The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
"Rest well this night, for tomorrow you sail for the kingdom... of Daggerfall."

The second game in The Elder Scrolls series, released for PC in 1996, Daggerfall takes place in the region around the fictional Illiac Bay where several petty kingdoms are vying for power in the wake of the increasingly-absent Empire which rules them all.

In the kingdom of Daggerfall the local King Lysandus, a personal friend of The Emperor of the Cyrodiil Empire of Tamriel, has died. Despite seeming to be a good person with no regrets, he comes back as a powerful ghost and terrorizes his capital every night. Troubled by these accounts and in light of the bickering factions, The Emperor has sent a letter to his Lysandus' wife but it became lost in transit. Deeply troubled due to the letter's sensitive contents, he sends the player character to investigate both events, sweeping him into the complex politics of the Illiac Bay.

Daggerfall saw the series' transition into full 3D. The world is "mostly flat with some hilly and mountainous areas" but the cities themselves feature solid houses and walls that are climbable and the dungeons just revel in the fact that you can cross over your own path on three or four different levels. Daggerfall is also the last game where Bethesda Software implemented procedural generation as a major part of the game. The size of the game world is massive and they really wanted to implement a go anywhere and do anything feel, limited only by time constraints and a legendary inability to keep the game stable and store things in cabinets. The game has multiple endings; the game has multiple routes to get to those endings; and, there are many things to do, as long as you didn't miss your appointment.

Daggerfall has been re-released as freeware by Bethesda along with its predecessor Arena to commemorate the fifteenth anniversary of The Elder Scrolls series. It can be downloaded at their website and will work, though a variety of technical tricks may be required (You can also get a version that will automatically set up). Its successor is The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind.

A source port-like clone, called DaggerXL, is currently in development.

