Factions are organizations of people with a common goal in Skyrim. The Dragonborn can join several of these factions. Upon joining, specific tasks, known as quests can be administered by a higher-up or leading official of the faction. Each faction has a specific guildhall or headquarters that remains static for the entire storyline, with the exceptions of the Dark Brotherhood and the Blades. Each faction has a clear leader, such as Arch-Mage Savos Aren for the College of Winterhold, Delphine as the Grandmaster of the Blades, and Paarthurnax as the leader of the Greybeards.
Comparisons with other games
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was the last Elder Scrolls title to employ the conventional four factions, which were called "Guilds". These factions included the Thieves Guild, the Mages Guild, the Fighters Guild, and the Dark Brotherhood. While Skyrim kept the Thieves Guild, the Fighters Guild and Mages Guild were exchanged for different factions. Due to the Mages Guild splitting into the Synod and the College of Whispers, the guild could not logically appear in titles preceding the Great War. Thus, the College of Winterhold, making its debut in The Elder Scrolls: Arena, appeared as a join-able faction. The Companions replaced the Fighters Guild, canonically aligning with Ysgramor and Nedic lore prevalent long before Skyrim's inception.
The Vampire Clans from The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall and The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind were omitted as well, with a newer adaption surfacing in Skyrim's first plug-in, The Elder Scrolls V: Dawnguard.
Unlike in Oblivion where each faction had a clear hierarchy of ranks the Hero could rise through, by performing certain tasks, Skyrim employs a less rigorous system. For example, the only rank attainable in the College of Winterhold, aside from being a basic student, is that of Arch-Mage. The Stormcloaks, however, have specific ranks, such as "Stormblade" and "Ice-Veins".
Perks of joining factions
Some factions, such as the College of Winterhold grant a special uniform upon joining which can be worn optionally either to reap the bonuses of the armor or for role-playing aesthetic. More extreme benefits, such as becoming a werewolf can only be achieved by joining factions. In this example, joining the Companions opens up the opportunity for becoming a werewolf.
Other factions may provide amenities to the Dragonborn, such as sleeping quarters, containers that never reset for safe item storage, and free access to crafting stations such as Arcane Enchanters and Forges. Once a member attains a certain rank, they can freely take any items from the guild hall.
Certain guild-mates cannot be unlocked as followers or potential spouses unless a given faction is joined. For example, the College of Winterhold has three possible followers and two possible spouses within its walls. J'zargo, Onmund, and Brelyna Maryon are all potential college followers, J'zargo being the only on ineligible for marriage.
Because guild members can come and go at any hour of the day, joining a faction is wise for vampires, since there will be an abundance of sleeping guild-mates that can be accessed without breaking and entering, trespassing, or sneaking. Additionally, they provide safe havens that can be quickly entered to avoid sustaining Sun Damage.
Expulsion and availability
Factions possess some integral rules. Members cannot steal, murder, or attack other members of the guild without risking expulsion, arrest, or the faction's members becoming relentlessly hostile toward the Dragonborn. Some will desist if the bounty is cleared.
While most factions can be joined at any time throughout the main storyline, some factions can only be joined for a limited amount of time or are entirely unavailable upon joining another faction. In the former example, the Forsworn can be temporarily aligned with while fleeing Cidhna Mine, similar to the Hero of Kvatch joining the Mythic Dawn to temporarily advance the questline. In the latter example, the Skyrim Civil War has two clear sides: the Imperial Legion and the Stormcloaks. At a certain point within the Civil War questline, one side must be selected to the exclusion of the others; if the Stormcloaks are joined, the Imperial Legion cannot be joined and vice versa. The same rings true for Dawnguard's vampire hunters and the Volkihar Clan.
The College of Winterhold must be joined in order to advance the main storyline. Specifically, the "thu'um" must be demonstrated for Faralda at the college to gain entrance and learn about the Elder Scrolls in the quest, "Elder Knowledge". Hermaeus Mora's Daedric Quest is contingent upon joining the college as well. While the questline for the College does not need to be initiated or completed, admittance into the faction must be attained, if it has not be done beforehand, in order to advance these quests.
List of factions
Exceptions and special conditions
- The Circle is merely a Sub-Faction within The Companions.
- The Dragonborn is technically a member of the Dawnguard at the beginning of the first quest for the DLC, but they can then decide which faction they would prefer to join during "A New Order".
- The Greybeards are a non-joinable faction, but they will aid the Dragonborn after the main quest, if certain decisions are made.
- All factions that appear in Skyrim.
- Factions that only appear in lore sources, such as in-game books.
- ↑ Although Kodlak Whitemane is the guild's Harbinger, the Companions have been leaderless since Ysgramor formed it, according to Eorlund.
- ↑ Although the Thalmor was not intended to be joined, console commands can be forced admittance into their faction. This is done by typing
- The Elder Scrolls: Arena (First appearance)
- The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall
- The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim