the artistry and psychology of gaming


Skyrim: A Roundtable Discussion

Skyrim: A Roundtable Discussion

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is a game of choices. Players can choose pretty much everything, from who they play, to how they play, and when they play it. Guilds and questlines can be completed in any order, often with a variety of methods and results for their completion, and the game’s stat system and perk tree assure that no two gamers will have exactly the same experience. On top of that, the game is not without it’s own set of moral dilemmas being thrown around that result in some lasting effects within the game world, and of course there’s that big civil war going on in the background as well. As a method of celebrating those choices to be had, we here at Gaming Symmetry thought it would be fun to go through a few alternate takes on the game, to talk about some of the more impactful moments experienced, and how we chose to carve a life out for ourselves as the most powerful being in Skyrim (and likely all of Tamriel).

Just in case this isn’t obvious, this topic will likely contain some serious spoilers for the game. Be warned!

David ‘BGH’ Kempe: Hey folks, and welcome to our Skyrim Roundtable! I’m joined today by my fellow author Ali Nazifpour. Readers may recall that the two of us have butted heads before when we debated the pros and cons of video games in film, but this time we may perhaps find a bit more to agree about; after all, we both love this game!

Part 1: The Dragonborn

David ‘BGH’ Kempe: To start us off, why don’t we get right to the very beginning and talk about character choice. What race did you choose? Did you follow Hadvar or Ralof out of Helgen? Did you like where it took you, or did you instantly regret it?

Myself, I figured I’d go a route I’d never done before, and chose to be an Imperial. Imperials weren’t even an option for Daggerfall (where I’d gotten my start with the series), so I wanted to have a turn at the race I had at one time considered my enemy. Ultimately it panned out alright, although that may have more to do with how adaptable every race is considering skill leveling. Still, I enjoyed the occasional rewards of “Imperial Luck” (Really, no matter how much money I have, I’ll still check every single urn for some extra coin, it’s just the way I am) and the “Voice of the Emperor” has saved my skin a few times when being swarmed by bandits early on.

Skyrim Imperial legion
A quick rest stop with friends; dragon attack within 5…4…3…

Leaving Helgen, I followed my fellow Imperial Hadvar through “Unbound” and never thought twice about it. On the way to Riverwood (I followed him all the way there), he threw out the idea of me joining the Imperial Legion, although it would ultimately be some time until I took him up on that. All in all, I’ve had fun with my choice, and while I’d every once and a while regretted not having those extra 5 levels of magicka for being an Altmer, I’m quite content with my foray into the Imperial way of living.

But enough about me, how about you, Ali?

Ali Nazifpour: I made myself a Nord, a race I had never been before. I followed Ralof out of the burning town, but he didn’t take me anywhere, we got separated just outside the town. I went out adventuring on my own and I went to the town where I could join the Stormcloaks after a long while, actually after finishing Companions and Dark Brotherhood guilds and going half-way through the main quest-line. Then I joined the liberation, and never even considered the Imperials. Once a guy on the road asked me if I wanted to join the Imperials, but then he died with two swords shoved in his stomach. But as I began the quests I was too strong to care for any reward they gave me, and I sold or stored in my house every reward I got from the Stormcloaks.

Skyrim Stormcloaks

So we're all in agreement, right? No shooting below the thigh.

David ‘BGH’ Kempe: Ha, well how do you like that; a Nord Stormcloak, and an Imperial… er, Imperial. I guess we lose some points for originality, but it does perhaps put us in an interesting position in regards to Skyrim’s political landscape, which we can get into a bit further on.

For now, I’m curious about one thing you mentioned; the two swords. Was dual wielding for 1-handed combat your offensive skill of choice? What skillsets did you choose to specialize in?

I’m primarily a spellcaster. Like you, I left the main quest fairly early, but I headed up North to the College of Winterhold (and actually didn’t return to the main quest until I completed the College, Companions, Theives Guild, and Civil War questlines, along with several Daedric quests). Starting at the college, I spent a lot of time with dual casting destruction magic, and later branched out into more magic skills in alteration, restoration, and conjuring. Magic was my number 1 priority, and I have to say that this was maybe the first game of this style where I felt comfortable hurling spells throughout without needing to revert to a sturdy backup weapon in a pinch (of course, enchanting in some spell cost reductions helped a great deal with this).

