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Ken Rolston's Posts

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Ken Rolston

On vampirism and diseases in Tamriel

Enlightened Imperials treat vampirism as an incurable disease. Disease is Tamriel is recognized as a moral or spiritual taint - a magical condition that can be cured by various magical effects. Magic can readily cure most common, minor diseases. More terrible diseases require more powerful, specific magical effects. It is rumored [and manifestly proven by player characters] that there is a cure for the vampirism disease.

Yet another reason that Vvardenfell has no horses

Imperial attempts to introduce Horses to the island have been a failure; Horses seem particularly succeptible to blight.

On Paladins and the Dunmer (06/01/00)

Stendarr is worshipped throughout the Empire -- including Morrowind -- in the missionary cults of the Eight Divines. All aspects of the Eight Divines have their paladins, and Stendarr is a likely patron for a Frankish-style crusader. Dark Elves have an insular, xenophobic culture, and their dour, judgemental, standoffishness makes them unpopular and poorly understood outside Morrowind. The Dark Elves did not have a war with High Elves; they split off from the High Elves in an ancient religious schism, and the relationship is scornful but not bellicose.

Vvardenfell vs. Morrowind - quite different than what appeared in the final game (06/07/00)

The Dunmer [ie, the Dark Elves] of Vvardenfell are not physically different from mainland Dunmer.

There are far more Ashlanders [the nomadic Velothi Dunmer culture] on Vvardenfell than is common on the mainland; all but the south coast of Vvardenfell is rugged wasteland favoring the Ashlander lifestyle and economy. Dunmer Great House culture [the dominant culture of Morrowind and the mainland] is primarily confined to the more hospitable southwest coast of the island.

Vvardenfell is also atypically cosmopolitan by contrast with mainland Morrowind. Vvardenfell was only opened to general colonization after the Imperial conquest 400 years ago, having been for centuries for the most part a Temple preserve, with the exception of the sacred city of Vivec, and three small Great House settlements at Ald'ruhn, Balmora, and Sadrith Mora. Much of the development of the island in the past 400 years has been under Imperial pressure, and many newer Vvardenfell settlements [e.g., Caldera, Ebonheart, Seyda Neen] have as many Nord, Breton, Redguard, Altmer [High Elf], Bosmer [Wood Elf], and Imperial faces as they have Dunmer faces.

The king of Morrowind - minor differences with the final game (06/09/00)

The Empire has revived an archaic titular "king" from early Chimer traditions of a "high chief of the clans," like the High Elven High King. This replaces the "military governor" of the early years of the occupation. The titular king is descended in line from Hlaalu Brevur, and he and his "court" are generally despised by natives. King Hlaalu Athyn Llethan resides in Castle Mournhold in the city of Narsis [on mainland Morrowind].

Slavery in Morrowind (08/18/00)

At the same time, it's a roleplaying game, and it can be both interesting and enlightening to roleplay a world view that is unsympathetic. Also, there's a big difference between the cultural context of 18th century slavery in the US and slavery in the Roman Empire. The latter is a much closer analogy for the nature of slavery in the Morrowind -- yet not all that close, since most of the other provinces of Tamriel have outlawed traffic in slaves.

On the Blight (01/19/01)

The Blight is a weather phenomenon associated with Vvardenfell's colossal volcano, Dagoth Ur. Persistent within the ghostfence [i.e., within the crater and on the volcano's slopes], and intermittent near the volcano, the Blight is a health-threatening, ash-heavy volcanic cloud. Plants and creatures exposed to the Blight may contract a variety of blight diseases. Blight diseases resist common herbal and magical treatments, and are of two kinds: wasting diseases which attack one or more of an organism's systems, and abnormal growth diseases, which distort the organism's functions and structures. Natives avoid exposure to the Blight, and wear special protective garments when traveling in Blight-prone regions.

Background on bound weapons (04/10/01)

A "bound" weapon is a daedra bound into the form of a weapon. A common magic in Daedric realms is the binding of lesser daedra into physical artifacts. Daedra Lords particularly like to have their minions and defeated opponents made into coatracks and fuzzy slippers.

Weapons and armor are the most commonly bound items, and at some point some mortal bargained successfully for the secret of summoning such items from the Daedric realms. [I don't know any of the technical details... I'm only a bushleague hedgewizard.]

