So, first with an apology. An error with the website database ate my old post. I'm afraid this one will not be nearly as entertaining and a bit shorter. EDIT: A kind contributor managed to get my original post back! Spoilered here for now because I am lazy...though I think you may be more entertained by the writing in the original, I've updated my thoughts a little on the Dragonknight class, so I will keep the second version of this post as the "main" one to prevent further confusion.
Now to explain (again) what this is. With any luck, this post will be the first of a series, that points out errors or poorly written lore in ESO and then makes small, easy proposals on how to fix them. The small and easy are the operative words, for with any luck or maybe just a little smoozing, Zenimax may take these proposals seriously and thus mold ESO into a game even us diehard haters of the newer lore can enjoy.
To that aim, I am following these rules for myself:
1) I will be focusing mainly on vanilla ESO, aka the mainland zones, none of the DLCs. This is because vanilla ESO has the weakest writing in general, but also serves as the largest batch of content in the game that new players
are corrupted by experience.
2) With some exceptions, I won't be touching on lore issues that would require a massive overhaul of the game, such as the problems with the PvP racial alliances. While there are many many things that could be said about the unholy marriages of mechanics and lore in this game, the point of this is constructive criticism, not bashing with no point.
3) What I write here are my opinions, not the official stance of Tamriel Rebuilt, Project Tamriel, Beyond Skyrim, or related projects.
4) For the purpose of researching canon lore and citing sources, I am treating anything from ESO or ES:L as highly suspect in its validity (you can't use the word you're trying to define in the definition of the word, after all...). I may also reference popular headcanon from time to time based on the Cool Factor, but this takes a backseat for now to canon sources or dev interviews.
Now to the overhauls. This first post will focus on what errors can be found in the Character Creation screen, and has to do generally with racial appearances and class aesthetics.
Red Eye Correction
The Issue: Dunmer are specifically described as having ash-gray skin and red eyes in all TES games before ESO (with a small detour in Skyrim, which also allows them to have black eyes). ESO gives Dunmer gray, brown, yellow, and purple eyes, which just screams drow knock-off to me. Tut tut.
The Proposal: The Dunmer's gray skin symbolizes the ash of their homelands, while their red eyes symbolize fire and lavarock. My proposal is to make further use of this symbolism, and to add more eye colors that are the color of fire: oranges, golds, yellows, yellow with a blue rim, etc. While I would prefer the gray, brown, and purple eyes to be removed, let's face it, there are players who are probably very attached to these eye colors now, so it's not something ESO could feasibly take out. Instead, I would explain the gray and brown eyes to be in line with the lavarock metaphor, while purple eyes may be related to the Dunmer connection to the Daedra (which ESO gave the color scheme of purple, blue, and gray).
Green Around the Gills
The Issue: Orcs in ESO have brown or gray-brown skin, which sometimes is mistaken for Dunmer skin at a distance. While I believe this is a fantastic reference to how Altmer, Dunmer, and Orsimer share origins, the Orcs in other TES games are clearly green skinned.
The Proposal: Give more skin tone customization options to Orcs: namely yellow-green, brown-green, and gray-green. No need to remove the brown or gray skin tones, though I'm afraid there will always be some orcs I will have to stare at rudely while I verify that they do indeed have tusks!
Suthay-Raht, You Say?
The Issue: Khajiit have different furstocks, or species. In earlier games, this lore was used to explain the stylistic changes made to Khajiit. (In Arena, Ohmes Khajiit were basically tattooed Bosmer; in Daggerfall, Ohmes-Raht Khajiit bore a resemblance to anime catgirls). In Morrowind, we are introduced to the furstock of Suthay-Raht, who have the appearance of cats standing on their hind legs, digitigrade style. In Oblivion, Skyrim, and ESO, Khajiit have the same appearance of cats walking on two feet, but they have plantigrade feet instead of digitigrade.
The Proposal: Though there are some dev interviews that specify that later-game Khajiit are still Suthay-Raht, I would argue that the change from digitigrade to plantigrade is enough of a style change to justify the use of a new furstock. My research into Khajiit furstocks and how they work would suggest this "new" furstock should be the Suthay. This would be an easy change on ESO's part: just add "The most common Khajiit furstock to venture outside of Elsweyr in the Second Era is the Suthay..." to the Khajiit description.
Who Put This White Person In My Game?
The Issue: In ESO, Altmer (can) have a Caucasian skin tone and blue or green eyes. In older games, Altmer can only be yellow, gold, or gold-brown in complexion, and only have yellow eyes.
The Proposal: Like the issue of Dunmer eyes, I'm afraid you couldn't just rip out these skin colors without major upheaval from the player base, although that would be MY preference, certainly. Instead, I would suggest crafting new lore that tie these Caucasian Altmer into the lore of the Direnni, the Falmer, the Left-Handed Elves, or the Ayleids. The three-pronged origin story of the Altmer, Dunmer, and Orsimer show that mer skin color can change in accordance to their change in philosophies or culture. Thus, a shift to Caucasian skin color from the normal gold tones would mean a cultural shift for ESO Altmer. If Ayleids are chosen as the race to which Caucasian Altmer shifted into (or from), this might also help explain why Bosmer have Caucasian skin as well.
I Can Has More Black People?
The Issue: This isn't really an issue with the lore persay, as Redguards are just as much Middle Eastern in flavor as they are African. Still, most video games are completely neglectful in representing black people when they create "human" races, or if they do have black people, they are offscreen, or their skin tone doesn't reflect the rich dark colors associated with many of those living in Africa. Given the Redguard lore, ESO has a perfect opportunity to turn this dynamic around and add more black people representation to video games!
