Elder Scrolls as a series has changed a lot throughout its lifespan. The series has evolved from its genesis as a dungeon crawler with 2D sprites in a 3D environment to revolutionize expansive open-world game design. It has even supported multiple spin-offs in new genres, such as mobile, an MMO, and a card game. However, one pillar that has stayed throughout the series is the game’s guilds and factions that players can join.
Guilds are one of my favorite parts of Elder Scrolls as a series. Each guild has a questline for players to experience, but their legacy throughout the games goes much further than that. The consistency of guilds throughout games in the series helps tie all of the entries together and ground them in the same setting.
Their prevalence throughout the series also helps distinguish the provinces that don’t have them. For example, Skyrim featuring the College of Winterhold instead of the Mages Guild helps give the province some exciting history. It also helps the province stand out for veteran fans of the series that recognize the difference and its implications.
Guilds in Elder Scrolls are collectives of adventurers that share a common interest, such as practicing magic or being a kleptomaniac.
For ordinary citizens of Tamriel, they offer consistent services and comforts. Citizens know that if they ever need protection, they can hire a member of the Fighters Guild or perform a ritual to make a contract with the Dark Brotherhood if they need someone dead.
For players, guilds also offer consistent services and a group for the player to associate with. Many guilds have locations in multiple cities within a province, allowing their members to travel and always know that they have a bed and food waiting for them in the next city. In addition, they also offer players the highest quality of goods related to the guild, such as high-level spells or strong swords.
Joining a guild helps players feel like their characters have a real place in the game world. It also helps define them by giving them a particular rank or story within the guild to personalize their journey. However, this has diminished slightly in the newer titles, where players can join every guild with a single character.
I’ve always preferred the approach in titles like Morrowind, where players can only join a limited number of guilds because it makes joining one feel more impactful.
Guilds are also home to some of the series’ most exciting and diverse quests. They offer longer storylines than side quests while being able to exist outside the game’s main story. This helps the world feel more extensive and active than it otherwise would while opening up the possibility of diverse and more complicated narratives.
Guild quest lines have become a standard for the series, similar to quests for Daedric Princes, and I think you should always make sure to play through them when running through an Elder Scrolls title. So, here are the guilds you can expect to come across throughout the series.
The Fighters Guild is a martial guild founded and sanctioned by the Emperor of Cyrodiil to bring structure to the mercenary industry across Tamriel.
In the years since its founding, it has expanded across nearly the entire continent to offer its combat prowess to anyone willing to pay for it. This can include more valorous jobs like ridding a region of bandits or less prestigious jobs like delivering packages or killing rats in an older woman’s basement.
My favorite thing about the Fighters Guild is the range of jobs that they can be asked to take. There is something innately humorous about seeing a grizzled veteran clad in heavy plate mail being asked to go and kill some rats in a dingy basement.
However, they are an exciting faction because of how officially sanctioned they are. In a world as dangerous as Tamriel, it makes sense that citizens would need protection now and then, but imagining a world where you can hire soldiers from down the block is pretty crazy.
The Fighters Guild quests in Daggerfall are some of my favorites because most don’t have an overarching storyline. Instead, most quests see the player hired to hunt dangerous beasts. This is great for roleplaying a mercenary in the world while also being a nice break from world-ending stakes.
The guild also has a short quest line that sees players involved in a political affair regarding Lord K’var, which illustrates the guild’s importance.
The Fighters Guild got a severe expansion in Morrowind that featured numerous quest lines throughout the province. Each hall of the guild has its minor story line to play through, which is an entertaining approach as it makes the world feel more significant than it is.
This game’s quests are also interesting because some actively pit players against other guilds, such as the Thieves Guild. This helps put a lot of weight on the player’s decisions, even if it does lead to them not being able to do everything in the game on a single save file.
A similar approach to Morrowind was taken for the guild’s quests in Oblivion. Each guild hall has its line of quests for players to tackle, and players have no specified order to accept them.
This works just as well as it did in the previous title, but it is unfortunate that the quests don’t have as much variety as they do in Morrowind. There is also no crossover between it and other guilds in Oblivion, as the player can become every guild leader on a single playthrough.
Elder Scrolls Online
In Elder Scrolls Online, the Fighters Guild is very different. It still features an exclusive quest line, but it is much shorter than what is found in the single-player series entries. Players can also rise through the ranks of the Fighters Guild by completing actions that aren’t directly associated with the guild.
