What happened between Oblivion and Skyrim? Here's a brief history

Skyrim is the fifth game in the Elder Scrolls series, but it doesn’t tell you much about its backstory. Not in obvious ways, anyway. After all, how would you rather start a game: with a history lesson, or with dragons setting people on fire?

Above: 'Hello! I am the correct answer!'

Still, if you've spent a hundred hours in Oblivion or Morrowind, it's only natural to wonder what's happened to your old stomping grounds. That information is scattered throughout Skyrim's books and dialogue, but with no frame of reference, piecing all the events and dates together can be daunting. To give you some foundation, here's a summary of what's happened since you last visited Tamriel.

The first thing you need to know is that 200 years have passed since the events of Oblivion. That's the biggest time jump in the Elder Scrolls series so far. For instance, Oblivion took place a mere 34 years after the first Elder Scrolls game, 1994's Arena.

(Conveniently, Tamriel's fourth age started when the Oblivion Crisis ended, so years in Skyrim are counted from the end of the Oblivion. If a history book says something happened in 4E33, that's about 167 years before Skyrim's present day.)

Above: Here, you're going to need this

Over these two centuries, the Empire has started to crumble. When Martin Septim sacrificed himself to end the Oblivion Crisis, it left the 400-year-old Empire without an emperor. The empire's hold over its territories began to slip.

One of these territories was Summerset Isle, home of the Altmer (aka high elves). During the Oblivion Crisis, Daedra poured through the dimensional gates and massacred its inhabitants. Then, just when everything seemed hopeless, the invaders simply disappeared.


A faction called the Thalmor, elven supremacists and all-around jerkbags, claimed credit for the miraculous disappearances. They said they closed the Oblivion gates with subtle magics. In fact, they were so subtle that nobody saw them doing it. A grateful population hailed their new heroes, and by the time people started to wonder if they'd been suckered, the Thalmor had consolidated their power and squashed dissent.

Over in the Imperial heartland of Cyrodiil, things weren't going so well. High Chancellor Ocato, the acting ruler during and after Oblivion, was assassinated before any new emperor was elected. (One Altmer dissident claims the Thalmor were behind it, but no one knows for sure.)

Above: "Wait, what?"

The provinces of Black Marsh and Elswyr, homes of the Argonians and Khajiit, seceded from the Empire. But of all the provinces, Morrowind got it the worst.

Morrowind players probably remember Vivec, ruler of Morrowind and subject of endless volumes of Kim Jong-Il-esque propaganda about how he was a living god who kept the forces of evil at bay by his will alone. Unlike Kim Jong-Il, that turned out to be mostly true.

Visitors to Morrowind probably also remember the Ministry of Truth, a rock floating above the capital that was used as a prison. The Ministry was said to be a meteor that Vivec froze in time before it struck the city. This also turned out to be true.

Above: This doesn't end well

With Vivec having lost his godhood after the events of Morrowind, the Ministry eventually snapped back into time and slammed into Vvardenfell with all the force it originally had. Vivec City was obliterated. The Red Mountain erupted from meteor strike, destroying the island of Vvardenfell. Waves from the impact swamped the rest of Morrowind.

The Argonians, justifiably angry about being enslaved by the Dunmer (aka dark elves) for generations, invaded what was left of Morrowind from the south. Dark-elf refugees filtered into Skyrim, settling in the slums of Nord cities like Windhelm.

After seven years of bloody infighting for the Empire's throne, a Cyrodiilic warlord named Titus Mede had seized power with a mere thousand warriors. His descendants ran things up to the time of Skyrim, and they're responsible for there still being an Empire at all.


  • SDVan - July 29, 2012 9:56 a.m.

    Well technically the Altmer (High Elves) are decendents of the Aylids (Heartland High Elves). I don't believe that it was fair to make the player choose between an "all nord" faction or the faction that supported the Altmer as well. If Skyrim added a DLC that expanded into Morrison's or Cyrodiil which, has been hinted, then hopefully, the story would become more clear to the player. I plaed as a Bosmer in Oblivion and play as a "decendant" of that same Bosmer in Skyrim. I love how in Oblivion, the Bosmer are shorter than everyone else but in Skyrim, they seem to have had a growth spurt.
  • OmgBBQ - March 11, 2012 10:15 a.m.

    I'm a dark elf and I joined the Stormcloaks. Mostly because I thought that the Nords deserved to lead themselves and me and Talos are bros. In the end I think The're going to join forces anyways to stop the Thalmor, but until then let Skyrim do their thing.
  • IChooseUAntistaMON - December 2, 2011 5:05 p.m.

    I am a Dark Elf and I joined the Empire because the StormCloaks only like Nords
  • jackthemenace - December 3, 2011 1:35 a.m.

