Writing and Dialogue Guidelines

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Reference for general topics regarding writing and dialogue in TES III. Also check the Quest Guidelines page.

Style

General

  • Double hyphens, not single hyphens. For interrupted speech, use “--”, not “-”.
  • Spelling is always in American English, e.g. “organization” not “organisation”, or “traveler” not “traveller”, or “armor” not “armour”.
  • Single Quotes (i.e apostrophe, ) for Ship names, Book Names, and when characters are quoting others, instead of double quotes ()

Dialogue

  • Use contractions. E.g. don’t instead of do not, I’ll instead of I will, etc. Characters are ordinary people, for the most part. Save the more formal speech for gods, daedra, and nobility. Also can be appropriate for Ashlanders and other cultures more removed from Imperial influence.
  • Don’t overuse interesting punctuation. Periods, commas, and question marks are your main tools. Colons, semicolons, double-hyphens, ellipses (...) and exclamation marks should be used sparingly. Furthermore, ellipses (...) should never be used at the end of dialogue.
  • Don’t overuse ALL CAPS. All caps can occasionally be used for emphasis, but that effect is better achieved with sentence structure. NEVER all caps more than one word in a sentence.
  • Only use [descriptive text] when necessary. If an action, such as a character reading a book, can be implied by the dialogue (e.g., you’ve just given the character a book, and now they’re talking about it), then [descriptive text in square brackets] is unnecessary.
    • However, do use square brackets in choices when depicting an action you will take. E.g., instead of: "1. Show him a note. 2. Nevermind." write "1. [Show him a note.] 2. Nevermind." Although this is not vanilla convention, it helps avoid ambiguity.
  • Use *emotes* even less often. E.g. *sigh* or *cough*. These are probably the only two examples of where *emotes* should be used. They are semi-onomatopoeic, and are standing in for the sound of the action, rather than describing the action like [boxed text] does.
  • Don’t characterise choice dialogue. Choice dialogue should be kept simple. Ideally it should be Yes/No. If you find you need to write a lot in choice dialogue for the dialogue to make sense, try rewriting the NPC’s dialogue. Another standard response is “Nevermind.” for choices allowing the player to refuse an offer or change their mind about continuing a quest.
  • Almost never give your characters accents or idiosyncrasies. By accents I mean implyin’ a character as belongin’ to the workin’ class by droppin’ le’ers, for example. By idiosyncrasies I mean giving the character a weird laugh, for example.
  • Don’t overuse Continues. If you find your dialogue is getting too long, that is a sign you need to cut exposition or improve the brevity of your dialogue, rather than that you need a Continue.
  • Only use %PCName for familiar characters. It’s better to use %PCRank or %PCClass. An exception is for questgivers that the player has been working with for a while.
  • Avoid mentioning specific time points and durations. The majority of Morrowind quests can be started or finished at any moment and delayed for as long as you want, so mentioning specific days or weeks, like "it happened a week ago", may contradict the real in-game time. Instead, use more general expressions such as "recently", "some time ago", "for several weeks", etc.
    • This rule doesn't apply to quests with timers (e.g. "meet me in three days") and events that happened before the game's timeline (either particular dates before 16th of Last Seed 3E 427, or "X years ago" meaning X years before 3E 427).

Journal

  • Do not imply the player character’s thoughts. You should not tell the player what the player character is thinking or tell the player exactly what to do, i.e. “I should go back to the quest giver” or “I was happy to complete the task.” Better to frame it in terms of what the quest giver wants, or what has happened.
  • Always include relevant topics in the entries. If your quest has a main topic, it should be included in the first journal entry of the quest. If new topics are added, they should be included with relevant journal entries.
  • Keep Journal entries short and informative. Journal entries should be to-the-point. Do not include exhaustive descriptions of every action the player or NPC has taken. You can even exclude directions from journal entries if they’re given in topics that are linked in journal entries.
  • The mark of good journal usage is that you should always be able to completely drop the quest, bugger off to somewhere else, have absolutely no memory of where or who any of the involved parties are, and still be able to come back and finish the quest using the information in your journal entries and the topics within.

Other Conventions

  • Convention for when an NPC teaches the player a spell: in the Results box, Messagebox "[Spell Name] was added to your spell list."

Other Advice

  • Avoid the word ‘quest’. Quest givers should never use that word. It should be a 'favor,' or a 'task,' or 'trekking in the wilderness,' but they should never talk about actual 'quests' (aside from the rare cases where the NPC is a Cult Oracle or a messenger from a god). The word 'quest' might appear in book writings, but even then it should be used sparingly. For example:
    • (This is acceptable) “I began my quest to figure out what specific ingredients cause Mazte to taste like rat piss,”
    • (This is not acceptable) “I was questing over near the ashlands when I noticed…”
  • Use simple language. Simple is often better. Regular, everyday words feel more like speech, and are easier for players to read. If you find yourself reaching for the thesaurus a lot to add interest, there are better ways to do that.
    • Exception 1: it may be desirable to use archaic-sounding language for certain characters. E.g., with non-hostile Daedra, to evoke a feeling that you are dealing with millennia-old beings – see, for example, the Daedra in Firewatch's Mages Guild questline.
    • Exception 2: Ashlanders should speak in a more formal, stilted manner.
  • Vary your rhythm. The best way to add interest to dialogue is by varying the rhythm. You can do that with different sentence lengths and structures, or by avoiding repetition. Another way is to start your sentences differently from each other. The best way to check for rhythm is to sound out the dialogue in your head, or even say it out loud.
  • Avoid Comma Splicing. Comma splicing is where you join two sentences which could stand alone, using a comma. For example “He told me to look for the item at the lighthouse, it's a Dwarven shield”. That’s bad. (Get a better understanding of comma splicing here). It’s okay to use a comma splice, however, when comparing things, e.g. “She’s not dead, she’s alive!”.
  • Use the Edit-> Find Text option. Here you can search all existing dialogue and journal entries for a particular word or phrase. This is useful for making sure that your writing is consistent with both Vanilla Morrowind and existing TR writing when it comes to spelling, use of idioms, etc.

