One of the things that Elder Scrolls Games are famous for are its numerous guilds and factions that the players can join. By joining a faction, you gain access to special faction-specific storylines, followers, and unique headquarters that you can use. Some factions likewise have their rival factions, and being a member of both is not a good idea or is possible in general. This is why we’ve decided to create this guide that covers all joinable factions in Skyrim, but before we start working through the details, let’s answer our main question, how many factions can you join in Skyrim at the same time?
You can join nine factions in Skyrim, with some factions being mutually exclusive, such as Imperials and Stormcloaks, Dawnguard, and Volkihar Vampires. This means that you can join up to 7 factions in Skyrim at the same time. Additional factions have been added with the Creation Club, like Tribunal Temple, and there are likewise smaller factions that you can become an honorary member of, but we’ve decided not to include them in the main count due to them not having any significant impact or large storylines.
Now that we’ve covered the total number of factions you can join simultaneously, it’s time to analyze the details. If you’re interested in what factions are rivals and the smaller honorary factions you can only technically join, stay with us and keep reading!
There are only four primary factions in Skyrim that have a significant impact on your character development
Skyrim is a huge game with numerous side quests and several large storylines that encompass potentially hundreds of hours of playtime. Even though Skyrim’s main storyline is rather short compared to the previous games in the franchise, luckily, just like any previous installment, Skyrim implemented various factions you can join.
Like previous Elder Scrolls installments, Skyrim added factions for four primary archetypes of characters: mage, warrior, thief, and assassin.
As a mage, you might be inclined to join the College of Winterhold, Skyrim’s version of Mage’s Guild. And while the College of Winterhold storyline was kind of weird, short, and dumped you in the position of an Arch-Mage with no build-up whatsoever, it’s decent enough if you plan on surrounding yourself with like-minded sorcerers and if you want to gain access to a powerful array of magic-oriented trainers.
Warriors may join The Companions, Skyrim’s equivalent of Fighter’s Guild. Even though the Fighters Guild and Companions have pretty much the same purpose due to the two factions being related, the Companions have this weird werewolf thing going. Joining Companions also grants you access to a smaller sub-faction within the faction called The Circle. You can join the Circle as soon as you become a werewolf.
Assassin-oriented characters can join the famous Dark Brotherhood. Dark Brotherhood has a storied history in every Elder Scrolls installment, and this faction generally has the best storylines and the most memorable characters.
Lastly, Thieves can join the Thieves Guild. Thieves Guild has one of the longer storylines in Skyrim, allowing you to hone your stealth-based skills like sneaking, lockpicking, and pickpocketing. This faction is likewise an important source of gold during the early portions of the game due to its radiant “Special Jobs” quests that you can do an infinite amount of time. Like with Companions, Thieves Guild has a sub-faction within the faction that you can join, the Nightingales.
When it comes to primary factions in Skyrim, you can join all four of them at the same time. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never cast a spell in your life; you can join the College of Winterhold. If you suck at sneaking? It doesn’t matter. You can still learn on the job while doing quests for the Thieves Guild. Primary factions in Skyrim are not mutually exclusive in Skyrim, and you can join them all simultaneously.
Some factions in Skyrim are mutually exclusive, and you have to choose
Primary factions are open to everyone, but some factions are more “rival” oriented, and you generally have to pick one in front of the other. Of course, we’re talking about the Civil War storyline and the Dawnguard storyline.
During the Civil War storyline, you’re forced to choose between Imperial Legion and Stormcloaks. What it’s important to mention is that there is no way to resolve this questline peacefully, and you will have to make some hard choices because the “third option” doesn’t exist. You can, however, during the course of the Civil War storyline, change your mind several times and opt-out to join the opposing faction.
The Dawnguard add-on introduced two additional factions, but you can only join one at any given time, the Dawnguard and Volikhar Vampires.
Dawnguard is a faction of vampire hunters led by Isran, they are holed up in Fort Dawnguard, and the faction generally gives you access to some powerful weapons and followers, such as armored Trolls. This faction is the better choice between the two due to having access to some unique weapons that are not available through other means.
Volikhar Vampires are a vampire coven holed up in Volikhar Castle, situated on a small island in the Sea of Ghosts near the border with High Rock. Joining Volkihar vampires means that the Dawnguard faction will be your enemy, but you will gain access to a powerful “Vampire Lord Form.”
Even though you can join only Volkihar Vampires or Dawnguard, you will get an opportunity to switch sides just like with the Civil War Storyline, but to unlock all bonuses given by both factions, you will have to stick with your chosen faction until the end.
Smaller factions that you can join but don’t affect the game in a significant way
Besides the four primary and two mutually exclusive factions, you can join several smaller factions with short storylines. One such faction is Bards College, situated in Solitude. No special perks are associated with the faction, but one fairly interesting storyline and a festival to finish it off are involved. As the name says, Bard College trains Bards and musicians that perform around various inns and taverns in Skyrim.
Tribunal Temple is a small faction added by the Creation Club content. The Tribunal Temple is a cult of heretical Dunmer that keeps “the old ways” and worships the former living gods, Sotha Sil, Almalexia, and Vivec. If you’re feeling nostalgic for Morrowind, I recommend you try this one if you haven’t already.
Faction in Skyrim that you can become an honorary member of
Now that we’ve covered the larger factions, it’s time to analyze all the other ones you have contact with in the game. And while those factions are not joinable in the same way as primary factions, you can still become an honorary member of some of them.
Blades is a faction dedicated to slaying dragons and protecting the Septim line of emperors. Considering ALL the events that transpired in the last several hundred years, Blades are a shadow of their former selves, and their primary purpose is lost. You get an opportunity to become an honorary member of the Blades during the main storyline when you meet Delphine and Esbern. If you refuse to kill Paarthurnax, Blades will no longer speak to you, and you will lose access to some perks like followers and living quarters.
The Forsworn are an aggressive faction of ritualistic and uncivilized Bretons that inhabit the Reach and are stuck in constant warfare with the local Nords that immigrated to their lands and basically ruined their culture, no matter how savage it is. Even though you never get the opportunity to join the Forsworn, you get the opportunity to work with them during the quest “No One Escapes Cidhna Mine.”
A cult of monks situated at the High Hrothgar. You can become an honorary member of the Greybeards during the main storyline. The Greybeards follow Jurgen Windcaller’s Way of the Voice and dedicate their whole lives toward worshiping the Thu’um. Paarthurnax leads them, and if you decide to kill him, The Greybeards will no longer speak with you, and you will lose access to perks related to shouting. For example, Arngeir will no longer reveal to you the locations of Word Walls around the world.
Skaal are a peaceful group inhabiting the eastern side of Solstheim. They follow the old ways and worship the “All-Maker.” You get an opportunity to become the honorary Skaal during the main Dragonborn storyline when Skaal turn out to be an extensive source of knowledge on how to combat both Miraak and Hermaeus Mora.
House Telvanni has its roots in Morrowind Game, where they were one of the primary factions that you could join. You can join Hose Telvanni during the Dragonborn storyline when you meet Master Neloth. After doing some errands for Neloth and basically saving both him and his home, he offers you the opportunity to join his revered house of mages with all of its perks, which is to say, there are none.