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Welcome! This blog is devoted to considerations of morality in the The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim by Bethesda. Rather than a fansite, review, or walkthrough, it is a serious attempt to examine the game through a moral lens. Please note that the purpose of this blog is to discuss morality within the context of the game, not to determine whether playing the game is immoral in and of itself; the latter type of "discussion" tends toward tedium and inhibits, rather than promotes, a meaningful conversation.

If you have not visited this blog before, it might be helpful to read the posts labeled "Orientation," most of which are the first few entries in the blog archive (see right). These posts include a short introduction to this project, a content-specific author bio, and a few other pieces that explain key concepts relevant to this study. These posts are of particular use to those readers less familiar with Skyrim (or video games in general).


If you have visited this blog before, thanks and welcome back!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Civil War

While the Civil War questline presents a variety of gameplay challenges and opportunities, its moral component boils down to one choice: to side with the Empire or with the Stormcloaks.  As I hinted in some previous posts, I had been leaning toward the Imperial side since the opening quest, but did not fully commit until well into the game.  I visited Solitude to hear the Imperial argument from General Tullius, then traveled to Windhelm to listen to Ulfric Stormcloak’s side of the story.  Not wanting to rush into anything, I set about earning the title of Thane in as many Holds as possible, which gave me the opportunity to listen to sympathizers on both sides.  While everything I heard and experienced ultimately led me to join the Legion of the Empire, the choice was by no measure easy. What follows is a breakdown of my considerations in choosing a side.

The White-Gold Concordat

There is no question that the Stormcloaks’ disgust at this egregious treaty is completely justified.  The fact the Empire would allow the Aldmeri Dominion to dictate religious practices within the Imperial Provinces is utterly outrageous, and permitting the Thalmor free reign to enforce the ban on Talos worship almost defies comprehension – which is exactly the point.  Having gained the upper hand after fighting the Legion to a standstill, the Dominion was in a position to ask for anything; why, therefore, would they demand a purely ideological concession (rather than another material or strategic one)?  The answer lies in the ultimate goal of the Aldmeri: total domination of Tamriel.  Because they could no longer afford to wage direct war with the Empire, they had to find a way to use the peace to their advantage.  They had already separated Hammerfell from the Empire; if they could sever Skyrim as well, they would effectively cut off the Empire’s supply of skilled warriors.  What better way to drive a wedge between the Imperials and the proud Nord race than by forcing the Empire to outlaw the worship of their apotheosized ancestor?

Ulfric’s primary error is in taking this bait, thereby weakening not only his beloved Skyrim, but the whole of the Empire as well. As I have suggested before, the ideal scenario would be a untied Empire biding its time, rebuilding its forces, and focusing the Nords’ righteous indignation on the real enemy in preparation for a renewed assault on the Dominion.  While I concede that I have yet to hear any Imperial representative suggest such a strategy, there is a strong possibility that this plan is being kept under the tightest of wraps in light of the Thalmor propensity for espionage.  However, even if the Empire did simply roll over to save itself, Skyrim only stands to lose by divorcing itself from Cyrodiil and High Rock.

Jarl Ulfric Stormcloak vs. General Tullius

Because I am playing with an eye toward moral agency, I have to consider not only the moral claims of the warring sides in the Civil War, but also the ethics of the men and women who represent each party.  One of Bethesda's major accomplishments in this game is the creation of morally complex antagonists; both Ulfric and Tullius possess a melange of admirable and lamentable traits, which makes following either one far more complicated than a simple good/evil split.

Jarl Ulfric Stormcloak of Windhelm is obviously the aggressor in the conflict, but his rationale carries a legitimate claim to justification.  The Concordat is a direct violation of the freedom of religion that we in the West tend to view as inalienable.  Furthermore, his speeches reveal him to be a man haunted by the soldiers who laid down their lives at his side during the Great War, and a Jarl unwilling to insult their memory by acquiescing to the Dominion's blasphemous demands.  While not an blatant zealot (such as Heimskr, the street preacher of Whiterun), Ulfric cannot separate his worship of Talos from his love for Skyrim, seeing the abandonment of the former as a betrayal of the latter.  Despite the accusations of his Imperial foes, Ulfric does not appear to be acting out of an inflated sense of self; even his most extreme actions, such as the killing of High King Torygg, come from a deep passion for Talos and for Skyrim.

