An Analysis of the Skyrim Civil War, pt. 3: The True Path

  09:13:00 am, by   , 1277 words  
Viewed 6859 times since 03/29/15
Categories: Games, Elder Scrolls, Analysis

Author's Note: I apologize for the delay in getting the final part of this analysis posted. A change in my personal life has made it more difficult to find time to get this together in a timely fashion.


So here we are. After all that beating around the bush, it's finally time to answer the question that has dogged Skyrim players since the game's release: Which side should players take in the Civil War questline? In the previous part of this analysis, I discussed the role of the One True Dragonborn in the Skyrim Civil War, and how his participation would drastically alter the outcome. My ultimate conclusion was that neither the Stormcloaks nor the Empire were worthy of this mighty warrior's allegiance, and that giving his aid to either of them would have unfortunate long-term repercussions both for the people of Skyrim and for Tamriel as a whole.


The only remaining choice, then, would be to negotiate a ceasefire and remain aloof from the war, in what we might think of as allying with the Greybeards. This is the path that nobody seems to consider as being a legitimate option, and fairly so; it's hard to think of it as a true path when there's only a single quest devoted to it, which leads many to dismiss the Season Unending quest as a cop-out for people who can't be bothered to resolve the conflict before completing the main quest. From a gameplay standpoint, I'll admit that there's some truth to that statement. But you can't very well have a questline dealing with your actions in a war after choosing to stay out of it, and I refuse to believe that Bethesda, which goes to Tolkien levels of effort to build lore for the fictional universe they created, would program a quest for remaining neutral unless it could be tied into the lore. The path of neutrality is established not through the actions of the player, but through the game's own narrative in its depiction of the Greybeards, their philosophy, and the events surrounding the Dragonborn and the Civil War; the purpose of the Season Unending quest is to tie these narrative elements together, creating a third option for completing the Civil War which is not only viable, but the most preferable option of the three.

There are several reasons the Dragonborn must not take sides in this war, and I've already touched on some of them. For starters, he's the wild card, the deciding factor in the war. A one man army will cause the side he aids to win through his strength alone, but will make that side dependent on him as both a fighter and a symbol of its cause. If his allegiance changes or he dies (as all mortals do, dragon soul or not), then that side will have lost both a sizable portion of their military strength and a symbol to rally supporters around the cause. Furthermore, a new political entity would have to emerge regardless of who wins the Civil War. For the Stormcloaks, an independent Skyrim would emerge; for the Imperials, the success of the Skyrim campaign would lead to an attempt to retake the other provinces, in the hopes of restoring the Empire to its former glory. If the Dragonborn were to become involved in the Civil War, he would necessarily become a central political figure in the aftermath, as the winning side would petition his help against the Thalmor and other threats. He would become even more involved in the conflict than he already was, but would be unable to withdraw from it without destabilizing the political entity he helped to create.

These considerations are barely, if ever, mentioned in the game, but they are very real consequences of someone with as much power as the Dragonborn participating in political affairs. This is the reason the Greybeards remain aloof from the world: Much like the Dragonborn, they are too powerful. Even if they didn't take any formal positions or titles, their power would give them status and reverence among other political leaders, who would accept their counsel without question. Even in their current, isolationist approach to world affairs, they are already highly respected by the political leaders of Skyrim; Ulfric admits that “I have the greatest respect for the Greybeards, of course,” and Balgruuf outright admits that “They are respected by all Nords.” If they became any more involved in politics, the balance of power would become largely centered around them, and having the majority of power in the hands of a few is rarely a benefit, both to a government and the people it serves. Even if the Greybeards tried to use their influence to achieve more peaceful aims, they would end up doing more harm than good. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and even the Greybeards may be corrupted in time, as evidenced by Arngeir's threats after Paarthurnax is killed: “Begone! Before even my philosophy is tested beyond the breaking point.” The Way of the Voice is an essential philosophy for learning to use the Thu'um–lest we forget, the last time a mortal was trained to use the Thu'um without following the Greybeards' philosophy, he used his powers for regicide.

