Continuing along our line of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim guides, I present to you our third entry, which will lead you through the basics and tips of smithing, enchanting and alchemy. I’ve received numerous questions through various outlets, and this guide attempts to answer most of them. If you’re looking for our updated Beginner’s Guide, it can be found here. If you’re looking for our Guide to Property, Marriage and Money, it can be found here. If you’re looking for our Top 5 Daedric Artifacts, find that here.
It’s all ball bearings these days.
Of the three disciplines, I rate this the highest and most important skill to have. It’s easy to learn, straight-forward to master and will help you not only make wares to sell to merchants, but it also allows you to experience the joy of seeing the word legendary on your armor. To get started, gather pelts off as many four-legged beasts as possible. Use a tanners rack found near most smiths to create leather and leather strips. These can be used to quickly start improving your armor. Even if you are not going to equip a piece of armor (fur armor, anyone?), it behooves you to improve it before selling it to a merchant. It may cost a little initially, material wise, but not only will you skill up faster, eventually you’ll make more money by selling back improved armor.
The smith in Riverwood is your best initial person to talk to as he will give you supplies and ask you to create certain items. Be sure to snag a pick axe and mine as you go along. You should expect to buy ingots, but as mentioned, if you’re exploring and questing, and selling enough, these will be but small investments. (For a quick video showing how to make ingots, click here)
As you skill up, the initial skill point in Steel Smithing allows you to improve steel items, and gives you access to all steel plans. I would personally suggest grabbing Dwarven armor as your next skill point, regardless of whether you plan to wear heavy or light armor, only because questing will provide you with plenty of Dwarven (Dwemer) materials to fashion into ingots. This makes Dwarven smithing a quick, easy way to skill up. If you plan to wear heavy armor, continue along that branch, or if you want to wear light armor, start applying skill points on the other side of the tree.
Smithing is not only a good source of income. By harvesting materials and crafting your own armor, you can ensure yourself access to the best types of armor (full glass? Don’t mind if I do!), and more importantly, you can improve them. What does improving armor and weapons do for you? A base Elven Dagger does 17 points of damage. An Elven dagger that has been lovingly upgraded to Legendary does 38 points of damage. Likewise, Glass boots provide 36 points of armor, whereas Glass boots upgraded to Legendary provide 72 points of armor.
I cannot stress this importance of smithing enough. Can you make it through the game without it? Yes, of course. But it provides a huge leg up both combat- and profit-wise. Also, as additional incentive, you’ll eventually be able to use those heavy-ass dragon bones and scales you’ve been lugging around. Just sayin’…
What’s better than a Legendary weapon? A legendary weapon that also drains life.
One of my biggest gripes with previous Elder Scrolls games was the way in which enchanting allowed you to bend the rules of the game over your knee and shatter them like you’re Sub-Zero. This system has been, as mentioned, vastly improved. It is, admittedly, a little harder to get started in enchanting, but it’s no less rewarding than smithing, and certainly worth the trouble.
Step one: break stuff. Did you find a sword that does +5 fire damage? Good for you! If this sword is not an upgrade for you, or if you’re willing to miss out on a sword that sets people on fire, take it to the nearest enchanting table and disenchant it. This will not only teach you the fire damage enchant on the weapon, it will also progress your enchanting skill. It’s important to know that you’re not learning the power of the enchant, but just the enchant itself (I’ll explain later). Keep in mind that this will destroy the item, but you’ll have gained the valuable knowledge and experience towards skill ups.
To enchant an item, while at the table, select the item you want to enchant. For example, we’ll use a glass dagger. You may have learned 20-or-so enchants, but only specific enchants may be applied to specific items. Sadly, you won’t be able to put spell fortifications (Destruction, Conjuration, etc.) on a weapon. Select the enchantment you want, in this example we’ll use Stamina damage. This is an enchantment that hits on charge — that is to say, every time you use it, you expend a charge. Once you have selected your enchantment, you’ll have a slider which allow you to choose the amount of damage you cause versus the number of charges (see video below).
Next, select your soul gem. The lesser the grade the lower the power of your enchantment, or the fewer charges you have available. With our Stamina Damage enchant, if we use a Grand Soul Gem we’ll have up to 64 charges, whereas a Common Soul Gem will provide up to 21 charges. If we had selected a Fire Damage enchant, we’d have the option of 4%-13% damage.
Once you have selected all three variables, you may choose to name the item by clicking Y (Joe’s Weapon of Snazz), but the weapon will not be created until you press X to craft it. Voila!
Armor and trinkets will require a bit of exploration and experimentation. Each specific piece of armor has a selection of enchantments available. That is to say that you cannot have Fortify Stamina Regen on your chest, hands, boots and helm. It’s a nice sense of balance built into the system.
Wind, fire, all that kind of thing.
Alchemy remains the third wheel on the crafting tour. The majority of questions I have received confirm that most people share my opinion of it and that is: it’s about as enjoyable as watching paint dry. It’s slow to level, and mostly requires a lot of trial and error on your part. By the time your Alchemy skill is 34, you should be able to make decent healing potions, and I highly recommend using your enchanting skill to build some trinkets that increase your Alchemy. I have discovered nearly every potion in the game through experimentation or general searching, and it’s still a grind. Sadly, that is all the words of wisdom I have for you now. Keep at it and remember patience is the name of the game. Some of the various lists about the web that show all of the effects of the plants might help your skill progress faster, but I’m not entirely sure of that, either.
If you’re of the same mind as I, and don’t like looking to guides for ingredients, here is one tip I have: if you do not yet know the first effect for a specific ingredient, eating it will tell you. Example: if you eat Skeever Tail, you’ll learn Damage Stamina Regen is its first effect. Seems like a risky way to learn but if it worked for Wesley, it’ll work for you.
Did I miss something? Have further questions? Please feel free to either post a comment here, follow me on Twitter (@jenbosier) or look me up on Xbox Live (Kilo963). When it comes to The Elder Scrolls, I’ll talk shop from here to Oblivion.