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Michael Kirkbride - Reddit AMA

Librarian Comment: 

This Ask Me Anything ran on Reddit's TESLore board on Sunday, November 3rd. All questions were submitted by members of that community. 

Sup n’wahs,

First, let me pimp some TES-related projects I’m working on, because this is my very special hour and I am filthy with power. If you’ve not seen the lower case c0da stuff, you really should; the artists on them deserve some recognition and a wider audience. It’ll be an ongoing splatterfest of obscure texts revisited in graphic form until the upper case “C0DA” arrives in Q1 2014, a 64-page digital comic that answers All the Things that I’ve wanted to say about Morrowind for some time now.

That includes Landfall, the meaning of the Numidium, the Disappearance of the Dwarves, the House of We, the Digitals, Lorkhan’s relationship to the Talos, and the birth of the next Amaranth. Plus dark elf ninjas because dark elf ninjas. Yes.

Links here:

So if I avoid any questions about anything related to the above, it’s because the answers are already forthcoming. But since it’s going to be a long wait, we’ll have a special remastered version of “The Prophet of Landfall” coming your way around November 15th, which will pave the way. The initial outline art is already too gorgeous to behold with your stupid human faces.

Speaking of avoiding questions, I obviously can’t talk about what I do or don’t know about the upcoming official TES projects coming out in the future, so we’re not going there either. And, well, an hour isn’t that long to write out proper long form answers, so I apologize in advance for being completely useless in most respects of this AMA. And, frankly, there’s a lot of lore I don’t either care for, know about, or avoid because it really belongs to its proper keepers, so those will probably automatically get sent into the darkness of meh. Fun!

Finally, thanks for showing up, and here’s hoping for a mighty fine shindig. Let’s aim to misbehave.

Tam! RUGH!


Were elements of the mythology concerning Vivec- particularly his androgyny- in any way inspired by the Ardhanarishvara, the androgynous aspect of Shiva? - Turin_The_Mormegil

Of course.

And I really wanted a magical hermaphroditic badass on the XBox.

People around here seem to have convinced themselves that the ultimate goal of the Thalmor is to "end Creation by destroying the Towers." I can't help but feel this is being misconstrued from some weird amalgamation of people reading that little blurb you posted in-character a long time ago that everyone quotes about "unbinding the Dragon and erasing the upstart Talos from the mythic" right after reading Nu-Mantia Intercept and how the Towers are fortifications of mortal existence, a subject that never seemed like it was being written with the intention of portraying a bunch of Altmer fundies as the villains.

Would you care to offer some insight on what a more accurate aspiration for the Thalmor's realization of their goals would be, insomuch as it's even possible to write in a sufficiently concise and cryptic manner for an organization that operates on bureaucratically-saturated information overload in more or less everything they do?


The Thalmor is easily the most dangerous organization in the Aurbis. Moreso than Talos.

They cannot be understood. They are the Other and they hate everything that even smells like mortality.

And they're going to win in the end.

Why was Trinimac left behind on Mundus when Auri-El ascended to Aetherius?

At what point did you first realize/decide that you wanted to keep writing in the Elder Scrolls series, especially in the more esoteric sections?

If you could change anything in the series, what would it be and why?

Lastly, how much of a Firefly fan are you?


Trinimac is probably one of the least understood underpinnings of the whole pantheon. I like him that way, but I would study Mithras if you really want to find out more.

I can't help writing about the Elder Scrolls. Crazytalk time: they won't let me stop, if that makes sense.

I would change Cyrodiil's depiction in Oblivion. While I finally ended up enjoying the game several years after its release, neither the tech or the development of Cyrod was capable of pulling off what the Empire really deserved.

Love me some Firefly.

About game design: what education did you have before you started, and where? Did it help you at all? - Hollymarkie

I lucked into games. I studied creative writing, painting, and comparative religion in college, but better lucky than good.

I'm glad there are dedicated classes for game design now. They really do help and some of my favorite new designers are graduates from those programs.

What, in your opinion, is your favourite bit of lore within The Elder Scrolls, and why? - SirronRocks

The Dragon Break Re-Examined, because Kurt's the best writer in the series and that piece is so subversive.

Is there any piece of lore you regret writing, a piece or fact you wish you could change or revoke its canonity? - Qulnlan

The Arcturian Heresy was the worst thing I've ever written. It needs a revisit.