Then again, it would be equally irresponsible for the Dragonborn to do nothing at all with his power when he could be using it to help people. As Delphine so bluntly puts it, “If [the Greybeards] had their way, you'd do nothing but sit up on their mountain with them and talk to the sky.” Delphine's questionable understanding of the Greybeards aside, she brings up a good point. The threats to the people of Tamriel go beyond the dragons, and the Dragonborn has the power to stop these threats as well; consequently, he also has the responsibility to do so. Of course, Delphine would have him use his power to destroy the Thalmor as well, so following her is hardly better. Like all of the other players in the war, the portrayal of the Blades' philosophy provides only a small piece of the puzzle that is the true path intended for the Dragonborn. A hero of his nature has to be very careful about how he uses his power, and that means not getting involved in messy political disputes; his only recourse, then, is to protect people without allying himself with any organizations. By serving no master but himself and protecting innocent people from threats they can't stop themselves, the Dragonborn realizes his true potential as a hero, which goes far beyond stopping a single threat.


Being a freelance hero with no true political affiliations is not only the most responsible way for the Dragonborn to use his power, but the most suitable way to do things for the kind of heroes portrayed in Elder Scrolls games: They can't be tied to one group or place, because their power may be needed elsewhere. It's why Modryn Oreyn oversees the daily operations of the Cyrodiil Fighters Guild in the Champion of Cyrodiil's absence. It's why Tolfdir holds down the fort at the College of Winterhold once the Dragonborn becomes archmage. And it's (presumably) why the Nerevarine left Tamriel for an expedition to Akavir, never to be seen again. Now again, it could be argued that this is just a way to account for the nature of sandbox games without introducing plotholes, and again, it is. But anyone who doubts that the Dragonborn works best as a neutral hero need only ask Legate Rikke and Galmar, who will both say the same thing: “I suspect you'll be of greater good to Skyrim out there, in the world.

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Revision History: Pre-Order Tales of Tamriel, Vol. 1 - The Land

  09:58:00 pm, by   , 288 words  
Viewed 6309 times since 03/25/15
Categories: UESP, Analysis

Pre-order Tales of Tamriel here!

Make no mistake: 2015 is the best year ever to be an Elder Scrolls fan! There's crazy amounts of stuff going on, and I'll cover as much as possible next time. It's never been the plan to make these blogs so frequently, but these are a few awesome highlights I didn't want to wait on!

For one, The Tamrielic Town Crier came out yesterday. I just call it Required Reading.

And I have just kept forgetting to bring this up: Portable Skyrim!
Rose of Sithis started a room for the UESP forums: is a website that allows people to connect through music. You can create a room in which people can socialise. People can create their own playlist and put songs into their playlist and can choose to be in DJ queue and get the chance to share their songs with the room's audience. There's a chat which you can communicate to each other and there's also avatar customisation which you can change your look in It's a fun website which is very user friendly.

To quote AKB on the forum topic, "I have no clue what this is, but I am intrigued."

What About Boob Window?
Enodoc just created Online:Abbreviations and Terms. To me, this might be the most helpful and informative ESO page on the UESP to date. I'm sure it will only get better as things get added and player slang changes.

This is basically an Urban Dictionary for ESO. If you know of any common ESO terms which aren't on there, please add them! Or make a talk page suggestion, as I imagine that will eventually have to become a mandatory step for this page anyways.

Revision History: ESO Drops Mandatory Subscription

  10:26:00 pm, by   , 1683 words  
Viewed 8059 times since 03/22/15
Categories: UESP, Analysis

With the mandatory subscription gone, I can only assume ESO has seen a massive influx of new and returning players. Perhaps it's no coincidence that the UESP is seeing a small rise in new and returning contributors (welcome back, RIM!).

Update 3/23/2015- A new addition to the Loremaster's Archive is available, Songs of the Stars!

Public Service Announcement: The General Namespace
Some might not realize that the UESP has a General namespace, which is meant to provide general information related to the Elder Scrolls games. And unlike the Lore namespace, there are relatively few restrictions regarding how content is added and presented. This is the part of the site that is really dedicated to everything Elder Scrolls, but it hasn't gotten the attention it deserves. Developer information and interviews, coverage of fan fiction and other TES-related websites, etc. There's even a whole page for the Fishy Stick meme, and I'm sure there must be others we could cover. Why not have a page about the Boob Window, for example?

