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What is Tamriel Rebuilt and what does it seek to do?
Tamriel Rebuilt is a fan-based project which modifies The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. The goal of the project is to expand the original game in a manner consistent with the intention, style and vision of the original game designers, Bethesda Softworks.
The Elder Scrolls III was initially meant to be set in the fictional land of Morrowind, but only a portion of the province was depicted in the actual game - the central island of Vvardenfell. Tamriel Rebuilt is producing additional content to create a gameplay experience which includes the entire province (chiefly by adding and integrating the province’s mainland areas to the game).
What are the vision and goals of TR?
Tamriel Rebuilt seeks to produce a unified gameworld, without the artificial separation of vanilla content and our own. It aims to provide a seamless player experience, in the same vein the original game did. In essence, Tamriel Rebuilt is not to be seen as a separate addition or expansion of the original game, but a reimagination of it, had it included the entire landmass. This will require some measured changes to existing game content, both in terms of narrative, and implementation.
While we aim for compatibility with existing modules, our creative vision should always take precedence. Maintaining compatibility with other modules should never limit our vision, nor our vision should make excessive changes to original content (or create unnecessary conflicts) if it can be avoided. Any changes made to the original game will always be documented, and well-based in our narrative vision. When possible, we will also reach out and work with other content authors to minimize the impact of any potential (and inevitable) conflicts.
What is the purpose of this document?
Understanding the principles of good design is fundamental to producing quality content, and such, anyone interested in working for Tamriel Rebuilt should read this document. A project like this requires a good deal of planning and preproduction before actual production can begin. In broad strokes, this document establishes the metrics and principles by which we can design future content, a blueprint. As such, it is also often an analysis of the existing game, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, and its thematic, technical and design-related strengths and weaknesses, many of which only become apparent from the perspective of a project that tries to build upon that game's legacy.
Why are we planning instead of giving developers total freedom?
While Tamriel Rebuilt always values the principles of individual creativity, we also seek to create a cohesive gameworld, that is consistent with the quality of the original game. While there is always room for diversity and developer freedom, content should always derive from an overarching plan that establishes thematic and visual consistency between the various parts and elements of Morrowind. This is not possible if we give individuals carte-blanche to make whatever they want in whatever style they wish, and has been problematic in TR’s past development. Having established guidelines prior to implementation also frees the developer to creatively interpret the project’s vision in their own way, without sacrificing the project’s overall vision and continuity.
II. Themes of Morrowind
"He was not born a god. His destiny did not lead him to this crime. He chose this path of his own free will. He stole the godhood and murdered the Hortator. Vivec wrote this."
– Thirty-Six Lessons of Vivec
A project that seeks to build upon Morrowind’s legacy needs to attain an understanding of the fundamental themes and motifs that are prevalent in the game’s setting - the province of Morrowind. Every single aspect of the game we want to build upon draws upon these themes and motifs, no matter how disparate each individual aspect may seem from one another. To this end, Morrowind is actually a world that is unified through the disparity of its constituent parts.
In broad terms, Morrowind should be portrayed a very garish land, both visually, and in the rather esoteric mannerism of its inhabitants, the dark-skinned race of elves known as the Dunmer, or Dark Elves in Western Tongues. It is a world that is characterized by enigmas and anomalies, one that defies traditional fantasy tropes, and is very different from the rest of Tamriel.
It is a world of “savage beauty”, one that is alien, even withiin the context of high fantasy, a world full of strange things and customs unlike any other. Yet despite this, somehow this world still retains elements and characteristics which makes it relatable to our own. Much like our own world, its people are driven by their own motivations, where a system of complex belief systems can often clash. It is this duality and intricacy that makes experiencing and discovering the world of Morrowind enjoyable.
In terms of narrative, The Elder Scrolls III is a vignette of a particular time period in the history of the Dunmer. Emphasis should be put on the tragedies and tribulations the Dunmer nations have faced in their history, and that the player is playing a small (but rather significant) role in this tale, which occurs during a key turning point in Morrowind’s history. Themes of prophecy and destiny are often interwoven into the story, and are recurring motifs.
The player is meant to be a lens on a particular series of events, which underscore major upheavals in Dunmer society. Without getting into specifics, a careful balance should be struck between the player’s impact on the world (through the choices they make), and making sure that the player does not become the epicenter of the narrative, but rather an agent of said narrative.
What makes Morrowind’s story so beautiful is that it’s crafted in a way that makes you feel rather insignificant in the greater scheme of events. You as a player have agency to influence certain events, but in the end, it’s not about you. It was never about you. Morrowind isn’t a story about the Nerevarine, nor Dagoth Ur, nor was it about the fall of the Tribunal. It isn’t about the player climbing the ranks of a particular faction. It’s about so much more than that. This is a world where there are no heroes and villains, and nothing is ever black and white.
