My take on Port Telvannis and Dust Adepts

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asgoritolin
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[Disclaimer: These are just some ideas and interpretations I wanted to share, as a means to discuss concepts and inspire other users/projects, i'm not proposing or suggesting anything, if anything these will be just my opinions, though I invite everyone to correct me if something I say is factually wrong according to Morrowind-era official sources]

After reading this very inspiring posts "https://www.tamriel-rebuilt.org/forum/marks-grand-telvannis-redo-proposal" full of interesting ideas and a lot of potential, and realizing that a telvannis redo is planned for the future, I wanted to give my view on the topic and share my ideas about it.

First of all, I really like the idea of having regional councils. The arbitrary separation between the mainland council and the vvardenfell one seems very forced to me, especially since it's never mentioned in the of game or anywhere else. Not only that, but the idea of all telvanni mages sharing a unique council, as mentioned by the author, is indeed not very proper of them.

But moving on to Port Telvannis:
My idea for the city is that it's an absolutely ancap (anarco-capitalist) city, but with wizard lords instead of megacorps, no ruler or any kind of centralized authority, it's a ruthless and chaotic city where you can find any kind services you want. The whole island is in fact all covered in giant mushroom towers, arranged randomly and unorganized, just like an organic forest. This situation is due to the fact that most young mage-lords aspirants seek fortune and ascension in the rankings of house telvanni trying luck offering their service to some of the many (MANY!) mage lords that control the island, to a point where it's almost overpopulated with enthusiastic and energetic mages; in fact many important and well established telvanni mages started this way, as mere servants providing services in other lord's mushroom towers (think about the alchemists you could find in vanilla's mushroom towers); is the main place of study for all young telvanni, since they lack any kind of school institutions, and an excellent place for gathering contacts and initialize themselves in telvanni politics/affairs. Mage towers act like corps, they provide private services to get money, but instead of using this money to buy rival's territory, they raid them using force. Because of this situation, the whole island is a constant battleground of snaby politics and assassination attempts. Ironically, and contrary to what one would believe, this makes port telvannis one of the safest places in the whole telvanni region, being full of magical security and having guards everywhere; not to mention the fact that political conflicts rarely affect normal citizens, making it not a bad place to live (not as good as an imperial city, of course, but still better than the average morrowind settlement). However, this does not mean the city doesn't have it's own problems. Security is only granted as long as people pay their fees to the local mage lord, and sometimes they can be very abusive, acting as little more than a mafia or feudal lord. Poverty is not rampant but is certainly mounting, those with no magical abilities of its own can't offer their service to the mage lords, having only two other options, either becoming a guard, or dedicating their life to commerce, and while mercantilism is very well established, it's still hard for non telvanni, which like having the monopoly of commerce in their dark hands; because of this, an underworld of crime has formed in what already was a very messy city. Even outsiders notice an alarming contrast between the different social classes of the island, of which they are only two basically: those with magical abilities and live in the mighty mushroom towers, and those who don't. They act, think and dress almost as if they were from different worlds, as if these were two different cities intertwined.
Therefore, people in Port telvannis can be classified in the following hierarchy: the mage lords, their servants (kind of a noble class), guards/mercenaries, merchants, commoners, and the living scum (bandits, thieves, outlaws hiding from imperial law, etc.). Port telvannis is also the port from which most telvanni pirate ships that infest the padomaic sea sale (that's a document for another occasion).
Slavery, necromancy and daedric worship are common practices in the island, in fact some estimate that in Port telvannis you can find more daedric temples than those dedicated to the tribunal. Aside from Tear, this is basically one of the few places you can see sloads in Tamriel.

Ideally, port telvannis wouldn't have any council hall, just constant warfare (maybe a faction war kind of area, but I know that would be hard to do).

I also have a different take about the dust adepts:
Contrary to Mark, I never consider them as a different brand of telvanni wizards, but rather a unique magical practice or school that is native to telvanni territory, that would explain why in vanilla morrowind the dust adept helm is a very common mercenary apparel in telvanni lands, i'm truly convinced that was the intention in that regard. About the banned practice itself, is probably necromantic in nature, that's why it developed under telvanni territory, there are no ordinators or temples there. In my head, it would be all about using ancestor's ash that is stored inside giant but portable pots, Gaara style, to attack with it or conjure ash minions. As if they were commanding the souls of their ancestors within the ash to make it move and change form.

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Mark
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The Port Telvannis idea basically has the same flavor as my own. The difference is I'm just treating it as anarchy, no capitalism attached. We don't need to shoehorn in political compasses or corporate ideas where there logically aren't any. Mage lords are just mage lords, they were in vanilla, and they are here. And a council is absolutely necessary for gameplay purposes. It doesn't take away from the flavor or characterization, but actually provides a good way for the player to experience a faction hub. There's a reason in vanilla every single faction has guildhalls, regardless of their at times chaotic natures.

