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Characters: Skyrim Civil War
The characters tied to the Civil War
plot in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
. For the full list of characters, click here.
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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 the Thalmor.
- 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 Justicars 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 gives 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 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 They also use the battlecry "Skyrim belongs to the Nords!", which rings hollow when you brush up on history and learn that the Mer races ruled Skyrim until Ysgramor invaded from Atmora and conquered the land in the name of Men.
- The Imperials protest that the Empire had to sign the White-Gold Concordant 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.
"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.
- The Empire doesn't close down any Talos shrine in a captured city. Heimskr still preaches in Whiterun, Jora is allowed to operate the Temple of Talos in Windhelm and Nura in Riften. The Shrine of Talos in Markarth is open and unsupervised as well. The only thing the Empire has done against it is remove the Shrine in the Temple of the Divines in Solitude.
- No True Nord: 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
"I will not stand idly by while dragons burn my hold and slaughter my people!"
Jarl of the Whiterun hold, his seat is in Whiterun. He only wishes for Whiterun's safety, trying to avoid taking sides.
- 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.
- 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.
- Jarl Who Actually Does Something: Balgruuf is the Jarl with whom you 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.
- The Magnificent: Never brought up who he's greater than, though. Probably a false-positive, since "Greater" is frequently used to signify someone who is superior, either in age or action, to another, possibly even a family member. Hence, "Greater" may only signify that he is the older of two siblings; his younger brother is a significant member of his court.
- 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 makes it very clear when he's run out of Whiterun that he only supports the Empire for the economic advantages it affords to Skyrim; this is contrary to his speech to Vignar, which seems to imply he supports it for ideological reasons. It should be noted in this trope that Whiterun is the major economic hub of Skyrim due to its central position. Losing the Imperial trade arrangements over the war is probably really bad for Whiterun in the long run, as the hold will lose influence and a lot of money. It may seem greedy, but it really is in the best interest of the entire hold and, by extension, Skyrim's overall financial stability.
- 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 Nords Love Talos: He is a secret Talos worshipper.
- 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.
- Despite being nominally affiliated with the Empire, he doesn't imprison Heimskr for his very loud open worship of Talos, nor does he remove the statue of Talos from in front of Dragonsreach. This continues even if the Empire wins the Battle of Whiterun.
- The latter is actually due to a game bug, not Balgruuf's benevolence or ignorance. With the unofficial patch, Heimskr gets sent to jail after an Imperial victory like he's supposed to. Even here, however, it's clear he'd rather send Heimskr to his own prison to have his own men watch over and care for him rather than let the Thalmor get their hands on him.
- 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.
"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.
- 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 worshipper 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!"
- One that we don't see, due to a bug, is him calling out Vignar.
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."
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?"
Elisif the Fair
Voiced by: Corri English
Jarl of Haafingar and the Empire's candidate for the title of High Queen of Skyrim. Her seat is in Solitude. She is the widow of High King Torygg, whose murder/death in honorable duel
began the civil war.
- 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.
- I Fight for the Strongest Side: If the Stormcloaks win the civil war, she declares her allegiance to them, and in return is allowed to keep the title of Jarl of Haafingar. (She is, in fact, the only Imperial-allied Jarl who is allowed to retain her title.) She still hates the Stormcloaks, but as the Empire is effectively gone from Skyrim, she has no other choice.
- 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/Jarl: 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.
- 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
Jarl of Hjaalmarch. Her seat is in Morthal. She and her children have a sometimes inconvenient gift of premonition.
- 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.
- Blessed with Suck/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.
- 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.
- 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 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.
Jarl of Falkreath hold, seated in Falkreath. Took over for his uncle, who was getting "too old" for his position (read: his uncle was a Stormcloak sympathizer).
- Bad Jarl: 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.
- 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.
- Not So Different: The Imperial counterpart of Jarl Skald the Elder as the "childish" Jarl.
