Artbreeder on Game Screenshots

So, like everybody else, I’ve been running my game screenshots through Artbreeder and enjoying the results. I’ve also been going back in and painting over / cleaning up / editing the results to make them more closely resemble their characters. It’s fun!

Colonel Hakeev after the power of Artbreeder
The Romulan only known as “Law”
Master Aryon before and after artification. Artbreeder added the earring on its own, and I decided to keep it.

Somebody mentioned that Master Aryon looks like Alexander Siddig here and,,, omg that would be the most incredible casting I could possibly imagine.

Master Aryon and the Dunmeri Faith

It’s always seemed to me that Aryon wasn’t born into a “Telvanni family,” and that he instead joined the Great House in early adulthood to pursue his own dreams and ambitions. There are many reasons I think this, not least his portrayal in House Telvanni as a precocious upstart with something to prove (and the classic “new money vs old money” dynamic between him and some of the older more established councilors). But it also seems to me that Aryon was raised in the Dunmeri faith, which I think would be unusual if his parents were Telvanni. Maybe not that unusual if they were just smallfolk or peasants on Telvanni land. And it would certainly not be unusual (and indeed almost a given) for any non-Telvanni Dunmer born in Morrowind.

Aryon is not by any means a pious or even religious man when we meet him in TES III. But he lacks the completely active and blasphemous distain for faith that the other Telvanni have. He seems to at least believe the Temple is useful, and he even built a temple for Tribunal priests to serve his smallfolk in Vos. Most Telvanni do not see any such use for or care about the Temple. It could be that he remembers the usefulness of the priests having served his community in his youth.

When you are gathering the votes of the Telvanni councilors to name you Hortator, whether you are his protege or not he hardly needs any convincing when you describe to him all the portents and strange occurrences of your story, and he commits to give you his support on the spot. It is possible that he merely sees this as an opportunity to get you to remove Gothren for him, of course, and he is relatively upfront about what he stands to gain from that. But to me, he also seems genuinely convinced, like he’s giving weight to the portents.

Later, after you inform Aryon that you’ve gathered all the votes, he tells you “I wish you luck, Hortator. I may even pray for you.” Let me say, as somebody who was personally raised atheist by atheist parents, it would literally never even occur to me to tell somebody that I would pray for them. I wouldn’t not do it out of spite or anything, I just wouldn’t even think of that. I don’t think he has been an active or practicing member of the Tribunal Temple for many many years, and he does imply that it would be a big deal for him to pray for anybody. But this still leaves me with the impression that he had some sort of spiritual training in his youth. I even believe that he does end up saying a prayer for the Hortator of House Telvanni, though maybe in a rushed sort of mumbled way. He hadn’t considered himself spiritual for a long time, but with all the weird things culminating on the island and this strange Outlander seemingly touched by destiny – well it couldn’t hurt.

Telvanni Gift Culture

Based on how the Telvanni are presented in Morrowind, these are my speculations on Telvanni gift culture. More than the other Houses and factions, Telvanni famously gives the player the best rewards and the highest pay. On the surface this makes sense, as House Telvanni is supposedly the wealthiest House. But there also seems to be a consistent culture around gifts and giving that I find interesting, and the game hints at a relatively complex Telvanni gift culture with myriad unwritten rules and expectations.

The Silver Staff of Peace is described as being the traditional gift for a Master to give their Mouth, while the Silver Staff of War is the traditional gift to commemorate the ascension to Spellwright. This suggests that there is a layer of a very formalized and prescribed gift culture within House Telvanni, whereupon various occasions and promotions must be recognized by the ranking Telvanni via giving the expected gifts. However, most Telvanni also seem to go above and beyond the bare minimum prescribed by their house, and an unofficial-but-basically-official gift giving culture thrives just underneath this formalized layer. And with good reason.

Despite the cutthroat and decentralized nature of House Telvanni, loyalty within the Masters’ staff/households generally seems to be absolute. Even Mistress Therana’s staff and Mouth are still very loyal to her and continue to run the household for her and eliminate threats to her position (presumably with Felisa Ulessen taking on more and more of the day-to-day decisions). Due to the House’s notorious infighting between the Masters (and their staff by proxy), the Masters reinforce the loyalty of their staff, retainers, allies, etc through the giving of extravagant gifts and endowments. This has gotten to the point that reception of these gifts is an expectation of subordinate Telvanni, and one of their most common perks.

In addition to cementing allies’ loyalty, the Telvanni culture of gift giving also serves to be a way for the Masters to flaunt their wealth and might. They often give gifts of incredible power, items which cannot be recreated in the game, and nonchalantly act as though it were a silly trinket. They obviously know the gift is extravagant and dear, but it is part of the Telvanni game to pretend that it is nothing for them to give so generously (“What, this old thing?”).

Master Aryon even takes it a step further when he gives you Aryon’s Helper, an obviously incredible item which would require orders of magnitude more enchantment capacity than any item has (and therefore must be a very complex and efficient enchantment), and he tells you that it was his first enchantment – hopefully you can find some use for it. I don’t believe for one minute that glove was his first enchantment (because that’s ridiculous), but the purpose of the gifts is two-fold: to keep subordinates and allies happy, while also demonstrating your power and creating/maintaining your reputation as the baddest sorcerer that ever was.

Presumably, then, the other role to be played – that of the recipient – is to play along and be suitably impressed by what a truly remarkable and rare item it is, while the giver continues to insist that it is nothing, a mere bauble. This completes the circle and further reinforces the relationship in both directions. This is important, especially if the recipient is a subordinate, but also for allied peers.