For physical weaponry, I really just got into stealth gameplay, using the damage multipliers and perks from sneak with bows (3x damage) and daggers (a whopping 15x damage). Archery was just fun gameplay, especially after you unlock the zoom, and backstabbing was ridiculously overpowered where it’d be hilarious to pull off every now and then.

So I guess you could classify me as a Mage/Thief hybrid, swapping between some noisy casting and silent killing; in fact I always carried two apparel sets to capitalize on this. How about yourself? What skills/trees did you find the most useful/entertaining?

Ali Nazifpour: Yes, that was my style. I excelled in One Handed Weapons and Heavy Armor, reaching 100 in both, and was also a very able Smith and Enchanter. I never shot an arrow during my whole gameplay, but sometimes used magic and my snaking also raised unintentionally when I played the Thieves Guild. And One Handed was the only skill that I acquired all perks of it. So yes, I was a warrior, and I used dual weapons. In this game after a while I used a certain set of weapons and apparel. I used, in my right hand, the companions’ sword, enchanted with the power of ice, and in my left hand a Daedric sword enchanted with fire magic. I called my fighting the Song of Ice and Fire! And I also spent a lot of time smithing and enchanting weapons and armor that I never used, but sold, or just kept.

Part 2: Questing through Skyrim

David ‘BGH’ Kempe: I like your elemental approach; slow them down with one hand, and tack on additional damage with the other. I can also certainly relate to your crafting experience, as I’ve enchanted enough iron daggers for profit to last several lifetimes.

It makes me wonder; where else can we find some common ground? What were the things that an Imperial Mage and a Nord Warrior could both benefit from? Was there anything; perks, items, enchantments, or a special skill perhaps, that you’d recommend for everyone to track down? Throwing play-styles out the window, is there anything in Skyrim that you’d argue has an almost-universal value?

… outside of troll skulls of course.

Ali Nazifpour: I believe there are many things all gamers will profit from, and the most obvious ones are shouts. These are the things which were really unique, and you had to go through a lot of problem obtaining them, first track them down and learn their words, then kill a dragon to unlock them. They are your personal treasures, the sweat of your own brow, and they are useful to you regardless of your class and race and how you play the game. And they are cool powers as well. Also I think any gamer should track down all Daedric artifacts that are rewarded to you after completing the Daedric quests. Azura’s Star is perfect for us the enchanters, as I’m sure you’ve come to discover yourself. Even if the artifact is useless to you because of your own skillset you can still sell it and become rich.

David ‘BGH’ Kempe: I also enjoyed the variety of shouts to find, and really enjoyed having all those abilities at my disposal at no cost to my carry weight or magicka. Definitely worth tracking lots of those down. I generally agree on the Daedric artifacts as well (plus those quests are worth experiencing!), however I would recommend the Black Star over Azura’s, as Black Soul gems are harder to come by, yet easier to fill for a Grand Soul equivalent. To speak more about enchanting, the “Banish Daedra” enchantment is the most valuable if you’re looking to turn a profit, so that’s worth trying to learn. Just to add in a few more noteworthy findings as well, I’d also recommend looking into earning the “abilities” that give off a few permanent stat increases; in particular, the “Ancient Knowledge” (smithing increases 15% faster), “Agent of Mara” (15% resist magicka), and “Sailor’s Repose” (healing spells cure 10% more). Lastly, I’d throw in the Skeleton Key, which automatically unlocks all doors and chests requiring lockpicking, although not everyone may be for it as it calls for an abandonment of the Thieves Guild line towards the end; plus lockpicking isn’t that hard anyway, even without perk investments.

Ali Nazifpour: Now let me ask you a question. This is a debate which goes on parts of the internet I don’t think any of us is part of, among Twilight fans. Now, Skyrim fans can ask the question as well. Vampire or Werewolf, or none?

I was a werewolf the entire game. This I think is the logical choice. The disadvantages are only a few, as I was never the sleeping type or the not-bloodthirsty type, and the advantages are many, as you are suddenly stronger, tougher, harder to kill, and nothing beats transforming into a raging wolf and killing your enemies. Plus, if there has to be an afterlife, I prefer to spend it hunting rather than partying in an eternal drunken frat golden palace.


Skyrim Werewolf
The Dragonborn maintains a high protein diet

David ‘BGH’ Kempe: Oh, I’m with you on this one; Team Jacob all the way. The Werewolf’s 100% disease resistance already makes lycanthropy worthwhile, but that it also comes with an additional moveset and some speedy terrain travel (I’m not sure, but I believe beast form is faster than horses) makes the curse a real blessing in disguise, well worth the price of the “well-rested” bonus, or the occasional 1000 bounty (heck, I’m a Thane in most holds anyway).