He did, however, kill the High King.  The question of whether the killing was part of a legitimate challenge according to Nord tradition or a flat-out murder is in some ways irrelevant.  Instead of making his case and biding his time, he plunged his homeland into chaos on ideological grounds.  Furthermore, one cannot ignore the fact that using the Thu'um against an opponent who did not possess that power is tantamount to attacking an unarmed foe.  Throughout history, many honorable men have allowed their devotion to a legitimate cause to mutate into a kind of monomania that excuses any evil in the service of that cause.

Although not directly related to the Civil War, Ulfric's record as Jarl of Windhelm did not sway me to his side, either.  First, not only did he seem largely unconcerned with the serial killer running loose in his Hold, he had no comment when the killer turned out to be his own court wizard.  Second, when the boy Aventius Aretino was in his hour of need, the childless Ulfric decided to send him back to an abusive orphanage in another Hold entirely, instead of perhaps adopting him and gaining an heir for himself in the bargain.  Lastly, his treatment of the Dunmer was utterly deplorable.  While it is true that I never heard him utter any racial epithets himself, I cannot ignore the fact that he consigned the Dunmer to a ghetto and allowed the racial harassment going on in front of his own palace to go unchecked.  None of this should be a surprise, however; a quick perusal of the Markarth Incident raises the question: if Ulfric was willing to wage a nearly genocidal campaign against other races of men (Breton/Reachmen/Forsworn), what can we expect him to do to the non-human races?  Add his experiences as a prisoner of the Aldmeri Dominion to the mix, and we have a recipe for a racially-intolerant Jarl whom I could not follow in good conscience, regardless of his other virtues as a warrior and a leader of men.

As much as I liked Jarl Ulfric personally, I found his political views impossible to support; quite the inverse is true of General Tulius, whose repellant personality failed to dissuade me from the Imperial cause.  Tullius is a culturally insensitive boor who routinely, if unwittingly, insults his faithful Legate Rikke's homeland with dismissive comments such as:
What do you mean, "You people"?
Nevertheless, Tullius is on the right side of this conflict.  The Empire had a hard choice: sign a treaty that insults the Nords and defames its own progenitor, or risk annihilation after a long and bloody war with a seemingly implacable enemy.  While it may be noble to sacrifice one's own life for religious freedom, committing an entire Empire to that cause is another story entirely.  Tullius, who is no fan of the Thalmor,  understands that signing the Concordat was the bitter pill that saved the Empire.  What Tullius lacks in personal magnetism and tact, he makes up for in judgement.

Perhaps the best indicator of Tullius's leadership qualities is his second-in-command, Legate Rikke.  A proud Nord "daughter of Skyrim," Rikke bears Tullius's slings and arrows for the good of the Empire, and in return, Tullius looks the other way when Rikke expresses sympathy for Ulfric's cause or lets a "Talos guide you" slip out.  Rikke agrees, as I do, with the justness of Ulfric's outrage, but believes, also as I do, that a unified Empire is the best solution to the Thalmor problem.  That Tullius is willing to overlook the fact that his most trusted lieutenant is not only clearly violating the Concordat but also is apparently an admirer of his enemy speaks volumes about his priorities.

This tendency among supporters of the Empire to ignore the most offensive element of the Concordat is one of the main reasons that I feel good about my choice.  Yes, the Temples of Talos have been closed in Solitude and Markarth, but beyond that, no one seems to be enforcing the ban.  Balgruuf lets Heimskr preach in front of his Shrine all day every day in public.  Tullius knows that Rikke worships Talos, but says nothing beyond "Excuse me?"  In fact, the only character who ever reported any Talos worshippers was, well, me -- which I did in order to gain Ondolemar's trust, then promptly assassinated him and returned the Amulet of Talos to Ogmund.  The Imperial laxness in enforcing the Concordat beyond the bare letter of the law undermines Ulfric's claim that the Empire has become the lapdog of the Dominion.