- 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
Jarl of The Reach, seated in Markarth. He strongly supports peace with the Thalmor in order to protect his Hold.
- 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 built into a mountainside.
- Hazy Feel Turn: Originally supported the Stormcloaks, but turned against them to maintain peace with the Thalmor.
- I Did What I Had to Do: Evicted Ulfric and his troops after their worship of Talos resulted in the Thalmor threatening to attack.
- I Am X, Son of Y: He introduces himself as "Igmund, son of Hrolfdir. Jarl of Markarth".
- 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
Replacement Jarl of The Pale, seated in Dawnstar. A retired Legion legate who found herself at odds with the local Jarl over the civil war.
- 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
Replacement Jarl of The Rift, seated in Riften. Pretty much ran the city even before the Imperials took the hold and made her authority official. Extremely open about her ties to the Thieves' Guild and the Dark Brotherhood.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: As owner of the Black-Briar Meadery. Your first special job for the 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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
Voiced by: Michael Gough
Replacement Jarl of Winterhold, seated in the city of Winterhold. Believes in good relations with the College of Winterhold and is optimistic that the city can be restored to greatness.
- 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
Replacement Jarl of Eastmarch, seated in Windhelm. An odd-man-out in the town, he's friendlier toward the Dunmer and Argonians than his fellow townsmen, often taking the side of one or the other, as well as attempting to mediate peace between the two groups.
- 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 Kinsmen 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.
: 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?"
See below in the "Stormcloaks" section for the full list for Ulfric.
Voiced by: Claudia Christian
Jarl of The Rift, seated in Riften. Contrary to her sobriquet, she's the law in title only.
- 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.
- Not So Different: Dialogue from Maven Black-Briar, if she takes control of the city, reveals that she has the exact same plan.
- Distaff Counterpart: To Igmund. See his entry for elaboration.
- Fantastic Racism: Surprisingly averted; she is the only starting Stormcloak-alignment 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 Jarl: She's pretty clueless about the state of her town. Her own adviser is in deep with the 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
Jarl of The Pale, seated in Dawnstar. He is extremely paranoid of the Imperial Legion, to the point of accusing some of the common folk of being spies.
- 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 these things 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.
- Grumpy Old Man
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
Jarl of Winterhold, seated in the city of Winterhold. His distrust for the local College of Mages has caused other Jarls to ignore his opinions.
Replacement Jarl of Whiterun hold, seated in Whiterun. A member of an ancient clan in Whiterun who is in a feud against the Battle-Born.
Dengeir of Stuhn
Replacement Jarl of Falkreath hold, seated in Falkreath. Formerly the Jarl of the hold, he was forced to retire in favour of his more Imperial-aligned nephew.
- 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 who 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 they don't know.
- 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.
- 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 does have some merits 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
Replacement Jarl of the Reach, seated in Markarth. His family owns Cidhna Mine, a slave mine whose workers consist of prisoners and Forsworn.
- 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
- 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.
- Properly Paranoid: He's on the mark, as you discover if you persuade the priest of Arkay to tell you why the Hall of the Dead is closed. Whether Thongvor's relatives are among those that have recently been chewed on isn't stated, but it's certainly possible.
- 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.
- 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 the family's illegal dealings.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: He's receptive to the threat of dragons (shown in a radiant conversation between him and his steward) and tries to have parties made to hunt them. This doesn't fly, though, as his steward reminds him it would be ineffective; his men don't have the training to fight dragons and it's unlikely for them to get it. He is also very respectful to a Stormcloak Dragonborn, and if you perform Thonar's "service" he, though he doesn't know the exact details of it, will genuinely thank you for it.
- Twenty Four Hour Armour
Sorli the Builder
Voiced by: Claudia Christian
Replacement Jarl of Hjaalmarch hold, seated in Morthal. She oversees an isolated mining settlement along with her husband.
- 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 Women Love Talos: 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.
For the Sons of Skyrim!