Literature

Book Object Guidelines

  • Book object IDs should adhere to the Tamriel_Data naming conventions. Namely "Books" are divided into actual books, scrolls, enchanted scrolls and notes/letters. Books with text contain the abbreviation of the project they are from. This is to show which project added (and possibly wrote) this book. Books that are split into volumes contain a volume suffix in their ID. Enchanted scrolls are additionally categorized to the race the associated spell belongs to.
  • Book weight is dependent on the length of the text and if the text is a book, scroll, or note. Most single-page notes should weigh between 0.10 and 0.20. Scrolls vary between 0.20 and 1.00. Books range between 1.00 and 6.00, with the vast majority weighing in at the 3.00 to 4.00 range. Exceptions can be made for magical or otherwise strange texts, or if the book uses a unique model.
  • Book value fluctuates wildly. In general, single-page notes or personal letters should be worth nothing. Cheaply printed, popular and widespread books can cost anything between 10 to 30 gold. The vast majority of books costs something like 40 to 120 gold, with more rare and exclusive tomes going up to 400. Only the rarest, unique books are worth 1000 or more gold. Always consider the relative rarity of your book, and whether the player is more likely to pay for it or sell it. Enchanted scrolls or spellbooks should always be worth at least 100 to 300 gold.
  • Physical models and icons can be found in the m and tr\m directories. P:C and SHOTN use their own set of books and letters, and should only be used sparingly if your book is meant for TR. Unique models or textures are possible, but should be used sparingly.
  • Books can be set up to teach a certain skill, or (using scripts) a spell. Such books should be rare, and the spell or skill they teach should be appropriate to the content of the book. Skillbooks and spellbooks are rarer and more expensive than normal books.
  • Books can be set as scrolls, which will cause the text to scroll down instead of being divided into pages. Naturally, this is dependent on the object's model. Scrolls can also receive an enchantment, or be set up as objects to be enchanted by the player. Enchanted scrolls are one-use objects, meaning they dissipate after the player casts them.

Formatting

  • One book per asset. One asset per book. Books that are a part of a series should have links to each other in the Body field for easier reviewing.
  • The absolute character limit on a text is 64,000. However, the realistic length of a book is limited by practical considerations. Most books should be no longer than 4,000 to 6,000 characters. Exceptionally, a book can be longer than 10,000 characters, though it is advisable to split such books up into different volumes (and thus different assets). No book should go beyond a hard limit of 15,000 characters.
  • No italics, bold, or underlined text, for the game engine does not support these.
  • Red colored text is accepted by the game engine, but should be rare and only used in special circumstances. Do not use this in place of italics or other formatting. Ask yourself, why is the author using red ink? To change text color, edit <FONT COLOR="000000"> using hex values. Not all colors appear to be supported and you cannot change text color in the middle of a paragraph.
  • The size of text can be edited through SIZE="3", however, this is not advised, save in unusual circumstances.
  • Consider that a couple lines in a Word document or a forum page will turn into a sizeable paragraph in-game. The eye is lazy and paragraphs that are too long tend to fatigue the reader. Write like you are writing for a web page rather than a physical book, with shorter paragraphs and more white space.
  • Text can be centered, but typically this is only for use in scrolls and pamphlets, or for formatting title pages. Text can also be right-aligned, though this is quite rare. To affect alignment, change <DIV ALIGN="CENTER"> to "LEFT" or "RIGHT".
  • Text can be written in the basic font (MagicCards), the console font (Century Gothic – do not use this in books) or in Daedric. No other fonts are currently supported. Only use Daedric where appropriate. The font can be changed by editing FACE="Magic Cards" to say "Daedric". As with colors, you cannot change the font within a paragraph.
  • Books can contains images in .dds or .tga format.
    • If your book is to have an image associated with it, please include its placement in the Text window (it will be placed in bookart\tr), as well as in an attachment to the asset.
    • Bookarts adhere to the same limitations as other textures: they must be 512 or 256 pixels in size, with transparency to show white space on the page. They can be used for maps, drawings or seals, but also for texts in fonts that the engine does not support (for example, Dwemer or Ayleid).
  • In general, while unusual formatting that deviates from the above guidelines can look very interesting and engaging if done well, it should be used sparingly and only when a good reason presents itself.

Writing Style

  • Books should follow native Morrowind style (see section above). When in doubt, check existing texts for examples.
  • Titles can be written in caps, centered, left-aligned, or wholly absent.
  • Authors can be noted, but this is not necessary. Avoid writing things like "by anonymous" – if the author is unknown, simply do not mention him or make an editorial note.
  • Editorial notes at the beginning of the book or in the text should be placed between square brackets. A general out-of-text note on the meaning or significance of a book can be very useful to contextualize a book. A distinction should be made between the editor's notes (which are present in the physical text) and contextual notes (which do not technically appear in the text, but give it more meaning). The following it an example of a contextual note:

[This is a chronicle of events of historical significance to the Dwemer Freehold Colony of Nchuleft. The text was probably recorded by an Altmer, for it is written in Aldmeris.]

  • Remarks or impressions of the player character should also be placed between square brackets. Notes that describe how the player feels or acts should be avoided where possible (as it makes roleplay difficult). The same goes for dialogue: the player is in control of their character, and should be able to decide how they feel.

    [No words can describe what you see. Or what you think you see.]

  • Sometimes, generic texts can be summarized in a single sentence, with no further text. This can be a time-saver, but should only be used for the most generic and uninteresting objects.

    [This parchment shows a list of contracts to purchase ebony or work in the mines.]

