Skyrim is a game packed with content. There is no disputing this. Whether you get your jollies from roaming around ancient tombs packed with artifacts, watching and participating in epic battles between man and beast (or man and Nord,) picking plants, robbing stores, being an international man of murder in the Dark Brotherhood, there’s plenty of content here. Wander the scenic landscape for hours, taking in the snowy peaks and the northern lights, or raise hell in a tavern, the choice is yours. My point here is there’s a lot of things to do. It doesn’t matter whether you’re playing the Special Edition or putting more hours into your old copy, you’ve almost certainly not seen all you can. How’s about I teach you how to grease the wheels a little bit?
In this list, I’ve pulled together a bunch of ways you can bend the game to your advantage. These include ways to level up skills faster than if you’d been injected with Neo’s kung-fu skills, get around some of the game’s irritating character limitations, ways to be the richest man in all of Tamriel with no effort on your part, how to be a better assassin, and weird and wonderful ways to beat dragons. Some of these may feel a little exploity, and you’re welcome to skip any that you feel go over a moral line, there’s plenty that just use the game’s systems in ways you’d never think of. Got any cool tips that we’ve missed? Let us know!
24. Like A Hairy Speedboat
Fording a river or going upstream in Skyrim can be a massive exercise in tedium. You move as though you’re walking through molasses, rather than an expert warrior who should, in theory, be a strong swimmer. This problem, however, can be solved easily, provided, that is, you have a horse. If you do, you can give your horse a kickstart (probably literally,) by jumping off and then mounting them again. For some strange reason, this lets you move at full speed through the water like a strange hybrid centaur/mermaid. No longer will you desperately hunt for a bridge, only to find there are none, or that it’s some few hundred feet above you! Now you can stride through the water like a mounted Poseidon!
23. Quite A Reach
This one is quite gruesome, quite funny, and also exceptionally useful. You know Forsworn Briarhearts? They’re fearsome enemies, wielding either terrifying destruction magic capabilities or duel-wielding axes and/or swords. They’re a tough fight, even or the dragonborn, but there’s an easier way to do it than just going toe-to-toe with them. If you manage to sneak your way up to them before engaging them in combat, you can steal their heart. Not in any romantic sense, but in a very real “I’m literally sticking my hand in you and taking your organs” sense. Their heart is an item in their inventory, made, as the name suggests, out of briar. Stealing one of their organs instakills them, as you’d expect. Go out there and live your crazed surgeon dream.
22. The Life Of A Sidekick Is Hard To Bear
Did you know you can get your followers to carry stuff for you? It’s a pain having to go through the dialogue each time to get to the command menu though, so here’s a quicker way to do it. Hover over the companion from far enough away that you can’t talk, and hold the action button: this will bring you to the command options. Once you know this, you can use them to help you loot dungeons more prodigiously than Indiana Jones. The maximum encumbrance for a follower is set at 300, which means there’s a hell of a lot more loot that you can steal/liberate from various caves/shrines/burial grounds/houses. Short Round could never carry all this, but luckily you’ve got Lydia!
21. Shouting Your Mouth Off
The way that finding words of power work is pretty interesting, but it can be annoying. Sometimes it can feel more like trial and error than anything else. Not to sound like a Greybeard infomercial, but there has to be a better way! Well, there is. You’ll need to go to High Hrothgar, and seek out Arngeir, once you’ve found the Horn of Jurgen Windcaller. You can then ask him if he’s heard of any new words of power, and he always will have. He’ll send you on a miscellaneous quest to track the next one down, and will keep giving you them as long as there are more to find! Sadly, there are a handful of ones he can’t help you find, usually ones associated with quests. For example, he can’t grant you access to the Dark Brotherhood Sanctuary to find Marked For Death.
20. Get Yourself Some Undying Backup
Followers are all well and good, but sometimes tragedy strikes and they bite the dust. Whether it’s a bandit’s arrow, a dragon’s breath, or a knife in the dark, they’re now cold. You needn’t worry about this though, as not all followers have the disadvantage of immortality holding them back. These characters are marked as “essential” to the game, and cannot be killed, apart from by you. Followers who come under this category who can be your followers include Whiterun’s Aela the Huntress, Solitude’s Ahtar, Riften’s Mjoll the Lioness, and Derkeethus, the game’s only Argonian follower. Be careful though, some of these followers are only marked as essential until a certain quest is completed. For example, Aela the Huntress will regain her mortality once “Glory of the Dead” is over.
