Morrowind's Future Part I: A Census of Morrowind's Political Factions

Atrayonis suggested he and I write out our respective (and probably starkly divergent) ideas on the future of Morrowind after the events of TES: III (including TR events of course). I've decided to make a start at that, but will divide my write-up into at least two if not more parts, this being the first.
While I do incorporate some Bethesda lore of the later games into my account, though often with changes, that's more a matter of me finding it interesting to incorporate those ideas. My concept does diverge from later Bethesda lore quite heavily in areas, especially with Skyrim's Dragonborn expansion, which after all deals with Morrowind's later history. As all those divergences will not happen within TR's gameplay, though, that's pretty irrelevant, and this is really more of a thought exercise.
First thing is to establish the state of things at the end of Morrowind. This can vary a bit depending on what questlines the player completes, and perhaps how the player completes them. Also, it's possible plans for the questlines will change later, so this isn't really set in stone. In no particular order:

1. Two or all three of the Tribunal are dead, the dissident priests are no longer persecuted lending relevance to their message and to Ashlander belief -- all the more so with the appearance of a Nerevarine recognized by, at least, a majority of the houses and Ashlander tribes. While the Temple hasn't been overthrown, it's clearly only a matter of time until faith in it dies completely, and it is in disarray. It certainly has lost its ability to regulate and unite the activity of the great houses.
2. House Indoril has either succeeded in repelling House Hlaalu in the Thirr River Conflict, or has lost and is continuing to lose its western territory. Even at best, its 'victory' is pyrrhic, revealing deep divisions within a house that had prided itself in its unity and common mission. Much of its leadership is dead, and in the case of 'victory' an outlander upstart now sits as their helm.
3. House Redoran has managed to quell an uprising of local Nords, but the uprising has awoken slumbering tensions in a land that had never been able to maintain isolation from outlanders like the eastern houses did. The sovereignty of House Redoran is shaken by runaway Imperialization, Hlaalu are nipping at their heels, especially on Vvardenfell, and the other houses are too preoccupied or indifferent to provide any aid. Skyrim's High King Thian, who supported the uprising, is still going strong. Bolvyn Venim's suicide mission against Dagoth Ur ends with Venim dead at the hands of the Nerevarine, who kills Dagoth Ur rendering the mission irrelevant.
4. While House Hlaalu's expansion on Vvardenfell and across the Thirr has possibly been stalled by the activities of House Redoran and House Indoril respectively, they are still in a very strong position. After a tense moment facing the prospect of fighting a coalition of the other great houses (except Telvanni probably) unaided, Hlaalu emerge with an alliance with House Dres, arguably the next strongest house at that point, and the cooperation of King Hlaalu Helseth. (While a member of House Hlaalu, Helseth is a political outsider who was not by default aligned with his house). They appear to be unstoppable.
5. House Telvanni is continuing to take advantage of the political chaos in Morrowind to spread outwards, as upstarts repelled by the ancient wizards in the East build up power beyond their reach. Telvanni's claim to being a unified house has always been tenuous, but with the absent Archmagister Rilvin Dral and divisive de facto Archmagister Gothren replaced by an outlander Hortator and Nerevarine, House Telvanni seems poised to strike out in a new and unpredictable direction. At the same time, though, several of those ancient wizards die in the process, and while that provides fertile soil for new growth, it also carries uncertainty with it.
6. House Dres has been secretely struggling with creditors of major deals they made at the very beginning of Tribunal history. While managing to keep their secret struggle hidden from the other houses -- maintaining their strength for the moment as Morrowind's second strongest house and allying with the strongest, House Hlaalu -- internally House Dres has cracked. The secrets are beginning to leak, the Matriarchs who secured the deals, uniting the squabbling Dres clans in a confederacy and guiding them forward in the process, are either all or mostly dead. While the Sload have been dealt with, the Hist are still looming, and its unclear how much longer the Dres will keep supplying the Hist with Dunmer as their part of that deal, if they haven't already stopped.
7. While fortunes have largely favoured the endeavours of the Empire in Morrowind -- supportive House Hlaalu becoming the dominant local power in the province, the reformer Helseth exerting and expanding his power as king, the Tribunal weakened and possibly killed and the Temple on the way out with them, and one of the Empire's agents being recognized as Nerevarine and Hortator by the majority of local factions -- the Empire is not able to savour it due to internal instability. Garrisons in hostile eastern Morrowind have been abandoned in favour of stronger defences in the West, and the Empire's Legions are being recalled.



