Adventurers have been hunting for the fabled Daedric artifacts in Elder Scrolls games since, well, Daggerfall. The artifacts have undergone some tweaks over the years — for better and worse — but one thing is certain: they are the ultimate ES status symbol. There is nothing as satisfying in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim as displaying your trophies throughout your home. My Solitude house has an entire Daedric room where I entertain guests over sniffers of Courvoisier.
But the real question for new players may be: what artifacts are most worthwhile to hunt down? After all, most require the players to jump through a variety of hoops, so which will you want to wield, and which gather dust on your shelves? Here’s our take on them, in no particular order (please be advised there are some spoilers below, you’ve been warned):
The Five Best
Mace of Molag Bal
In Markarth, as you make your way up the main street, a man named Vigilant Tyranus will approach you, asking if you know anything about an abandoned house. Offer to help him, and you will soon discover someone has been summoning a very powerful daedra within the house. Molag Bal will speak to you and tell you to kill the Vigilant. Go ahead because the jerk will try to kill you, too. Journey to the bottom of the basement (there’s a tunnel near a bookcase), and Molag Bal will instruct you on how to proceed to claim his mace. Bal’s a charmer, but only slightly less charming than his female counterpoint, Boethiah, and you will need to bust one of her priests out of hock.
The one-handed ebony mace does 21 damage, and drains 25 health and stamina per hit. Also, if you kill an enemy within 3 seconds while wielding it, it will capture their soul. Nice, huh? It cannot be disenchanted, and sells for a pretty penny, but really, it’s a heckuva one-hand weapon that both damages your enemy’s health and slows them down. You’ll need to be at least level 10 to pick up this bad boy.
This is easily the most difficult quest to start, but it’s worth it to keep your eyes peeled. Once you hit level 12, the Beacon of Meridia will randomly spawn in a chest. Check for chests around dragon walls, as a good starting point. Once you find the beacon, Meridia will speak to you and ask you to return her beacon to her shrine. Travel to the shrine and she will demand you wipe out a necromancer who has defiled her shrine. Once you do this, Meridia will grant you Dawnbreaker. The one-handed sword does 25 damage, and light fire damage, as well as the chance to burst the undead in a fiery explosion. (Meridia hates the undead.) Plus it’s gold and glows. Looks cool when wielding, and very useful when dungeon crawling.
The Masque of Clavicus Vile
In Falkreath, if you speak to Lod, the blacksmith, he will ask you about a dog on the road. Travel outside of town and a dog, Barbas, will approach you and tell you he is lost from his master. Follow him to Clavicus Vile’s shrine (he is prone to wandering aimlessly, so be prepared for a trek). Cut your way through some vampires and speak to Clavicus Vile’s shrine. Vile will tell you that he needs help reclaiming his Rueful Axe, and that he will grant you a wish in return. Your options are to return Barbas to his master, save Skyrim from civil war, or have the power to smite all your foes. Keep in mind that Vile has a very unique sense of humor, so personally, I suggest doing the nice thing and say you want to reunite dog and master. That’s just me.
After traveling to reclaim the axe, Vile will tell you that you may keep the axe if you kill Barbas. If you do this, you get a neat looking but not very special axe. I suggest refusing the deal, and speak to Barbas again. He will convince Vile to give you the Masque of Clavicus Vile. The mask is heavy armor that provides 42 armor, but the enchantment is almost unrivaled: +10 speech, prices are 20% better and magika regens faster. It’s cool looking, to boot, and helps you turn even more of a profit from your dungeon exploits.
This quest, for Boethiah, requires a very specific mind set. Once you are level 30, you may either find the book Boethiah’s Proving (at Septimus Signus’ camp), or travel to the Sacellum of Boethiah, which is East-ish of Windhelm. (If you head directly east from Windhelm, you should run into a bandit cave near a mountain. It’s around in this area) Boethiah, charmer that she is, will demand that you sacrifice someone to her shrine. You will need to bring a follower to the shrine and kill them. This is especially difficult if your follower is male, and uses the good ol’ “You’ve been a good friend to me. That means something,” right before you shank them. I still have guilt over this… I killed off her followers for good measure.
Boethiah will tell you to defeat her current champion and claim his armor. Once you do this, you will have the Ebony Mail. It is heavy armor that increases your sneak ability and poisons anyone who gets close to you. I mention this specifically because, frankly, I feel like kick ass heavy armor is harder to find than light. But then maybe I’m just biased to my Nightingale Armor.
As mention in my Top 5 Enjoyable Sidequests article, the Sanguine Rose is gained from completing A Night to Remember. Why do I put this non-weapon on the most awesome artifacts? Because it summons a damn dremora, that’s why! He’s good when you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, and an excellent distraction. I’m all about inflatable friends whose death you don’t need to mourn.
