I've finished the Stormcloaks and Imperial Legion, and both seem to have endings which could support an Elder Scrolls sequel in which a war occurs with the Thalmor.

I'm used to seeing Bethesda make games with choices that end up achieving the same thing, are inconsequential to a sequel, or are the "right" way to finish. I don't think the civil war's winner would be ignored in the inevitable "The Brief History of Skyrim" series or similar in-game books. It seems like a very important development.

Is there any additional dialogue or hints as to what side was intended to win the war that I might have missed? I've noticed in my current game that while the Stormcloaks have supposedly ousted the Legion from Skyrim, the Imperial Legion still appears to hold certain towns on their strategic maps.

Does that mean that while Tullius is dead, the Imperial Legion will just promote a new leader who will return to annex Skyrim?

Will the soldiers in the hidden wilderness camps continue to fight for the various garrisons around Skyrim?

If you intend to include dialogue or plot which could be considered a spoiler, please use the >! spoiler tag.

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    The Thalmor will probably invade anyway and, as victors, will get to write the history books. "4E 201: The silly kids in Skyrim started shouting at each other again. We put an end to that nonsense."
    – ZoogieZork
    Dec 16, 2011 at 17:00
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    Bethesda themselves probably don't know, considering how they've handled continuity in the past (i.e., they don't bother until they start on the sequel). I'm not sure if that makes this inherently speculative, but I'm pretty sure it will attract (er, has attracted) speculation. :-/ May 17, 2013 at 3:53
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    Both sides lose. The Thalmor invade and easily conquer the divided and weakened empire. Jul 18, 2013 at 18:23
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    I believe we will have to wait for the next The Elder Scrolls game to be released to have this answer. ESO doesn't count because it's story happens in a far away past. Feb 25, 2017 at 16:35

10 Answers 10


I think it will turn out that both sides are the official "answer." Whatever side the Dragonborn sides with will turn out to be the right one. If the Dragonborn sides with the empire, s/he will eventually lead the empire back to health and defeat the Aldmeri Dominion as a great hero. If the Dragonborn sides with Skyrim, then s/he will eventually lead Skyrim into the collapsing sections of the empire and defeat the Aldmeri Dominion.

The Dragonborn has impressed gods and dealt with daedra. No matter who you side with as the Dragonborn, I don't think you're going to play second fiddle for long. Ulfric would soon be overshadowed by a Dragonborn who will come to lead Skyrim (if sided with Stormcloaks) and I think it is inevitable you lead the empire if you side with them (especially since

the Emperor is assassinated by the Dark Brotherhood no matter who wins).

As another poster mentioned, in the end it won't matter who 'won' this war. All the histories will record is the return and rise of The Dragonborn. After I beat the game (which I've done a few times now), I'm itching to go frag some Altmeri butt. Hopefully I won't have to wait until Elder Scrolls VI to do it!

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    Interestingly I am working through the Civil war quest line now but I wiped the dark brotherhood out instead of joining them. I wonder if the emperor will still be assassinated.
    – Colin
    Apr 15, 2012 at 1:12
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    @Colin Can't actuall wipe them out really... seeing as there's a member who cannot die. The Night Mother's been dead for over a thousand years. She'll just restart the brotherhood with another listener.
    – Selonianth
    Jun 8, 2013 at 8:05
  • Which of the 4 people in the Abandoned Shack you decide to kill does have an effect on your spoiler. ;)
    – tjd
    Feb 4, 2015 at 17:04
  • Based on TES lore much of this answer is beyond speculation pertaining to the future of the Dragonborn. If we look at past heroes (Hero of Kvatch, Nerevarine, Agent and the Eternal Champion - not to mention those from the lesser games) their story begins and ends with the main plot of their respective game and the main plots of subsequent DLC's. There's no indication that the hero of Skyrim would go on to be anything more than the killer of Alduin, Harkon and Miraak. To say the DB has "impressed gods" you may as well say they also murdered the entire Skyrim population of chickens. Feb 1, 2019 at 15:56

Bethesda has already written into the lore as it stands that other provinces have broken away from the Empire - Black Marsh and Elsweyr seceded after the Oblivion Crisis, Hammerfell refused to submit to the White Gold Concordat, etc. Future lore can sum up the Skyrim era with a simple "The Empire fragmented as provinces seceded or fell to infighting before finally being restored." So long as they don't list which provinces left the Empire, there's no need to specifically state how the Stormcloak Rebellion turned out.


