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- Alternate Character Interpretation: In-universe, the civil war is precisely about the people of Skyrim being split on what to think of the Empire and the Stormcloaks. Depending who you ask, even in-game, the Stormcloaks are either virtuous freedom fighters who want to protect Skyrim's culture and restore her to glory, or are barbarian upstarts who are out to take over the country and are causing more trouble than their rule would solve, while the Empire is either a crumbling and fading force with no power that has turned its back on its heritage, or they're Skyrim's best hope to fend off the Thalmor and with their defeat rebuild themselves and Skyrim back to the glory days along with the restoration of Talos worship. The only people that don't get this trope by either the Imperial Army or the Stormcloaks are the Thalmor - you have to look very very deep into the books and lore to get this trope for them.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The Imperial uniform is red and brown, while the Stormcloaks wear blue and brown. As for the Thalmor, their guards wear the gold and green Elven and Glass equipment, and their Justiciars and other ranking members wear dark blue and gold robes.
- Cultural Posturing: Friction between the Empire and the Stormcloaks is very, very thick for this reason, though a lot of it can be blamed on the war inflaming tensions. The Imperials are frustrated with the Nords, due to their adherence to their own traditions being a major cause of the civil war (namely, Ulfric challenging and killing Torygg giving him a perfectly valid claim to be High King under Nord tradition), while the Nords claim the Empire doesn't understand or respect how proud they are of their long heritage. Conversations between Tullius and Rikke highlight both sides of this; Rikke emphasizes to Tullius that the Nords are very proud of their traditions and don't always follow their heads if they go against them, to which Tullius often mutters that such behavior is ridiculous and the cause of the trouble.
- Grey and Gray Morality: Oh, so very, very much. All that can be said conclusively about both the Empire and the Stormcloaks is that neither of them is a shining beacon of virtue, but you can't classify either as "evil" because there are perfectly valid viewpoints and good men and women holding them on both sides. Even the Thalmor are just a very, very dark gray, as their ultimate goal is something other elven races probably wouldn't mind (namely, "Escape from the prison that is the Mundus"), if they weren't being such genocidal pricks in their campaign to achieve that goal (IE: "Destroy the prison and everyone who doesn't agree with us that it is a prison").
- And as for the Jarls, many of their positions are not cut and dry. Both sides have a Token Evil Teammate with the Silver-Bloods of Markarth and the Black-Briars of Riften, and both sides have their share of noble rulers and upper-class idiots among the Jarls and their council.
- Hypocrite: Both sides indulge in a bit of this.
- The Stormcloaks despise the Imperial-leaning Nords for "abandoning" their traditional Nord beliefs in favor of the Imperial pantheon, despite the fact that many Nords worship Imperial aspects of the Divines like Akatosh note
- The Imperials protest that the Empire had to sign the White-Gold Concordat to protect the Imperial way of life or be wiped out. When Vulwuf Snow-Shod confronts the Emperor's aunt with the idea that the Stormcloaks are finding themselves in the exact same position with the banning of Talos worship damaging their culture, she has no counter.
- Galmar, at least, mentions that it's not simply outlawing traditional worship, but the principle of having someone else decide what gods you can and can't worship that they're fighting against. It's never implied that the Stormcloaks have any intention of making Talos worship mandatory, and at least one of the Jarls they put in charge apparently holds to the Eight, not the Nine. So ultimately they're fighting for religious freedom in general, as much as for Talos worship specifically.
- Not So Different: The Empire and Stormcloaks both want to return to Talos worship and end the civil war to prepare for an inevitable second war with the Thalmor, and Tullius and Ulfric are both crusty, battle-hardened military leaders. Eavesdropping on their conversations with Rikke / Galmar often reveals very similar conversations taking place, especially during "Season Unending" where the two sides try to negotiate a truce. For example, when the player overhears them discussing the Jagged Crown as a symbol of legitimacy to the throne.Ulfric: "Tell me again why we're wasting time and dwindling resources chasing a legend. We don't even know it exists!"
Galmar: "The Jarls are upset. They don't all support you."
Ulfric: "Damn the Jarls."
Galmar: "They demand the Moot."
Ulfric: "And damn the Moot! We should risk letting those milkdrinkers put Torygg's woman on the throne? She'll hand Skyrim over to the elves on a silver plate."
Galmar: "All the more reason then. The crown would legitimize your claim."
Ulfric: "A crown doesn't make a king."
Galmar: "No, but this one..."Tullius: "Tell me again, why I'm wasting men chasing after a fairy tale."
Rikke: "If Ulfric gets his hand on that crown, it won't be a fairy tale. It'll be a problem."
Tullius: "Don't you Nords put any stock in your own traditions? I thought the Moot chose the king. We're backing Elisif. When the Moot meets, they'll do the sensible thing."
Rikke: "Not everyone's agreed to the Moot. You've been here long enough to know that Nords aren't always sensible. We follow our hearts."
Tullius: "So what - Ulfric gets this crown and then suddenly he's High King?"
Rikke: "No, it's not as simple as that, but the Jagged Crown would be a potent symbol for his cause to rally around. But, if we found it first..."
Tullius: "And if we gave it to Elisif?"
Rikke: "In the absence of the Moot, it would further legitimize her claim."
- Amusingly, both Ulfric and Tullius can be caught using similar terminologies during the negotiations, once again showing similar minds and thoughts. Under different circumstances, these men might have been friends.
- To underline this, the game contains two songs, "The Age of Oppression" and "The Age of Aggression". One is pro-Stormcloak denouncing the Empire and championing Ulfric as the true High King, while the other is pro-Empire denouncing the Stormcloaks and declaring Ulfric as a king-killer. And both songs have exactly the same melody and very similar lyrics. A book discussing the two songs in-game speculates one song was likely adapted from the other, but no one knows which was written first.
- Both factions also have mirror counterparts in the Jarls that have aligned with them. Idgrod and Korir are Jarls of small holds who are reasonable but have issues that harm their reputation (Ravencrone's eccentricity and visions, Korir's absolute hatred for the one thing that puts his hold on the map, the College); Siddgeir and Skald the Elder are ineffective man children; Igmund and Laila Law-Giver are puppet rulers who have no real control over their holds thanks to criminal families (Thongvar and Maven, who will replace said Jarls if their faction loses the Civil War); a Reasonable Authority Figure in the form of Brina and Dengeir; a nondescript Nice Guy in Kraldar and Sorli the Builder. Perhaps the only differing characters are the Fantastic Racism of Ulfric versus the egalitarian Brunwulf, and Balgruuf's Reasonable Authority Figure contrasted to the With Us or Against Us mentality of Vignar Gray-Mane.
- No True Scotsman: The Stormcloaks declare that no true Nord would turn his back on Talos and side with an Empire that's done the same. The Imperial Nords declare no true Nord would be a fair-weather friend to the Empire Talos founded simply because it is enduring hard times and try to remove them from Skyrim at a time when cooperation is essential.
- Orcus on His Throne: Both Tullius and Ulfric spend most of the war in their respective strongholds until the finale, where they lead the attack on their enemy's capital cities.
- Right for the Wrong Reasons: Both sides suspect that the Dragon attack on Helgen was orchestrated by the other side and it wasn't a coincidence that it showed up just as Ulfric was about to be executed. They're wrong about the former and only partially correct about the latter. The real reason Alduin showed up was because of the Dragonborn, whose head was resting on the chopping block at the time.
- Romanticism Versus Enlightenment: The conflict has this as an undertone. Team Stormcloak is Romantic-leaning, complete with a Byronic Hero as its leader, while Team Empire is more Enlightenment-leaning.
- Jerkass Has a Point: Characters often admit that even though they're loyal to one faction, the other side isn't entirely wrong in their viewpoints. That Rikke, Ulfric and Galmar all arrive in Sovngarde shows that as far as the Divines are concerned, there is nobility to be found in all their actions — Tullius is exempt on account of not being a Nord.
- Soldier VS Warrior: Imperials as the former, Stormcloaks as the latter.
The Jarls are the regional rulers of the Holds (read: counties) of Skyrim. Due to the fact that Jarls can change depending on which side of the civil war controls a hold, the two are split.
Balgruuf the Greater
- Voiced by: Michael Gough"I will not stand idly by while dragons burn my hold and slaughter my people!"
- Badass: Say what you will about him, but when you set out to capture Odahviing, he'll happily raise an axe alongside his housecarl and guards and try to help you take the dragon down. Similarly, he'll personally fight to defend himself against Stormcloaks during the siege of Whiterun. He tells his Housecarl Irileth (essentially his most loyal bodyguard) that he will not let his city fall without raising a sword in its defense.
- Badass Beard: Quite an impressive one.
- Et Tu, Brute?: If you side with the Stormcloaks, you will be forced to betray him - he'll be understandably upset, because he considered you a trusted friend after helping defend Whiterun from a dragon.
- Famous Ancestor: He's a descendant of King Olaf One-Eyed. Yes, that one.
- Hypocrite: Despite saying that reliance on Imperial support seems cowardly, he is very reluctant to the idea of the Legion actually walking out on him. His steward addresses his (well-paid) acceptance of the White-Gold Concordant as a counterpoint, but Balgruuf asserts that the Jarls were never approached for their own opinions and he had to roll with it regardless.
- The Magnificent: Possibly in the sense of being the elder of two siblings, but his sobriquet is never touched on.
- Neutrality Backlash: Whiterun winds up besieged regardless of which side the Dragonborn picks.
- Neutral No Longer: When asked about which side of the civil war he's on initially, he says "Whiterun's". But eventually when the Stormcloaks come a-knockin', he casts his lot in with the Imperials. Depending on which side you're on, you either take part in besieging or defending Whiterun.
- Only in It for the Money: He only supports the Empire for the economic advantages it affords to Skyrim in general and Whiterun in particular. However, unlike most instances of the trope, it isn't out of selfish greed — Whiterun is an economic hub of Skyrim with numerous merchants operating out of the town, and many traders come through the hold on their travels, so it's in the best interests of his people to keep the Empire around and keep the coin flowing.
- Really Gets Around: Maybe. One of his sons claims that he has a different mother than his siblings, though there are... extenuating circumstances at work. It's never verified whether or not the boy is telling the truth; no wife or other Love Interest of Balgruuf's ever appears in the game.
- Real Men Love Jesus: He is a secret Talos worshiper.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: He readily accepts that the dragons have returned after hearing several firsthand accounts, moves to protect his people immediately, enlists the aid of the person with the most experience with dragons (you, by virtue of having survived Helgen), and instantly acknowledges the status and importance of the Dovahkiin. During the "Diplomatic Immunity" quest, the Dragonborn can ask him to provide a distraction, and he readily agrees even though he doesn't know exactly what you're doing - he believes in you that much.
- Balgruuf is such a reasonable Jarl that many Imperial-aligned players admit that the main reason they back the Empire is because backing the Stormcloaks means turning against Balgruuf. You can't even complete the Civil War questline without first earning his friendship and being granted Thane status by him, and joining the Stormcloaks requires you to subsequently betray him. Many players would rather support the Empire, regardless of their feelings about the conflict, simply so they can continue being Balgruuf's friend.
- He's also aware there are other threats besides bandits, dragons and the Civil War.Hrongar: "Have you reconsidered my idea?"
Balgruuf: "I haven't changed my mind, if that's what you're asking. I won't leave Whiterun defenseless, even for a day."
Hrongar: "If we send half our guards to aid the Legion, just for a few days, it could tip the scales in the Empire's favor. The Companions can help protect the city, and the Emperor will be in our debt."
Balgruuf: "Have you lost all sense? We are short on guards as it is! If we lose half our men, the Dark Brotherhood and Thieves' Guild will have the run of the city. The Stormcloaks will be the least of our worries! The answer is no, I tell you! Now stop pestering me with your war-mongering!"
- For a dash of Dangerously Genre Savvy in those quotes, one of the members of the Companions is Vignar Gray-Mane, who takes Balgruuf's place as Jarl should the Stormcloaks take over. He knows where everyone's loyalties lie.
- In addition, he slips out of the castle at night to go drinking with his hold's residents on occasion to just speak to them. Irileth is completely annoyed (and legitimately so) by this habit.Irileth: "Balgruuf, did you slip out again last night for a drink at the Bannered Mare?"
Balgruuf: "Heard about that, did you? Yes, I went out for a pint or two. What of it?"
Irileth: "These secret visits to the tavern will make you an easy target for an enemy assassin. You should have told me first."
Balgruuf: "Damn it, woman, I'm the Jarl of Whiterun! I won't apologize for talking to my people. You can't protect me every moment of the day."
Irileth: "That might be so, but it will never stop me from trying."
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: He doesn't get to deliver it personally, but Balgruuf has several against Ulfric. At first it's merely barely-tolerated aggression against him for his constant harassment of Whiterun for opting to stay neutral in the civil war. When the Stormcloaks finally attack, he drops the facade and admits he thinks of Ulfric as nothing but a barbarian sending innocents to their deaths over a senseless cause. It's especially apparent in the Imperial victory speech he gives following the Battle of Whiterun, where he condemns Ulfric with his own speeches and catchphrase stating that a "true Nord" would have stayed loyal to Talos' Empire.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Unless you're going for a non-dragon run, Balgruuf is the Jarl with whom you will have the most interaction, period. He's the first to accept the fact there are dragons about and prepare for them. He's the Jarl who straight up helps you in the main plot (Elisif and Ulfric are tangentially involved, but only because their war is fueling the flames) and even helps you capture Odahviing. And when the Stormcloaks attack Whiterun, he personally will defend his town in full plate mail. Averted however in the Battle for Whiterun, where he basically holes up in his castle and acts as an overglorified end-boss. Ulfric at least was originally intended to fight in that battle, but his participation was cut due to production deadlines.
- Sadistic Choice:
- Balgruuf wants to remain neutral in the war, but Ulfric forces his hand by sending him an axe; keep it and support the Stormcloaks, or return it and be attacked. After some deliberation, he returns the axe and calls the Imperial Army for aid.
- Alternately, Balgruuf is sent Jarl's Eyes Only intel by an Imperial runner (you) about Ulfric's massing attack, and Balgruuf is the one that sends the axe to ascertain Ulfric's intent (again via you) and also calls for Imperial aid. Ulfric returns the axe because he has already ordered an attack on Whiterun due to Balgruuf's prior indecisiveness.
- Screw You, Elves!: He knows being invited to a Thalmor's party is pretty much their way of saying "We own you, now go play lapdog for us." According to Mephala who lets it slip to his son, Balgruuf being a secret Talos worshiper is the best kept secret in Whiterun (although his inaction in removing the statue of Talos should be a pretty obvious clue) and he's only enforcing the Talos worship ban because it's better that they end up in his jail than the Thalmor's.
- What the Hell, Hero?: If you betray him in the civil war.Balgruuf: "And you. A Stormcloak! I thought better of you. You'll all come to regret this day!"
Balgruuf: "I won't say it again, Vignar - Talos worship is forbidden. It's the Empire's law, and we're still a part of the Empire."
- One that we don't see, due to a bug, is him calling out Vignar.
Vignar: "A law made at the tip of an Aldmeri sword, aye. A sword stained red with Nord blood. Is this what our people fought and died for? To forsake our most beloved ancestor and Divine?"
Balgruuf: "I'm no happier about this than you are, but I don't want the see the Thalmor rounding up people in the streets and throwing them in prison."
Vignar: "Do your loyalties lie with the Thalmor, then?"
Balgruuf: "I warn you, Gray-Mane, you are treading on dangerous ground."
Vignar: "Don't threaten me, boy. You're either a Nord who respects our traditions, or you're not. If not, it isn't me you'll have to answer to, but the people of this city and this hold."
Elisif the Fair
- Voiced by: Corri English
- Berserk Button: Stormcloaks in general; Ulfric, specifically, for killing her husband. Oddly enough, if you do some of her quests she'll make an exception for you, despite you being the reason Ulfric is winning and she is being marginalized. You being Ulfric's blood brother by the war's end also eludes her.
- From a Certain Point of View: Elisif and most of her court will attest that Ulfric literally blasted Torygg apart with his Thu'um. Ulfric states that the truth is far less dramatic; he merely knocked Torygg to the ground with a shout and ran him through (indeed, the only shouts he knows are Unrelenting Force and Disarm). The claim may be exaggerated, but it was still directly responsible for the High King's death, and it's stated in the game that Ulfric killed Torygg in front of Elisif, so it stands to reason that she has a pretty good idea of what happened.
- Happily Married: It's indicated, though not outright stated, that Elisif and Torygg were this before his death. She speaks of him fondly and is still in mourning, and his spirit, if encountered in Sovngarde, clearly regrets having to leave her.
- The High Queen: Her official title, but subverted, as she has the disposition and attitude but not the experience this trope implies.
- Hot-Blooded: Very much so, which makes it lucky she has a court full of competent, more cool-headed individuals backing her up. However, this is not due to impatience or a short temper, but rather to her desire to demonstrate that she is an effective ruler; she's overcompensating for her lack of experience. Falk Fire-beard usually reins her in.
