungeons sometimes lead to this as well.
  • Preorder Bonus: The "Limited Edition" had a t-shirt and mousepad and a few other goodies. However, a separate "Special Edition" that could be bought only at CompUSA had bonus content for the game that was not included with the preorder edition — cue a tidal wave of angry customers, followed by Bethesda hastily making the bonus content available as a free download.
    • This might be especially ironic for modern gamers since retailer pre-order bonus content is very common today.
  • Randomly Generated Levels: The thousands of cities and dungeons in the game were pseudorandomly generated prior to release. The various non-artifact magical items are also randomly generated. This leads to items like the "Loincloth of Undeniable Access", the "Blouse of Opening" (both have an unlock spell), the "Breeches of Venom Spitting" (actually casts levitation), and the "Khajiit suit of the Orc Lord". An Orc in a catsuit? Brain Bleach please.
    • The game also tracks the condition of items, and items are not always in perfect condition when they are found. In one case, this resulted in the "Loincloth of the Orc Lord (Slightly used)".
  • Reality Ensues: Unlike future TES games, Daggerfall takes great pains to make almost all of the game mechanics realistic. For example
    • You can't just join any guild willy nilly. You need at least one of the guild's major skills at 22 and at least one of their minor skills at 4 before you can join, and the Thieves Guild and Dark Brotherhood have special requirements. Also, almost every guild/faction has a major rivalry with at least one other guild/faction, so don't expect to join a Knightly Order and then be allowed into the Thieves Guild, even if you meet the requirements. Also, once you're eligible for an increase in rank, you have to wait at least one month in-game before being given an opportunity to be promoted.
      • These conflicts are also well portrayed in many of the quests: you often have to decide whether to stay loyal to your original questgiver or betray him and end the quest in a favorable manner for a conflicting faction (the obvious example being the quest where you're to deliver a report to the local mages guild, yet you receive a letter from a Dark Brotherhood associate requesting the same report)
    • If you are affiliated with a guild and don't take any job for a month, your reputation with the aforementioned guild will start to deteriorate till it reverts back to neutral. The same applies in reverse as well (interestingly enough, though, this does not happen for you reputation in the eyes of the law).
    • If your reputation with the law is low enough in one of the regions, presumably due to your indiscriminate massacres of innocent civilians, the guards will arrest you by charging you with criminal conspiracy.
    • Fatigue will always drain at a fixed rate, rather then only when you're running, jumping or fighting.
    • You can't repair weapons yourself, nor is it an instantaneous action. Even once you find someone who can repair your equipment, you have to leave the equipment with them for a set amount of days before the item is fully repaired.
    • You actually have to pay attention to the game clock. All sidequests, and even a few main quests, are on a strict time limit that leaves little room for error.
    • Unlike 99% of other Role Playing Games, money weighs. That's why, when you're starting to become the Elder Scrolls equivalent of Scrooge McDuck, you need to deposit gold in one of the banks and ask for a letter of credit.
    • When you ask NPCs for rumors, the may say that "ruler x of region y has died and z has ascended to throne", giving the impression of a living world with events happening when the player isn't acting. It doesn't take much time, however, to realize that it's unfortunately just random fluff.
    • Sometimes, when you ask the NPCs for directions and/or info on some topics, they will lie to you giving false info. This is also cleverly lampshaded by some of the potential questgivers.
      • Also, NPCs remember quests you do for them and react accordingly the next time you greet them.
    • You can't swim properly if you're too encumbered.
    • The reason you need Cure Disease and Poison potions is because unlike most games, it takes time before the poison and illnesses kicks in. You may be exploring a dungeon when your health rapidly decreases all the sudden. If that happens, you won't reach the nearest temple in time.
    • There's no Space Compression here. Daggerfall's relatively realistic when it comes to being the size of a country.
  • Remember the New Guy?: Eadwyre, the king of Wayrest. In The Elder Scrolls: Arena, the ruler of Wayrest was a man named Tristore. But the Biography of Barenziah in-game books state that Eadwyre was the ruler of Wayrest during the events of Arena, and not a single mention is made of anyone else ruling the city during that time period. Since Tristore is never mentioned again in any game after Arena (although a dungeon in Betony called the Tristore Laboratory appears in Daggerfall), his connection with Eadwyre is never explained.
  • Ruins for Ruins' Sake: Perhaps the most egregious example ever. Most dungeons are randomly generated, and the random generation inevitably makes them huge, without any consideration for why, precisely, someone would want miles upon miles of elaborate corridors, tunnels, and monster-infested rooms extending in an incomprehensible maze beneath a tiny above-ground entrance.
  • Save-Game Limits: Even though you can now save anywhere you want in this game, you are now only given six slots to save your game in, which is significantly less than what Arena allowed.
  • Save Scumming:
    • A suggested tactic for obtaining good loot is to save in front of a treasure pile and reload until the pile has what you want.
    • Leveling up gives the player character 4-6 attribute points and 50-100% hit points of their max HP per level, so once again saving before leveling up and reloading until you get 6 attribute points and a decent amount of HP is a common tactic.
  • Schrödinger's Question: The game generates a background for the Player Character based on your answers to a series of questions during character creation. These questions affect your starting skills, equipment, and reputation. Answering them in certain ways (you'll likely need to consult a guide) can make you a Min-Maxed powerhouse) and can hand you a Disc-One Nuke starting weapon. You can also choose to skip the questions, which has the game answer the questions at random. Skipping can be quite detrimental, however, as the game is likely to saddle you with buffs to skills you don't intend to use and can give you poor starting equipment.)