However, I think the best aspect of the ESO guild is that players are given a particular skill line when they join it. This is the fascinating premise that helps define the characters that join the guild and dedicate time to rising through its ranks and is something that I think even mainline games could use to significant effect.
The Mages Guild was founded to help educate and train people about magic. It is interested in getting new students, providing access to magical services, and increasing the general populace’s comfort around magic.
Throughout the series’ timeline, the Mages Guild has undergone numerous changes. It operates similarly to the Fighters Guild in that it has guild halls spread throughout the major cities of most provinces. The Mages Guild also restricts or accepts certain types of magic in ways that reflect the political ideology and turmoil of the time, which is fantastic world-building.
In Daggerfall, the Mages Guild’s quests are essentially an assortment of magic-related tasks like cleansing a nobleman of a witch’s curse or preparing a special potion.
While the quests are not very glamorous, it is admirable how they all relate to the magic abilities the guild is built to support. They are also a nice change from the high stakes of most other quests in the series, making the final three quests with higher stakes feel much more impactful.
In Morrowind, the Mages Guild included an exciting mechanic that required players to master the schools of magic to progress through the guild’s ranks. This was an elegant way of making the player grow in the guild’s focus so that when they reached the highest ranks, they felt as though they had truly earned it.
The guild’s quests are also interesting. They feature a mix of mundane magical jobs like gathering reagents and more fantastical jobs like stamping out a cult of necromancers or crafting a powerful staff.
Some of these quests are so simple that they are conceptually dull, but they are more compelling because of Morrowind’s challenging open world and lack of direct player guidance. Players having to learn the map and interact with NPCs to find things helps make even fetch quests, like collecting three mushrooms for the guild, feel more interesting than just following a waypoint, picking the mushrooms, and walking back.
In Oblivion, the Mages Guild saw a few exciting changes. First, the guild halls in each city are associated with a different magic school. This is an excellent idea to help players feel a deeper connection to a particular guild hall within the guild.
This iteration of the Mages Guild is also interesting because players can get kicked out of it regardless of their rank if they break its rules. This is a really interesting way to push players to roleplay their character more accurately, even if it does feel at odds with the game’s intent for players to be able to complete every guild with one character.
However, the guild’s quest line is a bit disappointing, as it sees players facing off against the legendary necromancer Mannimarco but doesn’t live up to the character’s lore.
College of Winterhold
The College of Winterhold is an independent body of magical thought and development only found in Skyrim. It was founded thousands of years before the start of the game, resulting in the Mages Guild never establishing itself in the province.
Despite the differences between the two groups, they act essentially identically to one another. This is unfortunate because the College of Winterhold had the potential to show a different approach to learning magic, which could have shown a new side of the world. The Nords of Skyrim aren’t typically trusting of magic, but their culture isn’t reflected at all in the structure or storylines of the College.
The guild’s quest line is also disappointing. It features a story similar to Skyrim’s other guilds that sees them saving the world. The player doesn’t need to play a magical character to rise through the College’s ranks and become its leader.
There are a couple of instances during the quest where players need to cast spells to progress, but they are all novice-level spells that any character can cast, regardless of their build or history. This makes completing the guild feel underwhelming, as players don’t have to roleplay their character in a particular way.
The Thieves Guild can trace its lineage to a criminal organization in Hammerfall. After growing to dominate the criminal underbelly of that province, it grew across Tamriel, absorbing the disparate criminal groups across the continent. This allowed it to impose a stricture of rules on criminals across the world, with not killing being its primary tenet.
The Thieves Guild also has ties to Nocturnal, so the guild’s expansion saw an increase across Tamriel in worship and observance of the guild’s patron Daedric Prince. However, the guild’s success has ebbed and waned throughout the series. Being able to see it at its peak and when it is near irrelevance lets players understand how it operates and to see the guild’s depth.
One of my favorite parts of the Thieves Guild in Daggerfall is how players have a real test before joining. Before being inducted into the guild, players must pickpocket ten times without being caught or successfully breaking into a store without using magic.
This is a great way to ensure that players can only join the guild if their characters are built in a way that makes sense to do so.
The guild’s quests all task the player with committing burglaries and participating in heists. A positive side of this approach is that it feels appropriate for the guild and setting while also giving the player fun stealth-focused missions to tackle. However, it does leave this version of the Thieves Guild not having as much of an impact on the player because it lacks a compelling overarching story or any exciting moments.
