Skyrim - Uncivil War
Dragonborn and Dawnguard were not installed as of this writing.
I don't know how well it will work on other versions, or with the expansions installed. That will come later.
Content WarningAgain, this is Skyrim. It's a game about people who go around chopping each other's heads off.
If you don't like that, stop reading now.
You ain't seen nothing like it, not since the Civil WarMy gut instinct on first play, was to side with the Stormcloaks, as the oppressed minority and also because the Empire tries to murder you when the game starts. I think most people who have played the game tend to choose this path. However, the designers have done a stellar job of making it so that nothing is cut-and-dried.
Ulfric may seem kind of nice, but he did execute the entire city of Markarth some 20 years ago.
I mean sure, it was a long time ago and he might regret it now, and I guess Lynx has executed even more people himself, but there's absolutely no guarantee he won't do it again. Ultimately he is a politician, and as such his goals seem to be more those of becoming High King and shitting on the other races than actually making Skyrim better.
To be sure, after you have brought him to victory and kicked out the Empire, the Nords are just as abusive towards the other races as they were before, with the Dark Elves still living in a ghetto in Windhelm and the Argonians - reptiles from warmer climes - forced to live by the docks, in the cold. The fact that the entire Liberation was only made possible by a cat is apparently lost on Ulfric and his cronies.
The other problem is that of all the holds of Skyrim, most of the Jarls I got on with best were those allied to the Empire, so not only did I end up with the outlanders still being mistreated, but my friends were replaced with a bunch of assholes. Worst of all, the roving bands of Thalmor and Imperial execution squads ceased to operate, and hunting those down is half the fun of the game (and also my main source of income).
On the flipside, the Empire try to have you beheaded without even a charge (let alone a trial!) as soon as the game starts, and General Tullius' apology later on is singularly half-hearted, and condescending, if not outright sarcastic. The fact that they publicly decapitate Rogvir on a trumped-up charge as soon as you enter their capital city doesn't help, but the worst part is that they're in league with the Thalmor who, apart from being fascists, want to ban the worship of Talos for no good reason.
So it was a bit of a challenge to steel myself up and actually take the Imperial shilling. Much procrastination was had with Lynx before he finally applied to join the Empire. However, this doesn't mean that Lynx likes the Thalmor. And at the end of the Civil War quest - whichever side you pick - Tullius confesses he doesn't like them either.
In any case, going it alone against the entire world doesn't really make sense, and as Tullius points out, the bigger deal is the fact that the Thalmor will shortly try to backstab the weakened Empire. An isolated Skyrim would be invaded at that point and would have to bear the entire brunt of that attack itself, rather than pooling resources with the rest of the Empire. Once the Thalmor have had their heads panned in, Talos worship will be back in short order, mark my words.
Pax ImperialisFirstly, you'll be sent off on an initial proving mission, in my case, lopping the heads off many bandits occupying a fort that the Imperials would rather like to have back. Stormcloaks are sent to an iceberg somewhere instead.
Having formally signed up with the Imperials, I was promptly made to feel a welcome addition to the Legion, courtesy of a racial slur about sweetrolls given by one of the guards outside Castle Dour.
It is not clear why a normal person would ever insult somebody wearing Dark Brotherhood armour, since it means that they're either a member of the notorious murderer's guild, or so badass that they've killed one of the legendary Dark Brothers, stolen their shit and have absolutely no fear of reprisals.
Rather than cause trouble for General T by beheading his man on the spot, I took the alternative approach of looking at him funny and then causing him to drop dead for no explicable reason using the KILL command.
Your first real task is to retrieve the fabled Jagged Crown from a tomb somewhere in the vicinity.
This is pretty straightforward, but whether the thing is retrieved for Tullius or Ulfric, it is fun to wear the crown while delivering it, thus staking your claim to the High King's throne.
This treason goes entirely unremarked-on, as does the presence of followers such as Inigo or Kharjo during the military operation.
"One tires of jellybabies. One tires of everything - except absolute power!"
Ignoring the guards tending the corpse of Mr. Sweetroll and promising dire vengeance, I stopped to consider the best strategy to use for the next mission.