So, for its brief period of service in the world of Tamriel, a bound weapon is actually a Daedra [albeit a spectacularly weak and stupid one] in a magically constrained form. When the duration of the spell ends, *poof* the bound daedra returns to the Daedric realms, there to wait patiently for the next summons of a Master. [Imagine little stinkers bound for a fair portion of Eternity to sit an a dusty armory somewhere waiting to Serve a Lord.. or worse yet, a mortal wizard... and you can imagine how much fun it is to be a lesser daedra.

On the nature of Conjuration magic (04/10/01)

The key to successful Conjuration is DOMINATION. A good conjurer is skilled at arcane domination of both his own summonations and other entities. That's why Turn Undead ["Dominate" Undead] and Command Humanoid ["Dominate" Hapless Fool] are taught in Conjurer College.

On Indoril and Dres (08/06/01)

Before the Empire, all of Vvardenfell was held in trust for the people of Morrowind by the Temple, with a small settlement for each of the local Great Houses -- Hlaalu, Redoran, and Telvanni. Neither Dres nor Indoril had settlements on Vvardenfell, for reasons of logistics and principle. [Indorial and Dres Districts are located in the far south of Morrowind, and they had strong political and religious objections to taking Vvardenfell from the Temple and opening it to colonization.]

Following the opening of Vvardenfell to settlement in 3E 414 by the Empire, the Temple no longer had sole jurisdiction over the territory. Hlaalu and Imperial interests immediately moved to colonize Vvardenfell. Redoran and Telvanni were slower, and consequently they have fewer holdings.

Neither Indoril nor Dres have holdings on Vvardenfell. Both houses strongly objected to the Imperial opening of Vvardenfell to colonization, and both are reluctant to join the land rush at this later date for fear of being seen as hypocrites.

[Actually, Redoran also objected to opening Vvardenfell, but have, after considerable soul-searching, and after reflecting on the political and economic advantages they'd be ceding to House Hlaalu, decided to sacrifice their principles and expand their holdings on Vvardenfell.

The Telvanni are another story. They are passionate isolationists, and initially disdained to claim Vvardenfell holdings. However, after a group of relatively young and ambitious wizards offered to risk themselves on Vvardenfell, House Telvanni agreed to let these young wizards move to Vvardenfell, on the theory that these young wizards were expendable, and would be less trouble to the establishment if they were off on Vvardenfell island stirring up trouble with the other houses.

On the age of Vvardenfell cities (08/06/01)

Vivec City is over a thousand years old. The three district Great House seats -- Balmora, Ald'ruhn, and Sadrith Mora -- were founded centuries ago. It is only the new settlements that have sprouted in the last decade. And Balmora has grown dramatically since Vvardenfell was organized as a Provincial District under Duke Vedam Dren.

On writing Vivec, and Elder Scrolls lore in general (09/15/10)

Kirkbride is definitely the ecstatic voice of Vivec’s sermons. Great stuff. I wrote the dialog that Vivec speaks to the Nerevarine. Wow. That was ages ago. I also vaguely recall that Michael wrote the voice of Vivec in an bulletin board trial of Vivec for the murder of Indoril Nerevar. [I have no idea how to locate that, and it is not textual (i.e., not ‘in the game’), though I’m sure it would be interesting.]

I particularly admire the conceit of the Dragon-Break, which I think was Kirkbride’s scheme, probably collaborative with Kurt Kuhlmann, who was his passionate partner in design thought crimes. What a wonderful designer response to the criminally irresponsible design scheme of having Daggerfall’s multiple endings in an epic heroic fantasy setting certain to be followed by sequels.

Morrowind, and all the Elder Scrolls titles, have been intensely collaborative projects, and I can’t recall who actually spewed ideas, or who polished them for publication. And it doesn’t really matter… it was a profoundly collective effort, with the enthusiastic internal ears and responses of designers being an integral part of the authoring process.

For all its many warts, Morrowind remains my favorite CRPG experience. I certainly admire the authorship and coherence of Planescape: Torment more… but the open-endedness and sheer vast glory of Morrowind made that experience far cooler and satisfying.

I’ve always wondered what it would have been like to experience Morrowind as a player rather than as a developer. And I look forward to TES V as my first chance to experience a modern Elder Scrolls title that way.

On unsolvable mysteries in the Elder Scrolls setting (02/02/12)

We now call them 'franchise mysteries'. And as a Visionary, I preach that your setting should always be filled with franchise mysteries. And people in the setting should constantly argue about the Truths of those mysteries. And internally, you should have strong advocates for each of the 'One True Ways', and they should squabble like real scholars competing for tenure and grants.