The Three Lamest
The Ebony Blade
In Morrowind, Mephala was infinitely cool. The patron Daedra of the Morag Tong, and the Lady of Whispers, Mephala is diabolical and conniving to the extreme. Which is why it is strange that she is relegated to such a nothing of a quest and a ho-hum weapon. In Whiterun, ask the Bannered Mare bartender about latest rumors (you must be at least level 20). She’ll eventually mention that the Jarl’s son is “not right.” Head to Dragonsreach and ask the Jarl about his kids. He’ll ask you to speak to the youngest, who you may remember as the charming brat who remarks on you licking his father’s boots. (Every time I talk to these kids, I remind my daughter about manners) The boy will tell you about a door in the basement that whispers. All you need to do is visit the door, then pick pocket the key from either the Jarl or the wizard to open the door. That is it. Seriously.
The Ebony Blade is a two-hand blade that looks like an ebony dai-katana. The blade is a decent two-hand weapon, which gains power as you murder your followers, and only those who trust you. But the blade has a few issues, most of which make me think it will be patched in the future. You may currently only use one-handed enchants on it, and one-handed bonuses apply to it. That is, if you have +two-handed on an item, it will not affect the Ebony Blade.
Granted, I said that The Mind of Madness is one of the most fun side-quests available, and it’s worth doing it to get this item. However, the Wabbajack’s main claim to fame is that it turns an opponent into a chicken, ala Hexen (look it up, kids). This is pretty damn funny the first two or three times you do it, but it gets pretty old quickly. You’ll run around the country side for ten or fifteen minutes, and then the Wabbajack will promptly gather dust in your home.
The Savior’s Hide/The Ring of Hircine
In Falkreath, travel to the cemetery where a funeral procession is taking place. Speak to the older man at the funeral, and he will tell you that his young daughter was murdered by a stranger, Siding. Speak to him in
Speak to him in the Falkreath jail, and he will tell you he is cursed by Hircine, and that he must appease Hircine. He will instruct you to kill the great white stag, and give you Hircine’s ring. After you kill the stag, Hircine will appear and tell you to hunt Siding and skin him. Go to the cave where Siding is hiding (which is, unarguably, one of the prettiest dungeons in the game. I’m a sucker for the blood moon), and you will have one of two options: side with Siding, or follow Hircine’s orders.
If you side with Siding, you will receive The Ring of Hircine, which grants those with lycanthropy the ability to chance into a werewolf as often as you please. But there’s the kicker: you already have to have lycanthropy. If you were a Companion and chose to cure yourself…
If you side with Hircine and skin Siding, you will receive the Savior’s Hide. It’s a very pretty piece of armor, with Hircine’s symbol on the chest, but all it offers is increased poison and magic resistance. Whoopee. Throw it on a mannequin and go about your business.
Wait! There’s more! Before you ask…
What about Azura’s Star?
Yes, Azura’s Star is a fun side quest, and the most awesome soul gem in the game. To me, this item is a no-brainer. Hence why it doesn’t make this list.
What about the Skeleton Key?
Okay so this item… [*Extreme spoiler warning*] The Skeleton Key may only be obtained through the main Thieves Guild quest. The current Guild Master, Mercer, stole the Skeleton Key from Nocturnal’s Twilight Sepulcher, and she’s very angry about this. Following the Thieves Guild quest will eventually place this unbreakable lock pick in your inventory. It doesn’t instantly open locks, but it doesn’t break, either, which makes expert and master locks a no-snap procedure. However, if you keep the Skeleton Key, you will be unable to finish the main Thieves Guild quest. Keep this in mind.
If you return the Skeleton Key, you get Nocturnal’s Blessing, which offers three options you may change once per day.
What about the Oghma Infinitum?
[*Serious spoiler warning. No, seriously. Like, main quest stuff.*] This is, without question, the best artifact in the entire game. It grants +5 to all skills within a branch. If you select Magic, it will grant +5 to Illusion, Alteration, Restoration, and Conjuration. Awesome, without question. However, to receive this item, you have to proceed rather deep within the main quest line. You must be at least level 15, and well on your way to finding the Elder Scroll — you’ll be speaking to Septimus Signus. If you ask him about the Elder Scroll, you will be sent to a Dwarven ruin (easily the largest ruin I have encountered, incidentally) to transcribe a lexicon. The quest is pretty straight forward after this, up until you speak to Hermaeus Mora. He will ask you to open a box, warning you that once the box is opened, Signus will die, and you will take his place. If you disagree with this statement, Mora will disappear and you’ve gone to a lot of trouble for nothing. If you agree, you will receive the book. Please note: with most of the daedra quests, agreeing to serve “x” daedra will have little effect on your game.