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Skyrim Civil War

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There is a pretty interesting dilemma in the new video game, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

Essentially, there is a land called Skyrim populated by a race of people called Nords who are very Scandinavian in appearance and culture. Skyrim is ruled by a foreign nation usually known as the "Empire" which is controlled by another race of people called Imperials (who are kind of British). A war breaks out between the Empire and another nation called Thalmor which is populated by Elves. The war occurs mostly in Skyrim and ends with a Thalmor victory. The Empire signs a treaty with the Thalmor in which they agree on a single condition, the worship of Talos, the most popular God in Skyrim" will be banned. From then on the Thalmor leave behind a small group of agents to monitor the activity of Skyrim and make sure that the Empire abides by the treaty.

The local Nord population is so enraged by the treaty that they rise up in open rebellion and a vicious civil war ensues. They argue that their relgion and culture has been stolen from them and that the Empire should be thrown out of Skyrim. The Empire argues that if they renege on the treaty or leave Skyrim and allow local rule, the Thalmor will invade again and destroy Skyrim (not only the Nords, but also the local Imperial citizens as well).

Which side has the better moral argument, the Empire or the local Nords?

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If I put the problem in a modern/realistic scenario the context helps answer it.

Say instead that the US(empire) is at war with China(Thalmor) and as a condition of peace we have to agree to eliminate Islam in Iraq(Skyrim) and turn all Iraqi's into Budhists. First, it couldn't be done without Genocide. Second, why would the responsibility of conversion fall to the US. If they didn't feel up to winning the war against China they could give up that real estate and let them kill all the millions and go broke doing it.

I suppose there could be some argument for keeping valuable minerals in the area or the dangerous nature of the religion, but based on the context, I gotta say that the Empire ought to be out of there.

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If I put the problem in a modern/realistic scenario the context helps answer it.

Say instead that the US(empire) is at war with China(Thalmor) and as a condition of peace we have to agree to eliminate Islam in Iraq(Skyrim) and turn all Iraqi's into Budhists. First, it couldn't be done without Genocide. Second, why would the responsibility of conversion fall to the US. If they didn't feel up to winning the war against China they could give up that real estate and let them kill all the millions and go broke doing it.

I suppose there could be some argument for keeping valuable minerals in the area or the dangerous nature of the religion, but based on the context, I gotta say that the Empire ought to be out of there.

Your analogy is accurate accept for one caveat. US (Empire) doesn't have to convert the Nordic (Iraqi) population. They just have to outlaw the worship of their most popular diety.

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I've been playing this off and on lately so funny I see a topic here. I haven't finished it yet so I can't say whether the game's story winds up giving you more info about it one way or the other.

I don't think the Elder Scrolls series aims to imply this kind of straightforward good versus bad. It's very much the opposite of games like Fable or Bioshock with their explicit good versus bad choices (terrible implementation and morality aside). Instead in Elder Scrolls you're free to do it all, usually with little permanent repercussions. For example there's a quest in this game where you decided to turn in or defend someone fleeing as a traitor. The game really doesn't give you the kind of info you need to make a solid decision, and either way you choose the results are nearly the same it's just your choice. And in the thieves guild and Dark Brotherhood quests it's not at all about making good decisions its just for the fun of getting to play the role of a manipulating thief or an assassin.

So far in my experience the game gives you no good info to decide one way or the other (except, well on a personal level Imperials do nearly behead you lol). But on the whole both sides seem basically the same. Just two groups of medieval conquerors who want to stay in power.

Sure you can draw some similarities to real world history and events. But I mean in the end Skyrim is a world where magic, monsters, and meddling powerful deities actually exist. So there's no good way to draw upon those kind of analogies. And ultimately I think the side you choose is left intentionally neutral so that it adds to replayability. Either way can be interesting and is up to your preferences.

Edit: Also this should probably just be in the video games forum instead.

Edited by IchorFigure
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One interesting thing to note in the Elder Scrolls is the more metaphysical battle between the elves and the humans. The elves believe that in order to be free of the "Material Prison" they must destroy the spirit of man, and Talos is the symbol of man as god. The humans are fighting for their right to survive.

The Imperials are cowards who wished to deal with the Thalmor by concession. What they conceded was the right of man to worship man. The Nords know that this "practical concession" is a devastating spiritual defeat.

Perhaps it is largely wishful projection on my part, but the Stormcloaks are some of the most inspiring heroes in video games that I've seen in a long time. Man-worshippers who fight for their right to survive.