  • Many texts consist of only a couple of notable excerpts or fragments of a larger book. These can be marked by adding ... to the beginning and (if necessary) ending of a paragraph, or by placing [...] between text blocks, signifying that parts of the text are being skipped or are lost.
  • "Unique" aspects of a book can also be noted between square brackets: handwritten notes, pages torn out, damages, etc. However, these should only be used for unique books such as journals, notes etc.

Content

When talking about the place books have in Tamriel Rebuilt, we are really asking what they do both in an Elder Scrolls game, because in the end that is what we are making, and in Tamriel, because this is what we are depicting.

Books have a role to play because they carry an enormous potential to build a world beyond the several gigabytes that constitute the game. They can establish things that are far beyond the budget, time limit, or skill of any development team (including us) and can often plainly do things that are impossible to describe otherwise. They are necessary, because to some extent they save the fictional world we can portray through our game engine from becoming a facade, transitory, and ultimately meaningless.

  • Consider the role your book is to play in the gameworld. Books are never narratives that stand on their own: they must always express something about the world and the people, factions, etc. that exist in it. A book that does not inform us in some way about Tamrielic culture is a waste of space. Books are tools to enrich the gameworld in ways that dialogue or the worldspace cannot.
  • Consider both the author, publisher and the audience of your book. You are not only crafting a fiction within the text, but also a fictional writer with their own prejudices and ideas.
    • The impression the book makes on the player should be the same as the impression it makes in-universe. If you want to write an old-timey sounding text then it needs to be something that's old-fashioned in-universe, and that has to be important enough to the nature of what you're communicating that it's worth the added baggage.
    • Having a defined (but not exaggerated) authorial voice makes your book more believable. It is also worthwhile to define where and when a book was written (though this should only be noted in the text where appropriate).
    • Finally, consider the publisher (Who would print this book? For what reason? Would this be a profitable venture?) and its audience (Who would read this? Why? In what kind of locations can the book be placed?).
  • Always remember that you are writing a book, not an audiolog. Avoid writing in accents or dialect, and avoid audible remarks ("snorts", "spits", "coughs", etc.).
  • Consider the genre of your book. "Adventure novels" and fantasy stories about questing heroes should be avoided; instead, consider what kind of books are popular in the real world and in various historical periods.
  • Do your research. Books should adhere to the existing lore of the Morrowind-era setting. This does not mean that no new lore can be included, but only that this should not contradict existing lore, or only do so in measured and well-considered ways.
  • Books should also adhere to the planning and development of the mod itself. In general, proposing extensive new pantheons, locations or factions in books is bad etiquette. If you wish to develop new ideas through literature, do so in the lore forum or Discord channel first or make a brief summary of the new concept above the book text.
  • Your book should never be objective truth. Your text is always an interpretation of events, filtered through the world-view of your author and his culture. Also consider what your author can and cannot know: many things we take as a known fact in lore are unknown or speculative from in-game.
  • Remember that it is not always necessary to write a complete books – many vanilla books feature only excerpts and fragments from what are supposed to be larger texts.
  • Proofread your work: check your grammar, check your tense (use only one tense!), check your spelling. It is best to read your text out loud to see if sentences do not go on too long or sound weird.

Keeping the above in mind, it becomes obvious that books, far more than a source of information, are tools. Any worthwhile book seeks to do something; it takes the world as we imagine it and builds upon it, deconstructs it, reconstructs it, changes it, nuances it, … Books always have hidden agendas.

Sources of TES-III-Era Lore

Do not rely blindly on UESP – most UESP lore articles include information from newer TES titles that may heavily retcon TES III and cannot be taken at face value in Project Tamriel or Tamriel Rebuilt.

Workflow

  1. Take your time to decide a single subject. Something or anything that interests you.
  2. Follow the steps it takes to write a good story. Once you have your subject, outline what you wish to discuss. Use your outline to expound upon your theme.
  3. Do the research! You are writing the book, song, scroll, journal or quest. You should know the lore that substantiates and supports it, better than most. You should be able to defend your position.
  4. Proof read your work. If someone else is not available to read your work prior to submission, try the following techniques:
    1. Read the piece out loud.
    2. Read the piece backwards.
    3. Check your grammar.
    4. Check your story's tense. One tense please.
    5. Check your spelling. Spell check is helpful, but don't rely on it. (i.e. there, their and they're or to, too and two)
  5. Submit your book:
    1. Navigate to the Asset Browser and click the “Contribute an Asset” button near the top of the list.
    2. Write your working title into the Title field. Please do not change this even if you change the title of your book, as it also changes the URL assigned to your asset.
    3. Set the asset’s Status to "In Development."
    4. For Asset Type, select "Writing → Literature."
    5. Fill in the Race, Faction, and Area subfields as seems appropriate for your book’s topic and where it may be found in-game. These can also be left blank.
    6. If the book is finished and you want a reviewer to take a look at it, set the Asset Progress to 100. THIS IS NOT THE ONLY STEP TO TAKE TO FLAG IT FOR A REVIEWER! Also see step 10.
    7. You may want to enter your own username into the Developer field, so that the asset sorts properly when you use the Dashboard.
    8. In the Body window, you will put a quick description of the book. Be sure to include the following:
      • Specify the book’s title. This will appear as the in-game object’s name and so shouldn’t be more than about 25 characters long.
      • Specify whether this is a skill book, and if so, which skill.
      • If the book is part of a series, post links to their listings in the asset browser.
      • Anything else you would like us to know about the book.
    9. Copy-paste the text of your book into the Text window. This is under the Body window. The browser should automatically copy most formatting into your post; please be sure to be follow the formatting guidelines listed below.
    10. Press Save! The book will now be posted to the asset browser for all to see. If you wish a reviewer to take a look at this, navigate to your book’s public asset page (not the edit page) and click the button “Put This Asset Up for Review” at the bottom of the asset description above the comments. The asset Status must be set to “In Development” and must have the Asset Progress of “100” for this button to appear.
    11. And you are all done! A reviewer will come by... eventually (we are always short on literature reviewers). As reviewers often edit the text of your book directly in the Text window, it is suggested you have a copy of your book saved elsewhere so nothing is inadvertently lost.