There's tons more.

What kind of inspirations and influences do you draw from, nowadays?

What is your opinion on On Boethiah's Summoning Day?


Influences are active play, DeLillo, jazz, and fear of cancer.

No opinion on the OBSD stuff. Not sure who writes them.

Thanks for doing this AMA Mr. Kirkbride. I've been playing(and in love) with the Elder Scrolls universe ever since Morrowind. I explored Nirn extensively, and occasionally I would stumble upon a book or note that would really go beyond the immediate game world and delve mysteriously into the lore-but would end up leaving me much more confused(and intrigued...).

So my question is TES has some of the most labyrinthine back story of any fiction I've come across-and I say this as a good thing, there really is so much history in TES. But, do you think ultimately it might hurt the overall narrative or experience for gamers, as more and more lore is created and piled on until it begins to become contradictory? Could speak to the process of creating lore(is there are overarching plan, or is it create-as-you-go), and if/how you are still involved in it? And lastly, what is the favorite little-known story of the elder scrolls universe?


The best advice I can give about the lore and the creation thereof is something I learned from Uncle Ken:

Tell God's story, then tell the farmer's story, then listen to what the dog has to say.

If you can hit all of those marks, your worlds will seem real.

what birthed concepts like CHIM and Amaranth?

When and what ideas formed to become these concepts that are so frequently pondered today?


CHIM came first, in the earliest studies of the Wheel and the structure of the Aurbis. It kind of birthed itself when I spun the Wheel and saw the "I", and that's when I knew where Lorkhan was going with all of this.

The Amaranth first appeared in the Loveletter, which was a refining of my mythology and its natural "end point".

Is Sotha Sil dead? - GrimGrimoire

Yes, Sotha Sil is dead. You'll see him again in C0DA, though, and he's awesome.

Hi MK :) I actually have a question that has NOTHING TO DO WITH THE ELDER SCROLLS! sacrilege! (you can ignore it if you want)

I know you've done a lot of unpaid creative work set in the Elder Scrolls universe (C0DA being an imminent example), but what other universes do you like to play in? Either existing universes or your own personal made-up ones.

(Actually, if you have some personal made-up worlds or stories or ideas that you haven't shared publicly... would you feel OK about sharing some kind of spicy details from any of those?)


I was very proud of my short stint on Star Wars. FUCK YEAH I WROTE LINES FOR DARTH VADER. And I came up with the idea that he inadvertently created the Alliance and that's canon now, bitches.

I'm working on a new 20-year project now, but it's too soon to really talk about that.

And my New Orleans Invisibles game will finally get off the ground this month, and that's one my favorite universes to play with/study.

How long did writing the Sermons take?

Is Lyg a former Kalpa's name for Tamriel?

- mojonation1487

The Sermons took a week for the first draft, which barely changed after edits. Originally, there were just going to be six of them, but it quickly spiraled out of control as the whole thing began to write itself.

Lyg: it's one of the Adjacent Places. It's still there. I wouldn't call it a different kalpa so much as a parallel version of Tamriel.

What caused the Wanderers and Old Ehlnofey to split? What was the cause of their war? - Hollymarkie

That was the Dawn. Wars then were ideologies given skin.

Is there anything you wish you could've gone back and changed in Morrowind? Or is there anything you wished you'd had a chance to work on lore or design-wise (outside of the stuff you're working on now)? - Caspus

I regret not sticking around for Tribunal. I would have loved to properly given the same love and treatment for Almalexia and Sotha Sil that I did for Vivec.

I would have also changed Dagoth Ur's voice, and I know I'll get flames for that one. Ben Linus from "Lost" is always the Sharmat's voice in my head.

Who the Dark Brotherhood's Night Mother truly is? - trexalfa

I'm not really a fan of the Dark Brotherhood as it was depicted in Oblivion or Skyrim. That's a boring kind of evil, which is a shame, because a lot of their quests are masterfully done.

I understand its fan base, though, by which I mean I just smh.

Sermon 22 speaks to the nature of the Night Mother.

Thanks for your continuing work into the lore. It's deep, thought provoking, and fantastic. This is what separates TES from other games.

That said, is Pelinal actually a robot/cyborg?

Why are so many robots traveling back in time (Pelinal, KINMUNE)?

