Have you ever looked at an Elder Scrolls lore discussion and wondered: "how do these guys know all that"? If so, this guide is for you! It is designed to help you learn the most important topics of Elder Scrolls lore and to build lasting skills that will allow you to analyze and memorize TES lore. Let's get started!
This guide does assume that you've played at least one Elder Scrolls game. Playing a bunch of them is always a great way to go, but it is by no means a requirement.
Step One: Acquaint yourself with the Imperial Library (TIL) and the Unofficial Elder Scrolls Pages (UESP). Add them to your bookmarks. The primary source documents (books, game dialog, etc.) found on both sites should always be your first step to learning lore. UESP's articles are generally a good intro, but remember that they are edited by a variety of authors, and therefore include the biases of those authors as well as potential unsourced assumptions. The same can be said about the articles on TIL. Again: always use primary sources.
Step Two: Read the Frequently Asked Questions section of this guide. It answers some of the most common questions that people have and covers the basics of what exactly Elder Scrolls lore is.
Step Three: This is the important one: read the books, listen to the dialog, look at the art. There's nothing stopping you actually doing this in-game, but you might find it easier to head on over to TIL or UESP, where all in-game books are available for browsing (often with helpful comments). Both sites also have summaries of the games' quests as well as various supplementary materials that are invaluable to the study of lore. Start with the books I've linked below, and move on to anything else that interests you. However, there's a difference between simply reading and really understanding. Remember to read critically and compare the information found in different texts. Don't be afraid to take notes and ask questions, especially when you move into more advanced materials.
Step Four: Join a community! Find a group that appeals to you, write down your theories, answer peoples' questions, and ask your own. Conversation is the best way to both remember what you've learned and figure out what you've yet to find out.
I recommend you read the Appendix first, as its content is valuable to keep in mind during study.
This section covers the lands and peoples of Nirn (the world of the Elder Scrolls). Tamriel, central continent, is the setting of most games thus far.
The map below shows Tamriel at the end of the 3rd era. While the borders don't always look like this, this political layout is most commonly used when talking about Tamriel. The name of each land appears in bold, and its predominant peoples appear in italics above it.
Also called Argonia, this land is a thick swamp and jungle, generally inhospitable to anyone other than its native Argonians. It is considered a backwater province: there is little infrastructure and Imperial influence. Although humans have long raided and colonized its coasts and borders, the interior is considered too toxic and dangerous for most men. The Marsh is home to the Argonians, a lizard-like peoples, and the Hist, a race of sentient trees. The Hist created the Argonians, and Argonian minds are all connected to their Hist tree. The Argonians are frequently looked down upon by other peoples of Tamriel, and are enslaved by their Dunmer neighbors.
Black Marsh was also home to aboriginal humans (the silver-skinned Kothringi most famous among them), other beast-men (such as the fox-like Lilmothiit) and the Barsaebic Ayleid tribes.
PGE3: Argonia — an overview of Argonia in the late 3rd era, history, and current events.
TEG: Black Marsh —a more personal account of the northern sections of the marsh, combined with book excerpts on the topic.
Cyrodiil, also known as the Imperial Province, is Tamriel's cosmopolitan center and the origin of its three most famous empires. It is roughly divided into two regions: Colovia, the grassy west, and the Nibenay, a forest area surrounding the Niben river and its tributaries. The natives of Cyrodiil are collectively called Imperials or Cyrodil, or referred to by their regional names: Colovians (more rural, influenced by Nordic traditions) and Nibenese (urban, influenced by the Elves).
Prior to the rise of the Imperials, Cyrodiil was home to the Ayleids (also known as Heartland High Elves or Wild Elves), who enslaved the local human populations. They were overthrown by the Slave-Queen Alessia in the early 1st era, but their culture has deeply impacted the modern empire.
The depiction of Cyrodiil changed radically between its first appearance in lore and TES4:Oblivion, which was set in the province. Due to this, the lore can get a bit convoluted.
PGE1: Cyrodiil — overview of Cyrodiil in the late 2nd era, as well as its peoples and its history. This depiction of is largely contradicted by TES4, though ESO has brought some of it back.
PGE3: Cyrodiil — Cyrodiil in the late 3rd era, its history, and its current events.
Subtropical Cyrodiil — one possible reason for the lack of a jungled Cyrodiil, as well as an exploration of the mythical significance of the Imperial City.
Elsweyr's north is an arid desert populated by nomadic tribes, while its south is rainforests and plantations. Khajiit, the feline inhabitants of Elsweyr, come in many forms, ranging from fully humanoid to horse-sized lions to house-cat. Which form they take is determined by the lunar alignment at the time of their birth. Khajiit are often regarded as thieves by the other peoples of Tamriel, and are discriminated against.
Hammerfell is most closely associated with the Alik'r desert that takes up much of its interior, but its south and west are grassy plains and it is bordered by high mountains. Most of its cities lie on the coast, and the Redguards are known for their maritime strength as well as their martial prowess. Redguard are originally from the continent of Yokuda, and migrated to Hammerfell in 1E808 after a cataclysm claimed their homeland. Politically, they are divided between the Crowns (who align more closely with their Yokudan heritage) and the Forebears (who are more Imperalized).
Prior to the arrival of the Redguards, the land was home to various Nedic tribes and the Dwemer.
PGE1: Hammerfell — overview of Hammerfell in the late 2nd era, as well as its peoples and its history.
High Rock is a land of high mountains, rolling hills, and farmland, best known for political conflict between dozens of noble families. High Rock is home to the Bretons, who are descendant from aboriginal human populations, Direnni Altmer, and Nords. It is also home to the Orcs and the state of Orsinium, which has its own section below.
PGE1: High Rock — overview of High Rock in the late 2nd era, as well as its peoples and its history.
PGE3: High Rock — High Rock in the late 3rd era, history, and current events.
EGT: High Rock — an adventure through most of High Rock in the mid 2nd era.
Morrowind is a land of jagged cliffs, fertile plains, lava rivers, and giant mushrooms. In addition to the mainland, it is dominated by the island called Vvardenfell, which is home to Tamriel's largest volcano: Red Mountain. It is home to the Dunmer (Dark Elves), who have worshiped a Tribunal of living gods for the last 3000 years. In the last years of the Third Era, these gods were killed or disappeared, eventually leading to the impact of a meteor and eruption of Red Mountain, which led to widespread destruction in the province.
PGE1: Morrowind — overview of Morrowind in the late 2nd era, as well as its peoples and its history.
PGE3: Morrowind — Morrowind in the late 3rd era, history, and current events.