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: How one advances in the Stormcloak hierarchy.
- Authority Equals Asskicking: Ulfric and Galmar are tough men. Ulfric has the power of Thu'um and is noted by even his enemies as a fearsome warrior and commander, and Galmar is a Sergeant Rock par excellence. Additionally, they're both veterans of the Great War.
- 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 national 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. Interestingly enough, the city also possesses rather high Imperial and Altmeri populations who are more or less left alone; this would have made sense before the civil war (since they wouldn't have wanted to pointlessly antagonise either the Empire or the Dominion), but seems strange now that they're in a state of open rebellion. It's hinted by an Altmer in Windhelm that the Stormcloaks will leave you alone as long as you prove yourself useful and loyal, but even then there are some liable to be suspicious.
- The Dunmer and the Argonians have reasons to be kept away from each other due to the Dunmer having a long history of enslaving the Argonians in the past, leading to countless slave rebellions and eventually the Argonians rising up and devastating Morrowind. Even Free-Winter admits that leaving the Argonians outside of the city is more for their own benefit than for the Nords', although he appears to be more afraid of them becoming victims of Nordic prejudice than Dunmer revenge.
- Humanity Is Superior: Many of them believe this, though most of them aren't as racist to elves as the Dominion is to Men.
- Informed Attribute: Zigzagged with their racism.
- 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 . On the other hand, said non-Nords will mention things have been tough for them under the Stormcloak guards due to various reasons, but the player doesn't get to see how.
- 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.
Galmar: First, tell me. Why's a [[insert race here]] want to fight for Skyrim?
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.
- Best demonstrated in Falkreath, where you'll meet the brothers Solaf and Bolund, a former Stormcloaknote and Stormcloak sympathizer, respectively. Bolund is very racist and xenophobic, acting scornful towards a non-Nord Dragonborn and loudly proclaiming that outsiders shouldn't be allowed in Skyrim. Meanwhile, Solaf is actually friendly toward, accepting, and fond of outsiders, crediting this attitude to his time serving with the Stormcloaks, which allowed him to meet and interact with other cultures and gain an appreciation for them, even while fighting for Skyrim's independence.
- While the treatment of Dunmer in Windhelm is supposed to reflect the Stormcloaks' xenophobia, the dark elves we actually see don't seem to be in particularly dire straits. Besides the segregation (a huge "besides", admittedly) the biggest problem they face seems to be Rolff the drunken lout, and on closer inspection of Windhelm, it probably has more elves in good positions than anywhere else in Skyrim (not counting Haafingar and Solitude, which are full of Thalmor), having four elven merchants - two Dunmer and two Altmer. Furthermore, three of those elves operate from the market district alongside their human counterparts and many of the guards recommend the fourth's shop in the Gray Quarter.
- There's also an in-game book, Scourge of the Gray Quarter, written by Stormcloak sympathizers, which states that dark elves in general aren't bad, and points towards the sizable dark elf population in Riften as a shining example of how Dunmer can integrate into Nord society. It condemns Windhelm's Dunmer population for stubbornly sticking to their own culture while leeching off the city and not pulling their own weight - while the former sentiment paints the Stormcloaks as xenophobic, the latter comment is echoed by a few mer citizens in Windhelm, who say that the ones crying about oppression are making it worse for everyone. This could be seen as a minor parallel to the Stormcloak rebellion itself.
- 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.
- 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 Altmer, despite both groups being persecuted by the Thalmor and the latter despising them just as much as the Stormcloaks do.
- 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.
- The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized/The Revolution Will Not Be Vilified: 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, tradition, or that the Empire will be needed when the next war with the Thalmor comes, while 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 they side with him only because they see him as the Lesser of Two Evils compared to the Empire.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 Wildhelm 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 (outside potentially the Dragonborn) that are seen anywhere in the game, though this is primarily due to engine constraints.
- 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.
- 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.
"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."