Tropes used in The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall include:
  • Alien Sky
  • All Deserts Have Cacti: Hammerfell has cacti despite not being based on New World deserts.
  • Alt-Itis: An inevitable result of some of the most flexible and complex character creation systems ever.
  • Artifact Title: Elder Scrolls? What are those?
    • You are told, after you complete the final quest in the main quest, that you will "Read fate as it shall be recorded upon The Elder Scrolls", putting it alongside The Elder Scrolls I Arena in how much of an impact the Elder Scrolls has in the story. Later games do retroactively give substance to this, as we discover the Elder Scrolls are largely prophecies of the future, so the title is actually more than just flavor text.
  • Artificial Atmospheric Actions
  • Artificial Stupidity: Behold as a civilian witnesses you sticking a sword into another civilian and walks away as if nothing has happened!
  • Awesome but Impractical: The Knight class. You get a bonus to Speechcraft and are immune to paralysis (which comes in handy when facing monsters like spiders and scorpions), but you're barred from using any form of Daedric equipment.
    • The Mages Guild. You get a ton of awesome spells at a discount, and its the only way you can get access to the Enchanter (which, due to a Word of God endorsed cheat code, is the only way to repair magical items and artifacts)...but nearly every major faction in the game (and many minor ones) hate them, so joining them and rising in the ranks will cause your reputation with a lot of groups and people to plummet.
  • Big Bad: Interestingly subverted, as due to the Grey and Gray Morality, there isn't actually a major evil force you have to fight. The closest things this game has to a Big Bad are Mannimarco and Lysandus' murderers, Lord Woodborne and Queen Elysana.
  • Bottle Episode: The opening live action cutscene was made into a hushed secret meeting at night to avoid creating any set, only a throne, a torch and simple costumes.
  • Blessed with Suck: Vampires (which the player can become). Also werewolves and wereboars.
  • Canon Name: Lhotun's missing brother you are quested to find out about is given a random name, but the Morrowind book Night Falls on Sentinel (which details an agent of his dealing with the murderer) gives the brother's name as "Arthago".
  • Catfolk: The Khajiit race.
  • The Chosen One: Averted: the player is simply someone the Emperor hires by virtue of previous work experience with his agents. This is the only one of the main five games to not have the player in this role.
    • At the end, if you try to keep the key and activate Numidium for your own use, it crushes you dead and goes on a berserk rampage through the empire.
  • Covers Always Lie: The sickly-looking fellow on the cover can be an ally, and in fact just wants to die.
  • Cursed with Awesome: It's hard to feel sorry for super-strong immortal undead creatures with magic powers.
  • Cut and Paste Environments: There are about 40 different buildings, spread across hundreds of towns and villages, which have about 5 different layouts each (the cities also use those same buildings, but due to being randomly generated their layouts are at least unique). Similarly, the infamous dungeons are a few dozen pieces put together in different (insanely lengthy and complex) configurations ad infinitum.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: The Underking, undead-minion-commanding sort-of-lich that he is, is probably the closest thing to a good guy the games have had.
  • Dem Bones
  • The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: Except for the bugs. See below for what they thought of but could not use.
  • Dummied Out: Prostitutes, and one of the multiple endings. Oh, and about half of the magic spells, which can still be learned at the Mages' Guild, and either do nothing or cause bugs when cast. (Later patches removed them.)
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Much less than it's predecessor, but some is still present. A lot of nudity and sexual content is present, was scaled back in later installments due to the influence of the ERSB. They also had lots of extra skills and game features that were situational at best and poorly implemented that disappeared in later installments.
  • Evil Pays Better: The highest paying quests? The shadier ones for corrupt nobles. The lowest paying (in fact, they pay nothing at all except for some extra equipment and a house after you do a few of them)? The Knight Orders' quests.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Mannimarco
  • Face Heel Turn: In an official "semi expansion", one of the new Fighters Guild quest involves major NPC Lord K'avar attempting to betray the Queen of Sentinel and take the throne for himself. You have an option of revealing this to the Queen, siding with Kvar, or going directly after him.
  • Fantastic Racism: Pretty much every race hates at least one other race. And everybody hates the Orcs.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: High Rock to medieval Europe, Hammerfell to medieval Arabia and North Africa.
  • Fantasy Gun Control: There are cannons and Humongous Mecha, but no guns.
  • Fictional Document: A couple dozen of them, mostly books that can be purchased at bookstores in the game. A lot of them took advantage of the ESRB's lax policy on PC games.
  • Game Breaking Bug: When Daggerfall was first released, it could not actually be completed due to bugs. It would later be patched, but it is still one of the buggiest video games you'll ever see.
  • Gray and Grey Morality
  • Guide Dang It: a relatively minor one, but it happens so early in the game it bears mentioning. Once you're out the tutorial dungeon, you'll get a letter from the NPC who starts you on the main quest. 9 times out of 10, the letter will tell you to meet her at "Something Inn in Daggerfall". So you go to the city of Daggerfall and look for that Inn for hours to no avail - because she's actually waiting for you at a random village named "Something Inn" in the province of Daggerfall.
  • Hide Your Children: The only Elder Scrolls game before Skyrim where this is averted (excluding mods). They're unkillable, though.
  • Humongous Mecha: The Numidium.
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: Zurin Arctus
  • Large Ham: The Emperor.
