The Hist "Red Moment"

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Kevaar's picture
Developer EmeritusQuest Developer
2016-01-19 19:35
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1 week 4 days ago

This thought came to me after reading an old interview by Douglas Goodall on how the main quest of Morrowind was written. The gist was that, for the Red Moment, vanilla's devs had written up several different interpretations, and then never reconciled or even declared which one was the truth. All the interpretations then made it into the game, with different factions believing different stories. This served the purpose of the player being able to choose the truth, as well as lore fans theorizing that the Battle under Red Mountain was a Dragonbreak.

I'm thinking we could use this same tactic for TR's Hist-Dres problem, with some tweaking. It would be a nice little nod to the themes of TES3, but also helps us solve the problem of how to better define this in the Dres faction storyline.

See, we've got several pet theories running around for why Hist and Dres would want to ally. Among the ones I've heard (and sometimes they are combinations of these, or variations, so excuse any misrepresenting as this is more to make a point than flesh out each interpretation currently)...

--the Hist is implanting sleeper cells within the Dres ranks which will eventually culminate in an invasion
--the Hist send out Argonians to observe the world as passive scientists and scholars
--the Hist care little for the Argonians and they use both them and Dunmer in experiments to create new lifeforms
--the Hist barely even realize what they're doing, and the Dres councillors have just assumed they have gotten the go-ahead to take slaves
--the Dres councillors made their deals with rogue Argonian tribes due to the all-around vice of greed, and the Hist weren't truly involved
--the Hist tasked the Dres wise women of old with helping them to regulate their soul matter run-off, and the Dres wise women are thus actually Argonians (the religious soul-sharing kind, not the lizard race)
--the Hist have wars between themselves, and the Dres allied with one (faction) of them
--the Hist, being aliens, have completely incomprehensible motives and there's no point trying to figure it out

Instead of trying to narrow it down to just one or two of these, what if we did what vanilla's devs did, and write plausible legends for each one for use in TR? Perhaps each Dres councillor has a different story to tell to the player towards the end of the Dres questline, plus a few Argonian shaman sorts (are we going to use the Tree-Tender lore?) for players who are not part of House Dres. The differences in the accounts could be chalked up to madness/amnesia on part of the councillors, and the difficulty of deciphering spiritual mumbo-jumbo by the Argonian shamans.

Or, if we wanted to get even weirder, we might try delving into Dragonbreak territory. The Hist are apart from the world and not necessarily governed by the Earthbones laws. A few possibilities here...

[1] The Hist-Dres alliance happened inside a Dragonbreak. Maybe this was part of the Red Moment (I believe the Warp in the West is too recent?), or we could follow fan theory and put in a Dragonbreak right during ESO times. The latter would allow us to draw on the notion of the ESO Ebonheart Pact and the Argonian/Dunmer alliance there.

[2] The Hist are only incompletely affected by Dragonbreaks. Being outside of time, for them the effects of a Dragonbreak go on forever instead of just during that particular moment on Nirn. What this means in more meta terms is that, for the Hist, the retcons between games never happened. The inconsistencies between TES1, TES2, TES3, Redguard, Battlespire, TES4, TES5, ESO, ES:L etc etc do not exist for them. Therefore, all the above accounts of the Dres-Hist alliance are also true. The Hist do nothing because they are essentially paralyzed--they can't both attack their loyal allies and take revenge against the Dres, etc.

[3] The Hist are drawn to the Towers, but any time they get too close to them, their reality clashes with Nirn's and has fits that may mimic the effect of a Dragonbreak and other timey-wimey weirdness. (A similar effect to when a mortal drinks Hist Sap, perhaps?) This could serve as another reason for the Hist to ally with the Dres: the Dres maintain a buffer, as well as allow small bits of Hist (in the form of Argonians) to come closer to the Tower to cultivate an immunity/innoculation over time.


Atrayonis's picture
Developer EmeritusInterior DeveloperQuest Developer
2015-09-28 20:13
Last seen:
4 months 3 weeks ago

As the one who wrote the Middle Dawn contact hypothesis, I'm going to throw my hat in the ring for it.

I've read throught the whole thread now and I'm still scratching my head a bit.
As before on Discord, I don't think this is something that needs to be overthought. The whole Hist-Dres deal is something that nobody alive (or undead) in the know wants to talk about, so having conflicting accounts doesn't hinge on having a dragon break in the sleeve. Merely saying that it happened and that everybody can write their own thing should be fine.

