Free houses, infinite XP, unlimited magic…the list goes on. The Elder Scrolls titles are notorious for being overrun with bugs and glitches. Even the patch that was supposed to patch the game now needs its own patch. But not all of these imperfections are necessarily bad. In fact, a few can be quite humorous, or more importantly, allow the player to reach otherwise-insurmountable wealth and power. Plus, even as Bethesda continues to fix/break the game further, you can always delete the patch from your hard drive whenever you want to use a specific trick.
If you used to be a great adventurer before taking an arrow to the knee, these handy tips, secrets, and downright shameful exploits will get you back on your feet in no time.
1. Infinite magic-casting
Once you’ve become a master enchanter, you’ll be able to drastically improve your weapons and armor. But with a little number-crunching, you can actually do much more than that. By increasing the Enchanter perk to 5/5 and purchasing the Insightful Enchanter perk, you’ll be able to decrease the cost of spells by up to 25% or more, per enchanted item. By enchanting a full set of armor, as well as a ring and amulet, you can decrease the costs of spells from a specific discipline to zero, meaning unlimited casting.
But wait, there’s more! As a limited time offer, you can get twice the infinite spell-casting ability for the price of one! That’s right, if you order before Bethesda decides to patch this, you can use the Extra Effect perk to put two enchantments on any one item. This trick will come in handy when…
2. Easily increasing your magic skills
Raising a magic skill such as Conjuration or Restoration to Master rank (level 100) takes countless hours of in-game playtime. But as with any Elder Scrolls title, there’s a way to expedite the process to as little as an hour of mindless grinding. Make sure you have the Mage Stone activated to gain skill experience 20% faster. Resting in a bed (especially one you own) will also add a temporary experience bonus (don’t fast-travel or you’ll lose it), as will resting with your spouse.
If you’d like to level Destruction on your own without involving any other “real” people, you can simply conjure an Atronach and then destroy it with the opposite element. So if you summon a flame Atronach, you’d kill it with a frost spell. Like grinding out any skill, this becomes increasingly tedious when you reach the higher levels, but if you want to have access to the most powerful spells in the game as soon as possible, this will ensure you reach that goal.If you want to level up your Destruction even sooner (like, at the very beginning of the game), you can repeatedly use spells on the NPC that guides you through the caves below the keep during the prologue. He won’t die or attack you (as stated in my review), but it will take even longer since you won’t have any experience bonuses activated yet.
A bit of north of Dawnstar you’ll find Slaughterfish-infested waters. By luring these creatures near the shore you can keep an active enemy near you (required to level most combat magic skills) without fear of being attacked. Unless one of them bugs out and starts “swimming on land,” but what are the chances of that happening….right?Now that you’ve got a friend or two, you can repeatedly conjure Atronachs or bound weapons to level your Conjuration skill. It will take a short while, but you’ll save yourself immense time and trouble this way. Plus, once you’re a master conjurer, you can permanently summon two elemental “thralls” that will follow you everywhere (whether you want them to or not…).Alternately, you can find any dead body and repeatedly cast Trap Soul on it. This is an equally viable method for leveling up your Conjuration skill, and Trap Soul uses minimal magicka so there should be no downtime whatsoever.
Telekinesis is the fastest way to increase Alteration (who uses this, anyway?). Simply pick up any object and hold it until you run out of magicka, rinse and repeat. If you don’t have 100% Alteration cost enchanted equipment, this can take quite a while. If you’re not a mage you can also wait one hour to “quickly” regenerate magicka, but this will get tedious pretty quickly. If you do have the cost of Alteration spells reduced to zero, you can just go into a populated area and hold down Detect Life and Telekinesis simultaneously (one in each hand) while you go watch some Breaking Bad or whatever.
Restoration is best power-leveled in tandem with another skill. For instance, if you want to increase your Light or Heavy Armor skills, you would head to a dungeon with fairly weak enemies (such as rats) and stand there healing yourself while they attack you. Multi-tasking! You can also lower the difficulty setting and anger city guards or even giants/mammoths, but these options may have unforeseen consequences (such as surprise death).
Simply nab the apprentice-level Muffle spell and repeatedly cast it for extremely fast Illusion leveling. Anytime. Anywhere.
3. Infinite XP and Quickly Max All Skills
Are these power-leveling exploits still not fast enough for you? Or perhaps you’re more the warrior/thief type? Then say hello to my little friend: Oghma Infinium, the most game-breaking glitch of them all. Hopefully you haven’t already completed the Discerning the Transmundane quest and used the Daedric artifact that you’re rewarded with.
