The death of Lord Eddard Stark spawned the story of Game Of Thrones as we know it. Ned's death resulted in the War of the Five Kings which decimated Westeros before Daenerys' invasion and the White Walker attack.
If Ned had survived, then there is no doubt that the story would have gone completely differently. Not only would the initial protagonist live to see another season, but many storyline elements would be null and void, including the grisly end of his eldest son. Here are ten things that might have happened if Ned Stark had survived.
10 The North Never Becomes Independent
The North declares Robb their King after Joffrey executes Ned and wages war on the North. Unwilling to side with Stannis or Renly, the Northmen pledge fealty to a Stark monarch for the first time since Aegon's conquest.
Before Ned was killed, the Stark patriarch was prepared to declare for Stannis as the trueborn Baratheon heir. Northern independence is never mentioned by Ned and it remains likely that he would have allied with Stannis rather than break away from the Seven Kingdoms.
9 An Alliance With Stannis
Ned Stark was a man of honor. This led to his downfall as he refused to play the game of thrones and instead stayed true to his honor, pledging his support to Stannis as the true Baratheon heir.
Stannis acknowledges Ned's support in season two, though denounces Robb's claim as King in the North in the same way Daenerys does in season seven. If Ned had survived there is no doubt that the Starks would have pledged their support to King Stannis, waging war on the Lannisters together.
8 The Lannisters Lose The Battle Of Blackwater Bay
The Battle of Blackwater Bay was a mighty collision between the Lannister forces and Stannis Baratheon's army. It looked as if Stannis was going to emerge victorious until Tywin Lannister and the Tyrell army arrive to save the day, though if Stannis had allied with the North he would have had enough men to fight off the invaders.
In this scenario, no Lannisters are left alive. Stannis would have immediately executed Joffrey, Cersei, and Tyrion - though Ned would never stand by and support the slaughter of Tommen, an innocent child.
7 Ned Goes To The Wall
Cersei Lannister gave Lord Eddard a choice after his arrest; death or the Wall. Ned, desperate to protect his daughters, agrees to her offer and declares himself a traitor in front of the people of King's Landing so he may live out the rest of his days at the Wall with his 'son' Jon Snow.
If Joffrey had heeded his mother's wishes then Ned Stark could have joined the Night's Watch and helped Jon with the war against the White Walkers. However, this scenario doesn't guarantee Ned ends up at the Wall as there are plenty of Stark loyalists in the North who would have freed him before reaching the Wall.
6 A New Lord Commander?
If Ned had joined the Night's Watch then the power dynamics at the Wall would have played out differently. Ned was a beloved figure in the North with years of military experience, making him a viable candidate for Lord Commander.
Ned could have replaced Jon as the new Lord Commander of the Night's Watch after the death of Jeor Mormont. It is likely he would have held more power due to his reputation amongst the Northern lords.
5 The North Is Better Prepared For The Long Night
Jon Snow sends ravens to each of the Seven Kingdoms pleading for aid in the war against the White Walkers, but due to people believing the ice zombies to be pure myth, his pleas fall on deaf ears. Ned Stark's reputation preceded him and it is likely the lords - at least those in the North - would have taken him more seriously.
Although the North would never have been able to stand against the Night King and his army alone, Ned's presence would have at least united them sooner, giving them time to prepare for the White Walker invasion.
4 Jon Finds Out The Truth About His Heritage Sooner
Before Ned and Jon leave Winterfell, the Stark patriarch tells his bastard son that they will discuss his mother upon their next meeting. Ned is beheaded before this can happen, but it is safe to assume that, should he have survived, Jon would have found out the truth sooner.
The reveal that Jon is a secret Targaryen prince could have dire consequences. If Ned has aligned with Stannis then it is unlikely he would urge Jon to press his claim, though if Stannis found out it is likely he would eliminate his competition.
3 War With Daenerys?
Daenerys refers to the Starks as "the Usurper's dogs" due to their involvement in the death of her family. It is unlikely that she would have allied with Ned (unless Varys informs her of Ned's refusal to sanction her assassination) and, if the truth about Jon is already well-known before her arrival, another war between the Targaryens could have happened.
If Ned allies with Stannis and defeats the Lannisters in season two then Tyrion would never have traveled to Meereen to become her Hand. Given his bafflingly bad advice in seasons seven and eight, this could have worked in the Dragon Queen's favor.
2 No Red Wedding
If Ned had survived then it is likely Robb and Catelyn would have lived as well. The honorable Lord Eddard would urge Robb to uphold his vows and marry Walder Frey's daughter, never igniting the war that ended with the Red Wedding.
If Catelyn has also lived then it remains possible that she would also discover the truth about Jon's parentage, as well as learning that Ned was never unfaithful to her.
1 Arya Doesn't Kill The Night King
With Ned alive, Arya would never have any reason to travel to Braavos and become a Faceless assassin. As a result, she would never have been able to kill the Night King, which means the Starks could still be doomed after all.
Without Arya killing the Night King and Daenerys' forces thinning out the Army of the Dead, Winterfell would have fallen. In this case, Ned's survival doesn't save his House but merely postpones their destruction.