There's a lot of room for expansion in the General namespace, so please, share your thoughts on the Community Portal and/or the New Page Requests page if you have some ideas on what you'd like to see. Anyone can go right ahead and make improvements, of course, but for bigger additions, you're less likely to face any friction by getting some input from other contributors first.

What did you think they meant by "loyalty"?
The final Loyalty Rewards were distributed March 19, with the "loyaliest" people getting the Striped Senche-Tiger mount shown above. Thanks for paying to beta-test the game for us, folks; enjoy your cats and what-not.

Absolutely kidding! If you've been happy with your experience, fantastic, and I know a lot of people are. But I also know some people, like this guy, are feeling a little ripped off. To anyone out there who feels the way he does: sorry, and I really honestly can't thank you all enough! I hope you have still gotten a lot of enjoyment from the game and will continue to enjoy it.

If you see someone with one of these rewards, give them a bow. And maybe a sweetroll.

I want a flying minotaur, Jedi, a Dwemer airship, a BFG, levitation, Muatra, Master Chief, cars...
I really hope everyone out there is posting their wishlists for items available in the Crown Store. Let 'em know what you want to see in there, and just as importantly, what you don't want to see.

As it stands, there's some concern that some items might be a bit too generous, and risk turning the game into a Pay to Win arrangement.

Lag: They're working on it
Some players are really aggravated by latency in large-scale PvP battles, which are often creating essentially unplayable conditions depending on the number of players in close proximity to each other. According to Paul Sage, they'd hoped that Update 6 would help alleviate problems. This ultimately didn't work, but they're not giving up:

Actively, we are looking at changing the behavior of the players to remove incentives for large groups to stay in the same area. We want to do this by providing larger incentives for Alliances to split up and take on multiple-challenges in Cyrodiil. We’ll continue to work on this.

They are already pursuing changes to experience gains in trials and Cyrodiil, see here and here.

By the way, whenever the official site asks me for my age, I select April 1, with the oldest year option they have. I'm pretty sure that used to be 1899 or 1900, but now it's 1915, so ... I have discovered the Fountain of Youth.

Enlightenment Accrual Stretched to 12 Days

As discussed here, a day's worth of Enlightenment is needed to accrue a Champion Point each day (at a reasonable rate). Previously, you could only accrue Enlightenment for three days before it was capped. So if you didn't pick up the game and earn some XP after three days, you were bound to leave Enlightenment on the table.

In what seems to be a big crowd-pleaser, this cap has been raised to 12 days. This gives players a lot more freedom to set the game down for a while, and then binge on ESO as they see fit while still leveling efficiently.

The Grand ESO Mining Operation
Looking at the enormous range of placeholder pages, icons, etc., which are flooding onto the wiki, it's abundantly clear that we have a long road ahead. We now have roughly 10,000 pages and counting which are blank or close to it. It seems like it's going to take a decade, if not longer, to put all the meat on these bones.

I'm in. Come June, that is.

Perfecting Oblivion
While the pioneers are mining that new frontier, SerCenKing has been moving forward with the Oblivion NPC Redesign Project. He's put the finishing touches on a few pages recently, such as Bhisha from the Shivering Isles.

A cat? Who likes dogs?! My mind can't handle this madness!

Tamriel Rebuilt charges on
Despite all the buzz about ESO and other newer projects, people shouldn't forget that Tamriel Rebuilt is still slowly but surely moving forward. I just got Morrowind for PC, and I look forward to finally seeing Tamriel Rebuilt for myself. I've been reading about it jealously for years.

Just recently, the modder Glisp got the Esurio Viridius working! This was a giant, very grumpy venus flytrap which was planned for the very first version of Tamriel Rebuilt, but was scrapped due to bugs. They'll continue polishing it, if history is any judge, but check out an early demo below.

Now I want giant flytraps in ESO.