The people around here are more than willing to assist; your work will be reviewed, discussed and suggestions will be made. If something needs to be fixed, fix it. If you don't know how, ask for further assistance. It is most important to be persistent and dedicated. No one is perfect, don't give up.

Dialogue

Tutorials

How Dialogue Works

Morrowind dialogue is topics-based, rather than tree-based, as in other games like Skyrim or Neverwinter Nights. What this means is that the dialogue is organized by topics which the player can pick out of a list to ask the NPC about. The flow of conversation and how the player character is asking about the topics is largely left up to the player’s imagination.

The Dialogue window of the Construction Set. Topics are checked from the top response to the bottom. The first one matching the filters on the given NPC is chosen, when the player asks about that topic in-game.

Furthermore, the game engine processes dialogue in a top-down fashion This can be visualized in the Construction Set Dialogue window, under the Topics tab. The middle upper window shows the possible Responses for that Topic. The engine goes through these Responses from top to bottom, checking to see if each Response matches the parameters given in the Speaker Conditions section (middle lower half of the window). It stops once it finds one that does match, and this is what is shown to the player when clicking on a topic.

This has the implication that you should add more generic lines that fit almost all NPCs at the bottom of the responses list, whereas successively more specific responses should be further towards the top.

For each NPC or non-hostile creature, Morrowind checks through all the topics known by the player to decide which ones to show in the topic list. If no matching Response is found for the given topic, the topic is not shown to the player. A player can learn new topics through the AddTopic function as well as by automatic topic detection. The latter is unreliable to the point of Bethesda soft-breaking a Morrowind.esm quest in Tribunal.esm. See the Quest Guidelines for more details.

Note: Greetings have somewhat special handling, see below.

Response Order

As mentioned above, each topic (or greeting or journal) is a list of responses that is processed top to bottom to find a matching response to show the player. When creating your own (new) topic in the CS it's not very important to know what rules are used to determine where a response is inserted into the list since you're creating every response and the order is the one you see in the CS. However, when adding new responses to an existing topic (such as a faction's quest topic like "duties" or "orders") or a Greeting (like "Greeting 5") this becomes more interesting.

Every response has an ID (the Info ID column in the CS which is collapsed by default) and every response knows the ids of the response above and the response below itself. We can visualize a single response as follows:

prev123I am %name. What do you want?[conditions]
id456
next789

This particular response has the id "456", is below "123", and above "789". It also has some text and a set of conditions that aren't important to determine how it should be sorted. Now despite each response knowing which response should follow it, this information isn't used to determine the final order. Its only use is to create a warning pop-up when loading the file in case of a mismatch. Unfortunately loading both expansions results in a massive number of these warnings to the point where CSSE disabled it altogether.

To determine where this response should go, the first step is to see if the topic already contains a response with the same id (i.e. your plugin is modifying an existing response.) Should a response with the same id be found, its previous id will be compared to the previous id of the overriding response. If they are the same, the position of the existing response will be used for your overriding response. If however they aren't the same, the existing response is removed and your override is inserted as if the topic contained no response with the same id.

Response 456 exists and is preceded by 123After loading your plugin
prevI am %name, %class.prevI am %name, %class.
id123id123
next456next456
prev123I am %name.prev123I am %name. What do you want?
id456id456
next789next789
prev456I am %name, %rank of the %faction.prev456I am %name, %rank of the %faction.
id789id789
nextnext
Response 456 exists but is not preceded by 123After loading your plugin
prev%name follows the trade of %class.prev%name follows the trade of %class.
id963id963
next456next456
prev963I am %name.prev456I am %name, %rank of the %faction.
id456id789
next789next
prev456I am %name, %rank of the %faction.prev123I am %name. What do you want?
id789id456
nextnext789

Note that in the second example the prev and next values of "963" and "789" didn't change after "456" was updated/reinserted. Each response keeps the values defined in the plugin it was loaded from until all plugins are loaded. This means that if your plugin contained several other responses that were supposed to be between "456" and "789", they will all be inserted underneath "456" so if it was important that they be above "789" the topic is now broken. This phenomenon is called fallen or dropped dialogue.

Now suppose we are once again inserting "456" but this time it doesn't exist in the topic. When inserting a new response, its prev field is assessed. If it is empty, it is inserted at the top of the list. If it isn't empty but there is no response in the list that matches its prev field, it is inserted at the bottom of the list as shown in the second example above. If a response matching the prev field can be found, the new response is inserted directly below it.

When creating a new response in the CS, it will mark the responses above and below it as modified (having presumably altered their prev and next fields.) This means your plugin overrides those responses, potentially causing them to end up in wildly different positions according to the rules above. It can also mean your plugin re-adds a response that was deleted after you made your plugin but before it was merged, potentially reintroducing faulty dialogue. Because of these side effects, it is best to clean out any responses you didn't create or modify intentionally. Additionally, when new dialogue is merged into an existing topic, it would be prudent for the merger to check that everything ended up in the right position and fixing things if not.

Filters

Dialogue is targetted towards certain characters, factions, locations, or quest stages by use of filters. There are many available to you, but here are some notable ones.

Character ID

This is used whenever a certain line should be unique to only one character. Quests tend to make heavy use of this, as do particularly important characters in NPCing claims (for example in the Background topic).

Location-Specific Variable (Map Number)

Each Tamriel Rebuilt or Project Tamriel NPC includes a location-specific variable in their script (e.g., TR_map for Tamriel Rebuilt). This helps filter dialogue according to which part of a province an NPC resides in. You can use the Function/Variable fields in the Speaker Conditions to check for it. Each dialogue Response entry may be conditioned with the corresponding local variable (e.g., TR_Map == 3) to make some Responses only show in the applicable map region. See the NPC and Creature Guidelines on which location variable and which value you should be using.

