It’s true! I mean, it’s common for fantasy settings to have items made of one or more fantastic materials in them, but Tamriel (the setting of Skyrim and other Elder Scrolls games) goes the extra mile by naming its selection after completely different real-world materials. So you get things like high-end armor made from “refined malachite”, which in our world is also known as “copper”.
GURPS takes a more realistic approach, so when adapting this stuff to GURPS you need to modify it a little. Here are some Tamrielic cultures written in a format similar to the one shown in GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Treasures 1: Glittering Prizes, and slightly modified to fit better with GURPS DF. Page references are given for published game effects, and full stats are given to new ones.
I’m mostly basing myself on Skyrim here, since that’s what I played the most. Any differences between the material below and official lore can be either born of my ignorance of the overall setting or a change I made on purpose to fit what I find interesting.
The Nords of Skyrim
These are pretty much your standard off-brand Vikings. Nords were some of the first humans to arrive on the continent of Tamriel, sailing into frosty Skyrim from even frostier Altmora thousands of years ago. They typically value martial prowess and distrust magic, though there are also plenty of peaceful or mystically-inclined Nords.
Present-day Nord artisans usually disdain fancy or “impossible” materials, placing greater value on the skill that goes into making an object. Clothing is sturdy, warm, and predominantly made of wool and cotton. Fancier attire tends to be quilted, vividly dyed and/or trimmed with fur. Jewelry consists of rings, chains or amulets made from precious metals and often jeweled. Cold-weather gear made mostly from furs is also a common sight.
Weapons and armor are mostly made from plain old steel. Nords like one-handed swords and axes, usually wielded with round medium shields. Spears (1- or 2-handed) are also popular, with regular and long bows being the premier ranged weapons. Armor tends to be mail, scale or plate, and is often fur-lined for extra protection against the cold. This gear is commonly decorated with carved reliefs of spiral patterns, or with motifs depicting wolves, bears and eagles. Nords love horned helmets, though they prefer the look of curled ram horns rather than the straight ones usually depicted in more cliche Viking imagery.
Ancient Nords were similar, though they were bigger fans of magic. Many ancient weapons that survive to this day are enchanted or feature “impossible” embellishments like solid quicksilver inlays. Some ancient Nord smiths even made weapons and armor entirely from that material. Ancient Nord decoration often features a dragon motif in addition to the others present in modern day items.
Fur-Lined: Fur-lined armor acts as winter clothing, removing HT penalties to resist FP loss from cold. Even if the GM isn’t using detailed rules for that, they can still declare that such protection is required to enter particularly inhospitable places (like the Ice Caverns of the Frost Wyrm). +1 CF.
Most Nord gear has no inherent CF or reaction modifier, particularly in a campaign set in Skyrim or whatever your world’s own Nord-land is. Fine-quality and Ornate +1 gear is relatively common, though.
The High Elves of Tamriel, also known as the Altmer, enthusiastically live up to every “snobby elf” stereotype. As a culture, they see themselves as direct descendants of the gods, trapped in mortal flesh when the world was created. This often manifests of a disdain for the other, more “worldly” peoples, and as a distressing tendency to form ruthless elven supremacist organizations.
Unlike the Nords, High Elves go all in on using fancy or impossible materials for everyday items. Clothing tends towards regal robes of elaborately woven and dyed silk with gold thread embroidery, featuring wing, bird, and solar motifs. Gold jewelry is prized, particularly rings, earrings and hair ornaments. “Fake it till you make it” is the order of the day among high elves that can’t afford the genuine article.
Elven armorers eschew ferrous metals in favor of bronze, and will prefer to use more “magical” substances like refined moonstone or tempered glass if they can get their hands on them. Their preferred weaponry runs to fencing weapons and fancy polearms, as well as composite bows. For armor they like shiny mail and light plate suits. Wings and solar disks or rays are also common decorative motifs for elven armor and weapons, either carved in relief or inlaid in gold or solid quicksilver. Gilding is also quite popular.
Note that the leven of ornamentation of a piece of elven gear doesn’t have anything to do with its quality - it’s quite common for very ornate pieces to be of otherwise standard quality.