19. No Sleep ‘Til Whiterun
Sleeping in Skyrim is not only the strangest sequel to Sleepless in Seattle, but can also seem rather pointless to a lot of players. The wait function does the same job of advancing game time, so why should you hop into bed? Skyrim is probably stopping you from getting some real-world sleep, after all. Well, sleeping does have its perks. If you rest in a bed that you own, or one in an inn, you’ll get the well-rested perk, increasing your experience gains by 10 percent! There are several other benefits to letting the Dragonborn get their head down too. You’ll also get a boost to your health, magicka, and stamina, which will all be restored to full. In short, unless you’ve become a werewolf (they sadly don’t get the bonuses,) you should get more sleep.
18. A Leveling Frenzy
This one’s more for the experts, but it’s great to know at any point in the game. If you need to grind up your XP, and don’t want to hunt for enemies that might actually pose a threat, there’s an easy way around this. Use Frenzy, either as a spell, or a poison, and hit an unkillable NPC. This can be just about anyone key to the game, but preferably not someone who has bodyguards. This will turn the usually placid NPC into a fighting machine like a Rocky extra, and get them attacking you. From here, you can fight back, gaining XP in whichever fighting method you prefer, whether ranged with a bow or magic, or up close with an ax. The best part is that they’re completely unkillable, making them essentially a sentient training dummy.
17. Dead Bodies Aren’t Slaves, Right?
This one-two punch of tips will help you get more loot back to town, more quickly. You’ll have to abandon some of your in-game morality along the way but you’re probably okay with that, right? If not, look away now! Part one: grab a dead body (wait, don’t go,) and stuff your loot inside them. Don’t think too much about it, just stick those ingots, books, and a few swords somewhere in there. Next, you want to yo heave ho them all the way to your horse. From here, you can jump on your horse, grab the stuff from the body, and fast travel. That’s right, you can fast travel while over encumbered, provided you’re on horseback. Combine this with the companion tip above, and you’re all set to make a staggering amount of cash.
16. Iron Chef Never Really Took Off In Skyrim
It’s a feature that many overlook, but don’t negate cooking! It’s super easy to just not care about crafting, I know, because I tend not to give a tuppence about it in RPGs. But cooking in Skyrim is a cheap and easy replacement for potions. For a start, you don’t need a fancypants degree in Alchemy for it! All you need are some basic ingredients. For example, want to make a delicious and warming soup to take away the pain from that cheeky stab the bandit inflicted on you? Make a tomato soup from a tomato, salt, garlic, and leek. Want to heal from even the most dramatic injuries? Then you need a horker stew! Get some lavender, tomato, garlic, and horker meat together, and restore health for 720 seconds! These ingredients and a fire, are all you need for a healthy, nourishing soup your mother would be proud of.
15. Grim Reaper: Deliveryman Extraordinaire
Skyrim’s merchants can be a little infuriating. They have what you need, but not nearly enough of it! Don’t they expect adventurers to roll through wanting to stock up on the strangest ingredients known to man? There’s an easy way to get fresh stock in a shop, if you don’t wanna wait several in-game days for it. First of all, save, then stand close to the shopkeeper in question, and murk them. Just straight up kill them, in whichever fashion you prefer. Reload your save, and they’ll be back from the dead, clutching fresh groceries, armor, weapons, potion ingredients, whatever it is you require, and looking puzzled. This hardly matters though, as now you can merrily take what death apparently supplied them with, and run off into the distance giggling.
14. That’s Physics!
So it’s a longstanding and well-known Elder Scrolls quirk that the physics are pretty funky. Want to climb up that mountain? Just go to the shallowest side, and walk diagonally up it! However, fall damage tends to be pretty consistent, right? Not necessarily. If you need to get down from a cliff quickly or want to embrace your inner base jumper, you totally can, just follow this simple rule. Look for water. If you dive into water, you won’t take fall damage. Weird, I know, but it works. Take inspiration from Crackdown, and go to the highest cliff above water, and jump down into it like a graceful gull diving down into the sea for its prey. Whether it’s a river, the sea, or a freezing lake, the Dragonborn won’t be bothered at all, apart from potential hypothermia, of course.