You should use this filter even if your dialogue will have another location-based condition, as this helps keep the filtering from breaking if the player brings a follower through the area.

NoLore and T_Local_NoLore

NoLore is a Vanilla variable given to NPCs to filter out the Wikipedia-like dialogue that is meant to explain the world and its lore. However, all Tamriel Rebuilt and Project Tamriel NPCs are tagged NoLore, since many of the default lore responses in the Vanilla game are unsuitable outside Vvardenfell.

Instead, Tamriel Data implements a new local variable, T_Local_NoLore, which acts in the same way as the vanilla one, but for Tamriel Rebuilt and Project Tamriel. It is common for quest-related NPCs to be tagged T_Local_NoLore, so their quest-specific dialogue and character doesn't get lost in the mish-mash of generic replies. Most generic NPCs should not be tagged T_Local_NoLore.

When adding generic and lengthy lore-discussing dialogue, it must be filtered to exclude T_Local_NoLore This is done with the condition Not Local, T_Local_NoLore = 0.

In the rare case where the dialogue is meant to affect vanilla NPCs, the province specific variable must be omitted (because vanilla NPCs don't have our variables) and a Not Local NoLore = 0 added (which then means the line won't affect PT or TR NPCs – these are almost always outside of Vvardenfell so that usually works.)

Disposition (Disp)

Almost all NPC dialogue should carry the Disposition filter of 30. This prevents the NPC from talking to the player when they really dislike the player, and makes for a more realistic world.

Note: This should not be applied for most quest dialogue and certainly not for ForceGreeting dialogue.

Special Grammar

Khajiit and Argonians often talk weird, Ashlanders sometimes speak with simplistic grammar, and mute NPCs don’t talk at all of course, so be sure to filter these NPCs’ dialogue appropriately with the T_Local_Khajiit local, race, class, or unique ID variables. These filters will need to be tested out in-game, to be sure no other topics slip through that have non-accented dialogue.

Be aware that TES3 Khajiit do not refer to themselves using "this one" as they do in later games.

Cell

This limits dialogue to only appear when the NPC is placed in the given cell, or any of the cell's child cells. This is most useful for rumors that only appear in certain towns, or for NPCs making comments about the building they're in. If the NPCs move out of the cell, the dialogue will no longer show up, so you want to be careful selecting this option if the intended speaker(s) move(s) around.

Nota bene: a cell's child cells are any cells that start with the parent cell's name. So "Vivec, Bob's House" is a child of "Vivec" and a child of "Vivec, Bob". This is in no way related to any doors the cell may or may not have.

Also note that from a mechanical perspective, this filter does not check for in which cell an NPC is, it checks for in which cell the player is when they are having the conversation. For Interior cells this distinction is irrelevant, but it can matter in exterior cells. If an NPC is placed right on the border between two exterior cells with different names (e.g. "Vivec" and an unnamed cell in the Ascadian Isles), they will get different responses depending on which side of the cell border the player is standing, even if the NPC never moves.

Sex

This is field limits the dialogue by the NPC's gender, not the player's.

Use the PC Sex Function/Variable field to check the player's sex, instead. Males have a value of 0, while Females have a value of 1.

Item

The player must have the specified number of Items. Note that generally you do not want to use the = operator, or else the player must have exactly this amount of items, no more and no less!

Weather

Check the in-built Weather variable in the Function/Variable field. This dialogue only shows when the weather of the appropriate sort is happening outside. This may not work as intended while in an interior cell.

Value Weather
0 Clear
1 Cloudy
2 Foggy
3 Overcast
4 Raining
5 Thunder
6 Ash
7 Blight
8 Snowing (Bloodmoon required)
9 Blizzard (Bloodmoon required)

Journal

The player must be at the specified stage (index) in the specified quest Journal. A majority of the dialogue entries for quests will make use of this function.

PCRace

Check this in the Global field. The player must belong to the specified race. Note that the value for race is only set once in character creation, so this function may break when working with mods that add more playable races. Each number refers to the races in alphabetical order, like so:

Value Race
1 Argonian
2 Breton
3 Dark Elf
4 High Elf
5 Imperial
6 Khajiit
7 Nord
8 Orc
9 Redguard

Greetings

The greetings tab in the Dialogue window of the Construction Set allows you to modify and add the responses given by NPCs before any topics are clicked.

Different from other dialogue topics, the game will check all greeting levels in succession. E.g., it first looks for Greeting 0 for a matching filter. If it doesn't find a match, it moves on to Greeting 1, and so on.

Different greeting levels have different uses in TES III:

Greeting Intended Use
Greeting 0 Absolute priority, includes crime greetings for arresting guards using the “alarmed” function. May also include characters that don't speak normally (emotes in the background, animals, etc). When in doubt, use Greetings 1 instead.
Greeting 1 Priority quest greetings (including forcegreetings, encounter-specific greetings) where it doesn’t matter if the player is a vampire, criminal, etc. The Vow of Silence failure reply must be at the top.
Greeting 2 Player is a vampire/player is nude, both generic and for triggering vampire-enabled quests.
Greeting 3 Special greetings for traitors to the Morag Tong. Also used for creature greetings.
Greeting 4 Greetings for players with common diseases, blight, or corprus. Also covers writs for the Morag Tong, and faction-based greetings if the player has a high bounty.
Greeting 5 Greetings for NPCs involved in quests – both faction-based and miscellaneous.
Greeting 6 Greetings between faction members. Also includes expelled greetings.
Greeting 7 Class-based greetings (publicans, fast travel, guards, slaves), unique ID greetings, crime level greetings, Endgame Nerevarine greetings.
Greeting 8 Clothes (general greetings concerning how player is dressed). Will not trigger properly in an unpatched game due to Endgame Nerevarine greetings*.
Greeting 9 Location-filtered greetings, also some faction-filtered greetings for general chatter. Will not trigger properly in an unpatched game due to Endgame Nerevarine greetings*.