The Whiterun FiascoGeneral Tullius will order you to deliver a message to Jarl Bogroll, forcing him to pick a side.
The good General was apparently unaware that I have a price on my head there for murdering Thalmor Inquisitors, and I didn't volunteer this information.
As an experiment I had earlier constructed a ring of 4000000% sneak, so I decided to use that.
Crouching, I made my way undetected to the Jarl, appearing suddenly before his eyes to deliver the message.
For reasons of his own, he ignored the fact that I was his own Thane (albeit the wayward one of Thalmor-beheading infamy) and treated me as if we had never met before.
The conversation was suddenly interrupted as a guard recognised me for the criminal I was and ran towards the Jarl, sword drawn.
At this, Bogroll broke off the conversation saying he had a city to run, and promptly attempted to kill me.
It is possible to rush through the conversation and get everything out the way quickly before the guard sees you, but this does only work if Jarl B's personal guards aren't present.
Jarl Bogroll will send you to Ulfric with an axe, and no further instructions.
This may have been a mistake, since someone dressed in Dark Brotherhood armour who's wanted for mass-murdering Thalmor is liable to draw the wrong conclusions about what is expected of him.
"I want you to 'give' Ulfric this axe. Understand? Good!"
Assuming you return from Windhelm with the answer (rather than attempting to use the axe on Ulfric), things will turn quite ugly. You'll be sent upstairs to Legate Quentin Crisp who informs you that in the 90 seconds since entering the city, it has suddenly been surrounded by catapults and stormcloaks who were presumably using a mass-illusion spell to make themselves invisible.
If you have been doing weird sneaking tricks to avoid having to deal with a bounty, this is the point where everything will unravel, because Legate Crisp will attempt to arrest you. In my case, this was made worse by Inigo and his overzealous attempts to protect me. To try and avoid this I systematically murdered every guard in Whiterun, using the Sneaky Ring so that nobody would see me doing it - apparently it was considered normal for the heads to randomly just fall off guards.
This did not aid matters much, and Crisp arrested me anyway. Since the bounty was under 2000 gold coins, I pleaded Thaneship...
At which point he let me go and immediately arrested me again, demanding I pay the fine of 0 gold coins.
Having arrested you, confiscated anything you stole from the usurper Ulfric's dinner table, and written a formal caution, Crisp will finally remember that minor detail about the Stormcloaks invading the town, and orders you to help defend it.
After the battle, Jarl B will give his troops a rousing speech, before heading back into the city. At this stage you should report back to General T.
Just A Bunch Of MurdersNext you'll be sent to the Pale, to find and murder a Stormcloak Courier. It is worth remarking that Dawnstar won't notice their courier has suddenly grown a tail, even though Ulfric's movement is largely founded on racism. Worryingly, those present will still remark on your famed exploits as the Dragonborn.
Unlike the Stormcloaks, the Imperials are smart enough to know that you're in disguse and will ignore the fact that you're dressed as an opponent.
After that, you'll be sent to Fort Dunsinane, or possibly some other fort in the area depending on how randomised the missions are. You're supposed to meet up with your comrades for the attack. It would be cute to sneak in and murder everyone by stealth and let your colleagues know they are no longer required, but unfortunately the game is wise to this. As soon as people start dying your comrades will enter the fort, and mark you down as a loose cannon.
Next up is Riften, where you're sent to try and blackmail the steward. Since she's crooked as hell, this is easy. Amusingly, I had opted to stealth-murder the guards as was done at Whiterun. This caused her to utter the words "Stay close and the guards will leave you alone". Which is true, since they have all been sent to Sovngarde.
The steward tells you of a wagon containing many weapons and much gold. In a convenient twist, you're given the option of single-handedly massacring the folks tending it. Next you'll be taking over a couple more forts before taking on Windhelm itself.
The Final FramePrior to the Windhelm assault, I decided to have a little fun in the 'Palace of the Kings Upstairs'.
Using the Sneaky Ring, I located Ulfric's bedroom and found him lying fast asleep.
Dropping things on his head didn't wake him up, but this did:
Afterwards, he prowled around the room now strewn with books and silverware, before shrugging it off and going back to bed.