Rikke and Balgruuf the Greater

The two characters I most admire in the Civil War quest both side with the Empire, which certainly influenced my decision.  I have already mentioned the long-suffering yet formidable Legate Rikke who, unlike Galmar Stone-Fist, her Stormcloak counterpart, resists the urge to demonize her opponents.  I cannot say this strongly enough: the fact that Rikke sympathizes with the Stormcloaks but grudgingly fights against them because she believes they are wrong is evidence of a moral character that approaches Kohlberg's Principled stages (5 and 6).  Galmar, on the other hand, relishes the prospect of savaging the Legion he and Ulfric once served.  Even if I sided with the rebellion, I would find Stone-Fist's taunts about "Deadking Torygg" tough to abide.

The other character who swayed my choice was Balgruuf the Greater, the Jarl of Whiterun.  Unlike Legate Rikke, Balgruuf has no real love for the Empire; his primary concern is the welfare of the people in his Hold.  As much as he hates the Concordat, and as much as he resents Imperial interference, he lambasts Ulfric for throwing Skyrim into chaos.  He knows that the Thalmor are the real enemy and, above all, he really wants people to focus on that pesky dragon problem.  He remains neutral as long as possible, because he knows that his decision will hasten a full-blown civil war.  When he finally chooses a side, it is because Ulfric forces his hand;  Balgruuf makes no secret of his reluctance to garrison Imperial troops within the walls of Whiterun and makes it abundantly clear to Tullius that he has no intention of giving up control of his Hold to the Legion, even as he sides with the Empire.

Rikke and Balgruuf demonstrate that one need not love the Empire nor agree blindly with its actions in order to see that seceding from the Empire would weaken Skyrim and further strengthen the Aldmeri Dominion's hand.

The Death of Ulfric Stormcloak

Once I chose a side, the individual quests in the Civil War line were morally simple. A band of Legionnaires and I would take a fort from the Stormcloaks, then I would be called in to do a more stealth-oriented quest (lean on a Stormcloak sympathizer, steal plans, etc), then take another fort, and so on.  There were very few serious ethical decisions to make until the end of the Battle for Windhelm.

The final battle of the Civil War took place in Ulfric's own Hall.  Legate Rikke, my Solitude housecarl Jordis, General Tullius and I faced off against Ulfric, Galmar, and a small band of Stormcloaks.  After Galmar fell, we forced Jarl Ulfric to surrender.  When Tullius offered him the chance to face the formal execution he had escaped after the dragon attack on Helgen, Ulfric refused, saying that he wanted me, the Dragonborn, to have the honor of killing him.

To be perfectly frank, I had no desire to kill Ulfric; as I said earlier, he is a good man with a bad idea.  Ulfric's death, however, was inevitable, and I sympathized with him enough to spare him the humiliation of dying by Tullius's hand.  In fact, when Tullius offered me his sword in order to do the deed, I refused.  Jarl Ulfric Stormcloak of Windhelm was a great man who committed great crimes, and his death needed to reflect both of those realities.  I therefore decided to kill Ulfric in the same manner he had killed High King Torygg -- a Dragon Shout.  A fitting end for one of Skyrim's greatest warriors.


  1. Ulfric is the Jarl of Windhelm, not Whiterun; Balgruuf is Whiterun's Jarl

  2. In defense of Ulfric in regards to Grelod the Kind, he had no idea that she was named ironically. Also, did you later find out that his Wizard wasn't responsible, but was, in fact, a red herring to mislead you from the real killer?

    1. Good point about Ulfric's culpability; perhaps I was too harsh. Still, I wonder if he would have sent Aventius away if he were a Nord rather than an Imperial.

      And yes, I did find out about the identity of the real killer...much, much later. Part of the delay was caused by what I think is a bug in my game. According to the wikis, after Wuunferth is arrested, another murder should occur, but in my game, that never happened. Having been "corrupted" by reading the wikis, I role-played that, upon returning to Windhelm, I overheard guards talking about how the arrest of Wuunferth didn't add up. I then broke into Calixto's house and found the journal, which allowed me to complete the quest normally.