Being a werewolf also seemed to fit in well with my solitary lifestyle. Sure, I’d help people out and make a name for myself in the towns. Still, I can’t say I ever made use of followers, as they seemed to enjoy hopping in front of my spells a bit too much. Conjuring Atronachs and Arniel Gane’s shade was all the help I wanted if any at all. I also never bothered to get married or buy any animals. What about you? Any friends you enjoyed taking into battle, or a certain someone to come home to (wherever that might be)?

Ali Nazifpour: This is actually one of the very few areas where The Elder Scrolls series is inferior to other games. I love Bioware games solely for the supporting characters, and I believe even their greatest game (Dragon Age: Origins) would be nothing if not for characters like Morrigan and others. But no TES game that I know of casts any character which is anything but a foil in your adventures. They come and then are forgotten when the adventure ends. So no, I felt absolutely no motivation to have any follower or to marry anyone. While playing Dragon Age: Origins I really fell in love with Morrigan, and I remember all the characters from the two Mass Effects and the second game as old friends. But press me hard and I will remember no worthy character from either TES game but my majesty the hero. Even the other Bethesda title Fallout 3 was better.

David ‘BGH’ Kempe: I suppose I agree with you; it certainly didn’t help that characters cycled through a relatively thin voice cast either. Come to think of it, J’zargo is the only non-housecarl/companion follower name I can remember, and that’s only because he liked to talk in the 3rd person!

Ali Nazifpour: I have a question for you. If you were in Skyrim, which religion would you choose? Assuming that none is not an option.

As a Nord, I’m expected to worship Talos, but he can suck it, since he’s not cool enough. My god of choice is Sithis, because he represents death and destruction, and the dark side of life. He is older than all gods, being only a void, a nothing. I love him because he seems a truer god to me. To me the universe is ultimately a dark and unpleasant place and if there really is a God, he is like Sithis.

David ‘BGH’ Kempe: Gee Ali, who went and stole your sweetroll? That sounds awfully depressing; you might as well join up with those baby-eating Namira followers!

In all seriousness though, it’s a very interesting question, and your answer is grounded in some fascinating lore, provided you are comfortable in trusting the histories of the Dark Brotherhood. I think Lorkhan proves quite an interesting choice, being a forgotten creator integral to the dawn of Nirn, but who’s involvement with Tamriel since it began has virtually ended (I’d consider that a plus). Akatosh would also make a reasonable choice for being the chief deity of the divines, and representing time itself. Many of the Aedra represent ideals I would align with, while Daedric princes each represent undeniable truths to be found within the world. Really, pulling from any one of them can often contradict with the other, making any firm stands alongside either Aedra or Daedra while denying the others is an act of pure madness.

For that reason, I vote Sheogorath. When in doubt, go for crazy.

Ali Nazifpour: Haha! I love your answer!

Is there any particular guild that you consider your home? I know this is a strange question, since we can be the commander of all the guilds and factions, but yet, is there anyone you truly belong to?

To me, in Skyrim, it was the Companions. Their story is really interesting and I really felt among a band of brothers and sisters, and at the end they really made me feel like their commander. I also love the Dark Brotherhood storyline.

David ‘BGH’ Kempe: I’ll say the Thieves Guild; the place restores its former glory with you at the helm and is an abundant source of interesting radial quests and commerce. People there have a certain charm that’s both intimidating and respectful, and you feel the Guild’s influence throughout Skyrim through it’s network of contacts and “fencers” at the other cities.

Part 3: The Civil War

David ‘BGH’ Kempe: Well Ali, we’ve had some fun looking back at the game, and managed to find some agreeable positions, but I just have to ask you more about the civil war. I’m afraid we’re still quite divided here. We’ve already established that you joined the Stormcloaks, while I chose the Legion. I stand by my choice, and while I am not in favor of the continued pressure of religious persecution, I feel the Stormcloaks ultimately were working against the greater good. What about you?

To start us off, Albert Camus once said “Every act of rebellion expresses a nostalgia for innocence and an appeal to the essence of being.” Would you view the Stormcloak rebellion as such? And if so, is that necessarily a positive thing?

Skyrim Civil War
It’s time to take sides at last! For Skyrim!

