Author Topic: C0DA - The Elder Scrolls Series  (Read 1675 times)

Pæs

  • James Bond-defying Shit-Volcano Trigger Device of the Next Armageddon.
  • Deserved It
  • ****
  • Posts: 38503
  • I ain't even mad.
    • View Profile
C0DA - The Elder Scrolls Series
« on: March 30, 2014, 10:29:33 pm »
So having played through the Elder Scrolls series a number of times, and most recently as a scholar interested in amassing all of the game's books and artifacts and reading all of the texts, I've just started to take a look at various communities discussing Elder Scrolls lore.

It looks like these communities are working at digesting something big and fairly new, which is a (presumably unofficial, or at least contested) text (or draft for a comic) released by Michael Kirkbride, one of the writers, called C0DA. In this text, as far as I can tell so far, the dude basically expands on some of the fairly crazy cosmology and metaphysics written for the series, as well as establishing that The Elder Scrolls series is roughly a multiverse, in which every possible thing is happening at once, or similar.

This seems to be an effort to end the "OMG YOUR STORY IS NOT BASED ON CANON" arguments, because those are stupid, so the dude has put together a piece of sci-fi writing about the previously seemingly sword/magic setting, to say that 'all statements about the Elder Scrolls setting are true and the elaboration on this setting is now an open source piece of storytelling'.

It's an interesting project which I don't at all understand yet. Here's a sample of the madness, a conversation between the various gods and demons interacted with during the game series.

Quote
PAGES 24-25
DOUBLE PAGE SPLASH: Low angle looking up, as the five members of the Pseudo-6th-House (VIVEC, ALMALEXIA, SOTHA SIL, MOLAG BAL, and the UR) and Alandro Sul descend in a stable freefall through a monstrous white-hot interdimensional "tunnel" made out of liquid video.

The walls of this tunnel look like waterfalls of elongated, gelatinous television screens, alien news channels, monster-filled sitcoms, and mercurial infomercials all stretching past at terminal velocity.

Alandro looks quite terrified. He's being held stable by his best pal, Vivec.

Most of the super-people all look like they are having fun: Vivec is grinning, the Ur and Molag Bal are cracking jokes. Sotha Sil and Almalexia look stalwart and determined, but otherwise remain unshaken as they fall. This kind of stuff is completely normal to them.

SOTHA SIL: Everyone remember your pop-up blockers! Have your info-virals protex engaged! Lock and load! Almalexia will help us maintain physical and mental coherency!

ALMALEXIA: We're freefalling in pure television foam, team! Ten seconds until the LZ and don't waste one of them looking around or you risk pleasure-center infection!

ALANDRO SUL: HEY, V! IS IT TOO LATE TO CHANGE MY MIND?!?

VIVEC: YOU'RE ABOUT TO DOCUMENT THE PSEUDO-6TH-HOUSE PREVENTING EARTH'S INVASION BY THE INTELLECTIVE'S OWN VIDEOVERSE! TOUGHEN UP!

(beat)

HOW'S THE LZ, SIL?

ALANDRO SUL: THE INTELLECTIVE?!?

SOTHA SIL: ALMALEXIA AND I ARE STABILIZING A POCKET REAL, BROTHER! WE'LL HIT EARTH-TYPE GROUND! WE'RE ALSO WORKING ON GETTING THAT TINGLE OUT OF EVERYONE'S HEAD VIA OUR HYPER-AMYGDALAS!

MOLAG BAL: DAGOTH UR, QUIT STARING INTO THE SALES FOAM!

THE UR: BUT EVERYTHING'S ONLY $19.95!

MOLAG BAL: HEH.

THE UR: "MY GOD, IT'S FULL OF COMMERCIALS!"

MOLAG BAL: HA HA.

Pæs

  • James Bond-defying Shit-Volcano Trigger Device of the Next Armageddon.
  • Deserved It
  • ****
  • Posts: 38503
  • I ain't even mad.
    • View Profile
Re: C0DA - The Elder Scrolls Series
« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2014, 10:30:30 pm »
Also, some of this is set in Tomorrowind, which is the best name for a future Elder Scrolls setting ever.

Cain

  • Alea iacta est
  • Chekha
  • Deserved It
  • ****
  • Posts: 105000
    • View Profile
Re: C0DA - The Elder Scrolls Series
« Reply #2 on: March 31, 2014, 08:30:59 am »
Any attempt to understand the Elder Scrolls cosmology can only end in a kind of Lovecraftian madness.  Only with naughty daedra tentacles instead of Cthulhu, and Uncle Sheo instead of Nylarathotep.

Seriously though, read The Metaphysics of Morrowind.

http://fallingawkwardly.wordpress.com/2010/08/29/the-metaphysics-of-morrowind-part-1/
http://fallingawkwardly.wordpress.com/2010/09/02/the-metaphysics-of-morrowind-part-2/
http://fallingawkwardly.wordpress.com/2010/10/25/the-metaphysics-of-morrowind-part-3/

Quote
I’m not sure what made me decide, long after I had last seriously played Morrowind, to reread the 36 Lessons from beginning to end, but read them I did. At first it was purely for enjoyment, but then a line caught my eye:

    “The ruling king is armored head to toe in brilliant flame. He is redeemed by each act he undertakes. His death is only a diagram back to the waking world.” – 36 Lessons, Sermon 11 [emphasis mine]

