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Guilds are at the heart of the world of Elder Scrolls. They facilitate services throughout the entire continent, ensuring that they have access to them no matter where one is in the world. The same guilds also provide networks of resources and relations for their members, allowing them to travel to any major city and know their place there.
But guilds also do a lot for the player. They are a great way to specialize your characters and roleplay their role in the wider world. Guilds also help keep the game’s universe consistent by tying together the disparate provinces each new release focuses on. The ubiquity of the guilds also helps reflect the changes in the setting throughout the years, which is one of my favorite parts.
One of my favorite of all the guilds is the Mages Guild. I love playing mage characters, even as the series’ magic systems have been steadily gutted in newer entries.
I always love meeting the strange cast of characters that typically fill the halls of the Mages Guild and enjoy the cool quests and stories that the guild is able to tell. So, here is everything that you could need to know about the Mages Guild that I’ve picked up as a devoted mage player throughout multiple playthroughs of the series.
Mages Guild Overview
The Mages Guild is precisely what its name implies. It is an organization founded to facilitate and monitor the training and development of those with magical abilities. In doing so, it also ensured that major cities throughout Tamriel had access to essential magical services.
I really love the core idea behind the Mages Guild. Magic is very prevalent in Elder Scrolls, but does come with its own eccentricities and dangers.
With that in mind, it makes complete sense that people would want to establish a way to regulate the use of magic and make sure that it is handled responsibly. I think this adds a lot of flavor to the world of Elder Scrolls while also making it feel more realistic.
While the existence of the Mages Guild guaranteed access to lesser magical resources like alchemical ingredients and enchanted items, it also served as a gate to the more potentially dangerous magical arts. Only members of the guild that had risen to its highest ranks were granted access to the training and resources required to begin practicing the likes of spell making and enchantment.
These elements have helped make the Mages Guild a significant part of the Elder Scrolls titles it appeared in. I have found that for characters that used magic, it is consistently the best way to find training, consistent resources, and invest in your magical abilities. It also provides a sense of camaraderie with the other members and a bed and food in each of its guild halls.
Mages Guild History
The Mages Guild was founded around 2E 230 by a powerful mage named Vanus Galerion. Before the guild’s founding, Galerion was a member of the Psijic Order, an isolationist clan of magic users. Galerion grew frustrated with the Order’s insistence on recording the events of history without intervening despite their incredible power, giving birth to the idea of the Mages Guild.
I can really see why Galerion became frustrated with the politics of the Psijic Order, but he was also motivated by believing that magic should be available to all who could afford it, rather than the extremely rich or noble.
This idea saw him garnering a lot of resistance in the early days of the guild’s founding, with many labeling his ideas as “Galerions’ Folly.” However, it seems likely to me that this pushback was largely a reaction by those same social elite that saw Galerion’s ideas as a threat to their standing and position.
Despite the resistance against his forming the guild, Galerion succeeded in establishing the Mages Guild, and it quickly proved to be a massive success.
He quickly became one of the most prominent names in magic that Tamriel has ever seen and went on to develop the schools and aspects of magic in Elder Scrolls that players have become so familiar with, like soul trapping.
Once the guild was established in the province of Summerset Isle, it took time to grow to its prevalence throughout Tamriel.
The Guild Act of 2E 231 that founded the Fighters Guild helped with its legitimacy, but it still took a couple of generations for some provinces to open their borders to the guild and the benefits it brought. After its almost universal acceptance throughout Tamriel, the guild established a headquarters in the Imperial City of Cyrodiil known as Arcane University.
This status is where the Mages Guild is essentially at when players have seen it throughout the series. While Galerion eventually left the guild in disgust for the political leanings it had adopted, his idea proved to be a resounding success. The guild remained primarily powerful, influential, and essential for all living in Tamriel, until the Oblivion Crisis.
The Oblivion Crisis is at the center of Oblivion, and it caused a massive upheaval in the structure of Tamriel, and for good reason. I would also start questioning the systems that were supposed to protect me if all of a sudden portals to hell were opening up everywhere with seemingly little resistance.
However, the event also led to the demonization of magic, which eventually led to the destruction of the Mages Guild. While it still lives on in some form through two smaller sects, it is far from being as ubiquitous and influential as it was beforehand.
Mages Guild Teachings
Any player that has played a mage character in Elder Scrolls should be very familiar with the guild’s teachings. When it was initially founded, Galerion strived to establish schools of magic that would organize the learnings of his pupils.
However, his training alongside the infamous Mannimarco led him to despise the art of Necromancy and outlaw it from the guild entirely.