It’s about the challenges the nations of Morrowind face during this tumultuous time period, and how the Dunmer must find a way to adapt to the changing fabric of their society. Everything they’ve known and grown accustomed to is crashing down around them. All the events that happen in the game portray this in different ways. The Sixth House conflict is only one of them. And that’s what makes this game so compelling: the fact that after so many years, there are so many stories yet to be told. It’s a tale that’s so layered, you couldn’t possibly experience it all in a lifetime. You live and breathe this epic tale, one that is tailored and influenced by your own choices and perspectives.
III. Level Design
One of the most important things to consider when creating a vast, open-world game such as Morrowind is our approach towards level design. Fundamentally speaking, a more appropriate term would be world design. The world is one of the two major pillars of creating a believable world, the other being narrative. One can not exist without the other, and the two inform each other simultaneously.
Exploration is a major aspect of gameplay, and without it, the game would get boring very fast. The world provides the stage for these narratives to unravel, and it is important to keep this in mind when creating the world. Morrowind’s combat system is inherently weak, so emphasis on level design being a gameplay mechanic should be increased to compensate.
Morrowind is an RPG. As such, the focus is generally on allowing players to create and develop their own characters, providing a world and plot for those characters to interact with, and very importantly -- wherein the challenge lies -- providing feedback to the players’ action as a way of acknowledging the role they have decided to play.
In exterior worldspaces, design should focus on providing the player with a breathtaking atmosphere. Roads should be planned and placed with a purpose (leading to a dungeon, or a point of interest), since players will be inclined to follow them, and assume they lead somewhere. Players should be rewarded for going off the beaten track, though they must also face challenges. In order to create a sense of atmosphere, it is also important to ensure creature placement is done in a manner that does not detract or distract from the player/character absorbing the world around them. Landscapes should be designed with the creation of visages in mind. Factors such as player line-of-sight should also be taken into account when landscaping and placing objects in the worldspace. What do we want the player to see when they are at a given area? What important visual cues should we consider to achieve this sense of believability? There should also be a lot of diversity in exterior worldspaces, to keep things interesting. This can be achieved through different assets, creatures, flora, etc.
In wilderness interior worldspaces, design should be goal-oriented. Space is usually much tighter, and the player usually goes into an interior with a particular goal in mind, whether it’s to find loot, level up, or interact with a quest objective. Hostiles should provide a challenge to the player in reaching their objectives, with the intent of making reaching the objectives feel all the more rewarding. Spaces should not be made too tight due to the height constraints of Morrowind’s interior tilesets. It is also important to give the player multiple pathways. While not every dungeon should be complex and mind-boggling, care should be taken to ensure every dungeon exploration is rewarding, and engaging, otherwise, there is no real reason for the player to visit the space. Level design in dungeons should focus on narrative elements as well, as many dungeons have a story, and their own unique inhabitants (who oftentimes are influenced by the space itself).
Interior world spaces in cities should focus primarily on narrative, mostly because there are many of them. In cities, interiors usually belong to someone, either as places of dwelling, or where people work and conduct affairs of state. While settlement interiors are usually simpler in terms of physical structure, care should be taken to ensure each of these interiors is unique, and tells the player something about who dwells in them. Depth and originality should be created not by size, but by object placements and arrangements.
In all three instances, it is also appropriate to use environmental cues, such as sounds and lights, to further create depth and atmosphere. Interactivity is a big aspect of modern gameplay, so be sure there is enough for the player to interact with (whether it’s a lever or crank to open something, or just containers/plants for the player to rifle through and pick) It is also very important to ensure these levels are playable from a technical standpoint. Placement of objects should not inadvertently obstruct or obfuscate player vision or movement (don’t cram a ton of rocks in cave passages, unless you actually want to block the player). Care should be taken not to over-detail things, in order to ensure all our levels have an appropriate frame rate, both exterior and interior.
IV. Area Types
There are two basic kinds of environments that the player interacts with in a game of Morrowind: wilderness environments & settlement environments. The wilderness, which occupies the majority of the worldspace but is less densely populated with interactive elements than the settlement environments, is the space in which the player primarily interacts in an adventure-combat oriented mode. Most encounters in the exterior overworld in wilderness environments will be with aggressive creatures or NPCs who will not engage the player in dialog. Settlement spaces allow the player to gain direction or resupply their survival resources. They are more densely populated, are often home to key characters, and often feature heavily in important storylines.