Ali Nazifpour: Well I think Stormcloaks had their share of bad things as well, for example their Nord racism is not a very good thing. But at the same time this is their only demerit, and not all of the Stormcloaks are like that. I predict that in future I will be the Jarl of one of these great houses and I will be the King in the new Kingsmoot. This might actually happen in a future patch or if not, I can still imagine the future to unwrap this way. Then I will make Skyrim a land which welcomes everyone and not only Nords. I will fight against racism when I gain power! Anyways, I digress. Bottom-line is, I think the Stormcloak cause is the right one.

I’m impressed that you relate the Stormcloak rebel to Camus. Camus was an Algerian by origins and therefore his idea of rebellion was greatly influenced by the idea of colonization while Sartre’s rebellion was a lot more personal and philosophical.

Undoubtedly the Stormcloak identity is a nostalgia for an innocent past, and their paradise is also an idea of that past continuing well into the future, into eternity. In that aspect they are a reactionary group, because they yearn for a lost identity, something which has been systemically repressed during the ages. It is not accidental that Imperials forbid the praying of Talos, as what really separates the Nord and Imperial culture is the identity of the creator, to the Nords he is Talos the God, while to the Imperials he is Tiber Septim, the emperor. The Imperials repress what differentiates their culture from the Nords’, and by this they actually try to expand their own culture to include Skyrim as well.

But the Stormcloaks still believe in Talos and their fight for Talos is not merely a fight for religious freedom, but a fight for their cultural identity. In that sense, their fight is a fight for an essence of being, as you mentioned. What has come under threat is their essence, and how is it different from the essence of other cultures, and therefore their rebellion is not merely a reaction against the Imperials but also a struggle to define themselves.

David ‘BGH’ Kempe: I see, so you feel that the war is more than just Talos worship; it’s about protecting the Nord way of life. I can certainly agree that the Imperial influence over the Nords has been less than optimal, stemming further back to the misuse of Nordic forces recounted in the book “The White Queen of Solitude.” In addition, the results of the “White-Gold Concordat” that banned Talos worship was, in essence, a bargaining chip from the Imperials that shouldn’t have been theirs to cast. However, at the same time this was the act that ended the Great War, and was not an act the Imperials willingly passed without the knowledge that the Empire, and quite possibly all of Tamriel would otherwise be overrun by the Aldmeri Dominion. If that had occurred, the Nords would’ve been in even more trouble, as it’s the Thalmor who hold the real grudge against Talos. Such an act would tell me that Imperial motivations were not just political in nature, but acting for the preservation of all cultures as best as they can be preserved.

It’s the Nords that I would question if they had their way, as we’ve already seen how they very much function within their own self interests. They are a warring people by nature, with a long history of military advances and seizures in all neighboring provinces, and even their own in driving the native Snow Elves underground. We have also seen how their would-be High King Ulfric acts, calling for the relocation of Windhelm’s Dunmer and Argonian populations to poorer secluded areas, and across Skyrim the Khajiit merchants are forbidden to enter their cities due to racial profiling. You are correct that not all Nords would agree with this behavior, however these were all regulations passed by Nords under their own motivations, not from the motivations of outsiders, as was the case with the Imperials.

Perhaps the only documented regulation from the Nords that would indicate any compassion towards the other races is the “Decree of Monument” at Refugees’ Rest, but even still, it’s a decrepit old building that actually serves the Nords more than the Mer being honored. “Let no Man or Mer say that the Sons and Daughters of Kyne are without mercy or honor,” reads the decree. Can it really be in the best interests of Tamriel if Skyrim obtains its independence, and the Empire cuts its ties to a people that have willingly taken so much, yet continue to hold others in their debt?

Ali Nazifpour: Well, according to the Stormcloaks the whole Skyrim is already dominated by the Aldmeri Dominion. The presence of the Thalmor in the whole country is evidence of that. You have been to the College of Winterhold and you have seen how influential they are and what evil things they plan. We think you simply used us as a bargain chip to save your own sorry skins, and nothing would be different for Skyrim whether or not you were saved or crushed during the Great War. We are the biggest losers of the War, and we have been misused against our will.

As I’ve said before, racism is a real problem of the Nords in the Skyrim. And you are not wrong to blame Ulfric, but it’s not entirely his fault. Ulfric is facing real pressure from the more radical wings of our cause and he would lose the battle if he acted solely ideally on this matter. I believe he’s not a racist at heart.

