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Skyrim Strategy Journal: FAQ

Here are some frequently asked questions I often see around the message boards that I will provide here along with my own hard-earned answers:
1) There are some enchantments I can’t learn because I can’t seem to find the items necessary for disenchanting. Any ideas where I can find some of these more elusive enchanted items?
The best advice here is to explore, explore, explore (at least 75% of enchantments can be found on generic items in random loot spread across Skyrim). However, it’s true that many of the more common enchanted items found in the game also happen to be “named” items and, thus, cannot be disenchanted (e.g., you can’t disenchant an Amulet of Zenithar to learn Fortify Haggle).
 
Nevertheless, in my sweeping explorations I have found a place where you can find a couple of the more elusive generic enchanted items ripe for disenchanting. Visit the Radiant Raiment in Solitude (who would’ve guessed?) The two snobbish sisters that run the place usually have at any given time at least one of two VERY rare generic enchanted necklaces for sale: a Necklace of Minor Haggling or a Necklace of Remedy. Chances are you will not find these in loot, and either of them are definitely worth their asking prices of near two thousand septims each. The first carries Fortify Haggling and the second Fortify Healing Rate.

The Muffle and Water Breathing enchantments are also particularly hard to find. The latter can sometimes be found on a helmet for sale by the blacksmith in Riverwood (forget his name at the moment). I’ve also heard that a helmet of water breathing can be one of the items to loot from the skeleton at Cradlecrush Rock. The Muffle enchantment can only be learned from radomly generated items for sale by seemingly random merchants, including Radiant Raiment. Otherwise, you won’t find these enchantments on generic loot.
 
This link has a pretty comprehensive table of all the enchanment modifiers in the game and their corresponding item terminology: http://elderscrolls.wikia.com/wiki/Enchantment_Modifiers_(Skyrim)
2) Where do I find gold ore, gold ingots and flawless diamonds?
The best place in the game to mine gold ore is Kolskeggr Mine in The Reach, just east of Markarth. You’ll have to clear out some Foresworn, but it’s well worth your trouble. If you hit every vein, you’ll make out with about 46 chunks of gold ore (not to mention some precious gems… usually a couple emeralds and/or sapphires). There’s also a flawless sapphire on one of the bookcases in the main chamber (with all of the scaffolding) as well as a few gold ingots hidden in a darkened wagon. When you exit, be sure to use the conveniently located smelter to turn those nuggets into ingots.
In general, the next best place to find gold ore and ingots just laying around are in any of the Dwemer ruins/cities. However, the single best place in the game to find a rather large cache of gold ingots (like eight of them) is Forsaken Cave, a Nordic ruin located in the Pale. You’ll find the bulk of them in a large pot sitting on a table in the catacombs (make sure to jump onto the table and look down into the pot or you can easily miss them). The alternate and far easier method to obtain gold ore is to simply use the Transmute Mineral Ore Alteration spell on silver ore. For a small price, the spell can either change iron ore to silver ore and/or silver ore to gold ore. You can find the spell tome in the Nordic tomb of Ansilvund.
 
So far, there are only two places in the game where I have found a flawless diamond. The first is a secret area at the far end of Stony Creek Cave in Eastmarch. If you can somehow make your way to the top of the waterfall at the final chamber (use perfectly timed jumps OR your Whirlwind sprint from a high enough section of wall), you will reach a secret tunnel that will access the back end of the Dwemer ruin of Kagrenzel. The flawless diamond sits atop a darkly lit archway (you’ll probably need a torch to see it). Just as with the waterfall, you’ll have to enage in some fancy maneuvering to get to it (I found that switching to third-person helped with this one).
 
The other flawless diamond is a little trickier to spot. It’s underwater next to an abandoned boat north of Reachwater Rock in the river. The boat has a strong box in it (so you’ll know when you find it). Once on the boat, look West and then dive in the water. The flawless diamond is covered by a few empty mead bottles. You’ll also find a sunken chest and a couple sunken mead barrels.
 