The Jarl of Eastmarch, seated in the city of Windhelm. Leader of the Stormcloak Rebellion and aspiring High King of Skyrim.
- A Father to His Men: He values his followers' lives, which is why he is cautious about attacking Whiterun, despite how necessary it is that they take it. 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.
- 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.
- Anti-Villain/Anti-Hero: One can view him as either depending on who you side with, and your opinion of his previous actions and general attitude. Some Imperials (Legate Rikke in particular) view him as an Anti-Villain, since he rebels against what they view as Skyrim's best hope, but they believe that he is generally good at heart and possesses admirable motivations.
- An Axe to Grind: He uses a steel waraxe.
- 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) mastering 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.
- 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.
- 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?"
- 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.
- Badass: He's a mighty warrior, a cunning strategist, and a master of the Thu'um.
- Badass Baritone: "Once he had a kingdom, but no voice. So I gave him mine." - Vladimir Kulich.
- Badass Beard
- Badass In Charge: Of Eastmarch, the Stormcloak rebellion and half of Skyrim. Potentially the whole of Skyrim if you join him.
- 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.
- Badass Longcoat: As mentioned above, it's made of chainmail.
- 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.
- Memetic Badass: 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.
They say that Ulfric Stormcloak murdered the High King... with his Voice! Shouted him apart!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Ulfric: "You want me to stand in negotiations with her?! Your chief Talos hunter?!"
- Braids of Barbarism: Has these too.
- Big Bad/Big Good: Of the Imperial and Stormcloak campaigns, respectively.
- 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."
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 told 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.
- The Good King: He takes into account the opinions of his entire court, would prefer that he could take Skyrim with the least possible amount of bloodshed, and is far more empathetic to the common folk who do not support him (knowing that they're still weighing things in their hearts and have to look after the families), in contrast to Galmar's complete With Us or Against Us view. He's the only Jarl to reply that 'The honour will be mine' when you accept becoming a Thane of his hold, and he doesn't refer to his people as 'the common rabble' when he dubs you Thane. He's also well respected within his hold and by the people of Skyrim in general. And despite his preoccupation with the war, he still makes an effort to protect the people of his city from the murders by the "Butcher of Windhelm", having placed every available guardsman on it (and to their credit, they are making progress by the time you come along). Of course, because it's a quest chain, only you can really make a difference, but he gets points for trying.
- 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 the good men and women who fought on both sides of the war, the war that he started no less, be 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?"
- 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 Tulius. 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.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: But there is certainly nobility and honor in his heart nonetheless.
- 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.
: 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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Modest Royalty: Unlike most other Jarls, he doesn't even wear a crown.
- 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.
- 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, 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.
- 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 him.
- 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. And Ulfric is the 3rd character you see in the opening sequence, and 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, and by extension, the Stormcloaks, MO.
- 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
- Rated M for Manly
- Rebel Leader
- Real Men Love 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."
- 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.
- 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.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something
- 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 Ysgramor's also.
- Shut Up, Hannibal!: He gives one to Elenwen when she starts lecturing the gathered Nordic leaders (and Tullius). She listens.
- Supporting Leader: To the 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.
- 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 when first instigating the Markarth Incident, and then with the Civil War proper, causing the Empire no end of grief.
- Warrior Prince: He was an officer of the Imperial army before he became a Jarl. And later on pretty much drove the Forsworn from Markarth single-handed as well.
- 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. While he does send a warning to Balgruuf before attacking, he also makes it clear that neutrality is not an option, Balgruuf's choices are 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 "it'll make 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.
- Unknown Rival: On the other hand, 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.
- Would Hurt a Child: Notable aversion: he's often stated as killing the child-king Torygg, though Torygg wasn't an actual child - just very young for the title of High King.
Ulfric's right-hand man and your boss should you side with the Stormcloaks.
- Awesome Mc Cool Name
- Anti-Hero/Anti-Villain: Depending on your interpretation.
- A Father to His Men: He's encouraging to his men and protective of their lives.