    I'm a Khajiit and I joined the Stormcloaks. I decided that, to add to the RPG aspect, my Khajiit had been arrested purely based on racism, and then jailed because of homosexuality (which I decided that the empire's against). So, after he bust out of Prison, my Cat-man decided to join the Stormcloaks to take down the empire, and avenge the loss of his beloved, Jeremy. Anyway, brilliant guide :D Me and a mate had spent AGES the other week trying to piece together what had happened between the two games, so thanks a lot for this :)
  • BIGMercenary - December 2, 2011 12:47 p.m.

    Now, add in the mobile game storylines and you've got nothing but more confusion, even though the Travels games have little to do with the overall history.
  • Stahlbrand - December 2, 2011 7:14 a.m.

    Nice summation. You have to read alot of Skyrim in-game books to put it all together yourself (or the not-at-all-good 'The Infernal City'). So putting it all here is a good service for the many people playing now who either didn't play Oblivion, or didn't go nuts-deep in the fiction. Also, bonus points for the Warp in the West jape.
  • boondocks50 - December 1, 2011 11:54 p.m.

    im still so confused, the aldemari are high elves or just elves in general?
  • EdDeRs1 - December 2, 2011 8:26 a.m.

    high elves, there is no term for elves in general except well, elves
  • mattboyd - December 2, 2011 7:15 p.m.

    Ok, so: Altmer = high elves Aldmer = first elves, the common descendants of all elves in Tamriel. Altmer think they're the closest to the original elves.
  • jarrett-regal-k - December 3, 2011 9:30 a.m.

    I think you mean Aldmer are the common *progenitors* of all elves in Tamriel.
  • mattboyd - December 8, 2011 1:34 a.m.

    Oops. Yes. The common ancestors, not descendants.
  • mattboyd - December 2, 2011 7:27 p.m.

    More to the point: The Aldmeri Dominion is a nation, and the people in charge are high elves. Not everyone loyal to the Dominion is a high elf, and not every high elf is loyal to the Dominion.
  • talleyXIV - December 1, 2011 4:47 p.m.

    I was going to read it but then it was super long, and I don't even play this game so you know.
  • Yeager1122 - December 1, 2011 9:39 a.m.

    Super heplful dont have the time to read all the books nice to know the backstory.
  • archnite - December 1, 2011 11:59 p.m.

    Gamesradar remember when every article was like 7 pages? So you reformatted and have like 3 at max... well TWO is TOO many can you cut down every article to like maybe a parenthetical phrase? ALSO WTF how do I type an epsilon into captcha?
  • EdDeRs1 - December 1, 2011 9:10 a.m.

    i just hope that they releaise some DLC that allows whatever faction u supported (Empire or Stormcloackes) to teach those elven bastards a lesson, and your caracter is at first used as a spy/assassin by his/her commanders, weakening the enemy and trying to start an elven rebellion against the bitch elves, and when the rebellion is in full swing, u take command of a newly established unit of Blades/Stormcloack elites and take fortress cities from within before the big invasion comes, and u act like the Rock and layeth the smackdown on some candy arses
  • Person5 - December 1, 2011 8:05 a.m.

    hm. I was an Argonian in Oblivion and again in Skyrim, but knowing that Black Marsh seceded kinda makes me not want to fight for the empire anymore. Though its either that or joining the Stormcloaks, winning, then them saying "thanks for winning us the war, lizard, but Skyrim is for the Nords, so get out" then I can only play in Black Marsh since I would be deported
  • ThatFanInThePeacoat - December 2, 2011 1:18 p.m.

    I think situations like that point out that neither side is good or evil. They're both just out for different goals. Also, I also love playing as an Argonian. It really helps give the feeling of futility when first starting out the game, then the feeling of growing stronger and stronger comes in while I play, all to be ultimately shut down by the end when I realize: Sure, I've helped the empire, and myself to an extent, but what about my fellow Argonians? My position in this world is still small.
  • rabidpotatochip - December 1, 2011 6:57 a.m.

    We also would have accepted "a wizard did it".
  • UFAlien - December 1, 2011 6:25 a.m.

    Little tidbit left out here: After Elsweyr seceded, it was absorbed into the Aldmeri Dominion and split into two states. So if you want to split up the original map from Oblivion into nations/kindgoms at the start of Skyrim: Cyrodiil, High Rock, Skyrim, and Hammerfell are The Empire. Summerset Isle, Valenwood, and Elsweyr are the Aldmeri Dominion. Black Marsh and Morrowind are Argonia. You're welcome.

Showing 1-20 of 42 comments

Join the Discussion
Add a comment (HTML tags are not allowed.)
Characters remaining: 5000