Random Stories of Seyda Neen
While perusing Tamriel Rebuilt's forums, I noticed that they have been having a discussion for about a month regarding Seyda Neen. They've got plans for a big Dwemer lighthouse, but there's concern over how it might contradict some lore about Seyda Neen's lighthouse, the Grand Pharos. While I can't be sure, I think this may have inspired a recent reddit topic, which then elicited an interesting backstory for the Grand Pharos from Michael Kirkbride. And all of this discussion naturally inspired a fan fiction.

After reading all that, I then got inspired to polish up the Seyda Neen lore page a little. There's no point here, I just found that interesting.

Final thoughts on the mandatory subscription - tl;dr
TES games have always been a cheap option. Since Arena all the way to Skyrim, the cost of the games are absolutely miniscule compared to the hours of enjoyment you can squeeze out of them, even if you're a filthy console player like me without access to mods. While you can't judge all facets of the matter so quantitatively, the fact remains that for much of the last two decades, TES has been a great option for penny-pinching gamers. Often the best option. I believe that this is a core strength of the TES franchise. But the mandatory subscription for ESO made their TES experience one of the most expensive gaming prospects out there.

I think, when the marketers decided on the pricing model, they overlooked this somewhat implicit expectation of the existing TES fanbase in favor of what they thought the existing MMO community would tolerate. Don't forget, they hyped the crap out of ESO before announcing the mandatory sub. And how could any existing TES fans at the time give appropriate feedback on the game's quality when they didn't know how much it would cost them?

People like me, and I think most diehard TES fans, are not done with a TES game "after three or four weeks". That's not how we play the games. Three or four years, on and off, is probably a better estimate (although I personally trend higher). A monthly subscription is entirely antithetical to how I, for one, enjoy playing the games.

Point is, while the MMO crowd may tolerate and even appreciate subscriptions for "keeping the riff-raff out", much of the existing TES community was not, and is not, tolerant of this model, and that doesn't make them all riff-raff. These are people who remember the Horse Armor Pack in Oblivion, as well as Hearthfire, the so-called "major" expansion to Skyrim. These are fans who, in other words, are justifiably reticent to pay for any and all premium TES content up front, without regard for its ultimate merit. That Zenimax is a different developer dealing in a different genre is irrelevant; Bethesda's "sister company" should still have appreciated and understood the history fans have had with the IP. I get where they were coming from - but I don't think they got where many of us were coming from. Or else they just didn't care.

I think it's fair to assume that a great percentage of TES fans have been forced not to play ESO due to their financial circumstances. I thought this was a tragedy, because there but for the grace of God go I. I was willing and able to pay a subscription, but I was and am also more than willing to tolerate free-loaders. The more, the merrier, as far I'm concerned. By making the barrier for entry so high relative to what it had been in the past, they were retarding their own game's potential by shutting out a lot of TES players. People whose love of the games is not determined by the size of their wallets - or their apprehension at being fleeced.

Anyway, the mandatory sub is gone now, and I hope the door hits its ass on the way out. Let us never speak of it again.

Bravo, Zenimax! You are inarguably making one of the best TES games of all time... for PCs, at least. Any TES fan who remembers the debacles with the PS3 version of Skyrim should reserve judgment on console ports until they see the final version, regardless of the developer. But my Imperial Edition is pre-ordered and I look forward to subscribing, because the last thing any of us want is for another TES masterpiece to be left unfinished.

Revision History: RIP Terry Pratchett

  11:02:00 pm, by   , 867 words  
Viewed 10570 times since 03/13/15
Categories: UESP, Analysis

Sir Terry Pratchett, who recently passed away surrounded by his family, was a satirist of the highest caliber. TES fans probably know him best for his numerous internationally-renowned fantasy novels, but as I learned recently (thanks, Damon), many PC players also remember and celebrate his collaboration in the Companion Vilja mods for Oblivion and Skyrim (see here and here respectively). Anyway, he will be missed.

Level Up
On a brighter note: Shuryard has become the UESP's latest Userpatroller! It's definitely well-deserved; she's quickly become one of the most prominent ESO editors on the site.

ESO Updates

Zenimax released The Tamriel Town Crier, Issue #7, and the latest installment of ESO Live was just uploaded here.