Also, if you’re able to complete the rather involved quest, No Stone Unturned, the Prowler’s Profit reward/perk will allow you to start finding flawless diamonds as random loot.
3) Who are the best followers?
The answer to this question will depend largely on your own character type as well as the sort of adventuring you will be engaged in. Remember that followers will usually not die in combat with other NPCs unless they are poisoned or fall into some sort of trap (like a Flame Atronach blowing up or something). In fact, YOU will be the most likely cause of your own follower’s death! For example, if you and your follower are both in a melee clash with multiple opponents, your follower may drop to their knees (which will yield NPC attackers) only to have you accidentally blindside them with an errant blow from your warhammer. This is why I prefer using my followers as long- to mid-range backup. Also, unlike your follower, you will be much more likely to hit them if you’re the one providing the covering fire (whereas the follower won’t miss). I’ll admit I haven’t yet utilized every follower. But I have employed about half of them, and I can tell you with confidence which ones won’t disappoint.
 
Aranea is awesome and compatible with just about any character type. She’s a favor follower and can be found at the Shrine of Azura (you’ll have to complete Azura’s quest and obtain Azura’s Star, NOT the Black Star, to gain Aranea’s favor). A strong Dark Elf, Aranea is primarily a destruction mage. She’s very aggressive and will willingly dual-wield staffs if you equip her, which also ensures she stays at mid-range in combat. She’ll also heal herself regularly (in fact, she doesn’t like it when you try to heal her) and has some of the surest feet in the game (she will almost never trigger pressure plates and is very adept at staying on the path you layout for her). The only downside to using Aranea is that you can’t marry her, which is always advantageous with a follower because his or her shop will always earn you extra money (even if they’re not running it). But other than that, she’s awesome. Out of my five campaigns, two of my characters now use Aranea as their trusted follower.
 
Jenassa, another tough-as-nails Dark Elf, sells her services as a mercenary and can be found at the Drunken Huntsman in Whiterun. You can hire her for 500 gold. That may sound steep, but she’s worth every Septim. Obviously, if you marry her, you won’t have to worry about paying her fee again in case you get split up. Jenassa has the best stealth stats out of any other follower, so all you thieves or assassins out there are foolish not to have her at your back. She’s also a proficient archer, and is one of the only followers that can make effective use of dual melee weapons (like two swords or daggers). If you’re going to use her as a melee combatant, however, I would advise you equip her with some high rated light armor, preferably enchanted. I was having a lot of trouble with her dying on me when facing Falmers (because of their damn poison attacks), so I countered the situation by giving her the poison resistant Dark Brotherhood armor. Then she was practically unstoppable.
 
Not surprisingly, the instant classic Skyrim NPC, Aela the Huntress, makes a fantastic follower. However, to gain her favor, you’ll have to complete the Companions quest line which will keep you busy for a while (so until she’s available, use Aranea or Jenassa ;-). As her name suggests, Aela has maxed out stats in Archery (and also happens to be a Master Trainer). So use her as an archer! She makes an unbelievable combat companion when it comes to providing ranged cover fire. Give her a powerful bow and some decent arrows, and she’ll practically take down dragons herself. You’ll also watch enemies fall before you even have a chance to touch them. Marry that woman!
 
Mjoll the Lioness. Not only is she one of the heaviest tanks in the game, she can also be utilized as an effective ranged attacker with her decent archery stat. Also, like Aranea, she’ll kick serious ass with dual staffs equipped. But the biggest plus with Mjoll is that she CANNOT die. She’s the only follower to my knowledge that’s considered an “essential” NPC and, therefore, cannot be killed. Mjoll would be my first choice for a follower but for a couple drawbacks. First of all, she seems to be incredibly difficult to gain favor with. Out of my five characters, I was only able to petition the favor quest out of her with one. It seems that if you’re a member of either the Thieves Guild or the Dark Brotherhood (or maybe both?) she will not offer you the quest to retrieve her sword. She lets you know her disdain for the Thieves Guild in your first dialogue with her, so it probably has more to do with that. Well, four of my five characters happen to be charter members! 😉 The other thing (really more of an annoyance than a drawback) is that Mjoll has a follower of her own, a useless runt named Aerin. He’s not an issue outside of towns, as he ceases to follow Mjoll when she is following you, but every now and then he’ll pop up when you’re in a city and start conversing with Mjoll, even when she’s still in your service. I don’t know if this is a glitch or what, but it happened to me a few times and it reminded me too much of that little bastard from Oblivion (you know, the little fan you acquired from the Arena who randomly appeared like Santa’s Little Helper with a torch?) I’ve heard, however, that if Mjoll joins the Blades with you, Aerin WILL follow and there’ll be a good chance he is killed by a dragon. Problem solved!
 