- Nice Girl: She doesn't get upset at the Dragonborn if s/he sides with the Stormcloaks, and is still willing to declare him/her Thane and tells him/her "It's a fine day with you around." She's the only Imperial Jarl to do so; all the others insult you if you visit them in her hall.
- Puppet Queen: Currently serves as one under the Empire due to the war demanding Tullius's leadership and her husband's advisers being more experienced in handling the ruling of the Hold than she is. Can also end up as one if the Stormcloaks take over Skyrim, where she keeps her position but is effectively serving Ulfric in spite of her hatred for him. It's left ambiguous as to whether her situation - in either circumstance - will remain the status quo in the future.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: She takes threats to her hold very seriously, and is one of the more approachable Jarls (she allows commoners to petition her directly, for example, and she never speaks down to them), but she often lacks the experience needed to properly prioritize threats. The reports of odd noises and sightings coming from a cave would have required perhaps a patrol to investigate, with a larger detachment at the ready in case it was truly serious. Elisif's response was to send a full legion, potentially leaving her hold lightly defended during the dragon attacks and Civil War. Falk opts for a more tempered response.
- Ironically, however, her response actually matches the seriousness of the situation at Wolfskull Cave, where necromancers are attempting to resurrect Potema. Falk is prepared to let the matter pass until one person volunteers to go check it out. He's very lucky that one person was the Dragonborn, or else the necromancers might have succeeded.
- Reclining Reigner: Averted - the throne used by each Jarl has an animation tied to it that makes anyone who sits in them this trope. The Solitude throne, however, has a different animation, causing Elisif to sit upright with her hands on her lap.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: Asks the Dovahkiin to offer her husband's horn to a Shrine of Talos as part of a traditional Nordic burial ceremony.
- Too Soon: Feels this way about the annual burning of an effigy of Olaf One-Eye held by the Bard's College, which she cancels. Since her husband the High King was just murdered, perhaps a festival celebrating the death of a king (even a tyrant) by burning an effigy of him isn't really appropriate. If you join the Bard's College and complete the questline, you'll persuade her that burning the effigy of a despotic tyrant is a worthwhile celebration; true to form, she overcompensates again by declaring it a weekly event if you give a particularly effective persuasion.
- Widow Woman: She is the widow of the former High King.
- World's Most Beautiful Woman: The only woman in Skyrim to have a title relating to her outward appearances.
- Voiced by: Diane Michelle
- All There in the Manual: According to the official strategy guide, Idgrod and her children are actually mages of a sort. They aren't aware of it themselves, but their visions are caused by their subconscious manipulation of Magicka.
- Cool Old Lady: One of the most personable and intelligent Jarls on the Imperial side.
- If you've ingratiated yourself with her before "Diplomatic Immunity", she is willing to provide you a distraction in the Thalmor Embassy, no questions asked, simply because it'll liven up the party and she wants to have some fun.
- Cursed with Awesome: She and her children have the gift of premonition. Idgrod says that it is a blessing, while others think it's a curse. Her son, in particular, is a space cadet plagued with nightmares to the extent of warranting medical suppression.
- Distaff Counterpart: To Jarl Korir. Both have difficulties that hurt their reputation (Idgrod's visions, Korir's collapsed city), but are still among the most reasonable and respectable Jarls in their respective factions.
- Go Mad from the Revelation: According to some people, anyway.
- Guile Heroine: Despite how people may feel about her premonitions, she still has her wits about her.
- Happily Married: To her steward, Aslfur.
- In the Blood: Both her daughter and her son are haunted by dreams similar to her premonition abilities. Idgrod the Younger has a better handle on it, but they're so severe on Joric that he's a total space cadet.
- Mad Oracle: She's rather cryptic and kooky, but still has enough marbles to keep the hold, so it's a mild case of this trope.
- Obfuscating Insanity: You get a hint she's no stranger to faking her visions for the purpose of trolling if you enlist her aid in causing a distraction at the Thalmor embassy party, should you have ingratiated yourself to her beforehand.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Based on the testimony of certain individuals (one of whom is her own housecarl), her visions take a noticeable strain on her and prevent her from ruling her hold efficiently, but she treats threats to the hold with the seriousness they require. After the Dovahkiin finishes the local investigation, she doesn't just order the problem to be dealt with immediately, but backs you up with a full mob of eager volunteers. This might do more harm to you than good, but it's still more help than most Jarls provide you.
- Strong Family Resemblance: Her daughter, Idgrod the Younger, looks like a youthful, wrinkle-free version of her.
- Voiced by: Keith Silverstein
- Bad Boss: He lets bandits prey on the people in his hold.
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: Due to a bug, even if you are Thane of Falkreath, the kindest thing he'll call you is a whore if you've killed his housecarl for the Dark Brotherhood - even if he has no way of knowing it was you.
- It's All About Me: His character in a nutshell. The grand majority of his dialogue is related to his self-importance and personal indulgence.
- Jerkass: Rather rude and extremely lazy.
- Not So Different: The Imperial counterpart of Jarl Skald the Elder as the "childish" Jarl.
- Puppet King: He's completely aware (and is happy to tell you) that he's merely a puppet Jarl while his steward is the one who holds power, but given the advantages it gives, he isn't complaining about it.
- Royal Brat: He acts less like a Jarl and more like a petulant, self-indulgent teenager. He is clearly one of the younger Jarls in the country, being one of the only male Jarls without significant facial hair, so it's entirely possible that he actually is a teenager.
- Token Evil Teammate: One of two for the Imperial side, albeit with him being slightly less villainous than Maven.
- Upper-Class Twit: He doesn't do much of anything except enjoy the privileges of his station. Fortunately, his high elf steward Nenya knows what to do so the hold doesn't fall apart.
- He does pay attention to the bandits in Falkreath. In a nasty twist, he actually allows them to prey on his people in return for a cut of their ill-gotten gains. He sends you to exterminate one gang of bandits that is trying to stiff him, so as to send a message to the other bandits in the region.
- He also seems to actually pay attention to the stories of heroes roaming around Skyrim, such as the Dragonborn. However, his interest lies mostly in getting said heroes to show up in his underdeveloped hold to do work for him and maybe buy land and develop it.
- Voiced by: Paul Ganus
- Authority in Name Only: Technically, it is the Silver-Blood family that rules his city (while outside the walls, it is the Forsworn that rules).
- Blatant Lies: He insists that there are no Forsworn agents in his city. Either he's an Orwellian Editor or he's as idiotic as Jarl Laila Law-Giver.
- Didn't Think This Through: If he didn't want to get on the Thalmor's radar, or if he wasn't prepared to resist a possible attack, he really shouldn't have promised Ulfric's men the free worship of Talos and expect it to go unnoticed.
- General Ripper: He has it out bad for the Forsworn, calling both his steward/uncle and his housecarl cowards for not advocating more aggressive overtones towards them in the face of his two advisors' very real practical concerns over such a campaign.
- Geo Effects: He isn't concerned about dragons, as Markarth consists of stone buildings (which don't burn) built into a mountainside (which is hard for a dragon to swoop down through).
- Hazy Feel Turn: Originally supported the Stormcloaks, but turned against them to maintain peace with the Thalmor.
- I Am X, Son of Y: He introduces himself as "Igmund, son of Hrolfdir. Jarl of Markarth".
- I Did What I Had to Do: Evicted Ulfric and his troops after their worship of Talos resulted in the Thalmor threatening to attack.
- Spear Counterpart: To Laila Law-Giver. Both have corrupt businessmen pulling most of their strings (the Silver-Bloods for Igmund, the Black-Briars for Laila), and both may get replaced by the heads of said corrupt families should the enemy army capture the hold. They also seem to both be clueless about the problems plaguing their cities; Laila is constantly misled by her advisers, while Igmund seems to be in utter denial.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Asking Ulfric for aid against the Forsworn and promising the restoration of Talos worship for it was the key incident that really began the Stormcloak rebellion. When asked about it now, he admits it was a really dumb move and chalks it up to just hoping the Thalmor wouldn't find out.
- Unwitting Pawn: To the Thalmor, inadvertently perpetuating their hidden agendas.
- You Killed My Father: The Forsworn were responsible for his father's death.
- Voiced by: Claudia Christian
- Platonic Life Partners: With her housecarl, Horik Half-hand.
- Retired Badass: She had to have done something to earn the undying loyalty of Horik Halfhand, to the point where he is her housecarl after retirement... and to have reached the rank of Legate regardless.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Especially compared to her Stormcloak-aligned predecessor, and particularly in terms of guard/troop allocation. Being a retired Legate, she knows her stuff on troop allocation. Everyone already looked to her for leadership in Dawnstar, on account of everyone thinking Skald was a spoiled brat in an old man's body.
- This Is Gonna Suck: Her assessment of a possible dragon attack. Dawnstar is completely exposed, the buildings are all made of wood, and arrows are in short supply.
- Voiced by: Elisa Gabrielli
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: As owner of the Black-Briar Meadery. Your first special job for the Thieves' Guild involves her hiring you to sabotage a competing meadery in Whiterun.
- Distaff Counterpart: To Thongvor Silver-Blood. See his entry for elaboration.
- The Don: Played with. She has ties to the Empire and the Dark Brotherhood, is patron of the Thieves' Guild, and is effectively the one who controls Riften... but she doesn't lead any of the groups and is only able to "control" them through the money she funnels from her meadery to them.
- Equal-Opportunity Evil: She can be overheard at the Thalmor embassy party expressing contempt for how Ulfric treats the Dunmer in Windhelm, and she herself trusts a Dunmer to run her meadery.
- Even Evil Has Standards: She is somewhat disgusted by Ulfric's treatment of the Dunmer.
- Hyper Awareness: Maven is sharp. If you're infiltrating the Thalmor Embassy without have joined the Thieves' Guild, she'll have no idea who you are - but she'll immediately figure out that you're not who you say you are, and advise you to avoid her for the rest of the party to keep your cover from being blown.
- Incest Subtext: By pure accident. Hemming is her son, and Ingun and Sibbi are meant to be her grandkids. But she shares a bed with Hemming and people in the game refer to Sibbi and Ingun as her kids.
- I Own This Town: The Black-Briars already control Riften; the Imperials just make it official, which she even lampshades by commenting she's always been the one in charge, the title of Jarl is merely a formality. But if you complete both the Thieves' Guild and Dark Brotherhood questlines, you effectively control much of what she needs to stay in power.
- Jerkass: Despite relying on the Dark Brotherhood and Thieves' Guild for much of her power, she bosses them around as she believes they cannot survive without her backing, and she uses them to undermine competitors and expand her power further without caring who gets in the way. Her interactions with her own family indicate she sees them more as employees than blood relatives, and for a Kick the Dog moment, she sneers that the Blessing of Mara you give her will serve her well as kindling for the hearth.
- Karma Houdini: Despite using the Thieves' Guild and Dark Brotherhood to intimidate or kill anyone who opposes her, and likely being the direct cause of Riften being a Wretched Hive, there is nothing the player can do to stop her. Due to Gameplay and Story Segregation, becoming the Thieves' Guildmaster and becoming leader of or wiping out the Brotherhood does nothing to decrease her power. Furthermore, she becomes Jarl if you side with the Imperials; if you turn Riften over to them during "Season Unending" and later retake Riften for the Stormcloaks, she remains in the city rather than being exiled; and as a potential Jarl and needed for quests, she's marked as permanently essential and cannot be killed. The only things the player can do against her that the game recognizes, like stealing Frost or burning too many hives at Goldenglow, she brushes off as minor nuisances.
- Kicked Upstairs: The one silver lining about making her Jarl is that she stays on her throne all day and will no longer go around town harassing people (yourself included).
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: She won her wealth through bribery, corruption, and murder. Her sons are both Entitled Bastards who dislike each other and one of them is Ax-Crazy to boot. Her daughter is a Master Poisoner who isn't quite as bad as the rest of the family. There's even a hint of possible incest. They're the Borgias IN SKYRIM.
- Pet the Dog: Despite her iron criminal grip on Riften, she is the only one capable of hiring Dunmer workers in a city that is borderline fanatically loyal to the Stormcloaks, and none of them have any legitimate complaints about her, although Indaryn and she may have a bit of a tiff.
- Political Correctness: Catches herself several times using more shady language, and then switches to a more fitting phrase for her new station. "Cut of the pay" become "rewards for services rendered" and such.
- Pragmatic Villainy: She had her son Sibbi jailed for killing a man, but it wasn't for the deed itself - it was because he did it in public, which is bad for their image and tougher to cover up. His "jail time" is a glorified time-out in a posh cell for not being more discreet in his misdeed.
- Might be one of the reasons that she believes in Equal-Opportunity Evil.
- Shock and Awe: She uses lightning spells if threatened, making her the only Jarl to use magic.
- Slouch of Villainy: "The throne suits me, doesn't it?"
- Strong Family Resemblance: Like Idgrod, Maven's daughter Ingun looks like her sans a few decades.
- Token Evil Teammate: One of two for the Imperials.
- The Unfettered: She tells you point blank when first sent to her that when it comes to business, only two things matter to her - was the job done, and was it done properly. Anything else is meaningless.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: After an Imperial victory in the Civil War, she's supposed to be installed as the new Jarl of the Rift. However, the game can glitch in such a way that she never actually does. Her son still becomes her steward and speaks of her in the present tense, but her throne at Mistveil Keep remains empty. This makes it impossible for the player to become her thane, or to purchase Honeyside if they hadn't already done so.
- If this glitch occurs, she can still sometimes be found eating meals with the rest of her household. She doesn't have a lot to say in that case, however.
- Voiced by: Michael Gough
- Blue Blood: Hails from a long line of nobility and, due to the Great Collapse, may possibly be its last remaining member.
- Nice Guy: He's to Winterhold what Brunwulf Free-Winter is to Windhelm.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Rather than lament the lost glory of Winterhold and despise the Mages like Korir, he acknowledges that the College is the only reason that the city even still exists and believes that amicable relations with them are essential for their prosperity. He's also more proactive, wanting to work with them and the Empire to rebuild Winterhold.
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: He genuinely believes that Winterhold can be restored to its former glory.
- Voiced by: Michael Gough
- Armor-Piercing Question: Asks the player, rhetorically, if the White-Gold Condordat really saved the Empire, or just planted the seeds for a second war as has happened with the Stormcloaks.
- Badass Beard: He was a former Legionnaire, too.
- Bald of Awesome: A former Legionnaire, and one of the coolest people in Skyrim.
- Cool Old Guy: One of the nicest people in Skyrim and a Retired Badass to boot.
- I Did What I Had to Do: He dislikes being heralded as a "war hero" by many in Windhelm, admitting that all he did during the Great War was kill a lot of High Elves and not die, something he doesn't regard as particularly heroic.
- Knight in Sour Armor: He isn't too optimistic about the prospects of improving relations between the Nords of Windhelm and non-Nords, but that doesn't mean he won't try.
- Meaningful Name: Who would have thought a man named "Free-Winter" would be the one to champion equal rights for non-Nords in Windhelm?
- My Species Doth Protest Too Much: Holds disdain for the "Skyrim for the Nords" notion.
- Nice Guy: Even before becoming Jarl, he will pay the Dragonborn to get rid of bandits who are targeting Dunmers and Khajiit caravans because the bandits know that Ulfric will do nothing about it, since the victims are not Nords.
- Like Ulfric, he refuses to use the term "common rabble" when declaring the player Thane of Eastmarch.
- He leaves Windhelm's Temple of Talos untouched and unlocked, and doesn't appear to persecute its priests.
- No True Nord: He hangs a lampshade on the trope, decrying its use by the Stormcloaks.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Within hours of getting his new job, he's already met with the dark elves of the ghetto-like Gray District to develop renovation plans, and is seeking a way to let the Argonians into the city without increasing the town's already huge racial tensions. He even keeps most of Ulfric's staff on hand since they know their jobs well enough, and offers lodging to the deposed Jarls who were supporting Ulfric.
- Much like Balgruuf, many Imperial-aligned players say that putting Brunwulf on the Windhelm throne is one of the reasons that they back the Empire.
- Reluctant Ruler: He much preferred being a soldier to being Jarl, as things were so much simpler and clearer.
- Retired Badass: He fought in the Legion during the Great War.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: Shows signs of this.Brunwulf: They call me a war hero. I'm no hero, I'm just a soldier who didn't want to die.
Dragonborn: That dark elf called you a war hero.
Brunwulf: I killed a lot of High Elves in the Great War, and I didn't die. I guess that makes me a war hero.
- War Is Hell: "The 'Great War'...there was nothing great about it. Thousands died on both sides, and where did it get us?"
Ulfric StormcloakSee below in the "Stormcloaks" section for the full list for Ulfric.
- Voiced by: Claudia Christian
- Authority in Name Only: Despite being Jarl, the real power in Riften belongs to Maven and potentially the Dragonborn.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Dummied Out dialogue indicates Laila would have personally fought in the defense of The Rift, and gives a powerful "The Reason You Suck" Speech to Maven about how Maven is Only in It for the Money and has no honor like the Nords do.
- Dirty Coward: General dialogue between her and her steward reveals that Laila has an emergency carriage at the ready for her to escape should a dragon attack Riften.