Edit- A quick breakdown of the ESO Live video, if you don't want to invest an hour: they're working on fixing Enlightenment issues for the next patch which are preventing some people from accumulating Champion Points. People really want their boob windows back. Reducing/removing shoulder pads was offered as a good way to make female characters appear more feminine, but they have no plans to delve into something like this at the moment. The new system for mounts has limited players' ability to customize their mounts. Zenimax wants to reintroduce customization options, but there's no immediate timeline. They're looking into increasing XP rewards in certain circumstances, such as in PvP, and might have an update regarding this in about a week. There was some talk (in the chat) about a new bug which prevents players from getting on a mount for up to several minutes after combat ends, and hopefully that will be resolved (apparently, vampires are having trouble using skill drains, too). Regarding the Justice system: they're in an observation phase for the time being, to see how people utilize it, but they have big plans to expand upon it in the future. For now, they continue to work on Orsinium - and the Imperial City.

News on Patch 1.6 is overwhelming; throw a rock and you'll find something. It has also been overwhelmingly positive, though I've seen suggestions that latency issues in PvP continue to effect a lot of players, perhaps even moreso after the patch. If you're having this problem, it's unlikely you're going to be doing any better when the mandatory subscription ends on March 17. But let's hope it's on the dev's radar.

A Freaking Gold Mine
Following Patch 1.6 for ESO, fans have been "data-mining" like crazy. I don't pretend to know exactly what it all entails, but I'm pretty sure it involves a Star Trek TNG episode where Mark Twain hung out with Whoopi Goldberg. Anyway, Daveh, Enodoc & Co. are steadily integrating the new icons, maps, etc., into the site.

Jimeee the Archivist, who recently completed a revamp of the Lore Library's main page, has been adding new books like Ysmir the Forefather, Volume IV and The Oath of Light. This stuff is simply blowing my mind. The next three months might as well be a year. It sucks being a console peasant (hey, I can say that; that's our phrase).

Rumors of the Spiral Skein is an older ESO book which we've somehow overlooked, but it's available now. Legoless has moved the page for Mephala's realm and updated it a bit. A good job, as always, but the thought of a Daedric Tower, and thus the potential for a host of other new Towers, is making my brain hurt. I mean, it's been indicated that there are Towers we don't know about, but Daedric Towers... ow.

Ark'ay, der Gott
Pursuant to this conversation, there's a Daggerfall page now set up for Ark'ay, der Gott, the German version of Ark'ay, the God of Birth and Death. Apparently, under rare and unknown conditions, you could actually find a German copy of the book in the English version of the game! Talk about a collectible.

Recent Changes

UESP forum administrator Alarra has been busy adding amazing screenshots like this one. Among other things, she has also been helping to update our Names appendices with ESO info. The neverending goal: to document each and every name for every person of every race in the games. If you think that's an easy project, I've got a Welcome template to add to your talk page. This is TES - documenting even something as straightforward as people's names is a job which is way too big for one person. Help out if you can!

It seems Forfeit is hard at work on the Morrowind Overhaul Project, which is aimed at bringing the Morrowind namespace up to par with the namespaces for the more recent games. He recently polished up the page for Skyrim's Deekus and filled out his schedule. I noticed talk page comments from 2013 suggest that Deekus is nonhostile to werewolves in Beast Form. There are dozens of unconfirmed bugs related to Beast Form, but if you're looking for something to do with your werewolf in Skyrim and you haven't already killed Deekus, stop by his camp when you're hairy and see how you two get along.

I'm skipping over a bunch of stuff, but I'll try to catch up next time. For now, I'll just leave you with Lorebits from Lady Freyja. Mmm, Morrowindy.

Revision History: Patch 1.6

  11:19:00 am, by   , 953 words  
Viewed 9141 times since 03/08/15
Categories: UESP, Analysis

We're very focused on business on the wiki. Which is great, because stuff gets done. But it's also a shame, because some events and achievements deserve a little more attention than a passing position on the Recent Changes list. We've got the news section on the main page, but that typically just covers the really big stories, and only briefly at that. There's always something happening on the site or in the greater TES community which is worth taking some time to acknowledge. So that's what Revision History is going to do.