“Heh”, I thought to myself, “that almost sounds like a player character, whose death in the game causes their player to be jolted out of the game and back to the real world.” A little further on, I found:

    “The immobile warrior is never fatigued. He cuts sleep holes in the middle of a battle to regain his strength.” - 36 Lessons,  Sermon 23

“I do that too,” I smirked, “it’s called taking health potions in the inventory screen while the game is paused.” The 36 Lessons contain quite a few tongue-in-cheek references to the digital nature of the world – one even refers to a bizarre graphical artifact in TESA: Redguard – so I didn’t think too deeply about it at first. After a while, however, references began to mount to this “ruling king”, and I started to read a little more closely. Here is a passage about how Vivec became a “ruling king of the world”:

    “Then an Old Bone of the earth rose up before the simulacrum of the netchiman’s wife and said, ‘If you are to be born a ruling king of the world you must confuse it with new words. Set me into pondering.’

    ‘Very well,’ Vivec said, ‘Let me talk to you of the world, which I share with mystery and love. Who is her capital? Have you taken the scenic route of her cameo? I have– lightly, in secret, missing candles because they’re on the untrue side, and run my hand along the edge of a shadow made from one hundred and three divisions of warmth, and left no proof.’

    At this the Old Bone folded unto itself twenty times until it became akin to milk, which Vivec drank, becoming a ruling king of the world.” - 36 Lessons, Sermon 4

OK. So Vivec is one of these “ruling kings”. But what does that mean, exactly? I found a clue in  Sermon 12: “‘CHIM,’ … is the secret syllable of royalty”. This led to a few things starting to fall into place in my head, and here’s where I insert the disclaimer that my interpretations may be totally wrongheaded, in which case I hope someone will correct me. It’s also where things start getting brain-melting, especially to those not completely au fait with the deeper workings of ES lore (i.e. almost everyone, including me), so I hope I can keep this at least vaguely intelligible. Here goes…

Ones and Zeroes.

    “CHIM. Those who know it can reshape the land. Witness the home of the Red King Once Jungled.”2 – The Mythic Dawn Commentaries

Quote
At this point, you are perhaps wondering why I am going off on mystical tangents, since I promised to talk about metagaming and the fourth wall. But you see, this is the ultimate metagame reference, and what it does to the fourth wall, I’m not even sure how to describe.

CHIM can be interpreted as Vivec’s awareness that he is a fictional character, existing within the mind of an author3. It is both true and false to say that Vivec “knows he is in a video game”. On the one hand, the fourth wall appears to remain intact, in that his knowledge is clothed in the language and symbols of TES. And yet he is a meta-NPC, aware of his existence as a product of the creative mind, and commenting on it in a unique way.

Quote
    “Vivec put on his armor and stepped into a non-spatial space filling to capacity with mortal interaction and information, a canvas-less cartography of every single mind it has ever known, an event that had developed some semblance of a divine spark.” – 36 Lessons, Sermon 19

This “space which is not a space”, also called “The Provisional House” is used by Vivec to locate things, and apparently to delete people, or “erase [them] from the thought realm of God” as he puts it. If, like me, you have ever modded for Morrowind, you will recognise this “thought-realm of God”, having spent countless hours there. It’s the Construction Set.

And this is just brilliant:

Quote
Vivec killed Nerevar as a plot device, to allow the player to play as the Nerevarine. This is as close to an “ultimate” truth as we’re going to get, and to believe otherwise would be the delusion. And Vivec, in his way, understands this.

    “You alone, though you come again and again, can unmake him [Dagoth Ur -K]. Whether I allow it is within my wisdom. Go unarmed into his den with these words of power: AE GHARTOK PADHOME [CHIM] AE ALTADOON. Or do not. The temporal myth is man. Reach heaven by violence. This magic I give to you: the world you will rule is only an intermittent hope and you must be the letter written in uncertainty.” – 36 Lessons, Sermon 15

To win the game, then, the player needs to emulate Vivec, the “letter written in uncertainty”, and kill things. Reach heaven by violence. Morrowind is a game where the combat mechanic is a central one, so this will perhaps come as no great revelation to the player. From early on in the game, Dagoth Ur is presented as the enemy, the Big Bad who must be defeated to save the world. So, the player just needs to keep murdering things until they are powerful enough to slay Dagoth Ur… but hang on. That’s not what Vivec actually said, is it?
   
“The ruling king will remove me, his maker. This is the way of all children.” - 36 Lessons, Sermon 15

Vivec states clearly: “If there is to be an end I must be removed. The ruling king must know this, and I will test him. I will murder him time and again until he knows this.” The moral of Nerevar’s murder is one of retaliation. The 36 Lessons are not teaching the player that they should kill Dagoth Ur – the player knows this already. They are saying that the player should kill Vivec. This was the part that floored me. All those bloodthirsty Vivec-killing players I sneered at had apparently stumbled their way into doing his bidding!

I couldn’t figure it out, at first. True, the death of his ingame avatar would not be a huge deal to Vehk, but why? Then I remembered about the “back path”. This is an alternate way to complete the main quest, and requires killing Vivec to obtain the magical artifact Wraithguard long before the player would normally get it. Although it’s no easy task, it allows the player to skip large sections of the standard main quest, and is therefore much faster, if the player is powerful enough to succeed.

I mean, seriously.  Michael Kirkbride thought in circles so twisty he probably had to unknot himself just to come into work each day.  And he's only responsible for part of the lore.