The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim’s Daedra are otherworldly, oftentimes destructive beings that have changed with the universe’s lore many times throughout every game in the series (up to and including Skyrim). Their immense power makes them terrifying foes to go up against, and these ancient creatures are well known for their mysterious nature and their tendency to treat mortals as playthings. While malice and mischief are common tropes among the denizens of the Elder Scrolls’ plane of Oblivion, the Daedric Princes and lesser Daedra are quite varied in their individual goals and personalities.

The most powerful Daedra in Oblivion are the Daedric Princes, capable of extending their power either directly or indirectly into the mortal plane. They have many worshipers and can go by many names, but players will undoubtedly meet some of them in their adventures. Daedric Princes have their own domains within Oblivion and are the antithesis to the Aedra, benevolent beings who are worshipped by most men and mer. From The Elder Scrolls’ second title, Daggerfall, all the way to Elder Scrolls Online, the Daedra have been an ever-present shadow over the player and many of the choices they make.

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With each new addition to the Elder Scrolls franchise, the Deadra have been given even more of the lore spotlight, culminating in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim where they are well-known entities who take great interest in the Dragonborn’s destiny. Whether they act as protectors of fate or tyrants of destruction, Daedric Princes like Elder Scrolls’ Malacath and Peryite have made an impression on countless mortals. From the cruel Molag Bal to the all-knowing Hermaeus Mora, here are Oblivion’s immortal all-stars throughout the ages.

Mehrunes Dagon Is An Elder Scrolls Legend: Battlespire’s (1997) Snarky Antagonist

While the first two games, The Elder Scrolls: Arena and Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall made little distinction at all between the Aedra and Daedra, the spinoff game Battlespire included the first story encounter with one of the most infamous of Daedric Princes, Mehrunes Dagon himself. The player, a battlemage apprentice, gets up-close and personal with the Prince of Destruction as they traverse the treacherous Elder Scrolls realms of Oblivion to save their partner from his dastardly scheme. Mehrunes is depicted as a demonic-looking humanoid with four arms and a battle-ax. Oblivion is shown as having seven sub-realms to it (one for each level in the game), and each of these layers has a different aesthetic and unique kinds of Daedra minions to fight.

There are some interesting lore tidbits in Battlespire that form the foundation of what we know about Daedra today. For example, the player can read through various scrolls they pick up that the Daedra do not have souls (sometimes known by the more technical term “Anuic animus”) but instead have what is known as “vestiges”. Themselves a form of animus, vestiges allow Daedra to be reborn, as their vestiges head back to Oblivion when their corporeal forms are slain. Daedra are also established as having the same capabilities as mortals in terms of intelligence, pain, and emotion, and how they conceptualize their relationship with mortals as that of predator and prey. Not all Deadra are pledged to a Daedric Prince, particularly the elemental Atronachs, who are more concerned with fighting other elementals. Lesser Deadra from Daggerfall to Skyrim come in many shapes and sizes, ranging from fairly human-like to monstrous and misshapen in appearance.

Although the player can choose to either defeat Mehrunes Dagon or become his servant, the conversation between them and the Daedric Prince is surprisingly amusing and light-hearted. Mehrunes is depicted as being snarky, sarcastic, and cartoonishly evil as he banters with the player, posturing and boasting as any 90’s villain would instead of just getting the job done. In later years, the Prince of Destruction is not so keen on levity.

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The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard (1998) Showed Clavicus Vile & Barbas

This is another Elder Scrolls spinoff that includes some Daedric shenanigans. The one the player meets here is Clavicus Vile, Deadric Prince of Bargains and Master of Insidious Wishes. Taking the appearance of a small, impish-looking man with horns, lounging atop the throne with his trusty dog Barbas at his side, The Elder Scrolls’ mischievous Clavicus delights in manipulating mortals through bargains and deals, seeking entertainment above all else. Redguard players venture into his realm, The Fields of Regret, to retrieve their sister’s soul, but the Deadric Prince will give nothing for nothing and wants to know what the player will grant him in return. Clavicus only cares for the outlook that seems the most fun to him, regardless of what that means for any mortals. Clavicus and Barbas both appear in Skyrim in the middle of a feud that asks players to pick a side.