  • Level Grinding: Since the levels are calculated by skill, not experience points, you do not necessarily have to kill enemies to level grind. But imagine one of your primary skills is "etiquette" or "streetwise". In that case you would have to endlessly start random conversations with people, does not matter what you say, only to say anything politely or bluntly respectively.
  • Live Item: Horses, when not being ridden, are kept in the player's inventory.
    • Not really. You won't see them in the inventory; except in the merchant's inventory at general stores. Once you've bought a horse, you don't see it anywhere in your own inventory screen. Same with the cart and the boat. However, you can summon it and dismiss it through the "travel" menu. The boat serves as a pocket dimension which you can reach from anywhere.
  • Lizard Folk: Argonians.
  • Lost Superweapon: Numidium.
  • Ludicrous Gibs
  • Multiple Endings: So far, the only game in the series with them. Due to nature of the final McGuffin they are all canon (except the one where the McGuffin destroys all Tamriel, maybe).
  • Nintendo Hard: Cheat codes are not only encouraged, but sometimes necessary.
  • Noob Cave: Privateer's Hold, in which you begin the game.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Bethesda said the source code for the game is a Real Life example when asked to release it.
  • Obvious Beta: Resulting in some unbeatable quests (including, prior to the first patch, the story itself), frequent opportunities to fall through floors and fly around in the Void, and some very confused monsters.
  • Obviously Evil: Mannimarco.
  • Older Is Better: Ancient Elven and Dwarven gear is better than most modern armors. Many guild quest deal with "Ancient scrolls of great powers".
  • Our Ghosts Are Different
  • Our Orcs Are Different: Daggerfall had Blizzard Orcs before even Blizzard did.
  • Our Vampires Are Different
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: As are our wereboars.
  • Pixel Hunt: If you don't know the name of a dungeon or town and search for it...expect to do this.
  • Point and Click Map
  • Randomly Generated Levels: The thousands of cities and dungeons in the game were pseudorandomly generated prior to release. The various non-artifact magical items are also randomly generated. This leads to items like the "Loincloth of Undeniable Access", the "Blouse of Opening" (both have an unlock spell), the "Breeches of Venom Spitting" (actually casts levitation), and the "Khajiit suit of the Orc Lord". An Orc in a catsuit? Brain Bleach please.
  • Reality Ensues: Unlike future TES games, Daggerfall takes great pains to make almost all of the game mechanics realistic. For example
    • You can't just join any guild willy nilly. You need at least one of the guild's major skills at 22 and at least one of their minor skills at 4 before you can join, and the Thieves Guild and Dark Brotherhood have special requirements. Also, almost every guild/faction has a major rivalry with at least one other guild/faction, so don't expect to join a Knightly Order and then be allowed into the Thieves Guild, even if you meet the requirements. Also, once you're eligible for an increase in rank, you have to wait at least one month in-game before being given an opportunity to be promoted.
    • Fatigue will always drain at a fixed rate, rather then only when you're running, jumping or fighting.
    • You can't repair weapons yourself, nor is it an instantaneous action. Even once you find someone who can repair your equipment, you have to leave the equipment with them for a set amount of days before the item is fully repaired.
    • You actually have to pay attention to the game clock. All sidequests, and even a few main quests, are on a strict time limit that leaves little room for error.
  • Ruins for Ruins Sake: perhaps the most egregious example ever.
  • Save Scumming: A suggested tactic for obtaining good loot is to save in front of a treasure pile and reload until the pile has what you want.
  • Spy Catsuit: An available clothing item. May or may not actually fit over the character model, depending on what race you chose.
  • Take Your Time: Averted for many quests, including the first main quest (which ends up showing why this trope is a good idea for games like this), but also justified for the game as a whole - there is no looming threat or Big Bad in this game, so your investigations is the catalyst for things to happen.
    • Notably, the Agent canonically took twelve years to get around to finishing the main quest, as opposed to the one year of the other Heroes of The Elder Scrolls.
  • Tech Demo Game: The graphics are obviously very outdated now, but are amazing for 1996.
    • To be more specific, the game uses a rudimentary 3D engine called the XnGine, which, considering it was created for DOS based games, was extremely impressive for its time, rendering three dimensions for walls, floors, and ceilings as well as most static objects, though some things are still drawn as mere sprites. According to the creator of the DaggerXL source port, it had even more impressive capabilities possible like sloping terrain, but technical limitations at the time meant this never happened.
  • Timed Mission: All of the sidequests, and at least two main quests, namely the very first one (you have a month to track down an Imperial courier before she gets bored and leaves), and the penultimate quest. (If you don't give the Totem to someone within exactly a year and a day, the Totem's power will consume you)
  • Title Drop: Rest well this night, for tomorrow you sail--for the kingdom of DAGGERFALL!!
  • The Undead: Many kinds.
  • Unwinnable: A few bad decisions will result in the Main Quest being unwinnable. However, since this is a Wide Open Sandbox game, you can keep on playing for a long time.
  • Vestigial Empire: Jagar Tharn's brief rule in Arena screwed things up royally for the Empire.
  • Virtual Paper Doll: Rob a few clothes stores and you can play for hours merely designing the outfit for your character.
  • Wide Open Sandbox: You can do the main quest (which has eight different endings, including player death), raid dungeons, explore the wilderness, join one of fifty factions, study magic, ride a horse, buy a boat, invest in real estate, trade, live a life of crime, become a vampire or a were-creature, and go anywhere at any time. And you'll never run out of side quests because they are randomly generated.