I thought I knew the sort of character I was playing the first twenty levels or so in Skyrim – a Nord who was nevertheless loyal to the Empire. The Empire might be flawed, but the Stormcloaks offered only chaos. A soldier who generally believed the strong should protect the weak, and in particular do what he can for the less martial folk of Skyrim in this turbulent time. The business with dragons was odd, empowering, but also fitted into this narrative.
I began to wonder though – perhaps it would be better to join the Stormcloaks rather than the Empire. The Empire had allowed the Thalmor free reign through Skyrim – and there is no doubt the Stormcloak’s appeal to the “true Nord” in me had its effect. Nevertheless I was slightly conflicted – a plague on both their houses. Dragons were more important.
Then it happened I found myself awake in a shack, talking to a lady who demanded I pay a debt to the Dark Brotherhood – a killing done for a killing stolen. A contract to perform, three possible victims bound with sacks over their heads, and no guidance on which one of the three might be the correct one to kill. A rather “fun” little game set by my “hostess”.
As I spoke to each candidate, and walked behind each of them, trying to decide, I realised something very simple: my character is not really all that noble.
Perhaps it is the time he lives in, perhaps it is the fact he escaped execution only by the dragons’ arrival, perhaps it is the fact he is Dragonborn himself, but suddenly I realised this character only puts on a facade of being noble. There is good reason for it – it often works in getting one what one wants. A good reputation is an asset.
Power, though, is what my character wants. I slay the one of the three I find most deserving, not really caring whether or not he is the one, and walk out with an invitation to join the Dark Brotherhood. Shortly thereafter I also join the Thieves’ Guild. I am already Harbinger of the Companions. The sources of power in Skyrim shall by mine. The Empire is weak, but Ulfric could be a threat, with his command of The Voice – and so my choice is made for the most logical of reasons. I shall side with the Empire.
In RPGs, just in like writing, sometimes your very own characters surprise you.