The Proposal: Add more dark, rich skin colors to Redguards. Also clean up or add more "mid-range" skin colors so they have the right undertones, rather than looking like white people with a tan or sunburn.
But I Don't Worship the Aedra...
The Issue: Templars have a skill line that is named and described in such a manner that insinuates templar spells are granted to them by the Aedra. This is iffy for two reasons: one, there are some races that don't worship the Aedra, like the Orcs, the Dunmer, and (some) Khajiit, and two, the Aedra don't grant powers in the way we are used to in D&D, where a priest prays to their god, who then answers and gives them spells. The Aedra in TES are dead, and their powers are now latent in the earth as natural laws: physics, gravity, energy exchange, time, space, etc. Magic as taught in Temples of the Nine Divines is instead normal magic learned through normal means, albeit through the tutelage of learned priests instead of learned mages.
The Proposal: Though I'm told "Aedric" can mean "coming from Aetherius" as well as "coming from the Aedra", I think this is too easily misconstrued, and a little bit wrong. While it's true Aedra come from the realm of Aetherius, Aedra as a term typically means the Earthbones, and the "Aedra" who still in Aetherius are instead called the Et-Ada or the Magna-Ge. My proposal is to reword this skill line to make it more clear that it is the power of the Aetherius that Templars draw on, not the Aedra. Corrections would include removing the mentions of "godly power" or "divinely inspired", and renaming "Aedric Spear" to "Aetheric Spear". (Yes, it's a word, and even already in use by ESO!)
I'm a Warden and I'm From Morrowind
The Issue: The warden Animal Companions skill line features animals that are native to Morrowind. And Morrowind only. Yet their Ultimate ability takes the form of a bear, which don't live in Morrowind. Do you see the issue?
The Proposal: One solution that would take the most work but also possibly open a new line of profit for Zenimax would be to give players the ability to customize their spell appearances with new "spell skins". They could then replace the Morrowind-eqsue warden spell skins with animals that make more sense for all non-Dunmer wardens: hawks instead of cliff-racers, spiders or beetles instead of shalk, wolves, bats, serpents, or owls instead of netches (I was struggling a little to decide which animal would be the most "magical" here). Then the bear ultimate would fit right in. They could also then offer a kagouti spell skin for the Ultimate, for those wardens who still want to keep their Morrowind theme.
Another solution would be to rewrite the lore surrounding these creatures. First, I point out that the Morrowind fauna we see in ESO and the Morrowind fauna we see in TES3 are different: in ESO, there are no kwama foragers, nix-hounds more closely resemble orange grasshoppers then they do green hounds, alits have smaller mouths and a proper body, and there are some new species like the nix-ox and fetchfly. Furthermore, some of the creatures we have been taught to only expect in Morrowind can be found outside of Morrowind in ESO: guar and kagouti run around in Black Marsh, Khenarthi's Roost has an infestation of alits, and almost every Valenwood zone has a questline involving kwama.
This could be explained by a great extinction event. When Dagoth Ur awoke in the Third Era, Red Mountain erupted and spread the Blight across Morrowind. Blight is frequently associated with mutations. The ESO Morrowind fauna could have been wiped out or mutated to resemble their TES3 counterparts. You could even take it a step further, and say that the ESO "Morrowind" fauna actually still lives outside of Morrowind in TES3 times, with the old ESO looks instead of the Blight-inspired TES3 looks. IMO, that's taking it a little too far though, and this would also be an opportunity to play with the world-bending weirdness that is the Heart of Lorkhan, and say that the other Morrowind species disappeared simultaneously across Tamriel in a manner similar to the Dwemer.
The Issue: Some of the Dragonknight's abilities specify that the Dragonknight has draconic scales or blood. The closest lore we have to explaining this phenomenon are the Dragonborn, but the Dragonborn are rare, a once in a generation kind of thing, and nor do they have physical draconic features. It doesn't make sense for one fifth of the player base to be running around as Dragonborn, but where else would a mortal get draconic abilities?
Another issue is that the class description for the Dragonknight describes Akaviri as being the inspiration for many of the Dragonknight abilities, and this begs the question of why so many varied races of Tamriel know the Akaviri spells and fighting techniques. Although the Fighters Guild has a strong tradition of Akaviri-style battling and the Akaviri have recently invaded in ESO's timeline, on the whole, the Akaviri are still a mysterious race who live across the sea and do not give up their secrets easily. The other classes of ESO (excepting the warden and templar, which I explained above) are built to fit within multiple cultures and religions. Putting a heavy emphasis on Akaviri I argue shoehorns Dragonknights characters into a certain culture and style of fighting that may not fit them. Many races, too, like the Dunmer and the Argonians, should already have spells similar to the obsidian shields and poison breath of the Dragonknights without dipping into Akaviri culture at all.
Can my Dunmer MagDK have DK abilities without needing to be an Akaviri-loving half-dragon thing? That's the real question here.
The Proposal: Reword the abilities in this skill line so that the draconic abilities are not based in a literal connection to dragons, nor a direct inspiration from the Akaviri. Instead, broaden their lore and say they are simply inspired by dragons, and leave it up to the player just how this inspiration worked for their case. Perhaps, like the current class description, the player learned their techniques from the Akaviri. But maybe instead, they learned it from the old writings of a Dragon Priest, through a priest of Akatosh, through a dragon themselves, or even perhaps they just named their signature moves after dragons via a poetical flair of their own.
Another proposal is to sidestep this issue and rename the class to Battlemages, Crusaders, or Spellswords, which are all classes already in TES lore that describe heavily armored warriors who also make use of magic. Unfortunately this would have the effect of outdating multiple online guides and forever enable forum trolls to go after those who talk about "DKs" rather than "BMs" in years-old posts, and so this is a stretch of a proposal at best.