Wilderness and dungeons
Wilderness environments are dotted with entrances to dungeons filled with aggressive characters and gameplay challenges. The few non-player characters who are not aggressive in wilderness environments almost always are there as a part of some quest. Wilderness environments serve a key purpose in the game by giving the player opportunities to explore, fight, and generally play the game. Wilderness environments can be sub-divided further into the following categories:
Backcountry: Backcountry areas represent the most hostile and isolated areas of Morrowind. They are generally hostile, and are oriented towards combat and exploration. They form the majority of Morrowind’s wilderness areas.
Countryside: The countrysides are the areas of wilderness that are considerably less hostile, closer to settlement spaces, and are more populated. Most of these areas are along the fertile hills and river valleys of Central Morrowind. They are oriented more towards exploration, atmosphere, and portray how the people of Morrowind utilize the land around them.
Dungeons: Dungeons are specific locations that are most often hostile, though some are not. They are mainly oriented towards combat, exploration, and loot hunting.
Submerged Areas: These areas are distinct in a sense they have different gameplay considerations, due to the player’s water meter. They are generally hostile, and very difficult to explore, giving the player a new challenge when it comes to worldspace exploration.
Like similar RPGs, Morrowind operates on a level system. As the player plays the game, the character improves in relevant skills and becomes stronger, represented by increases to the player's level and skill numbers. Player opponents and tasks the player needs to accomplish are set so that some are appropriate for lower-level player characters and some are appropriate for higher-level player characters.
Rather than have opponents generate at indiscriminate levels, or have all opponents scaled through leveled lists so that they are always the same level as the player, Tamriel Rebuilt has opted to use a level zoning system so that some parts of the game will have lower-level opponents and some will have higher-level opponents. As a rule, the further one gets from the player's starting point, the more dangerous the area is. This is not measured strictly in terms of absolute distance, but is based on distance along naturalistic routes of travel that the game will encourage the player to take.
For the purpose of this low-level planning, a broad category of leveling on a scale from 1 to 4 (1 being the lowest and 4 being the highest) has been employed to create an impression of the level zoning. Greater granularity shall be implemented at later stages of implementation. Attachment A depicts the broad level zoning of the project, subject to deviation and modification during later stages of implementation, based on the topology of Morrowind.
Representations of Difficulty in Regions
Each section of the wilderness environment which features a different approximate level of difficulty is represented within the game as a region. These regions, which seem natural and appropriate to the worldmap in the final production, have different physiographic characteristics: rock types, flora types, fertility, density of plants or of rocks, etc. These create an impression of a varied landscape to create a sense of adventure in the game. However, certain aspects of the natural environment serve as signifiers of the space's level zoning. While these are never explicitly called out, they operate on an underlying logic of what the player would reasonably expect to be safe or not safe, and regions should be designed to create a feeling of safety or unsafety appropriate to the level zoning of that region. Enumerated below are the different variables which can create feelings of safety or unsafety:
Fertility: A valuable indicator of difficulty is the region's fertility. Regions in which one could imagine someone starting a farm tend to be less dangerous than regions which are either very arid and bleak or impenetrably swampy. Only certain parts of Morrowind support agriculture, and these tend to be the safest places for the player to travel. The rest of Morrowind is mostly desert, with a small number of bog areas as well.
Population: Regions which have more people should be safer. Areas near Tier I & II settlements, or with many Tier V settlements, are more likely to be low level zones than high level zones (see the next section for more information on settlement tiers).
Rock type: Sedimentary rocks are formed by water; the main river systems are in the safest parts of Morrowind. Igneous rocks are formed by tectonic activity; the least safe parts of Morrowind are those with volcanoes. Though Morrowind need not follow the rules of earth science strictly, or classify each rock carefully in analogy with real rocks, rocks which seem like sedimentary rocks – light in color, featuring layers of different material – should exist in safer regions, whereas rocks which are more igneous – dark in color, with the appearance of being volcanic in origin – should exist in more dangerous regions.
Weirdness: Morrowind is a very weird place, featuring fields of ash and salt, giant mushrooms, and many large land arthropods. Generally, the more unlike a real environment a region is, the more dangerous it is. This is especially true if its weirdness is unsettling. Regions which are intended to be the most dangerous should be the most strange. However, different features of strangeness map across the worldspace differently – ash is concentrated in certain areas, sadrith mushrooms in others, et cetera. Only area- appropriate weirdness should be applied to regions to make them seem stranger.