Now we get to the climax, the invasion of Windhelm itself, and the present death of Ulfric Stormcloak. Once you're allowed inside, you can just barrel your way through to the palace, noting that the usual route has been blocked off with fire and invisible forcefields. You have no obligation to slay Stormcloaks on your way in, you just need to get inside.
In the palace itself, Ulfric will be sat on his throne, totally ignoring the situation outside. If you speak to him, he will give his usual spiel about how the war is going and what city they should conquer next. He will do this even with Tullius and Rikke present.
Sadly there is no option to permit his survival. Treating the entire thing as a total win-or-lose scenario will mean that the remaining Stormcloaks will turn vicious, knowing that they face only execution. Integrating some of the old powerbase into the new regime is a good way to tell everyone that the Empire can be merciful, and that there are no hard feelings to turn into resentment.
Alas, we have to lop off his henchman's head and kill Ulfric too (we cannot lop his head off, for reasons). After that, it's speech time and, well, that's that, really. You go off and complete the main storyline, go looking for interesting quests and places you haven't cleaned out yet.
Note that the game can get a little confused after the war is won, if you try and immediately re-enter the city. It says something about you having to help the soldiers reach the gate first, but lets you inside anyway.
The AftermathAs mentioned, wandering around the land - particularly on the road leading from Whiterun to Rorikstead, you'll frequently come across a trio of Thalmor or Imperials with a ragged prisoner in tow. Just because Lynx is a member of the Imperial Legion doesn't mean that he has to give up his habit of slaughtering them and freeing the prisoner.
Indeed, once the quest is completed, the Imperial Legionaries escorting the prisoner will refuse to talk to you and order you to leave.
As a Legate, Lynx is one of the most powerful members of the Legion in the entire nation of Skyrim, so these traitors get to lose their heads for this gross insubordination.
The Stormcloak prisoner seems particularly bewildered afterwards, often uttering the words "I think you're in the wrong place, friend..." which AFAIK he never did when I was a Stormcloak or neutral.
Somehow the fact that Lynx keeps running around decapitating Imperial Legionaries by the dozen never percolates back to High Command, or if it does, is hushed up Markarth-style. There is no question of a courtmartial or summary execution, and this seems to apply equally whether you're second in command or just starting out as a junior officer.
One last point of note, overlooking Windhelm is a flat plain. During the finale this is converted into an imperial army camp:
Where this gets interesting is if you go there prior to the Last Battle. The plain is home to a group of hunters.
Normally this would be unremarkable, but if we look more closely, we discover that they have a particularly weird idea about how to butcher animals:
"Somebody's gotta bring justice upon the woodland creatures." -Merlin
Skrexit (or, Skyrim leaves the EU)OK, so you've decided that it's worth throwing the Imperial pie out the window and joining with Ulfric.
Trade sanctions and alliances be damned, and the fact that you don't really have enough soldiers left to repel the full might of the Emperor's wrath when the inevitable punitive expedition is launched is just a trifling problem for Future You. It'll be the easiest deal ever!
Bankrupting the nation, isolating yourself from world trade and reducing Skyrim to a nasty little backwater is absolutely a price worth paying in order to continue being a bunch of racist shits. Right on! Let's get cracking!
As with the Imperials, you'll be sent off on an initial proving mission, however there is a lot less beheading this time, as Stormcloak wannabees are sent to fight a few frost-snakes on a lump of ice somewhere.
After that, you'll be sent to fetch the Crown, just as with the Imperials. Again, wearing it yourself may be an amusing diversion. It is also amusing to note that they keep referring to you as 'the unblooded', even if you've decapitated your way through the crypt to reach the thing.
After that you'll be sent to deliver Ulfric's axe to Jarl Bogroll in a strange inversion. Once again, no clear instructions are given to an obvious assassin.
Once again, if you go there with a bounty, there will be... unfortunate consequences in the form of your arrest during the meeting with Jarl B.
And once again, pleading Thaneship will only result in your immediate re-arrest (double jeopardy is clearly not a concern here) and a demand for the immediate payment of No Gold Coins.
Jarl B will instruct you, a known serial killer, to return the axe to Ulfric with the ominous words "Make sure he 'gets it'". However, he is our boss now, so cleaving his skull is probably not in our best interests.