Skyrim is a mountainous, forested, snowy land located in the north of Tamriel. It has been a human empire since early in the 1st era, when Atmoran settlers beat back the Falmer (Snow Elf) inhabitants and claimed the land as their own. Since then Skyrim has supported the Cyrodiilic regimes and human domination of Tamriel in general. The Nords, descended primarily from immigrants from the continent of Atmora, are a hardly and warlike peoples. Skyrim is frequently in territorial disputes with its neighbors.
PGE1: Skyrim - overview of Skyrim in the late 2nd era, as well as its peoples and its history.
PGE3: Skyrim - Skyrim in the late 3rd era, history, and current events.
The Summerset Isles are located in the ocean to the southeast of Tamriel. It is the home of the Altmer (High Elf), and the ancestral homeland of most of Tamriel's elven populations. Much of what man knows of magic, science, and religion is Altmer in origin, and they are always eager to point out their perceived superiority. The Altmer are obsessed with bloodlines and carefully manicure their environment.
The depiction of Summerset changed radically between its first appearance in the Pocket Guide to the Empire and Elder Scrolls Online, which was set in the province.
Valenwood is a dense jungle located in the southwest corner of Tamriel. Its Bosmer (Wood Elf) inhabitants are adept at moving through the dense wood. It has a long history of war with the neighboring Elsweyr. Summerset, its southwestern neighbor, controlled Valenwood as part of the Aldmeri Dominions in the 2nd era, and does so again in the 4th.
The most curious Bosmer tradition is the Green Pact, a set of religious guidelines meant to honor their homeland. It forbids them from eating plants or using wood from their province. As such, many Bosmer are exclusively carnivores and use only foreign wood.
The Ooze: A Fable - a uniquely Bosmeri creation myth, placed here for its relevance to the Green Pact and their culture.
The Orcs and Orsinium
Orcs, also known as Orsimer, have lived on Tamriel since before the first era. Though they are predominantly found in High Rock and Skyrim, there are also tribes in Valenwood known as Wood Orcs. The Wrothgarian Mountains in northern High Rock contain the highest number of permanent Orcish settlements. While many Orcs live in highly patriarchal Strongholds, others are fairly imperialized, and in the 3rd era their society was described as "remarkably egalitarian."
Their chief city, Orsinium, has been built, destroyed, and rebuilt again throughout history. Its first three known locations were all in the north-west of High Rock, but in the 4th era it is located somewhere on the border between Hammerfell and Skyrim.
Orcs are generally looked down on by the other peoples of Tamriel.
These elves, commonly known as Dwarves, were unusual due to their preference of science and technology over magic and religion. Their territories stretched through northern Tamriel, but were focused in Morrowind and Hammerfell. Every Dwemer disappeared in the early 1st era following the War of the First Council, though exactly what happened to them remains a mystery in Tamriel.
A map showing the all lands once held by the Dwemer. The lighter gray has been confirmed by in-game ruins, while the darker gray is assumed based on lore sources.
The term "Nedes" is confusingly used to refer both to a specific human tribe and to ancient humans in Tamriel as a whole. There is also debate, both in universe and in the community, over whether ancient humans all come from Atmora, or if some are aboriginal to Tamriel. This author prefers the aboriginal approach, as we know that all mortal life originated in Tamriel, so it makes sense that some of them stuck around. Either way, ancient human tribes were found primarily in the areas now known as High Rock, Skyrim, Hammerfell, and Cyrodiil.
The Reachmen are a human culture native to the mountains of eastern High Rock and western Hammerfell. Their only major urban center is Markarth, and they are generally looked down on as savage raiders by other peoples of Tamriel.
In addition to the peoples listed above, Tamriel and the lands beyond are home to many other sapient races. These include Goblins, Dreugh, Minotaurs, Giants, Imga, Lamia, Rieklings, Harpies, Nereids, and Ogres. Unfortunately, since these races are often hostile in the games, we do not have a wealth of information on their societies. I have included a few texts covering the more historically relevant and most commonly found of these peoples.
On Minotaurs — a researcher theorizes on the origin of Minotaurs.
Giants: A Discourse — examines the relationship of Giants and Nords, and provides an overview on Giant culture.
There are several continents and many smaller landmasses besides Tamriel. Some of them, like Akavir and Yokuda, play major parts in the history of Tamriel. Others feature only briefly. With the exception of Solstheim, we have visited none of them, and know very little about them.
Akavir is a continent to the east of Tamriel, inhabited by many beast-like races: the snake-like Tsaesci, the monkey-like Tang Mo, the tiger-like Ka Po' Tun, and the "snow demons" of Kamal. What little is known about Akavir and its peoples comes from two sources: accounts of Tsaesci warriors who settled in Tamriel, and a disastrous expedition to the continent by Uriel Septim V in the late 3rd era. The Tsaesci and Kamal are the only Akaviri to interact with Tamriel, with the Tsaesci eventually ruling as Potentates and Emperors during the late 1st and early 2nd eras.
Aldmeris is the mythical homeland of the elves. Though many in Tamriel believe it to be a physical place, most scholars know that it is more concept than location, a symbol of the unity of the elven races during the Dawn. Aldmeris can also be taken to mean the name of the continent covering Nirn before it was split by ocean into the current lands.
Atmora, to the north of Tamriel, was the homeland of the Nordic peoples during the Merethic era. The Nords were forced to flee due to dropping temperature, and it froze over completely early in the 1st era. It is believed to be currently uninhabited by man or mer. No official map of Atmora exists.
Pyandonea, home to the Maormer, lies to the south of the Summerset Isles. It is said to be covered in dense forest and protected by a magical mist. The Maormer, exiled from Summerset in ancient times, have tried to conquer their former homeland many times. It is a common misconception that Pyandonea is a continent: lore describes it only as an archipelago, and no official map of the land exists.
What remains of Yokuda is located to the west of Tamriel. It is the ancestral home of the Redguards. A cataclysm in the 800s of the 1st era led to the sinking of most of the continent, and the exile of the Yokudans to Hammerfell. Some of the continent still remains to this day, and both people and goods travel between it and Tamriel.
This section will outline some of the major historical events in Tamriel. There are many, many other fascinating bits of history which I have excluded solely due to lack of space or lack of sources. The events are arranged in chronological order and approximate dates and locations are provided.
The dawn era and the creation of the world is covered in the Religion and Metaphysics section.
Ysgramor and the 500 Companions
Merethic Era, Skyrim
Although humans had been coming from Atmora to Tamriel for many years, Ysgramor and his Companions were the first to truly carve out a kingdom on the continent. Following the burning of the city of Saarthal at the hands of the Falmer, the 500 Companions traveled through Skyrim subjugating or murdering any elf they came across.
