Keeg's Quest Logo
  About Stuff Character Profiles Podcast Episodes Rich Matheson's Blog Contact Rich! Fast-Travel to Other Cool Stuff!
About The Elder Scrolls

About the Podcast

About the Author

About The Elder Scrolls


Subscribe on iTunes!
Subscribe on Zune!
Subscribe on... Whatever...Else... You Use.  I guess.

The Continent of TamrielGeneral Background

The Elder Scrolls series takes place on the planet of Nirn.  And while you think that opens the door to a very sci-fi-ish story, the name of the planet is about as sci-fi as it gets.  The Elder Scrolls is a fantasy series, set on the continent of Tamriel.  Tamriel is composed of nine provinces, each of which is home to a different race of people (upon which we will elaborate below, but for now you can just marvel at them in the picture to the right).  It is a world of magic and steel and mythical creatures, both familiar and new.  Tamriel is a land which is so replete with history and lore that it confounds the mind, and it is in this realm, so rich in history, that Keeg's Quest sets its stage.

The following primer will attempt to introduce you to this realm in as abbreviated-yet-informative-and entertaining way possible.  This document will likely be modified periodically with newer information.  if you have any questions, for example if you're listening to Keeg's Quest and want to know more about a certain person, faction, race, or creature, please don't hesitate to ask!  I will certainly add that information to this document to benefit your fellow listeners, and probably throw you a shout-out for asking.

To all of the loremongers out there.  I wrote this stuff mostly off the top of my head, so if my recollection is in any way inaccurate, I humbly request that you inform me via email or Twitter of my glaring lore mistakes, for the betterment of all n00bs.

A Note on Religion

The continent of Tamriel is replete with a panoply of gods.  TONS of them.  But it all boils down to the Big Ones.  The chief gods of the realm are the Nine Eight Divines.  What just happened there?  I think I'm being edited against my will.  I was talking about the Nine Eight Divines.  Oh, for crying out loud.  OK.  The Eight were a group of really top-notch gods.  When Tiber Septim founded the Empire, he was elevated to godhood and counted among their number, given the name Talos (God of War).  Thus The Eight became The Nine.  Centuries later, when the Thalmor defeated the Empire, they demanded that Talos be stricken from the list of gods, so now everyone has to call them The Eight again or they are subject to interrogation, imprisonment, and execution (not necessarily in that order).  But religion is everywhere to be found in Tamriel; many cultures worship the same gods by different names.  And then there are the Aedra and Daedra, who are kind of second-string gods who directly interact with supplicants and offer artifacts (which usually are classified in the ass-kicking variety) to their chosen champions to use in their name.

The Races

The world of Nirn is populated by ten major sentient races, and a multitude of "lesser" races.  For the purposes of this primer, only the major (playable) races will be covered.  They fall into three categories:  Humans, Elves, and "Other", but we'll just call the others "Beasts" because they kind of are.

Humans

Imperials

The Imperials hail from the province of Cyrodiil, at the very heart of Tamriel.  Cyrodiil is the seat of power within the Empire (which has fractured greatly in the past couple hundred years) and as a result, the Imperials tend to be the most haughty and arrogant of their human cousins.  The Empire is modeled closely after our own Roman Empire, with the Imperials taking the role of the Patrician caste.  Forgive me; I happen to be in the midst of a marathon of HBO's Rome.  I'll loosen up a bit now.  Promise.  Many years ago, the Empire lost a bloody conflict with the Aldmeri Dominion (the elves), and are now in a state of reluctant truce with them.

Bretons

Bretons come from High Rock to the west, and are good at magic.  That's pretty much all I know, and thus all you need to know.  Even the High Rock part was a little overkill.  So the main takeaway here is "magically gifted human folk".  Shrug.

Nords

Your basic Viking-stock.  They drink and fight and are resistant to cold (probably because of all the drinking and fighting).  That's about it.  The Nords call Skyrim home; a mountainous region at the northernmost coast of Tamriel.  A land of frigid winters and staggering natural beauty, Skyrim is the crucible in which true warriors are forged.  Nords frown upon magic, which accounts for the relative lack of practicing mages in this land.  They're also less than welcoming of outsiders, magical or not.  If you're not a Nord, you really don't belong here.  But seeing as how you're here, want a drink?

Redguards

Black dudes.  With kind of a Middle-Eastern Aladdin vibe.  Scimitars-and-headwraps kinda guys.  Badasses all.  And yes, I'm avoiding the term "African American" because both terms are patently inapplicable in this case, as neither Africa nor America exists on Nirn.  Duh.  The closest I could come would be "Hammerfellian Tamrielites", (which likely means absolutely nothing to you) so I figured "black dudes" would be a lot more to the point.  You dig?

