Skyrim factions and guilds guide

Imperial Army and the Stormcloaks

The Imperials and the Stormcloaks are in the middle of a massive civil war, a fact you’ll discover almost immediately upon starting Skyrim. Choosing a side can be a tough decision, but rest assured you’ll earn the same Achievements regardless of which faction you join. There’s also no real item advantage to either side, so don’t worry about missing out on some incredible sword or jewelry. As a matter of fact, the weapons and armor you receive as quest rewards are usually leveled, which means their stats scale to match whatever your current level is at the moment of collection. 

That just leaves story as the determining factor. Are you the type who loves decimating rebel scum? Or do you prefer toppling your rulers because you think you know better? If you’re dying to see both outcomes, create a save file just before you make a decision, then load and try joining the other side.

Once you’ve joined either faction you’ll earn the “Taking Sides” Achievement/Trophy.


You can join up by visiting the headquarters in Windhelm, found in eastern edge of Skyrim. After you complete the “Joining the Stormcloaks” mission, you’ll have the opportunity to recite an oath to Galmar. Doing so cements your decision to join the Stormcloaks, so if you’re having second thoughts, now is your chance to back out. 

Imperial Army

You can join up by visiting the headquarters in Solitude, found in the northwest corner of Skyrim. After you complete the first quest labeled “Joining the Legion,” you’ll have the chance to recite the Imperial oath to Tullius. Doing so cements your decision to join the Imperials, so if you’re having second thoughts, now is your chance to back out.

Bard's College

The Bard’s College is just east of Solitude, which can be found in the northwestern corner of Skyrim. This is a minor faction, but well worth your time. After completing the first quest called “Tending the Flames,” you will receive upon completion of each subsequent quest an instant +1 to six of your skills. For example, after completing “Finn’s Lute,” Finn will give you +1 in Light Armor, Sneak, Pickpocket, Lockpicking, Alchemy, and Speech. There are two additional quests that cover the remaining skills. 

The Blades

The Blades can be found in Sky Haven Temple. Unfortunately, you cannot reach this location until after you complete the main story quest called “Alduin’s Wall.” Once you meet Delphine, you can bring any follower to her and she’ll “recruit” them. These recruits will still be your followers, but they will now live in Sky Haven Temple and be able to equip the powerful Blades armor and weapons. 

If you bring three followers for recruiting into the Blades, Esbern will start marking on your map the locations of dragons, one at a time. Once you’ve killed the dragon, return to Esbern and he’ll mark another. If he won’t give up the next one, wait at least three days and try again.   

The Greybeards

The Greybeards reside in High Hrothgar, found on the tallest mountain in Skyrim. You’ll eventually get here if you follow the main questline of the game, but if you want to go early, look for the massive set of stairs leading up the mountain that start in Ivarstead. 

Provided you’ve completed the main story quest called “The Horn of Jurgen Windcaller,” you can talk to Arngeir and ask him to mark a location on your map of a single undiscovered Word Wall. You can repeat this after each discovery until all the walls have been found. If he won’t give up the next one, wait at least three days then try again.


  • McSpermie - December 2, 2011 4:53 p.m.

    Useful guide, made sure I didn't miss anything.
  • IChooseUAntistaMON - December 2, 2011 5:08 p.m.

    I completed the theif's guild but apparently there is a glitch where you can't become the Guild Master unless you do specific quests before the final quest
  • HankVenture - December 2, 2011 5:10 p.m.

    I've completed the Thieves and Brotherhood guilds and while their missions are fun, I didn't feel the impact like I did in oblivion. I didn't feel like I did anything truly important, I mean the endings were significant but I just was craving a lot more to it for me to get those titles. and the brotherhood had funner missions in Oblivion I think, but still thank you for the guide
  • Craza - December 3, 2011 2:32 p.m.

