The Elder Scrolls - The Battle to Control What's Fact and Fiction

If you're someone who likes RPGs packed with plenty of dense lore, you might enjoy reading this PC Gamer article dedicated to the deep and oftentimes contradictory lore fueling Bethesda's The Elder Scrolls series. The article features numerous quotes from Bethesda's official Loremaster, as well as some regular lore enthusiasts, and tries to paint a comprehensive picture of all the different stories that comprise the background for The Elder Scrolls games.

Here are a few paragraphs to get you started:

Imagine a cataclysm so potent that it entangled the very threads of time, creating multiple realities and solidifying every choice made by 100,000 players across those realities canon, for all time. That is the Warp in the West, which treated all six endings of Daggerfall—the second game in the Elder Scrolls series—as equally canonical, even though they clearly contradict each other. This is not how it works with other games, which may give players choices, but ultimately decide on one "true" outcome for the sake of lore and sequels. But when it comes to lore, The Elder Scrolls isn't like other games.

Complex, competing Elder Scrolls histories like these are argued over by the fictional scholars of Tamriel, and provide just as much material for the Elder Scrolls lore community to pore over and debate endlessly in real life.

The Warp in the West may seem difficult to comprehend, but it's just one of the many fantastical events that make up the Elder Scrolls lore. Fans who want to know more can always plead with Bethesda to crack open the lore bible. Unlike the devs of most games with expansive backstories, though, the Bethesda team has few concrete answers to offer; in fact, they prefer to keep much of the lore ambiguous, which makes The Elder Scrolls canon difficult to grasp for newcomers and intoxicatingly complex the deeper you get. There are incredibly heavy documents that teach enthusiasts how to start understanding The Elder Scrolls' history, like How to be a lore buff, which is so dense it even comes with its own guide.

It would all be complicated enough without fans and creators writing about Tamriel on the internet, but they do that too, of course. Former Elder Scrolls writer and designer Michael Kirkbride, for example, still writes the occasional lore-related texts at the Elder Scrolls fansite The Imperial Library—a cause of endless debates on their canonicity by its community.

Kirkbride, who was the writer and designer behind the Warp in the West, told me in a Skype interview that the Elder Scrolls team did not want their personal voices to interfere with the series' lore. "When we were rejigging the worlds post-Daggerfall, we made a commitment—the writers, designers, developers—to never release anything into the world that wasn't written by somebody that lived there," he said. "The voice of the author should not come in there, and dictate what's true or not. It just shuts down conversation [around the game's lore]."