But if we’re talking about Human Rights, your scale is heavier. When I entered the Skyrim, I was a prisoner. Your guards didn’t know my crime, yet they decided to behead me anyway, just because. So much for due process! Ulfric would give people liberty, the Imperials take away their liberty. Ulfric is the king whom people want, Imperials are colonizing tyrants. Yes, the Nords are a warring nation, but so are Imperials. But the Nords fight for honor while the Imperials fight for money and power. At least we bring justice and honesty to the land. The Imperials are not racist in that they oppress all cultures equally.

David ‘BGH’ Kempe: Ulfric? Ulfric is a pawn for the Thalmor as much as he is for Nordic supremacists. Every move Ulfric has made since the Great War has ultimately been to the benefit of the very group that would actively persecute his own people.

The Thalmor Dossier on Ulfric (found at their Embassy during the main quest) describes in detail how their organization manipulated Ulfric behind the scenes to exploit his influence as Jarl, and that he remains an asset to the Thalmor (they were even en route to save him at Helgen), and that for a time, the documents even implied his cooperation and maintaining a level of contact. The dossier exclaims that an Imperial victory in the civil war would harm their position in Skyrim (moreso than a Stormcloak one). Now what could be more justifiable than that?

A unified empire is the only chance to prevent a full takeover by the Thalmor, and since the Great War, the Aldmeri Dominion has been strategically dismantling the Empire’s forces. The Empire was already forced to release Hammerfell through Aldmeri involvement, and now with the civil unrest in Skyrim, the Empire would be split between Cyrodil and High Rock. In leading Ulfric to kickstart the civil war (whether he knew he was working to their advantages or not), the Thalmor had effectively turned the Empire’s strongest fighting forces against each other. By keeping the civil war alive, the size of the Aldmeri opposition decreases dramatically.

Thalmor referred to the Great War as “The First War with the Empire,” implying there will be another; a concern General Tullius is also well aware of. Ulfric is blinding all of Skyrim to the real threat due to his stubborn pride to continue on, even if it means that their victory also seals their ultimate fate.

Skyrim Map 4E
The Civil War would split the Empire in more ways than one

Ali Nazifpour: First off; quoting the dossier itself, it’s pretty clear that Ulfric is not working directly with the Thalmor. “Direct contact remains a possibility (under extreme circumstances), but in general the asset should be considered dormant.” The fact that we have a common enemy doesn’t mean that we’re operating with each other.

Secondly, we don’t care what happens to the whole empire. Why should we? You don’t get it, the Empire and the Thalmor are the same to us. Plus, we have been prosecuted and repressed more by you. The Nords hate the Thalmor a lot but if you simply look at the facts we have suffered more at your hands than at the hands of the Thalmor. Yes, you explain well that why Skyrim liberation is really really bad for the Empire. But you don’t explain to me why should I care. Actually, it explains why should I care, but for the Thalmor.

Again, I don’t know how Skyrim will approach its foreign policy after Ulfric is king. We might as well ally with the Thalmor if they decide to attack you. I am not and never was a Talos worshiper or a Nord nationalist. My main motive in joining Ulfric was my hatred of the Empire, and my ultimate goal is to see the heads of the last emperor and his last supporters rolling and putting the Imperial City to flames and ruins. If there is later a fight between the Cyrodiil and the Thalmor and Skyrim decides to aim the Empire I will certainly change my alliance. I won’t fight for the Thalmor, but sure as hell they’re welcome to take over the whole empire if they will leave Skyrim alone.

And then we wouldn’t need you aid in defending Skyrim. If we succeed to kick you out of the Skyrim we can easily defend it from any invader. Skyrim is a cold harsh land with a warring people, and it’s very hard to conquer. Plus, the Thalmor priority would be conquering the Empire and not Skyrim. So, this would not harm Skyrim in any way.

David ‘BGH’ Kempe: Since we’re playing the quoting game, here’s the line right before yours: “The so-called Markarth Incident was particularly valuable from the point of view of our strategic goals in Skyrim, although it resulted in Ulfric becoming generally uncooperative to direct contact.” This would indicate cooperation to direct contact prior to these events. I don’t believe he is willingly working for the Thalmor during the civil war, yet his actions do still benefit them.