Was KINMUNE the "Eye of Magnus" as represented in Skyrim?

Where was Yagrum during the events of Red Mountain? Where/what are the Outer Realms?


Pelinal: yes, he is. Love that guy.

They come back to 'fix' the future. The Jills have to work overtime.

Eye of Magnus: I'll just say I'm a fan of that idea.

Yagrum: In a pocket real called Plot Device.

For some time it seemed to me that the Elder Scrolls universe had a kind of Buddhist undertone. It seemed to suggest that CHIM was a bit like enlightenment, and the future Amaranth was an escape from the Kalpic cycle.

But this recent revelation about Anu As Amaranth seems to move a little towards a more monotheistic - I wanna use the word "Gnostic" - structure. Are we hearing echoes of your own personal views?


I am proud to be a gnostic heretic, and it colors my work.

The second biggest influence in the structure of TES' mythos would be the mighty, mighty Glorantha. Hands down, the best mythology in games.

When and where was Aka-tusk worshipped? I would guess Skyrim and or Atmora, but I can't place a date in that case.

Did Aka-Tusk have dragon symbology?

This leads to the real question: was Alduin always an aspect of Aka, or did he become one after Akatosh was created?


All of the akaspirits, like all of the etada, are quantum figures that shed their skin as each aspect of them becomes more and more self-aware.

The Aka-Tusk is a particularly old and needed version of the Time Dragon from the days of the Ehlnofey.


Mr. Kirkbride, first off I want to thank you for doing this. As one small voice within this community, I am ridiculously excited to get the chance to pick your brain.

Given the ridiculous amount of staggeringly amazing content you've given us, its only natural that discussion breathes life into wonderfully varied and insightful opinions. That being the very core of this community, my question to you is this; going back to the idea of opinion and interpretation, what is your personal opinion on the idea of canon?

I've talked to people on this site in regards to beliefs that state 'what is written is law' and 'each is to take what they want', and in every case the reasons behind them are imaginatively wonderful and well thought out, but as one of the more celebrated 'Dreamers', where do you stand? Between taking every wonderful idea ever conceived beyond the games and applying it as whole truth, or accepting things only as they make sense to the individual, I'd like to see how you, well, make sense of your own ideas.


Tamriel never belonged to Bethesda. It was the other way around.

As for canon, it's really all interactive fiction, and that should mean something to everyone. That said, I appreciate and understand the stamp of "official", but I think it will hurt more that it will help in the long run.

TES should be Open Source. It is for me.

Who -- or what is the Underking?

What's a typical routine for penning a big work like the Lessons? You said that it took a week, but how much of that week was spent writing and doing other stuff?

- numinit

There really isn't a routine. There's just a drive. C0DA underwent more revisions than most, but that's because it's so fucking brilliant.

Better question: WHO are the Underkings?

I've noticed that a lot of your work has sci-fi undertones in it. I don't mean in a sense like Star Wars which is fantasy set in a sci-fi-ish setting, but more like a more sci-fi take on fantasy.

What do you think about mixing fantasy and sci-fi?

Do you consider both genres to be separate or more like two sides of the same coin?

Morrowind was straight up sci-fi fantasy. I thought that was obvious. :)

Who exactly is Nir? Oh and you kick ass, specifically for doing this and just in general. -TheNedler

The first possipoint.

Could you elaborate on what useful teachings Azura provides to the Dunmer? It seems to have something to do with love (and especially self-love), but I don't really see that in Azura. - guy231

Azura deserved what she got at the Trial. Faker.

greetings MK,

i have been doing alot of research lately on the Tsaesci, they are by far my favorite race of all in TES, and i am just dying to find more on them.

and i looked in a book called the children of the sky, where there is something about Akaviri having something akin to dragon shouts called Kiai.

can you ellaborate on this?

- DJ-sheoth

The Tsaesci Creation Myth is probably the last thing I'll ever write about them.


Until I finish the Shonni-etta, and Reman gangbangs all of their forces at Pale Pass.

Well MK thanks for doing this. I want to ask you a bit of a more mundane question. What does the politcal structure of the An-Xileel look like? It seems strange that the Hist would even need a political party to exercise control since they have control over Argonian minds. - Ushnad_gro-Udnar

Whatever the An-Xileel wants you to believe it is, don't. These are LIZARDS.