- Authority Equals Asskicking
- An Axe to Grind: Uses a simple iron battleaxe.
- Axe Crazy: Exhibits slight shades of this in combat. Fairly standard for Nords.
Your blood is such a pretty shade of red!
"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
- Bears Are Bad News: He wears a bearskin cowl.
- Braids of Barbarism: His beard is tied into a knot.
- The Big Guy
- 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
- 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.
- Guttural Growler
- 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.
- Intergenerational Friendship: See Ulfric's entry.
- The Lancer
- Nemean Skinning: Along with all other Stormcloak officers.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy
- Precision F-Strike: The Stormcloaks are the meanest, toughest, sons of bitches Skyrim has to offer.
- Rated M for Manly
- Religious Bruiser: A devout worshipper of Talos.
- Real Men Love Talos: This is practically a requirement for joining the Stormclaks.
"That we have forgotten them, this I fear the Gods will remember."
- Rousing Speech
- 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!"
- Sergeant Rock: Just like his Legion opposite, Legate Rikke.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: He makes hints that he's this at times.
- Sore Loser: He is not happy to see you in Sovngarde if you killed him. Though he warms up after you beat Alduin; 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
A Stormcloak from Riverwood who can help you escape from Helgen.
- Action Survivor: Being one of the known survivors of Helgen.
- Allied Counterpart/Adversarial Counterpart: To Hadvar, depending on what side the Dragonborn takes in the war.
- 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.
- Come with Me If You Want to Live: At Helgen, if you have initial Stormcloak leanings.
- Cool Uncle: He has a nephew named Frodnar, they have 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 Talos: 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.
- The Strategist: Surprisingly for a man with no prior battlefield experience, Ralof shows remarkable tactical acumen throughout the Stormcloak quests. For example, his plan to sneak the Dragonborn through an underwater cove into an imperial stronghold and free prisoners from within thus overwhelming the stronghold from within. There's also his plan to ambush the Imperial silver caravans.
- 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.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: In the case of a Legion victory, Ralof's fate is never addressed, unlike Ulfric and Galmar.
Various Stormcloak leaders stationed in the courts of Stormcloak-aligned Jarls or in camps across Skyrim.
- Awesome McCoolname: All of their sobriquets. Frozen-Heart, Thrice-Pierced, Sun-Killer, Cairn-Breaker, Banner-Torn, Oath-Giver...
- 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.
- 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
For the Legion!
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. After 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 independant 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.
- Screw You, Elves!: ...But they're waiting for just the right moment to nullify it by force.
- 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 lead 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: After the Blades were disbanded, the Empire resorted to making a new organization devoted to the protection of The Emperor, they made the Penitus Oculatus 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 N.P.C in engaging in war crimes; Angi will describe an incident where two drunken Imperial Soldiers murdered her entire family.
- 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 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 less females in the Legion than you would 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. And it gets better, conversation between Ulfric and Galmar implies that High Rock is barely at all involved in Imperial affairs and is only tangentially allies with the Empire. A fact they tried to use in order to ally with them, 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 of them were justified however.
"Battles are won by trained and disciplined men. Wars are won by talented and exceptional individuals."
Commander of all Legion forces in Skyrim. Sent to the province as a troubleshooter by the Emperor to deal with the Stormcloak rebellion.
- A Father to His Men
- Anti-Villain/Anti-Hero: 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. To the Empire side, he generally fulfills the role of Big Good for you, but he's rather.... gruff
- Big Bad/Big Good: Of the Stormcloak and Imperial campaigns, respectively.
- Badass Grandpa
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 they go to when they die. Needless to say, Ulfric probably holds a grim smile through it all.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. Tullius
- 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.
- Jerkass: His general demeanor, alongside his inability to understand the Nords and why they adhere so strictly to their traditions as mentioned under Cultural Posturing.
- 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.
- Hypercompetent Sidekick: To Jarl Elisif.
