Update: For more Skyrim tips, tricks, and exploits, including how to max out your Mage skills and get houses for free, check out our second guide!

Original Story: After writing a 4,000-word review and nearly a hundred hours spent in Skyrim (with many more to come), I’ve learned a few tips and tricks that I thought I’d pass on to my fellow adventurers. In this Skyrim Starter Guide you’ll learn how to boost your way to a more powerful character almost immediately, as well as making the most of the crafting systems and various other helpful things.

If you get into the game and have any questions about, well, anything, feel free to come back and ask in the comments. I may not know the answer to all of Skyrim’s mysteries, but with our powers combined, I’m sure we can at least argue over them like civilized people from the internet do.

Easily sneaking your way to level 100

Normally, leveling a skill to 100 would take dozens of hours of natural gameplay. However, if you’re in a rush, you can actually do it at the very beginning of the game. As soon as you enter Whiterun, find the second guard barracks. It’s not the one across from the blacksmith. If you’re having trouble locating it after filling in the map by walking around, save your game and get arrested. Then break out of prison and the building you exit from is the building you want. Now mark that location on the map in your brain and reload.

Upon entering the barracks, use the “wait” feature until it’s after 10 pm, assuming it’s not already. Now simply crouch down and sneak back and forth in the sleeping area at the back. There will likely be two guards who never go to sleep and will see you when your Sneak skill is low, but they won’t attack so it won’t matter. Just by moving back and forth like this you will begin to rapidly level your Sneaking skill. Soon you’ll be able to sneak right behind the guards and they won’t even know you’re there. At this point your Sneak skill will be high enough should you want to quit and play the game normally as a stealth character.

However, should you choose to continue, you could eventually max out the Sneak skill and gain quite a few character levels as well. It’s not really game-breaking, since there seems to be very little difference between Sneak level 25 and Sneak level 100, but not building up your skills evenly may have adverse effects on the difficulty early on.

Make sure you have activated the Thief standing stone before doing this to increase your sneaking experience by 20 percent.

Quickly increase your Speech and Pickpocketing

One of the lower skills in the Speech tree is the ability to bribe guards, effectively saving you from jail time for any crimes you commit. Once you have this, you can actually use it to level up very quickly. To kill two birds with one stone, you should go around pickpocketing people. It doesn’t matter what you take, so long as the steal is successful you’ll gain pickpocketing experience. When you get caught, make sure your weapons are sheathed and just wait for a guard to appear. Given the option, bribe them to look the other way. Unlike persuade and intimidate, this speech option never fails, and will give you a big boost to your speech experience.

You can’t do this in the same area over and over again, however, so you’ll need to make an adventure out of it. Go around to each city or village, leveling up your pickpocketing and speech skills, then circle back around and do it all over again.

A higher speech skill will allow you to get better prices when buying and selling from merchants and sell any type of item to any type of shop.

Smithing, alchemy, and enchantments

Each of the three main class types in Skyrim are attuned to a specialty craft: Mages are proficient at enchanting items, thieves at using alchemy to create potions and poisons, and warriors at blacksmithing to create superior weapons and armor.

The trick is to store up large batches of crafting items and then do them all at once. Mainly because the items required can be a bit of a burden on your limited inventory space, and doing small orders every time you come to town is more trouble than it’s worth. You’ll also want to seek out and use any bonuses available to you to increase the experience you gain from these activities.

For blacksmithing, you’ll want to find and hang on to leather scraps and any ore or ingots you find. You don’t even have to make anything that you want, you can just upgrade equipment, build new items, or prep leather and metals to gain experience. As you rank up your blacksmithing skill you’ll be able to unlock the ability to create better items, such as glass or eventually even the almighty dragon armor. This is the true value in the blacksmithing skill, as these types of armors don’t typically appear until you’re a much higher character level. Gaining access to them as soon as possible will give you a massive advantage in battle.

For alchemy, you’ll want to grab any and every ingredient you come across in the world. Whether it’s hanging moss, random flowers, or even butterflies, do not discriminate. Alchemy ingredients tend to weigh less than other items so you can carry more of them, but they do add up. Again, it’s best to store them all away until you’re ready to cash in a huge order. Alchemy is a little less straightforward than blacksmithing though. You’ll need to mix eligible ingredients together to create a potion. Each ingredient has four unknown values. You can learn the first one by consuming one of that ingredient, but you’ll have to learn the rest by trial and error or purchasing recipes from alchemy shop owners. Potions weigh more than their individual ingredients, so make sure you store away or better yet sell off any that you don’t need. You can always make more later. I found that invisibility potions and Damage Magicka Regen poisons bring in the most cash.

Finally, the mage’s specialty: enchanting. Enchanting is the art of adding special attributes to armor and weapons. To do this, you’ll need to learn an enchantment by experimenting on an enchanted item with the bonus you want. Let’s say you want to create a helmet that boosts your health regeneration, so you’d need to find a glove or ring that has health regeneration on it. Then you disenchant it, destroying the item in the process, and now you can enchant any valid item with health regen. You’ll also need soul gems, which are sold or found all over the world, but the trainers at the College of Winterhold are the best source. Buying empty soul gems is cheaper, but you’ll have to go out in the world and use Soul Trap to kill enemies and fill the gems. So now you have an enchantment, an item, and a soul gem. The size of the soul gem determines the power of the enchantment, but until you’re level 100, just use crappy items and the smallest soul gems. You’ll need roughly 300 enchanted items to max out the skill (I lost count, sorry), but you’ll make a decent amount of money selling everything off as you go.

Once you’ve reached level 100, that’s when the fun starts. In the Enchanting skill tree, you can unlock the Master ability to put two enchantments on a single item. You can also upgrade your Enchanting skill to dramatically increase the power of enchantments. Whether you want to drain health, increase your magicka pool, or even just have a pair of clothes that allow you to carry 100 extra pounds of loot while also giving you bonus stamina, you can now make some seriously powerful and useful items. Not to mention, anything you double-enchant will sell for considerably more than normal. Obviously, the sooner you achieve this the better, so be sure to stockpile those cheap items and soul gems whenever you get the chance.

Make sure you have activated the corresponding standing stone before doing a large batch of crafting. If you have potions or special items such as rings and amulets that increase your craft skills, make sure you have those equipped as well.


To get married, you need to wear an Amulet of Mara, then speak to a valid non-player character (NPC) who can be married. If they’re interested in you (usually requires a quest first) and you’re interested in them, you’ll be able to initiate a ceremony and get married.

Aside from moving in to their home and having them cook meals for you every night, I found very little use for marriage in this game. As I mentioned in my review, I eventually got bored and killed my wife with magic and fire. I like to keep my options open.

Dragon towers

If you’re running through the wilderness and you see an icon resembling a dragon appear on your compass, make sure you check it out. There will be a dragon waiting for you, as well as a new Shout to learn, and in most cases a treasure chest with some quality loot. Just make sure you save before going in arrows blazing or what have you.

Climbing mountains
Skyrim has a lot of hills and rocky mountains that usually stand between you and your destination. But if you want to go from point A to point B without taking a mile-long detour, there is a way. As longtime Elder Scrolls fans will know, the franchise has a history of allowing you, unintentionally, to scale vertical mountains. All it takes is a little persistence and a lot of jumping. The trick is to find the least steep spot and move at a diagonal angle towards it. If you can’t run anymore, try jumping. It usually takes some effort, but I’ve yet to encounter a mountain I couldn’t overcome. Once you get the hang of it you’ll be scaling sheer peaks as if you were hopping over traffic cones. If you’ve bought a horse, they allow for even less realistic traversal of Skyrim’s environments. I’ve literally had my horse stuck perpendicular to the side of a mountain more than once.

General Tips
There are a lot of mechanics at work in Skyrim, but unfortunately the game doesn’t include any way of delivering the basics other than the loading screens. Even 50 hours into the game I was still being told things I should have learned at the very beginning. I’ve compiled a list of the more pertinent ones so you don’t have to suffer the same fate.

  • First and foremost, save often. You can save anywhere, at any time, so make sure you don’t lose out on an hour of dungeon-crawling due to an unexpected death. If you’re about to go into battle with a dragon or boss character, or about to go on an epic enchanting spree, make sure you save. Better to be safe than sorry.
  • Likewise, you can abuse the save system to ensure the outcome of certain actions always go your way. If you’re about to pickpocket someone, save first, then have at it. If they catch you, simply reload and try again within seconds.
  • Viewing a character’s possessions is not a crime, but taking them is.
  • Leveling up requires you to advance your skills. Advance enough skills and you’ll gain one character level. The higher the skill you’re advancing the more character XP it will grant, so if you use my sneak boosting method, you’ll be leveling up quite rapidly as you get closer to master rank.
  • Magic skills only gain experience if an enemy is around, even restoration spells.
  • If you get a new quest, it won’t be set as active unless you have no other quests, though you can have as many quests currently active as you wish.
  • You can only store items in containers that you own, such as a chest or dresser at a home that you’ve purchased. If you put your crap in someone else’s box, it probably won’t be there when you come back for it.
  • If you’re carrying junk around that you don’t want anymore during a dungeon, you can actually place it all “inside” a dead body. This way you won’t have to drop a bunch of items all over the floor and worry about it straining the game’s memory or causing glitches.
  • You can fast-travel to any location you’ve visited before. It has to register on your mini-map first, and you have to be outside (ie. not in a building or dungeon) to fast-travel.
  • Shop owners have a finite amount of gold for which to barter. This means you can’t lug everything you’ve ever found/made/earned in at one time and walk out a millionaire. After about 48 hours of in-game time, their money should be replenished.
  • Shop owners also only buy certain types of items, and there’s only one character that I know of who will buy stolen goods. Access to her requires joining the Thieves Guild. However, you can level up your Speech skill enough to eventually allow you to sell items of any kind to any merchant, including things you may or may not have acquired legally.
  • If Achievements are your thing, check out this handy Achievement Guide from x360a.
  • Finally, have fun and play the game however the hell you want.
Hope that helps! If you think anything should be added to the guide or want to know more, just leave a comment and I’ll check back in-between enchanting sessions.

Update: For more Skyrim tips, tricks, and exploits, including how to max out your Mage skills and get houses for free, check out our second guide!