The Thieves Guild in Morrowind is extremely powerful. Its leaders have a heavy influence over the political actions of the province while operating in relative safety. This allows them to help all their members by giving them resources and even helping them clear bounties for a hefty discount.
This is a fantastic feature because it helps encourage players of a particular playstyle to join the guild for its benefits. The guild’s quests are also similar to other Morrowind guilds in that each location has its minor storyline that occasionally interacts with other guilds, which is always enjoyable to play.
In Oblivion, the Thieves Guild is being led by a mysterious figure known as the Gray Fox. One of the most exciting parts of the guild is that there are five distinct ways for players to join it, all of which are related to the player playing like a criminal. This is a great way to naturally introduce the guild to players and make it seem as universal as it is supposed to be.
The Thieves Guild in Oblivion also features a fantastic quest line. It revolves around the player helping the Gray Fox plan the ultimate heist to achieve a hidden goal of his. This is great because it fits the guild’s theme while giving it an exciting narrative with personal stakes for the player to get invested in.
Between missions, players also have to steal and sell items to reach goals to unlock the next mission. This helps make finishing the quest line feel better for players because they had to work for it in a way that makes sense in the setting.
Unfortunately, the Thieves Guild in Skyrim is a severe downgrade from its predecessors. To join it, players must walk up to one of its members standing out in the open in Riften. Then, players are given a test to join the guild, but even if they fail, they are still allowed to join.
Once the player joins the guild, they gain access to the same services it provides in Oblivion and Morrowind, despite the guild being on the brink of total eclipse.
However, the guild’s quest line is particularly lackluster. This is because it doesn’t require the player to be an effective thief. Instead, most of the quests are more focused on combat, and players don’t even have to play with stealth in mind to be successful.
Completing the quest also forces the player to pledge undying allegiance to Nocturnal, which is unfortunate for players that don’t want to do that or are trying to roleplay a character that wouldn’t. To lead the Thieves Guild, players also have to complete numerous radiant quests, which are too simple to be fun and feel like a lame ending after the high stakes of the quest line up to that point.
Elder Scrolls Online
The Thieves Guild in ESO was added through a minor DLC release that gave it its dedicated region. It also features a quest line that sees players helping the guild members recover from a heist that went wrong.
It is an exciting premise for a quest, but it is disappointing that players don’t get to participate in the heist themselves at the start of the quest.
Stealth is also very difficult to do well in ESO and tends to fall apart quickly, which makes the guild’s quests not fully match the guild and its rules. However, it does give players an exclusive skill line and unique systems, which is a fun way to develop your character further.
The Dark Brotherhood is a guild of assassins that kill targets for money in service of the deity Sithis. It is as much a business as it is a cult, leading to an interesting balance for players to interact with and navigate as they carry out jobs for the faction.
It also operates under the service of a spiritual leader known as the Night Mother, who communes with Sithis to undertake contracts.
When people want to hire the Dark Brotherhood, they must complete a ritual to summon a guild member who will carry out the killing in Sithis’ name. The Dark Brotherhood does operate illegally, and throughout the series, it has repeatedly been on the brink of complete collapse.
Players must kill three civilians or fifteen guards to join the Dark Brotherhood in Daggerfall. The player is then contacted by the guild and given a specific task to join them.
This is a great way to introduce the guild to the player, especially for first-time players that didn’t know their actions would catch the attention of a guild of assassins. The guild’s quests primarily give the player a target to kill, which are frequently members of other guilds.
Unfortunately, the guild’s quests don’t have an overarching narrative, but it still fits the guild very well. It is also interesting because many quests are started by the player getting hired by another guild to kill one of their members, which introduces an intriguing relationship between the Dark Brotherhood and the other guilds.
In Morrowind, the Dark Brotherhood was added to the game in the Tribunal expansion. However, they function as antagonists and are not a joinable guild.
The Dark Brotherhood approaches players in Oblivion once they kill an innocent person. Recruitment triggers for guilds are great, and it is the start of one of the most varied and impactful quest lines in Oblivion.
This is because the quest features the fantastic reward of a unique horse, multiple quests that have exclusive mechanics, it embraces the assassination playstyle, and tells a captivating narrative that challenges the player throughout it.
Once the quest is completed, players can also take radiantly generated assassination contracts to make money, which is a fun addition.