Songs of Return — Sagas of the various Companions and their conquest of Skyrim
Night of Tears — A text on Saarthal and the potential cause of its downfall
The Dragon War
Merethic Era, Skyrim
Early Atmoran settlers followed a totemic religion, headed up by Dragons and Dragon priests. After the settlement of Skyrim, the Dragon Cult took control of the new state and ruled with an iron fist, eventually leading to a rebellion and a war between humans and Dragons. Some Dragons turned against the others and humans were able to win over them through the use of the Thu'um: magical Shouts based on the language of Dragons.
High Hrothgar Tablets — inscriptions describing the war, the granting of Thu'um to humans, and the rise of the Graybeards who guard this power.
The Alessian Rebellion
1E 242, Cyrodiil
The Ayleids of Cyrodiil had enslaved and brutalized the local human populations for hundreds of years until one slave, a woman named Alessia, lead a rebellion against them, eventually securing freedom for men throughout Cyrodiil. She was supported by Morihaus (a demigod who eventually became her consort), Pelinal (another demigod), the armies of the Nords, and select Ayleid kingdoms. Their final enemy was Umaril Half-Elven, the lord of the White Gold Tower, who killed Pelinal in single combat before dying himself.
After defeating the Ayleids, Alessia consolidated her power through the creation of a new religion which combined Ayleid, Nordic, and Nedic gods. We now know this pantheon as the Eight Divines. The omission of Shezarr/Shor/Lorkhan as the greatest concession.
Rise of the Alessian Order
c. 1E 360, Cyrodiil / Tamriel
Shortly after Alessia's death, an Imga (ape-person) named Marukh claimed to recieve visions of the slave-queen which urged him to purge elven rule from Tamriel and elven influence from the Imperial religion, and to worship a single supreme god. The adherents of Marukh's teachings became known as the Alessian Order. This theocratic empire dominated northern Tamriel for the next two thousand years, though the exact composition of its provinces changed many times.
The War of the First Council took place in what is now Morrowind between the Chimer (now Dunmer) and the Dwemer. Although the two had been in conflict since the Chimer's arrival in Morrowind, the years preceding the War were ones of peace brought on by a mutual alliance against the Nords. Tensions exploded into war when the deeply religious chimer learned of a Dwemer project to build the Numidium: an artificial robot god powered by the Heart of Lorkhan.
The exact events of the conflict are unknown, but its final result is certain; the Dwemer were erased from this world, either failing or succeeding at reaching a higher state of existence through the Numidium; the Tribunal used the Tools to tap the Heart of Lorkhan and become gods; House Dagoth and its leader, Dagoth Ur, were labeled traitors, exiled, or killed; Indoril Nerevar, the leader of the Chimer, was killed; and the Chimer are changed from the golden skin of the Altmer to the gray skin and red eyes of the Dunmer.
Many conflicting accounts of the final battle at Red Mountain exist, and we may never know which one is really "true." This is due largely to the involvement of the Numidium and the Heart of Lorkhan and the apotheosis of the Tribunal, which brought about a Dragon Break (a fracturing of time necessary to consolidate the Tribunal's new divinity). It is also a great example of the "unreliable narrator" often found in Elder Scrolls lore.
When reading the following texts, compare how they are alike and in which ways they differ.
Kagrenac's Tools — background of the Tools and an overview of the events following the defeat of the Dwemer.
Progress of Truth — written by the Dissident Priests, this document questions the nature of the Tribunal's power.
The Ra Gada
Around the year 800 in the first era, the continent of Yokuda suffered a cataclysm and sank under the ocean, forcing its inhabitants to flee to Tamriel. This cataclysm is commonly believed to be caused by the use of the Pankratosword, a technique which "cut the uncutable," by the rogue Hiradirge group. The first of the Redguard refugees are known as the Ra Gada, the Warrior Wave. They landed first on Hirne and Cespar, then near present day Gilane in Hammerfell, and proceeded to fan out and colonize the province, defeating all that stood in their way.
A Compilation of Redguard History — not entirely accurate anymore, but still worth a read. Describes the coming of the Redguards to Hammerfell, as well as some of the heroes of that era.
The Orcish kingdom of Orsinium was looked upon as a threat by both Redguards and Bretons, and the two nations allied briefly during the mid 1st era to destroy the fledgling state. After a 30 year siege, lead by Gaiden Shinji of the Redguard Order of Diagna, the Orsinium was finally defeated in 980, scattering its citizens throughout western High Rock.
The Marukhati Selective and the Middle Dawn
The Marukhati Selective was a particularly zealous branch of the Alessian Order that thought to wipe all traces of the elven Auriel out of Akatosh. This endeavor brought about a dragon break known as the Middle Dawn, lasting 1008 years, from 1E 1200 to 1E 2208.
The Tsaesci, once enemies of Tamriel, had been ruling as Potentates in the 2nd Empire since the late 1st era. With the assassination of Reman III in 1E2920 the Potentate Versidue-Shaie declared the start of the 2nd Era, and took control of the Imperial throne. The rule of the Potentates came to an end in 2E 430, when Potentate Savirien-Chorak was assassinated by the Morag Tong.
After Emperor Varen Aquilarios killed the previous Emperor (the Reachman Leovic), he set out with five companions to retrieve the Amulet of Kings and legitimize his rule. It turned out that one of his companions, the necromancer Mannimarco, had different ideas: he convinced Varen to perform a ritual that, instead of making him a divine king, opened up the barriers between Tamriel and the Daedric realm of Cold Harbor and began Molag Bal's invasion of Nirn. Resolving this conflict forms the main quest of the Elder Scrolls Online.
This war was a conflict between three unlikely alliances for the control of the throne of Cyrodiil and, through it, Tamriel. The Aldmeri Dominion, lead by Queen Ayrenn, was composed of Summerset, Valenwood, and northern Elsweyr. The Daggerfall Covenant, under the rule of King Emeric, controlled High Rock, Orsinium, and northern Hammerfell. The Ebonheart Pact, ruled by Jorunn the Skald King as well as representatives of each nation, included parts of mainland Morrowind, eastern Skyrim, and northern Black Marsh. Many of the regional quests of Elder Scrolls Online focus on this conflict, and the player-versus-player aspect of the game is centered on it.
Tiber Septim and the 3rd Cyrodiilic Empire
2E 852- 3E 434, Tamriel
Tiber Septim started as a general in the army of King Cuhlecain attempting to unify the human kingdoms of Tamriel. He won a major victory over the Bretons and Nords at Sancre Tor through the use of Thu'um, the Nord's power of the Voice. After Cuhlecain was assassinated, Tiber took his place and set out to conquer all of Tamriel. This section covers his rise and his empire in general. Major events during the 3rd Cyrodiilic Empire are explained in detail below.