And now for your typical Nord response. You’ve no care for what happens in this world, as long as Skyrim is left alone. Your head is so filled with hatred towards Imperial colonization that you’ve become blind to the genocide looming by your feet. The Thalmor aren’t after the destruction of the Empire; they care for nothing less than total domination across Tamriel and the re-establishment of elven rule. Their actions are fueled by lingering revenge against our own common bond of Tiber Septim for stopping the Aldmeri Dominion of the 2nd Era. Do you really believe that once the Aldmeri Dominion absorbs Cyrodil (which would surely happen) they would stop there, and allow the very land of his origin, where their enemy is worshiped as a God, to continue on as normal? Your Nord racism is nothing compared to the Thalmor, and once their dream of a unified elven rule is realized, there will be very little to stop them from acting on it.

I would burn the Imperial City to the ground myself if it meant the continuation of mankind. Hell, I would even be for an independent Skyrim, just not today. My motives are not for the preservation of the Empire, but of humanity. Each day this rebellion continues, our numbers weaken on each side. Secession further isolates our already weakened forces by complicating trade routes and hindering troop movements, to which the Thalmor will be able to pick off provinces one by one over time, each wave coming back stronger than the last due to the terrain and resources they claim. That is why I fight; to put an end to this nonsense quickly that we may focus on the real threat together.

You say Skyrim will defend without aid, but make no mistake; remain alone, and Skyrim will surely fall. It may even be last to fall, but against the combined forces of all Tamriel, it would be blown to Sovngarde.

…except for us, that is… Go Team Jacob!

Ali Nazifpour: As I’ve said before, we believe that Empire is already a slave to the Thalmor. You don’t seem to be in a hostile mood towards the Thalmor you know. Heck, if you hadn’t outlawed worshiping Talos, if you hadn’t brought those Thalmor to our country, we wouldn’t rebel in the first place. Have you forgotten that Ulfric was once a soldier of the Empire? Didn’t he fight the Forsworn? Wasn’t he promised that Talos worship would be legal, but then the Jarl of Markarth bent the knee to the Thalmor? The whole reason that we rebelled against you is your being the puppets of the Aldmeri Dominion. There would be no rebellion in the first place if you continued to fight them. You are nothing but mere servants! Now you claim that we must make common cause against your masters? Do you take us for fools, oh Blue Hero of Cyrodiil?

But although you lie, let me give the benefit of the doubt. If we are to believe you, let us worship Talos and restore us to our dignity. You have humiliated us, apologize. And then we will stand beside you in the war against the Thalmor. Address us as your companions, not as your servants.

But will you do that?

David ‘BGH’ Kempe: We are not puppets, we are rationalists that work to minimize the casualties of all peoples across the Empire at the expense of compromise; a practice the Nords could learn to utilize more. Do not misinterpret our inability to prevent their actions for alliance; many Legionaires are vocally against the Thalmor presence in Skyrim, such as General Tullius, Legate Rikke (a Talos worshipper herself), and Legate Fasendil, who opposes the Thalmor even though he is Altmer. The only puppet I can see is your leader, as his actions have been guided ever since the Thalmor turned him loose.

Ulfric’s battle with the Forsworn occurred with no involvement from either Imperial forces or the Thalmor (although I might question what may have incited Ulfric to deploy in the first place, as the Empire was already working on a peace treaty), and the promise of worship was agreed on and recanted by the Jarl, a fellow Nord who ultimately had no choice in either matter. And if I might add, Ulfric’s treatment of the situation only furthers the selfish inconsistencies of his cause.

The Forsworn may be the most victimized people in all of Skyrim. You speak of religious persecution and humiliation, yet has the Empire or Thalmor initiated anything less severe than what the Nords have over The Reach? Several sources dictate that the Forsworn were the true native inhabitants of the land (primarily Bretons descending from High Rock), and that their lasting depiction as “The ‘Madmen’ of the Reach” is of Nord manufacturing, first by driving their society and beliefs into the ground, then later asserting dominance and oppression over their people and conspiring to exploit their reputation for Nordic self intrests. In truth, we discover in the book “The Bear of Markarth” that during the years in which the Forsworn took back Markarth, the Reach was relatively peaceful for all races. However, once Ulfric stormed in, he and his army committed countless war crimes against all peoples of the Reach to force the region back into submission, torturing and executing many (even local Nords) without that “due process” you so asked for. And now that Nord rule is established again, we are even witness to Nords within Markarth’s walls that impersonate the Forsworn and commit acts of terrorism in their name so as to maintain their outcast reputation under false pretenses. I do not sympathize with the Forsworn, as like the aforementioned Snow Elves, they seem to have devolved into unruly brutes by now. Still, I find it difficult for the Empire to merit an apology to Skyrim when Skyrim won’t apologize to its own people, and that the “oppression” fueling the Nord uprising by Ulfric is nothing but hypocrisy at its finest.