- Distaff Counterpart: To Igmund. See his entry for elaboration.
- Fantastic Racism: Surprisingly averted; she is the only starting Stormcloak-aligned Jarl who doesn't show racism in any way. The fact that she has two Bosmer in her court, one of them being her steward and the other her court wizard, says much.
- Hidden Depths: Possibly. If the Imperials win and she's driven into exile, she accepts the blame and admits to having been a bad Jarl who let her people down. This is in contrast to Skald and Korir, who blame everyone but themselves.
- Honor-Related Abuse: Treats her younger son, Saerlund, as mentally ill, to the point of ordering her court mage to find a cure, because he supports the Empire. Thankfully, said court mage is an Absent-Minded Professor who almost certainly hasn't really gotten started on that, and apart from being emotionally insensitive and placing her son under house arrest more or less, she otherwise treats him fairly well.
- Irony: A woman with the sobriquet "Law-Giver" ruling over the setting's Wretched Hive.
- Puppet Queen: She's pretty clueless about the state of her town. Her own adviser is in deep with the Thieves' Guild, and the Guild gets most of its work from the local mead-brewing dynasty. Fittingly, if the Imperials take Riften, she gets replaced by the matriarch of said mead dynasty, Maven Black-Briar. She does have moments of agency, though; for example, she enlists the Dragonborn to destroy Skooma smugglers peddling their goods in her city, despite her steward saying it's nothing to be worried about.
- Surrounded by Idiots: Invokes this when proclaiming the Dragonborn as Thane of the Rift, claiming that they've done more for Riften in a short time than any of her advisers have ever managed.
- Upper-Class Twit: Laila and her children are probably the most prominent example of this trope in the game.
Skald the Elder
- Badass: You have to admit, it does take balls for a frail old man to charge into a massive siege and fight the good fight.
- Conspiracy Theorist: He believes that every Imperial sympathizer is a spy of some kind, and even threatens to execute Brina Merilis and Horik Halfhand just for being ex-Legionnaires. (It must be conceded, though, that wearing their armour as they do is quite a provocation, and he makes it a point to say that if he finds evidence of them spying for Tullius, then he'll have them killed. Which a more or less reasonable stance on this sort of thing in a state of war.)
- One step further than that is his belief that the reasons dragons are attacking Skyrim is because of the ban of worshiping Talos and that they will stop if the Stormcloaks win. Well, he's halfway right on that, since there is a divine hand behind their return...
- Fantastic Racism: Hates giants, and is always eager to send the Dragonborn to kill them. Justified, since they are a very dangerous nuisance to his hold (enough to give dragons a run for their money; they can easily kill with one hit); granted, they don't really go out of their way to attack anyone, but it is very easy to accidentally piss them off.
- Hypocrite: He insists that all true Nords have a duty to join the Stormcloaks and fight for Skyrim's freedom... and sneers at his servant Bulfrek for wanting to do just that.
- Jerkass: His servant Bulfrek wants to join the Stormcloaks to prove himself a worthy Nord. When he asks Skald for leave to do so, Skald laughs at the idea of a servant wanting to be a warrior.
- He also refuses to let his court wizard, Madena, leave the court. Madena is a Shell-Shocked Veteran of the Great War and desperately wants to essentially take a mental health holiday, and Skald won't allow it.
- Leeroy Jenkins: Has this mentality when it comes to allocating troops to the Stormcloak cause, which pretty much leaves Dawnstar undefended. His own housecarl (politely) accuses him of not understanding the magnitude of the Civil War.
- You may or may not notice him amid the bedlam that is the Siege of Windhelm; he apparently decides to go down fighting.
- Man Child: According to the town alchemist, who's even older than him, he's been a brat his entire life since he took the hold's seat when he was a boy.
- Not So Different: The Stormcloak counterpart of Jarl Siddgeir as the "childish" Jarl. On the other hand, he's not at all as corrupt or idle as Siddgeir.
- Try Not to Die: If you accept his bounty for a giant, he sends you off with "Bye! Try not to get stomped by a giant!"
- You Have to Believe Me: Often rabbles about how there are Imperial spies in Dawnstar but no one believes him.
- Voiced by: Michael Gough
- Badass: It takes a lot of willpower to continue ruling a meager excuse of a land in the absolute freezing north of the most inhospitable land in Tamriel beset on all sides by the most fearsome of animals and men. Being willing to punch dragons to death also makes him cool.
- Badass Longcoat: Same as Ulfric's, but in a different colour.
- Badass Beard: Have you seen the place where he lives? Wearing a beard is a matter of practicality!
- Determinator: Even so, he's grimly resigned and dedicated to protecting what remains of his hold to the best of his ability.I don't care how many colleges they build! Or how much the sea swallows up! I'll outlast them all!
- Does Not Like Magic: He's convinced the College blew up Winterhold, something the mages deny strenuously. Given that an entire city collapsing doesn't happen on a whim, and the traditional Nordic distrust for magic that isn't purely beneficial, he's steadfast in his assumptions.
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: The destruction of most of his city has really damaged his Hold's reputation in Skyrim, and he's outraged that he commands so little respect and authority among the other Jarls because of this.
- To become Thane, he sends the Dragonborn to retrieve the lost Helm of Winterhold, the crown worn by a former prospective High King who would have ruled with Winterhold as his seat of power. Korir wants it to remind the other Holds of their historical importance and the fact that they once rivaled Windhelm and Solitude in terms of power.
- Fantastic Racism: Has it in for elves pretty bad. He encourages this in his son as well, though he has a hatred of mages that is far more fantastical and prominent.
- Feeling Oppressed by Their Existence: A conversation between Dagur, the innkeeper, and his wife Haran indicates that Korir complains about some of the inn's customers (mages visiting the College, who are often also elves), and that his complaints "suggest" this.
- Happily Married: To his wife Thaena, who is also his housecarl.
- Jerkass Has a Point: If he's still Jarl during the College of Winterhold questline when Ancano tries to harness the Eye of Magnus, causing magical disturbances to be felt throughout the city which could spread devastation across the entire world if not stopped, he reasserts his belief that the College was somehow responsible for the earlier disaster. It's hard to blame him.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: He's very devoted to his hold, which is really saying something considering Winterhold is a dilapidated backwater by the time of the game. He apparently has been tireless in trying to restore the city's prestige and is outraged that his city does not get the respect he feels it deserves.
- Spear Counterpart: To Jarl Idgrod. Both have difficulties that hurt their reputation (Idgrod's visions, Korir's collapsed city), but are still among the most reasonable and respectable Jarls in their respective factions.
- Authority Equals Asskicking: Out of all the Jarls, aside from Ulfric, he likely has the most battle experience.
- Badass: He used to be a member of the Companions. He's still got it.
- Benevolent Boss: To Brill and later to Whiterun as a whole upon becoming Jarl.
- Braids of Barbarism: Nord.
- Cool Old Guy: Possibly the coolest old man in the game short of the Greybeards themselves. Let's see... former Legion commander? Check. Revered retired Companion? Check. Willing to go toe-to-toe with dragons? Hell yes.
- Cool Sword: Made of Skyforge Steel, courtesy of his brother Eorlund Gray-Mane.
- Guttural Growler
- Pet the Dog: After Brill became a depressed alcoholic, Vignar got him clean and gave him a job.
- Real Men Love Jesus: He's a devout Talos worshipper."If this were my Empire, I'd be able to worship whomever I damn well pleased! You wish to see an Empire without Talos?! Without its soul?!"
- Reasonable Authority Figure: His main concern as Jarl is to make sure the transition of power goes as smoothly as possible so as to prevent any disruption in the lives of his people. He is also very receptive to the threat of dragons and makes it his top priority to defend against them by increasing the number of guards and is very meticulous about maintaining steady supplies of food and water.
- Retired Badass: Of the Companions, mainly, and he still lives in Jorrvaskr at least part of the time. He also mentions that he, in a similar vein to Ulfric, was a Legion Commander for thirty years.
- Shut Up, Hannibal!: He gives one to Balgruuf when he tries to chew him out for supporting Ulfric.
- We Used to Be Friends: His entire clan used to be friends with the Battle-Born, but became enemies after taking opposite sides of the war. Being descendants of Ysgramor's Companions, they may even be distant relatives.
- What the Hell, Hero?: There's unused dialogue between him and Balgruuf (seen above in the latter's entry) in which the pair argue over the worship of Talos and the Jarl's accountability to his people. He also lets him have it during the Siege of Whiterun, seeming to be chiding Balgruuf for staying inside Dragonsreach instead of fighting on the front-line with his men."Skyrim needs a High King who will fight for her! And Whiterun needs a Jarl who will do the same!"
Dengeir of Stuhn
- Benevolent Boss: The local blacksmith seems to think so. But Dengeir still thinks he has something to do with the Imperial plot that put Siddgeir in power and will ask you to break into his house. The quest makes it unclear whether or not his suspicions are true.
- Better The Devil You Know: This is why he supports Ulfric; he's the only Stormcloak Jarl who will openly say he considers Ulfric a self-centered, power-hungry egomaniac whom he doesn't trust as far as he can throw. Still, he'd rather deal with him, someone from whom he knows what to expect, and who is at least close enough to the action to know how to effectively run Skyrim, than an Emperor and a council seated a thousand miles away making decisions about a land of which they know virtually nothing.
- Conspiracy Theorist: Thinks that there are Imperial spies all around him. Even his own brother (with whom he lives) is kinda fed up with it.
- Unlike Skald, however, some of his paranoia appears to have some merit when you do some of his side quests. Somewhat.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: At least more reasonable than his nephew Siddgeir."Well, for one thing, I won't drain the town treasury buying myself fancy clothes and expensive mead! Nor will I get involved with criminals trying to take advantage of honest folk! I may be an old man, but I haven't forgotten that a Jarl's first duty is to look after his people."
- To put it into perspective, he's the only replacement Jarl to ask you to perform a task before naming you Thane. However, he's asking you to do it because bandits are attacking innocents, compared to his nephew's selfish reasons.
- Reluctant Retiree: Regains his position if the Stormcloaks take Falkreath.
- Voiced by: Michael Gough
- Asskicking Equals Authority: Presumably, he was chosen as replacement Jarl due to the Stormcloaks' insistence on this.
- Badass: The Orc blacksmith at Understone Keep served alongside Thongvor in the Legion, and he mentions him as being a good man and a tough soldier.
- Bald of Awesome: Given that he's basically a Sergeant Rock to Igmund's Orwellian Editor.
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: With all the Silver-Blood family does for Markarth, it's hard to blame him for feeling insulted that Jarl Igmund chooses to ignore their advice.
- Due to the Dead: His first appearance is him angrily asking the local priest of Arkay why people aren't being allowed into the Hall of the Dead and voicing his suspicion that the bodies of his ancestors are somehow being desecrated. It's a possibility that he (understandably) does not like at all.
- Fantastic Racism: Has problems discerning the difference between Imperials the race and Imperials the institution in his ranting at Brother Verulus when you first see him.
- I Own This Town: His family's mine pretty much makes the income for the city, and the miners consist of captured Forsworn and convicted criminals. When he becomes Jarl, this trope becomes literally true. He will also complain that the Jarl doesn't listen to him enough despite his family's huge affluence and influence.
- Properly Paranoid: He's suspicious that people aren't allowed into the Hall of the Dead, speculating that the bodies of his ancestors are being defiled. He's not wrong, as you discover if you persuade the priest of Arkay to tell you why the Hall of the Dead is closed; it turns out there's a cannibal in there having lunch. Whether Thongvor's relatives are among those that have recently been chewed on isn't stated, but it's certainly possible.
- Spear Counterpart: To Maven Black-Briar. Both are the head of commercially successful families whose success is due to shady and illegal dealings (Thieves' Guild and Dark Brotherhood in Maven's case; mercenaries to bully mine owners and Forsworn assassins to silence enemies in Thongvor's case). Both are replacement Jarls for their respective hold should the other faction take over. In both cases, they have so much influence in the hold and have bribed the local guards so successfully that they arguably have more power over the town than the rightful Jarls do. Additionally, both have goons in town who will warn the player of their respective family's influence over the town (Maul and Yngvar the Singer respectively) and said goons become housecarls if Thongvor/Maven become Jarl. The main point of difference is that Thongvor doesn't lead his family's business (while he is the eldest and head of the family, his brother leads the business side of things) and he isn't explicitly involved in any of the family's illegal dealings.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: He's receptive to the threat of dragons and tries to have parties made to hunt them. This doesn't fly, though, as his steward reminds him it would be ineffective seeing as how his men don't have the training to take on dragons (hell, the guys at Whiterun were only able to beat one because they had the Dragonborn on their side). He is also very respectful to a Stormcloak Dragonborn, and if you perform Thonar's "service," though he doesn't know the exact details of it, he will genuinely thank you.
Sorli the Builder
- Voiced by: Claudia Christian
- I Fight for the Strongest Side: Not explicitly stated, since she never reveals her political leanings in her dialogue; however, Stonehills (jointly owned by her and her husband) sells iron to the Imperials and she swears by the Eight, implying stronger Imperial ties.
- Oh My Gods!:
- "By Ysgramor's axe!" All the more amusing if you have the rebuilt weapon equipped at the time.
- In a very interesting and telling exclamation, doing "Laid to Rest" with her will have her blurt out "By the Eight!" instead "By the Nine!", implying that either habit or lack of conviction has prevented her from counting Talos.
- Real Men Love Jesus: Subverted, as she swears by "the Eight" instead of "the Nine."
- Reasonable Authority Figure: If you haven't completed Morthal's special questline, she has the same intelligent response as her Imperial counterpart: to accept your word on the matter and provide you with a mob of (somewhat problematic) supporters.
- Token Minority: Her housecarl is the only non-human replacement the Stormcloaks have.
Nordic rebels who believe the Empire is no longer fit to rule over Skyrim following the White-Gold Concordat. Led by Ulfric Stormcloak, the Jarl of Eastmarch, they seek to drive both the Empire and the Thalmor from Skyrim.
- Asskicking Equals Authority: Stormcloak officers are chosen based on individual figthing skill, so the commanders tend to be mighty chieftains and warriors in their own right,
- Authority Equals Asskicking: All their leaders. Ulfric's basically a poster boy for the Warrior Prince trope who's noted as basically the kingdom's greatest warrior save possibly for the Dragonborn himself. Even his fiercest detractors, like Brunwulf Free-Winter, admit he's a mighty warrior and a great leader. Galmar is a savage, fur-clad, berserking giant of man who chops down Thalmor and Imperials like lumber with an effin' huge battleaxe.
- Awesome Mc Cool Name: Between Ulfric Stormcloak and Galmar Stone-Fist, most Stormcloak sobriquets, especially those given to the player, are this trope. For just a taste, we have Hjornskar Head-Smasher, Thoryyg Sun-Killer, and Ysralad Three-Pierced.
- Badass Army: They can go toe to toe with the IVth Legion, one of the branches of the Imperial Military that's in the best shape since the Great War. This is unsurprising since most of them come from the eastern half of Skyrim, where young Nords must kill an ice wraith as a rite of passage. If you join them, Galmar has you do the same to prove your worth. They're less regimented than the Legion, however, but compensate for this by individually being stronger and more skilled fighters.
- Badass Beard: The majority of male Stormcloaks seem to have one of these. The exceptions can literally be counted on one hand.
- Badass Cape: Stormcloak officer armour has a bear-hide cloak attached.
- Badass Creed: Fight or die well. As Nords they also use a general Nord battlecry, "Victory or Sovngarde!" Not to mention the oath one has to take before they officially join the Stormcloaks ranks.Stormcloak Oath:"I do swear my blood and honor to the service of Ulfric Stormcloak, Jarl of Windhelm and true High King of Skyrim. As Talos is my witness, may this oath bind me to death and beyond... even to my lord as to my fellow brothers and sisters in arms. All hail the Stormcloaks, the true sons and daughters of Skyrim!"
- Band of Brothers: In comparison to the somewhat more hierarchical atmosphere of the Legion, every Stormcloak is the shield-brother of the man next to him, causing these men to be fiercely loyal to one another.
- Barbarian Heroes: They have this vibe to them. The people of Whiterun do point out that the Stormcloaks are generally rowdier than the old Whiterun guards, and being Nords, they aren't the most sophisticated bunch around.
- Bears Are Bad News: Their main Animal Motif. The Stormcloak Officer's uniform (which the player is awarded upon being named Stormblade) includes a cloak fashioned from a bearskin, complete with head, and there's a bear's head on their flag. The bear seems to be the official hold animal of Eastmarch (similar to the horse for Whiterun and the wolf for Haafingar), so that may be the reason.
- Berserk Button: The Thalmor killing Talos worshipers.
- Faceless Mooks: Their standard helmet is the same as that of Hold guards, which covers the entire face. This is only true of them as a majority, though; named Stormcloaks and others in the ranks wear different helmets.
- Fantastic Racism: Some of them, but most commonly in Windhelm itself. They don't allow Argonians to live inside the city walls and they force the Dunmer population to live in the slum known as the Gray Quarter, though the latter is a very complex issue explained further under Informed Attribute.