The War of the Red diamond was the first real conflict over Septim succession. Potema, Queen of Solitude, believed that her son, Uriel III, was the rightful heir to the Empire and claimed that empress Kintyra II was illegitimate. After 6 years of bloody civil war, Potema was defeated by Magnus Septim and his brother Cephorus, who then took the throne.
Haymon Camoran, also known as the Camoran Usurper, was a conqueror who started his campaign in Elsweyr and destroyed everything between there and High Rock before being stopped by the combined forces of High Rock. It is said his army consisted of undead and Daedra. Mancar Camoran, of Mythic Dawn fame, was his son.
The Refugees — provides background on Haymon's rise and the birth of Mancar.
Jagar Tharn and the Imperial Simulacrum
3E 389-399, Tamriel
In the year 3E389, Jagar Tharn, the Imperial Battlemage, sent Uriel Septim VIII into Oblivion and impersonated him using powerful magics. The ten years of his reign, known as the Imperial Simulacrum, were a bloody time for the Empire, and included the War of the Blue Divide, between Valenwood and Summerset; the Five Year War, between Valenwood and Elsweyr; the War of Bend'r-Mahk, between Hammerfell, High Rock, and Skyrim; the Arnesian War, between Morrowind and Black Marsh; and the invasion of the Battlespire by Mehrunes Dagon, a training ground for battlemages.
The Real Barenziah — Book 4 describes how Tharn (known as 'Nightingale') stole the Staff of Chaos, and book 5 tells of the consequences and Barenziah's role in the plot to return the rightful emperor.
The Warp in the West is a Dragon Break that occurred when the Numidium was activated at the end of TES2: Daggerfall. Since the player could give it to any of six factions, all the events canceled themselves out and left the Iliac bay as an equally matched, magic free zone. Also as a consequence of this the King of Worms ascended to become the Necromancer's Moon, and the Orcish kingdom of Orsinium was granted sovereignty. The Numidium itself was destroyed.
The Nerevarine and the Defeat of Dagoth Ur
3E 427, Morrowind
The Nerevarine, or the hero of TES3: Morrowind, came to the island of Vvardenfell in 3E 427 at the Emperor's decree. After working their way up the ranks of the Blades and fulfilling ancient prophecies, they were eventually named the reincarnation of Lord Indoril Nerevar, a 1st era hero. They went on to defeat Dagoth Ur, Almalexia, and the Daedric Prince Hircine.
The Oblivion Crisis and its Aftermath
3E 433, Tamriel
The Oblivion Crisis begins when Emperor Uriel Septim VII and his sons are assassinated by agents of the Mythic Dawn and gates to Mehrunes Dagon's realm open up all over Tamriel. A secret heir, Martin Septim, was found, and he and the Champion of Cyrodiil eventually manage to close the gates and defeat Dagon when he manifests in the Imperial City. In the years that follow, the Septim Empire loses many of its provinces, and eventually dissolves in the Stormcrown Interregnum of 4E 10.
Rising Threat — The effects of the Crisis on Summerset, and its aftermath in Cyrodiil.
The Red Year
4E 5, Morrowind
Following the disappearance of Vivec, the Ministry of Truth destabilized despite the efforts of Morrowind's mages, and crashed into Vivec City. Its impact caused the eruption of Red Mountain, devastating the province. The Argonians took this as an opportunity, and invaded their long-time foe. Many Dunmer fled Morrowind, heading primarily to Skyrim and the newly-independent territory of Solstheim.
The Red Year — Personal accounts of the eruption and the months following.
Rise of the Median Empire and the Umbriel Invasion
4E 17-43, Tamriel
Titus Mede, a Colovian warlord, took the Imperial City and named himself Emperor in 4E 17, founding the Median Empire that continues to this day. Morrowind remained in shambles, and all provinces struggled under the new rule. Summerset Isle breaks away in 4E 22, and its government, the Thalmor, annex Valenwood in 4E 29, remaking the old Aldmeri Dominion. In 4E 43, the mysterious floating city of Umbriel appeared above Black Marsh. It is eventually defeated above the Imperial City, but not without great loss of life.
Infernal City and Lord of Souls Lore Notes — notes from the novels, taking place during Umbriel's invasion and describing much of Tamriel.
The Thalmor, now in control of Alinor, Valenwood, and Elsweyr, issued a set of harsh demands to the Median Empire and war breaks out across Tamriel. Following 4 years of bloody warfare, the White-Gold Concordat ended the war, banning the worship of Talos as a concession. Hammerfell, unwilling to give up its territories to the Aldmeri Dominion, continued the fight until 4E 180.
The Great War — outlines the situation leading up the the war, and details the major battles.
The Bear of Markarth — an anti-Stormcloack description of the Reach's politics during the Great War.
This section covers anything dealing with religion, mythology, and the fundamental nature of existence and the world. All these are even more contradictory than the history section covered above.
When studying these topics, it is important to keep in mind that religion and mythology is very real in Tamriel. While each religion has its own spin on events, they are all in some sense 'true'. Do not discount myth or religious texts simply because they are religious in nature.
The Monomyth — The introduction to this massive text does a great job of explaining the nature of the world and the perceptions of it by different religions.
The Nine Divines
The Aedra, more commonly known as the Eight Divines, are the most widely worshiped deities throughout Tamriel. As opposed to Daedra, the Divines gave up part of themselves to create the mortal realm. Talos, the ninth Divine, is a stand-in for Lorkhan/Shezzar, a traditional mannish deity who was originally excluded from the pantheon.
The Daedra are powerful beings who, as a general rule, did not partake in the creation of Nirn. They are generally regarded as 'evil' by many cultures, though some (like Azura and Hircine) are often revered or worshiped. Others, like Mehrunes Dagon or Molag Bal, are nearly always seen as evil.
Guide to Daedra — a comprehensive guide to the Daedra in general and each individual Daedric Prince.
Modern Heretics — a autobiographical piece about Daedra worship in Cyrodiil.
Each culture has its own views of the Aedra and Daedra as well as specific minor gods and culture heroes worshiped nowhere else. This section introduces a few of these cultural distinctions. While reading, watch for common themes and persons repeated within myths under different names.
Word-Eating 101 — explains the Nord's lack of a creation myth, and turns the idea of creation upside its head.
Metaphysics, used to describe the study of the nature of the world, is one of the more complex areas of TES lore. If you have not yet read the appendix, I suggest you do so now.
While nothing in this section is hard, it does require a solid understanding of lore basics, some critical reading skills, and patience. The following texts will give you a background in metaphysics basics.
Although I have attempted to provide a basic description of each of these topics, it is best to examine the texts and draw your own conclusion. A short explanation can never be fully accurate, and an accurate explanation cannot be short.