Representations of Difficulty in Dungeons
Dungeons, similarly, have different levels of difficulty. This is primarily signified by the type of dungeons they are, though there is variety within dungeon types so that they form overlapping categories. Regions should predominantly have dungeons of the same relative level of difficulty as the overworld, with only some exceptions. Some of the major different dungeon types, listed in order of approximate difficulty, are:
Caves: Bandit caves, and caves which are the home to some sorts of animals, are the easiest sort of dungeon. Some, though, contain necromancers or other kinds of opponents that could be more dangerous. To avoid the player mistakenly entering an overly dangerous situation, these more dangerous caves should – on the whole – be found in the more difficult regions.
Ancestral tombs: Home to undead monsters who guard the Dunmer dead, these are more dangerous than caves. Usually, though, the undead in these tombs are not especially challenging for players of higher levels, unless something special & nefarious is occurring in that tomb.
Dwemer ruins: Filled with centurions built by the vanished Dwemer, these ruins of the long-dead Dwarves are usually for at least mid-level players. Difficulty varies considerably though, and should be indicated to some extent by the exterior.
Strongholds: Stronghold ruins, which have been taken over by outlaw groups, present a difficult challenge for the player.
Daedric ruins: Containing Daedra and their worshipers, these ruins are only for very high level players.
While wilderness environments exist for adventuring, settlement environments exist to facilitate the player's adventuring by providing them resources, information, and direction. They are populated by non-player characters who can barter with the player or give them valuable information through dialog. They are also the primary location that quest initiators, especially those associated with multi-part questlines such as factions, can be found.
Both settlements and non-player characters have two fundamental determinant variables (subject to further variation and granularity at later stages in the production process). First, each is assigned a faction-trope1 which gives it a sense of identity separate from other components of the game. Second, each character is assigned a type, determining how they interact with the player, and each settlement is assigned a tier, determined by how many characters, and of which type, that settlement contains.
Settlements each are associated with a certain faction-trope which determines their architecture and urban design of the settlement space. Characters, similarly, are associated with faction-tropes which give them a basis for their background and identity. These are the major faction-tropes, some of which are further subdivided, in the game:
1. The Five Houses: Dark Elves (and, in some cases, other characters) may be associated with the five Great Houses of Morrowind. The houses are advanced, elaborate clan networks, and each acts as local government in a different portion of Morrowind.
Dres: Of southeastern Morrowind, the Dres are traditionalists and slavers.
Hlaalu: Of southwestern Morrowind, the Hlaalu are untrustworthy, avaricious merchants.
Indoril: Of central Morrowind, the Indoril are extremely pious and value law & order.
Redoran: Of northwestern Morrowind, the Redoran are warriors with a strong sense of honor and kinship.
Telvanni: Of northeastern Morrowind, the Telvanni are iconoclastic wizards who value absolute autonomy and the will to power.
2. Velothi (Non-House Dark Elves): Many Dark Elves are not associated with the great houses. The bulk of these are the poor underclass: day laborers, subsistence farmers and fishers, so on. This underclass is referred to as the “Velothi.” There are also particular other major Dark Elf subgroups:
Temple Clergy: The priests of the Temple, which is the absolute authority in Morrowind, are officially unassociated with any great house. They have particular characteristics.
Ashlanders: The Ashlanders are not associated with other Dark Elves, they are nomadic peoples who live on Morrowind's unpopulated fringes.
Kwoomriders: The Kwoomriders are a band of semi-nomadic warrior tribes living in the wastelands of Southern Morrowind, and they ride Sand Kwooms.
Tongs: The tongs are the various Dunmer guilds that operate outside Great House jurisdiction. They often practice a particular trade or skill.
3. Imperial Institutions: Morrowind is mildly integrated into the Empire of Tamriel, with certain reserve sovereignties held by the Temple and the Houses. Some settlements and characters represent the institutions of the Empire, which have been set up in Morrowind to a limited extent.
Imperial Legion: The legion has several forts throughout Morrowind and provide security in outlander settlements where they exist.
Imperial Cult: The Imperial Cult is a missionary in support of the Nine Divines. They have few followers and none of the power of the native Tribunal Temple.
Trade Institutions: The Empire maintains several institutions that regulate trade both within the Empire, and in Morrowind. The largest of these institutions is the East Empire Company, which deals primarily with Morrowind's mineral wealth. Smaller, independent charter companies also exist.
Settlers/Outlanders: Most non-natives in the province are outlander settlers who have come into Morrowind as a part of a recent policy of encouraging settlement in Morrowind by the Empire. Now, about 30% of the province's people are outlanders.
