One of the most significant decisions Elder Scrolls Online players have to make for each character is which alliance they want to play for. There are three alliances: Aldmeri Dominion, Daggerfall Covenant, and Ebonheart Pact. Each alliance allows you to play a handful of races unless you purchase the collector’s edition and have their storylines and controlled regions.
The alliance that a player chooses also determines which side they fight for in Elder Scrolls Online‘s PvP mode in Cyrodiil. So, here is everything you need to know about the MMO’s three alliances.
Key Info Up Front
- Races: Altmer, Bosmer, and Khajiit
- Capital City: Elden Root
- Provinces: Summerset Isles, Elsweyr, and Valenwood
- Races: Bretons, Redguards, and Orcs
- Capital City: Wayrest
- Provinces: High Rock and Hammerfell
- Races: Argonians, Dunmer, and Nords
- Capital City: Mournhold
- Provinces: Black Marsh, Morrowind, and Skyrim
The Alliance War
The core story of Elder Scrolls Online revolves around two conflicts: Molag Bal‘s attempted invasion of Mundus and the Three Banners War. The Three Banners War results from a three-way conflict between each alliance to seize Cyrodiil after the Imperial Empire has become weak under the rule of Clivia Tharn.
Each alliance wants Cyrodiil because of its strategic position at the center of the continent and take control of the symbolic seat of power, the White-Gold Tower at the heart of the Imperial City, and the ruby throne within.
Each alliance also has its reasons for thinking they are the ones to lead Tamriel going into the future. The Daggerfall Covenant is ruled by High King Emeric, a Breton King with extensive experience and knowledge about the Imperial Empire.
He sees the weakness of its current state and knows that a strong leader is needed to keep Tamriel united and force its various peoples and cultures to work together. Because of his experience and knowledge about how the Empire was successful previously, he believes that he is the only one up to the task.
The Ebonheart Pact became involved in the conflict when it realized that the Empire was working with Molag Bal because the leader of the Elder Council, Abnur Tharn, is the patriarch of a family with a long history of worshipping the Daedric Prince.
So, Ebonheart Pact isn’t entirely interested in the Ruby throne itself. Still, it instead intends to protect Tamriel and the broader realm of Nirn from the existential threats of Oblivion, and if taking the throne is the only way to do so, they are more than willing to.
The Aldmeri Dominion, on the other hand, is very intent on taking the throne for geopolitical reasons and personal reasons. Led by Queen Ayrenn, the Dominion has recognized the waning power of humans and hopes to restore all elvish races to the power that they enjoyed many hears before.
Not only would retaking the elf-built White Gold Tower help with that, but Ayrenn also has a personal vendetta against Abnur Tharn because they crossed paths some years before the start of the game. This setup for the Three Banners War allows players to align themselves with each side of the conflict, whether they prefer a particular race or think that one ruler has a better reason for their actions than the others.
However, it also aligns with the core theme of The Elder Scrolls as a series, which is that there is no one correct way to view the world or stance to take.
Even the setting’s origin story varies depending on who is telling it and what culture they come from, and this war between the three alliances is no different. The threat posed by Molag Bal and the sitting Elder Council is universal, but the reactions to that threat vary wildly.
The Aldmeri Dominion
The first area that Aldmeri Dominion players experience is Khenarthi’s Roost. This area is a small island just off the coast of Elsweyr that is predominantly inhabited by Khajiit and Maormer, also known as Sea Elves. The island is primarily used for the numerous moon-sugar plantations. Aldmeri Dominion’s second area of Elder Scrolls Online‘s map is Auridon.
This region is one of the largest islands that make up the Summerset Isles and is renowned for its unique plant life that brings beautiful color to the environment. Auridon also has one of the biggest cities in the entire alliance. Still, the local government’s suppression of the lower class has led to a popular resistance movement known as the Veiled Heritance.
This alliance also controls the region of Grahtwood, which is a dense forest area within Valenwood. Grahtwood is also home to the Aldmeri Dominion’s capital city of Elden Root while also having the highest density of Valenwood’s iconic massive graht-oak trees. In Valenwood, the Aldmeri Dominion also controls the region of Greenshade.