      In some ways, I'm glad for this bug. Wuunferth is a Stormcloak supporter and a little shady, so my character doesn't feel too bad about letting him hang out in in his own jail for a while. Furthermore, I was able to bring Calixto to justice without another murder taking place.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. I'd like to know why this comment was removed. Thank you.

    2. Actually, I thought you deleted it! The comment was similar to the comment immediately below this one, so I assumed you deleted the earlier version. I still have the text of the original comment in my inbox, if you'd like me to re-post it.

    3. no, that's ok. You're right, I posted the revised version of that comment below.

  4. You know what I think, I think that if you take the stormcloak route the dragonborn creates a new empire by merging skyrim high rock and hammerfell, along with morrowind (if the nords are feeling freindly)

    It would be something of a republic, and eventually this republic would grow and develop it's sciences and technology, eventually becoming more advanced than the Dominion, and then through much effort envelops cyrodil and exterminates Thalmor.

    This is MUCH better than fumbling around with Tiber Septim's broken empire.

    1. I love that idea, but I would need to hear a lot more detail before I would have Lothar side with the Stormcloaks. While I could see Hammerfell and Skyrim working well together in a confederation, I'm not sure that High Rock would be as friendly in a post-Empire Tamriel, given the disputed history of The Reach. Morrowind is anyone's guess. The Windhelm (i.e. High King Ulfric's) Nords distrust the Dunmer (and Mer in general), but a former High King granted them refuge and even gave them Solstheim, so who knows?

      But think for a moment about what happens if your plan goes wrong. If Ulfric liberates Skyrim, the Thalmor will waste no time in making absolutely certain that the former provinces don't realign themselves into a coherent republic or confederation. They excel at subterfuge and manipulation, which means that the provinces would be more likely to fight each other than band together against the Aldmeri Dominion.

      I agree that a confederation would be better than the current tatters of an Empire, but I just can't see it happening, which makes backing the Stormcloaks less justifiable (given my character's moral profile).

      I'm curious about your assertion that this republic would somehow surpass the Dominion in the sciences. On what are you basing that prediction?

    2. "If Ulfric liberates Skyrim, the Thalmor will waste no time in making absolute certain the former provinces don't realign themselves into a...confederation"

      Well, my Dragonborn killed elves on the roads every time he saw them with a nord prisoner. I killed a total of about a dozen elves on the roads. My Dragonborn massacred the Elves in the Embassy, and stole all valuables there. No one was left alive. That's about 30 elves.
      He also massacred Northwatch keep. Another 30 elves there.
      70 Elite Thalmor agents have gone missing in Skyrim, by the Dragonborn's hand alone. I believe that has crippled them long enough for Skyrim to form a confederation with Hammerfell and High Rock.


      "I'm curious about your assertion that this republic would somehow surpass the Dominion in in the sciences. On what are you basing this prediction?"

      It all depends what the Dragonborn does. Long story short, this is my Dragonborn.Began as a Nord nationalist stormcloak, using two handed weapons, but ended up as a Nord internationalist who was friends with many elves and was arch mage of winterhold and was very well educated. From there I could see my Dragonborn being so in tune with events, always being one step ahead of the Thalmor, and eventually uniting high rock, hammerfell and skyrim, along with the many Orcs who live around those areas. He did this because an educated man knows that unity is more powerful than independence.

      It's tough describing 100 hours worth of gaming on here, I hope you understand.

      Stormcloak General
      Harbinger of the Companions
      slaughtered the dark Brotherhood
      Arch-mage of winterhold
      sided with the Greybears,not blades
      killed Thonar and Madanach
      completed almost all quests to help people around skyrim
      helped the akikr in order to strengthen ties with hammerfell
      hunts down necromancers and vampires
      kills forsworn, but friendly with non forsworn bretons
      healed dawnstar of nightmares
      married mjoll in order to help destroy black briar family

      in my opinion, all this helps in unifying tamriel under the Dragonborn, and since he is arch mage of winterhold and a member of the greybeards, he is a genius, and thus "The Republic" as I'd like to call it, would be a technologically advanced society if they follow his example.