No, my friend. The Empire would not complete your requests, and rest assured that this is no lie, as we know full well that you would not complete ours. You say you would stand with us against the Aldmeri, but with each of your demands met, you would be content to sit comfortably while Cyrodil is overrun, and you provide no evidence either through historical or current actions to imply otherwise. You would sooner invade High Rock than rush to our aid unprovoked. You are a nation of takers, and only when others take from you would you cry foul, even if the alternative provides nothing better. Skyrim (and by that I mean all of Skyrim) needs the Empire to be saved from its own people. The Emperor has asked for silence, while Ulfric has asked for death; it is as simple as that.

Ali Nazifpour: All that I know of the Forsworn is that they attack me without asking questions first. They are a savage brutish tribe and they always have been, and they deserve to be killed. If they stop attacking people and their acts of terror then I would sympathize with their sufferings, but they have brought it upon themselves. They are a threat to all people. Snow Elves are ancient history and I don’t care. As I’ve said, I’m not a Nord nationalist and I don’t think the Nords are right in everything they do.

However, if you are right, and there has been undue executions and torture, I condemn it here today. Once I’m the High King of Skyrim I will compensate for it.

And still, if you are right, still Ulfric is the lesser of the two evil. At least people of Skyrim want Ulfric, at least he’s motivated by honor in his fight and not greed, at least he won’t rob people’s money. At least he will give people their basic freedoms. If he’s a racist and he suppresses other races, at least he won’t suppress all races equally.

You are rationalists indeed, but what you care for is not the civilian lives. What you care for is money and power. The Empire has always cared for money and power. It has colonized and brutilized all people around Tamriel for that. The compromise that you speak of is Skyrim, as you have handed it to the Aldmeri for your own purposes. You say that we would like to see Cyrodiil burn and you’re right, but you need to ask yourself why. Why would we not want to aid you? Aren’t Skyrim and the other parts of Tamriel old historical allies? Didn’t we fight alongside you before? The reason that Skyrim won’t stand beside you is that you were first to desert Skyrim. You betrayed us first. And now you say you won’t meet our conditions to fight before you, it is because that is your strategy. Screw Skyrim so the Aldmeri will leave you alone. You don’t care for Skyrim, you can’t expect anything from Skyrim.

The Emperor has asked for silence, and silence is obedience and surrender. Ulfric asks for liberty, and yes, liberty may bring more deaths. But we don’t care. That’s the difference between the Imperials and the Nords. We live for honor, not for safety, or comfort, or money, or power. As the great Putrick Haunry used to say: “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty Kynareth! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, Give me Liberty, or give me Death!”

Your way of life will bring nothing but humiliation and disgrace upon the brave people.

Part 4: Conclusion

David ‘BGH’ Kempe: Almighty Kynareth indeed. Well Ali, it seems as though we’re each pretty hard set on our choices, and each of us were able to find plenty of game-related evidence to support ourselves. I would however like to point out that I feel it is quite impressive overall that the game has provided us with such a large amount of content to reference – who would really expect a war within a video game to have such an intriguing backstory with development given to both sides of the equation!

Any final words you’d wish to add about the game, civil war or otherwise before we wrap up?

Ali Nazifpour: I wanted to use this opportunity to praise the game as well. In most games the fight is between one evil side and one good side and all matters are simplified. But in Skyrim, like in reality, the both sides have their arguments and can prove their grounds, and both have their own fair share of good and evil. The game deals with topics like war, diplomacy, colonization, national identity, liberty, and other themes in a very complicated manner, and this is just one of the many things which makes it an absolute masterpiece.

David ‘BGH’ Kempe: No argument here! That’ll conclude our Skyrim roundtable; I’d like to thank you all for reading through our alternate takes on the game’s contents, and hope you may have enjoyed them as much as we did in writing them down. Until next time, may the Gods watch over your battles, friends.

One Comment

  1. Interesting content on the other hand I would like to explain to you that I think there is trouble with your RSS feeds when they appear to not be working for me. Might be just me but I was thinking I would suggest it.

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