- Humanity Is Superior: Many of them believe this, though most of them aren't as racist to elves as the Dominion is to Men. Ironically however, Stormcloak racism basically comes off as a mild distaste for anything non-Nordic in general and hatred for Imperials and Thalmor specifically, which given that the former betrayed Skyrim and the latter tortures and kills Nords for upholding ancestral beliefs, makes their racism seem comparatively tame and reasonable compared to, say, the sadistic Dark Elf supremacy of Morrowind, where there were literally beastfolk heads being used as decorations.
- Informed Attribute: Zigzagged with their racism.
Galmar: First, tell me. Why's a [[insert race here]] want to fight for Skyrim?
- On the one hand, there's Gameplay and Story Segregation. When the Stormcloaks conquer an Imperial hold, the NPC line-up is unlikely to change, so any non-Nord NPCs around will continue to live their normal livesnote . Non-Nords, like Adrienne Avenicci in Whiterun, even explicitly state that things under the Stormcloaks aren't a great deal different, aside from them choosing not to buy from non-Nords. But as remarked above, compared to the Dark Elves making decorations out of severed Argonian and Khajiit heads in Morrowind, that's basically nothing.
- The player is free to join their ranks regardless of race, though if you're not a Nord they raise an eyebrow at it initially.
You: Skyrim is home to more than just Nords.
Galmar: Fair enough. But are you willing to die for your home?
You: That's why I'm here, I want to join.
- Windhelm has the Grey Quarter, the part of town where the Dunmer live. The player indeed sees some Nords are racist towards them, but others are indifferent. Some of the elves claim they are persecuted for being elves and live in fear and squalor because the Nords treat them poorly, but others claim they're doing just fine and the other Dunmer who complain need to stop whining about their poor fortunes and work harder to improve them. An in-game book, Scourge of the Gray Quarter, written by Stormcloak sympathizers, condemns Windhelm's Dunmer population for stubbornly sticking to their own culture while leeching off the city and not pulling their own weight. Beyond Windhelm, any holds already allied with the Stormcloaks tend not to have much racism either way. Some individuals are racist, but they're the minority, and elves of many different types can be found living just fine in Stormcloak holds, particularly Riften.
- It's possible to construe Ulfric's decision to keep the Argonians and Dunmer segregated as being a result of the fact that Argonian and Dark Elf relations have long been... strained. This is due in no small part to the latter having for centuries enslaved the former until the Argonians rose up and conquered Morrowind during the end of the Third Era. He may well want to keep them apart simply to prevent the city's tensions from getting even worse.
- Insult Backfire: In the earliest stages, the Imperials began calling them Stormcloaks as a means to ridicule them and their allegiance to Ulfric. They took the name happily, due to their great admiration for their leader.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Characters note that until the Stormcloak uprising, the Empire quietly turned a blind eye to the continuance of Talos worship in their territories. Once Ulfric and the Stormcloaks came onto the scene, the Dominion established their embassy in Skyrim and began weeding out Talos worshipers personally, and the Empire had to start cracking down to keep up the truce.
- The Thalmor actually wanted them to start the Civil War as it would weaken the Empire's army, giving the Aldmeri Dominion an advantage in the Second Great War.
- Order Versus Chaos: A possible way to view the conflict between the Empire and Stormcloaks, respectively. Legates and pro-Imperials tend to lean towards this view in particular when it comes to war and the Stormcloaks, with the Empire representing Order and the Stormcloaks representing Chaos.
- Proud Warrior Race: All Nords are this, but the Stormcloaks are more intense about it.
- Rated M for Manly: They're Vikings who are fighting in the name of and to restore the worship of their principal God of War; their basic initiation test requires them to kill an undead wraith creature on an iceberg in the middle of the sea; and they have names like Stone-Fist, Sun-Killer and Cairn-Breaker.
- Even more impressive when using a mod that adds hypothermia to the game. Step one of your initiation is simply to get to the iceberg without freezing. Without a boat.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: The Stormcloak chain of command is rather benevolent and efficient. As long as you prove yourself useful, you'll be treated the same as anyone else, regardless of race or fighting style.
- The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: Zigzagged; many people in Imperial Skyrim sympathize with their cause and admit Ulfric is not a bad man, but side with the Empire because they believe in honour, revere tradition, and/or acknowledge that the Empire will be needed when the next war with the Thalmor comes. Others see the Stormcloaks as barbarian rebels needing to be put down. In Stormcloak holds, most champion Ulfric and the Stormcloaks as Skyrim's liberators, but some also see Ulfric in a less-benevolent light, and mention that they side with him only because they see him as the Lesser of Two Evils compared to the Empire.
- Screw You, Elves!: They are very open about their hatred for the Dominion, which is fully justified.
- Many of their supporters unfortunately direct this vitriol towards other elves as well, such as the Dunmer or (non-Thalmor) Altmer, despite both groups being persecuted by the Thalmor and the latter despising them just as much as the Stormcloaks do.
- Token Minority: A non-Nord Dragonborn can count as one if he/she joins the Stormcloaks. Also, it's possible to find random encounters of a Redguard, or even an Imperial, arriving to Windhelm to join the Stormcloaks. They justify this by saying they believe (as many other pro-Stormcloak individuals do) that the Empire has fallen into decay and therefore unfit to rule Skyrim. However, there aren't any non-Nord Stormcloaks (except potentially the Dragonborn) that are seen anywhere in the game, though this is primarily due to engine constraints.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: The Stormcloaks as a whole truly do believe that the Empire's time has passed and Skyrim (especially the Nords) must assert her independence under a stronger High King if they are to survive as a culture.
- With Us or Against Us: Many of them have this attitude. If you ask Galmar why you should join, he turns the question around and tells the Dragonborn that if they don't already know the answer, they should probably leave quickly.
- Voiced by: Vladimir Kulich"I fight for the men I've held in my arms, dying on foreign soil! I fight for their wives and children, whose names I heard whispered in their last breath...I fight so that all the fighting I've already done hasn't been for nothing! I fight... because I must."
- Alternate Character Interpretation: In-universe, a lot of different people have a lot of polarizing things to say about Ulfric and his true motivations in killing Torygg and rebelling against the Empire. Is he a heroic freedom fighter, a cowardly usurper, a well-meaning but misguided rebel? Depends who you ask.
- Arbitrary Skepticism: His refusal to accept the existence of the Jagged Crown can come across as this after (a) bearing witness to the return of dragons that razed an entire township to ash and cinder, and (b) knowing an ancient form of magic that predates the Jagged Crown.
- And There Was Much Rejoicing: Both ways.
- Traditionalist Nords in Imperial-aligned territories have this reaction when he and his warriors liberate the country.
- The more outspoken parts of the Dunmer population in Windhelm have a similar reaction if he is killed.
- Authority Equals Asskicking: Ulfric is the leader of the Stormcloak rebellion and one of the fiercest warriors in Skyrim. He expects this of other leaders also, offering this reasoning for his actions at the Blue Palace."I killed him to show our miserable condition. How could Torygg protect his people if he couldn't even protect himself?"
- Somewhat tellingly, out of all the Jarls in the game, Ulfric is the only one who actually acts like a Germanic king.
- Awesome Mc Cool Name: Stormcloak aside, his first name means "wolf-power" in Old Norse. Which might make it a name to run away from really fast.
- An Axe to Grind: He uses a steel waraxe.
- Badass: Out of all the Jarls of Skyrim and everyone associated with the Civil War, Ulfric us undeniably the most badass.
- Badass Baritone: By the King of Badass Vikings himself - Vladimir Kulich.
- Badass Beard: Because Nord.
- Badass In Charge: Of Eastmarch, the Stormcloak rebellion and half of Skyrim. Potentially the whole of Skyrim, if you join him.
- Badass Family: This is Skegglund Stormcloak. He is one of Ulfric's ancestors. Also, as a Jarl of Skyrim, he possibly has a line of descent going straight to Shor-damned Ysgramor himself.
- Badass Longcoat: As mentioned above, it's made of chainmail and plate. However, it has an abysmal armour rating so it's basically worthless as protection.
- Beard of Barbarism: Well, he is a Nordic warlord.
- Berserk Button: He absolutely refuses to tolerate the Thalmor, especially Elenwen. Most likely a result of being interrogated (read: brutally tortured) by her.
Ulfric: "You want me to stand in negotiations with her?! Your chief Talos hunter?!"
- His dislike for Elenwen in particular is so intense that during "Season Unending," if you agree to kick her out of the peace conference, it is considered a major concession on the Stormcloak side, and Ulfric will be willing to yield a minor hold to the Empire in exchange for it. In other words, Ulfric is willing to give up an entire hold just so he doesn't need to be in the same room as Elenwen. The fact that Elenwen is the main architect of the Thalmor inquisition that oppresses Talos worshipers also has something to do with it.
- Big Bad: Of the Imperial campaign.
- Big Good: Of the Stormcloak campaign.
- Blood Brothers: With the Dragonborn, should you take the side of the Stormcloaks. Just before the last mission of the Stormcloak campaign, he says as much outright:Ulfric: "I name you Stormblade, and as close to me as my own kin."
- If there were no engine constraints, it's likely "Stormblade" would become your last name in Skyrim, given its similarity to other Nordic names: Two words and given for an honorable reason. This effectively makes your family the Karstarks to the Stormcloak family's Starks.
- Blood Knight: The good Jarl enjoys combat a great deal. In fact, he even lets out bellowing laughs while in combat.
- Blown Across the Room: Ulfric is fond of using Unrelenting Force in combat.
- Bodyguarding a Badass: Galmar fulfills this role, to an extent. Galmar can't send you flying several feet with a mere words, or make your weapon jump out of your hand with other mere words.
- Braids of Barbarism: Has these too.
- Broken Pedestal: In life, King Torygg idolized him. When you meet him in Sovngarde, he has nothing but scorn for the man who killed him and left his wife Elisif a grieving widow.
- Byronic Hero: Let's see... Gifted? Check. Intelligent? Check. Charismatic? Check. Yet deeply flawed all the same? That too.
- The Chains of Commanding: He does regret some of the things he's had to do in this war.
- Death by Irony: He can be killed instantly with Unrelenting Force, the exact same shout he used in his "duel" with Torygg, if you retake Windhelm with the Imperial Army.
- Defiant to the End: At the end of the Legion questline, he refuses to quietly surrender and will stand and face you alongside Galmar. He will go down fighting, of course, and once he's beaten this leads to the trope below.
- Deadpan Snarker: We get this gem if you ask him whether his curb-stomp of Torygg constitutes murder or not:Dovahkiin: There are those who say that you murdered the High King.
Ulfric: I challenged him to a duel, and he accepted. True, he was no match for me.
- Divided We Fall: Realizes it when you meet his spirit in Sovngarde, if you finish the Civil War before the main quest. Stormcloak or Imperial, what does it matter when both sides are being devoured by Alduin, and those in the realm of the living are going to die by his hand no matter what flags they fly? He laments that he's found this wisdom too late to do anything with it.
- Don't Create a Martyr: At the end of the Imperial questline, Tullius expresses concern that killing Ulfric will end up doing this.
- The Dreaded: The Empire and the Thalmor fear him with good reason.
- He's also hyped a lot in the Imperial campaign as a mighty warrior and master of the Thu'um.
- When Elenwen, the head of the Thalmor in Skyrim and perhaps the most powerful person sitting at the peace meeting, decides to drone out a Hannibal Lecture, Ulfric tells her in no uncertain terms to shut up. And she does.
- Elective Monarchy: What he ends up as in the Stormcloak campaign. It's worth noting that, as his victory over the Imperial Legion was absolute and his army was the most powerful force in Skyrim, he was in the position to bypass this and declare himself king outright. He brings this up in his speech to his men, but he further says that he will not as he respects the tradition too much.Dragonborn: So, do I call you High King now?
Ulfric: No, no, not yet. We'll wait for the Moot to make me High King. It'll be better for all that way.
- As the quote indicates, he goes along because he knows his election as king will be a foregone conclusion (with Stormcloak-friendly Jarls replacing Imperial friendly ones), and the Nords flock to him as a champion of their traditions. To violate them needlessly would be suicide for him.
- Face Death with Dignity: If the player sides with the Empire, at the end of the siege of Windhelm, Tullius tells Ulfric he could surrender and be publicly executed, or go down fighting. Ulfric chooses fighting, of course. When beaten down and kneeing, he issues his Last Request — that the Dragonborn be the one to deal the final blow, since "it'll make a better song that way."
- Fantastic Racism: He's apathetic to the problems of non-Nords and makes it clear that he'd prefer a Skyrim without the other races. But if you ask him about it when joining the Stormcloaks as a non-Nord, he notes that race isn't anywhere near as important as loyalty, so the matter is simply that he doesn't think non-Nords are as loyal to Skyrim as Nords are.
- A Father to His Men: He values his followers' lives, which is why he's extremely cautious about attacking Whiterun, and tries to non-violently coax Balgruuf into siding with him. After the Stormcloaks conquer Solitude, he denies credit for the victory and instead calls the soldiers and the Dragonborn the true heroes of the war.
- Foil: To the Dragonborn's Crystal Dragon Jesus, particularly if the player joins the Empire.
- Four-Star Badass: He's managed to keep complete control over half of Skyrim, despite the Empire throwing all they have at him, - including one of their best generals.
- Front Line General: During the Battle for Solitude. Cut content in the Creation Kit reveals that he was initially supposed to be involved in the siege of every major Hold capital, including Whiterun, for which there are dialogue files of him giving the same speech Galmar gives before the battle begins. The Civil War Overhaul mod (which does nothing except restore said content) on Skyrim Nexus fixes this, allowing him to slaughter Imperials on the front lines throughout Skyrim.
- The Good King: From a Certain Point of View. Ulfric is basically everything Nords would want in a king - unstoppable in battle, generous to his followers, honourable, extolling courage and strength and punishing cowardice and weakness and just the right amount of savage. Hell, even Brunwulf Free-Winter, his fiercest critic, can't find a flaw in his character beyond his racism and even outright admits that Ulfric is a great warrior and a great leader. If it wasn't for the guy's apathetic attitude towards the plight of non-Nords, he'd be a model King. As it stands, he's still a model Warrior-King.
- Gone Horribly Right: The Thalmor want Ulfric to be an Unwitting Pawn who weakens the Empire by stirring up a costly Civil War... but they don't want the Stormcloaks under Ulfric to win. With some Dragonborn assistance, Ulfric can become the High King of a very well-armed, pissed-off nation of warriors who have a serious axe to grind with the Dominion.
- Good Scars, Evil Scars: Former if Stormcloak, latter if Imperial.
- Hazy Feel Turn: Used to be an Imperial soldier, until he perceived all Nords influenced by Imperials as weak milk-drinkers who were no longer Nord and were now "strangers with familiar faces."
- Heroic BSOD: If the Civil War is ended in the Imperials' favor before the final confrontation with Alduin, he can be seen in the throes of one while trapped in Alduin's Soul Snare in Sovngarde, watching as good men and women who fought on both sides of the war, the war that he started no less, are devoured to empower the World-Eater.
- Hurting Hero: It really does kill him inside to wage war against his fellow Nords.Galmar: "I've toured our camps. We're ready [[to take Whiterun]].
Ulfric': "Is any man ever ready to give the order that will mean the deaths of many?"
Galmar: "No, but neither is every man able to give that order when he must. But you are that man, Ulfric. You've been that man before, and you'll be him again."
- It's All About Me: A few characters, such as Jarl Laila's son Saerlund, believe that Ulfric's real goal is to become king of Skyrim. At the end of the Imperial-sided Civil War, he decides that he'd rather be killed by a mythical hero like the Dragonborn, rather than some Imperial like Tullius. Should you carry the day with the Stormcloaks, Galmar himself expresses exasperation with Ulfric over drawing out Tullius' impending death, saying that if he wants the end to a saga he should get the Dragonborn to kill him. In the end, whichever of these various points are true is up to the player to decide.
- Jerkass: Primarily from his racism. His uncompromising attitude towards Imperial-leaning Nord leaders likewise can make him seem like this.
- Jerkass Has a Point: Invoked and discussed on the opposite side of the war; quite a few people in the western portion of Skyrim feel he's right on certain matters and sympathize with him due to his ideology if nothing else. One example of these is Raerek - a steward to an Imperial-aligned Jarl. Similarly, Tullius, at the end of the Stormcloak campaign and before his execution, admits that for all his hatred of them, the Stormcloaks do have several salient points regarding the Legion and Skyrim's future.Raerek: You're one of Ulfric's spies, then? I can't deny that the man has a point on certain things...
- Tullius will give similar and even more sympathetic sentiments about the Stormcloaks if he shows up during Elenwen's party during the main quest, even going so far as to say that it almost makes him want to join them. Almost.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: But there is certainly nobility and honor in his heart nonetheless.
- Just the First Citizen: Despite being the effective ruler of nearly half of Skyrim before the civil war questline begins, and possibly being the ruler of all of Skyrim after, Ulfric is simply called "Jarl," a title appropriate to the ruler of a single hold. He says he wants to wait for the Moot to elect him, as tradition dictates.