Elves

High Elves (Altmer)

Basically the elves from Lord of the Rings.  Tall, regal, incredibly gifted in the magical arts, and come from a magical, sparkly place called Sumerset Isle.  Also particularly vulnerable to magic, despite their aptitude with same.  The High Elves, or "Altmer" as they are called in their tongue, are at the core of the Thalmor, an organization which brought the Empire to its knees.  As a result of the treaty that ended that war, the Thalmor seek to eradicate the worship of Talos (one of The Nine Divines).  They also seek to hold all political power in Tamriel.  A group of Thalmor Justiciars on the road is a fearsome sight indeed.  They tend to stop citizens on sight and interrogate them.  If they don't like your answers... well, you won't even make it to one of their horrendous prisons.  They'll just kill you on the road.  Damn elves.

Wood Elves (Bosmer)

The Bosmer of Valenwood are actually members in good standing in the Thalmor and are founding members of the Aldmeri Dominion, which is the parent organization of the Thalmor.  These guys are more sprightly and druidic.  They worship trees, and go so far as to not eat ANY plant-based foods.  It's all meat, all the time.  As a result, they are cunning hunters and trackers, skilled in archery and wilderness survival.  They also have the ability to communicate with animals, which are more than happy to help them in a fight.  Till they get eaten, I suppose.

Dark Elves (Dunmer)

Creepy looking gray dudes.  Red Eyes.    Resistant to fire to some degree.  The Dark Elves, or "Dunmer", come from the province of Morrowind to the east, where for centuries it was common practice (and protected by law) for the wealthy to own slaves.  While slavery was abolished 200 years ago by King Helseth, our own Soris Uvula prefers to hold to ancient tradition.  Dark Elves are traditionally skilled at destruction magic and swordsmanship, and have a reverence for their ancestors, whose spirits they could summon for aid in battle.

Orcs (Orsimer)

Big, green-skinned warriors with pronounced lower canines, or tusks, and a deep-seated sense of personal and family honor.  Kinda like Klingons.  A very martial and tribal society, the orcs for the most part keep to themselves and dislike outsiders.  The orcs have mastered the art of forging oricalcum-based weapons and armor, which are very heavy and fearsome to behold.  One must assume that the Orcs smell funny, but there has been no canon evidence to support this (to my knowledge).  The orcs come from Orsinium, which is situated within the Breton province of High Rock.  Much like Washington DC, which is techically inside Maryland but is for all intents and purposes its own thing.   While you'd think the orcs would be classified as a "beast" race due to their somewhat porcine nature, they're actually kind of a sub-race of elves.  So that's an interesting fact.

"Beast" Races

Argonians

LIZARDS!!  THESE DUDES ARE LIZARDS!!!! Bipedal sentients probably descended from velociraptor stock, the Argonians come from the Black Marsh on the southeast coast of Tamriel.  Argonians have traditionally been regarded with disdain by many of the people in Tamriel (as well as many players), because they usually aspire to the thief/bandit/highwayman way of life, though there are of course exceptions.  They are immune to disease and poison, and can breathe underwater.  They also possess fearsome claws to use in battle.  In the province of Black Marsh are a hive-minded race of sentient (possibly reptilian) trees known as the Hist, which are worshipped by the Argonians (and the fact that Hist sap is a hallucinogenic probably has something to do with that).  I mean, I'm not one to rag on someone's religion, but your gods basically secrete LSD.  I'm just saying.

Khajiit

The Khajiit are a race of sentient felines from the land of Elsweyr to the south.  Elseweyr contains both lush jungles and parched deserts.  The Khajiit often travel to distant lands in trade caravans for mutual protection, as their people (like the Argonians) are generally regarded with distrust by the other races, and are (coincidentally enough) also prone to life on the wrong side of the law.  Due to their cat-like physiology, they are quite agile, can see well in complete darkness and are equipped with retractable claws for use in battle or personal grooming.  The Khajiit are infamous for their production of Moon Sugar, a hallucinogenic in its own right, but more famously known as the primary ingredient in Skooma, another (highly illegal) Khajiiti export.  Traditionally, Skooma (which can be drunk or smoked, depending on the form) would make the user better, stronger, faster, clumsier, and dumber.  In recent years the Khajiit have refined their manufacturing process to eliminate the adverse effects of the drug and giving it all the positive impact of a Red Bull.

Organizations

The Imperial Legion

Remember how I said the Imperials were a lot like the Romans?  There ya go.  Same outfits and everything (you know, leather skirts, red highlights, brooms on their hats).  The standing army of Tamriel, the Imperial Legion keeps the peace, executes protesters, and basically makes sure everything works smoothly, with a very regimented and "relentlessly superior to all of you lot" vibe.