With the axe returned to Ulfric, they prepare for the immediate invasion of Whiterun, so you get to see the same battle from the other side, with the only significant causal difference being that the axe flows in the opposite direction.
As with the attack on Windhelm in the Imperial quest, very little fighting is necessary. You just need to get to the drawbridge controls (which can be done by climbing up the side of the entrance), and then hit Jarl B a few times until he surrenders. You can, in fact, complete the entire attack without taking a single life.
Where this gets a bit weird is if your follower has been getting into violent fights with the guards during the axe negotiations, as depicted above. If this happens, it is possible for Jarl B to be outside the town while the attack takes place. In this situation, he and Irileth are likely to continue to assail Inigo while you prepare to storm Whiterun.
Sadly, it is not possible to beat him into surrender before the battle even starts, though he will give you some rather ill-considered blessings.
"May the gods help you defeat me!"
Once the drawbridge is lowered, Jarl B will teleport back into Dragonsreach, hastily changing into platemail as he does so. At this point you can smack him up until he gives in, which will only take one blow if you've been making fish-enhanced swords.
Falkwreath and the EarchHaving handed Ulfric a splendid victory, he showed his boundless gratitude by having his men arrest me in Windhelm for an unspecified charge relating to bounty of 40 gold coins. I have no idea why.
With this out the way, and the now-deposed Jarl relegated to living in Elisif's basement, your new task is to take over Falkreath.
This is essentially the same as the Kastav mission - you go to Fort Neumann and spring out the prisoners, before massacring everyone in and around the fort proper. This time, Ulfric actually does show you a measure of gratitude, by offering you a house in Windhelm.
Your next task is to conquer The Reach. As with Riften in the Imperial questline, you do this by corrupting the Jarl's most trusted advisor.
At this point I had a 3000 gold coin bounty in The Earch, which did not make things easy. However, as with all things Skyrim, beheading people makes a handy solution.
"Stay close and the guards will leave you alone."
In an amazing coincidence, the steward tells you of a wagon containing many weapons and much silver. Conveniently, you're again given the option of single-handedly massacring the folks tending it.
After this, you're sent to Hjaalmarch where it's Courier time again. Unlike the Imperials, the Stormcloaks are thick as two short planks and will get really pissy if you show up dressed in the dead Courier's uniform, even though that's the only way to fly. Turning up in Morthal in a T-shirt and jeans and saying you're the courier - honest - is unlikely to end well.
After this, you'll be sent to execute Fort Snowhawk, before being moved on to Haarfinger, like some kind of revolving door CEO.
The Decollation of John BaptistHaarfinger is right next to Solitude, so the end was clearly in sight.
Sensing that we'd soon be conquering Solitude, I paid a visit to the city in advance, intending to assassinate Captain Aldis as punishment for his execution of Roggvir. I did have a little chat with him prior, but his arguments weren't particularly convincing so I decapitated him in the courtyard and ran like buggery.
Since the guards were after me, I wasn't able to fast-travel and so had to make my way on foot back to the Haafingar Stormcloak camp. There I was sent to attack Fort Hraggstad, and things went a little strange.
The usual mechanism for a fort attack is that I turn up at the fort, my allies all barge in and I help them take the facility over by killing people until the survivors decide to flee. However, something went badly wrong and my allies didn't turn up.
Instead I ended up killing the entire fort single-handedly, at which point there were no survivors to run away. I then had to go back to the camp, found that the quest still hadn't been completed so I went back to the fort again, at which point my allies appeared and the fort was conquered instantly.
Another point worth mentioning with this kind of fort attacks is that, after you've lopped off a sufficient number of heads, the enemy will break and run away. Occasionally, especially if they're stationed at the top of a tower, the AI won't be able to route to the exit, and the enemy soldiers will simply switch off, standing there catatonic and showing no reaction as their comrades are executed in front of them, something you will have to do if you want to fast-travel because otherwise they'll be flagged as enemies, even though they're non-hostile.
Anyway. Following the conquest of Hraggstad, I was able to fast-travel back to the camp again, so I did.