      The best way I can describe it is this. I don't believe in religion, however, in the Bible, Moses came in order to unify all of Israel, and when Israel was in a state of chaos and corruption much later, Jesus came to restore it again, but better this time! Tiber Septim is Moses, and the Dragonborn is Jesus, if I may. Again, I am not religious.

      I'd like to think that after the events of Skyrim, a few months later my dragonborn travels west to aid hammerfell and High Rock.

      I hope I did not overwhelm you with info, haha. good luck reading all this.

    3. and let me add that Paarthrunax would help unite Tamriel, acting as steward type character to my Dragonborn.

    4. Fascinating. I am, as you would put it, "religious," so I follow the intent of your analogy, but there's a bit of a hang-up. Metaphysically, Tiber Septim is akin to Jesus (Septim is an apotheosized man rather than the theoanthropos, but the two concepts are close enough for our purposes here), but politically, the Dragonborn as Emperor would play David to Septim's Moses -- a later, greater leader who restores and expands the greatness of the kingdom.

      Your original analogy, however, brings up an interesting possibility. Aside from His status as fully God and fully man, what made Jesus distinct from previous prophets and leaders was that He shattered the cultural and ethnic distinctions between "us and them" (see Galatians 3:28). He did nothing to restore Israel politically, preferring instead to throw open the doors of God's kingdom to all who believe.

      Therefore, if we see the Dragonborn as a kind of Tamrielic Jesus, is it possible that he would allow the Empire as a political structure to fall in order to bring about a new kind of unity based on belief or philosophy rather than politics and race?

      On a more superficial note regarding your picture of the Dragonborn as a genius -- this is actually something that really bothers me about the College questline. Of the faction questlines, this one seems the most far-fetched. It is entirely possible to become the Arch-mage without demonstrating all that much in the way of magical skill. Yes, the Arch-mage is dead. Yes, I saved the the College (and Skyrim and Tamriel) from magical disaster. But that makes me, at best, a Harry Potter -- the Arch-mage should be a Dumbledore, should he not? At least in the other faction lines, I had to demonstrate a high degree of skill in the relevant areas (combat and stealth). I feel like a sham when I'm addressed as "Arch-mage."

    5. Well first off, the arch mage is more of a caretaker than a master of magic. The master wizard is the authority in magic and that would be tolfdier (if I spelt it correctly)

      And what better caretaker than the dragonborn! a legate/Stormcloak general who shows at least adept level magical capabilities. I'm sure the Jarl of Winterhold would have torn the college apart if I didn't become arch mage. Yes, the psjic order had diplomatic reasons for anming your the arch mage.

      But my stormcloak character sided with the stormcloaks only to get rid of the empire, not for the nords themselves. I think I said in an earlier post that after the events of skyrim, my dragonborn would most likely go to High rock and hamerfell to see how he could improve the situations there. Perhaps high rock, hammerfell, and morrowind would join with the dragonborn because he is a sort of messiah figure.

    6. This is one of those comments that I really wanted to respond to in a thoughtful manner, then got distracted.

      You raise an excellent point, and one I should have seen for myself. As a teacher, I know full well that the best teachers don't always make the best administrators, and that the best administrators need not always be the best teachers, or even the most knowledgeable in a particular academic discipline. Good leadership is not the same as academic prowess, nor is it the same as seniority, so why shouldn't the Dragonborn lead factions he just joined weeks ago in disciplines he has yet to master?

      I know this wasn't your main point, but it really stuck with me.

    7. The dragonborn would simply take an authority position in the college to keep anymore thalmor agents from infiltrating.

  5. Hi! Hope you don't mind me commenting again, but what do you think in regards to come of the arguments that support the stormcloaks or demonize the empire, and vice versa, or demonize ulfric or Tulius? Ex: a common argument I hear is that Ulfric is keeping the argonians out of the city for their own protection, seeing as how the dunmer had been enslaving them for centuries, and ulfric doesn't want to increase already hostile racial tensions. Or how the dunmer are living in squalor because they don't contribute to the city or the war. Ot how the imperial legion is racist (I've never understood this argument) Or how the stormcloaks aren't racist, it's just that one idiot beggar in wind helm. And on the pro-imperial side...actually, I think you pretty much covered the pro imperial side. Unless I'm forgetting one of the arguments.