Imperial Guilds: The three imperial guilds – of Fighters, Mages, and Thieves – have a presence in Morrowind not only in settler cities but also in many Dunmer cities. While they primarily provide quests and resources to the player, guild membership can give some NPCs an identity and purpose.
The Different Races: Different races will tend to have similar backgrounds for how and why they are in Morrowind.
1 The use of the term faction-trope here is to differentiate these “factions” from the player-joinable factions; often these two concepts share an identity, but they are distinct from one another in their game function.
In order to create a sense of world scale, settlements are of different sizes. Some settlements have dozens of buildings in them, with over a hundred NPCs, and a wide variety of shops for the player to barter at. Some, on the other hand, have only a handful of interiors and a small trading post – if that. It is important that these settlements be divided across the map in a reasonable way. Certain areas of Morrowind are more densely populated than others (a vague population density map is attached as Attachment B).
Additionally, settlements need to be balanced across faction-tropes to ensure that factions are represented in an appropriate balance with one another. In order to account for this, settlements are assigned a tier which represents about how large they are:
Tier I: The largest settlements, predetermined, are the faction capitals and other uniquely important cities in Morrowind. These are Almalexia, Baan Malur, Narsis, Necrom, Old Ebonheart, Port Telvannis, Tear, & Vivec.
Tier II: These settlements have a large number of interiors (40+). They probably feature imperial guilds & they have a wide variety of traders and multiple beds to let. They will definitely be on a fast travel route. There are only a small number of Tier II settlements for each faction.
Tier III: These settlements are small, but will have more barter options than just a single trading post, they may have some sort of faction presence, they are likely to be on a fast travel route, and there is probably a bed to let in the city.
Tier IV: These are the smallest settlements that could still be called “towns.” They are only on fast travel routes if it is necessary to connect two more major settlements. They have only a trading post, if that, and usually no faction questgivers.
Tier V: These settlement-spaces are generally isolated and are specific to a particular faction. They are a special category reserved for Imperial forts, Indoril chapel-estates, and the clansteads of House Dres families.
Tier VI: These settlements are either extremely inconsequential shack villages or the private property of a single individual or group. They are accounted for only to keep track of them. They will have almost no barter options and they are not on fast travel networks. These are locations players are sent to from major settlements, not locations of real interest.
Since the province of Morrowind is so vast, it is important the player has ways to navigate the expansive worldspace. The primary methods of travel are the player moving on their own steam, or fast-travel. Both types of travel will be addressed below.
Player Travel & Roads
Player travel is the most common way for someone to traverse the worldspace, most often done by foot through roads. As mentioned in the Level Design section, pathfinding is a key component of world design and exploration, and helps the player navigate the world, guiding them to objectives and points of interest.
The major method of pathfinding and exploration is the strategic placement of paths that form Morrowind's road network. Roads are excellent for pathfinding, as they stand out as manufactured juxtaposed on the natural landscape. They are well-marked, were obviously placed for a reason (conceptually), and thus the player will assume they lead somewhere. There are various types of roads, of varying degrees of importance, and all have different purposes and characteristics that define them.
Main Roads: Main roads form the backbone of the road network, and are important travel routes within the province. They cross the entire province, and link (most of) the major towns and cities together. They should be wide, well-lit, signed, and use the specificed main road texture. It is generally assumed that as long as a player stays along these main arteries, they are generally safe. Main roads are the easiest and fastest way for a player to go from Point A to Point B on the map, with minimal distractions (though distractions should be visible from the main road at several points to tempt the player).
Side Roads: Side roads are often offshots that branch from the main roads. These often connect smaller settlements and important landmarks and places to the main road network. They are travelled, though less frequently than main roads. They should still be well-maintained, continuous, and use the specified dirtroad texture.
Footpaths: These aren't roads in a traditional sense, as they are generally unmarked and exist for the purpose of pathfinding. These paths often take the form of natural depressions or gorges in the landscape that lead to a particular destination, usually hostile. Examples of footpaths would be the rough guar trails of the West Gash that often lead to caves, tombs, and ruins, or the foyadas that crisscross Red Mountain, that act as a way for the player to traverse the interior regions of Vvardenfell.
In addition to road travel, it is also possible for the player to fly or levitate over landscape obstacles, drastically opening up possibiltiies for player exploration. That being said, this often does not usually happen until the player has reached a more advanced level, as most levitation spells are of fixed duration, and are not designed as a means of sustained travel and exploration (with the obvious exceptions of artifacts and players exploiting game mechanics). Obstacles such as tall hills and mountains exist to encourage players to follow general pathways that lead them to particular destinations.
