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General:Kurt Kuhlmann

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The Elder ScrollsEdit

Kuhlmann joined Bethesda Softworks in 1996 near the end of Daggerfall's development as "the most junior designer possible",[10] and his work on the game included exclusive quests for the CompUSA Special Edition of the game.[11] He bonded with artist and writer Michael Kirkbride, who was hired on the same day that he was, over a shared interest in weird fiction.[11] Kuhlmann and Kirkbride made a pitch to Todd Howard for a "pirates-on-Mars" game on which Kuhlmann had already written "scores of notes",[12] eventually becoming Redguard[11] with the trio as writers,[5] while a separate team developed Battlespire.[13] According to Kuhlmann, Kirkbride, Howard, and himself had devised the story and the game's puzzles over a few weeks.[14] During Redguard's production, Kuhlmann and Kirkbride wrote the Pocket Guide to the Empire, 1st Edition[15] to be shipped as a physical pamphlet with Redguard,[11] and in doing so largely redesigned the basis of The Elder Scrolls lore.[12] In 2010, Kuhlmann reflected that Redguard was his favorite of the games he had worked on.[14]

Preproduction for the next main series Elder Scrolls title, Morrowind, occurred alongside Redguard's development, and for a time Kuhlmann was the only designer officially assigned to the project.[16] He was heavily involved in its early writing and design,[11][17] working on the game's story and its "essential game systems".[18] Morrowind's Lead Designer Ken Rolston stated that he inherited the ideas behind the game from Kuhlmann and Kirkbride[19]—while Rolston was originally working from the notes left by Ted Peterson and Julian Lefay for a Daggerfall sequel set in Summerset Isle, Kuhlmann and Kirkbride presented him with their ideas for what would become Morrowind.[20] Kuhlmann left Bethesda Softworks in January 1998[1] during Morrowind's preproduction, but in 2001 contributed 10 in-game books for the game,[18] and he received a "Special Thanks" credit on the title for his contributions.[9]

In 2003, Kuhlmann was convinced by Todd Howard to return for the development of Oblivion, for which Kuhlmann was chiefly responsible for the game's main questline.[10] He then took a more prominent role as the Lead Designer of the Knights of the Nine download[21][10] before doing quest design for Shivering Isles.[22] For the following game, Skyrim, Kuhlmann was again in a prominent role as the title's Co-Lead Designer.[7] After Skyrim's release, Kuhlmann uploaded a plugin for the game, Real Carriages, presenting his work on making in-game carriages travel in real-time which was not complete in time to ship.[23] In 2013, Kuhlmann collaborated on Michael Kirkbride's project Captain Tobias' Sword-Meeting with Cyrus the Restless in celebration of Redguard's 15th anniversary, but the project remains unreleased.[24]

Kuhlmann occasionally posted in online Elder Scrolls forums, including in-character as Hasphat Antabolis,[3] and he participated as that character in the forum roleplay The Trial of Vivec.[25] Throughout his tenure, he was noted authority on lore within the company, with Skyrim writer Shane Liesegang stating that the "bible" of The Elder Scrolls is "Kurt's brain".[26] Kuhlmann was also a lore consultant for Greg Keyes during the writing of The Infernal City,[27] with himself and Bruce Nesmith providing editorial guidance.[28]

Outside of The Elder ScrollsEdit

"Pound for pound, [Kurt is] the best world builder I know currently working in videogames. Kurt Kuhlmann is a magician in the Victorian sense, a hybrid of scripting fool, grim Germanic game designer, and kindhearted alchemist of systems-as-settings (or is that vice versa?), with the uncanny ability to explain anything in digital entertainment by way of the Peloponnesian War."
Michael Kirkbride[1]

Kuhlmann studied history at Michigan State University and Duke University,[1] originally intending to earn a Ph.D before deciding to change career paths.[10] Interested in designing games, he applied for designer jobs until he was hired at Bethesda Softworks, relocating from North Carolina to Maryland.[10] He had a small role on SkyNET for which he received a "Special Thanks" credit.[29]