- Karmic Death: The civil war began when Ulfric used the Thu'um in his duel with Torygg. The player can use the Thu'um to finish Ulfric off if they side with the Empire, even using the same one (Unrelenting Force).
- Large Ham: He gives a hell of a speech, and likes his victories and defeat to be magnificent and worthy of remembrance if possible. It should be noted that he doesn't let this love for the dramatic encroach upon practical military stratagems, and he has no illusions about the negative aspects of war. That said, when this man wishes to make a speech, a speech shall be made! Complete with growling, shouting and testosterone-laced rhetoric.
- Make an Example of Them: "Torygg was merely a message to the other Jarls." Related to this, Galmar and Balgruuf mention that if Ulfric wanted, he could just challenge the other Jarls and kill them to earn the right to rule their holds much as he challenged Torygg, taking over Skyrim personally. But now Ulfric seeks to prove the power of the Stormcloaks, not his Thu'um, likely to prove to everyone including Skyrim herself that the country can stand up to the Thalmor without the Empire, as so many doubt.
- Make Me Wanna Shout: He was training to be a Greybeard. He learned two Shouts before he left them, Unrelenting Force and Disarm.
- Magic Knight: Thanks to the above trope, though he's first and foremost a warrior.
- Messianic Archetype: To a good portion of Skyrim; he's the one who shall overthrow a corrupt and failing Empire, drive out the Thalmor, and restore the country to glory under the banner of a new, stronger leader. His role as a Windhelm Jarl warring with elves after taking part in the civil war is highly reminiscent of Ysgramor, the King who founded the First Empire and built Windhelm along with many of the ruined cities in the Hold, while his skill with the Thu'um echoes several past Emperors, including Tiber Septim aka Talos himself, the Dragonborn who founded the Third Empire that's currently in power. All things considered though, Ulfric and his supporters don't play up Ulfric's similarities to past rulers as much as they could. Or at all, really, given Ulfric commenting he hopes he proves worthy of his father's throne that was once Ysgramor's.
- Memetic Badass:
They say that Ulfric Stormcloak murdered the High King... with his Voice! Shouted him apart!
- In-universe example. An extremely sizable portion of Skyrim treats him like he's the Second Coming. Hilariously, 'second coming of Talos' is a phrase some NPCs use to describe him.
- According to what first-hand sources (including Ulfric himself) say, he did use the Voice when he killed the High King, but the actual killing blow was done by hand.
- Metaphorically True: His response to allegedly shouting Torygg to death is that it's "Not entirely true, though not entirely false either." In essence, he knocked Torygg down with a Shout and stabbed him in the heart.
- Modest Royalty: Unlike most other Jarls, he doesn't even wear a crown.
- Mr. Exposition: Out of all of the Jarls, he likely has the second deepest connection to the main quest aside from Balgruuf; he's the only Jarl who can tell you anything of the Greybeards in detail and, short of the Greybeards themselves, anything about your destiny as the Dragonborn in detail. Justified, since he's a traditionalist and a former Greybeard in training.
- My God, What Have I Done?: If killed before finishing the main quest, Ulfric can be found wandering Alduin's mist in Sovngarde. If spoken to before killing Alduin, he laments that he wanted to free Skyrim but all his war did was kill good men on both sides - and now those men's souls are trapped in Alduin's mists, waiting to be devoured by the World Eater.
- Never Heard That One Before: You get the feeling from his tone of voice that he's sick of Imperial sympathizers and others claiming that he murdered Torygg or 'shouted him apart'. Such as it is, you can meet up with Torryg in Sovngarde, and he more or less confirms it was a legitimate duel... though he contests it being "honorable".
- Neutral No Longer: While training to be a Greybeard, he was unable to detach himself from the world's affairs as they do and left to help fight the Thalmor.
- Nice Guy: A bit of hidden depths here; he's very approachable in the Stormcloak campaign and should you prove yourself true to the cause, he will call you his blood-brother and will be remarkably candid with you regarding his past. Additionally, when you talk to Galmar after your initiation, he will say that while he didn't truly expect you to return, Ulfric vouched for you to him and even made a bet saying that you would succeed. When you end conversation with him, Ulfric says for you to 'Go with the Gods', urges you to be careful in Skyrim and offers up the time honoured wisdom of 'keep your brother, and he'll keep you'. He will also do this regardless of your race. So, you could be an Imperial or Altmer or Argonian and he'll still treat you with the same kind of brotherhood and dignity.
- Noble Bigot: Depending on how the player feels about him, he can come across as this. In his campaign, he certainly does. See Nice Guy, above.
- No Badass to His Valet: The relationship between Ulfric and Galmar is less a king to his general, and more like the friendship between fellow war veterans. Which they are.Galmar: They call themselves Stormcloaks because they believe in you. Because they're the meanest, toughest sons of bitches Skyrim has to offer. And they want this. They want it as much as you. Perhaps they want it more.
- Overrated And Underleveled: The game practically turns Ulfric into a king-slaying, Thu'um throwing Memetic Badass, if dialogue is to be believed. Yet when an Imperial-aligned Dragonborn storms his castle, Galmar is harder to kill than he is.
- The meta reason takes this trope literally. Up until patch 1.6, all NPCs were leveled based on when the player first encounters them, and they never changed except in special circumstances. Ulfric is the third character you see in the opening sequence, and thus locked at level 10. So, you were essentially fighting what would be a challenging enemy, if you were at level 1.
- Even with the patch that buffs Ulfric's health, his outfit possesses a whopping 7 armor rating (at level 1, even an outfit of hide armor is better), so any decently-skilled character will wipe the floor with him.
- Patriotic Fervour: His modus operandi - and by extension, that of the Stormcloaks.
- Power Nullifier: He's tightly gagged when you first encounter him on the cart to Helgen, which is later revealed to be a precaution to prevent him using the Thu'um to escape Imperial custody.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy: Because True Nord.
- A Pupil of Mine Until He Turned to Evil: In a sense. Ulfric learned the Thu'um from the Greybeards, but he violated their core tenet of "speaking only in True Need" when he used the Thu'um to kill King Torygg (he was already a far more capable combatant than Torygg without the Thu'um). However, he admits that he's aware he's strayed from their teachings, and does believe the Thu'um should not be used lightly.
- Rated M for Manly: A Viking king who believes in Asskicking Equals Authority and who kills people by shouting at them.
- Rebel Leader: Self explanatory by this point.
- Real Men Love Jesus: He's a worshiper of Talos. And just to drive the point home, the local priest in Windhelm will mention that he's a very regular temple-goer.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: The blue to Galmar's red.
- Reluctant Ruler: If you ask him about his past, he'll say that after his beloved father died, the hold of Eastmarch basically put him on the throne as soon as he escaped from prison, being at one with his own grief. He ends the conversation by praying he proves worthy of the honour. This also applies somewhat to his goal of becoming High King. If asked, he basically sums up their motivation as "Skyrim needs heroes, but instead, it has us." Considering that the last king was considered a rambling fool by his own hold, one can agree."The throne of Ysgramor... The throne of my father... I can only hope that I prove worthy of it."
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Playing through the Stormcloak campaign shows him to be not the power-hungry tyrant Tullius paints him to be, but rather a driven, understandable and determined man with noble intentions at heart.
- Rousing Speech: He gives a lot of them. At the end of his campaign, he gives arguably his best one and is rather self-conscious of it. But that was less due to some political aim and rather because he really wanted to give the men a bang. It also plays into his love for Wagnerian-esque drama.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Hell yes! Out of all the Jarls of Skyrim, he is undoubtedly the most badass.
- Slouch of Villainy: While everyone who uses a throne (except Elisif) takes this position, Ulfric stands out for two reasons: firstly, he can end up as the Big Bad depending on what path the player takes, and second, his throne is huge, making him look like he's slouching more than he actually is. It was originally built for Ysgramor.
- Shut Up, Hannibal!: He gives one to Elenwen when she starts lecturing the gathered Nordic leaders (and Tullius). She listens.
- Supporting Leader: To a Stormcloak-aligned Dragonborn's The Hero.
- The Strategist: He's managed to retain complete control of half of Skyrim and was the sole reason why the Empire was nearly sent running out of the province before Tullius showed up. Afterwards, he brings Tullius into a stalemate.
- Unknown Rival: The player character has the option to basically dismiss Ulfric as this, by refusing to personally execute him, claiming he doesn't deserve the honour.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: The death of the High King and the resulting civil war are the last part of the prophecy foretelling Alduin's return. This means Ulfric is directly responsible for the return of the dragons.
- Unwitting Pawn: Plays right into the Thalmor's hands twice - first instigating the Markarth Incident, and then with the Civil War proper, causing the Empire no end of grief. However, if he wins the Civil War he becomes their Spanner in the Works and reveals that he's aware that the Thalmor are probably looking towards Skyrim with hungry eyes and accordingly takes steps to strengthen the kingdom's defenses.
- Warrior Prince: Hilariously, Ulfric's insistence on Asskicking Equals Authority, emphasis on glory and fame through war, and willingness to personally participate in battles makes him pretty much the only Jarl in Skyrim who actually acts like an historically accurate depiction of Norse or Germanic king.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Just wants to see the Empire and Thalmor driven from Skyrim and the restoration of one of his people's most adored deity. If you win the war for the Stormcloaks, he fully makes it clear he intends to see Skyrim as glorious as it was when it was the heart of the First Empire.
- With Us or Against Us: Zigzagged. While he is understanding towards common people being indecisive, he has no tolerance for authority figures that do not throw in with him. He does send a warning to Balgruuf before attacking, but he also makes it clear that neutrality is not an option, and Balgruuf's choices are to join him or be attacked by him.Ulfric': (Speaking about Balgruuf's neutrality) And what would you have me do?
Galmar: If he's not with us, he's against us.
Ulfric: He knows that. They all know that.
- Worthy Opponent: He considers an Imperial-aligned Dragonborn to be this. When you deliver Jarl Balgruuf's ultimatum to him, he commends you on your bravery and laments that you've chosen the wrong side. When you finally defeat him, he requests you as his personal executioner instead of Tullius or Rikke, stating that "it'll make for a better song." If you killed him before traveling to Sovngarde, you can encounter him in the mists; after defeating Alduin he will openly praise you as a hero.
- Would Hurt a Child: Notable aversion: he's often stated as killing the child-king Torygg, but Torygg wasn't an actual child - just very young for the title of High King.
- Voiced by: Paul Eiding
- Awesome Mc Cool Name: Stone-Fist. In fact, sometimes referred simply as "the Stone-Fist".
- An Axe to Grind: Uses a simple iron battleaxe. Still kicks massive amounts of Imperial and Aldmeri ass.
- Axe Crazy: Exhibits slight shades of this in combat. Fairly standard for Nords.Your blood is such a pretty shade of red!
- Badass: Putting it mildly.
- Badass Beard: Tied in a knot.
- Badass In Charge: A general of the Stormcloaks.
- Badass Grandpa: The most directly Badass Grandpa in the game.
- Badass Boast: His declaration of the Stormcloaks being a group of normal men fighting for their beliefs as part of his Rousing Speech before attacking Whiterun is in many ways far more impressive and moving than simple bluster."They say our cause is false, and that we are nothing but thieves, thugs and murderers. But no! We are farmers! We are craftsmen! We are the sons and daughters of shopkeepers, maidservants and soldiers! We are the Sons and Daughters of Skyrim!"
- Beard of Barbarism: Because Nords.
- Bears Are Bad News: He wears a bearskin cowl.
- Braids of Barbarism: His beard is tied into a knot.
- The Big Guy: The biggest guy in the game.
- The Berserker: He tends to get rather excited in combat. And true to the historical background of this trope (and the fact the Nords are a fantasy counterpart of the medieval Norse) he's actually wearing bear-skins as the Norse berserkers did.
- Cool Old Guy: It's a toss-up between him, Vignar, Paarthurnax, and Arngeir for the title of "coolest old man in Skyrim".
- The Dragon/Number Two: To Ulfric.
- Deadpan Snarker: He has his moments.Ulfric: Galmar, it looks like you were right.
Ulfric: I'm in no mood to joke.
- A Father to His Men: He's encouraging to his men and protective of their lives.
- Four-Star Badass: Oh hell yes.Galmar: If there was someone else Ulfric could trust with all this planning nonsense, I would be there breaking heads with the rest of you!
- Genius Bruiser: He's very strategically aware and educated on Skyrim's history. He's also intelligent enough to alter Imperial documents to achieve long term strategic and tactical advantages.
- Hot-Blooded: "RAAAAAAGH!!! Let's do this already! I'm ITCHING to kill something!!"
- Intergenerational Friendship: With Ulfric.
- Nemean Skinning: Along with all other Stormcloak officers.
- Number Two: To Ulfric.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy: Possibly the single most intense example of this trope in the Elder Scrolls series ever.
- Precision F-Strike: The Stormcloaks are the meanest, toughest, sons of bitches Skyrim has to offer.
- Rated M for Manly: He's a massive, bloodthirsty bear of a man roars like a savage animal in combat and only thinks about hewing Imperial and Thalmor heads from necks.
- Real Men Love Jesus: He's a worshiper of Talos. This is practically a requirement for joining the Stormclaks."That we have forgotten them, this I fear the Gods will remember."
- Religious Bruiser: A devout worshipper of Talos.
- Rousing Speech: See Badass Boast.
- Sergeant Rock: Just like his Legion opposite, Legate Rikke.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: He makes hints that he's this at times.Countless dead haunt countless sleepless nights... Perhaps when Skyrim is made whole again, so shall I...
- Sophisticated as Hell: When you meet up with him at the camps, he'll make deep observations on motivation and such. When he's in the thick of battle and Imperials scream "For the Emperor", he shouts back, "The Emperor can kiss my ass!"
- Sore Loser: He is not happy to see you in Sovngarde if you killed him. He warms up after you beat Alduin, though; "eternity is too long to a hold a grudge," he says.
- Undying Loyalty: To Ulfric.
- Warrior Poet: The "sophisticated" part of being Sophisticated as Hell.There are fools who claim Ulfric fights only for power! Do they not see that his anger floats on a sea of tears?
It is hate that brought us out here, but it is love that keeps us fighting.
One lives for the things he is willing to die for.
- We Used to Be Friends: He and Ulfric served with Rikke during the Great War, and he even offers her the chance to stand down at the end of the Stormcloak campaign.
- With Us or Against Us: He has the opinion that anyone who opposes them can "die with their false kings."
- Voiced by: Michael Gough
- Action Survivor: Being one of the known survivors of Helgen.
- Asskicking Equals Authority: He's promoted for valour after the Battle for Whiterun is concluded with a Stormcloak victory.
- Badass: In-universe, surviving Helgen qualifies anyone for this label. Additionally, he's one of the few rank and file soldiers who will under all circumstances keep up with both you and Galmar in combat, and is one of the few who's with you two when you fight through into Dragonsreach. He also helps you take down Balgruuf.
- Badass Beard: You may be noticing a pattern.
- Barbarian Longhair: This too.
- Come with Me If You Want to Live: At Helgen, if you have initial Stormcloak leanings.
- Cool Uncle: He has a nephew named Frodnar, with whom he shares a great relationship.Frodnar: Uncle Ralof! Can I see your axe? How many Imperials have you killed? Do you really know Ulfric Stormcloak?
Ralof: Look at you, almost a grown man. Won't be long until you'll be joining the fight yourself.
Frodnar: That's right! Don't worry, uncle, I won't let those Imperials sneak up on you!
- Drop the Hammer: He likes using an iron warhammer.
- Dual Wielding: Iron axes, while escaping Helgen.
- Face Death with Dignity: He acts very calm about the opening executions and offers some "before the end" advice to the panicking Lokir.
- The Lancer: To a Stormcloak Dragonborn.
- Nice Guy: Regardless of your race ("You don't have to be a Nord to fight for Skyrim's freedom!"), Ralof will try to help you in the prologue, including leading you to safety when you seem disoriented and shocked by the dragon's attack. Considering the Stormcloaks are known for their dislike of other races (especially Imperials and elves), this is quite telling.
- Not So Different: To Hadvar. Over the course of the Stormcloak questline, Ralof expresses many of the same views as Hadvar about the war, a truce, and taking the lives of the Legionnaires. Of course, this is probably because they fill the same role in their respective questlines. It should also be noted that Ralof and Hadvar know each other, both being from Riverwood, and neither of them like the other.
- Real Men Love Jesus: As he puts it in his own words: "Damn faithless Imperials."
- Retired Badass: Following the conclusion of the Civil War with a Stormcloak victory, Ralof returns to his hometown of Riverwood, and will spend the rest of the game drinking quietly at the inn.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: After the Battle for Whiterun, when he next meets up with you he tells you that he's haunted by the faces of the many men he killed in that siege.
- The Strategist: Surprisingly for a man with little prior battlefield experience, Ralof shows remarkable tactical acumen throughout the Stormcloak questline. For example, he crafts a plan to sneak the Dragonborn through an underwater cove into an Imperial stronghold and imprisoned Stormcloaks, thus overwhelming the stronghold from within. There's also his plan to ambush the Imperial silver caravans.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: In the case of a Legion victory, Ralof's fate is never addressed, unlike Ulfric and Galmar.