As far as followers I didn’t like, here would be a few to steer clear of: Cicero (for no other reason than he’s incredibly annoying), Anneke Cragg-Jumper (her stealth sucks and she’ll trigger every trap in a room… even finding a few new ones), and Marcurio (I know others would disagree with me because he’s such a powerful mage, but he’ll go down in an instant if any enemies get past his initial barrage, half the time dying from poison or explosions).
4) What’s the best way to make lots of gold fast?
If I knew that, I wouldn’t be writing this blog! 😉 I actually spent a little time addressing this in a previous post. Obviously, there are tons of ways to get fat stacks of septims in Skyrim. Forging, enchanting and selling your own expensive jewelry is something you can start doing immediately, and at the same time you’ll be quickly leveling three different skills. But perhaps the best way to get gold in Skyrim is so obvious that it’s NOT so obvious: choose your race as an Imperial! As an Imperial, you will find and make TWICE as much gold as you would with any other race at any given time. It’s that simple. Out of my five characters, only one is an Imperial. And guess what? She’s the RICH one!
5) What are the best Dragon Shouts to fully learn and invest my dragon souls?
To be honest, the best and most useful Shouts in the game are mainly the ones you procure during the Main Quest. For example, the first part of Whirlwind Sprint is the second Shout the Dragonborn learns and it’s just as useful at Level 10 as it is at Level 30. Dragonrend is incredibly useful (also learned during the Main Quest). And the Call Dragon Shout (all parts learned during The Fallen) is about as cool as it gets. As far as other Shouts that I’ve found very useful on more than one occasion: Animal Allegiance and Slow Time. The former is very useful for low- to mid-level stealth-based characters who get into trouble in the wilds (it can be hard for a rogue/archer to take down two cave bears and a sabertoothe) while the latter can help in complex room puzzles and grandscale combat scenarios. Storm Call is a very powerful Shout, but it also has a tendency to kill followers.
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Posted by on March 10, 2012 in Skyrim, Strategy

 

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Skyrim Strategy Journal: The Companions

She'll put one through your heart.

With my Barbarian Nord, I completed the primary quest line for the Companions (still need to complete a couple radiant quests). Whiterun, centrally located in Skyrim, definitely provides the best base of operations for any warrior-like character, and it’s certainly no coincidence the first several missions in the Main Quest are focused around Whiterun and the Dragon Reach. I ignored the Main Quest altogether until I became the new Harbinger of the Companions. Then, with the awesome Aela at my side, I continued into the first leg of the Main Quest.

Note: Until you complete the “Dragon Rising” chapter of the Main Quest, you will NOT run into any dragons in Skyrim! It’s true. So you can run around the entire map while persistently leveling up your character, and you won’t have to worry about those ominous wings flapping overhead. That may take some of the fun out of it for a lot of adventurers, but personally, I don’t think any of my own characters would be taking on dragons until they were seasoned in their particular combat focuses. And since most of the beasts in Elder Scrolls games level up along with you, using this strategy is not exactly tipping the scales either way. It just sort of ensures you’re not dragon meat before reaching Level 5. At Level 17, my Barbarian was ready to take on dragons. She still might get flame broiled, but she would always have a fighting chance (and Aela at her side even gave her the slight advantage).