Galerion held a similar distaste for Soul Gems, the process of capturing the power of a soul in a gem to derive power from it later on. This makes a lot of sense because soul-trapping is really messed up when you stop and think about it. Being able to verify that souls exist and then exploiting them for their power raises a lot of moral questions regarding the practice of magic in Elder Scrolls.
While he at first tried to oppose the practice of Soul Magic entirely, its popularity forced him to accept it in the guild. However, he still instituted the distinction between White Soul Gems (made from beasts and creatures) and the more powerful Black Soul Gems (made from the souls of sentient beings) to try and dissuade the art’s darkest forms.
As the guild’s teachings expanded with the growing potential and knowledge of magic, its curriculum became bloated and unwieldy to even the most devoted students. This led the mage Gabrielle Benele to propose a new curriculum of seven schools of magic and two arcane arts that players are familiar with today.
Schools of Magic
The Alteration school of magic covers spells that manipulate the physical components of their targets. These spells are beneficial, even for non-dedicated users of magic. They have effects such as opening locks, modifying the weight of objects, or giving individuals the ability to breathe underwater temporarily.
Conjuration is a school that derives much of its power from the volatile planes of Oblivion, the realm of the sinister Daedric Princes. It allows the user to telepathically summon creatures from Oblivion to fight for them, and summon powerful gear to wield and repel undead creatures.
The Destruction school of magic is the mage’s primary way of navigating combat directly. It allows them to call upon the various elements of the physical world and use them to fight their battles. They can corrode the armor of enemies, sap their abilities, or kill them directly with flames, electricity, and cold.
Illusion spells use the bending of light and the mental manipulation of targets to achieve their goals. While the school can cast actual illusions, in the games, it instead focuses on manipulating the minds of others for diverse benefits and ailments. These include terrifying targets, inspiring them with courage, giving targets night vision, or even preventing targets from speaking or using magic at all.
Mysticism is the most obscure and undefined of the guild’s schools of magic. Its spells seem capable of tuning into the Magicka that permeates all things in Tamriel and manipulating it in various ways. This allows casters to trap the souls of creatures, grab objects with telekinetic abilities, and even absorb opposing spells.
The Restoration school is the most benevolent of the magic schools. Its efforts are focused on healing, restoring lost attributes, clearing negative status effects, and bolstering defenses against negative forces.
The Thaumaturgy school is capable of manipulating the very laws of physics that define Nirn, if only temporarily. It allows casters to make heavy objects float, teleport objects or people, and even manipulate magical forces around them.
The art of Alchemy is predicated on the presence of innate magical properties that are hidden in the chemical compositions of all life. Studying art allows the individual to break organic life into its base chemical components to mix with others and create tonics of magical ability. This can be used to create helpful potions that heal or help those who drink it or to make deadly poisons that can kill people with a single drop.
The art of Enchanting is exceptionally powerful, which is why it is often restricted to the most accomplished members of the guild. It allows you to take the trapped soul of another living creature and imbue its power into a piece of equipment like a helmet or sword to give them constant magical abilities. In the case of armor, this is used to give the wearer magical abilities like seeing in the dark or increasing the Magicka they can draw upon in battle. In weapons, it is used to afflict those that it strikes with negative ailments, making them more effective killing tools.
Mages Guild in Arena
The Mages Guild goes back to the very first Elder Scrolls game, Arena. It has halls located in the cities of Dragonstar, Rihad, and Sentinel.
However, players cannot join the guild and only interact with them through randomly generated side quests or by taking advantage of their services. It does feel weird not being able to join the guild when going back to play Arena now, but with how old the game is it is an understandable limitation of the time.
Throughout a playthrough in Arena, players will have to fight members of the guild who are trying to stop them during their quest occasionally. Still, most of your interactions with the guild are more transactional. The guild can be visited to purchase spells and potions or to sell magical items that the player no longer wants.
Interestingly, the Mages Guild is also key to the identification system in Arena. Whenever a player finds a magical item, they are required to take it to the guild to figure out what its magical attributes actually are. Players are also able to access spellmaking services through the guild to make potent combinations of spells that are used all at once.
Being able to interact with the Mages Guild for its services is a fun bit of world-building and a lot of its services are really handy. However, it does end up feeling like a lot of potential was wasted since the guild is never involved in quests beyond randomized encounters.
Mages Guild in Daggerfall
With the release of Daggerfall, players were able to join the Mages Guild for the first time. This also saw the introduction of quests related to the guild. While a few quests could be completed by non-members of the guild, the majority were reserved for those who joined its ranks.
Most of the Mages Guild quests in Daggerfall are mundane, which I really love. It provides you with a more grounded look at the role magic plays in the Elder Scrolls universe and a real look at the daily happenings of the guild.
