When Bethesda released the first The Elder Scrolls game in 1994, TES: Arena introduced a game-changer in the RPG landscape. At the time, this MS-DOS game served as the closest fans got to an actual open-world RPG. Whereas most players had to achieve this goal with text-based games or a long session of Dungeons & Dragons, TES: Arena provided almost the same experience to players.
The Elder Scrolls has now expanded into quite the huge universe – with its own settings, lore, and even The Elder Scrolls Online to boot. Which might lead some fans to ask: why is this not a D&D campaign setting yet? After all, the realm of Tamriel should have enough history, interesting locations, and expansive factions to merit quite an interesting campaign. What else could The Elder Scrolls offer as a potential D&D 5e campaign setting?
10 Grounded Ancestries, Cultures
Unlike the general setup of the Player’s Handbook, most D&D settings explain the relationship between ancestries in their respective worlds. Unfortunately, most of them fall under certain stereotypes: boring humans, fancy elves, forest elves, grumpy dwarves, funny halflings, and a dragon here & there. Thankfully, Bethesda took the time and effort to flesh out the cultures & ancestries inside Tamriel. Dungeon Masters (DM) who want more dynamic characters may benefit greatly from a TES campaign setting.
In essence, it’s the Betmer (Beastfolk) such as the Khajiit and Argonians that originally resided in the continent of Tamriel. Moreover, the arrival of the Aldmer in Summerset Isle started the Merethic Era, which soon led to the creation of Elves (Mer). Centuries later, Nedes from Atmora in the north heralded the arrival of humans. Lastly, the Yokudans from the sunken country of Yokuda went to Hammerfell and became the Redguard.
9 Start With A Purpose
Hardcore TES fans love the franchise not just for its open world, but its in-game history. In fact, players can learn of many accounts of Tamriel’s history. This factor is thanks to hundreds of in-game books and hundreds of NPCs’ worth of dialogue. Anyone interested in TES lore can catch up on the larger historical narrative that drove the plot of each game.
Gone are the days of the random tavern, as parties can use adventures to iron out their favorite moments in Tamriel’s history. Thanks to the apparent lack of literature on the matter, DMs and players can have entirely different interpretations of the world’s events. Likewise, a gaming party can feel like they’re contributing to Tamriel’s story.
8 Vast, Pre-Built World
Bethesda took the time to design their in-game regions. Settings have their own history, factions, and share of political & socio-cultural elements. In the context of a D&D adventure, a TES campaign can provide detailed pre-made environments players and DMs can piggyback their stories on, including fleshed-out NPCs.
7 Explore Unknown Destinations
Contrary to what other players think, Tamriel in TES serves as one of many continents in the in-game world of Nirn. The franchise could theoretically explore any one of Nirn’s other continents, with players exploring Yokuda and Aldmeris prior to the cataclysms that befell them.
A TES campaign setting may in fact encourage DMs to create adventures and stories that explore any of these continents. The lack of historical texts on these continents makes them perfect for large-scale campaigns. DMs can also make adventures surrounding Pyandonea, the island-continent home of the elusive Sea Elves. They may even explore Akavir to the north and interact with its four kingdoms at war.
6 Enough Magic Items
In D&D, players customize their characters with Magic Items that enhance their capabilities. These items come from quest rewards or as loot from powerful opponents. Thanks to other RPG titles, the TES series has a fair share of powerful items and artifacts that players can acquire throughout their adventures.
Interestingly, some powerful items may very well become a game-changer in TES-themed D&D 5e campaigns. For instance, Wizards can use the Staff of Magnus to manipulate the very fabric that controls arcane magic. Meanwhile, Spell Breaker is a powerful Dwemer shield that can deflect magical attacks.
5 Rich Divinity Is A Blessing
In D&D, divinity remains an essential component of settings. After all, Clerics and Paladins all serve a Deity. Meanwhile, archetypes such as the Warlock’s Celestial Patron and the Sorcerer’s Divine Soul all pertain to divine sources. TES offers quite a rich amount of lore pertaining to Tamriel’s divinity. In fact, the lore has different “versions” of these deities per race or ancestry.
“Gods” in TES pertain to various entities. They may pertain to Anu and Padomay, primal forces of stability and change, or Auri-El and Sithis, symbolizing order and chaos. Divinity may pertain to et’Ada or divine beings resulting from both Anu and Padomay. As such, the game makes mention of the Aedra that helped create the world of Mundus. Likewise, the game mentions the Daedra, or the et’Ada faction that created realms of their own.
Thanks to the rich culture of Tamriel’s ancestries, characters can worship and interact with deities that open up interesting story hooks.
4 Separation Of Divine And Magicka
Unlike other RPGs, the divine and Magicka in TES lore don’t appear as two separate concepts. In fact, theories in the lore suggest that Magicka either comes from the environment around the spellcaster or it may have a divine origin. It’s likely that healing and spellcasting might have the same power source.
This factor might not become a big deal to some, but DMs can take advantage of Magicka’s unique origins in a TES campaign setting to introduce tensions between spellcasters and the pious.
3 Explore Life Through Factions
Most RPGs require players to side with a faction to further expand their Classes and Backgrounds. These groups also add a bit of depth to the game’s story, thanks to their unique perspectives. In D&D, players may compel themselves to join a faction to further their goals, be it a personal agenda or a plan to save the world. Much remains the same with TES, this time courtesy of guilds that help citizens of Tamriel hone their artistic crafts. Thanks to the rich history of TES, players may soon realize how interconnected these factions are.
Aside from the main Fighters, Mages, and Thieves Guild, players can join the Arena as a gladiator. Moreover, they can become indoctrinated in the Dark Brotherhood, a secretive guild of mercenaries, or join the Blades as the Emperor’s spec-ops team.
2 More Than Enough Mysteries
Thanks to the lack of in-depth lore in a lot of subjects, TES has more than enough mysteries for players to solve. As such, instead of waiting for a new installment, players can make the discovery for themselves in a TES campaign setting. Aside from the aforementioned mysterious lands and races, some games also left pieces of Tamriel’s history deliberately blank to evoke a sense of wonder.
For instance, a TES-themed D&D 5e adventure can explore the fate of the Snow Elves who first arrived in Skyrim. Moreover, players can try to uncover the mystery behind the Dwemer’s (Dwarves) disappearance in Tamriel.
1 Become Anything
Most D&D 5e settings and adventures involve dungeon crawling and saving the world from some existential threat. However, if TES proved anything, it’s that games can motivate players to just unwind and enjoy the vast landscape & wealth of quests Bethesda’s games have to offer. A TES campaign setting might motivate DMs to make campaigns that focus on both the larger-scale and smaller-scale of things.
For instance, instead of saving the world, players can focus on maintaining peace in their region. Moreover, players may join a band of traveling mercenaries, or even become merchants in search of rare items.