13. A Quick Way To Powerful Magick
It may sound cruel, but there’s a quick and easy way to level up your destruction skills. Once you’ve been awarded the spectral mount Shadowmere, just start spraying fire at it. Don’t question why you’re setting fire to your friendly fiend-horsie, just do it. They have high health and extremely quick regeneration, so shouldn’t be hurt at all by the flames, unless you’re using a high-level spell. If you are, why are you trying to grind your destruction up anyway? Hop it! Are you honest, non-horse murdering people still here? Good. Well, while you’re spraying fire around like Hank Scorpio, you’ll also be leveling. Get to it, push your destruction skills up to the point where you’re a walking atom bomb! The gods themselves would be proud.
12. 99 Problems But Money Ain’t One
Now hear this! Do YOU need cash? No, I don’t want your gold, keep your wedding ring! Do you have the Banish Daedra enchantment? If you answered yes, then step right this way, good sir or madam! Many people, even mages, end up collecting enchantments, but never actually use them, but this is one you should. It will literally make an iron dagger worth its weight in gold. Cast that on a dirt-cheap dagger, and its value will instantly skyrocket to over 1000 gold. Do this enough times, and you’ll have more cash than you know what to do with. It’s not just daggers either — this enchantment will increase the worth of any weapon by over 1000 gold. The only downside is that it doesn’t show up until you’re quite far into the game, but you can never have too much gold (this post brought to you by Ron Paul).
11. Glitching Through Teamwork
Being an archer in Skyrim is often a one-way ticket to being a one-man/woman/catperson army. High-level archery skills, combined with proficiency in sneaking and its accompanying sneak attacks turn you into a straight-up angel of death. That is, of course, until you run out of ammo. Then you’re a scared little thing hiding in the shadows with just a dagger to your name. However, this need not be the case. You can use your brothers in bows to clone the best arrows around for no cost at all. Just find an NPC archer who’s practicing their shooting. What you’ll need to do is pickpocket their arrows out of their pockets, replacing it with a single arrow of your choice. They’ll then start using this to practice, only thanks to how the game works, they’ll have an infinite supply, which you can steal from the target at the end.
10. A Stern Stare
Companions on your adventures are great sometimes! There’s no better feeling than when your followers are helping you murder your way through the world and carrying all your things for you, but sometimes they’re a massive pain. Sometimes you’re trying to go through a door, but your companion is blocking the way like an unmoving sentinel, trying to protect you from the outside world, as though saying that you, the Dragonborn, aren’t bad enough to look after yourself. There’s an easy solution to this. Simply hover your cursor over their eyes, essentially staring them out. Just as though you did this in real life, it will make ‘em move out of the way. Without the weirdness that comes from literally staring someone down in reality, though.
9. Is It Theft Or A Refund?
Want to know a sneaky way to get your skills boosted dramatically, without having to spend a penny? Of course you do! Across the world you’ll come across people offering you training. The level they can train you to and how much they’ll charge you for it vary, but the cost can be enough to put you off. Fear not — give them the cash, then just…well, take it back. It may sound strange, but thanks to how the game’s inventory systems work, your cash doesn’t just disappear. It stays with the merchant for a while. If you’re sneaky enough, all you have to do is sneak behind them and lift what you just gave them from their pocket. Do it on a stealth trainer for added irony!
8. In And Out Like A Ghost…After A While
Stealth is such an important skill in the world of Skyrim. Even if you’re not focusing on playing a stealth-based sneaky character, having a high sneak skill can let you go just about anywhere, get close to just about anyone, and do what you gotta do, without anyone interfering. Problem is, it takes ages to level, right? Wrong, you can totally grind your way to level 100 stealth quickly and safely without even traveling beyond Whiterun. Go to the second barracks, the ones in the city proper, not by the gate, and sneak around while the guards are sleeping. Even if you’re spotted, you won’t get into trouble, and the guards won’t even attack you, letting you quickly and easily increase your sneak skills dramatically.
7. Muffling Your Progress
Illusion is a skill that’s often overlooked by those who don’t specialize in magic, but that’s dumb. While it’s not as overtly useful as destruction, it can make parts of the game trivially easy. High-level spells will allow you to do mad things like creating mass brawls or turning enemies into pacifists. How do you get there, though? Well, if you want to level it fast, all you need is the low-level spell Muffle. This spell will, as the name implies, muffle your movements for 180 seconds. Whether it’s just how it’s designed, or as a result of moving while under its influence counting as using the spell, I don’t know, but either way, casting it will level up your illusion skills extremely quickly. Cast it freely, as it doesn’t cost much magicka, and will really help you in the long run.