    I didn't like how evil and corrupt the Thieves Guild felt, so I haven't done any more of their quests. In Morrowind, they were kinda the good guys, like a guild of Robin Hoods and I loved that. In Oblivion too, it never felt like I was just one big douchebag. I felt like I was actively helping people. In this one, they really just are bunch of thieves without regards to the type of people they're stealing from. I haven't gone to the sanctuary for the Dark Brotherhood yet, but I'd really like to go through their quests. That was my absolute favorite part of Oblivion. Those quests were the most unique and fun, even if the slaughter of that entire base of operations at the end disheartened me.
  • ombranox - December 5, 2011 6:45 p.m.

    Murderfying the Emperor was fun. I made sure to use bound blade in the process.
  • D0CCON - December 2, 2011 5:16 p.m.

    I didn't know you could physically join the Greybeards and Blades, which are both pretty cool. I'm personally working on the companions right now so I can turn into a freakin werewolf. No aversion to sunlight AND people don't hate you unless they see you turn? It's like being a vampire except better and with no major annoying side effects.
  • inkyspot - December 2, 2011 5:33 p.m.

    I messed with the mage guild was thinking about the thieves guild, just didn't like people hating me or having to rough up people that were innocent. So I reverted back to an older save. My brother did the vampire thing and I thought the side effects sucked. I also did the Imperial Army (I couldn't care for either), but I felt that they were more welcoming to different races as the the Stormcloaks. Me with my honeyed words.
  • winner2 - December 2, 2011 6:34 p.m.

    Same here with the thieves guild, I don't think I ever got any special amulet or master armor after I beat it. That's one really annoying glitch cause I don't feel like completely redoing a sneak file just for that
  • jackthemenace - December 3, 2011 12:56 a.m.

    It's a little more complicated to get 'Guild Master' status than just finishing the questline- you have to do a whole bunch of those optional side jobs, and eventually Delvin'll tell you to go do a special quest in one of four main cities. once you've done all four, there may or may not be a fifth one to do (I can't remember), but Brynjolf then gives you 'Guild master' status, as well as a snazzy 30g cheevo.
  • azureguy - December 2, 2011 9:28 p.m.

    Good guide overall, but I think you've made a mistake by the Blades: Delphine is a woman, not a man. Also, I should point out that in order to complete the Thieves' Guild quests and get the final achievement, you must do some of the side-quests Vex and Danton offer you. These quests eventually unlock about 3 or 4 other quests, and once these quests are done, you can proceed to the ceremony.
  • ranivus - December 3, 2011 1:41 a.m.

    Wheres the vampires?? East india Company?
  • closer2192 - December 3, 2011 2:23 p.m.

    The Dark Brotherhood sent an assassin to kill me... what does this mean?
  • sirdilznik - December 3, 2011 6:12 p.m.

    It means someone wants you dead.
  • jimmynak - December 3, 2011 5:17 p.m.

    i feel i should warn people not to use the leveling up glitches with hadvar at the beginning of the game. thanks to enemies leveling with you this makes the faction quests much harder. or maybe i just suck at rpg combat i dont know.
  • Kaeda - December 4, 2011 noon

    The Amulet of Articulation is glitched. It's supposed to be level-dependan, but the version you get is randomly determined. You could get the best at level 1, the worst at level 50, etc. Save before you finish the last Thieve's Guild quest.
  • worleykins - December 6, 2011 9:10 a.m.

    iv been turned into a vampire and i hate the side affects = (. can anyone tell me how to get cured?
  • azurechocobo - December 9, 2011 1:58 p.m.

    Go become a werewolf. Seriously, it works
  • swift123 - July 10, 2013 1:34 a.m.

    u go to an inn than u ask the innkeeper for rumors and sometimes thers a mission that can cure u worleykins
  • joshua-wilkinson - December 9, 2011 12:49 p.m.

    how do you get married on skyrim. xD
  • Matt Hughes - December 9, 2011 3:18 p.m.

    There'll be a followers guide posting shortly that explains it :)

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