The interpretations in your bullet lists are certainly fine and can be used, but as they would be limited to one councillor each (as few other Dres should be aware of it), it would be best to lay down who knows about the Hist-Dres deal in teh first place. The crazy conspiracy theories can stay firmly with the Matriarches, as they are old and half-insane by now anyway, so imagining a Hist civil war sounds right up their alley.

As for timing:
[1] The Thre Banner War is right out imo, for the usual reason: ESO should not be acknowledged openly, or you open the door to too much nonsense, recently even retconning the whole setup of the Aurbis. We didn't write the lore guideline to chuck it out because the Cosmic TES discpiles adore their Hist waifus.
As said, I'm still firmly convinced that the Middle Dawn is the best era to place this: there was a really long Dragon Break with far-reaching consequences (Alduin cultists ended the world, the Sload were enraged enough to create the Thrassian Plague), so why not have the deal here?
[2] We don't acknowledge the changes between the TES games anyway, so what would be the appeal of the Hist ignoring nonexistant changes?
[3] Is really weird, but I have no opinion about it.

Gnomey's picture
ModeratorSenior DeveloperAsset DeveloperWriterExterior DeveloperInterior Developer
2015-08-10 20:50
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1 day 14 hours ago

As a side note, I'd be very careful in portraying insanity for the Matriarchs, as they are still actively leading the house and I don't want them to be Almalexia 2.0s. Certainly (while I don't think anyone suggested it), I'd avoid the axe-crazy route for perhaps a more wise woman-y dreamlike state.
My personal image of the Hist is that they are effectively able to project (not necessarily consciously) a mind-warping effect over long distances, and wise women would be especially susceptible to such mental threats. Perhaps to a degree, rather than directly losing their sanity, Matriarchs are so focused on maintaining the strength of their minds that they are not always able to interact with physical phenomena, such as the PC paying a visit.

As for the general idea, the number of people who know anything about the deal is indeed limited. There are the Matriarchs who were there, and the would be the main source of information, the proverbial horse's mouth. They could outright lie to the player, of course, (if we want to do that), depending on the Matriarch and the point in the questline, and perhaps they have failing memory, some form of insanity or have trouble discerning between dream-impressions and reality -- perhaps the Dragon Breaks over the years have even shifted the reality so that they themselves are no longer sure what's the truth -- but ultimately they not only direct witnessed, but made the deals themselves and lived their whole lives around the fallout of those deals. One would think they'd have a pretty clear idea about what the deals were, or they would no be able to keep them and the story would become rather silly. This is different from the Red Moment which was, ultimately, a point in the past, that triggered future developments but was itself a 'moment'; the Dres deals are ongoing.
The Matriarchs can only guess at the motivation of the Hist, and the player will not be able to interact with the Hist themselves, at least not in TR. If we add some form of Hist homunculus/agent they would come closest to representatives of the Hist, but I never conceptualized them as actually taking orders from the Hist or anything remotely close to that; same as the Dunmer view of the Hist, the 'agent's are harmful merely for existing, and their 'infiltration' is bringing something fundamentally non-Dunmer into Dunmer society without being noticed. If we implement them in any way, I do not thing they would know the motives of the Hist, if they exist, much less tell the player about them. Nobody would. The Argonians are mostly clueless pawns in all this and could only speculate, and the non-Matriarch Dres are pretty much in the same position, with only very few starting to suspect something's up as a result of their experiences in the Arnesian War.

So basically, you have a relatively small number of people who even suspect that anything is up, and the furthest they would probably get is discovering that the deals exist and what the requirements of the deal are; how or when the deals were made would be relatively unimportant to them and unknowable. And then you have the Matriarchs, who were directly resposible for the deals. While there is room for varying accounts, I don't think we can really give this the Red Moment treatment, and I personally wouldn't want to too blatantly because, pretty much by chance, our Dres narrative has picked up a lot of parallels to the Morrowind main story which I want to try and underplay, rather than emphasize.
I think the Hlaalu secret is probably a better fit for the approach, as the actual events (aside from the initial Hlaalu plan) are well known, and you can act with a lot of involved parties, directly or indirectly. I think the ambiguity would also be far more advantageous there; did the Hlaalu really have noble goals, or are those themselves a pretence? Has everything gone according to plan, or are they adapting their plans, or have they lost control? Etc. Far more fundamental questions, and ones which TR folks are already taking different positions on, which I'm certain will carry over to people playing the questline.