After leaving Bethesda Softworks in 1998, Kuhlmann was a software engineer for various companies.[1] Just one of these was another game development company, VR1 Entertainment, with Kuhlmann reflecting that "nothing we did ever saw the light of day".[10] During his time there, Kuhlmann contributed voiceovers to NightCaster: Defeat the Darkness,[30] but the projects he directly worked on—a Jules Verne-inspired MMO titled Lost Continents and web-based board games Axis & Allies and Maximum Risk[18]—did not see releases.[10] After returning to Bethesda, Kuhlmann worked as a designer on Fallout 3,[31] Fallout 4,[32] and Fallout 76,[33] and was the Lead Systems Designer on Starfield.[34] After 20 years at Bethesda Game Studios, Kuhlmann departed the company in September 2023.[1]

Kuhlmann is an avid fan of board wargames and Eurogames,[10] and designed the wargames Empire and Epic of the Peloponnesian War,[35] the former published through his own company Warhorse Simulations (aka Iwamann Games).[36][37] He supposed that he was originally hired as a designer for Bethesda Softworks due to his skill at designing wargames.[10] Kuhlmann also operates ACTS, a system for playing card-based wargames by email.[38]

In 1999, Kuhlmann, Michael Kirkbride, and Ken Rolston wrote a 13-episode fanmade Star Wars television series titled Star Wars: Rebellion[39][40] (also the origin of the name "Titus Mede", later reused for a character in The Elder Scrolls).[41]

Texts AuthoredEdit


Indicates The Elder Scrolls titles

Video gamesEdit

Year Title Credit(s) Studio
1996 SkyNET Special Thanks[29] Bethesda Softworks
The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall Additional Design[4]
1998 The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard World Art, Design & Writing
Manual Writing[5]
2001 NightCaster: Defeat the Darkness Voice Talent[30] VR1 Entertainment
2002 The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind Special Thanks[9] Bethesda Softworks
2003 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Special Thanks[47] EA Redwood Shores
2006 The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Quest Design
Additional Programming[6]
Bethesda Game Studios
The Elder Scrolls IV: Knights of the Nine Lead Designer[21]
2007 The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles Quest Design[22]
2008 Fallout 3 Quest Design & Editing[31]
2011 The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Co-Lead Designer[7]
2014 The Elder Scrolls Online Special Thanks[48] ZeniMax Online Studios
2015 Fallout 4 Quest Design & Writing[32] Bethesda Game Studios
2018 Fallout 76 Systems Design[33]
2020 The Elder Scrolls: Blades Additional Writing[8]
2023 Starfield Lead Systems Designer[34]

Board gamesEdit

Year Title Credit(s) Publisher
2000 Empire Designer[49] Warhorse Simulations
2006 Epic of the Peloponnesian War Designer[50] Clash At Arms Games

See AlsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Kurt Kuhlmann. LinkedIn.
  2. ^ Kurt Kuhlmann on the Job market. LinkedIn.
  3. ^ a b c Kurt Kuhlmann's Posts, The Imperial Library
  4. ^ a b c Daggerfall:Development Team
  5. ^ a b c d Redguard:Credits
  6. ^ a b c Oblivion:Credits
  7. ^ a b c d Skyrim:Credits
  8. ^ a b c Blades:Credits
  9. ^ a b c Morrowind:Credits
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i Cheng, A. (5 December 2007). Inside the vault: Kurt Kuhlmann. Bethesda Blog. Archived from the original on 18 June 2008.
  11. ^ a b c d e Kane, A. (27 March 2019). Morrowind: An oral history. Polygon.
  12. ^ a b c Edwards, M. (17 July, 2014). A History of The Elder Scrolls. Retro Gamer, 131.
  13. ^ The Elder Scrolls 10th Anniversary: Battlespire. Archived from the original on 9 June 2007.
  14. ^ a b Miller, M. (26 December 2010). Decrypting The Elder Scrolls. Game Informer.
  15. ^ Kirkbride, M. [MKirkbride]. (6 January 2020). Comment on "(Prolly repost idk) Why is Morrowind lore so eccentric compared to every other entry?". Reddit.
  16. ^ Kirkbride, M. [MKirkbride]. (13 September 2020). Comment on "Cocaine?". Reddit.
  17. ^ Kirkbride, M. [MKirkbride]. (13 June 2020). Comment on "How much of the Dunmer lore was established before Morrowind?". Reddit.
  18. ^ a b c Kurt M. Kuhlmann Resume. Archived from the original on 23 April 2008.
  19. ^ (July 2005). Games That Changed the World—The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. PC Zone, 156.
  20. ^ Kirkbride, M. [MKirkbride]. (13 June 2020). Comment on "How much of the Dunmer lore was established before Morrowind?". Reddit.
  21. ^ a b The Elder Scrolls IV: Knights of the Nine (2006) Windows credits. MobyGames.
  22. ^ a b Shivering:Credits
  23. ^ Developer Mods/Kurt Kuhlmann
  24. ^ Kirkbride, M. [MKirkbride]. (4 January 2021). Comment on "What happened to Captain Tobias' Sword-Meeting with Cyrus the Restless?". Reddit.
  25. ^ The Trial of Vivec, The Imperial Library
  26. ^ Shane Liesegang's Posts, The Imperial Library
  27. ^ Interview With Greg Keyes, The Imperial Library
  28. ^ Carter, R. (2 December 2009). Reading the text: Greg Keyes interview. Grinding to Valhalla.
  29. ^ a b Skynet credits (DOS, 1996). MobyGames.
  30. ^ a b Nightcaster: Defeat the Darkness credits (Xbox, 2001). MobyGames.
  31. ^ a b Fallout 3 credits (Windows, 2008). MobyGames.
  32. ^ a b Fallout 4 credits (Windows, 2015). MobyGames.
  33. ^ a b Fallout 76 credits (Windows, 2018). MobyGames.
  34. ^ a b Starfield credits (Windows, 2023). MobyGames.
  35. ^ Kurt Kuhlmann - Board Game Designer. Board Game Geek.
  36. ^ Kuhlmann, K. (13 December 2000). "Warhorse Simulations releases EMPIRE". Archived from the original on 25 June 2023.
  37. ^ Kuhlmann, K. (5 August 1995). "Playtesters Wanted". Archived from the original on 27 June 2023.
  38. ^ Warhorse Simulations.
  39. ^ C0DA - Star Wars: Rebellion.
  40. ^ Kirkbride, M. [MKirkbride]. (21 February 2014). "Star Wars: Rebellion, written by Kurt Kuhlmann and Michael Kirkbride". Tumblr. Archived from the original on 8 July 2015.
  41. ^ Kirkbride, M. [MKirkbride]. (21 February 2014.) 'TITUS MEDE - ADMIRAL OF THE REBEL ALLIANCE'. Reddit.
  42. ^ Kirkbride, M. [MKirkbride]. (22 December 2014). Comment on "Adamantium Tower is a Space-Ship?". Reddit.
  43. ^ Kirkbride, M. [MKirkbride]. (7 April 2020). Comment on "The Elder Scrolls 25th Anniversary Picture Is A Picture Of All The Different Towers That Hold Mundus Together.". Reddit.
  44. ^ Kirkbride, M. [MKirkbride]. (14 May 2020). Comment on "Vivec has a modified Indian name?". Reddit.
  45. ^ a b c d e f Who Did What?, The Imperial Library
  46. ^ Kirkbride, M. [MKirkbride]. (1 July 2020). Comment on "How Much Stuff in the Lore is Lorkhan?". Reddit.
  47. ^ The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King credits (Playstation 2, 2003). MobyGames.
  48. ^ Credits - The Elder Scrolls Online.
  49. ^ Empire. Board Game Geek.
  50. ^ Epic of the Peloponnesian War. Board Game Geek.