Stormcloak CommandersVarious Stormcloak leaders stationed in the courts of Stormcloak-aligned Jarls or in camps across Skyrim.
- Awesome McCool Name: All of their sobriquets. Frozen-Heart, Thrice-Pierced, Sun-Killer, Cairn-Breaker, Banner-Torn, Oath-Giver...
- An interesting one is Kai Wet-Pommel. Pretty innocuous at first, until you realise the pommelnote is wet with blood.
- Barbarian Hero: Something they fully embrace.
- Fantastic Racism: In their "why you should join the Stormcloaks" speech, they seem to have trouble distinguishing between the specific faction of elves that's oppressing them and all other elves in Skyrim, simply declaring that they'll "rid Skyrim of elves."
- Made of Iron: Due to being marked as essential, even after the end of the war.
- Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Do you really want to go toe-to-toe with a guy named Hjornskar Head-smasher?
- Nemean Skinning: Their helmets are basically just bear heads.
- Video Game Cruelty Potential: Their inability to die makes them great for grinding various magical or combat skills.
Empire of Tamriel
Centered in the land of Cyrodiil, the third Empire of Tamriel was founded by the Dragonborn Tiber Septim, and was actually the first to truly encompass all of Tamriel. After the Septim Dynasty fell in the Oblivion Crisis, the potentate Ocato took control, but eventually was assassinated by the Thalmor. Following a succession crisis, the Mede Dynasty has taken control over the weakening Empire. About thirty years before Skyrim begins, the Empire fought the Great War with the Aldmeri Dominion and eventually signed a peace treaty named the White-Gold Concordat.
- Appeal to Fear: A lot of Imperials are of the opinion that without the Empire, an independent Skyrim cannot hope to win a war with the Thalmor. If this is true or not is up for the player to decide, and their actions in the civil war questline make an obvious difference too.
- Badass Army: Much weaker than during the reign of the Septims, but the Imperial Legion was still strong enough to wipe out the Dominion forces in Cyrodiil.
- Badass Creed: Just like the Stormcloaks, they have one. The Dragonborn has to take it if they want to join the Legion.Imperial Oath: "Upon my honor I do swear undying loyalty to the Emperor, Titus Mede II, (or simply "The Emperor" if Mede has been killed in the Dark Brotherhood questline) and unwavering obedience to the officers of his great Empire. May those above judge me, and those below take me, if I fail in my duty. Long live the Emperor! Long live the Empire!"
- Can't Argue with Elves: The White-Gold Concordat essentially yoked them with this.
- Cultural Posturing: Some of them like to point out how glorious the cosmopolitan empire is compared to Skyrim. Doesn't verge into Fantastic Racism though - it's not race that gets you looked down on, it's your culture.Imperial Legates: Of course, the Nord Kings - oh, I'm sorry, Jarls can't really control their own people.
- The Empire: While not "evil" by any means (see Grey and Gray Morality), their presence in Skyrim as a large, faceless Empire led by bureaucrats in a far-off land is a source of tension to many of the people - including, of course, the Stormcloaks.
- The Glory That Was Rome: The Empire draws heavily from ancient Rome, though not entirely. The Roman aesthetics and naming conventions are common, but they also show aspects of traditional Western medieval fantasy, particularly in the semi-feudal structure of the Empire, with the Empire essentially serving as the central government that all of the various lords and nobles of Tamriel supposedly swear allegiance to. Technology base and culture are more medieval than ancient Roman as well, but the military, weaponry, and armor of the Legions are distinctly Roman in design.
- Hero Antagonist: Within the Dark Brotherhood storyline.
- I'll Pretend I Didn't Hear That: After the White-Gold Concordat was signed, the Empire turned a blind eye to Talos worship, rather than actively silencing it. When Ulfric made a big deal about Talos worship, he attracted the Thalmor to Skyrim, forcing the Empire to tighten its grip to preserve the truce. Still, a few Empire-affiliated Jarls retain this policy.
- Order Versus Chaos: A possible way to view the conflict between the Empire and Stormcloaks, respectively. Legates and pro-Imperials tend to lean towards this view in particular when it comes to war and the stormcloaks, with The Empire representing Order and the Stormcloaks representing Chaos.
- Praetorian Guard: Since the Blades are sworn to follow one of the Dragon Blood (which the Mede dynasty cannot claim), the Empire resorted to making a new organization devoted to the protection of the Emperor. The Penitus Oculatus exists for this reason.
- Punch Clock Villain: For a Stormcloak-aligned character, they're this because they don't entirely agree with persecuting Talos worshipers, but they'd rather not get on the Thalmor's bad side either.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: As a whole, they are fairly benevolent. However, they are explicitly described in at least one instance by an NPC as engaging in war crimes; Angi will describe an incident where two drunken Imperial soldiers murdered her entire family.
- Screw You, Elves!: They're waiting for just the right moment to nullify the White Gold Concord by force.
- Shoot the Dog: Giving "large sections" of Hammerfell to the Dominion, as well as banning Talos worship, in order to stop the Great War. Needless to say, the Redguards were not pleased about essentially being sacrificed to the Thalmor, and they were able to drive out the Dominion themselves (this is used, both in-universe and by fans, as an example of why the Empire was wrong to surrender). The Nords were likewise not happy about one of their most popular gods being banned, and this is one of the prime motivations for the Stormcloak rebellion.
- The Smurfette Principle: While probably unintentional, in this game you'll see a lot fewer females in the Legion than you will in the Stormcloaks. On the other hand, all female Legionnaires in Skyrim are in positions of high rank.
- Vestigial Empire: Currently only controls Cyrodiil, Skyrim, High Rock, and parts of Morrowind. To make matters worse, much of Skyrim is rebelling against their rule. And since Skyrim bridges all of these regions together, if the Stormcloaks win the civil war, the Empire could be fatally fractured. But wait, it gets better; conversation between Ulfric and Galmar implies that High Rock is barely involved in Imperial affairs and is only tangentially allied with the Empire. They tried to use this fact in order to ally with High Rock themselves, but failed in doing so. On the other hand, if the Empire wins the civil war, the Blades are reformed, the Dark Brotherhood is destroyed, and one of its increasingly prominent citizens is of the Dragon Blood once again, the Empire might actually start to pull itself out of this rut, as this is the most stable it has been in centuries.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Sure, they may do some questionable things in-game and in the past (the signing of the White-Gold Concordat and the secession of Hammerfell being two of the biggest examples), but most if not all of the pro-Imperials that we see in game generally do believe that the Empire is the only way that Tamriel can present a unified front against the Dominion.
- What the Hell, Hero?: They got this reaction after the signing of the White-Gold Concordat, and again after the secession of Hammerfell. They tend to have the attitude that both actions were justified, however.
- Voiced by: Michael Hogan"Battles are won by trained and disciplined men. Wars are won by talented and exceptional individuals."
- Anti-Hero: To the Empire side, he generally fulfills the role of Big Good for you, but he's rather.... gruff
- Anti-Villain: To the Stormcloak side. He's just a man doing his job, serving his emperor to the best of his ability and trying his hardest to preserve the Empire that he loves.
- Big Bad: Of the Stormcloak campaign.
- Big Good: Of the Imperial campaign.
- Crazy Cultural Comparison: If he gets the Dragonborn's help in fighting the Stormcloaks, by the time he gets Windhelm and starts threatening Ulfric, he needs to pause and ask Rikke where Nords go when they die. Needless to say, Ulfric probably holds a grim smile through it all.
- Cultural Posturing: He's fond of this. And not just towards Skyrim, but to every non-Imperial culture. He's quite ignorant and disdainful of Nord culture in particular, taking a moment while sentencing Ulfric to death to note he'll send him to "wherever it is you people go".If it wasn't for the Legion, the provinces would descend to barbarity and anarchy. Including Skyrim, especially Skyrim.
- On the other hand, after the Civil war is over, he admits he respects the Nords and has come to enjoy Skyrim, seeing the land's harshness as carving a man's true nature from him, and is considering retiring there rather than in his native Cyrodiil.
- Deadpan Snarker: A bit of this towards Nords and their warlike customs.
- Despair Event Horizon: At the end of the Stormcloak questline. By the time you reach him during the Battle of Solitude, he's essentially given up. Rikke even says as much, though he'll still get up and fight you alongside her. Before he's executed, he even tells Ulfric that his rebellion has given the Thalmor exactly what they want.
- Four-Star Badass: He's a 'troubleshooter' for the Emperor; basically he's sent where the opposition is most fearsome. Should the Empire prevail all the way to Windhelm, he's out in the front, leading the charge. He even has the guts to face Ulfric in person, knowing full well of his Thu'um and how he tends curb-stomp most people.
- Grumpy Old Man: You get the feeling that he'd rather get this war over with to prepare for greater threats like the inevitable second war with the Thalmor.
- Hypercompetent Sidekick: To Jarl Elisif.
- I'll Pretend I Didn't Hear That: Has this personal policy towards any accidental off-hand profession of Talos worship amongst his troops.(Ulfric lies dead at the end of the Civil War)
Rikke: Talos guide you...
Tullius: What was that, Legate?
Rikke: Nothing... just saying goodbye.
- Invokes this on the player when spoken to after the war. He tells the player that with Ulfric dead, he thinks most of the Stormcloaks will accept the war is over and return home, save for the most diehard believers, and Skyrim will be peaceful again. He admits though he's not so sure about the truce with the Thalmor lasting, but tells the player to keep it between them and him.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: If you think the Empire is necessary for Skyrim's protection and prosperity. He's also generally good to his men, and even doubles their pay if the Empire wins the war. After the Imperial campaign, he says that while he may never understand Nords, he's come to respect them. In addition to this, when Alduin attacks Helgen, the first thing Tullius says is "Guards, get the townspeople to safety!" even though he could quite easily have ordered his men to pursue the escaping Ulfric instead.
- Another example that can happen during the same sequence. If the Dragonborn, still bound and helpless (and still by all rights a criminal) runs up to Tullius during the attack, he'll simply bark out an almost stupefied "RUN, you idiot!" In the wake of a dragon attack, even a criminal gets Tullius' benefit of the doubt. Sort of.
- Pragmatic Hero: He really doesn't get the Nords' Honor Before Reason way of life, but he's shown to be a tough, competent, and reasonable man who has been making huge strides in the reunification of Skyrim.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: He's a bit of an asshole, but he's loyal to his Empire and does his duty without qualm (well, the occasional general complaint is there) and there's also how you interpret his decision to increase his men's pay at the end of the Civil War. During the negotiation in "Season Unending", he generally acts a bit more collected and less aggressive than Ulfric.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: The blue to Rikke's red.
- Say My Name: When he, you, and Rikke make the final confrontation with Ulfric, Tullius shouts out Ulfric's full name (but not titles) before listing off his crimes.
- The Strategist: He masterminded Ulfric Stormcloak's capture, and had a dragon not attacked Helgen, he likely would have succeeded in dealing a great blow to the Stormcloaks. Hadvar notes that, since taking command, Tullius managed to turn the situation in Skyrim around, from a complete rout for the Empire to a near victory... before Alduin interrupts before Ulfric can be executed. He's considered by the top brass of the Legion to be a proficient "troubleshooter"; he was sent by the Emperor himself to turn things around in Skyrim.
- With Us or Against Us: To a certain extent. While he does admit that it's imperative that Whiterun is in Imperial control, he isn't afraid off-hand to consider the notion that if Balgruuf continues to stand outside Imperial influence, the Stormcloaks can pillage his city as far as he's concerned. However, this has been after numerous attempts to impress upon Balgruuf that Stormcloaks are moving about his borders, so he's a bit exasperated with Balgruuf's obstinacy. That said, Tullius does end up sending men to aid Balgruuf after he is convinced of an imminent attack on Whiterun.Tullius: Well, if he wants to stand outside the protection of the Empire, fine. Let Ulfric pillage his city.
Tullius: You people and your damn Jarls.
- Voiced by: Claudia Christian
- Action Girl: As is common for a Nord woman. Her mother was also an Action Girl; as noted below, both her parents were Legionnaires.
- Colonel Badass: The structure of Legion ranks puts "Legate" in a position closely akin to "Colonel", which is the highest rank of line officers in modern militaries. Ironically, in the actual Roman Empire, legates (legatus) were in fact comparable to generals and were of the senatorial class.
- Cool Helmet: For some reason, she discards it when you and the Stormcloaks corner her and Tullius in Castle Dour..
- Deadpan Snarker: If an Imperial-allied player decides to hold the Greybeards' peace talks, Rikke will let slip some very snide comments whenever Ulfric or Elenwen start talking.
- Heroic BSOD: If you send her screaming to Sovngarde before completing the main quest, she can be found lamenting how she and the Legion wanted to protect Skyrim, but all their war did was kill men and women from both sides, and now she must watch as their souls are devoured by the World Eater, Alduin.
- Last Stand: At the end of the Stormcloak campaign, Ulfric and Galmar offer her the chance to stand down out of respect for their past together. She refuses.
- Military Brat: Both her parents were in the Imperial Legion, and part of the reason she joined was to honor them.
- No True Scotsman: She basically uses it in the same way as the Stormcloaks do, but with 'Ulfric' replaced with 'the Empire'.
- Number Two: To Tullius.
- Patriotic Fervor: Unlike Tullius, who's mainly in Skyrim because it's his duty, Rikke is openly proud of being both a daughter of Skyrim and a legate in the Legion. She sees nothing contradictory in being both.
- Real Men Love Jesus: When asked about her opinion on her faith, she curtly cuts you off, saying it's not up for discussion. After the deed is done on Ulfric, she gives him the parting words "Talos guide you."
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Primarily due to being less intransigently contemptuous of Nordic culture than her boss.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: The red to Tullius' blue.
- Rousing Speech: She gives a pretty good one at The Battle of Whiterun
- Sarcastic Devotee: Though she avoids outright insubordination, she's not afraid to explain to her superior in rather flat terms why his shallow knowledge of Nord culture will lead to disaster.
- Sergeant Rock: Not as much as Galmar of course, but she's tough enough.
- We Used to Be Friends: Served with Galmar and Ulfric during the Great War, and still holds Galmar in high respect, but thinks Ulfric's gone mad with power. Ironically, however, she tries to use her former friendship with Ulfric as a last-ditch effort to persuade him to cease his rebellion, right after he pretty much takes Solitude. In the opposite situation, where Ulfric has his reckoning, she still bids him a final farewell after he lies dead. There are a lot of hints that show she can at least understand Ulfric's cause and her labeling him as a deluded ego-maniac is often contrasted with her lamenting that she must fight him. In essence, demonizing him (or at least trying to) may be her way of coming to terms with having to kill an old friend.Legate Rikke: Ulfric... my old friend... what have you done...
- You All Look Familiar: She wasn't the Imperial captain who tried to execute you at the beginning of the game, but confusingly has the same armor set and voice actress (Claudia Christian, or "FemaleCommander" in the Creation Kit end).
- Voiced by: Jonas Fisch
- Action Survivor: One of the known survivors from Helgen.
- Badass: In-universe, surviving Helgen qualifies you.
- Come with Me If You Want to Live: At Helgen, if you have initial Imperial leanings."Still alive, prisoner? Keep close to me if you want to stay that way!"
- It Gets Easier: Hadvar discusses this with you at one point, and wonders if it's really a good thing.
- The Lancer: To a pro-Imperial Dragonborn.
- Nice Guy: He's visibly uncomfortable with executing people without cause, and honestly apologizes to you for the fact that his captain is insisting that you die alongside the Stormcloaks. He also won't hesitate to help you when a dragon arrives, regardless of your race. And while other Legionnaires are disturbingly gung-ho about killing Stormcloaks, he actually feels bad about killing his countrymen and wishes there could be a peaceful resolution soon.
- Further, if you escape Helgen with him and follow him to Riverwood he explains various things you pass, fights animals with you, invites you into his uncle's home, shares supplies, compliments you on your abilities, and says as far as he is concerned, you have more than earned your pardon. He also advises you to avoid Imperial patrols until you meet General Tullius so that you are not mistakenly arrested again.
- Not So Different: To Ralof. Over the course of the Legion questline, Hadvar expresses many of the same views as Ralof about the war, a truce, and taking the lives of Stormcloaks. Of course, this is probably because they fill the same role in their respective questlines. It should also be noted that Hadvar and Ralof know each other, both being from Riverwood, and neither of them like the other.
- Real Men Love Jesus: In spite of the fact that it's outlawed by the Empire.
- Retired Badass: Following the conclusion of the Civil War with a Legion victory, Hadvar returns to his hometown of Riverwood, and will spend the rest of the game drinking quietly at the inn.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: First shows signs of this when he objects to Helgen's Captain ordering your execution (the Captain sharply orders him to shut up), and shows it in full force when he offers to help you escape Alduin, despite the fact that you're technically a convicted "Stormcloak".
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: Starts to show signs of this towards the end of the civil war questline.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: In the case of a Stormcloak victory, Hadvar's fate is never addressed, unlike General Tullius and Legate Rikke.