    (On a rather unrelated note, where do you think Elder Scrolls 6 is going to take place? Best guess? What's your opinion on some of the fan-favorite characters, like Brynyolf (sp?), Cicero, Titus Mede II, Brunwulf Free-Winter? And what's your opinion on Nazeem, Heimskr, Maven Black-Briar (AKA, some of Skyrim's most hated characters) Sorry, if I'm asking too many questions at once, but you've made some very good arguments regarding a few characters and moral dilemma's in the game, and I'm just love to hear your opinion regarding more things in the game.

    1. Thanks for all of the questions and compliments!

      To your first paragraph, I addressed a lot of that in responding to Matt's reply below. In short, I don't like arguments that demonize any group, in Skyrim or in real life. Coloring one side as all bad is a kind of moral and intellectual shortcut that rarely provides any new insights. This is not to say, however, that I don't succumb to the temptation myself -- look at my comments regarding the Thalmor. I suppose I should attempt to look at the world through their eyes, as an intellectual exercise if nothing else, but they come so close to Naziism that I just can't "hold my breath" long enough to do it.

      Allow me to address your other points as they come up...

      Next title: I'm thinking Hammerfell, and there are some early indication to back me up on that.

      Brynjolf: Love him -- perfect rogue character, very Han Solo.

      Cicero: I didn't encounter him until my second playthrough. Spoiler alert -- he was entertaining, but I ended up having to kill him. Much like Ulfric, I wish I didn't have to, but I did.

      Titus Mede II: Like Cicero, I didn't encounter him until the second time through. I personally liked and respected him, but understood even more clearly why he had to go after I met him.

      Brunwulf Free-Winter: One of my favorites. A true "son of Skyrim" who nevertheless refuses to give in to the racism of some of his Stormcloak peers.

      Nazeem: I never have much contact with him, but his pomposity is really off-putting. Not a capital offense, but annoying nonetheless.

      Heimskr: Yes, Talos-worship should not have been banned, but this guy is clearly on the crazy side of zealotry.

      Maven: As I've said before, she's corrupt but competent. She could be useful if she can be kept in line. Like Nazeem, her inflated sense of self is irritating, but not the main problem with her character.

  6. Ok let's look at the numbers. 3 of the 10 legates in the legion are nords. All 10 stormcloak commanders are nords.

    When looking at the races of different legion races, you see it's bretons, imperials, and nords.

    When looking at the stormcloak soldiers, you see that they are all nords

    therefore, if you side with the empire, you kill 10 of the strongest nords in existence, you kill the only other man who can shout, and you kill WAY more nords than you would have if you joined the stormcloaks.

    That is why I believe that there should either be a peaceful resolution between the empire and stormcloaks, or the stormcloaks should claim skyrim. To kill all the stormcloaks is just absurd! they make up at least 60% of skyrim's population!

    Imagine what skyrim would be like after the imperial victory! all the remaining nords would be these kiss-ass, boot licking, shrewd, diplomatic slaves of the empire. the stormcloaks are true heroes.

    1. I really have to take issue with your argument here, mainly because it smacks of the very demonizing that Wolfsilver asked about in her reply. I'm sorry, but I just don't see Jarl Balgruuf as a "kiss-ass, boot licking, shrewd, diplomatic slave of the empire"; he's a proven warrior, he refuses to garrison the Legion until the last possible minute, and he kowtows to no one -- neither Imperial nor Stormcloak.

      What makes the Civil War such a great story is that both sides are right and both sides are wrong. I agree that is awful to kill the only other possessor of the Voice (other than the monastic Greybeards), but that's what makes good tragedy. As you yourself said earlier: my head says Empire, but my heart says Stormcloak. I agree with Ulfric's refusal to give in to the Dominion, but he goes about it all wrong, and therefore plays into the hands of the very enemy he wants to defeat. He dies because he refuses to see the whole field; had he been more patient, he could have had his own cartful of Thalmor heads.

