A page a day, day fifty-four: Skyrim Trifecta

The Expo starts tomorrow and I’ll be busy all weekend. Then again, I’ll be taking care of the VIP attendees room so I know I’ll also have a lot of moments with nothing to do. So I’ll be taking my netbook with me and getting some writing done.

I’ve started playing Skyrim again. Having finished Bioshock and burning out on Fallout 3 New Vegas I finally put Skyrim in again. I received a new Xbox for Christmas so I don’t have my old saved games anymore. But that’s okay, because now I really know what I’m doing in the game and I’m making amazing headway.

There are a handful of skills worth focusing on right from the start: Smithing, Enchanting, Alchemy, and Speech. Actually, Alchemy is just helpful, the other three are essential.

You need Smithing to make new armor and new weapons. The higher your skill, the better your weapons and armor. But that’s the end goal, not the method. The method involves combining the three over and over again. Kind of like grinding and crafting in Warcraft.

Smithing allows you to make armor out of metals, eventually, but at first you’re making armor out of leather, which you can get from hunting animals. So there’s an abundant supply of materials. The beauty of this is that you never stop gaining experience from making armor out of leather, even when your best armor is being made out of Dwarven metal. So you can always gain more experience in Smithing by making any kind of armor at all.

In addition to armor and weapons, however, you can also use Smithing to make Jewelry. Gold and silver combined with all the gems you keep finding in chests allows you to make rings and necklaces. Which is fine for re-sale value, but also fantastic for Enchanting.

Anything you can Smith you can Enchant. Any amount of enchantment on an object automatically increases it’s value. Any kind of enchanting you do also gradually increases your Enchanting skill.

Combine the two and you create a ton of things to sell with high value. So much, in fact, that I quite often have to travel from town to town just to find merchants with enough money left over to afford what I have to sell them.

Which improves the skill of Speech. Every exchange you make with a merchant improves your Speech skill, and a higher Speech skill improves your interactions with other NPC characters granting you additional experience, alternative options, or giving you a more favorable outcome on a quest.

There’s just two more things you need to make this never ending cycle perfect: Soul Trap and Transform.

Soul Trap is a spell you cast in battle to catch the soul of a defeated opponent. It’s tough to do on your own because you are, by definition, in a middle of a fight, and the spell doesn’t cast very quickly. It also expires after a limited amount of time so once you cast it you have to make sure you kill your opponent quickly. It’s awkward and difficult to manage with any degree of regularity. But, there’s a way to make it infinitely easier: Enchanting.

You learn how to Enchant items by finding items are already enchanted and destroying them. By destroying the enchanted item you learn that item’s particular enchantment and can there after apply that enchantment to other items as often as you want. But there’s still another catch: in order to enchant an item you need a Soul Gem, and that Soul gem must be charged with a Soul. You can buy these Soul Gems from merchants, but they’re incredibly expensive to buy if they’re already charged. They’re about 10% of the price if you buy them empty and charge them yourself. Which you do with the above mentioned Soul Trap spell.

So your holy grail in the game is to find a weapon, any weapon, enchanted with the Soul Trap spell. Once you have that, you can Disenchant it and learn the Enchantment yourself. From that point on you always make sure you have a weapon with Soul Trap enchanted into it. That way in every single battle you have the chance to charge up any Soul Gem you might be carrying. Then you buy every empty Soul Gem any merchant will be willing to sell.

Soul Gems come in five different sizes, from Petty up to Grand, with prices to match. When a Soul Trap spell captures a soul it will automatically store that soul in the smallest Soul Gem available. But if the soul is only of the “Petty” size and the only empty Soul Gem you have is a “Grand” size, the spell with unthinkingly charge up the Grand Soul Gem with a Petty soul… which effectively turns it into a mere Petty Soul Gem. Which is a waste of money. You can still use it, but it isn’t going to work very well.

So when you’re using a Soul Trap weapon you do your utmost to keep as many Petty and Common Soul Gems in your backpack as possible. That way you won’t waste the big gems on capturing smaller souls. Luckily these smaller Soul Gems are incredibly cheap. You do need to travel a fair bit, though, as the merchants will quickly run out of soul gems to sell you and the stock doesn’t refresh very quickly.

Sound ghoulish? Well, I didn’t design the rules, I’m just using them to their maximum effect.

So… charge up a hunting bow with Soul Trap. Go hunting for elk, deer, bear, rabbit, goat, dog, wolf, and saber tooth cat. Even hunt some of the woolly mammoths if you feel you’re strong enough to fight off the giants herding them. (Hint: if you’re at all new at this, you are NOT ready to fight a giant. Or a mammoth, for that matter.)

The bow kills the animal, the spell traps it’s soul, and you get hide out of which you can make leather armor. Use the Soul Gem to Enchant the armor and… voila. Cash machine. A cash machine that steadily improves your Smithing skill which rapidly provides you with better armor and weapons.

Trust me, this works wonders.

There’s one final trick to take this whole cycle into overdrive: the Transmute spell.

Your character learns spells from tomes you either buy from other wizards and merchants or find lying around. Transmute you can only find in two or three spots. I know of one particular spot in a mine held by numerous bandits. The mine not only provide you with the Transmute spell, but also provides you with dozens of chunks of Iron Ore. In the game you actually mine your own ore to turn into metal ingots which you then fashion into your weapons, armor… and jewelry.

Jewelry is only made out of silver or gold, which are naturally incredibly hard to find, but with the Transmute spell… you get to turn iron ore into silver ore, and you then turn that silver ore into gold.

So… buy up and mine all the cheap iron ore you can find, turn it into gold, increase your Smith skill over and over again by turning that gold into jewelry… enchant the jewelry, thus improving it’s value and increasing your Enchanting skill… selling the Enchanted Jewelry not only make a ton of money, but also to vastly improve your Speech skill.

Repeat. Become a God. Win Game.

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