The quests include objectives like dealing with escaped summoned creatures, opening locks that nobody can pick, or tracking down alchemical ingredients.
The guild’s quests culminate, however, in the story of Baltham Greyman. All of the guilds in Daggerfall feature a climactic quest line of three quests that tell an interconnected story to serve as the capstone of the player’s achievements in the guild.
This system is excellent because it allows the player to have a big impact on the guild and achieve something great without it requiring world-ending stakes.
The story of Baltham Greyman begins with the player being sent to kill him since he is a previous guild member that broke its rules. When the player confronts Greyman, they have the option of either killing or sparing him. If he is spared, the player later on, accepts a task to help him track down a powerful magical artifact. Once the item is gained, the player can hand it over to Greyman or keep it for themselves, ultimately ending in a fight to the death between the two.
I usually keep Greyman alive so that I can eventually get the relic, but the option to kill him right at the beginning is really great. When it makes sense to kill him with the character I am playing I do so, and having the option is really great for roleplaying.
Mages Guild Skills
Guilds also function differently in Daggerfall than in more modern entries because players ascend their ranks by improving certain skills. Players can then also pay members of the guild to train them in certain skills, which is one of the core ways of progressing your character.
The skills that the Mage Guild requires the player to level up in to ascend its ranks are:
Once the player joins the guild, they can pay to be trained in the likes of these skills:
Mages Guild in Redguard
In Redguard players are again unable to join the Mages Guild, but it does serve as a point of interest on the island of Stros M’kai which players can visit. They can visit for quests as well as being able to purchase items and services from the member Falicia.
The Mages Guild is also home to the exclusive Pool of Mysticism. It can be used by the player’s character Cyrus to learn about moments and details of his life, both in the past and the future. Having the Mages Guild in the game is nice for consistency-sake, but I found it extremely disappointing just how inconsequential its inclusion ultimately is.
Mages Guild in Morrowind
In Morrowind, players can join the Mages Guild again, but it is expanded to hold four unique quest lines that the player can play through at its different guild halls. The guild also continues the system in Daggerfall that saw players needing to level up certain skills to progress through its ranks while providing the best way to buy spells and training in magical skills.
The Mages Guild in Morrowind is undoubtedly my favorite version of the guild, both because of how it forces players to roleplay their characters but also because of how realistic its quests are. I can’t stand RPGs that have the player constantly saving the world from dire stakes, and the quests in Morrowind balance exciting stakes with grounded problems perfectly.
Morrowind Mages Guild Quests
The first line of quests that I recommend tackling is the ones in Sadrith Mora. These are given by the guild hall master there, Skink-in-Tree’s-Shade. I recommend picking them first because they are more mundane than other Mage Guild quests, allowing them to serve as a great starting point. They give the player a good introduction to the guild while having objectives appropriate for a fresh recruit.
After that, I recommend completing the quests in Ald’ruhn, given by Edwinna Elbert. Elbert has nine quests to give the player that all serve as slightly more serious tasks that make sense for low-to-middle-ranking guild members to complete.
Once you’re done in Ald’ruhn you can head to Balmora, where there are two quest givers. The first you should do is Ranis Athrys. Athrys is the guildmaster in Balmora and has a series of quests that are more difficult, such as finding a spy or dealing with a hidden necromancer. Then, you can do all seven quests from Ajira, whose last two quests are the hardest in the guild.
Morrowind‘s system for guild quests is a stellar approach that would be great to see a return to the series. Splitting up the quests to different locations works wonders to help the player become deeply familiar with the area surrounding that city, which is very important in Morrowind.
It also helps make the guild feel even larger than it can be with the game’s map size. Having disconnected storylines spread out in different locations gives the impression that the guild always has things going on throughout the province, which makes a lot of sense. It also helps keep the quests more grounded, so they don’t detract from the scale of the game’s main quest line.
Mages Guild in Oblivion
The Mages Guild in Oblivion has a guild hall in each province’s main cities and its headquarters in the Imperial City. This version of the Mages Guild no longer requires players to raise their magical skills to progress through its ranks, which is unfortunate. It also features a single linear quest line for players to go through.
However, I do like its interesting new gimmick that has each guild hall focus on a different school of magic. This encourages players to travel throughout the province to visit all of the guild halls to see what they have and give players one or two they visit more frequently because they prefer their focus.