36 Lessons of Vivec — an entertaining, if sometimes confusing, text which forms the basis of metaphysical discussions.
The New Whirling School — comprehensive analysis of the 36 Lessons by comparing it to various real-life mythologies. It also features several articles on other metaphysical topics.
The Enantiomorph is the cycle of Rebel (Lorkhan) overthrowing King (Akatosh), which in turn makes him the King to be overthrown by the Rebel. It was first used to refer to this relationship as manifest in Tiber Septim and the Underking. The Genesis section above is a must-read.
The Rebel's Return — an article describing various enantiomorphic relationships through the ages.
A Dragon Break occurs when Akatosh, the dragon god of time, is broken. It results in a nonlinear time line with many events happening simultaneously. Afterwards, all these timelines and events are merged into a new history for Tamriel. See also the Marukhati Selectives and the Miracle of Peace in the history section.
The realization that you are just one small part of the dream of a greater Godhead, and that you therefore do not exist as an individual being, typically results in disappearing from the world. CHIM is this realization coupled with the willful retaining of individual identity ("the ability to say 'I am'"). The texts listed above already deal with the issues of CHIM, so be sure to read them.
This section covers some of the factions on Tamriel. Only major factions with importance beyond their game/province have been listed.
The Blades started out as an order of Akaviri dragon hunters known as the Dragonguard. After Emperor Reman defeated them in 1E 2703, they became first his personal bodyguards and then the secret police, spies, and personal guard of the Empire in general, though hunting dragons remained a secret objective of the order. The protagonists of several Elder Scrolls games start out as, or become, agents of the Blades.
Both the Dark Brotherhood and the Morag Tong are assassins' guilds with a religious affiliation. The Morag Tong is a legally sanctioned operation in Morrowind, and worships the Daedric prince Mephala. The Dark Brotherhood, which was originally a part of the Morag Tong, is universally outlawed. They serve a personified version of Sithis and are led by the Night Mother.
The Fighters Guild provides mercenary services all over Tamriel. It was founded in the 2nd era by Akaviri soldiers, and quickly expanded its ranks to all peoples and provinces of Tamriel. They do not have a monopoly on mercenary services, and either compete with or are entirely supplanted by other organizations in some locations.
The Mages Guild is an Imperially sanctioned organization for the instruction of magic and the maintenance of magic-related laws. It was founded in the 2nd era by Galerion. In the late 3rd era, the guild outlawed Necromancy and fought a large scale war against its practitioners.
Sometime in the early 4th era the Mages Guild dissolved, and the College of Whispers and the Synod took over some of its role. These guilds are not covered due to lack of information.
GoC: Mages Guild — overview of the Guild in Oblivion, including the storyline and a detailed overview of the Arcane University.
The Psijics are a religious order that resides on the isle of Artaeum, in the Summerset archipelago. They revere the Old Ways of Mysticism, and serve as councilors to rulers all over the Empire. They are widely regarded as some of the strongest mages in Tamriel.
The nature of the Thieves Guild varies widely from province to province. They are in essence a loose confederation of thieves and fences who decide their own rules. In Cyrodiil, the guild is lead by an enigmatic figure known as the Gray Fox.
GoC: Thieves Guild — overview of the Guild in Cyrodiil, mostly focused on its storyline in TES4:Oblivion.
Myth or Menace — a document attempting to disprove the existence of the Guild in Cyrodiil. Provides details on the fate of the Morrowind branch.
This section encompasses other important Tamrielic topics, which do not neatly fit into the categories above.
This section covers planets, stars, constellations, and related material. Throw your preconceived notions about the nature of celestial bodies out the window. Tamriel is nothing like our universe, and thinking in terms of Earth physics will only hold you back.
Cosmology — an overview of everything cosmological. A must read.
Astrology and Astronomy — overview of constellations, moons, and planets. Also has videos of the Orreries in Redguard and Oblivion.
Necromancy covers anything and everything having to do with dead bodies rising again. There is no single viewpoint on necromancy: it is frowned upon by the Dunmer and Redguard, but perfectly acceptable in Orc society and in many scholarly settings. In the late 3rd era, necromancy was outlawed throughout the Empire by the Mages Guild.
Vampires are individuals afflicted with Porphyric Hemophilia, Sanguinare Vampiris, or any other class of disease that effectively renders them undead and requires them to consume blood. Vampires often band into clans and have a social structure.
Immortal Blood — information on the vampires of Skyrim, Valenwood, and Cyrodiil.
"Lore" is anything that tells us about the nature of the Elder Scrolls universe. Most lore you will encounter comes from ingame materials, and just about all of it will have some sort of bias. This means that, unlike some other franchises, you can't just believe everything you read.
The games themselves are our primary source of lore. The first, Arena, came out in 1994. At the time of writing, Elder Scrolls Online is releasing one major expansion and three smaller content packs every year.
The Elder Scrolls: Arena (1994) — Emperor Uriel Septim VII is imprisoned in Oblivion by his trusted advisor, Jagar Tharn. Tharn then impersonates the Emperor. It is up to the player to collect all eight pieces of the Staff of Chaos, which gives Tharn his power, and stop the usurper.
TES II: Daggerfall (1996)— A personal agent of Uriel Septim VII, ordered to the Iliac Bay to investigate the death of King Lysandus and to find a missing letter that the Emperor had sent to the Queen of Daggerfall, becomes embroiled in a complex weave of political struggles. Their adventures peak when they recover the lost Mantella, the power source of the Numidium, a giant robot capable of breaking time. The player must decide which faction to trust with this huge power.
TES Legends: Battlespire (1997) — Mehrunes Dagon takes control of the Battlespire, the extra-planar proving ground of the Imperial Battlemages, destroying or possessing all of the mages inside. A young initiate arrives at the Battlespire gates and quickly realises that, to survive and return to Tamriel, he must somehow overcome the Daedric terror within.
TES Adventures: Redguard (1998) — In this prequel, set during Tiber's conquest of Tamriel, a Redguard named Cyrus comes to the island of Stros M'kai to find his missing sister, and unwittingly ends up leading a rebellion against Tiber Septim.
TES Adventures: Eye of Argonia — This never-made sequel to Redguard was supposed to focus on the theft of the titular jewel and feature Cyrus' sister, Iszara, as a playable character.
TESIII: Morrowind (2002) — On the personal orders of Uriel Septim VII, a prisoner is released on the shores of Vvardenfell in Morrowind. In time, the former prisoner is revealed to be the incarnation of the foremost Dunmeri saint, Nerevar, and takes the title of Nerevarine. The Nerevarine is destined to free Morrowind and all of Tamriel from the terror of Dagoth Ur, a deranged god who controls the fiery region of Red Mountain and the power of the Heart of Lorkhan.
TES Travels: Stormhold (2003) — A prisoner in the dungeons of Stormhold prison fights against the evil regime of the lunatic warden Quintus Varus.