Leader of the Penitus Oculatus, the Emperor's bodyguards since the fall of the Blades.
- Angrish: His last line before attacking you if you pay him a visit after you survive the attack on the Dark Brotherhood turns into this.
- Expy: Of Adamus Philida, both being Imperial commanders that threaten the Dark Brotherhood.
- Good Parents: His son is one of his officers, and Maro is very obviously proud of him.
- Hero Antagonist: Seeing as the Dark Brotherhood commits many exceptionally monstrous crimes over the course of the game.
- It's Personal: His primary motivation for going after the Dark Brotherhood, if you pursue that questline, is because you murdered his son and framed him for treason.
- Kick the Son of a Bitch: While you may have identified closely with the Dark Brotherhood and got to know and like many of them on a personal level, there's no denying that they certainly had their fate coming.
- Oh Crap!: He does this if you choose to confront him after the raid of the Dark Brotherhood sanctuary.
- Papa Wolf: Don't mess with his kid.
- Praetorian Guard: The Penitus Oculatus serve as the Emperor's bodyguards.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: If you Take a Third Option at the beginning of the Dark Brotherhood quest, Maro gives you the password to their sanctuary and gets out of the way to let the Dragonborn do what s/he does best. Afterward, he's extremely grateful for the assistance, to the tune of 3000 gold, and swears to tell the Emperor himself of the deed. None of this changes even if the Dragonborn helped the Stormcloaks win the civil war.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: He assaults and torches the Dark Brotherhood Sanctuary after his son is killed, slaying the majority of its inhabitants.
- Sarcastic Clapping: After the decoy Emperor is killed and he reveals his intentions.
- You Killed My Father: The Dark Brotherhood sanctuary suffers fiery vengeance for killing his son.
Emperor Titus Mede II
- Voiced by: Wes Johnson
- Authority Equals Asskicking: If the stories about him fighting on the front lines are true.
- Badass: Say what you will about Titus Mede's policies, but anyone who can fight off the Thalmor is Badass indeed. After an initial rampage, he reunited the remaining Empire forces and gave the Thalmor a Curb-Stomp Battle that forced them into the stalemate they exist in now. He apparently did this all while fighting on the front lines, then hanged Lord Naarfin, the enemy general, in a crow cage outside White Gold Tower for thirty-three days. When he shows up in the actual game, he calmly accepts his death and tells you to get it over with.
- Badass Beard: A very impressive beard, and he's quite the badass.
- Badass Grandpa: By now, he looks like he's in his sixties.
- Badass In Charge: Of the Empire as a whole; he even led the forces on the front lines.
- Badass Longrobe: A unique set called "Emperor's Robes". They look cool and add to his badass image.
- Cool Sword: According to rumors, he wielded the Daedric Artifact "Goldbrand" during the Battle of the Red Ring. This was never confirmed by the Empire itself.
- Dying Moment of Awesome: The assassination of Titus Mede was supposed to put the Dark Brotherhood back on the map, but the sheer nobility he shows when he faces his death makes the assassination end up being the redemption of Titus Mede.
- The Emperor: Though a mostly personally nice one, even if you think he's a weak ruler.
- Face Death with Dignity: He takes his assassination remarkably in stride and the biggest "resistance" he puts up is a polite Last Request to also kill whoever placed his contract.
- Four-Star Badass: A talented general, he managed to encircle the entire Dominion army occupying the Imperial City during the Great War and obliterate it. He then captured Lord Naarfin, the Thalmor commander, and hung him from the White-Gold Tower, alive, for thirty-three days before having him killed. One account suggests the Thalmor commander was carried off by daedra on the thirty-fourth day.
- I Did What I Had to Do: His, and by extension, the Empire's justification for the White-Gold Concordat.
- Irony: That an Emperor of Colovian descent (his ancestor was a Colovian warlord) is the one who banned the worship of Talos, the spiritual successor of Shor. Colovians are culturally, ethnically, and religiously Nordic.
- Last Request: Before you kill him, he asks that you consider killing the man who ordered the contract on him in the first place. He's not particularly adamant that you do this and just listening to him will be enough.
- Pay Evil unto Evil: His decision to hang Lord Naarfin in a crow cage on the White Gold Tower for 33 days was brutal, but well deserved.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Even if his political policies can be controversial, he is quite reasonable in person.
- Shut Up, Hannibal!: If the Dragonborn attempts to intimidate him by declaring that Sithis commands his death, Titus simply tells them to cut it out and says that he has no intentions of dying like a coward.
- Vindicated by History: In-universe, his decision to retreat from the Imperial City and link up with reinforcements from Skyrim. Those armies later crushed the Thalmor and saved the Empire from total destruction at the Battle of the Red Ring.
- Won the War, Lost the Peace: Titus II ultimately accomplished his goal in making the Thalmor retreat from Cyrodiil, but was unable to capitalize on that victory because his army and the Empire were in no condition to continue. The White-Gold Concordat was the best he was able to get out of the Thalmor, but it wasn't acceptable to the Stormcloaks, hence the Civil War. Furthermore, the Concordat also ruined relations with Hammerfell, who rejected the treaty.
- You Can't Fight Fate: He believes that once you're targeted by the Dark Brotherhood, there is no escaping them.
An Altmeri Legate, in charge of Legion operations in The Rift.
- Large and in Charge: As an Altmer, he towers over everyone else in his camp, and the effect is compounded by his heavy Imperial armor.
- Mauve Shirt: The only Legion hold commander who has anything to say beyond the bog-standard responses that all the others say. Legate Cipius in Whiterun may have things to say during the discussion with Jarl Balgruuf, but none of it is of a personal nature like Fasendil's dialog.
- My Country, Right or Wrong: Why he's in the Legion. The Empire isn't perfect, but he believes that it's the best Tamriel has, and the best way he can protect Tamriel is by being a Legionnaire.
- My Species Doth Protest Too Much: He's an Altmer Legate in the Legion, and has nothing but scorn for the Thalmor. He was in Hammerfell searching for relatives among the dissident refugees from Summerset on the "Night of Green Fire", where Thalmor agents decided to pursue the refugees into Hammerfell to slaughter them wholesale. Despite the best efforts of him and any other on-leave Legionnaires he could round up, it was for naught.
- Physical Scars, Psychological Scars: He has a noticeable scar across his face. From the description he gives of his service, one wonders if his permanent scowl is due to typical Altmer haughtiness or from all the grim things he's seen in the service.
- Really 700 Years Old: He's served in the Legion for at least 160 years, as he mentions the Night of Green Fire as happening in 4E 42 and that he was in the service at the time.
- Token Good Teammate: He exists to offer definitive proof that not every High Elf is a genocidal totalitarian.
High King Torygg
The former High King of Skyrim, he was killed in a duel by Ulfric Stormcloak prior to the events of the game, thus setting off the Civil War.
- A Child Shall Lead Them: Subverted. He's referred to as a "Boy-King". In actuality, he's a fully-grown adult, though he is very young for the position of the ruler of all Skyrim.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: It's noted that even if Ulfric didn't have the Thu'um, he was an experienced veteran in his prime while Torygg was a young man with limited martial training.
- Face Death with Dignity: The fact that he made it to Sovngarde shows that he died without fear when fighting Ulfric."I faced him fearlessly - my fate inescapable, yet my honor is unstained - can Ulfric say the same?"
- Happily Married: It seems that he and Elisif really did care for each other, as his death affected her deeply and he states that his only regret is leaving her a grieving widow.
- Hero-Worshipper: He was stated to have the deepest respect for Ulfric, and might have declared Skyrim's independence had his idol just asked. By the time you meet him in Sovngarde, he has nothing but scorn for him. Ulfric was unaware of this.
- Inadequate Inheritor: Ulfric saw him as this, not entirely without reason, and held his father in far greater esteem.
- Posthumous Character: He died prior to the beginning of the game. However, it's possible to meet him in Sovngarde.
- Upper-Class Twit: Several people in Skyrim, even those from his own hold, maintain that Torygg was nothing special. Testimony from a Redguard woman in Solitude;If you ask me... he wasn't even a good king. All those rambling speeches; Empire this, and Empire that.
- Voiced by: Claudia Christian"Forget the list. S/he goes to the block."
- Asshole Victim: Likely killed one way or the other, either by Alduin, by the Stormcloaks, or by the Dragonborn and Ralof's own hands.
- Death by Irony: If you follow Ralof, then you encounter the captain and a subordinate trying to escape, and get to kill them. In such an event, the captain's overt hostility may have been a direct influence on the Dragonborn to join the Stormcloaks.
- Fantastic Racism: If you play as an Argonian or Khajiit, she refers to you with the slurs "lizard" or "cat."
- Jerkass: Hostile and belligerent to both Hadvar and the Dragonborn.
- Killed Off for Real: Definitely is if you follow Ralof, and likely is killed even if you don't.
- No Name Given: Only ever referred to as "Imperial Captain".
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: "Hero" being used very loosely here, but the idea remains; she wanted to make sure Ulfric and his lieutenants were going to be executed, to the point of ordering the death of two Innocent Bystanders (Lokir and the Dragonborn), just to be sure. Although it is ultimately up to the player, that incident incited a lot of players to join the Stormcloaks, as well as making the Empire look like a bunch of bloodthirsty, oppressive invaders in the eyes of newcomers to the Elder Scrolls series. Threads discussing the motivations to join one side over the other will often be littered with "I joined the Stormcloaks because the Imperials tried to cut my head off !"
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: Orders the Dragonborn's execution, against Hadvar's objection that they aren't on the list.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: If you follow Hadvar, then she isn't seen again for the rest of the game.
Imperial LegatesVarious Imperial officers stationed in the courts of Imperial-aligned Jarls and in camps across Skyrim. Legate Fasendil, detailed above, is one of them but has more character distinction than the rest.
- Colonel Badass: As noted above, a Legate seems to be the rough equivalent of a Colonel in authority.
- Cultural Posturing: In their "why you should join the Imperials" speech, they show some disdain for Nordic culture, opining that the Jarls can't actually control their own people, leaving it to the Empire to do so. Becomes a little weird when it's one of the Nord legates saying it.
- Made of Iron: Due to being marked as essential, even after the end of the war.
- Multinational Team: Emphasizing the Empire's cosmopolitanism in contrast to the Stormcloaks' Nord nationalism, these legates include two Nords, three Imperials, one Breton, one Altmer, and one Dunmer.
- Square Race, Round Class: All of them belong to the Soldier class, even the Breton and the elves.
- Video Game Cruelty Potential: Their inability to die makes them great for grinding various magical or combat skills.
ThalmorThe Thalmor are the ruling government of the Aldmeri Dominion, which is ostensibly a confederation consisting of the Summerset Isles (renamed Alinor) and Valenwood, with the Khajiit kingdoms of Anequina and Pellitine as vassals. In reality, the Altmer of Alinor make up the majority of the Thalmor and have established a fascist government dedicated to conquering all of Tamriel. To that end, they launched the Great War against the Empire of Tamriel, inflicting massive damage across the continent. Despite ultimately being defeated and driven out, the Thalmor were able to force Emperor Titus Mede II to sign the White-Gold Concordat, banning the worship of Talos in the Empire, allowing Thalmor agents to enforce the Talos ban within the Empire, and ceding southern Hammerfell to the Dominion. They are also involved in the current civil war in Skyrim.
- 0% Approval Rating: Even other elves in their own country hate them, but they're too terrified to fight back. Absolutely everyone in Skyrim hates them, including the Empire.
- Affably Evil: Their members skirt back and forth between being nice, if condescending and arrogant, to being outwardly smug and hostile while barely maintaining civility. The latter will often state outright "when our armies are back at full power we're totally declaring war again, so enjoy your freedom while it lasts."
- A special mention to "Leonora Venatus," author of the in-game book The Talos Mistake. The book is actually a very convincing argument that to worship Tiber Septim as Talos detracts from the great deeds he did as a mortal; and even if false, it makes sense for humans to revere such a hero as a god, for he was a hero - and if he could become a divine, it gives other men a goal to which they can aspire and seek to better themselves to achieve.
- Badass Longcoat: A lot of their own Justiciars wear these, with a hood.
- Batman Gambit: Pulled one off in Skyrim. Having intimate knowledge of Ulfric's psyche due to his time as a POW, they are able to goad him into committing seditious acts against the Empire ostensibly in grievance against them in their bid to weaken it. He may not be a Manchurian Agent, but he's still their Unwitting Pawn. Elenwen's attendance in the peace talks in the "Season Unending" talk can be seen as an attempt to sabotage the peace talks by antagonizing Ulfric, since peace in Skyrim is bad for the Thalmor's plans. However, the gambit during the peace talks fails, as he eventually gets a lid on her antagonism. It fails overall when the Dragonborn acts as a Spanner in the Works, regardless of which side of the Civil War the Dragonborn carries to victory.
- Butt Monkey: Because of just about every other trope listed here, the Thalmor almost universally find themselves on the bad side of every player's Dovahkiin, and on the end of their blades. Even Imperial players have a habit of brutally murdering any they encounter.
- Can't Argue with Elves: In-universe recognition and perception of this is part of what led to the Skyrim civil war. Ulfric can argue with elves. More importantly, so can the Dovahkiin.
- Church Militant: The have some characteristics of an evil version of this trope, as they torture and murder in the name of stamping out "heresy." Ondolemar outright says that the Great War (and the Justicars' presence in Skyrim) is a "religious matter."
- Cold-Blooded Torture: Detailed in one note in the Thalmor Embassy.
- And vividly demonstrated on at least one occasion - during "Diplomatic Immunity," you sneak into the Thalmor Embassy's dungeon, which gives you a front-row seat for the "Intermediate Manual Uncoiling" of their current prisoner.
- Dark Is Evil: Their longcoats and robes are all black, fitting in with both the Nazi parallels and the Obviously Evil criteria.
- Fake Ultimate Hero: They first came to power by claiming to have saved the Summerset Isles from the Oblivion Crisis when the Daedra attacking it suddenly disappeared. In fact (as anyone who's played Oblivion would know), that was actually because of Martin Septim's Heroic Sacrifice against Mehrunes Dagon.
- They also may note have done something similar when the moons disappeared, throwing the Khajiit of Elsweyr into chaos; when the moons returned two years later, the Thalmor claimed they were responsible for restoring them through powerful magic, which instantly ingratiated them with the Khajiit.
- Fantastic Racism: Even to other elves. One account indicates that the Altmer in Alinor breed like rabbits because the Thalmor are so obsessed with racial purity that they kill nine out of ten newborns for not meeting their standards. They conducted massive purges of Valenwood's population, and they consider humans to be little more than dogs to be either leashed or slaughtered.
- Greater Scope Villain: They're (probably) not bigger than Alduin, but they are bigger than the opposing side of the civil war questline, being the ultimate source of the conflict and the bigger and truly evil enemy to both sides (even if the Empire doesn't publicly acknowledge it).
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: The prophecy of the Last Dragonborn explicitly states that when brother fights brother - in other words, civil war in Skyrim - it will be the final harbinger of Alduin's return. It's doubtful that the Thalmor are aware of the prophecy, as it's part of the Nords' history and not their own. Nevertheless, by bringing about the Civil War, the Aldmeri Dominion is directly responsible for the return of dragons to Tamriel.
- Hate Sink: Organization-wide.
- Jerkass: Pretty much every single one. Even those who are Affably Evil have moments of unpleasantness.
- Left Hanging: Unfortunately, as much as everyone agrees that a second war with the Thalmor is inevitable, it never occurs, and they play an overall minimal part in the overarching story. With the official announcement that there will be no more DLC for Skyrim after Dragonborn, it's up to the next game in the series to resolve things.
- Light Is Not Good: Some of their warriors wear elven armour, which is bright gold, but they're as dickish as the rest of them.
- Magic Knight: Just about all Thalmor troops can use magic as well as fight in melee. If disarmed they'll whip out a Bound Sword.
- Manipulative Bastard: The Thalmor's military competence is somewhat in doubt. On the one hand, their advance into the Empire at the beginning of the Great War was extremely rapid and successful. On the other, after that initial advance, they started running into major problems and captured the Imperial City as a means to end a war that had spiraled out of their control, and were eventually totally defeated at the Battle of the Red Ring, but had inflicted almost equal damage on the Empire, and still occupied southern Hammerfell and most of Cyrodiil at the end. Subsequently, they were driven out of their part of Hammerfell, likely due to the losses they suffered at the end of the Great War. However, they are unquestionably masters of intelligence and covert operations and at manipulating other factions from behind the scenes. This was how they managed to first come to power and take Valenwood and Elsweyr, as well as how they managed to wipe out the Blades. Many suspect that the real goal of the Great War was to disrupt relations between Hammerfell and the Empire, and the subsequent Skyrim civil war was masterminded by them as well.
- My Species Doth Protest Too Much: Legate Fasendil, the Altmer Legate, is the clearest example, but there are plenty of Altmer, Bosmer, and Khajiit that despise the Thalmor. A Dragonborn of those races will always find themselves against the Thalmor.