Another alternative to foot travel is the option to use fast-travel methods to get between Point A and Point B quickly, often at the expense of time and player resources. Unlike fast travel in later installments of the Elder Scrolls, TESIII's fast travel network is fixed, and planned. The player may not arbitraily jump between places, and fast travel is limited mostly between established settlements. The cost of fast travel in the early game is also an early impediment that prevents the player from abusing the option early-on, forcing them to discover and explore areas prior to using fast travel (again with exceptions). Like the road network, the implementation of fast travel routes should be based on conceptual justifications, as well as technical ones. In Morrowind, there are many different ways to travel, based on numerous factors such as regional geography, faction identity, and trade routes.
Silt Striders: Silt Striders are giant insectoids with long legs. They are a common method of travel, and are generally suited for overland transport in lowland areas. Their tall legs make it awkward for them to traverse hilly and mountainous landscapes, so the Strider network is limited to the flatlands of Central Morrowind, and the western lowlands of Vvardenfell.
Boats: Boats are another major method of transport in Morrowind, and are obviously suited for transport in coastal and insular waters and riverways. They are often used in trade, and as such, boat networks operate most around the major trade routes in the Thirr River and the Inner Sea. The treachearous meinhir field of the Azura's Coast makes them less prominent in the east however.
Riverstriders: River striders are another giant insectoid that glides over water. They were initially domesticated by the Telvanni for limited transport between their settlements and towers. They are small and agile, and well suited for the harsh, rocky coastlines of their district. They have also been introduced as a means of transport within the underground waterways under the Deshaan Plains.
Guild Guides: The Mages' guildhalls operate a limited network of magical relays that instantaneously transport the player between their guild chapters. Due to the magical nature of this transport, geographical considerations are not a major factor in their network. Instead, the guild guide networks are localized to chapters in a particular political district (Telvannis, Mournhold, Deshaan, etc.), and connected through a central hub in Vivec.
Skyrenders: Skyrenders are giant flying wasp-like insectoids that are indigenous to the Deshaan. They are wild, but have been tamed by some clans as a means of flying transport over the harsh salt flats below. They are a secondary localized travel network that connects some of the interior clansteads together, and to Almalexia and Narsis.
Hoomsleds: The Redoran and Nords of the Velothi Mountains have devised a way to traverse the passes and ridges in the northern fringes of their territories. A sled is attached to the Mountain Hoom, which have been domesticated, and are well suited as beasts of burden, and to the local climate. This network is limited to the northern settlements of the Velothis.
Palanquins: This is another localized transport, used by Indoril nobles to traverse the countrysides of their territory. Palanquins are mounted on a (yet to be conceptualized) anthropod that is native to the Indoril areas.
Propylons: The ancient Chimer constucted many fortresses along the byways of Resdayn's trade routes. These wayposts were often used as rest stops for the weary, nomadic Chimer. Proplyons offer a way of transport between these waystops, but can only be used to traverse to the two neighbouring strongholds. The travel network is roughly designed in concentric rings around the major waterways of Morrowind's past. One major ring exists along the historic Thirr River (which now forms the western Inner Sea). Another ring exists around the Deshaan-Andaram basin, which was once a huge lake. A third ring joins the other two rings in a rough circle around the ashflats surrounding Red Mountain. Propylons are a good way for the player to travel around Morrowind's interior areas, but require a special index to operate. As such, they are designed for use in the late-game. Some Dres clansteads have repurposed their old propylons, and these are connected to the network.
On top of those paid methods of fast travel, there are other methods of instantaneous travel the player can rely on. These are listed below:
Prison: When a player commits a crime, and is caught, they have an option to surrender and serve a prison sentence. This transports the player to the nearest location that has a prison marker. Due to the convoluted nature of justice in Morrowind, and conflicting Imperial and native justice systems, where the player is brought upon arrest will vary greatly. In Hlaalu and Redoran areas that have an Imperial presence, one is often brought to the nearest Legion fort to where the arrest was made. In more insular areas in the east, that have a minimal presence, the player will instead be taken to a dungeon that is administered by the local house, which may have their own unique methods of applying justice (we can and should get creative here).
Divine Intervention: Divine Intervention is a spell that is cast that will automatically transfer the player to the nearest Imperial shrine. While in the current iteration of Morrowind, this means an Imperial Cult Shrine, TR has the opportunity to get creative here. This spell, along with its native counterpart, is useful for players to extricate themselves from difficult situations, and get the player back to a relatively safe location.
Almsivi Intervention: Similar to Divine Intervention, Almsivi Intervention, once cast, will bring you to the nearest temple shrine. In the vanilla game, this was always a settlement. Once again, TR can get creative here. This spell, along with its Imperial counterpart, is useful for players to extricate themselves from difficult situations, and get the player back to a relatively safe location.