TES Travels: Dawnstar (2004) — In the northern town of Dawnstar, Governor Vinticae instructs a young recruit to find his four champions, one of whom is probably a traitor in league with local raiders.
TES Travels: Shadowkey (2004) — Shadowmage Skelos Undriel is on the run from Battlemage Jagar Tharn, driven from the heart of Tamriel by Tharn's agents. Undriel hatches a desperate scheme to collect the Star Teeth sown about the region hoping their power is sufficient to thwart Tharn's agents, and perhaps even destroy the Battlemage himself.
TES IV: Oblivion (2006) — Following the assassination of Emperor Uriel Septim VIII, Mankar Camoran opens gates into the Daedric realm of Mehrunes Dagon. The player, dubbed the Champion of Cyrodiil, is tasked with retrieving Uriel's long-lost son, Martin, and crowning him the next Emperor of Tamriel, thereby resealing the barrier between Oblivion and Mundus.
TES Travels: Oblivion Mobile (2006) — An adaptation of TES IV: Oblivion for Java-enabled cellphones. It condenses the storyline into several self-contained dungeons.
TES Travels: Oblivion PSP — A canceled PSP version of Oblivion, purportedly taking place in High Rock.
TES V: Skyrim (2011) — Set 200 years after Oblivion, Skyrim features the return of Alduin, a dragon god meant to destroy the world. The player takes on the role of the Dragonborn, a mythical hero born with the soul of a dragon, capable of learning their Shouts and killing dragons once and for all. The game also heavily features a conflict between the rebel Stormcloaks, seeking to succeed Skyrim from Imperial control, and the Empire, struggling to keep their hold in the province.
Elder Scrolls Online (2014) — Set in the middle of the 2nd era, this Massively Multiplayer Online game takes place during the Planemeld, a chaotic time in Tamriel's history when Molag Bal, aided by Mannimarco, attempted to pull Nirn into his plane of Cold Harbor. The player allies themselves with one of the three factions vying for the Imperial throne: The Aldmeri Dominion, the Ebonheart Pact, or the Daggerfall Covenant.
Elder Scrolls Legends (2015) — Not to be confused with Battlespire above, this mobile collectible card game contains several stories told by a group around a campfire, including one about the Great War, one about Sheogorath, and another about the Clockwork City.
Elder Scrolls Blades (2019)— A mobile game where the player builds up their town and uncovers the Ayleid secrets beneath it.
Each single player game was accompanied with its own strategy guide. Besides all those games and guides, there are also several other books that take place in the universe (below).
The Pocket Guide to the Empire, First Edition (1998) — published with Redguard, this highly biased work is a summary of all Tamrielic cultures and their histories. It is considered one of the backbones of TES lore.
The Origin of Cyrus (1998) — this comic book serves as a prequel to Redguard.
The Pocket Guide to the Empire, Third Edition (2006) — released with Oblivion, this guide is a less detailed than the first edition, but provides valuable insights on the happenings of the late 3rd era.
The Infernal City and Lord of Souls (2009, 2011) — These two novels, written by Greg Keys, are intended to bridge the time gap between Oblivion and Skyrim. Set in the 4E40s, they revolve around prince Attrebus Mede (a coward pretending to be a hero), Annaig (a budding alchemist), Meer-Glim (Annaig's Argonian best friend), and Sul (a mysterious Dunmeri mage) as they try to stop a floating, necromantic island from ravaging Tamriel.
Emperor's Guide to Tamriel (2014) — This massive tome, packaged with the collector's edition of Elder Scrolls Online, is a collection of notes and art intended to eventually create a new Pocket Guide to the empire. Instead, it tells the tragic tale of a man's descent into madness and Oblivion.
Hero's Guide to Tamriel (2014) — This book is actually three books: Agents and Reagents (an Alchemy primer), Gathering Force (brief descriptions of racial armors), and Kyne's Challenge (an adventure book about a group of Companions traveling through Tamriel). It is contemporary with the events of the Elder Scrolls Online.
Tales of Tamriel (2015) — a collection of books from Elder Scrolls Online, accompanied by new and old art.
Skyrim Library (2015) — a collection of books from TESV: Skyrim, accompanied by reused art.
As if all that wasn't enough, there are also numerous interviews, roleplays, independent developer texts, bits of concept art, videos, and many other media that contribute to our knowledge of TES lore. In recent years, Bethesda has also expanded to letting other game makers create tabletop versions of their games (such as Elder Scrolls: Call to Arms) and licensed out-of-universe materials (like the Skyrim cookbook or tarot card set). Though they are too many to list here, you will doubtlessly encounter them in your studies.
Who writes the lore?
The lore for the series is created by the developers at Bethesda Softworks and Zenimax Online, as well as independent contractors taken on to work on specific projects. Though there are hundreds of people who have contributed to the series, there are a few whose names you will likely come across (in alphabetical order). A much longer, but still incomplete, credits list can be found in Who Did What? on TIL.
Lawrence Schick — Schick was formerly a Lead Loremaster and Lead Writer on Elder Scrolls Online, and authored hundreds of its books. You might be familiar with his work on classic tabletop games.
Leamon Tuttle — holds the title of Lead Loremaster on Elder Scrolls Online, which means that he both fact checks their content and writes a significant portion of it. Prior to that, he was a writer on content such as Murkmire and the Clockwork City.
Ken Rolston — Rolston was the force behind Battlespire, one of the leads on Morrowind, and the lead on Oblivion. You might recognize Rolson's name from classic tabletop RPGs, and it's that experience and aesthetic that he brought to TES' lore.
Kurt Kuhlmann — a designer since Redguard, Kuhlmann is largely responsible for the more "mundane" bits of Tamriel to contrast with Kirkbride's more metaphysical interpretations. Most recently, he was co-lead on TESV: Skyrim.
Michael Kirkbride — a designer and artist on Redguard and Morrowind, as a contractor on Oblivion, Kirkbride tends to be associated with Tamriel's more occult or metaphysical niche. He is also famous for contributing to the universe long after his departure from the company.
Ted Peterson — Peterson, a designer on Daggerfall and a contractor for Morrowind and Oblivion, is the author of many of TES' most beloved books. He is generally credited with being more character driven than the other writers.
You! Yes, you! The TES lore community is driven by the contributions of its fans, be it through theories, headcanons, art, or just healthy debate. Sometimes, you might even find your ideas used in a later installment.
What is an era? How do they begin and end?
An Era is a way to delineate time in Tamriel. It does not have a set number of years, but is instead declared to begin and end by a political power based on events of importance.
What is the political state of Tamriel during the time of Skyrim?
