- The Great Houses hate each other -- theft, murder, assassinations, secret raids, standard stuff. -- Hasphat Antabolis
In modern times, Morrowind is ruled by the Grand Council of five Great Houses: House Redoran, House Telvanni, House Hlaalu, House Indoril, and House Dres. Each House governs an eponymous district on mainland Morrowind; Redoran in the north-west, Hlaalu in the western-center, Telvanni in the east, Indoril in the central heartlands and Dres in the south-east. Three of the Houses also have interests in the island of Vvardenfell, and identify themselves by their traditional colors: red for Redoran, yellow for Hlaalu, and brown for Telvanni.
The Great House traditions derive from ancient Dunmer clans and tribes, but now function as political parties. Differences are now rarely settled by armed conflict, but instead through squabbles in the Grand Council and through the execution of formal Writs by the honorable assassins of the Morag Tong. Dunmer Great House membership is largely a matter of birth and marriage, but Imperial colonists may also become retainers of a Great House, or may be adopted into a Great House. Initially an outlander may gain status in a house as an oath-bonded hireling, pledging exclusive loyalty to a single house and forsaking ambitions with all other houses. Later, after faithful service and advancement in lower ranks, an outlander may seek adoption into a Great House. Adoption and advancement to higher ranks in a Great House requires that a Great House councilor stand as sponsor for the candidate's character and loyalty. Finding a councilor to sponsor an outlander often involves performing a great service for the prospective sponsor and the Great House in question.
For more information, see the lore article.