- 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: While he's a bit snide, he remains very approachable throughout the Imperial campaign, and it shows that he truly cares for his men and the Empire. 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 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
General Tullius' right-hand woman, his source on Nordic culture, and your boss should you side with the Imperials.
Voiced by: Jonas Fisch
An Imperial soldier from Riverwood who can help you escape Helgen.
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.
- Hero Antagonist: Seeing as the Dark Brotherhood commits many exceptionally monstrous crimes over the course of the game.
- Expy: Of Adamus Philida, both being Imperial commanders that threaten the Dark Brotherhood.
- It's Personal: His primary motivation for going after the Dark Brotherhood 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.
- Praetorian Guard: The Penitus Oculatus serve as the emperor's bodyguards.
- Papa Wolf: Don't mess with his kid.
- 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 Son: The Dark Brotherhood sanctuary suffers fiery vengeance for doing so.
Emperor Titus Mede II
Voiced by: Wes Johnson
Current ruler of the Empire. His namesake was the founder of the Mede dynasty.
- 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 made 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.
- The Fatalist: See Face Death with Dignity.
- 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 a Colovian, or at least Colovian descended (his ancestor was a Colovian warlord) Emperor is the one who banned the worship of Talos, the spiritual successor of Shor, as 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: Hanging Lord Naarfin alive on the White Gold Tower for 33 days was a brutal, but well deserved fate the Emperor administered.
- 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 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.
- Perpetual Frowner
- 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.
- 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 full-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 he 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, holding his father in far greater esteem.
- Posthumous Character: 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.
"Forget the list. S/he goes to the block."
An Imperial officer who oversees the executions at Helgen, she is among the witnesses to Alduin's razing of the town.
- 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: If you follow Ralof, and likely is killed regardless of your choice.
- No Name Given: Only ever referred to as "Imperial Captain".
- 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.
Various 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.
The 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.
Voiced by: Jean Gilpin
Emissary of the Thalmor to the region of Skyrim. Also Ulfric's former interrogator when he was a Thalmor POW during the Great War
- A Nazi by Any Other Name: As with the rest of the Thalmor.
- 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 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.
- Bigger Bad: 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.
- 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.
- 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, that he's at war with, 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.
- 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. As an ending to the war in any way in detrimental to their plans and Ulfric winning basically means they have no influence in Skyrim and a new enemy. If you kill her after the main quest but just before the final Stormcloak mission, however, she won't owing to the fact she's dead.
- 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
A high-ranking Thalmor Justicar who works in Markarth to arrest Talos worshippers.
- A Nazi by Any Other Name: As with all Thalmor.
- 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.
- Bald of Evil
- 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.
- 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.
- Kick the Dog: Quite literally. When he crosses one of the Jarl's dogs, he snaps "stupid dog!"
- Punch Clock Villain: Possibly, as discussed in Headscratchers. 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
A high-ranking Thalmor wizard who works in the College of Winterhold as an advisor to Arch-Mage Savos Aren.
- Arc Villain: Of the Winterhold College questline.
- A Nazi by Any Other Name: All Thalmor are this, to a man.
- 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.
- Hypercompetent Sidekick: His aim to destroy Mundus is something he's pursuing a lot quicker than most of colleagues, even Elenwen, and he came 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.
- 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 at least 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
A Thalmor wizard who works in the embassy as the resident torturer.
- A Nazi by Any Other Name: As with all Thalmor.
- 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, 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.
- 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
A Thalmor assassin sent by Ancano to kill you and take the Staff of Magnus, so you can't stop him destroying the world
- The Dragon or The Brute: 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 Justicars.
- 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: So, Estormo, you think it's a great idea to attack the Dragonborn after s/he's just killed a powerful Dragon Priest? To his credit, he will stop attacking if you sheathe your weapons on some occasions and he likely would have faced a worse punishment if he didn't try.
- 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 to the caravan. 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 fewer 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.