    2. ...I'm a guy. Geez, is the name "wolfsilver" really that misleading when it comes to gender?? I thought it sounded kind of classy when I came up with it; does it REALLY sound that feminine??

    3. Wow...I am really embarrassed. My deepest apologies. I have no idea why I assumed a gender, and I shouldn't have.

  7. Don't forget that in the start of the game, the dragonborn is moving from Cyrodil to skyrim. That shows that he would have been accustomed imperial way of life, he will not have the accent that most nords do,he may have even been part of the legion in cyrodil. He would have been among native imperials most of his life. Take all this into consideration.

    1. Well, that really depends on the player's role-playing investment. In my case, Lothar (a Nord) did live his life in Cyrodiil, but one could easily imagine a Nord who crossed the border into Cyrodiil only within the past few years, only to find it closed when he came back.

    2. In addition, all we know (given what Ralof said) is that the dragonborn was caught crossing the border to skyrim (presumably from cyrodil), and just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, though to be more accurate, he was caught at darkwater crossing, I think. It's highly likely that the border was closed due to the civil war.

  8. In my opinion, the Dominion wants the empire to wipe out the stormcloaks, and vise versa, but what they do not want is for the empire and the stormcloaks to make peace. That would be horrible for the dominion. and that is what should be done.

  9. I hate to bring it up... but you're an English teacher, man:

    It's "free rein", not "free reign".

    1. Would you believe me if I said I was attempting to make a pun...?

    2. Well, I have no reason to disbelieve you, so - OK...

      But I think it's a very ill-advised pun, because people make that mistake all the time, all over the damn' internet, and I think it behoves those of us who know better to set a better example.


    3. Yeah, I was kidding about the pun. It was a straight-up mistake. Thanks for keeping me honest.

  10. Doesn't General Servius Tullius, after Ulfric is killed, state (if you ask him whether Imperial victory means peace) something like "Peace? there will be pockets of Stormcloak resistance even after this, but they'll disperse soon. Between the two of us, I'm not sure about peace with the Thalmor. But don't tell anyone about that last sentence".

    1. I think he does, but since he says it only after you've won the war in the Empire's favor, it serves only as post facto justification for siding with the Legion.

  11. While I agree that a united Empire presents a much more desirable, and stronger, front against the Thalmor threat, I couldn't bring myself to side with the Imperials. It's well and good enough for them to talk of "understanding" the Nords, but the Nords had served the Empire as one of it's main providers of warriors, the front-linesmen, the ones who presumably get the most caskets sent home after each war. To have the Empire they invested so much life in turn about and kick their culture in the gut, and let the Thalmor run rampant, is repugnant. Even if it serves the greater good, in the end I couldn't stomach the sense of betrayal I felt from the Stormcloak side.

    Even taking aside my bias that in the beginning you're branded for death by the Imperials for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. The beginning man's sympathies mean little when he's essentially apologizing for standing by while a man he believes whole-heartedly to be innocent in the struggle is executed for crimes he did not commit. Not to mention that they could've made do with ending the Stormcloak rebellion quickly, and taking Ulfric's head first, and letting the followers go and spread the news to let the rebellion fizzle out.

    I believe the empire actually made a huge mistake in accepting the terms of the White-Gold Concordat; while it may have seemed a great deal for them at the time, why would the Bosmer have offered it at aill were it not for a need of reprieve themselves? The Thalmor may be superior in the magical arts, but the numbers of the Empire were obviously taking their toll. The Thalmor, presumably, saw their defeat on the horizon, and gave a desperate Empire the chance to stab itself in the foot instead of continuing the fight, and the Empire took it with remiss. Hell, I'd say the blame for the political situation in Skyrim lies almost solely at the feet of the Empire.

    Granted, they now have to deal with the cards they have left, and see no choice, presumably, other than to subjugate Skyrim using force, but it doesn't mean they aren't, at least, from my perspective, morally in the wrong.