My regret is that I can't possibly give everyone their due, and for that, I apologize. There's just too much happening. I mean, two decades later, and we're still touching up Arena content. Whether you're welcoming newcomers, answering questions, bringing the iron fist of justice to some unruly spam bots, or just hanging out in the forums, you all continue to astound me every day.

I really want to keep track of this stuff just so I can continue to learn more about this amazing series and community. If you have something to correct or something you want to add, please comment. You can also drop me an email or go to my talk page if you have a suggestion. Popular new TES sites, ESO events, a Youtube channel you like, a PSA, your favorite flipping fan fiction, I'll give anything TES-related some consideration. I'm especially interested in new developments related to the UESP itself, though, because if we don't talk about it, no one will. There's a lot of ground to cover for this initial entry, so let's get to it!

Patch 1.6
With Patch 1.6 for ESO now released, it seems many PvPers are struggling to determine how to best take advantage of the changes to the skills (which I suppose is the point). I thought videos from Deltia's Gaming helped give me a decent handle on the substantial changes and what they would mean for the game.

UespLog AddOn needs some tweaking in light of Patch 1.6. Any PC players using it, please report any problems on the article's talk page, and thank you so much for continuing to help the UESP gather data from the game. It's all way over my head, but I hope others are able to put it to good use.

This patch has changed a ton; some are saying it's like a whole new game in many respects. We'll be struggling to catch up to it for a while. But then, we were struggling to catch up before the patch. Please be patient, and help out if you can!

Hail, Doyen!
The recent addition to the ESO Loremaster's Archive, A Loathsome Civilization, left me giddy. I've seen some references to the Sload before which make me suspect ZoS is building up to a Sload storyline, so just the fact that they decided to focus on the slugmen now sent me off speculating like crazy.

On top of that, Doyen Legoless of the United Explorers of Scholarly Pursuits posed another damn good question during a brief moment where he wasn't adding some new ESO-related thing to the site. I don't know where he finds the time. I don't think he sleeps. Maybe it's an Irish thing.

I have to say that "Bertille Montrose" really had the best question, though. Sload Soap was this weird alchemy ingredient which has been making Morrowind fans do double takes for years. "What, wait the hell is in this basket? Sload ... soap?" It's wonderful to have such a disgusting clarification on the nature of the stuff.

Forgive me, Doyen.

Sidebar Updates

The UESP sidebar has gotten some work, but I think it still needs some more. It seems at this point like we should just lump all DLCs into "Official Add-Ons" links, as the current distinctions seem incongruous. Share your thoughts on the Community Portal (even though I've somehow neglected to do so).

A Squeak of Ice and Fire
IceFireWarden recently shared his incisive summary of Jel, the mysterious grunty-squeaky language of the Argonians which has long been under-documented on the UESP. I wish we knew more about it. IFW's translation for "Xhuth" is a little daring, but reading between the lines, it seems to be what the author of the novels intended. Anyways, many thanks!

Je ne savais pas que
I'm a nutso lore maniac, if you hadn't guessed, and learning something new about TES lore is always fun to me. Recently, Lady Freyja, administrator of the French wiki Le Grande Bibliothèque de Tamriel, has pointed out a few fascinating lore nuggets, such as an expanded French version of the Monomyth from Morrowind (found here). She has also been adding some bits of Skyrim lore which can only be found in the official Prima guide.

Meanwhile, Archivist Jimeee has been really living up to the title, and is cataloging ESO books faster than I can read them!

FA Nominations Needed!
Lore:Skyrim is due to be taken off the main page on March 25. Ideally, we should have another article successfully nominated and ready to go as our new Featured Article by then. ESO articles would be great right now, but feel free to nominate any UESP page you find really impressive! New nominations for Featured Images would also be great, though we've got a bit more time to work with there.

Up Next
I plan to make these regularly, but how regularly will depend on activity levels (both my own and the community's). But the mandatory subscription plan for ESO ends on March 17! So if there's not much else going on, I'm sure I could make a rant or twenty related to all that. :D

K, I'ma go watch Classic Elder Scrolls.