- A Nazi by Any Other Name: Ethnic cleansing, Fantastic Racism aplenty, and Dark Is Evil on a grand scale? They fit into this pretty well.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: The ban on Talos worship ended up creating a revival in Talos worship, even in Imperials.
- Our Elves Are Better: Their opinion on themselves in general. Everyone else disagrees, even other elves.
- The Purge: At least one survivor of a Valenwood purge agrees to help the Dragonborn break into the embassy because the Thalmor murdered his family. They even inflict it upon their own kinsmen who oppose them: Chat with Legate Fasendil, an Aldmeri Legion officer operating in the Rift, and he'll regale you his own experience of the Night of Green Fire, an event in the mid first century of the 4th Era, where Aldmeri dissidents from the Summerset Isles were slaughtered wholesale by the Thalmor in their refugee camps in Sentinel (a city in Hammerfell).Fasendil: The Dominion, not content with killing dissidents at home, came to Hammerfell to finish the job.
- Putting on the Reich: Their robes more than generally resemble Nazi stormcoats.
- Red Herring: Delphine believes they are behind the dragon attacks. They're not - at least, not on purpose; see Unwitting Instigator of Doom, above.
- Screw You, Elves!: Everyone, even Bethesda. One dev wanted to put in an "elf grinder" trap that would turn them into sparkly purple powder. "Because they deserve it." They even now provide the image for this trope... in a way.
- State Sec: Though after the Great War, the Thalmor are struggling to rebuild their military, with much of their invasion force utterly wiped out in the Battle of the Red Ring and subsequent heavy losses in Hammerfell. They don't have the numbers for overt action....yet.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Their goals are the destruction of Mundus and a return to the original state of existence, a goal which about half the cultures of Tamriel would support. Unfortunately, their current method requires the removal of humanity from the mythic. However, it is possible that the souls of the dead humans would return to the original state along with everyone else; consider there is no such thing as a "human" soul. There's nothing to excuse the fact that they are Nazis By Another Name, though.
- Voiced by: Jean Gilpin
- Ass in Ambassador: Sort of. She is a bit condescending, of course, but she's much more pleasant about it than her immediate subordinate, who flat out tells you "we are going to kill or enslave you all" at a party.
- Bad Boss:
- If you are her servant, you'd better do what she says or she will send you to the torture chambers. (This is in spite of the fact that it's heavily implied she's aware that the servant in question is innocent of what she's been accused of doing.)
- She will raise no objection to the surrender of cities to the Stormcloaks while her men are still inside them. If the Dragonborn hasn't killed Ondolemar in Markarth by this point, it's heavily implied he's killed and stuffed inside the Hall of the Dead, should the Stormcloaks take it over.
- Blatant Lies: She claims that the Civil War in Skyrim is beneath the Thalmor's concern. The Dossier concerning Ulfric Stormcloak reveals that the Thalmor are very concerned about the Civil War in Skyrim and want it to remain unresolved for as long as possible. The Thalmor are also (indirectly) responsible for instigating the Civil War in the first place.
- Breaking Lecture: Tries to give one in "Season Unending", but Ulfric has none of it.
- Butt Monkey: Owing to her essential flag, she can take a lot more damage than most Thalmor, and you only have to pay forty septims each time, which you'll be easily able to afford by the time you run into her.
- Chekhov's Gunman: She can be glimpsed briefly on horseback talking to General Tullius in Helgen. She doesn't show up until the end of the first act of the main quest.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: A veteran of this.
- Deadpan Snarker:Erikur: Elenwen! This servant girl has been throwing herself at me in a most disgusting manner.
Elenwen: Is that so, Erikur? And you with such delicate sensibilities. It must have been most upsetting.
- Faux Affably Evil: She seems like a straight example of Affably Evil in the Thalmor Embassy, but if you do "Season Unending", it quickly becomes clear that she was only being friendly because she was at a formal party, and she's just as arrogant and scheming as any other Thalmor.
- Greater Scope Villain: She's the leader and/or public face of all the Thalmor in Skyrim (though probably not for all of Tamriel as a whole), and they're both the reason this whole mess started to begin with as well as a future possible antagonist. They haven't made any big moves yet, what with the unexpected plague of dragons, but a clash somewhere in the future is inevitable.
- I Shall Taunt You: Her presence at the peace negotiations in "Season Unending" is largely to get Ulfric even more angry at the Empire, as he's outraged at them for bringing her and considers walking out right then. When she taunts Ulfric that it's the Empire, not the Thalmor, with whom he's at war, Rikke lampshades this trope by muttering, "And she's supposed to be on our side?"
- Karma Houdini: After being responsible for the persecution of Talos worshippers in Skyrim and harassing both sides at the peace negotiations in "Season Unending", she basically disappears after leaving High Hrothgar, as she goes into the Thalmor Embassy which cannot be accessed through normal methods. PC players may simply use console commands to bypass this, and an exploit does exist on all consoles involving a horse and jumping over the side fence to get in through the back door, which isn't locked. Typically, any player that does find her here will find her "essential" flag has been lifted and exploit it for good measure.
- Lean and Mean: Not very well built and easily one of their cruelest members.
- Manipulative Bitch: She's manipulating both her allies and her enemies into fighting out an endless war.
- A Nazi by Any Other Name: As with the rest of the Thalmor.
- Smug Snake: Naturally dislikes the Stormcloaks, but (like all Thalmor) has a clear disdain for their Imperial "allies".
- Sore Loser: If you help the Stormcloaks take Solitude, she may send assassins after you in retribution. An ending to the war in any way is detrimental to the Thalmor's plans, and Ulfric winning basically means they have no influence in Skyrim and a new enemy. Of course, if you kill her after the main quest but just before the final Stormcloak mission, she'll be too dead to try to have you murdered.
- Squishy Wizard: She can dish out quite powerful magic, and in fact she is actually the strongest Thalmor mage we see, but isn't particularly strong physically.
- Torture Technician: Her former employment. It's implied that she was very good at her job; in one document, the current interrogator at the Thalmor Embassy explicitly welcomes her expertise should she wish to "audit [his] technique."
- Voiced by: Neil Dickson
- Asshole Victim: It's heavily implied he is killed when/if the Stormcloaks take control of Markarth. He disappears, and a coffin containing items he carries can be found in the Hall of the Dead.
- Even if he isn't killed by the Stormcloaks, he can easily be killed by you by simply walking up to him and Shouting him down the stairs. Killing him and his bodyguards will set all the guards into "Stop right there criminal scum!" mode, but you only have to pay a measly forty septims for assault, and can just have his corpse looted so you just make your money back. Dawnguard offers new and corpse/soul-defiling methods to kill him with the Thu'um, and Dragonborn grants you even crueller ways to kill him.
- It turns out that there are Dummied Out civil war scenes concerning the ousting of a besieged Jarl by you, your chosen side's Number Two, and the replacement Jarl. In the case of Markarth, a portion after the ousting of Igmund, we get to see Galmar give Ondolemar a "Not so fast" call-out, and then axe Ondolemar dead after forcing him to his knees and enduring one last act of verbal defiance.
- Butt Monkey: He's a Thalmor, and exceptionally assholish one at that. He's also not wearing any armor, not flagged as essential, guarded by only two soldiers who go down quite easily, and his quest doesn't offer much of a reward, so if you've got a clear throat and a spare forty septims....
- Defiant to the End: In dummied out content, he behaves this way towards Galmar. He may be an unpleasant asshole, but credit has to be given to him.
- The Dragon: To Elenwen.
- In the Hood: His coat comes with one of these naturally.
- Jerkass: And yet if you help him, he's the only member of the Thalmor who treats the Dragonborn with any kind of respect.
- A Nazi by Any Other Name: As with all Thalmor.
- Pet the Dog: A weak one, but he's the only member of the Thalmor to treat the Dragonborn with respect should they help him.
- Punch Clock Villain: Possibly. He doesn't have Ogmund arrested when you steal his amulet, he doesn't make any attempt to police the shrine to Talos in the middle of the city, and he doesn't really seem to do anything besides pace around and act smug. He'll even, with a little persuasion, help you out at the Thalmor Embassy party. Either his hands are tied by Markarth's messy political situation, or he doesn't care enough to walk the Thalmor walk.
- Smug Snake: "You have the honor of addressing a member of the Thalmor. Bask in it."
- Unwitting Pawn: He can be persuaded to cause the distraction the player needs at the Thalmor Embassy during the quest "Diplomatic Immunity," if his quest is completed and the player's Speech skill is high enough.
- Voiced by: Alexander Brandon
- Arc Villain: Of the Winterhold College questline.
- Badass: He's surprisingly competent compared to the rest of his colleagues.
- Blatant Lies: The only Thalmor who tries to claim that with the war over, the Thalmor are interested in maintaining peace with Skyrim and the Empire. The rest are more honest about their intentions.
- Drunk on the Dark Side: He goes off the deep end very quickly after tapping into the Eye of Magnus.
- Evil Chancellor: Is evidently an adviser of Savos Aren, though you never actually see him do any actual advising.
- Evil Genius: Seems to be his role, given his plan.
- Evil Is Sexy: Invoked. Nirya, an Altmer mage at the College, says that he's up to something, but admits that he's handsome.
- Evil Sorcerer: What he turns out to be. It's known from the start that he's a sorcerer; his ambitions, on the other hand, are not until it's almost too late.
- Faux Affably Evil: Behold, the only Thalmor NPC with any understanding of tact. He will state without irony that the Thalmor only seek to help enrich the lives of the people of Skyrim and help them lead to a new glorious age of happiness, while emphasizing equality. He is, of course, lying and everyone else at the College says not to trust him, but he's a good enough liar to make it almost sound sincere.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: During his boss fight, it's entirely possible for him to be killed by the very Magic Anomalies he ended up summoning while trying to use the Eye of Magnus.
- Hypercompetent Sidekick: His aim to destroy Mundus is something he's pursuing a lot quicker than most of colleagues, even Elenwen, and he comes pretty damn close to achieving it too. To put it in perspective, Elenwen's idea of delaying them and causing Mundus to fall apart is to start a civil war, which has ultimately led to a revival in Talos worship and has taken several years to engineer. In the span of merely a few weeks, Ancano nearly destroys the world single-handedly.
- Jerkass: Goes without saying; it's the natural state of mind for Thalmor lackeys. That said, he's a lot better about keeping his ruder side in check than most of his colleagues.
- Kick the Dog: Just in case you didn't get that he's the bad guy, he ends up killing Savos Aren, then Mirabelle Ervine.
- Long-Haired Pretty Boy: Ancano is male, has long white hair, and is an elf. The rest follows naturally from that.
- A Nazi by Any Other Name: All Thalmor are this, to a man.
- Obviously Evil: Even in-game, nobody trusts him. Even the two Altmer ladies on campus don't much like him hanging around to "observe" (though one of them does think he's rather attractive).
- He does try and make some effort of hiding it, at least at first. He claims he's simply there to foster relations, that now that the great war is over the Thalmor only want to co-exist with the Empire and help Skyrim. Compared to other Thalmor who openly say that "the Empire exists because we allow it to exist" and "we're totally getting ready for another attack on you guys", Ancano is downright subtle.
- Omnicidal Maniac: He plans to use the Eye of Magnus to destroy Mundus and return all Altmer to pre-creation divinity. This is the long-term goal of all Thalmor; he's just a lot more proactive about it.
- Properly Paranoid: He is very concerned when a member of the Psijic Order visits the College asking specifically for you, and suspects you're keeping things from him and Savos about everything that's going on. He's absolutely right.
- Underestimating Badassery: He woefully underestimates the Dragonborn, despite them making their way through Labyrinthian, defeating the Dragon Priest Morokei, and mopping the floor with the Thalmor assassin sent to eliminate them.
- White Hair, Black Heart: He's got white hair and he's a bad guy.
- Voiced by: Neil Dickson
- Axe Crazy: He enjoys his position as a torturer. Think about that.
- Blood Knight: A variation in which he's not involved in straight up combat, but instead enjoys torturing people.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: His role in the Embassy now, and he even asks for Elenwen's help on the matter at times. In the specific instance we see, it's happening to Etienne Rarnis of the Thieves' Guild, as they're searching for Esbern and think he knows where he is.
- Jerkass: Yeah, he's pretty bad.
- Karmic Death: The Dragonborn is likely to walk into the area and murder him, as it seems to be a requirement, just after he's tortured Etienne.
- Mauve Shirt: He doesn't do that much and he's only seen for one quest, in which he is often brutally murdered.
- A Nazi by Any Other Name: As with all Thalmor.
- Smug Snake: He's nowhere near as effective at getting real information out of his prisoners as he thinks. As shown with his torture of Etienne, he ends up ignoring the fact that his prisoner has told them everything he knows and that there's nothing further to gain, apart from making his prisoners end up in agonising pain.
- Soft-Spoken Sadist: Relatively speaking.
- Squishy Wizard: As with most Thalmor mages.
- Torture Technician: His role at the embassy, now that Elenwen has been promoted.
- Voiced by: Neil Dickson
- The Dragon: To Ancano, as he basically ends up doing the dirty work for him though he appears for all of one scene.
- Faux Affably Evil: He gives a half-hearted apology before he tries to kill you.
- In the Hood: As with all Justiciars.
- Mauve Shirt: He's only involved in one quest.
- Nothing Personal: His fake way of apologising to you is to invoke this.
- Smug Snake: He's not weak per se, as he's whatever level the player is, and at the end of the day he's reasonably competent for an assassin; however, the player will have just mopped the floor with Morokei, a powerful Dragon Priest, and he's basically just a named Justicar, who by this point in the game is an enemy type you can utterly destroy. Despite this, he's incredibly arrogant and convinced he can take you on regardless.
- Squishy Wizard: Compared to Morokei, he can be torn up like cardboard.
- Too Dumb to Live: Provoking the Dragonborn after they have just killed a powerful Dragon Priest is a horrible idea.
- Slightly, very slightly justified in a small case of Dangerously Genre Savvy, since he expects you to be exhausted from the tough fight with a powerful Dragon Priest and thinks he can just finish you off.
- Worthy Opponent: He will at least credit you for getting out of Labyrinthian alive.
A Khajiit assassin sent by the Thalmor to deal with Malborn after he has betrayed his masters to you and the Blades.
- Dangerously Genre Savvy: His plan to deal with Malborn? Simply camp outside of Windhelm, wait until Malborn eventually has to leave (as he's got to run out of money sometime), then pursue him and kill him in a quiet place. Amusingly, this same strategy can get him killed should a dragon land outside the city.
- Genre Savvy: He decides to try and blend in to a Khajiit caravan as a way to travel. One reason this isn't Dangerously Genre Savvy is because he doesn't account for the fact that other Khajiit might take offence to his employers.
- Knife Nut: His primary weapon.
- Overt Agent: His idea of blending in is to just join a Khajiit caravan out of the blue. It does seem to work, up until someone actually starts asking around the caravan, at which point the Khajiit will regard him as an outsider. Ri'saad will gladly point him out and even encourage you to kill the "Thalmor filth" for "giving all Khajiit a bad name."
- Professional Killer: One of the Thalmor's assassins.
- Super-Persistent Predator: Malborn notes he's been camped outside Windhelm for a while now, and that he'd probably wait for even longer, as well as follow him for as long as need be until he could find a quiet place to kill him.
- Token Minority: One of the few named Khajiit working for the Thalmor as an active agent, which makes him one of the few non-Altmer members. Other Khajiit do work for the Thalmor, but they're all servants in kitchens and even they are few in number.
A Nord beggar who works with the Thalmor as a stool pigeon.
- Jerkass: Even for a man desperate for money, he comes across as extremely rude.
- The Mole: His role for the Thalmor is to go into crowds and listen for information that could benefit them.
- My Species Doth Protest Too Much: Thinks the Nords complain too much about the Thalmor.
- Only in It for the Money: He isn't exactly a sadist and is just desperate for coin, though he seems rather indifferent to the fact he's helping the Thalmor and hurting other people by doing so.
- The Quisling: Unlike most Nords on either side who hate the Thalmor, he is willingly on their side, admittedly for the money.
- Token Minority: The only Nord member of the Thalmor, though he isn't particularly high ranking.
- Too Dumb to Live: Attacking the Dragonborn, who by this point may be more than twice his level and is almost certainly better equipped, is not a smart move. Even more so when you consider the note you find on him reveals the Thalmor clearly told him to not approach the Dragonborn of his own.
"Captain" ValmirAn Altmer who claims to be an officer of either the Stormcloaks or the Imperial Legion, depending on which faction you have joined. Speaking with him will start quest "Siege on the Dragon Cult."
- Dangerously Genre Savvy: Sends someone else to get an artifact from a ruins and defeat a dragon priest.
- Mauve Shirt: Only appears in one quest, and you need to kill him to complete the quest.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: He disguises himself as a Stormcloak officer (either to the Dragonborn or to a random Stormcloak at the end), despite Altmer being virtually nonexistent in the Stormcloaks. He also disguises himself as an Imperial officer, which is more believable.
- Too Dumb to Live: He attacks someone who is able to defeat a dragon priest.