Azura & Hircine Appear In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (2002)

The third installment of The Elder Scrolls, Morrowind, saw fit to add another Daedric Prince to the mix, featuring her in its main game as well as its later expansion The Elder Scrolls III: Tribunal. Azura is the Daedric Prince (there are no princesses in Oblivion) of Prophecy, hence her heavy involvement in the events concerning Morrowind. The player must embark on an epic journey to fulfill a number of ancient prophecies, with Azura watching out for them each step of the way and offering advice where it’s due. Compared to many other Deadra, Azura is considered fairly benevolent, as she has no interest in mortals aside from ensuring that prophecies play out how they’re meant to.

The Elder Scrolls III: Bloodmoon is Morrowind’s second DLC and takes place on the island of Solstheim. The player has to join a village of werewolves through a series of rituals, and they are soon made aware of their part in the Bloodmoon Prophecy. It is instigated by the Daedric Prince of Skyrim’s Savior’s Hide, Hircine, who comes to Tamriel every era or so for “The Hunt of Hircine”. This time, the player finds themselves in a free-for-all deathmatch with three other werewolf champions. If the player survives, they are then made to battle Hircine himself, facing off against each of the Daedric Prince’s aspects- a bear (strength), an elk (speed) and finally, himself (guile). Hircine embodies these three traits as the most befitting of a Prince of the Hunt, and if the player proves victorious, they have earned his eternal respect.

On top of these two Daedric Princes, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind introduced the Conjuration Skill, a school of magic that allows the player to summon various beings from the plane of Oblivion to aid them in combat. Dremora Lords are among the most useful summoned creatures, as the Elder Scrolls creatures are some of Oblivion lore’s most skilled and powerful warriors. Even from a gameplay perspective, they can quickly dispatch many of the player’s enemies with their fearsome arsenal. These soldiers of the darkness sport an updated uniform of intimidating black and red armor that has become their go-to design. These lesser Deadra also have demonic voices and chilling growls, making them sound like the hellish, bloodthirsty gladiators they are.

Mehrunes Dagon Returns As The Villain Of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (2006)

Named for the dark and gloomy section of the Immortal Plane where the Deadra hail from, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion naturally takes the player to the hellscape of Elder Scrolls’ plane of Oblivion. They must stop the Mystic Dawn cult from opening a portal to the chaotic realm of the Daedra, which would allow all manner of malefic forces to wreak havoc in the mortal realm. The Mystic Dawn succeeds in allowing the Daedra to come through, while the player has to frantically hop back and forth from Cyrodiil to Oblivion while trying to save the world. The plane of Oblivion they do travel to multiple times is the Deadlands, the home of none other than the insidious Mehrunes Dagon. The Prince of Destruction has returned, and he is no longer in the mood for snarky banter as he might have been in Battlespire.

Along with receiving a much-needed upgrade to his look, Mehrunes Dagon does eventually break free into Tamriel. He and his Deadric minions mean business this time and lay waste to the Imperial City. Martin Septim decides to sacrifice himself by breaking the Amulet of Kings and merging with the spirit of Akatosh, the dragon god of time. Martin becomes Akatosh’s avatar by turning into a dragon, battling it out with Mehrunes Dagon. The Deadric Prince, quite understandably, did not expect that particular outcome and was banished back to Oblivion following his sound defeat.

In Oblivion’s second expansion, Shivering Isles, the player encounters two more previously unseen Deadric entities. While facing an event known as the Greymarch where Jyggalag, the Deadric Prince of Order, is set to destroy the Shivering Isles, the player is commissioned by Sheogorath, the Prince of Madness, to prevent this from happening. The player eventually discovers that Jyggalag and Sheogorath are one and the same, a Daedric Prince cursed to switch between order and madness with each Greymarch. Apparently, the other Daedric Princes grew jealous of Jyggalag being the most powerful of them all, cursing him to become a Prince of Madness and to go against everything he stands for.