* Since 2018, Patch for Purists, Province Cyrodiil, Skyrim: Home of the Nords, and Tamriel Rebuilt all patch this bug in a unified way, allowing Greetings 8 and 9 to be used again.

Topics

This section helps you understand what kind of information is expected in the common topics you encounter in TES III.

Background

This one answers two simple questions, and generally should do it laconically:

  • Who you are,
  • What your job is.

Except for important characters or those involved in quests, TR and PT stick to the simple formula of "I am %Name, %Class" or "I am %name, %class and %rank of the %faction." for NPCs belonging to a faction. These generic responses are defined in Tamriel Data (meaning you don't need to add them yourself) and should be preferred for the majority of NPCs.


A contrived example for an important character who should receive a slightly more specific background:

I am Crassius Curio, Royal Guard Captain of Mournhold.

My trade

To contrast with the "Background" topic, this one is about what your job does. You should add unique responses to this only rarely, when the default response doesn't cut it.

In line with the previous contrived example:

I lead the Royal Guards in their protection of King Helseth, and protect him from the numerous foes who threaten his life.

Destination

NPCs that offer travel services should be able to tell the player which places they offer transport to. This topic should be used to give players an idea of where a destination is relative to the NPC, i.e. "I can take you upriver to Almas Thir" or "My boat can take you east to Helnim." Shipmasters also use this topic to tell players the name of their ship.

Guild Guide

NPCs in towns that have a guild guide use this topic to name the guild guide and where they can teleport the player to. The guild guide in question should not have the topic.

Location Name Topics

Location name topics offer the player general and very basic information about the settlement. They also usually trigger a ShowMap <townname> in the result box, adding the location and extent of the settlement to the player's map.

They are generally offered by:

  • Scouts in nearby locations (Disposition 0), generally focusing on how to get to the city, size, and nearby locations,
  • Savants anywhere (Disposition 0), offering the same information as scouts, plus a bit about the political situation,
  • Inhabitants in the settlement (Disposition 30), offering the generally same information, but offering insider perspectives into what makes the settlement what it is.

For the purpose of Tamriel Rebuilt, Scouts and Savants must at least be filtered to the same map. Scout-specific entries for small settlements should generally be manually filtered by cell for nearby settlements.

For small settlements, these replies are more or less the same reply reused several times.

For bigger settlements, Scouts filter through several replies (per Random100 chance) while Savants use a compound reply.

Note: Scout and Savant dialogue should ideally also tell you about places off the beaten path – finding and talking to a Scout in town should be the main non-quest way you find out about a wilderness location (see Barra'tho in Helnim marking some Telvannis dwemer ruins on your map). This makes it feel more rewarding to identify useful NPCs and get to know them and makes flavor locations like the IAS more useful.

Examples

Balmora Scout (25% chance each):

Balmora is a large town in the south of the West Gash region, bordering on the Bitter Coast region to the west, the Ashlands region to the north, and the Ascadian Isles to region to the south.

Balmora is the district seat of House Hlaalu, and the largest settlement on Vvardenfell after Vivec City.

Good roads lead north to Ald'ruhn and south to Caldera, Seyda Neen, and Vivec City.

The Imperial Legion garrison of Fort Moonmoth lies south of Balmora.

Balmora Savant:

Balmora is the district seat of House Hlaalu, and the largest settlement on Vvardenfell after Vivec City. Good roads lead north to Ald'ruhn and south to Caldera, Seyda Neen, and Vivec City. The Imperial Legion garrison of Fort Moonmoth lies south of Balmora.

Balmora Inhabitants:

Balmora is the Council Seat of Great House Hlaalu, and the largest town on Vvardenfell except for Vivec City. Located on the Odai River, and sitting astride the Ald'ruhn-Vivec road, Balmora is an important mercantile trade and travel center. High Town is the administrative center, with the Temple and manor houses. The shops, guilds, and tradehouses of the Commercial District are north of the river; Labor Town's modest cornerclubs and homes are south of the river.

Sadrith Mora Scout:

Sadrith Mora is the district seat of House Telvanni, and home of the Telvanni Council. The town is large, with many craftsmen, traders, and trainers, but the island is accessible only by sea and teleportation.

Sadrith Mora Savant:

Sadrith Mora is the district seat of House Telvanni, and home of the Telvanni Council, though only one Telvanni councilor actually lives in Sadrith Mora. Sadrith Mora is an island settlement, and accessible only by sea and teleportation. The town is large, with many craftsmen, traders, and trainers, but it is open only to Telvanni retainers; outsiders should confine themselves to the Gateway Inn.

Sadrith Mora Inhabitants:

Sadrith Mora is the House Telvanni seat, home of the Telvanni Council House and site of Tel Naga, the Councilor Mage-Lord Master Neloth's wizard tower. Visitors cannot enter the town, but must stay in the Gateway, a merchant inn for outsiders. Retainers and kin of the Telvanni can travel freely in town. Many outlanders live here, but most are Telvanni mercenaries, craftsmen, traders, or slavers.

Services

This topic exists to inform the players where they might find services in a town. For larger towns, with many service providers, this usually means pointing the player to factions. For smaller towns it's more specific, naming NPCs instead.

Examples

Dagon Fel:

Fryfnhild is a trader. Hjotra the Peacock, also at the End of the World, is a pawnbroker; he buys and sells many things. We don't have a smith or a healer.

Balmora:

Go to Hlaalu Council Manor for House Hlaalu services. Temple faithful go to the Balmora Temple. Outlanders go to Fort Moonmoth for the Imperial Legion and the Imperial cult southeast of town. Try Balmora Fighters Guild or Balmora Mages Guild. Morag Tong offers services. Better shops are in High Town on the hill. Plenty of merchants in the Commercial District, east of the river. And a few traders in Labor Town, west of the river.