Mark & Recall: Another spell that allows for instantaneous travel. It differs from the previous spells in a sense that the player can define where they are teleported once the recall spell has been cast. A Mark spell is cast to achieve this, and only one marker may exist in the entire game at any given time. This is often used as a convenient way to return to a quest giver from a remote location, relatively quickly, saving time on the return journey.
Special Items: Another possibility when it comes to fast travel is fast travel that derives from the magical power of special items. These are rare, and often offer travel to a fixed point that has a relationship to that item. Examples of this wouild be Barilzar's Mazed Band, or vampire amulets.
VI. Characters & NPCs
NPC Design Approach
One of the most instrumental aspects of telling a story is the characters that inhabit the world we are making. Their mannerisms, stories and perspectives influence those of the player, and factor into the decisions they make. In a diverse world such as Morrowind, many different views and perspectives exist, and the characters must reflect that diversity appropriately. NPCs must not be seen as tools that dispense information and quests for the player, but as living, breathing entities in a believable world. Similarly, it is also easy to break that immersion and believability if every NPC is given too much exposition through dialogue. A careful balance must be struck. One can say so much, without saying anything at all.
As such, Tamriel Rebuilt will build upon the design approach taken in the vanilla game, which is to flesh out and write the most important characters, while keeping generic characters more generic. However, we will improve the characterization of characters in the vanilla game, through compelling dialogue that makes these characters memorable and iconic, rather than being forgettable paper cutouts.
The characterization of characters encountered in the game will be coloured by multiple facets, ranging from the faction-trope a character is assigned, the type of NPC/role they play in the story, and factors such as their race or disposition towards the player. This in turn will affect their class, mannerisms, and determine what they have to offer to the player. These factors, and their defining characteristics are outlined in greater detail in the sections below. However, it is also important to understand not all NPCs should be rolecast or typecast into these general tropes. In fact, most NPC characterization will be a mixture of these characteristics, and defy these tropes entirely.
In addition to having a faction-trope, each character is of a certain type, primarily determined by their class. Different proportions of different kinds of characters should exist in each settlement, determined mainly by the tier of the settlement, but possibly also to a certain extent by the character of its faction. These are the different character types for non-aggressive characters:
|Character Type||Character Classes||Description|
|Generic||Commoner, Farmer, Herder, Hunter, Miner, Noble, Pauper, Slave||These characters provide no special interaction with the player unless they are a part of a quest. They are the majority of characters in the game.|
|Guard||Guard, Ordinator||These characters enforce the law, restricting the player's ability to steal or attack non-aggressive characters. They typically are not unique.|
|Traders & Trainers||Alchemist, Apothecary, Bookseller, Clothier, Drillmaster, Enchanter, Merchant, Pawnbroker, Priest, Smith, Trader, Wise Woman||These characters will barter with the player or train them in a skill for money, or provide another service such as potion making or enchanting.|
|Publican||Publican||These characters offer the player a bed to let.|
|Fast Travel||Caravaner, Gondolier, Guild Guide, Shipmaster||These characters will offer the player fast travel services to other settlement locations in the game.|
|Savant||Savant||These characters have an exceptional variety of dialog topics and can give the player game- relevant or background information. Though all characters provide the player some amount of information, savants are the players' go-to encyclopedia characters.|
|Scout||Scout||Scouts, like savants, give the player additional information about the gameworld. Specifically, they give the player directions to other locations and descriptions of nearby areas to help them navigate the game.|
In addition to faction tropes and character types, another factor that may define a character's personality and mannerisms is their race, and where they come from. It is also to be noted that each race (outlanders in particular) have various roles in Morrowind and reasons they are there. They can often (but not always) be categorized into particular race tropes. A rough outline can be found below, but should not be a base in which characters are written on, as Characters will almost always not always fit into these tropes fully.
Argonians: Argonians in Morrowind are most often found as slaves. The native Dunmer see them as property, rather than sentient beings, and there is no love lost. They can be found all across Morrowind, wherever slaves are owned and used. A higher concentration of them exists in the Deshaan, where the Dres use them to till the salt in putrid conditions. Sparse bands of indigenous, free Argonians still roam the southern border regions with Argonia. Free Argonians can also be found in Imperial settlements where they are protected by the Empire's laws, particularly in Old Ebonheart, where a small diaspora exists. Free Argonians often occupy a variety of roles, ranging from mages, scholars, officials, and thieves. They are particulary adept at the latter.