The Thalmor

The Thalmor remind me a lot of the SS from World War II.  They're all trenchcoats and pointed questions, these guys.  As the Iron Fist arm of the Aldmeri Dominion, the Thalmor uphold Elven interests throughout Tamriel.  And at the top of the list of Elven interests is "Kill anyone who worships Talos".  Talos being the ancient Nord who founded the Empire and was elevated to godhood by his followers.  The Thalmor didn't appreciate that and actively disavow it.  The Thalmor are scary, nosy, and powerful and are to be feared (and scorned in only the most hushed tones).

The Mages Guild/College of Winterhold

The Mages guild is the place to be if you want to learn about magic.  The Mages guild is prevalent throughout Tamrel, with the notable exception of Skyrim.  Most Nords distrust mages and their mystical pansy ways, so the Mages guild hasn't found a foothold here.  Skyrim's analog to the mages guild can be found in the College of Winterhold, which is essentially Hogwarts if Hogwarts was situated on a cliff next to a razed town in the midst of a perpetual blizzard.

The Fighters Guild/Companions

The Fighters Guild is traditionally where a young man, woman, elf, cat, or lizard go to learn the art of ass-kicking (in the physical, non-magical sense).  Ironically, the Fighters Guild has no place in Skyrim, but can be found pretty much everywhere else in Tamriel.  Instead, Skyrim has its own version of the Fighters Guild, known as the Companions.  Because as far as Nords go, the Fighters Guild don't do war right.  For one thing, the Companions' headquarters is a mead hall, so if that doesn't serve as clarification enough, I dunno what will.

The Thieves Guild

You're probably seeing a pattern here for the Guilds. The Fighters Guild trains fighters, the Mages Guild trains mages... and the Thieves Guild follows the same basic paradigm (except for thieves).   Unlike the others, however, the Thieves Guild does exist in Skyrim, but has fallen upon troubled times of late.  They're just not up to "Leverage-echelon" snuff anymore.  But these denizens of the shadows do everything from pickpocketing to racketeering to good-old fashioned grand larceny, for fun and profit.

The Dark Brotherhood

These guys are scary, as their name implies if you have even a whit of sense.  The Dark Brotherhood are an order of assassins, who are lucratively compensated for ending the lives of folks who have pissed other folks off.  It is something of an offshoot of the (legal and well-respected) Morag Tong of Morrowind, except the Dark Brotherhood are illegal and greatly feared.  The Dark Brotherhood revere the unholy union of Sithis (the god of chaos and the void) and The Night Mother (Sithis' consort who slaughtered her own kids because she thought Sithis was hot).  In short, the Dark Brotherhood is nothing more than a group of like-minded individuals, who are like-minded in that they all enjoy blood, death, and a general affinity for gloom.

The Stormcloaks

If the Imperial Legion is like the Roman Legion, the Stormcloaks are like William Wallace's band from Braveheart, except for the fact that the Romans never actually had a beef with William and Friends.  The Stormcloaks dig the color blue and draping animal carcassess over their bodies.  They are in direct opposition to the Imperial Legion, whom they accuse of squelching the Nord Way of Life (drinking, fighting, worshipping Talos... that kinda thing).  The Stormcloaks are led by the coincidentally-named Ulfric Stormcloak, Jarl of Windhelm, who seeks to rid Skyrim of the Empire and its Thalmor puppeteers for all time.

The Bard's College

Well, I don't know what to tell you, as I haven't actually played the Bard's College quest line yet.  One assumes they go to Arts school (conveniently located in the cosmopolitan-yet-brooding city of Solitude) and then walk the land like Caine in Kung Fu, singing songs to folks who really don't want to listen.  More on this later, to be sure.


Well, I guess that's about it.

God, there is so much more lore.  So incredibly much.  I wish I could tell you about all of it, but we're talking about like 18 years of canon history here, so this had to be a highly condensed primer.  If you'd like to know more about this truly epic saga, I highly recommend picking up some of the games (conveniently listed below).  They will dramatically improve your knowledge of the Elder Scrolls world, your enjoyment of Keeg's Quest, as well as your personal well-being.  Ever just want to get away from the vicissitudes of meatspace?  This is totally how you do it.  Plus you get to kill stuff, which I find is a remarkable substitute for therapy.

Convenient List of Elder Scrolls Games

1994 The Elder Scrolls: Arena
1996 The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall
1997 An Elder Scrolls Legend: Battlespire
1998 The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard
2002 The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
2002 The Elder Scrolls III: Tribunal
2003 The Elder Scrolls III: Bloodmoon
2003 The Elder Scrolls Travels: Stormhold
2004 The Elder Scrolls Travels: Dawnstar
2004 The Elder Scrolls Travels: Shadowkey
2006 The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
2006 The Elder Scrolls Travels: Oblivion
2006 The Elder Scrolls IV: Knights of the Nine
2007 The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles
2011 The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
2012 The Elder Scrolls V: Dawnguard
2012 The Elder Scrolls V: Hearthfire
2013 The Elder Scrolls Online
This table lovingly copied from Wikipedia, so it has to be true.
   
Copyright notice