Watch the following video for a quick and easy explanation on how to max all of your skills out at 100 in mere minutes:
4. The bucket thing
Skyrim’s first–and perhaps most humorous–exploit to go viral was a little trick involving buckets. By taking a bucket or cauldron and placing it over the head of almost any NPC, they become completely blind to any criminal act you may commit in their presence. See the attached video for a few examples.
While this is now old news, there’s a lesser-known addendum that will make selling all your newly-acquired stolen goods a bit easier.
5. Remove “stolen” status from items
Whenever you steal an item, regardless of whether anyone sees you or even if its owner is dead, that item will be flagged as stolen. You won’t be able to sell it to normal shop owners and if you get arrested, all of your stolen inventory will be confiscated by the fuzz (even if you pay off your bounty).
Currently the only ways to rid yourself of stolen items are to consume them (food/potions), disenchant them, mix them (ingredients), or sell to a fence by joining the Thieves Guild. You can also increase your Speech skill to unlock the Fence perk at level 90. To do this you can easily exploit a dialogue loop with a character in Riften. Remember that Speech is part of the Thief’s skills, so make sure you have the appropriate stone equipped before starting. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6yd4kmMpHk
However, you can also remove the stolen status altogether, permanently rendering your pilfered wares legitimate. By dropping items on the ground in front of people who like you (people you’ve done deeds for, usually), they will sometimes pick the items up and give them back to you. When this happens the stolen status is wiped from the item. Unfortunately, through my testing I found this to rarely be reliable, as most of the time people will just stare at you, or guards will harass you for dropping your crap everywhere. In some cases, passersby will snatch up your goods and ask you if they can keep it.
6. Store owner with 10,000+ gold
Whether you’ve stolen them or obtained them through more heroic methods, you’re going to need somewhere to flip your undesirables for some quick cash. Generally speaking, store owners in Skyrim are poor. Like dirt poor. Economic recession and all that, I suppose. But what this means is that you usually end up with far more crap than you can sell, eventually locking it all away in a seemingly abyssal cupboard in your house until you completely forget you spent two hours stubbornly over-encumbered in a dungeon because you didn’t want to let it go.
By increasing your Speech skill and purchasing the Investor perk, you can raise the amount of gold that all vendors have to barter with. Most of the time this puts them slightly over 1K, but the Riverwood Trader is different, for some reason. If you invest in the Riverwood shop (the first town you come to after the prologue, and the guy you had to get the Golden Claw for), he will generally have around 10,000 in his wallet, more or less. That makes unloading all the wooden spoons you’ve been collecting for the past 80 hours infinitely easier, and you can just wait 48 hours for his money to magically replenish and do it all over again.
The hard part is getting all your stored items to Riverwood, but if you were keeping them in Whiterun, you can just over-encumber yourself (I weighed 1,200 pounds the first time) and hop on your poor horse. Riverwood’s less than a five-minute gallop away, and you’ll be what my Saints Row character would consider “super baller status” in no time.
7. Free houses
Houses are the most expensive things you’ll pay for in Skyrim, but they don’t have to be. By speaking to the Jarl’s Steward of one of the five major cities, you can purchase a home from him once you’ve requested to be a Thane (it all makes sense when you’re playing). If you agree to purchase the house, then quickly back out of the conversation and dump your gold in a nearby container (see video), you will still gain the keys to the property while retaining all your cheddar. This can also be done with decorations, which can be equally as costly.
Note that you must have the required amount of money to buy the house to do this trick, otherwise the necessary dialogue option will not be available to you.
8. Easier/cheaper path to gaining the best armor
Beneath the College of Winterhold lies a strange altar known as the Atronach Forge. Here you can summon various conjurations that will attack you, but it also serves a far more useful purpose. By placing a Sigil Stone (gained by completing a quest that Phinis Gestor gives you in the College once you reach level 90 in Conjuration) in the altar and then the required ingredients, you can turn any Ebony weapon or armor into its Daedric counterpart. Daedric equipment is the most powerful in the game for Heavy Armor users, and would normally require a Smithing skill of 90.
- Sigil Stone
- Daedra Heart
- Centurion Dynamo Core
- Black Soul Gem
- The Ebony weapon/armor you want to transform
For additional recipes, click here.
There was previously a glitch that allowed you to place the items in the altar and then quickly take them out while the Daedric item is being created, allowing you to keep both of them. This has been patched, but deleting the update from your hard drive may still allow you to do it.
Note: Mild spoilers on this page.