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When the player finally manages to free Jyggalag from his cycle of madness by defeating him in combat, the Deadric Prince of Order promptly dubs them as the new Prince of Madness and ruler of the Shivering Isles. Thus, Jyggalag was released from his curse, but Sheogorath is still an entity within Oblivion. The Shivering Isles are now ruled solely by Sheogorath, while Jyggylag, the Elder Scrolls Deadric Prince of Order, has not been seen since.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011) Has A Cavalcade Of Daedric Princes

By far The Elder Scrolls’ most well-known title to date, Skyrim added a massive amount of Daedra-related content to the world of Nirn. While most Deadric Princes are relegated to side-quests, that doesn’t make them any less memorable. Skyrim’s base game features personal encounters with nearly every Daedric Prince, including Hircine, Sheogorath, Nocturnal, Molag Bal, and Meridia. The main trope for these questlines is pretty consistent – the player is trying to solve a mystery or join a faction and soon finds themselves doing the bidding of a Daedric Lord. The tasks vary greatly between (occasionally overused) Elder Scrolls Daedric Pantheon members, sometimes involving nothing more than retrieving a simple item. Other Daedra will demand the spilling of blood or the player’s permanent fealty, but the end result is always a powerful Deadric artifact or boon that helps the player in their travels.

Conjuration is an even fancier affair in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim compared to other titles. It has largely the same effect as before, but the visuals are much grander. Dremora Lords are decked out in high-definition armor and will now shriek even more chilling taunts at enemies when summoned. Some of them can even be spoken to and traded with, offering the player a variety of Deadric armor and weaponry to buy, so the player doesn’t have to craft it themselves.

Skyrim’s Dragonborn DLC (2012) Shows Hermeus Mora’s Lovecraftian Nightmare

Skyrim’s third DLC, Elder Scrolls V: Dragonborn, heavily features Hermaeus Mora, the Deadric Prince of Fate and Knowledge. He assists the player in their efforts to track down and defeat the tragic Skyrim villain Miraak, another Dragonborn who has rebelled against his Daedric master. Hermaeus is depicted as an ephemeral black cloud with several eyeballs suspended in the middle, while his personal plane of Oblivion, Apocrypha, is an eldritch library above an endless sea of black oil filled with slimy green tentacles. Hermaeus is the guardian of all forbidden knowledge, and he takes the player to Apocrypha to show them the secrets to far greater power, something they will need if they are to defeat Miraak.

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Following Miraak’s death, the Daedric Prince of Knowledge adopts the Dragonborn player as his new favorite pet, leaving them with the gift of the knowledge they discovered while in his twisted realm. Miraak tries to tell the player that Harmaeus is just using them, and the Daedric Prince never denies this, but just as Miraak did long ago, the player decides that the power Hermaeus offers is worth any price. This seems to be the ultimate desire of many Daedric Princes, particularly the more malevolent ones. Mortals are merely tools to achieve their own ends and are easy to manipulate with promises of power.

There is still much that Elder Scrolls players don’t know about the enigmatic Daedric Princes and their servants, and this is intended. These beings are meant to remain mysterious and cunning, watching the mortal realm with a hungry gaze as they plot their next path to conquest. Whether they like to appear in a burst of light like Meridia or prefer to whisper from the shadows like the Lovecraftian Hermaeus Mora, the Deadric Princes are as cunning as they are ancient. As long as they have mortals to entertain them, the Deadra will continue their meddling in Tamriel, much to the angst of those who worship the benevolent Aedra. The great fantasy saga up to and including The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has kept the Deadra remarkably consistent through the decades while making them just mysterious enough to keep audiences guessing about the details for years to come.

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