Tamriel is divided into at least four separate nations. The Aldmeri Dominion is composed of Alinor (previously known as Summerset Isle) and Valenwood, as well as Anequina and Peletine (two states made out of what used to be the province of Elsweyr). The Mede Empire controls Cyrodiil, High Rock, and Skyrim. The state of Morrowind isn’t clear, with some sources indicating that it is still part of the Empire, while others that it is independent. Black Marsh and Hammerfell are independent nations.
What are the lifespans of the different races?
Men live about as long as men on earth. The lifespans of Khajiit and Argonians seem to be roughly equivalent to those of men. There are contradicting sources on the lifespan of elves, though we know that getting to be several hundred years old is typical based on in-game information, and that some live for thousands of years if they have access to magic.
What happens when different races interbreed? Are half-elves possible?
Children of any union generally favor their mother in appearance, with a few characteristics from their father. This doesn't mean that exceptions aren't possible, but a half elf will typically look either more human or more elven, not 50/50. It's important to note that the gameplay notion of "race" is an abstraction. For example, Redguards, Imperials, and Nords aren't different races, but instead different permutations on "human," based as much on culture as on biology.
What happened to the Dwemer?
While it has never been officially revealed, the most widely accepted and best-supported theory is that they used the Heart of Lorkhan in order to escape Mundus and became absorbed into the Numidium. Whether they succeeded or not remains under debate.
Will the Dwemer ever return?
It is extremely unlikely. See the above.
What happens to you when you die? Is there an afterlife?
Recent games do show us that afterlives are real, and that where you go depends on your cultural beliefs and how you lived your life. If you strongly aligned yourself to a Daedra, they might claim your soul after your death. Valiant Nords get to spend the rest of eternity in Sovngarde, and Redguards have the opportunity to travel to the Far Shores. If you are soul trapped, your soul is sent to the Ideal Masters in the Soul Cairn. Your soul might also get trapped in a magical "net" set by a necromancer. Another theory is that, by default, your soul goes into the Dreamsleeve, where it is slowly stripped of memories and eventually reborn into another body while you hallucinate your afterlife of choice.
What is CHIM?
CHIM is a transcendent state where you are able to recognize that you are a figment of God's imagination, but still maintain that you exist as an individual apart from Him. See the Religion section for more detail.
What is a Dragon Break?
It’s a segment of non-linear time, usually the result of someone becoming (or trying to become) a god. The original Dragonbreak was invented to reconcile the different endings of Daggerfall.
What is Tiber Septim’s race?
Tiber Septim was most likely a Nord (or Breton of Nordic descent) born in Alcaire, High Rock.
What is currently happening in Akavir?
We don’t know. The only book about the political situation in Akavir dates back to at least the late 3rd era, or even to the first. It could also be completely apocryphal.
Is the Dragonborn a descendant of Uriel Septim?
That's up to you. You can choose to play them as such, but being Dragonborn isn't hereditary.
What is Sithis?
Sithis is the primordial force of chaos. Though the Dark Brotherhood anthropomorphizes him into the Dread Father, Sithis does not act in a conscious way, and is neither an Aedra nor a Daedra.
Do the Tsaesci Snake-Men have tails or legs?
There are varying accounts and depictions of the Tsaesci, some with tails and some with legs. Bethesda has never come out and said that one is true and the other false. It is possible that both tailed and legged Tsaesci exist, or that one can transform into the other. It is also possible that the invasion included Akaviri humans as well as snake-tailed Tsaesci. Some community members choose to ignore the legged depiction ("it’s just gameplay mechanics") or the tailed one ("it’s just metaphor").
What Tamrielic cultures are based on which Earth cultures? No Tamrielic culture can be directly mapped onto any Earth culture. There are many inspirations, both culturally and visually, for every one of Tamriel's peoples, though some are more obvious than others.
Canon and Continuity
What happened to the Champion of Cyrodiil? Did he really turn into Sheogorath? While it is up to you to decide what happened to your individual character, Bethesda seems to imply through both the main quest of The Shivering Isles and through his dialog in Skyrim that the Champion of Cyrodiil did eventually become Sheogorath.
What happened to the Nerevarine? It is up to you to decide what happened to your Nerevarine. There are rumors that they went to Akavir, but those may or may not be true.
Did the Stormcloaks or the Imperials win the civil war? We don’t know. Since Bethesda does not like to invalidate anyone’s playthrough, the war will most likely be resolved with a treaty following a lengthy conflict encompassing both questlines, rather than the destruction of any one side. The whole conflict could also be rendered moot by a bigger event.
Was Titus Mede’s assassination canon? Probably yes, but we won’t know until Bethesda tells us. Lore will most likely acknowledge that it was an act of the Dark Brotherhood, and will likely attribute the guild’s destruction to it. This way, both outcomes of the questlines are true.
Will the Last Dragonborn become the new emperor of Tamriel? Almost certainly no. While the Septim emperors were all Dragonborn, not all Dragonborn were emperors. Neither is being Dragonborn hereditary, so your Dragonborn has no relation to the Septim bloodline (unless you chose to roleplay otherwise). Even if they do, the Septims haven’t ruled Tamriel in over 200 years.
What is considered canon? There is no official definition of canon for the Elder Scrolls, and many scholars choose to disregard the term completely. In recent interviews, both Bethesda and Zenimax Online representatives have stated a preference for letting everyone interpret the world in the way that they choose, rather than providing one definitive answer. Take a look at the Appendix section for a more complete explanation of this. I have been using the term to mean "work that is recognized to be part of the Elder Scrolls universe and that is worthy of discussing as such" in the next few questions.
Are Greg Keyes’ novels "canon"? Yes. This has been explicitly stated by Bethesda.
Is The Elder Scrolls Online "canon"? Yup. Again, it has been explicitly stated by Bethesda.
Are out-of-game texts by developers "canon"? The official stance seems to be "it depends." Many out-of-game texts are referenced in the games, are expanded versions of texts in the games, or are texts that had to be cut for timing/space reasons. Because of this, and because the works of all developers shed additional light onto lore concepts that the games frequently are unable to explore, many fans include them in the conversation.
What is C0DA and is it "canon"? C0DA is a script for a comic book, written by former developer Michael Kirkbride. A central part of its premise is the idea that a set canon is antithetical to the idea of Elder Scrolls lore. Due both to it taking place in a potential far future Tamriel, and to the intent of the author, it is unlikely to be referenced in future TES titles.
How to Use this Guide
This guide is designed to introduce and contextualize core lore concepts. Due to the sheer amount of lore in the series, many things have been excluded. Even with the barest outline, it is still a hefty document, and understanding what all those links mean can be quite overwhelming. Below are some tips which have helped me and others in the past — hopefully they will help you as well.