The region is primarily home to the Thalmer, which have worked extensively to bring more modern civilization to its greeny pastures and network of winding rivers. Still, many of its locale inhabitants have resisted letting go of their ancient Daedric worshipping practices.
The Aldmeri Dominion also controls the northwestern region of Valenwood known as Malabal Tor. The region is an incredibly dense jungle with a canopy so thick that there is hardly any light that reaches the bottom layers and is the home of the Bosmer, or Wood Elves.
Within the region, the Bosmer have continued many of their ancestral traditions, including the controversial practice of cannabilism. The alliance’s final region is Reaper’s March which connects northern Valenwood to Elsweyr.
This sees the region bordering the cultures of the Bosmer and Khajiiti to make a unique blend of both architecture and cultural practices of the two peoples.
If you want to align yourself with the Aldmeri Dominion, you’ll have three races to choose from. These are the Altmer, High Elves, Bosmer, Wood Elves, and Khajiit.
The Altmer was one of the first races to inhabit Tamriel, and as such, they have never stopped seeing themselves as its rightful rulers.
Across the continent, they are renowned for their artistic talents, especially in their architecture and other physical arts. In Elder Scrolls Online, the magical talent of the Altmer is reflected in the race’s skill line, increasing a player’s spell damage, Magicka, experience gain, and general resource recovery.
The Bosmer elves are known for their curious nature and proficiency at acrobatics. Their home province of Valenwood has frequently been the subject of Imperial attacks, which has allowed the race to forge their defensive abilities to become some of the most feared warriors in all of Tamriel, especially when it comes to archery.
In the game, this is reflected by their skill line granting better archery, base stamina, stamina recovery, movement speed, reduced fall damage, poison resistance, and better stealth.
The Khajiiti are a proud people that, at the time of Elder Scrolls Online, are still recovering from the devastation they endured from a disease known as the Knahaten Flu. They were assisted in overcoming it by Queen Ayrenn, leaving the race indebted to the Aldmeri Dominion, which the alliance uses to have them act as its most robust military component.
Their skill race includes skills that give the player better pickpocketing, resource recovery, stealth, and better base levels and recovery for health, stamina, and Magicka.
The overarching storyline of the Aldmeri Dominion is concerned with the player helping Queen Ayrenn solidify her claim as a rule while repelling the invasions of the Sea Vipers, a band of Maormer pirates.
The queen’s claim to the throne is accepted enough across the Aldmeri Dominion to give her power. Still, many questioned it because she only claimed the throne and established the alliance after suddenly appearing following years of her absence.
She also has received some pushback from factions within the alliance because of her rhetoric towards humans and other species that is not as xenophobic as the Altmer historically has been. These factions include a cult that worships Mehrunes Dagon, founded by Ayrenn’s sister and her brother, who is magically twisted to become an evil entity set to destroy her.
However, with the player by her side, Ayrenn makes efforts to defeat the cult and any who oppose her, solidify her treatise with the Bosmer elves to grow the alliance’s power through marriage, and help the Khajiit select a new leader after twins are born on the date and time that the next leader is supposed to be born.
The questline takes the player all across Valenwood and sees the player interacting with numerous races as they work to ensure the alliance’s integrity, which serves as a great introduction to its politics.
The Daggerfall Covenant is primarily in control of High Rock, Orsinium, and northern Hammerfell. Its starting area is Stros M’Kai, a desert island off the coast of Hammerfell. The island is home to the Redguards and was one of the first regions of Tamriel that they settled and is a haven for pirate activity.
The Daggerfall Covenant also controls the peninsula of Glenumbra in High Rock. Glenumbra is a diverse region home to forest, rivers, the city-states of Daggerfall and Camlorn, and hilly plains. The Covenant’s next region is Stormhaven, in the southern part of High Rock.
Stormhaven is made up of sparse forests interspersed between sprawling farmland regions. The region is renowned for its erratic weather that quickly oscillates between clear skies and heavy storms.
