House Dres is the single Great House of the 5 Great Houses that has got the least attention so far (not including Sadras). We barely know anything about them aside from them being slavers and a few other minor things. So I wanted to collect my thoughts on them and expand on what little we do know to make them feel more complete. My goals for the Dres culture is not to redeem in any way shape or form but to make them more believable and more than just one dimensional villainous slavers - they are doing everything they do for Morrowind after all.
Also note I have not checked out anything from Tamriel Rebuild or Beyond Skyrim. I know they have a bunch of their own Dres lore, but I wanted to come up with my own stuff before I look at anything else on the subject so I won't be influenced by it.What we know:
House Dres is big on slavery. Their main holdings are near the border to Blackmarsh, but they also own Kragenmoor and Ebonheart in Stonefalls. They gained the status of Great House after a major slave-raid on the Argonian city of Thorn from their capital city, Tear, lead by Thalthil Dres (at the time most likely referred to as "Dres Thalthil").
They think the Dunmer are superior to the other races and outside influence weakens Morrowind. They believe that unity is Morrowind's strength and their part in this is to provide for Morrowind's basic needs.
They are Morrowind's main suppliers for saltrice and slaves, but we can assume since they have joined the Ebonheart Pact, their heavily slave-dependent economy must have undergone changes, lest it would crumble completely.Factoids:
The Dres justice system is rumoured not to bother with Ordinators, so the phrase "Don't cross the Dres" was coined among thieves - they most likely enslave criminals they caught red-handed or kill them outright.
In the comic The Origin of Cyrus!
included in The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard
they visit a Dres slave camp near Tear, where some of the Dres guards are riding on giant wasp-like flying insects.
Sload are mentioned to sometimes buy slaves in Tear, likely to acquire large sums of souls for necromantic rituals with little to no effort.
Saint Llothis is the Patron Saint of House Dres. Their motto is "To spread culture and truth to the benighted: this is our commitment and burden."What House Dres could be like - my own thoughts
Since House Dres joined the Pact and is heavily dependent on (Argonian) slaves (who are now free), this presents them with an interesting problem. If House Dres is responsible for feeding Morrowind and all the Argonians aren't slaves anymore, how does Morrowind not collapse immediately the way it did in the 4th era?
My solution to this problem is feudalism, or at least aspects of it. Due to centuries of keeping slaves, not only does Morrowind have a stable Argonian population but it has likely even outgrown the Argonian population of the borderlands of Blackmarsh, which actually makes them returning to the swamp a problem as the land simply cannot provide for this many Argonians. The Dres have a shortage of workers and surplus of land while the Argonians have a surplus of workers and a shortage of land. So House Dres, after freeing their Argonian slaves, simply offered to let the Argonians continue working on their lands, expecting them to pay taxes with their produce, but in exchange they would be able to live in their own homes and use some of the land to grow whatever they feel like, giving them more freedom and their own property, making them not slaves but also not exactly making them free either. It's an improvement, but still far from being a good situation - and the minds of the Dres haven't even changed yet so tensions are probably high. The former plantation overseers would naturally change career to become the new tax collectors.
Of course since the Telvanni still have demand for slaves, some Dres would likely keep enslaving and smuggling in secret, but officially at least these times are over (for now).
Culturally the wasp-like insects struck me as cool and different from what we have seen so far. Since ESO isn't fond of flying mounts and this is an ESO forum post after all, my proposal is that the Dres have been domesticating these wasps for a long time now and would selectively breed them so that they would eventually reach the size we see in the comic, while in ESO's time they are considerably smaller and can barely stay off the ground when someone is riding them (making them a "flying" mount that can't exactly lift off while you ride it). Still a cool mount. I would also rule that since these wasps were used in slave-raids, by the time of the Argonian Invasion of the 4th era the Argonians would kill these breeds of wasps to make sure that the Dres would never be able to use them for their raids again (while also preventing aerial combat from being a thing in the lore, since that has all sorts of implications for the defense of cities, making walls almost entirely obsolete). Their armor style could also be made from the chitin of these wasp, possibly with decorative wasp wings.
The justice system in Dres lands could be different from what we are used to, just to mix things up, with Ordinators (Guards) still being present but also Bounty Hunters/Slavers who will, when you get spotted, ask for a higher sum of gold than your bounty because they plan on capturing and selling you as a slave, however they will not confiscate your stolen goods nor clear your bounty (they just care about the profit of selling you or turning you in, not about bringing justice - that's what the Ordinators do). Clemency wouldn't be an option, but on a cooldown you could persuade them to settle for a smaller sum or on a separate cooldown intimidate them to look the other way for free. Unlike Ordinators/Guards however, these Bounty Hunters/Slavers can be killed (although that is considered murder and they are tough like minibosses), which I believe will give certain players a lot of satisfaction, while making Dres lands feel a lot more cut-throat than other parts of Tamriel.
Tear should be a big city. It should have a large market area for all the agricultural produce, a large port and there I would want to see a lone Sload being very confused as to why there aren't any slaves to be bought and a Dres struggling to explain it (since Sload do not understand morality and won't understand why slavery would be outlawed now if it wasn't before).