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I have this game as well as the two earlier Elder Scrolls games, Morrowind and Oblivion. My main nitpick is that the Imperium is far more Roman than British, much in the way of their names, culture and architecture is borrowed from the Romans. You will hear things from various citizens of Skyrim that will help solidify your decision as time goes on. The issue here is over the banning of one of the Skyrim heroes (Talos) who was said to have become a divine. The Thalmor, which are High Elves, basically do not feel this is correct and have through the White Tower Concordat which was an agreement between the Emperor and the Thalmor to impose this banning throughout the regions under imperial control.

There are a few main concerns:

1. The Empire is faltering and thinning and is having trouble keeping control in its regions since it's main province, Cyrodil, has fallen into disarray over the 200 years of time that has passed between Oblivion and Skyrim timelines.

2. The Empire agreed to the White Tower Concordat because, as is the belief of many who side with the empire, the Thalmor would reignite a conflict otherwise and would most likely defeat the Empire, causing more chaos and disarray. It seems to be the consensus by the game population that the Thalmor would beat the Empire down in an open conflict and that they almost did once before. Further, it seems to be the general consensus that many of these regions may not be better off without the Empire tying them together rather than being independent given the events of the last several hundred years and the current time in the game, but maybe not.

3. The Thalmor are stuck up snobs that think they are better than everyone that is not a high elf.

4. Some citizens say that while the banning was not good but that most people just kept private little shrines to Talos in their homes and prayed. It was not until the leader of the Stormcloaks started causing chaos and assassinated the High King of Skyrim that the Thalmor and the Empire felt the need to crack down to ensure the Concordat was not broken, which would most likely lead to the aforementioned war. It is also mentioned, though it is uncertain whether or not this is pro-empire rumors or not, that the Stormcloaks had little support up until recently.

5. The Jarl that would have a key leadership position within the Stormcloak rebellion is extremely racist and prejudice towards outsiders, this does not necessarily speak for the overall movement.

6. Both groups are viciously hostile towards each other when it comes to speaking to the soldiers of either group.

7. You will see from time to time a military escort of Thalmor taking a Talos Worshipper to a town as a prisoner, or Imperials escorting a stormcloak prisoner, you may intervene in either of these instances.

The point of the game is not to make either choice obvious however.

"They just have to outlaw the worship of their most popular diety."

Good way to make millions of people extremely pissed at you.

I think Ichor hit the nail on the head. This is not a game that puts forth a strong duality, the strongest sense of morality was often attributed to the Dark Brotherhood missions in Oblivion. It is mostly about taking in the lore and the world and the civilizations and environment all as one and making it into your own adventure. You will notice that most of these factions have been in a large scale war with each other at some point or another if not multiple times throughout the Elder Scrolls historical record, and that the factions of both elven-types, human-type and others are very distinct from each other in numerous ways everything from their homelands to their beliefs. The elves aren't one single group and man another etc.

Edited by CapitalistSwine
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  • 1 year later...

Well, this is how I see it.

The Thalmor are a very good example of the worst possible traits of man(elven)kind.  They think that elves are superior to all other races, and High Elves are superior to all other elves, and they want to see everyone else accept that idea.  They're basically fireball-chucking Nazis with pointy ears.

Regardless of how the Thalmor feel about it, the Nords have a right to worship whatever gods or spirits or whatever the Hell they want to.  The Thalmor's outlawing of any belief or idea is an attempt to change people's minds by force instead of reason, which is inherently evil.

That said, the Empire exists to protect its citizens from homicidal maniacs (like the Thalmor) and the White-Gold concordat is a total negation of that.  The Empire isn't doing it's job, the Nords are subjected to violence (torture and death) for the content of their minds, so they have every right in the world to fight for their beliefs.  The legitimacy of those beliefs is irrelevant; they have a right to hold them.  Note that the Thalmor are the Nords' actual adversaries and the Empire, intent on being 'practical' is helping the Thalmor achieve their goals.

 

And while Skyrim doesn't set out to expressly show you that any given choice is good or evil (which I appreciate) it's so much more fun if you take it as seriously as possible.  Slaughtering millions of generic NPC's can be very fun for a few days but, in my experience, if you actually try to act like you would in reality and treat the characters as if they were real people, well. . . That's when you end up sitting there a month or two later, shouting "You can't kill him!!  No!  I will make you pay for this if it's the last thing I do!!"  XD

 

So yeah.  I usually play a High Elf simply because of their talent with magick and spellcasting, but I make it a point of honor to slay any and every Thalmor I see.

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Although this does contribute to the majority of my deaths, since every once in a while I'll find an entire fort full of Thalmor or something like that and I'm bound by my own oath to attack it and meet my gruesome demise.  But that's what the 'save' button is for.  =]

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