At this point, two rather stupid guards from Solitude turned up and attempted to arrest me for the murder of Captain Aldis.
Since they were enemy soldiers, the Stormcloaks went berserk and the pair were swiftly chopped to ribbons.
Lunch with General TulliusAfter Hraggstad, you get to invade Solitude. As with the invasion of Whiterun, you only really need to sprint you way to the castle, decapitate Rikke (after she refuses Ulfric's pleading for her to just go home) and take down General T.
As mentioned with the Imperial questline, there is no option to spare Tullius' life (suspended death sentence?) and give him some minor role in the administration. This is not a good move in terms of reconcilliation. Likewise, there is no option to say "I don't think he should die at all". After all, Tullius isn't the one overthrowing the regime, he's just doing his job.
Ulfric does, however, have the smarts to keep ElseIf on as Jarl as a sort of "yeah, we can be merciful" gesture.
On a test run with Lynx, I went in with Ulfric to root out and slay General Tullius. Owing to a couple of experiments I was trying out, I had to do this several times and quickly got bored.
On one occasion I left and began robbing the office while Ulfric and Tullius faced each other off. Eventually they stopped talking because Ulfric wanted to ask Lynx for his opinion, but since the cat was ransacking one of the other rooms at the time, they all just politely waited until he returned and collared him then.
On the second attempt I began stealing things in front of their face to see if I could provoke them to violence and thereby derail the script.
While this can interrupt the dialogue it won't change destiny, unfortunately. However it was fun to have Lynx sit, read books and stuff himself with stolen apples and bread while the others settled the fate of Skyrim.
Ulfric: "Well, dragonborn... what you do say?"
Lynx: "Can you pass the salt?"
Ulfric: "No! About the good General here."
Lynx: [Munch] "Oh, um... I think you should kill him."
Ulfric: "So be it."
Lynx: [Munch, munch]
I was pleased to note that my bounty for assassinating Aldis was reset after Solitude was conquered - being arrested by my own side for killing one of their enemies would have been a little awkward (although not unprecedented).
The Monolith and How To Escape SovngardeWhile entirely unrelated to the Civil War quest, it is interesting to note that a skilled climber can break out of Skuldafn.
This is done by climbing the rocks near where Odahviing drops you off. After you've climbed over the mountain, you will find a path down to the sea, and in the sea, in the far distance...
If the game is put into speed-up mode with CTRL-PRINTSCREEN, it is possible to reach the Monolith. The water is only ankle-height so you just have to splash towards it at a sprint.
Once you get there, you may, if you're lucky, find a strange lighting artifact. The window lighting from DragonsReach can be found in a small section not far from the Monolith.
Interestingly, if you look at the map, you will find the game is convinced that we've actually run all the way from Skuldafn in the far East, to Whiterun.
There is a video I've made showing all this (and the video side of things is one of the reasons this site hasn't been updating much):
Escape from SovngardeLikewise, it is possible to escape from Heaven itself. This is trickier because they've carefully put a forcefield around the place. However, the forcefield has a limited height, and one of the rocks is actually high enough to let you jump over the thing.
Having done so, you'll find yourself at the top of a cliff about half a mile high.
Fortunately parts of it have pools of deep water beneath, so by swan-diving off the cliff it is possible to reach the bottom and survive.
Will the Misty Master break me, will the key unlock my mind? Will the following footsteps catch me, am I really dying...? --Pink Floyd
The outer reaches of Sovngarde are clearly not a sight for mortal eyes. However, if you splash around in the watery parts, you will be able to see the underside of Shor's house, and gaze up into the parts of the map which you're actually supposed to be in.
As mentioned on the main page, there is a kill-field around Shor's place to stop the overly-adventureous from jumping down the waterfall. This means that you can't climb up the waterfall either, because you'll suddenly keel over dead for no satisfactorily-explained reason.
However, if you are an exceptionally skilled climber, it is possible to head up to the rocky parts just to the right of this area, and start climbing there. It is extremely difficult - Skuldafn is child's play in comparison - but if you have sufficient dexterity and patience, and you keep saving regularly, you can climb back in to Heaven.
Again, there is a video detailing the procedure:
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