6. Aiding And Abetting
If you side with the Imperials at the start of the game, you get a quite considerable early-game boost. You see, Alvor is a family man. He’s not about to forget someone who helped Hadvar. Side with the Imperials, and you can help yourself to the items from around the forge in Riverwood. It might not sound like much, but take care of the pennies, and the pounds will take care of themselves. Those iron and steel ingots will help you, whether you decide to forge a career (eh?) in smithing, or just want to sell them for some quick cash and a helping hand at the start of the game. Just don’t go murdering any chickens while you’re there. They’re more fond of poultry than The Hound.
5. A Knife Is Not Just For Dinner
Ice Cube once rapped about switchblade-wielding opponents “that’s kinda trifle, ‘cos that’s a knife-o” but Skyrim STRONGLY disagrees. Although they’re often overlooked in favor of their beefier cousins, daggers are the only weapon in the game that can kill silently. Everything else will be noticed by any enemies closeby, but knives? You’re in the clear with those my friend. Not only this, they also have a whole host of other benefits, particularly for those who like to lurk in the shadows. They have the highest sneak attack modifier, up to 30x damage if you’re equipped with the Assassin’s Blade perk and the Shrouded Gloves. They’re also the fastest weapon in the game by a long way, and the type that drains your stamina the least. So if it all goes wrong? Swing for the fences.
Want to nail those stealth attacks, getting a huge amount of bonus damage, but keep getting enemies charging at you instead? It’s cool, I’m not amazing at stealth either, but spells can help you here. Get the Illusion spell called Calm, and be prepared for damage multipliers that’ll make your screen look like a deadly math class. The spell, essentially aethereal Xanax, stops enemies being so attack-happy for 30 seconds, up to a set level. Now when they’re not going to attack you, they become as easy to kill as any other neutral character. I don’t know if you’re the murderous type, so I won’t slander your character by assuming, but let me tell you, that’s pretty damn easy. The best part? It’s a super low-level spell, and if you keep using it throughout the game, it will level with you, letting you make mockeries of progressively bigger enemies.
3. Flying Doctors Before Helicopter Ambulances
Need to cure yourself of the horrific fantasy version of tetanus you picked up from pricking yourself on that gold lame in a Dwemer ruin? Look up. Just do it. See those hawks? They hold the secret to self-medication. Put an arrow in one of them, or bring it down with a spell. Its feathers can cure diseases in an instant! Just chow on down. Eating the feathers, as gross an experience as it may be for the Dragonborn, has the exact same effect as quaffing a cure disease potion. Not only this, but they also weigh and cost a lot less. If you’re the alchemical type, they’re also a key ingredient in several potions that you can concoct. Who knew that hawks were basically flying apothecaries?
2. Keeping Your Enemies On Lockdown
The Impact perk in the destruction skill tree is infinitely useful. On the surface, you might think “oh, I can stagger enemies, big woop!” You’d be wrong. Really wrong. Anyone who’s played Dark Souls or another game with combat that makes filling out a tax return look easy will know how useful stunning enemies can be. As well as staggering enemies, if you have enough magicka, you can also use this skill to stunlock enemies, keeping them from lifting a finger/claw/fin/other appendage against you. Even dragons will fall to this! You don’t even need to cast any special spells to get this effect either. Any offensive spell will work, as long as you’re dual casting it. The perk literally turns duel cast destruction spells into the only ranged attacks that have a 100% chance of staggering enemies, and that can stagger groups and massive enemies.
1. An Invisible X May Mark This Spot
Treasure is funnily enough, not that hard to come by in Skyrim. You find gold and gems by the truckload, but there’s a more useful bit of booty that you may have missed. Once you’ve discovered Dawnstar, fast travel to it. From the spawn point, you’ll want to walk on down the road until you see a wheelbarrow and a shelter, with two rocks and a bush next to it. Sneak between the two rocks, and an option to open a chest will appear. Inside this chest, you’ll find a wealth of gold, lockpicks, enchanted items, and more! The best part? It refills itself. All you need to do is go to another town, and wait for two in-game days, and the chest will be refilled by whichever magically skilled but apparently absent-minded pirate fills it.