The guild halls focus on the following schools:
- Anvil: Restoration
- Brazil: Illusion
- Cheydinhal: Alteration
- Chorrol: Conjuration
- Leyawiin: Mysticism
- Skingrad: Destruction
Oblivion Mages Guild Quest
When players first join the Mages Guild, they have to get a recommendation from each of the guild halls throughout Cyrodiil. Each guild hall has its unique quest for players to help with to introduce the hall and the mages that players can interact with there, which is a really cool system.
Once the player joins the Mages Guild, they undertake a quest spanning the entire province that sees them hunting down and facing off against a necromancer king named Mannimarco, that is trying to build a necromancer uprising against the guild.
While the necromancer is named Mannimarco like the legendary necromancer from Elder Scrolls lore and seems to be intended to be the same character, it is never entirely confirmed. So, it seems possible that it is instead a necromancer that has stolen the mantle of Mannimarco to attract more followers.
Regardless of whether or not it is the same Mannimarco, the quest line sees he ptlayer ultimately defeating Mannimarco and saving the guild. To be frank, I really dislike this quest for the guild. If the mage isn’t Mannimarco it doesn’t do enough to establish that, and if they are Mannimarco the fight is pathetic for how powerful and important he is in the universe’s lore.
Getting Kicked Out
Oblivion‘s Mages Guild did introduce an interesting feature that allows players to get expelled from the guild. This happens whenever they break the guild’s rules that prevent them from stealing from, hurting, or killing their fellow members.
The player is then given a quest to gather 20 Dragon’s Tongues and Redwort Flower if they were expelled for theft, or 20 Vampire Dust and Daedra Heart if expelled for murder. This system works great to give the player consequences, even if hunting down the materials can be really dull.
When the player is inducted back into the guild, their previous rank is restored, and they can pick up in the guild’s quest where they left off. However, they can only be expelled and rejoin twice. If they are expelled a third time, it is permanent and prevents them from completing the guild’s questline.
Mages Guild in Elder Scrolls Online
In Elder Scrolls Online, the Mages Guild is available to all players because they have abstained from taking a side in the civil war shaking Tamriel. To join the guild, players need to head to the guild hall in the capital city of their alliance, which allows them to join the guild instantly.
Once joined, the player gets access to a unique Mages Guild skill line and a short line of quests. To rank up in the guild and unlock more skills in its skill line, players need to collect books spread throughout the game’s entire world.
Elder Scrolls Online Mages Guild Quests
The quest line for the Mages Guild in ESO is centered around Sheogorath, the Daedric Prince of Madness. Sheogorath is a fan-favorite character with a long history in Elder Scrolls, so it is great to see him pop up in the guild’s quests. However, the quest line is slightly diminished by the nature of ESO as an MMORPG, which prevents it from giving the player many choices or different paths.
Mages Guild Skill Line
The skill line that players get access to by joining the Mages Guild grants the player access to an ultimate ability, four active abilities, and a handful of passive abilities. The ultimate ability allows the player to call down a meteor to hit and knock down enemies.
In contrast, the active abilities include a trap rune and a damaging spell that also heals the caster and allows the player to exchange Health for Magicka. The skill tree’s passive skills are all focused on the Mages Guild’s abilities and either making them more effective or decreasing their costs.
Getting the Mages Guild skill line is great for casters to get more options for magic-based builds, allowing it to round out other skill trees. This makes it a fun skill tree to track down, even if finding lore books to level it up can get annoying.
Question: Is the Mages Guild in Skyrim?
Answer: No, the Mages Guild was only briefly present in the province of Skyrim because it was pre-dated by the College of Winterhold. At the time of Skyrim, the Mages Guild was also dissolved following the magical distrust brewed by the Oblivion Crisis.
Question: What happened to the Mages Guild in Elder Scrolls?
Answer: After the Oblivion Crisis at the center of the main questline in Oblivion, the guild was liquidated, resulting in the founding of two new organizations, the Synod and the College of Whispers. The guild was dissolved because of a new growth of popular resentment towards magic because it was believed to have instigated the crisis.
Question: How do I join the Mages Guild in ESO?
Answer: The Mages Guild can be joined by traveling to their hall in the capital city of your alliance and asking to join. For the Ebonheart Pact, you need to head to Stonefalls. For the Aldmeri Dominion, go to Auridon, and for the Daggerfall Covenant, go to Glenumbra.
Elder Scrolls Mages Guild: Conclusion
The Mages Guild is one of the most iconic factions in Elder Scrolls. Through the utility that it gives players exciting quest lines, it has managed to fill a pivotal role in playthroughs of games like Morrowind and Daggerfall. So, if you’ve never run a mage character before, I highly recommend it, even if it is just to get some first-hand experience of the Mages Guild that plays such a pivotal role in Elder Scrolls.