The Dres need their own architectural style. In the base game all Dunmer architecture is in the Indoril style, so we need something to set the Dres apart since all the other Great Houses got their own styles. Tear is in a swampy area which tells me that as a building material wood is probably going to rot away fast and stone buildings will inevitably sink into the swamp, mushrooms and giant bug shells are already someone else's style, so what can be done about this? Well, for starters it means that the materials need to be light and if wood is used it needs to be used in such a way so that individual planks or beams can be easily replaced. However that is not alien enough for Morrowind! Thankfully the wasps can actually provide the solution here.
Using wax and paper the Dres could be building their homes like wasp hives! Waxed paper doesn't rot away that easily and it's also light enough to not sink far into the mud even if you build large structures. The look of a wasp hive is also quite alien so it naturally blends in with the Redoran and Telvanni architecture almost like it was intended to be that way from the start! I'd love to see Tear being a conglomerate of interconnected wasp hives. There is already an item called "Dres Divider, Honeycomb" in the game, which this change would put in a completely new context as the honeycomb would be culturally important for the Dres and even their logo of the chains could be stylized with hexagons in certain areas like at the wasp keepers.
What else do the Dres provide for Morrowind? The Dres take "providing for Morrowind" very seriously. They see themselves as the backbone and foundation that allows Morrowind to excel and they take pride in that. Following that through to its natural conclusion, then everything from food to pottery and simple clothing would be made by the Dres (or rather their slaves/serfs) in large quantities to keep Morrowind covered with the bare necessities and then some. They used to also do construction but since the ban on slavery and Hlaalu inventing the concrete with which they built Balmora the Hlaalu have likely taken over the construction business from the Dres in every area except maybe the road construction. Since they are already using paper and wax for their buildings, they would obviously sell wax to the Indoril (who have a very big demand for wax with all their candles) and paper to pretty much everyone for paper work.
Socioeconomically, because the slaves-turned-serfs occupy all the "lower" jobs, the Dunmer of House Dres would all work in "higher" jobs. Expect Dres who aren't landowners or slavers to be working in trade, logistics, fashion, engineering, ship building, architecture etc. There would likely be public schools run by House Dres because of that, although they probably wouldn't teach you magic there, but likely language/writing, religion, mathematics, propaganda
history, sports/self-defense, nature-studies (what plants to eat and which to avoid etc) - so a career in education is also an option. Naturally these career paths are available for all Dunmer, since Dres provides for all
so everyone has these benefits. Also with the Alliance War going on, I am sure there are plenty of orphans around in Morrowind, so the Dres would likely provide
again and build orphanages and run them together with House Indoril.
Overall the reputation of House Dres within
Morrowind should be quite good considering their whole outlook on the world and how only a fed Morrowind can be a strong Morrowind. House Hlaalu should be their greatest opposition, considering that they are competitors in many fields of economics and the Hlaalu are idiologically opposite of the Dres, thinking that the outside can benefit Morrowind. House Telvanni and House Indoril both like House Dres for supplying/having supplied Morrowind with plenty of slaves although House Indoril and House Dres also share a lot of values. House Redoran probably doesn't dislike House Dres by any capacity, unless some of them think owning slaves is honorless, which I honestly doubt many do - especially higher up. However, even if some may not be aware, all
of Morrowind has benefitted and is benefitting directly or indirectly from the Dres slavery so long as agricultural products from the Dres are being bought, which are the cheapest due to the free labour of slaves/serfs.
As for the House itself, joining House Dres as a non-Dunmer is most definitely impossible - your mere presence there would taint everyone with foreign ideas, which are bad in their eyes. Joining the House as a Dunmer should be easy, unless you were raised by non-Dunmer, then it might be difficult. Eitherway you will have to find someone to sponsor you just like in the other Houses. Ranking up in the House likely starts with you working as a hireling and then doing additional charity work or otherwise assisting House Dres directly. Once you are a real member there are likely two routes to take to proceed further, either capture slaves and/or acquire land in the name of the Great House, or committing and completing a project that directly enriches Morrowind culturally, economically or otherwise - basically if you did something good for Morrowind in the name of House Dres, you are likely to get promoted as long as there is a promotion available to you and your deed was worthy enough. Once you reach Dres nobility ranks there will likely be land and slaves/serfs granted to you eventually as a reward, but also as a responsibility to look after. At this point you will be able to have taxes be collected in your name. Mismanagement can potentially lead to demotion again, because that would reflect badly on the House and hurt Morrowind. I imagine the council of House Dres discusses current affairs, the economy and what the house can do to make Morrowind a better place for the Dunmer. Expect the usual cases of mistrust among council members and people trying to be the first to do something to claim all glory or otherwise looking to further their personal goals and pet projects.
Anyway, these are my thoughts on House Dres and what they could be like if they got a little more attention in the lore. I'll finish this off by including the pictures from the comic as well as some wasp nests that would look cool as houses. If I was any skilled as an artist I would have made some concept arts, but sadly I am not, so this will have to do.
This Bosmer was tortured to death. There is nothing left to be done.