Darklocq's picture

Please keep in mind that Oblivion and other official and quasi-official sources already provide significant information about what's going on in Morrowind (and Vvardenfell in particular) shortly after the close of TES3: Morrowind.  The beginning of Oblivion is only about 6 years later.

Just off the top of my head, a few things come to mind:

  • Various unique artificats that may have been in the possession of the Nerevarine (i.e., that you may have picked up while playing) no longer are by the time Oblivion starts (since you can get them in that game, too).  Some artificats are said to leave their owner when the time is right. Others may have been sold, or given to lieutenants, or been stolen/lost.
  • Skyrim Nords invade Solstheim and possibly also northern Vvardenfell, and neither Imperial nor Redoran forces (who are not cooperating much) can do much about it.
  • House Hlallu with Imperial allies is "picking apart the corpse of ruined [House] Indoril".  People in Oblivion talk about this constantly, along with other unrest in Morrowind. You can just pull details from the TES4 Construction Set in the dialogue various NPCs have.  One gets the impression that this is all going on in mainland Morrowind. While Hlaalu has a commercial center in Balmora on Vvardenfell, their real seat of power is now Mournhold (and probably the surrounding larger city of Almalexia) on the continent, with their own kinsman Helseth as the Imperial-vassal king of the entire province.
  • The Nerevarine leaves Morrowind on an excursion to Akavir (it's not clear if it's a small-staffed adventure, an ambassadorial mission, an attempted conquest, or what).
  • Necromancy is outright banned by the Mages Guild, turning an informal witchhunt into a focused effort to stamp out the practice (though it doesn't appear to be subject to statutory Imperial law).  This likely has ramifications for things like traditional Dunmer use of ancestor ghosts and other undead to guard family tombs. It's a bigger looming conflict than one might think, because the collapse of the Tribunal leads to both a resurgence in the traditional Dunmer ancestor cult and Daedra worship (already fairly open in Cyrodill by the events of Oblivion), on the one side, and an increase in conversions to the Imperial pantheon on the other, and it is not exactly necromancy-friendly. So, you've got basically a double setup for conflict between pro- and anti-necromancy groups (including politicized branding of ancestor-cult stuff as necromancy), before one even considers things like the Telvanni finally taking a more political, less isolationist stand.
  • And they're going to want to do that.  We know House Telvanni has already been making land-grabs toward the interior of Vvardenfell, during ''Morrowind'', and have long been the least interested of the Great Houses in cooperation with the Empire.  Then they get hit with this: The Empire finally bans all slavery, including in Morrowind.  While this impacts the bottom line of House Dres, as the primary suppliers of that trade, most strongly, it's going to have a significant negative impact on House Telvanni, the main customers of the trade, as well as directly involved in local supply in Vvardenfell as resellers (all the slave markets in Morrowind are run by the Telvanni, not House Dres, which has no direct appearance in the game).
