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"The best techniques are passed down by the survivors."
The first video game in The Elder Scrolls series, released for DOS in 1994. Originally, it was going to be an Action Game with RPG Elements, about gladiatorial combat. However, as development went on, the RPG elements grew more and more, until the arenas themselves were cut out altogether (they are still mentioned in some Dummied Out narration, though.)
The player takes on the role of a member of the Imperial Court of Tamriel. In the opening Cutscene The Emperor is trapped in another dimension by his most trusted courtier, the battlemage Jagar Tharn. The evil Tharn then uses magic to disguise himself as the emperor and take his place.
However, he is noticed by both the player character and the lesser sorceress Ria Silmane. Silmane threatens to reveal Tharn's new identity, so Tharn kills her and throws the player into the Imperial dungeons.
However, Silmane appears to the player in his/her dreams, and guides him/her to reassemble the Staff of Chaos, a weapon capable of defeating Tharn and rescuing the emperor, but which Tharn has broken into eight pieces and scattered across the Empire.
That's right, there are no arenas in this game. At all. However, as if to make up for that, this game is huge. There really is an entire life-sized continent (4000x3000 square miles — three times larger than Europe!) to wander around in, with hundreds of settlements and thousands of NPCs.
- Alien Sky
- All Myths Are True
- Alternative Calendar — A very elaborate one, complete with holidays and whatnot.
- Exclusively Evil — Many creatures.
- Subverted by the daedra, who are always chaotic, but only evil when it suits them.
- Artifact Title — The game was originally meant to be about raising a team of gladiators. The basis changed dramatically, but the title was kept, and retconned as a nickname for Tamriel. It's a pretty accurate nickname, though.
- Big Bad — Jagar Tharn.
- Conspiracy Theorist — Randomly-generated NPCs will sometimes describe conspiracy theories they have about their randomly-generated feudal masters, which tend to be rather humorous.
- Crutch Character — Bards level up very quickly and have a wide variety of abilities. Unfortunately raw levels don't mean much and the increased level up speed isn't even that much at higher levels.
- Dismantled MacGuffin — The Staff of Chaos.
- Dungeon Bypass: The Passwall spell allows you to destroy dungeon walls.
- Early Installment Weirdness: A lot of the series lore hadn't quite gelled yet, leading to an Elder Scrolls game with completely human-looking Khajit, blue-skinned Tolkien Orcs no mention of the word "Daedra" whatsoever, and a Cosmic Keystone artifact that has never been seen again.
- Later games would partially smooth over the weirdness, with the humanoid Khajit explained as a subspecies known as the Ohmes-Raht (the majority are Suthay-Raht which are seen from TES III onward), the Orcs they pretended were always depicted as green in later games, and the Daedra were given more detail from Daggerfall onward.
- Escort Mission
- Evil Sorcerer — Jagar Tharn, plus some of his Mooks, plus a few more in the Backstory.
- Fantastic Racism — Rather egregious. You'll often have ethnic insults hurled at you by members of your own race.
- Fetch Quest — Loads and loads of them, most of which are thankfully optional.
- Fictional Document — The titular scrolls.
- Freeware Games — It is one now, anyway. Bethesda Softworks is letting anyone download it for free on their website as of 2004.
- Game Breaking Bug — Unarmed combat tends to crash the game.
- Goddamn Bats — Goblins.
- Heroic Fantasy
- Joke Character — Unintentionally Mage is strictly worse than Healer except for their (slightly) faster level up process. Every single ability of a Healer is better than a Mage thanks to an error giving a Healer a spell point pool twice their intelligence (the manual indicates this should have been 1.75), a benefit that was intended to be unique to a Mage. Healers have better health, armor and weapon options than Mages.
- Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards
- Minus World — Entering loading doors from the back with the passwall spell sends you to one. You shouldn't save here as it's impossible to get out. A less bad version occurs if you destroy a floor tile then create a wall over it, creating a new dungeon.
- Never Trust a Title — This game has no arenas in it. Also, the Elder Scrolls themselves are a very minor plot element.
- "Arena" actually refers to the world of Nirn itself: the entire world is an arena of conflict.
- Our Elves Are Different — Really, there isn't much difference between humans and elves at all.
- Our Goblins Are Wickeder — Our Goblins are Goddamn Bats. Kept remarkably consistent with later games, though their threat level raised and dipped per incarnation.
- Our Orcs Are Different — Our Orcs are dressed like players of American football. Notably, they're a generic enemy and not a playable race as they are in the post-Daggerfall games.
- Plot Coupon — The pieces of the Staff of Chaos.
- Randomly Generated Levels — And how!
- Red Eyes, Take Warning — Tharn has red eyes, for no readily-explained reason other than that he's evil!! Later games in the series would explain that he is part Dark Elf.
- Also Orcs and Dark Elves (though the latter are not bad guys in this setting.)
- Ruins for Ruins Sake
- Rule of Cool — The title "The Elder Scrolls" itself. One of the developers came up with the name just because he thought it sounded cool--and then it was decided what the actual Elder Scrolls should be.
- Actually, that's how they named everything. Or should that be "thinged everyname"?
- Scenery Porn — It looks rather crude by today's standards, but back in 1994, it was clear why the name Tamriel means "Dawn's Beauty" in Elvish.
- The Emperor — A benevolent one! Of course, he's not around for most of the game. Most of Tamriel's other emperors have played the trope more straight by necessity, due to the Deadly Decadent Court.
- Treacherous Advisor — Jagar Tharn.
- What Happened to the Mouse? — Or rather, what happened to the Staff of God-Damned Chaos? Arena sets it up to be the Cosmic Keystone of Tamriel... and the sequels never mention it again.
- Same with General Warhaft, the Emperor's chief military adviser. Between TES1 and TES4 the only mention made of him is that he's written two really boring books. That is, aside from one of them containing a dry humored account of a general killing a heckler over something really silly.
- Apparently, the Staff of Chaos was kept hidden somewhere in White Gold Tower (that huge tower in the middle of Imperial City in Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion).
- Wide Open Sandbox — A wide, wide, wide open sandbox.