  • Self-Imposed Challenge: Social characters who have all the monster languages and types of speechcraft as their main skills, 75 base Personality & Luck, can't wear any armor or use most weapons, etc.
    • Try to complete the game without using cheats. This is actually luck based, since you may encounter game breaking bugs and glitches at any moment.
  • Shout-Out: Fav'te's book The War of Betony, which is an account written from Sentinel's perspective of the conflict (as opposed to Vulper Newgate's book of the same name, which is written from Daggerfall's perspective), briefly mentions the Old Ones when the author angrily curses King Lysandus.
  • Spy Catsuit: An available clothing item. May or may not actually fit over the character model, depending on what race you chose.
  • Take Your Time: Averted for many quests, including the first main quest (which ends up showing why this trope is a good idea for games like this), but also justified for the game as a whole - there is no looming threat or Big Bad in this game, so your investigations is the catalyst for things to happen.
    • Notably, the Agent canonically took twelve years to get around to finishing the main quest, as opposed to the one year of the other Heroes of The Elder Scrolls.
  • Tech Demo Game: The graphics are obviously very outdated now, but are amazing for 1996.
  • Timed Mission: All of the sidequests, and at least two main quests, namely the very first one (you have a month to track down your Blades contact before she gets bored and leaves), and the penultimate quest. (If you don't give the Totem to someone within exactly a year and a day, the Totem's power will consume you)
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: The Warp of the West, which occurs at the endgame. A rather innovative attempt by the developers to avoid the necessity of Cutting Off the Branches of the game's multiple endings. The player has the key to the Brass God after travelling through another plane of existence, which he can activate and give to any number of differing factions. This causes a break in space-time where reality suffers a Blue Screen of Death when confronted by several earthshattering possibilities all stemming from one event. The only way for the timeline to cope is to Take a Third Option and make all possibilities true. Everything that can happen from the Brass God's key being given to a faction does happen, even the events that are mutually exclusive, resulting in a massive shift in political alignments and culture shifts that nobody can quite remember the cause of after the fact.
  • Title Drop: Rest well this night, for tomorrow you sail—for the kingdom...of DAGGERFALL!!
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The blurb for Daggerfall on Bethseda's site and in the Anthology mentions the Numidium, and tells you its backstory. This is information you don't find out until almost the end of the main quest. During the original release, the only thing the player knew going in was that King Lysandus was not at rest, and that a letter from the Emperor had gone astray. The spoilers aren't even accurate either; they state the Numidium has recently been unearthed in the Iliac Bay region. It's Tiber Septim's Totem that has been unearthed; the Numidium was reassembled at some point in the past (presumably somewhere in Cyrodiil) after the Blades had tracked down all of the fragments.
  • The Undead: Many kinds.
  • Trespassing Hero: Your character can enter locked houses if you wish by picking the lock or simply breaking the door down. This however will bring the guards.
  • Triang Relations: Lysandus, Mynisera and Medora Direnni were all in a love triangle, culminating with Mynisera having Medora banished to Direnni Tower and cursed to prevent her from leaving.
  • Unwinnable: A few bad decisions will result in the Main Quest being unwinnable. However, since this is a Wide Open Sandbox game, you can keep on playing for a long time. For an extreme example, you can just plain refuse a required quest — the questgiver won't ask again, and the quest chain is permanently broken.
    • You don't even have to make any explicit decisions; in an aversion of Take Your Time, simply failing to show up for an early scheduled meeting will render the main quest instantly unwinnable. You get one extension, but only one.
  • Unwinnable by Mistake:
    • The original release of the game contained a Game-Breaking Bug that made the entire main plotline impossible to complete. Not sometimes unwinnable — it was impossible to ever win the original retail release, fullstop. And this in an era when fewer people had internet connections, so it couldn't be easily patched! The fact that the game was still critically acclaimed shows how its Wide Open Sandbox nature rendered the main quest almost irrelevant.
    • Very rarely, the random dungeons that around the Iliac Bay can spawn their quest location in a module that's impossible to reach without glitches or console commands.
  • Vendor Trash: There's a lot of loot that doesn't have any practical purpose other than selling them to merchants. However, some — like Holy Tomes and Daggers — are very valuable, while others can (in theory) be used to hold enchantments.
  • Vestigial Empire: Jagar Tharn's brief rule in Arena screwed things up royally for the Empire. As such, most of the regions of the Iliac Bay are petty, bickering independent fiefdoms that swear no allegiance to the Emperor.
  • Video Game Delegation Penalty: The game generates a background for the Player Character based on your answers to a series of questions during character creation. These questions affect your starting skills, equipment, and reputation. Answering them in certain ways (you'll likely need to consult a guide) can make you a Min-Maxed powerhouse) and can hand you a Disc-One Nuke starting weapon. You can also choose to skip the questions, which has the game answer the questions at random. Skipping can be quite detrimental, however, as the game is likely to saddle you with buffs to skills you don't intend to use and can give you poor starting equipment.)
  • Virtual Paper Doll: Rob a few clothes stores and you can play for hours merely designing the outfit for your character.
  • Wide Open Sandbox: You can do the main quest (which has eight different endings, including player death), raid dungeons, explore the wilderness, join one of fifty factions, study magic, ride a horse, buy a boat, invest in real estate, trade, live a life of crime, become a vampire or a were-creature, and go anywhere at any time. And you'll never run out of side quests because they are randomly generated.
  • Wild Card: Sheogorath. He can variously give you the powerful Wabbajack, and also block your access through the Mantellan Crux with a riddle. He also has a small chance of hijacking any Daedric summoning you do, regardless of whether it's his summoning day.

Alternative Title(s): The Elder Scrolls Two Daggerfall, Daggerfall


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: