I’ve lived in a lot of places in my life: Texas, Korea, Germany, and even Missouri, unfortunately. Not all the times in those places have been good ones. And, there have been days that all I want is to escape into another world. For some reason, though I have time and time again chosen to escape to about the worst place imaginable, the Elder Scrolls universe of Tamriel. Indeed, time and time I have thrown myself so deep into that imaginary land that my real life has gotten ignored. And while my own life may not be all sunshine and lollipops, Tamriel seems like the kind of place that an objective person would avoid like the plague, because they might actually get the plague there.
Everywhere has its problems. Tamriel even shares some problems with the real world, such as rampant crime, a lack of housing, a terrible music scene based on traveling minstrels that all play the same five songs, and a system of government that clearly doesn’t work. But, to be honest, those are problems that would be hard to escape in even in any fictional universe that is meant to convey realism. So setting aside those more common issues Skyrim, Morrowind, Cyrodiil, and anywhere else in The Empire would probably be a decent place to raise a family of little adventurers, right? Absolutely wrong. And here’s why…
1. The Economy is Based on Murder and Theft
Hilarious and original jokes about U.S. geopolitics aside, there hasn’t been anywhere in the world that literally bases its economy on killing and stealing since the fall of the Barbary States. In Elder Scrolls games, however, looting the corpses of a stranger you just gave a violent death is the primary source of income for every township. Grant it,each town has a few merchants, a smith, maybe even an alchemist or general store. But how,much gold does each of them carry? How many stores have you drained completely of their gold by selling only the cheapest things In your inventory and keeping the expensive stuff in your house because no one can afford it? The answer is “a lot”, unless you role played a poor college student.
And where did all of that gear come from? Well you probably crafted some of it, if you happened to be in Skyrim, the only region where people actually build equipment. But the vast majority of your traveling thrift store was likely pulled off the naked bodies of passersby or ripped from the grave of some guys grandpa. And what happened to all that equipment? Why it was sold at 1/5 its value to whoever had any gold left. And there it stayed, in there store, until you bought it back or just murdered the shopkeeper.
So how does that affect the economy? Well, clearly stolen stuff is the economic staple and basis of trade in The Empire. What would happen if it suddenly disappeared? What if, for instance, the hero died while attempting to punch a bear to death. Who would trade between cities? Or worse, what if they ran out of criminals? Should the guards ever do their jobs and actually arrest a few bandits, where would the citizens get new items from? Were the widespread crime ever to come to an end, the citizens of the local township would be forced to loot and pillage the graves of their ancestors in order to maintain an economy. And with no bandits to thieve from, once they finally ran out of graves to rob…..well, you get the picture.