I'm extremely late to this party but I wanted to document a little evidence form within the game that hasn't been mentioned elsewhere in the answers here; the Stormcloak Missive in Fort Neugrad (transcript below).

Lord Ulfric,

Though we drove the Emperor's dogs from Fort Neugrad, they still nip at our heels. The chaos in Helgen is bad enough, but now I have word of a new Imperial force assembling in the south, ready to advance on our position as Pale Pass is clear. Send reinforcements, or all our gains will be for naught.

This only appears under certain conditions which I believe are that the Dragonborn handed Falkreath to the Stormcloaks during Season Unending and then joined the Imperial Legion to retake Falkreath.

This missive indicates that there is a "new Imperial force assembling in the south" which is preparing to move in to attack the rebels in Skyrim. The desperate wording could indicate either; the soldier is worried about losing their foothold in Falkreath or, he is worried about losing the war. The fact that the Emperor has assembled a Cyrodiilic Legion force with the purpose of sending them to quell the rebellion in Skyrim demonstrates that the Emperor does indeed take the civil war seriously, despite assertions to the contrary from some NPC's. As such, since the Legion isn't being used to fight battles within Cyrodiil at the moment it would be quite reasonable for the Emperor to send a large force to assist the army in Skyrim.

How is this a relevant factor given that the Stormcloaks are already in a stalemate with the Empire? The Skyrim Legion is composed primarily of local Nord recruits - individuals not much better (if at all) than any Stormcloak soldier, except with arguably better equipment. Likewise, some Legion veterans since joined the rebellion, leaving both sides with a number of experienced soldiers and novice recruits. The tipping point is the force from Cyrodiil being a full Imperial Legion of well-trained soldiers, not local Nordic farmers.

While we can but speculate the outcome of a Stormcloak vs Cyrodiilic Empire war it would be fair to assume that the Cryodiilic Legion would be more effective than it's Skyrim counterpart and able to overcome a rebel force, leading Skyrim to an Imperial victory.

Thus, whether the war is left unresolved or as a Stormcloak victory the southern Legion force would still (re)take Skyrim for the Empire.

Further thoughts

Other answers have mentioned the Dragonborn becoming some kind of leader or overshadowing the events of the Civil War - this would be very out of character for Bethesda lore. Historically, every TES hero has played a role which is equivalent to the respective game's main quest line (and subsequent DLC quest lines). No more, no less. To say the Dragonborn will become a heroic leader of an entire army is very speculative since, based on all previous heroes the Dragonborn's story ends with the defeat of Miraak on Solstheim.


As the Empire's power may be fluctuating throughout the game, it is still very obvious that the Thalmor wish for the Rebels to be the victors. The Dominion would prefer if Ulfric and his insurrectionists even temporarily overthrew the Empire that was started by the very man who destroyed one of their previous Dominions. Bethesda would most likely not choose the side of the Thalmor, due to the face that they made them the villains. (Don't deny it Dominion fanboys.) The Empire is truly the free Tamriel's only hope from either the Dominion or eventually those of Akivir or Alduin again.


It doesn't matter which side you back, there will continue to be skirmishes in the field that you can come across. Both sides will mention this when you complete the final phase of their campaign and deal with the opposing faction's leader.

It's not really defined who Bethesda will pick as the canon victor until some DLC or more likely, the next game in the series. It stands to reason that the Empire/Altmeri would continue to attack Skyrim until they controlled it barring some other problem arising that demanded their attention.