Like the others in the elite Circle of the Companions, my Nord partook in the sacred ritual to become a werewolf. Prior to her joining the Companions, she completed the Daedric Quest “Ill Met By Moonlight” to acquire the Ring of Hircine (make sure to get the ring BEFORE you contract lycanthropy). When worn, this artifact allows an additional werewolf transformation per day. However, there’s a loophole here to be easily exploited: after each transformation back into a human, you have to re-equip all of your items, including the ring. Each time you take the ring on and off of your finger, the daily power resets itself. So in essence, with the ring you can transform into a werewolf as many times as you want! Being a werewolf works great against single tough foes, but the disadvantage is that you can get teamed up on really fast when taking on groups. This can be particularly bad if you’re in a tight space (best to use your lycanthropy for outdoor battles) because it’s harder to un-group your enemies and to escape intense melee situations. Werewolf mode is always played in third-person, so it takes a little adjusting if you’re used to fighting in first-person. But if you have the space, you can launch vicious attacks and then quickly retreat using a quadrupedal sprint. This makes lumbering targets like Giants a breeze. Dragons are also in trouble when they bring the fight to the ground, although I usually found myself transforming back to human in the middle of a skirmish (annoying and potentially lethal). Also, remember that as a werewolf your health does NOT regenerate over time. This is another reason why you want to use fast and calculated strikes on your prey.

A great moment with the Companions takes place during the outset of the final mission in the quest line wherein you have to travel to Ysgramor’s Tomb in the farthest reaches of the north. The three toughest Companions–Aela, Farkas and Vilkas–all accompany you on this one, and you may choose to embark on a cross-country run with them from Whiterun all the way to the Tomb (half the map of Skyrim). They are in attack mode the whole time, so ANY enemies encountered during the journey are dispatched with extreme prejudice. My character being an equal badass, for the first time ever I felt like I was completely untouchable in an Elder Scrolls game! (There were some similar scenarios in Oblivion, but never where you had the company of three of the most powerful warriors in the game). Seriously, we could have taken on multiple Giants AND their Mammoth herd.

One of the things I wanted to be able to do before reaching Level 20 was to improve my magical weapons and items. To do this in Skyrim, you need the Arcane Blacksmith perk which is not available until a Smithing level of 60. So on top of my own leveling by smelting, smithing and improving weapons, armor and jewelry, I also tried to afford as many training sessions as possible with the Master Blacksmith of the Companions, Eorlund Gray-Mane. Like any master training, you can purchase up to five sessions per level. Each session raises that particular skill level by one. This can get expensive (especially at the higher levels), so make sure you have a money machine to keep the gold flowing (smithing, selling, exploring, etc.) To me it’s worth it because it saves a ton of time otherwise spent simply grinding out the levels on my own.

As mentioned earlier, I chose Aela the Huntress (Master Archer) to be my Skyrim sister-in-arms for my Barbarian campaign. If you’re a melee-based character, Aela is actually the perfect choice because she will provide ranged cover while you’re mincing meat. I use my own bow quite a bit, too (for a stealthy approach in many situations), so it’s nice to have master training in archery at my beck and call when I want to invest in some leveling. You can always use your companions as pack mules and/or upgrade their weapons and armor. I immediately replaced her hunting bow with a superior forged Dwarven bow and her iron dagger with a Skyforged war axe. I also gave her some better bracers and boots, although she probably didn’t need them considering her Light Armor stat was at 100. When using your companion as a pack mule, be careful. Not only can your companion go down in a fight, but there are random bugs in the game that may make the body disappear. This happened to my friend who had his companion carrying every last one of his hard-earned dragon bones and dragon scales. Because of that bug, he lost ALL of them. My advice is only to use your companion to carry important things when you are ready to fast travel back to a town or safe haven. If you have a home, all of your expensive items not being used should be kept in a chest or the like (as soon as you’re appointed Thane of Whiterun by the Jarl after completing “Dragon Rising”, you’re eligible to buy a house in that city).

When starting the line of Companions quests, there is a particular mission that proved pretty tough for my character (who at the time I believe was around Level 8). The quest “Proving Honor” sends you on an errand to retrieve an Orcish heirloom from a random location. I was not able to fast travel even close to that location, so I had to foot it most of the way. During the journey, I noticed I ran into three times as many enemies (some of them several levels above my own) as usual. After dying A LOT, I finally had to just make a run for it from a trio of high-level necromancers. Once to my destination, I proceeded into a cavern infested with Falmers (horrible creatures of the dark that drop down on you from above). These things were tough and once again after dying way too many times, I was finally able to get to the chest with the dagger at the end of the cavern. As it turned out, that was the whole point of the quest–basically determining if you could survive such a dangerous living obstacle course! I love little surprises like that when playing The Elder Scrolls 🙂

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2012 in Skyrim

 

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