Personally, I think Morrowind is probably the best RPG ever made and is my favourite game. Ever since I first played it I have been looking for any fiction that hits the same beats that it does but have failed to find any. Now with ESO: Morrowind out I have renewed my search for anything, novel or game, that may be similar.
For those of you that haven’t played Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, I am going to try and explain a bit about it and what parts I like the most in order to, hopefully, help narrow down any recommendations.
Quick Setting Overview: Morrowind is a game about magitech Babylonian objectivists and a theocracy of living deities in a land of ash deserts and fungus forests where people ride giant ticks that sing whale song and farm flying jellyfish. And one of the most important characters is a bi-racial, bi-polar, bi-sexual, mortal god warrior-poet.
So, I’ll break that down a bit.
Non-Western Influences: Some of the main influences on Morrowind are near-east, Semitic and Vedic also with a dash of Japanese. The land is mostly arid ash desert and craggy volcanic rock with some areas being tropical swampland. A lot of the architecture takes inspiration from near-east with small square buildings all the way up to huge ziggurats. The clothing worn is bright coloured robes, multiple piercings, strange headdresses and tribal tattoos. The history of the tribes of Velothi takes a lot of inspiration from Jewish history with an Exodus, Prophet and Holy Land. The gods bear resemblance to Canaanite and Hindu gods and the story of Morrowind to the rise and Fall of the Tower of Babel. Another pretty huge influence on the game is the Dune series.
Subverts Fantasy Tropes: The native inhabitants of Morrowind are called the Dunmer and they are technically elves but other than the pointed ears you probably would never guess it. They have red eyes and dark skin that ranges from a dark charcoal colour to a light ash grey up to a bruised blue. As said before they wear coloured robes with hoods and veils that protect them from the land, they are covered in tribal tattoos with facial piercings. Their gods personify murder, sex and revolution and are considered demons to most of the rest of the world but play a significant role in the formation of Dunmer law and morality which is based on change and stasis rather than good and evil. Slavery is also pretty significant in Dunmer culture and any race that doesn’t follow their philosophical view is considered a lesser race.
It’s Bloody WEIRD: The flora and fauna is very alien compared to your average fantasy setting. Half the land is a desert made from the ash that spews from the gigantic holy volcano that contains the heart of a dead god at the centre of the island and the other is a tropical swampland filled with giant mushroom forests. There are strange volcanic rock formations and weird land coral mazes. There is a strange divine disease that blows from the volcano and sweeps the ashland turning people and animals into immortal monsters with octopus faces and there are three moons. Two in the sky like normal and one that floats just above the city of Vivec that has been hollowed out and used as a prison. The animals are mostly reptilian and insectoid. Giant singing ticks are used for transport, weird sky jellyfish and large two-legged lizards are herded and packs of dog-like insects roam the wastes killing people and eating their souls. The other culture who live on Morrowind is the Dwemer also called Dwarves by some races although they look nothing like Dwarves, instead they look like Dunmer but with a silvery-goldish skin colour and dress in Babylonian style clothes and beards. They are a highly advanced society with sci-fi level tech with a culture based on pure logic, they view reality as flawed and therefore see it as having no right to exist. There is very little metal in Morrowind so the Dwemer create their own with special magic thats bascially quantum mechanics. The Dunmer create their weapons and armour by grinding down bones and using the powder with resin to mould it into the shape of insect armour, they also use the shells of giant insects to build houses and one city is in the hollowed out shell of a gigantic crab.
It Feels Ancient: The culture in most fantasy settings feels just like modern people except that they have swords and armour but in Morrowind, everything feels ancient like the culture has changed very slowly over thousands of years (Dunmer live very long). And when you read differing versions of their religions you can see how the giant game of whispers that is history has shaped this deeply entrenched culture based on lies, manipulation or misremembered history. Normal people become gods, gods are forgotten, innocents become guilty ect but an interesting thing in the Morrowind universe is that belief is power and so if enough people remember someone as a god, the universe will retcon you to be a god and if someone is in the know about the nature of reality like this they can manipulate cultures to their own end.
It’s Full Of Philosophy And Metaphysics: There is a religious book called the 36 Lessons of Vivec and this is an excerpt:
“Six are the formulas to heaven by violence, one that you have learned by studying these words. The Father is a machine and the mouth of a machine. His only mystery is an invitation to elaborate further. The Mother is active and clawed like a nix-hound, yet she is the holiest of those that reclaim their days. The Son is myself, Vehk, and I am unto three, six, nine, and the rest that come after, glorious and sympathetic, without borders, utmost in the perfections of this world and the others, sword and symbol, pale like gold.”
Doesn’t that sound like something you would read in Vedas or some other ancient holy text? It may read like nonsense right now but the 36 Lessons and Morrowind, in general, is filled with philosophy, occultism and metaphysics about the nature of reality and how belief shapes reality literally and figuratively and how embracing change instead of accepting status quo people can create their own realities.
I could go on but this is a total rambling mess so I’ll stop here. Hopefully, this gives some idea of the things I find interesting about Morrowind and people can base their recommendations on it. So, is there anything like Morrowind?
Also apologies for my grammar, dyslexia is a real ass.