Okay, so I’m level 59 1/2 in Skyrim and I think I’m finally getting a handle on how to play. I’ve put together a handful of thoughts and lessons learned and things I wish I had known waaaay back when I started.

Getting to level 100 in Smithing will allow you to make Dragon Armor. Not “Dragon Armor and Dragon Weapons”. Just Dragon Armor.

Once you have the perfect armor, you have the perfect armor forever. Once you have the perfect weapon, you have the perfect weapon forever. You have the perfect potion only until you drink it.

I probably shouldn’t have spent a month yelling “bloodiest beef in the reach!” whenever someone in the house passed gas.

There are spells, scrolls, potions, or enchanted item abilities that can mimic pretty much everything except for the Khajiit nightvision ability.

The best way to go up a level is to find a teacher who teaches something that you’re not going to advance that much by yourself… speech, say… go up five levels in that and *THEN* play the way you would have anyway. (And pick something that will benefit you even if you haven’t spent any perks in the skill… speech, say.)

If you start out as someone who is going to cast spells primarily and use weapons as backup, you’re going to end up as someone who uses weapons primarily and casts healing spells as backup.

Don’t worry about gold. You’ll be rolling in gold.

It doesn’t matter what kind of weapons you specialize in: sword, axe, or mace. You’ll soon be wishing you had picked a different one.

What insights have you gleaned?


Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to


  1. So far… “I really want to have the time to play this game” is the only insight I’ve got.

  2. It had also occurred to me that paying for tutelage in skills you aren’t majoring in–elective skills, I suppose–would be a way to level quickly without grinding, but I hadn’t tested it. So I’m glad to know that that wasn’t a crazy idea, or that someone else had that crazy idea.

    A high school freshman in my karate class was describing how he plays the game to me. It was an odd combination of hacks and grinds designed to level up quickly, and complete lack of impulse control, along the lines of, “after I’d killed all the blacksmiths in Skyrim, I lost my best sources of ore.”

    I wish there were more unique monsters. I’d like to come to the end of a dungeon and find a zombie human centipede or run into a gryphon on the side of a mountain or something like that.

    There’s an artifact in the game called the Wabbajack that has unusual effects on opponents. I have been wondering what would happen if I were to reverse-pickpocket the Wabbajack onto someone and provoke them to attack me.

    • My house in Whiterun (the first house that gets made available, as far as I can tell, and all you have to do to get it is kill your first dragon, I think) is a block away from a lady who can train you to level 75 in alchemy. The companions can train you in such things as archery and two-handed.

      You’re going to hit 100% in your chosen field anyway just by playing the game.

      When I realized that you didn’t stop levelling after level 50? That’s when I realized that I wished I had purchased training every level.

      • Which also reminds me:

        High Lord: You are a great hero, O-Slayer-of-the-Dragon! You are to have the highest honors! Come, be invited to buy a house in my realm!
        Me: Thank you, Sir. I’m happy to be of service. I’ll take that house and move in happily.
        Lord’s Accountant: That’ll be 5,000 gold.
        Me: WTF?!?

  3. I am bummed to hear that magic is behind the club fighting. That has always been a problem with most RPGs. Magic never seems to stack up to plain clubbung. I would love to see a game where that is reversed or at least equal to each other. Normally when I start an RPG I start as a mage class. Progress to a certain point where I cannot seem to go any further and then start over with a fighter and beat the game. That always disappoints me.

    • Wizardry did enough of that. Knew someone who played with one Tank (Paladin) and three Mage/Clerics (forgetting the name). Quite winnable, if timeconsuming.

    • I run out of mana at the drop of a hat. There are skills that can cut the cost of your spells in half… but that means that merely a second hat has been added to drop. Swinging a sword/axe/club is something you can do all day (running out of stamina just means you swing it limply… which is sufficient to still do damage). Running out of mana means you can’t cast a spell at all.

      • Yeah, I think the only way to actually do a mage build is to go all-in. Mage robes with regen magika / cheaper spells enchantments are easy to obtain, and you can carry a spell staff as a backup. Plus as a dedicated mage you forget about stamina (it’s not like you’ll be wearing armour) and focus on adding points to health and magika. Being an Altmer wouldn’t hurt either.

        I do intend to try that at some point.

      • In Morrowind: Elder Scrolls you could pretty quickly get your Alchemy skill to the point where a bunch of ingredient farming of the proper potions made it pretty easy for you to make “regenerate magika 20 points a second for duration, oh, longer than you need to worry about if you carry a bunch of these potions”.