9. The Most Powerful Shouts
- Storm Call
I’ll be honest, I went the first 50-or-so hours of Skyrim without ever feeling compelled to use the Shouts. Ohhh, this one shoots a weak-ass fireball. And this one makes me a ghost, or something. No thanks! That was, until I was given the ability to blacken the skies and summon my own personal lightning storm. Whether you’re fighting dragons or a clearing out a bandit camp, Storm Call should be your go-to Shout. Let it rip before heading in to any outdoor battle and you’ll thin the herd with a quickness.The only problem is that this storm does not discriminate between enemies and friendlies, meaning it will quickly down or even kill your allies if you’re not careful. Unless your friends are all Storm Atronachs, then you’re good.
- Call Dragon
You knew it was going to happen, right? Towards the end of the main questline, you’ll earn the respect of your very own dragon buddy, who will come to your aid whenever you call for him. Generally speaking this is more for spectacle, as he’ll spend most of his time flying around rather than doing anything useful, but if you want to send a dragon to the frontlines and watch the chaos from afar, now you can.
- Ice Form
Not as impressive as summoning a storm or a freaking dragon, but this Shout will literally freeze most enemies (including Giants) in their tracks for a decent amount of time. You can either make a run for it, or get in a few free attacks before they recuperate.
All Shout and Words of Power locations can be found here.
Additionally, if you speak with Arngeir at High Hrothgar, you can as him if he’s located any new words. A random location and objective will be added to your map/journal. Keep in mind that if you choose to carry out the will of The Blades (you’ll know it when they give you the ultimatum), the Greybeards will no longer assist you.
There are also a couple of Shouts/Powers that summon temporary warrior companions, but I found these to be surprisingly weak. Then again, I do more damage to my companions than enemies do by spamming Chain Lightning… If you’re all about rolling deep though, master summoners can hypothetically have a companion, a summoned companion or dragon, a permanent Atronach, a dog, a horse, and up to three Blades or quest-specific NPCs, all at the same time. Until one of them takes an arrow to the knee, which apparently happens fairly often in Skyrim.
Note: Very mild spoilers on this page.
10. Minecraft pickaxe
You may have encountered more than a few odd references in Skyrim. I was on my way to go kill somebody (when am I not?) when I saw the ghost of a headless horseman riding along. I followed him but he just kept going, so I got bored and attacked a nearby camp of peaceful Khajit. It’s not me that’s like this, it’s my character.
Anyway, the developers of Skyrim have put in a nod to Minecraft and its creator, Notch, who they recently tried to sue for using the word “Scrolls.” Travel to the Throat of the World (the peak of the mountain where the Greybeard’s live). At the highest point (you’ll have to do a bit of jump-climbing), you’ll find a number of ore veins and a unique “Notched Pickaxe.”
This item can be disenchanted to learn the Notched Pickaxe Effect, which can then be applied to other items. If you dual-wield any two pickaxes and attack an ore vein, you’ll mine it much more quickly. Come get some, creeps!
11. Skeleton Key
Not particularly excited about that lockpicking mini-game? If you’re willing to put in the work, you’ll never break another lockpick again. Towards the end of the Thieves Guild questline, you’ll be given the Skeleton Key, which opens any lock in the game without fail. Sadly, you’ll have to relinquish this invaluable tool to complete the quest, so it’s kind of a trade-off.
Note that unlocking chests and doors with the Skeleton Key still increases your Lockpicking ability, so you could always come back later when you’ve maxed the skill out.
12. Immortal Horse
The first time I got a horse I was like, “Yay!” Then it went crazy and tried to attack a dragon. Three dead horses later, I decided I was just going to run everywhere. Fortunately, Shadowmere returns from The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and will make your life a bit easier if you absolutely must be accompanied by an equine accomplice.
To earn Shadowmere, join the Dark Brotherhood and you will be given him/her as a permanent pet early on in the storyline. Unlike other horses, Shadowmere is incredibly durable, not to mention slightly bad-ass. If Shadowmere does manage to die, it will respawn after several days, usually in the area where it previously expired.
Shadowmere can also be used as a pin cushion for your skill training. Thanks to its increased health and regeneration, you can stab, shoot, or burn it until you’ve leveled up your combat skill of choice. Better yet, guards won’t judge you like they will when you’re attacking non-demonic steeds. To make sure Shadowmere doesn’t go all dead on you, raise the difficulty and take a moment to catch your breath every once in a while before resuming the beatdown.
If you want to report any weird tips or glitches that you’ve discovered on your many adventures through Skyrim, please use the comments below. If you found this post helpful, check out our previous guide for even more goodies!