Then there is the region of Rivenspire, a gloomy area dominated by rough rock formations that jut out of the landscape. Three disparate Breton houses rule the region, and to make its harsh terrain even worse, is home to aggressive species like wolves, spiders, and giant bats. One of this alliance’s most significant regions is the Alik’r Desert.
As the name suggests, it is an arid region dominated by harsh swathes of sand that hide ancient ruins beneath their dunes. The harsh realities of the desert have seen those who live there splitting into nomadic tribes to follow resources wherever they are available while using ingenious contraptions to capture as much water as possible.
The final region of the Daggerfall Covenant is Bangkorai. Nested Hammerfell, High Rock, Stormhaven, and the Alik’r Desert represent every climate and region of the Daggerfall Covenant.
Overall, the region is pleasant, with a booming trade city, a mix of sunny days and showers, and comfortable temperatures. However, it is home to numerous camps of the witches of Glenmoril Wyrd that seek to return a portion of the region to the Reach.
The Daggerfall Covenant is made up of the races of the Bretons, Redguards, and Orcs.
The Bretons of Tamriel originated in High Rock and are race defined by their humanity being mixed with a small amount of elvish blood. Their culture is notably poetic and focuses on its people being knowledgable in both spellcraft and swordplay.
This is reflected in their skill tree, which includes skills to increase your magicka recovery, reduce magicka costs for abilities, and improve spell resistance.
The Redguard people are focused on tradition, ancestry, and honor. All of this comes together to make them fabled warriors that combine modern equipment with traditional training to make them proficient with material weapons. However, they are also reluctant to trust magic despite revering to the divine.
Their racial skill tree focuses on getting the most out of their weapons with increases to their max stamina and stamina restoration, reducing the effectiveness of snares cast on the player, and reducing the cost of weapon-specific abilities.
Orcs are some of the most fearsome and capable warriors one can find in Tamriel. While many other races consider them to be brutish or brutal, they have a long history of surviving incredible conflict.
These hardships have necessitated a culture driven by honor where the strong Orcs survive and are given power while the weak are left behind or die in the process. Their challenging home environment is reflected in their racial skill tree that buffs their heavy armor, sprinting, weapon damage, weapon proficiency, and base health and stamina.
The storyline of the Daggerfall Covenant is focused on suppressing numerous threats to the alliance’s security from within its regions. This makes it an excellent storyline for players who want to see a lot of what the setting offers, or who want a story with a lot going on.
The storyline begins with the player arriving on Stros M’Kai just after a massive storm has passed through before getting involved in a high stakes heist complete with assembling a team of experts. From there, the player has to deal with numerous cults that each have their machinations and plots to disrupt the alliance before moving on to wider Tamriel.
This storyline’s use of multiple cults with their characters and motivations allows it to mix in a plethora of enemy types. These include necromancers, vampires, werewolves, and, yes, undead werewolves. The beliefs and existence of these supernatural forces interact exceptionally well with the views of the Redguards.
The respect for the divine held by the Redguards makes them reluctant to kill the undead, while the inclusion of vampires gives it an exciting link to Molag Bal since he creates them.
The Ebonheart Pact is the final of the alliances and was reluctantly formed out of necessity. It comprises four of the five Dunmer Houses in Morrowind, Eastern Skyrim, and Black Marsh that founded the alliance to avoid falling under the rule of one of the other threes despite all of the races historically hating one another.
The first of the Ebonheart Pact’s regions that players visit is Bleakrock Isle. Bleakrock is a small island just to the northwest of Morrowind and south of Solstheim that is almost entirely barren. The only residents of Bleakrock Isle are a small contingent of Ebonheart Pact soldiers stationed there to look out for enemy ships that could lead to an invasion.
From Bleakrock Isle, players head to the region of Stonefalls in central Morrowind. Stonefalls are a diverse landscape that represents aspects of the surrounding geography. There are mushroom forests, the great Ash Mountain volcano, and a hilly volcanic area that constantly churns molten rock and lava.