Someone in particular

This one (and the next three) are rather formulaic:

  1. Who are the rulers?
  2. Who are the local faction leaders?
  3. Who are the shopkeepers?
Examples

Balmora:

None of the Hlaalu counselors live in Balmora. Nileno Dorvayn at the Council Hall is the ranking Hlaalu local. At the Fighters Guild, Eydis Fire-Eye is the steward. Ethasi Rilvayn is the Morag Tong steward. Feldrelo Sadri is the steward for the Balmora Tribunal Temple. Sugar Lips Habasi is the local Thieves Guild boss. Who am I missing? Oh. Mages Guild. Ranis Athrys is their steward.

Dagon Fel:

Fryfnhild is the publican and proprietor of the End of the World tradehouse. Sarnir the Clerk is an Imperial agent, here to investigate the disappearance of a scholar. A Nord wizard, Sorkvild the Raven, has occupied an old wizard's tower east of town.

Specific place

  1. Where is this settlement located (region)?
  2. What are the defining locations of the settlement?
  3. Where are the shops?
  4. What travel services are there and where do they lead?
  5. Where do the roads lead?
Examples

Gnisis:

Our village is on the Ouada Samsi gorge in the West Gash. The Gnisis Temple is the village center. The Gnisis eggmine lies to the east. The Legion barracks, Fort Darius, the Deathshead Legion garrison, and the Imperial shrine lie to the southeast. Madach Tradehouse and the silt strider platform are south of the Temple. Hetman Abelmawia's hut is southwest, close to the Temple. An Old Velothi tower lies under a natural arch to the northwest, built into the bluff.

Hla Oad:

Fat Leg's Drop-Off is the only tradehouse in the village. That's where everyone hangs out. See a couple shacks and a ship or two, and you've seen all of Hla Oad. Baleni Salavel at the docks offers passage to Gnaar Mok, Vivec, and Ebonheart.

Little Advice

This section covers only the location specific responses in Little Advice (there are location-agnostic ones in vanilla).

  1. Which NPCs should the player talk to for quests, training, or factions?
  2. What local area would interest the player?
  3. What is designed around this settlement that the player would find unusual?
  4. What should the player know about the game mechanics?
Examples

Sadrith Mora:

Looking for work in Sadrith Mora? Start with the Fighters Guild and the Mages Guild at Wolverine Hall. If you're thinking of trying to serve House Telvanni, go talk to the Telvanni Mouths over at the Council Hall.

Hla Oad:

You may have heard people refer to the Bitter Coast as the Smuggler's Coast. There's a reason for that. A lot of islands and coastline, with plenty of caves and hidey-holes, and few people around. Perfect for men with boats who want to keep their business private.

Little Secret

  1. What dungeons are nearby that are of interest to the player?
  2. Which NPCs should the player talk to for quests or flavor?
Examples

Ahemussa Camp:

Are you interested in seeing the old places of the Daedra worshippers? Look upon Esutanamus. It sits upon an island east of the mainland beaches, southeast of the Telvanni town of Tel Mora. Sometimes a champion will enter there in search of ancient weapons and treasures.

Molag Mar:

Do you know where Telasero is? The old Dunmer stronghold between Suran and Molag Mar? The Temple just sent three Ordinators from the Order of War up there. Some trader reported seeing corprus monsters there.

Morrowind Lore

Morrowind lore acts much like one of the above four topics, but is not limited by location. While it can include pretty much anything that is deemed necessary, there are some questions this topic tends to answer more often than not:

  1. What defines province factions?
  2. How do the province political entities interact?
  3. What is some information an outlander/the player should know that would not come up in normal conversation?

Most NPCing claims should not add new responses to this topic.

Examples

Savant:

Let me tell you how the Morag Tong feels about killing. According to the codes and customs of the Morag Tong, killing civilians is scandalous, and grounds for expulsion. Killing anyone but a victim marked by writ is dishonorable, a sign of incompetence and disrespect for the Tong, and grounds for sanction or expulsion. Killing a victim marked by a writ is sacred and honorable.

Temple Savant:

Let me tell you about the Camonna Tong. The Camonna Tong is Morrowind's native criminal syndicate. They're grown powerful and ruthless since the Imperial occupation, and have great influence in the higher ranks of House Hlaalu. The Camonna Tong are in direct competition with the Thieves Guild for control of illegal trade, and they have sworn to exterminate the upstart outlander newcomers. The Camonna Tong are known for their brutal disregard for human life.

Savant:

Of Morrowind's five Great Houses, three are represented on Vvardenfell. House Redoran is an aristocratic house of noble warriors, strong supporters of the Temple. House Hlaalu is an enterprising house of traders and merchant princes, strong supporters of the Empire. House Telvanni is an independent association of wizard-lords, equally hostile to the Empire, the Temple, and the other houses. House Indoril and House Dres are the two Great Houses not represented on Vvardenfell.

Dark Elf:

Light armor is weak but less tiring, good for running. Heavy armor is strong but slow and tiring. Medium armor is in-between. Unarmored style -- evading attacks instead of using armor -- least tiring of all.

Latest Rumors

Most of these will, ideally, correspond to quests in the area and will be added in questing claims. Settlements should still have one or two lines that touch on the broader themes and conflicts of the area that ought to be added in NPCing claims.

Go Free

The topic is related to freeing the slaves. As vanilla entries cover half of the freeing-related dialogue, in most cases it's enough to add the following:

  • "You have the key. Will you let me / %Name go free?" - filtered to Local SlaveStatus >= 0 and Item "KeyID" > 0. This dialogue should always have the Choice "Unlock the slaves' bracers." 1 "Nevermind." 2
  • If the slave is impossible to free, add one dialogue entry saying this at the top of the "go free" topic.
  • All freeable slaves in vanilla have greeting 7 entries "Do you have the key to these bracers? Will you let me / %Name go free?" filtered to Item "KeyID" > 0 and Local SlaveStatus == 0, which unlock the "go free" topic. However, adding them in TR is not necessary since the generic scripts in Tamriel_Data add the topic automatically.

