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Fan-made Morrowind mod 17 years in the making is a great excuse to reinstall the original

How to get it running, and what it looks like once you do

Morrowind Tamriel Rebuilt mod - city Tamriel Rebuilt mod team
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

The legendary open-world role-playing game, The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind, is still being updated by fans. One effort, which began before the game was even released in May 2002, just issued a major new update. The mod, called Tamriel Rebuilt, seeks to recreate the original design first envisioned by the team at Bethesda Softworks.

Thanks to the efforts of this dedicated team, more than 16 years after the original title there’s more adventures to be had than ever before.

Fans may know Morrowind as a game that takes place on Vvardenfell, an exotic volcanic island filled with warriors clad in bone armor, massive insects that ferry commuters around, and reclusive wizards who make their homes inside giant mushrooms. But the original goal of the game was to create something far larger that what was eventually shipped.

As the Tamriel Rebuilt team’s about page explains, the goal was for the landmass of Morrowind to include a massive U-shaped chunk of land surrounding the central island of Vvardenfell. In the graphic below, you an see Vvardenfell in the upper center of the map. Using primary resources, including in-fiction historical documents archived online at the Imperial Library fan site and Bethesda’s own pre-release era fan forums, the team has so far rebuilt roughly one-third of that missing terrain.

The so-called “Mainland” section of the Tamriel Rebuilt map has been mostly finished by the mod team, while the “Preview” section is still in development.
Tamriel Rebuilt mod team

Yesterday’s update includes a new area to the south of Vvardenfell called Old Ebonheart. According to the mod team, “Old Ebonheart is the very heart of Imperial power in Morrowind, a slice of civilized Cyrodiil in the alien east. But even within its fortified walls, danger and intrigue lurks and many an unwary traveller have lost their money and their influence here ... or worse.”

According to yesterday’s release notes, the latest update adds tons of unique dialogue and a number of miscellaneous quests, as well as faction quest lines for each of the Imperial factions. That means new, fan-made adventures for members of the Fighters Guild, Imperial Legion, the Imperial Cult, the Mages Guild, the Thieves Guild and the East Empire Company. There’s also a new in-game banking center and a Khajiit embassy to explore.

To celebrate the announcement, I dug out my original save files, nearly 300 of them that I had stored on a CD-R sometime in 2003. I downloaded The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind Game of the Year Edition off Steam, which includes the Bloodmoon and Tribunal expansions, and got to work. Thanks to a helpful instructional video, I had all the mod files that I needed in place in under 30 minutes.

I loaded up an old save and, powering through dozens of error messages — mostly due to dead questlines and missing in-game items and the like — the game booted up just fine. It even ran well on my native 4K display once I boosted the in-game resolution as high as it would go. Before long, I was standing in the courtyard of my manor house outside Balmora.

From there is was only a few hundred gold to hop a silt strider east, then a sailboat across to the mainland where I found myself on the docks of the tiny fishing village of Ildrim, a place that simply didn’t exist back when the original game launched.

To the west is the new city of Old Ebonheart, which you can reach on foot or by taking another boat. It’s a place long hoped for by the mod team behind Tamriel Rebuilt, whose last major release was in September 2016. Now it’s a place which you’re free to roam for the first time.

Note that I did have to enable the mode team’s new fast-travel system, which according to their latest post has been completely rebuilt from the ground up for this latest release. It connects the original game’s silt strider and sailing ports to create a complete network throughout the revised landmass. Below is a handy map if you get lost.

Tamriel Rebuilt mod team

This is Backlog Week, after all, so if the original Morrowind is a game that’s been on your list for a long time there’s no better time to dive in — and no better way to do it than with Tamriel Rebuilt.