Officially, the Civil War ended with the truce atop High Hrothgar. I think Skyrim and Cyrodill will fight the Altmer together and and in doing so, Skyrim will win its independence from the Empire.

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    Do you have any sources for this claim?
    – kotekzot
    Mar 30, 2014 at 18:07

if you side with stormcloaks you well reform a new empire after you kill the thalmor if you side with the empire you well kill the thalmor. so it like 2 doors that lead to the same room but the stormcloak hall is longer. so either way what the stormcloaks want well happen. in elder scrolls 6 it likely wont say who won the civil war, but the thalmor well be defeated.

  • but if you go with the stormcloaks you well restor talos faster even thow it will take longer to kill the thalmor. Feb 25, 2017 at 14:08

In my point of view, I would probably say that the Empire will most likely be the official victor in the game for several reasons.

First and foremost, and as mentioned before from a variety of people, Talos (the first ruler as well as founding father of the empire) was a dragonborn and so the last dragonborn (your character in the game) has to be the rightful ruler of the empire, who will eventually restore peace throughout Tamriel and wipe out the Aldmeri dominion once and for all (after dealing with the rebels).

Secondly, there are numerous rumors throughout the game, that point out that there will be a second great war.

Last but not least, Jarl Balgruff of Whiterun is a close friend of the dragonborn, simply because the dragonborn helped him out with his dragon problem, which he was trying to deal with. As far as my knowledge is concerned, Balgruff joined the empire, and I personally do not think that the dragonborn will choose to betray him instead of signing with the empire and helping him out once again.


I would say that there is no conclusion to the conflict, regardless of which side you choose. If you choose the Stormcloaks, the dialogue at the end clearly indicates that the empire will try to reassert control over Skyrim, and if you choose the Imperial Legion, the rebellion is thwarted, but not completely crushed into non-existence.

I found the ending quite unsatisfying in that the Elderscrolls games are about the destiny of the character, and while defeating Alduin might be a grand heroic feat, it is only the beginning of the story for the "Dragonborn", just as banishing Alduin was only the beginning for Talos. (Talos went on to forge the Empire).I personally would pay another $50 or $60 for an expansion that allows us to explore the full destiny of the "Dragonborn". I was hoping (too ambitiously) that we would get to see the Dragonborn take up his mantle as the rightful heir to the throne of the Empire. Talos, the first Dragonborn founded the Empire; it seems that it should be the destiny of the last Dragonborn to restore it.

Picture this: After you defeat Alduin, you meet with all the surviving members of the Akavari. There are more than just two. Maybe a couple dozen. They are there to convince you of your destiny to restore the Empire. After you agree, you get on a dock at one of the Port Cities (regardless of which faction you chose, Imperials or Stormcloaks). At the dock a ship awaits you and the game renders a big fleet out on the water to make it look like you are joining an invasion fleet. Destination: Cyrodil and the Imperial city from Oblivion. You and the army land and must fight all the way to the palace, fighting combined legions of Altmeri and Imperials. Either the Imperials, or the stormcloaks from Skyrim fight beside you, along with the Akavari who serve as your personal bodyguard. You must penetrate to the Imperial city and destroy the puppet on the throne, and then YOU are crowned as the rightful Emperor, the DRAGONBORN.

That is how it should have ended.

  • This posting is 20% answering the question and 80% fanfiction.
    – Philipp
    Aug 6, 2017 at 21:24

If you look at the two sides of the war, you will see that the empire is most likely the winner. For one, no matter which side you choose, Jarl Balgruuf and Whiterun will go with the empire. Assume that if the Dragonborn sides with the Stormcloaks, he is most likely a Nord. So there is a 1 in 10 chance of the Dragonborn being a Stormcloak (the 10 being the total number of playable races). So the only way we can beat the Aldmeri Dominion's hatred towards humans is to hate all Mer kind after raising our strength after crushing the rebellion.

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