I'm having a hard time deciding whether I want to support the Imperial Legion or the rebel Stormcloaks in Skyrim. They both seem to be right in some ways and obnoxious in others. In the meantime, I'm studying with the Greybeards and pursuing that part of the game.

My problem is that I want to finish the main quest this time (unlike my history with TESIV) and would rather pick the side that doesn't end up with me indirectly supporting the Thalmor and the Aldmeri Dominion. At first I thought there was no way to support the Empire without supporting their Compact with the Dominion, but after studying the books in High Hrothgar, I realise that the history of the Great War is more complicated than Stormcloak or Legion NPCs seem to remember/admit. On top of that, supporting or opposing the Dominon apparently has theological implications that I was surprised to discover were important to my character. (... My immersion tendencies are taking over my game. Sorry.)

Is it possible to avoid picking sides for the whole main quest? I really don't want clear spoilers, but ambiguous hints about how I can participate in or avoid participating in the war are fine. My character might make up her mind at some point, but I'd be happier knowing that I'm not forced to join up with either to do the main quest, unless I want to.


7 Answers 7


Yes, it is possible. The main quest is not completely independent of the war, but it does not require your character to take any action to support or oppose either side in it. You won't need any advice or hints as to how to avoid taking a side; the game will tell you what you need to know when you get there. I hadn't realized it before, because I wasn't in this situation myself, but some thought seems to have gone into making this work out.

  • Awesome! I can bide my time and see who makes the best case. Nov 24, 2011 at 0:42
  • 2
    I have completed the main quest and haven't got involved at all in the Imperials/Stormcloaks stuff. There is a little part of the main quest that involves both parties but you don't have to make any game-changing decisions. Nov 24, 2011 at 13:33

You may have to take an oath to complete the main quest. I completed both of the "intro" quests for each side so they were both asking me to take an oath, but I didn't do it. In the mainline quest you need to talk both sides into attending the conference. When you talk to Ulfric, he'll say "are you ready to take the oath, or do you have something else to talk about". You can tell him something else and get him to join the conference. But the problem comes when you talk to the Imperials. General Tullis will only give you one choice - take the oath. at this point, in order to get him to talk about something else, you will have to choose a side.

  • PC players can setstage to skip broken dialog options, if necessary. Console users are out of luck.
    – Kevin
    Sep 4, 2017 at 17:36

The only time the main quest comes into any contact with the rebellion is when you have a council meeting with the Greybeards. If you took the rebels side, you will offer advice and give opinions to the rebel side.

So really it was just dialogue choices that are different for that brief section of one main quest.

  • So Yeah, you dont have to pick a side to complete the main quest.
    – Haydn
    Nov 23, 2011 at 20:07

You are able to avoid joining the Stormcloaks or Imperial Legion and still complete the main quest line. You don't need to do anything special to achieve this. As part of the main quest, there is a war council where you have the possibility to favour one side or another (or neither, if you want to be an even-handed Dovahkiin), but that's it.

You seem concerned about one side or the other supporting the Thalmor. Let me hint, then, that the game suggests that a war with the Aldmeri Dominion in the future is more than likely regardless of which side you choose. In fact, dialogue at the end of both the Stormcloak or Imperial Legion storylines hints at the preparations Skyrim will undergo to ready themselves for this eventuality.


As Luke said, if you started the Initiation for the Stormcloaks or the Imperials before the big meeting at High Hrothgar, you will have to join a side (take the oath) or the main quest can not be continued when it comes to inviting Tullius.

Avoid talking to any of the two Faction leaders about joining them under any circumstances if you want to stay independent during the main quest!

BTW: Thalmor are not impressed by joining the imperials, especially when it comes to pardons for certain prisoners...


You dont need to choose a side at all. You dont even need to start each sides quests. If youve never had spoken to tullius, you can outright say that the greybeards want to seen him. With ulfric, he'll direct you towards the guy who does recruitment but if you speak to him again, you can tell him about the greybeards. Tell tullius first because ulfric won't go if tullius isnt going.

  • This answer adds nothing which isn't covered by one of the five other answers. Apr 25, 2015 at 21:19

Before the part with the council, the game forced me to pick a side. I didn't have to do anything for that side (except that to be able to ask them to come to the council I had to do the first quest for both sides and then choose a side).

  • 3
    Had you already progressed on either of the "Join" quests? Other answers here say it's not necessary to choose, so I'd be interested in what specific difference in your playthrough made the game make you choose. Nov 29, 2011 at 18:16

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