  • More speculatively: The slavery ban is also ripe for other social upheaval potential, as in the United States after the Emancipation Proclamation.  Except times two: large numbers of both Argonians and Khajiits are now free citizens and legally able to organize, but subject to deeply ingrained prejudice.  Plus, they have more direct ties to their homelands than African-Americans typically did by the time of the US Civil War.  I.e., there's every reason to expect them to cooperate with forces in Black Marsh and Elsweyr, respectively.  Both of those provinces (and former sovereign states) have lengthy bones to pick with the Empire, and with the Dunmer, for related but distinct reasons.  See also the Blackwood Company: the Fighters Guild has competition from a new mercenary organization, with deep ties to Black Marsh, and largely staffed by Argonians and Khajiit.
  • The Empire itself is in deep doo-doo.  Most of its inland forts lay in ruins, presumably due to neglect during the Interregnum then the Simulacrum Crisis, and perhaps hubris, at feeling too secure along their tamer, more inland borders.  We know in Morrowind that Imperial troops are being recalled for one or more reasons. By the time Oblivion opens, they're all needed to deal with the post-assassination chaos and more importantly with the Oblivion Gates Crisis, and yet there seem to be few of them left (most of the men fighting at Oblivion Gates, until the Imperial City itself is ringed in, are actually City Watch guards, not Imperial Legion).  They're concentrated in and around the IC, with a few patrolling the roads, plus a handful of wilderness rangers.  And they also lost Fort Frostmoth to a lich, just before Morrowind starts.  TR has some well-garrisoned Imperial installations on the Morrowind mainland; one presumes they are busy dealing with Oblivion Gates in their own area, and with whatever else might be going on, but the time of Oblivion.  That said, I could see Firewatch and some others in Telvanni territory perhaps getting involved in goings-on in Vvardenfell after the close of the Morrowind MQ.
  • I think this happens after Oblivion closes: With the disappearance of Vivec (the godling), his magic eventually wears off, and Vivec (the city) is destroyed by the suspended moon above it finally crashing into it, which sets off Red Mountain into an eruption cycle, and causes a lengthy ecological catastrophe.  Eventually, most everyone flees the island, and even the mainland part of the province is ravaged on a longer time scale.  That may or may not have any impact on what the TR community is thinking, but there could perhaps be warnings and foreshadowings, e.g. prophesy and doomsaying of various sorts. At a bare minimum, the city of Vivec would be in a crisis about Vivec, the figure, being either dead or unaccounted for, and lots of worries about that giant rock that's been serving as the Ministry of Truth.  Also a good excuse to elaborate on the Ashlanders in mainland Morrowind. Not too long from "now" in Morrowind and Oblivion time, they're going to be taking in a whole lot of Vvardenfell refugees, and might swell into a fairly powerful but fairly desperate "barbarian" population, not unlike the Visigoths outside Rome, with little choice but to push inland and in force.
  • The Dark Brotherhood is not really even fazed by Severa Magia's death (presumably due to their even-internal secrecy about the Night Mother), and have a new Night Mother pretty much immediately, and are in no way halted by the player's incursions against them in Morrowind and Tribunal.  If anything, all that was just a minor annoyance to them.