        Then you make a fireball spell with continuing damage and you can pretty much nuke everything.

        I take it this is off the table.

        • There are potions that regenerate magicka by a heightened percentage (and potions that give you back X points, where X is determined by your alchemy skill and perks you’ve purchased), and outfits that have +50%, +75%, or even +100% regen (and I think that they’re stackable with other items that have +% regen) but to make this option really, really work there is an opportunity cost when it comes to weaponry.

          You pretty much have to go all-in on magic to the exclusion of sneak/combat skills to make magic skills work… while it’s fairly easy to use weapons/armor and have healing spells as a backup.

          • It sounds like you have actually tried this, Jaybird, so your plan might be better than mine.

            My plan would be to start as a swordmage or shieldmage, acknowledging that I was gonna get killed if I relied on standing there and casting a Flames spell while every Forswron in the world rushed my happy ass. Then I’d get Lydia or another follower as early as possible to go in and do the clubbing for me. I’d also try and get Conjure Flame Atronach early for the same reason. I’d put all my perks in Conjuration, Destruction and Restoration.

            And I’d save the game obsessively.

          • I actually haven’t tried it. I’ve just done some light opportunity cost math in my head. You only get *SO* many perks to buy. You’re going to have to put them in Restoration, Conjuration, Destruction and Alchemy.

          • Thinking about it some more, I’d swap out Conjuration for Alteration. You’ve got protection from weapons in the form of strengthening spells like oak/stone/ironskin and protection from spells in the form of magic resistance and spell absorbsion.

  4. Want to level really slowly? Make a Khajiit who specializes in heavy armor, smithing, enchanting and then punch people in the face. Since heavy armor doesn’t level very quickly and you aren’t using a skill for fighting, you level only by making stuff or from incidental skill usage.

    You don’t get the cool animations when finishing off monsters or dragons, but I think the “left hook followed by choke slam” animation is the most satisfying int he game.

    • I get hit by just picking up some red mountain flowers. Levelling armor skills just sort of happens to me (and it happens a *LOT*).

    • I would need to get used to playing in 3rd person to really appreciate those. I tend to be in 1st person and I think you lose something when it switches.

    • Less than you’d think. The number one goldbug in that part of the world does everything he can to hoard it.

      You’d think that there would be a bigger problem with the market being flooded with cheap gold rings that let people breathe underwater.

        • I gave up of fantasy RPG economics a long time ago. I’ve never seen an RPG that does it right, or even close. That’s not overly surprising though since real economies are too complicated to abstract effectively.

          In Skyrim’s case there at least a civil war going on (plus the growing dragon threat) so theoretically there’s some demand for all those magic items to equip soldiers and guards.

          That or maybe the Thalmor are send agents out to buy them all up.

          • … ever played Magic Candle?
            Actually, I wonder what you’d think of Kulthea…

            (economies can be abstracted, it’s just not possible to get too finely grained about it. Trade routes, extractions, transformations, locuses of enterprise. )

  5. What you described about “the best armor” and “the best weapon” is typical of RPG games. From NetHack’s ascension kit to a Wizardry lord wielding a blade cuisinart with silver armor and known all priest spells up to level nine then grinding on Maelifics and Poison Giants while heading to Werdna *again*.

    There’s a game which is fun but it’s monstrously difficult for a casual like me. Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup has an interesting mechanic where the magical weapons have randomized traits and you’ll never get the same weapon twice. Borderlands kinda incorporated it with their weapon system but everything was so incremental to the point of disappointment and even more pointless grinding in a world not meant for singleplayer. It’d make for interesting gameplay with emergent strategies which aren’t cookie cutter.

    • Well, I should clarify: you will find some light armor that is the best light armor. You will also find some heavy armor that is the best heavy armor. If you’ve got an assassin build, the heavy armor will be appropriate for a closet somewhere letting you feel good about how you’ve got the best heavy armor in the game safe and sound at home.

      Same for swords or maces or axes. If you’ve got a two-handed axe build, finding the best one-handed mace won’t do you much good beyond putting it in your closet at home.

      And, on top of *THAT*, you eventually get the ability to place two enchantments on your (whatever) instead of just one… which means that you can make a weapon/armor/necklace/ring/shield to rival whatever you’ve found beating a particular enemy.

      The problem is that, once you’ve got it, you won’t feel like using anything else because, hey, you’ve got the best sword (or whatever) in the game.

    • As Jabird says it not so much that there’s a “best ____”, as there’s a “best ____ for my character”.

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