    Actually, I wonder how you do not consider the Imperials to have as taken the bait as much as the Stormcloaks? The infighting is obviously not something they wish to continue to take a toll on their resources, so why not try the diplomatic approach of retreating, granting Skyrim some greater form of autonomy? It would save face on behalf of the Empire to the Stormcloaks, prevent unnecessary loss of troops, and present a more (albeit slightly) united front against the Thalmor. The only reasons I can think of to not withdraw is because the Empire feels it needs to appropriate resources from Skyrim to effectively recuperate, or they are afraid of Thalmor retribution.

    The few problems I took with the Stormcloaks were with the blatant racism of a fair number of their members. While disagreeable, I saw no such evidence of that in Ulfric, and believe him to be the type of man that would not institute or abide law that would needlessly discriminate against the other races. Well, okay. Maybe High Elves.

    So, in my opinion, it's which you prefer: The greater good over religious freedom and loyalty to one's comrades, or the inverse.

  12. Personally, the moral issue of which side to be on boiled down to this: racists who ignore torture going on right under their noses, or people based out of a racist city who are more likely to stand against torture. Essentially, I am a Stormcloak. I cannot imagine being otherwise.

    Let's talk about religion in Skyrim now! I used to see Talos as being a David like figure, with Martin being a Christ figure. At this time, Martin is one of my favorite flawed Messianic Archetype characters.

  13. I see how old this is, yet here we are 6 years later playing the same game. My big question is why does everyone assume that after the recapture of the imperial city, that the Dominion is in so much stronger a position? According to numerous game lore, Elves reproduce many times more slowly than men. A human woman can produce over 5 fold an elven woman when it comes to offspring. I know wood elves are more fertile, as are Khaliht, but humanities crushing numbers is what won Tamerial for men to begin with. If the empire lost double or even triple the people that the dominion did, it still has more men. Its been 30 years, human populations should have recovered, elven populations would not have. This is just always bothered me, and no matter the flaws of ulfric, I will not support the most militarily ignorant empoerer to ever live. The empire should have continued the war, the domion wasn't in such a superior postion as everone supposes. Hell, a holding pattern without a treaty would have worked fine, and the empire would still have had a loyal skyrim and hammerfell. The elves would lose a war of attrition without doubt, they can't replace their dead like men can.

  14. I have entered Skyrim relatively late (two years ago), so I haven't really participated in any discussions. Only this thread, beginning with Tom Rooney's brilliant analysis, has urged me to respond, although it is quite certain that no one will comment.

    It's about the Civil War, evidently. On my 6th avatar (for various reasons) I have faced the Civil War dilemma many times. The first 3 avatars went with the Imperials, reluctantly, because of the negatives listed by others here. But with my 4th avatar, a female Nord, I completely avoided taking sides at all.

    I dislike both sides quite a bit. Conquering Skyrim for the Imperials didn't make them more humble and forthcoming towards the natives of Skyrim. They often act as arrogant war lords with little respect of the Nord people. With my Nord woman Hildur I tried siding with the Stormcloaks for curiosity's sake, but went back to the noted save after having accomplished the quest. The Stormcloaks were even more disgusting than the Imperials. Galmar is a plain, primitive bully, the acceptance of whom does Ulfric little credit. Ulfric himself seems to be more possessed with gaining power that achieving any higher goals. His treatment of Jarl Balgruuf shows a very poor calibre and making Elisif a puppet on his strings is perverse. Balgruuf and Elisif are the only leading persons in Skyrim I will not betray in any way, so Ulfric crushing them is more than enough for me to side with his opponents.

    My 5th and present avatar didn't take sides, but were content with the state of power distribution, created at the summit meeting in High Hrothgar. Evidently, the Civil War quest with its schemes and slaughtering of soldiers, havoc of Windhelm and Whiterun, and indignations of the losers, couldn't be carried through. But the gains from the war, I recalled, were not worth the calamities, and strangely it seems that Skyrim appears less stressed with no decision in the civil war.

    So I recommend this procedure for beginners (should such persons still exist).

    1) Make a save with a number on it. Note the number.
    2) Try siding with the Imperials. After completion return to the save number.
    3) Try siding with the Stormcloaks. After completion go back once more and don't side with any of them for quite a while.

    If you still have a strong urge to side with one of them, go for it again. Otherwise, experience the wonderful piece of the truce, you have created yourself.