The Ebonheart Pact also controls the region of Deshaan in southern Morrowind. This region is a verdant grassland that has been fertilized over many years from ash-falls, while it is more swampy in its southern area that borders Black Marsh.
There is also the region of Shadowfen. Shadowfen is the northernmost area of Black Marsh. The region is almost impassable to all but the Argonians, thanks to its dense swamp being filled with shifting plants and housing a range of terribly uncommon diseases. The Ebonheart Pact also has the region of Eastmarch in Skyrim.
With the capital of Windhelm, the region is the easternmost region of the province and is the home of the alliance’s ruler Jorunn the Skald-King. The region spans from the frozen areas of the province’s northeast to the more volcanic Throat of the World. Finally, the Ebonheart Pact also controls the part of The Rift.
The Rift is the southeastern area of Skyrim. It houses the capital of Riften while supporting verdant forests that are teeming with game, such as stags and bears.
The Ebonheart Pact is made up of the Argonians, Nords, and Dunmer, or Dark Elves, so you’ll have to play one of them if you want to support the familiar lands of Skyrim in Elder Scrolls Online.
The Argonian people are well-versed in stealth and survival due to having to build their civilization in the fetid swamps of Black Marsh. They also are very familiar with guerilla warfare tactics, as they have had to repel numerous invasion attempts and the constant attempts of nearby provinces enslaving them.
These attributes are present in their racial skill line, increasing the player’s healing, ability with restoration staves, benefits from potions, swimming speed, base health and magicka, and more excellent resistance to diseases.
A long time ago, the Nords controlled nearly all of Tamriel and still believed that they deserved that level of power. This has made them very proficient with arms paired with their hot tempers, impulsive nature, and boisterous attitudes.
Their enemies fear facing their might on the battlefield, especially with their race skill tree increasing their two-handed weapons, duration of drink effects, ultimate generation, and resistances to physical, spell, and frost damage.
The Dark Elves are the red-eyed natives of Morrowind. The province’s history of conflict and turmoil has forged them into fierce warriors that draw on their magical affinity as elves, accompanied by their cultural emphasis on education and knowledge.
Their racial skill tree gives them extra fire and lava resistance, an increase to dual wielding, additional weapon and spell damage, and buffs to their magicka and stamina.
The storyline of the Ebonheart Pact deals with the wild nature of the alliance and explores the threats posed to each of its races by the other alliances. In Stonefalls, you’ll face off against the Daggerfall Covenant and have to try to stop a radical idea from getting out of control as the spirits of two brother volcanoes are released.
In Deshaan, you’ll prevent a zombie apocalypse, while in Shadowfen, you’ll stop the Aldmeri Dominion from poisoning the Hist and stealing the faces of Argonians. During the Ebonheart Pact storyline, you’ll also have to protect the crown of King Joruun from his brother.
This storyline is not as unified throughout as the other two alliances, but it accurately reflects the tumultuous nature of the alliance itself.
Each of the races that make up the Ebonheart Pact has a lot of violent history that is still being dealt with in its storyline in the MMO. This makes this alliance’s storyline especially fun for Elder Scrolls fans who know much about Tamriel’s history and lore.
Question: Can You Play All Three Alliance Storylines with One Character?
Answer: Yes, after you finish the story with one alliance, you will get the option to restart from one of the other two alliances to see all of them.
Question: Can You Play Any Race with Any Alliance?
Answer: You can, but only if you purchase the collector’s edition of Elder Scrolls Online.
Question: Can You Play as Imperials in Elder Scrolls Online?
Answer: Yes, Imperials are in the MMO, but they are sold as a separate DLC pack that must be purchased separately from everything else in the game.Their racial skill tree emphasizes increasing your health and stamina, getting more gold dropped, improving resource recovery, and being more proficient with shields.
ESO Alliances: Conclusion
Regardless of which alliance you ultimately align with, they all have interesting main storylines and side quests for players to experience. Each also has its tone to enjoy and beautiful vistas to discover as you travel across Tamriel. Since each alliance has a different perspective of the war and the conflict with Molag Bal, playing through all three of them is also a great way to see the entire story of Elder Scrolls Online.