VII. Quests as Narrative Events
Quests are a way of giving the player something to do without the player having to come up with it themselves. This is very valuable to the gameplay experience of the player. Not only does it avoid them having a problem of too many choices, it also directs them toward tasks which are consistent with their current level. As sets of events which occur sequentially, quests are also a key way of engaging with the player in a narrative sense & building the story of their game experience. This section will focus on the ways that quests contribute to the game's narrative.
Structural Role of Quests in the Game Narrative
Quests can perform a variety of functions which produce the manner in which the narrative of the game builds. This is notwithstanding the thematic or narrative elements internal to the quest. The ways in which quests can create a narrative can be broken into five broad categories:
Exploring the World: Some of the most unnoticeable narrative developments to the player are those that come from the quests' having them explore the world. They give the player direction in how to travel across and view the worldspace itself, allowing the game to build its narrative without even communicating with the player through language. A good example of this is the “Report to Caius Cosades” quest at the beginning of the original Morrowind. The path between Seyda Neen & Balmora is designed such that the player passes through key locations – the Imperial settlement of Pelegiad, the ashen desolation of Foyoda Mamaea – which develop key concepts in the way that Morrowind is intended to be perceived.
Background Exposition: Incidental encounters with the gameworld aren't enough to give the players knowledge of the rich background lore that the game is built on. Quests can also be a good way of giving this knowledge to the player in a more engaging and in depth manner than just having it exist in the gameworld or described in in-game books that most players will not read. The “Antabolis Informant” & “Gra-Muzgob Informant” quests do this, providing background information on a lot of the lore: they give information about the Nerevarine & the Sixth House which is relevant to the quest, but they also give a good deal of background on the Dwemer and on Dunmer burial practices, being the primary way that players learn about these things.
Storytelling: Probably the most obvious way that quests build a sense of narrative is by containing their own stories. All quests tell a story to some extent, but some have a stronger narrative than others. While some quest might tell a very basic story that resolves quickly, others might be more complicated, nuanced, or epic. The thematic elements and tropes in these stories also vary considerably. An example is not included here because this is a very straightforward thing for a quest to do.
Identity Construction: Through choices provided by quests, players have the ability to construct a particular identity for their character. At the simplest level, this could be a choice of which quests to do – is the character faithful to the Temple or Imperial Cult or one of the Daedra? Which great house does the player support? Is the player a member of the Legion? The Morag Tong? However, this can also be constructed through the inclusion of choices within quests – which side of the faction does the player support? Does the player do the thing which is more honorable but less profitable? The Bloodmoon Main Quest provided a certain degree of this by allowing the player to become a Werewolf or to fight them, but this is something we can improve on over the original game.
Player-Influenced Events: The players' choices may not only provide a way to construct an identity for their character, but may also have consequences for the gameworld as a whole. In the original game the player's ability to change things was limited – either it was on a single track (such as the main quest, which had somewhat substantial consequences), or it was limited in scope – such as the House strongholds or the construction of Raven Rock. Allowing the player to shape the narrative and world is empowering and much more impactful than presenting it to them without a sense of interaction for the player.
Thematic Role of Quests in the Game Narrative
The narrative devices, plot types, and tropes that a quest could contain are so vast as to encompass the majority of literary possibility, so we will not attempt to systematically discuss them here. All we would add is that quests, as actual narrative events, are one of the most straightforward ways to introduce the games' themes to the player. Not all quests need to be “on theme,” the themes discussed in Section II are not universal to all events in the game, nor are they strictly binding on what can and cannot happen, but by introducing certain narrative consistencies into the game – especially those that operate at a level below the surface – we can make a game that is about something even though the player has complete freedom in how they interact with it. Certain parallels should be put into certain quest lines – for example, the fact that 4 of the 5 heads of houses are not actively involved in the management of their house for one reason or another.
Balancing The Roles of Quests in the Game Narrative
The different quests need to be monitored to ensure that their structural and thematic elements balance well against each other. It would be problematic if in the final content, all of the quests which gave lore were quests about a certain subject, or if all the quests by which the player could change the world were quests that would only appeal to a certain kind of player (or a certain character identity the player could want to construct). It would be similarly problematic if a certain area was full of scorned lovers, another full of cheated business partners, another full of gentlemen bandits.
At this stage of implementation, no particular structure or sorting of quests by these elements is suggested. Instead, TR must monitor these elements in each quest line, and modify them as necessary to ensure a good game balance. Each quest should be tagged with which of the narrative structures play most prominently in it, and a brief summary of the narrative devices it employs. At more advanced stages of implementation, it may also be appropriate to develop some schematic or structure for at least a sub-section of the quests in the game outlining which will play which roles.