Maybe also consider some other mods:

  • At least two Oblivion mods have nationalist Dunmer forces invaliding continental Morrowind and even part of Cyrodiil (around Cheydinhal).
  • Another has Nord raids from Skyrim into NE Cyrodiil, around Bruma.
  • A third, a rather TR-like effort to bring Vvardenfell as an explorable landmass into Oblivion, has significant Nord activity in the north, including the complete retaking of Solstheim (and Imperial loss of both Fort Frostmoth and the Ravenrock mining town), plus major conflict between Nord and Redoran forces in N Vvardenfell itself.
  • Several also expand the Oblivion map into other provinces, and may have various political and military things going on.
  • Oh, and just beause it's the best companion mod of all time, it would be badass if Julan gets integrated into TR as a major Ashlander leader.  >;-)

Yeah, while this blog post

Gnomey's picture

Yeah, while this blog post was about how the end of TR's Morrowind might look, the next (which I'll probably write after TR's upcoming release) will look at the period between the games and maybe go beyond it. Your list is a really handy basis to work off of; the ramifications a ban on necromancy could have on Morrowind are something I hadn't really considered.

That said, while I generally find it interesting to try and incorporate Oblivion lore into our Morrowind framework, as noted at the start of this blog I also won't hesitate to diverge from later games' lore if I think it isn't interesting or consistent with the world we are trying to create. A good example is all the forts within Cyrodiil being ruined, and for that matter all (I think) mines being abandoned. While the fandom has come up with explanations for that, the reality of the matter is probably that Bethesda either didn't consider the issue, decided not to invest development time in implementing functioning forts and mines, felt that such locations would not have a suitable gameplay functionality to warrant representation in the game, or any other number of practical concerns.

On such matters I will orient myself more on how Provinces of Tamriel portrays the relevant province, in this case the Province: Cyrodiil project specifically. In that project, given its much larger scale and different gameplay focus to Oblivion (which tends to be more action-focused than Morrowind was, Morrowind itself being more action-focused than Daggerfall as far as I'm aware), Cyrodiil has both functioning forts and mines, and it would naturally be silly for all of them to become ruined and abandoned in a six year span.

Edit: another thing is the concept of Hlaalu picking apart the remains of House Indoril. In most cases -- especially if the player plays TR's Hlaalu questline -- that is probably what will happen. If the Nerevarine completes the Indoril questline, though, while greatly weakened, the house will have dodged the deathblow and will continue to stand for a while. In that case, the rumours would either be referring to the harm Hlaalu caused in the Thirr River Conflict featured within TR's timeframe, or how Hlaalu gobbled up Indoril land west of the Thirr right before our timeframe, and so would not be entirely accurate or current. They are rumours after all.

I'm actually going to address

Gnomey's picture

I'm actually going to address some of your points directly here, as they are out of the scope of the blog series itself, which takes a rather broad view of developments.

  • How much the necromancy ban affects Morrowind would probably depend largely on how much the Nerevarine either advanced or hindered the expansion of the Mages Guild into Morrowind. As you say, the ban does not appear to be Imperial statute, so strictly speaking the Mages Guild can only enforce it on its own members, though as the Mages Guild is shown in Morrowind it would probably try to twist the arms of other magic practitioners as well. House Telvanni would, in most cases, be unaffected by it; its doubtful if they even bothered holding to the Temple's rules on necromancy, let alone some outlander faction's whimsy.
  • My treatment of the ban on slavery is a bit more complex, but in and of itself Telvanni would not feel obliged or compelled to heed such a ban. The Dres source of slaves will have largely dried up for reasons other than the ban, and the ban was not implemented by the Empire but by King Hlaalu Helseth. As a side note, Telvanni did not have a monopoly of slave markets in Vvardenfell; the Suran slave market is shown as well, and I think one implied in Molag Mar.
  • According to TR lore, most Argonian slaves have essentially been sold to the Dres by the Hist and would, as you say, maintain a strong connection to Black Marsh. Khajiit slaves, however, though a few would be smuggled in from Elsweyr, would largely be bred into slavery on Hlaalu plantations, and would perhaps have even less of a connection to their homeland than African slaves in America did.
  • I describe the development of Legion presence in Morrowind in this blog post. Their lack of presence in Cyrodiil in Oblivion is somewhat at odds with Morrowind lore; Oblivion explicitly states that the Legions are mostly tied up in the provinces fending off the Daedric invasions there. That implies that the Legions are first recalled to Cyrodiil as per Morrowind, then sent away to the provinces, then Uriel VII and his heirs are assassinated and the invasions start, in the span of about six years. I don't consider that narrative worth developing, so will stick with the Morrowind concept that the Legions are in Cyrodiil after being recalled, focused on suppressing unrest.
  • I do not think TR should directly address Vivec's disappearance or a clear crisis of faith resulting from any/all of the Tribunal dying or disappearing. I think it would take time for that information to come out, let alone sink in. I'm also not sure how many people are actually aware of what is keeping the moon in the sky. There is certainly room for warnings and foreshadowing, though.
  • I don't think the nature of the Dark Brotherhood or Night Mother in Morrowind is made very clear. My impression is that Morrowind treated the Night Mother as more of a local leader than the ruler of the whole organization. TR and PT will also generally keep to the older concept of the DB being fairly straightforward assassin's guild, as opposed to kooky Sithis worshippers.