As for the Dust Adepts, "Telvanni" isn't a territory, it's a faction. I firmly believe that if the original devs didn't intend for them to be officially Telvanni, they wouldn't've named the helmet or the concepts that way. Plus necromancy is practiced by the Telvanni on the regular, they don't care about how they look to the Empire. It wouldn't be special at all to Dust Adepts.

I appreciate the effort but I'm not so sure this is cohesive with either vanilla or the current Telvanni plans.

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Cicero
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Agreed

You won't win
With your standards so high
And your spirits so low
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Yeah I mean, of course I never said that dust adepts aren't part of House Telvanni, I just don't think there's enough evidence to say it's an entirely separated brand of telvanni wizards; most likely just the term given to those who practice this peculiar and unique school of magic which, given that dust adepts are proper of house telvanni, it's natural to think the practice was conceived in telvanni territory (that is, the territory controlled by telvanni wizards, where necromancy is not as persecuted as in the rest of morrowind, that's why i'm saying it developed there, it's the best place for necromantic practice to develop after all, where else did they came from, from indoril temples?). They are most likely a subculture as it's been mentioned here before, having mercenaries who practice it too (undeniably, their helms are used commonly by mercenaries and warriors in vanilla morrowind telvanni lands). But I think the idea of having some telvanni lords focus on this practice is very cool.

As for shoehorning the political compass, yeah, saying that it was an ancap city was just a rhetoric image to illustrate my idea of how things would be organized, or unorganized for that matter; of course there wouldn't be as much capitalism involved, but consider this: port telvannis is an island where various mage towers coexist; generally telvanni lords are isolated and have total control over their lands, now they are together and very close, don't you think there would be a lot of rivalry and competitiveness? The more I write about it, the more it makes sense, to me at least, every kind of absolute anarchy devolves into ancap eventually, and telvanni are literally memed to be ancap wizards, so an ancap city for them it's not such a stretch IMO. That being said, yeah, I absolutely get what you are saying. What really should be addressed on the other hand is the distinctions between the magical social class and the non-magical one, and the constant warfare that such power distribution would bring and how it would that affect the common people.

I'm not so sure this is cohesive with either vanilla or the current Telvanni plans.

I don't see how this contradicts vanilla, port telvannis is not even mentioned AFAIK; aside from that, this was just a suggestion for the upcoming telvanni redo, I know this does not reflect current TR ideas on the matter.

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The Telvanni are unique when compared to the other Houses, but they have many commonalities, ie. language, history, and religion. Port Telvannis should reflect this. Port Telvannis is home to, according to OOG source, the Parliament of Bugs. That's all we know about it, but that does sound like governing body. It actually sounds like a name the House Council in Sadrith Mora gave it to mock it and the name just took among the Telvanni. If we were to take the "chaos" idea and apply it, perhaps this "Parliament" could be a body full of greedy, squabbling delegates from all over the Telvanni District. It would be a kakistocracy of self-appointed narcissists. Such a "do nothing meaningful" culture of the Parliament would bleed into Telvanni society in the region and allow for corrupt individuals to thrive. It would be a very stratified society, but not anarchy necessarily. Anarchy would be a place where there are no laws. A society like what is being suggested for Port Telvannis would have laws. The ruling parties would make the laws and the populace would have to follow them. Anarchists tend to view the ideal society being a non-hierarchical one with individuals voluntarily helping each other. Does that describe Telvanni society? Telvanni society would be more about what you are and what you are not. Magic user vs non-magic user. Master vs slave. Dunmer vs. non-Dunmer. Learned vs. ignorant. One side or the other, no middle ground.

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I too always thought that dust adepts is a unique magical practice or direction on the Telvanni district

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What I mean by anarchy is the flavor of magical chaos that encapsulates the Telvanni. I don't mean the actual ideas/movement of capital-A Anarchism. In game, there won't be a unique political system. Imperial Law is pervasive throughout Morrowind and that's just the mechanics we have to work with. I'm not going to define a perfect political system for the Telvanni. They are individualistic and powerful, and a city full of them would be a shitshow, Parliament or not.

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Sounds like an elemental form of magic (perhaps a branch of Alteration) or the social status of adepts in Telvanni, they are as low as the dust. Of course the fact they are "adepts" suggests they are not masters of magic. The lore on the use of Adept in any faction has always been below masters, especially TES III. 

Of course I laugh at the idea of Dust Adepts barging into a room of enemies and saying, "Surrender! We are Dust Adepts!"

The enemies look at each other, then one asks, "You're dirt mages?"

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Indeed.