Deprecated Topics

Tamriel Rebuilt used to add the topics local area and local economy, but these are now deprecated. Instead, the info contained in them should go into specific place or the specific location name topic.

Tamriel Rebuilt also used to contain location-specific answers to the very poorly filtered Vanilla Solstheim topic. Now, both Tamriel_Data and Patch for Purists removes this topic from NPCs who shouldn't have it. Outside of quests that or NPCs that specifically deal with Solstheim, you shouldn't include responses to this topic.

Faction Dialogue

Writing general dialogue for a new faction requires two ESPs: one for Tamriel_Data and one for the project's main plugin.

Tamriel_Data dialogue should contain the general faction framework unrelated to particular NPCs, locations or faction lore. Depending on a faction, the player may interact with faction mechanics (joining / advancement / expulsion / receiving quests) through high-ranking members (e.g. Fighters Guild or Thieves Guild), all members (e.g. Itinerant Priests in Cyrodiil), or particular NPCs (e.g. House Hlaalu or House Redoran). In case of the latter, all dialogue filtered to specific NPCs should be added in the project's ESM instead.

All TD dialogue should have a Local T_Local_NPC = 0 filter. Don't add Not Local T_Local_NoLore = 0 filters in all your dialogue - most of it should be available for NoLore questgivers as well.

TD faction dialogue should contain the following topics, except the situation described above:

  • "[faction name]" topic: general dialogue for faction members
  • "Requirements" topic: describing the faction's skills and attributes
  • "rules" topic and journal: describing the faction's rules
    • The rules should always tell the player that they cannot kill or steal from faction members, since the player's expulsion upon doing that is hardcoded in the game engine
    • The rules may explain who the player should talk to for making amends after being expelled (also see the "make amends" topic)
    • The "rules" topic should update journal, which contains the rules written in a similar, almost identical way
  • "join the [faction name]" topic: recruitment dialogue
    • The first dialogue entry gives the player a choice between joining and asking about the rules
    • If the player chooses to hear the rules, the dialogue entry should be identical to the "rules" topic, but without a journal update. In that entry, the player is given a choice between joining and refusing to join.
    • After choosing to join, the player may be immediately recruited into the faction or given additional dialogue, such as warning about mutual exclusivity of the Great Houses or giving a pledge in the Colovian Kingdoms
    • Certain factions may have additional requirements for joining, such as having a bounty in Ja-Natta Syndicate
  • "make amends" topic: dialogue for re-admitting the player
    • Depending on a faction, the consequences of expulsion may differ. See vanilla Great Houses for an example of such differences (also see the "rules" topic)
  • "Advancement" topic: dialogue for promoting the player
    • Depending on a faction, the player might need to speak with their leader(s) to advance to high ranks. Add such restrictions in TD only if they require any high-ranking NPC. In case they require the player to talk to a particular character, add the related dialogue in the project's ESM instead.
    • In certain factions, the topic for advancement in ranks can be different (such as "promotion" in the East Empire Company)
  • quest topic ("duties", "Orders", etc.): TD dialogue may include an entry for non-members and an entry for being expelled
    • If your quest topic is "work" or "works", pay extra attention to overlaps with other topics. See this for more information.
  • Greeting 6: one entry with "join the [faction name]" topic for non-members and one entry with the quest topic and/or "Advancement" topic for members
  • Greeting 4: a greeting for having a bounty of 1000 gold or more
    • Double-check your Greeting 4 lines if you're adding dialogue for a criminal faction - their dialogue for any bounty might need to overlap generic greetings
  • "price on your head" topic: dialogue for clearing the player's bounty in criminal factions. Depending on its implementation, it can be split between TD and the project's ESM.
  • "Background" topic: add unique dialogue here if you don't want the NPCs to expose their faction for non-members (e.g. for criminal factions or assassin guilds)

Faction dialogue in the project's ESM should contain the entries filtered to particular NPCs and locations. It may include the topics described above or introduce new ones, providing more specific information or new mechanics for particular characters or locations (settlement / region / province), or describing the faction's lore. Use the project's map filter and optionally Not Local T_Local_NoLore = 0 .

  • "little advice" and "little secret" topics: most factions have several unique dialogue entries in those two topics

Dropped Dialogue

An example of dropped dialogue. At (1), notice the start of Map 4 Greeting 5. The asterisks indicate this dialogue is in the active file. Then notice (2) where this dialogue is at the very bottom of the list.

Dropped dialogue (fallen dialogue) refers to dialogue records that were unable to find their previous linked entries, and fell to the bottom of the list. See the image to the side for an example.

Morrowind dialogue starts at the top of the list of responses and works its way down until it finds a response that fits. When dialogue drops to the bottom, often times generic responses will be chosen instead of the unique responses, leading to broken quests and missing or unfitting flavor dialogue.

To prevent this, always load TR_Mainland and TR_Update when working on a section file. When you load a section file with dialogue, and don't load TR_Mainland and TR_Update, you will always cause dropped dialogue. If you save the file in that state, dialogue will be permanently dropped with no easy way to restore it in the CS.

To easily check for dropped dialogue, look in Greeting 5 for the section file-specific responses, and ensure that they are near the top of the file. If they are at the bottom, either you or someone before you has failed to load mainland. Greeting 0, 1, and other topics will usually not show dropped dialogue.

Fallen dialogue can be fixed by changing the link to the previous INFO record (i.e. line) to what it ought to be. This requires editing your plugin outside the CS. Due to the way dialogue from different files is merged into a single list, it might not always be possible to get every line where it needs to be prior to merging the files. Which is to say, it's hard to impossible to fix fallen dialogue in a master file using a plugin. The use of dialogue placeholders should prevent this problem in regular claims. Fallen dialogue can be fixed using tes3cmd, the Enchanted Editor, or tes3conv. With the latter having a separate GUI capable of bulk editing and moving dialogue.