Altmer bows and mail armor always carry the Elven modifier. Elven “mail” here is actually light plate armor. It has the same DR and weight, and can have modifiers that apply to plate armor.
Bronze: In Dungeon Fantasy bronze weapons and armor have exactly the same stats and price as their steel equivalents. They’re just, well, bronze-colored.
Refined Moonstone: Magically reinforced aluminum! This is an “implausible material” like those found on DF 8 or DF Treasures 1. It’s conductive but not flammable. Items made of refined moonstone have a silvery, pearlescent color. +4 CF.
Tempered Glass: This is described in DF 8 for weapons. Plate or scale armor can also be made of tempered glass. Such armor has +6 CF, is neither flammable nor conductive, and makes you look like you’re wearing a Tiffany lamp.
High Elven gear has no inherent CF modifier, though it’s usually expensive because of all the ornamentation it carries. In places and times where those elven supremacist organizations are around, wearing Altmer gear gets you a -2 reaction penalty from pretty much everyone. Unless you happen to be a High Elf yourself, in which case other High Elves (only) will not react at a penalty.
The Dark Elves of Tamriel, also known as Dunmer, hail from the distant ash-choked plains of Morrowind, a place with little metal but plenty of monstrous giant bugs. As such, many of their durable goods tend to be made out of chitin and bone rather than metal or stone.
Dunmer clothing is made out of tough fabric, dyed in drab or dark tones. Fancier outfits are more colorful and have arabesque patterns made using embroidery or block printing, and might include elaborate hats. Weapons and armor are made out of expertly molded chitin or bone more often than they’re made of metal, and it’s pretty much inevitable that they’ll be “decorated” do look like bugs or skeletons due to that.
Chitin: Chitin armor tends to be smooth and slightly shiny, and is usually brown or black in color. There’s a bewildering variety of giant bugs in Morrowind, so any leather, scale or plate armor can be made from chitin. +1 CF.
Bone: Described in DF 8 and DF Treasures 1.
Items of Dunmer make have no inherent CF modifiers. People unfamiliar with chitin and bone armor might react to the wearer at -1 or worse.
There are no Dwarves in Tamriel. For some reason the whole civilization just up and vanished centuries ago, leaving behind a whole lot of ruins filled with automaton guardians and other still-functioning machinery.
There isn’t any dwarf clothing left to describe - as far as the surviving accounts go, no one saw them wear anything but heavy armor. Dwarven weapons and armor, as well as most of their durable goods, are made of an advanced metal alloy no one else knows how to produce. It can be molded in a standard forge just fine, though. This makes raiding dwarven ruins for their metal fittings a profitable, if risky, endeavor. All of these items are often decorated with engraved geometric patterns made out of straight lines. Ancient dwarven helmets look like sculpted faces - in fact, people in full dwarven plate don’t look much different than one of their constructs.
Dwarves seem to have favored one-handed maces and axes, used with heavy metal shields. For ranged combat, they used crossbows of varying complexity.
Dwarven weapons and armor always have the Dwarven modifier where applicable. Genuine Dwarven antiques can be sold at an extra +3 CF to collectors.
Elder Scrolls Orcs are not considered monsters, and have been a part of civilized society for a long time. Still, they love fighting even more than Nords do, and a significant percentage of them are devout worshippers of the God of Having a Chip on Your Shoulder.
Traditional orc clothing is made from light and breathable fabrics, dyed in bright colors and some times adorned with quilting or embroidery. Brimless cylindrical hats are commonly worn by men. “Hardcore” orcs go live in isolated enclaves where they embrace the “Barbarian Hero” aesthetic of crude hide and canvas tunics and loincloths. Both types of orc take immense pride in their ability to craft weapons and armor, though.
Orcs favor nasty serrated blades as weapons, and elaborate suits of plate for armor - preferrably spiked. The more ornate versions have extensive and elaborate arabesque reliefs. Orc armorers never use exotic materials solely for decoration, but they have great love for meteoric iron and orichalcum due to their useful properties. Orcs take their smithing quite seriously, and orc-made gear has a higher than usual chance of being Fine-quality or better.
Orc gear has no inherent CF modifier or reaction bonus.
Serrated weapons are presented in DF Treasures 1, and spiked armor is in DF 1 or Adventurers.