Study that which interests you. Everyone needs a basic overview of the concepts of lore, but not everyone needs to know the details of the philosophy of the Dwemer. I strongly recommend getting an overview of Tamriel and its peoples by reading the Pocket Guides or the short summaries contained in this guide, and then going deeper on a topic that interests you the most. Topics in lore interconnect, and studying through the lens of something you're passionate about helps you understand and retain information.
Pace yourself. It's possible to read every single book in Skyrim in a day's time, but that doesn't mean you should do it. Give yourself some time to digest the information, especially as you move into history and myth. Think about how the events and peoples described relate to others you've read about, how they resemble (or subvert) real life, and perhaps search out some discussions on the subject.
Use the search function. Say you want to know the significance of the ruin of Sedor or who exactly Leki is. The best way to find either of these is to type them into the search feature at TIL or UESP and read what comes up. Be as specific as you can to narrow the results and use modifiers when appropriate. Remember to use primary sources rather than summary articles whenever possible.
Everything is relative. The characters writing the lore may not have access to the same information as we do, or may be distorting information due to their bias. The exact same thing goes for the real-world authors of the works as well. Keep in mind that not everything that is written is fact, and consider everything in context. Don't assume that something is absolute truth just because it's written written down.
How do I tell what's true when two sources contradict each other?
Much of the time, you can't. Not reliably, at any rate. You've got to use context (in game and out) and your own judgment.
Is the source a historical fiction book, or a diary of a person that was present for the event? Is it a book (here anything is possible) or a game event (which is limited by technology)? Which game is each source from, in what context does it exist (loading screen vs quest conversation vs store item description), and by whom was it created? How well does it line up with other sources, both in terms of facts and in themes and spirit? Is there in-game commentary to discredit either one? Do other sources in game specifically state one is wrong, or have developers commented on it?
Citation and Etiquette
Unless it's something that's super common knowledge, it's best to cite (and, if possible, link) your source. It lets people read the information in its original context to determine any biases that the author might have, it places it in historical context both in and out of universe, it lets people correct you if you're wrong about your reading of it (or correct themselves preemptively if it turns out they are the ones who are mistaken). Be especially mindful of this if you're sourcing fan theories or old information.
Don't be afraid to ask for people's sources (or try to look them up yourself), and provide sources if you are asked. I know it's often easier to type out a big long essay from memory, but you'd be surprised how often even long-time lore buffs get things wrong or forget when they're not double-checking.
This is the easiest thing we can all do to be better scholars and better teachers.
Obscure Texts — What is Canon?
Obscure Texts is the Imperial Library term for in-character information posted by developers which is intended to expand lore. The nature of this information varies: some were originally supposed to be included in the games but for some reason was not, some are expanded versions of texts already in game, some are wholly new documents, some are just bits of fun. The context of the content is also variable: some are primarily humorous, others are intended to provoke discussion and theories, while others are explanations for inconsistencies within the games. Besides official Obscure Texts, there are also smaller quotes or tidbits of out-of-character explanations and posts by developers in roleplays (the Trial of Vivec and Lorana's RP being the main two). These texts are one of the most hotly debated issues in the study of lore.
The debate boils down to the nature of canon. Wikipedia defines canon as "a body of material that is considered to be genuine or official." For a game series spanning 28 years, nearly 20 games, dozens of DLCs, two novels, and numerous bonus materials, all written by different people in different studios at different times, and often contradicting, it is hard to determine what "official" entails. The universe is always progressing and always changing hands. Obscure texts are considered worth discussing by many because they 1) are written by the same people who made the games, 2) explain errors and omissions within in-game materials, 3) are backed up by in-game information, and 4) provide more information to study. Even with those caveats, most people examine each text individually to decide whether they want to include it in their view of Tamriel. Other people choose to wait for an Obscure text to be referenced in game before accepting it as "canon."
It is not the aim of this guide to argue about the validity of out-of-game materials — I will leave the definition of canon up to you. I believe that we do not need to agree on the validity "canonicity" of each text as long as we all remain civil and do not trash each other's opinions, whatever they may be. In other words, if someone is talking about Sermon Zero, don't yell at them to cut it out because the text isn't in the game, and if someone is asking for all the in-game information available on the Imga, don't try to make them accept The Dreadful Theft of the Sun's Dusk Ale.
I do however make use of Obscure Texts (especially in the religious section), since study of some topics becomes nearly impossible without them. The way I see it, including Obscure Texts expands our understanding of the world, and is therefore worth our time. The nature of videogames means that some of these concepts might never crop up during gameplay (see Gameplay Limitations below), but that doesn't mean that the concept doesn't exist within the universe, or that they're not fun to speculate about.
Is my idea "lore friendly"?
Tamriel is a sandbox. While there are certain guidelines to which developers and fans generally hold themselves, there is also incredible room to dive deep into tiny details which have no existing support, or to create characters and explore ideas which outright contradict existing lore. For example, we know that every single Dwemer disappeared from Tamriel all at once, but we also know of at least one who remained alive in another dimension and came back later. To quote ESO Loremaster Leamon Tuttle, "lore is an exercise in personal imagination."
It is, however, important to know your audience. While pretty much everyone can agree that putting Sonic the Hedgehog in Tamriel isn't lore friendly, how your fellow community members will react to unlikely but not impossible concepts depends on the group. In the end, you need to have both an open mind to the ideas of others and an acceptance that your idea may not be to everyone's liking.
Basically, don't yuck anyone's yum.
According to Oblivion, there are about 25 buildings in the entire city of Chorrol.
Obviously, this can't be true.
The Elder Scrolls are a series of games, and all games have limits. It is physically impossible for the in-game Chorrol to contain thousands of buildings and hundreds of thousands of characters. This is a game play limitation, and it is important to be able to tell game play apart from lore. Game play is anything and everything that is done for the benefit of making a game. Skills and racial traits are game play for example, as are the specific powers granted by birthsigns or the weight of items. These things have lore components of course, but the game representation of these things should not be taken as lore directly.
Gameplay is also limited by technology, money, and time. For example, we can assume that the people of Tamriel didn't forget how to fight with a pointy stick (spear) in the years between Morrowind and Oblivion: a whole new animation set for spears is just expensive to make.
Lore is not an isolated thing. Knowledge of real world religion, philosophy, and history, as well as literary theory and semiotics, will help you to make sense of what you've read, and talking with fellow fans is one of the best ways to learn! Listed are some lore websites (you might want to bookmark these) where you can learn more about lore, or discuss it with fellow fans.
The Imperial Library (TIL) — contains all books from the game, as well as storylines, guides, articles, notes. etc.
/r/teslore — the home of Elder Scrolls lore on Reddit. The discussion there is often geared towards the more esoteric side of TES, and features many fan works, but it is also one of the most active communities out there.