To join the Dark Brotherhood in Skyrim, players must hear a rumor about a child performing the Black Brotherhood ritual and track them down to steal the contract.
They are then inducted into the guild so that they can pay them back for the stolen contract. However, the Dark Brotherhood is on the brink of destruction in Skyrim. Its quests then see the player becoming the listener to the Night Mother and ultimately deciding whether to save the guild or destroy it.
Unfortunately, the guild’s quest line struggles a lot. Assassination quests are always a fun concept, but in Skyrim they frequently don’t give players the freedom to approach them in exciting ways.
The guild’s overarching narrative is also filled with contradictions and twists that don’t make sense, severely hindering its impact. However, how it gives players a choice regarding the guild’s operation at the end is a fun ending.
Elder Scrolls Online
The Dark Brotherhood was added to ESO in a DLC similar to the Thieves Guild. It gives players a unique skill tree but is so focused that it only works for a particular playstyle for a single class.
Its quest line also isn’t exciting since the mechanics of ESO don’t work very well for assassination missions. However, it does give players access to the Blade of Woe, which allows them to assassinate NPCs, making stealth much more viable.
The Companions are Skyrim’s version of the Fighters Guild. They operate out of the city of Whiterun and are built on the warrior-favoring culture of the Nords.
They are also known not to have an official leader, which isn’t evident in the game itself as the player eventually becomes their leader. The highest ranking members of the Companions are also Werewolves, despite the guild not having a direct connection to the Daedric prince Hircine.
It is also an odd decision for the most Nordic guild in Tamriel to be werewolves, as that prevents them from going to the realm of Sovngarde in the afterlife, which is enormous in Nordic culture.
The guild’s quest line is primarily concerned with the player helping the guild fight back against a group of werewolf hunters known as the Silver Hand. However, the Silver Hand never has its history or motivation clearly stated, making the quest line more confusing than it is interesting.
The Morag Tong is a guild of assassins that operates in the province of Morrowind. It worships the Daedric prince Mephala and attempts to honor her through their assassinations.
The Dark Brotherhood was born out of the Morag Tong, leading to a lot of bad blood between the two guilds and their different cult rituals. However, the most exciting component of the Morag Tong is that it is legally sanctioned. While regular murder is still illegal in Morrowind, hiring the Morag Tong to murder the same person instead is entirely legal and allowed.
Players must find the guild’s secret hideout to join the Morag Tong in Morrowind. They are then allowed to join the guild and embark on a quest line filled with assassinations. While players perform unconnected assassinations, they also periodically get quests that are part of a larger narrative regarding the player helping preserve the guild and complete its goals.
Elder Scrolls Online
The Morag Tong was introduced to ESO in the Morrowind expansion. It is not a joinable guild but plays a role in the main quest line for the province.
The Undaunted guild is only present in Elder Scrolls Online and is a group of adventurers dedicated to clearing out dungeons and achieving impressive feats of skill. However, the game has very little information regarding the guild, and they are not referenced in any other entry in the series. They are primarily in the game to facilitate the player’s daily dungeon quests.
The Imperial Arena is located in the capital of Cyrodiil, the Imperial City. It is a massive stadium that sees two teams competing against one another in fights to the death for the entertainment and gambling of the masses.
Players can join the arena as a combatant and rise through the ranks to eventually become the arena’s grand champion. Then, they can fight different creatures to make money, depending on their level. However, there is no greater narrative for the guild other than a side quest regarding the arena’s previous champion, the Gray Prince.
Question: Can you join all of the guilds in Elder Scrolls Online?
Answer: Yes, you can join every guild with a single character in ESO.
Question: Which Elder Scrolls game has the best guilds?
Answer: Oblivion has the best guilds in the series because of how different the quests for each one are. They also feature some of the best quests in the game, with the Dark Brotherhood quests being some of the best the series has ever seen.
Question: What are the four guilds in Skyrim?
Answer: Skyrim includes the assassination guild called the Dark Brotherhood, the mercenary Companions guild, the magic-focused College of Winterhold, and the Thieves Guild.
Elder Scrolls Guilds: Conclusion
The guilds of Elder Scrolls are one of the most defining aspects of the series. They help give the setting an incredible amount of character and help players find their character’s place in the world. While they have changed a lot in each series entry, they also have a lot of potential to make future entries in the series even more exciting and unique.