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How you've been playing Skyrim wrong this whole time

Though it was released nearly a decade ago, The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim rivals contemporary titles and is still considered one of the most replayable games of all time. With the main questline stretching over multiple hours of gameplay and hundreds of side missions to distract players from the story, players can spend days on just their first playthrough. 

Yet, though you may have spent countless hours exploring Tamriel, you may have been playing Skyrim wrong this entire time. You might be unwittingly wasting time and gold by playing without thinking outside the box. It can be as simple as not knowing how to find the location of new word walls to as complex as exploiting a glitch to ride your galloping horse through water. Even the most seasoned Skyrim adventurer can learn to play the game smarter.

Stop worrying about Magicka

As every magic user in Skyrim knows, magicka is vital for casting spells. However, most Skyrim veterans do not realize that the enchantment tree actually allows players to gain infinite magic casting for a certain type of spell after they progress far enough. In order to accomplish this feat, players must first increase their enchantment skill to its maximum level and then unlock the "Insightful Enchanter" perk, which makes Skill enchantments on armor 25% stronger. 

Next, the Dragonborn will need to apply a Fortify enchantment for whatever school of magic they choose using an Arcane Enchanter. For example, if a player is looking for unlimited Destruction spell casting, they will need to enchant four different pieces of apparel with the "Fortify Destruction" enchantment. Once players are wearing four different pieces of equipment that each decrease the cost of destruction spells by 25%, they will be able to cast any Destruction spells for zero magicka cost.

Not using unrelenting force enough

Although "Fus Ro Dah" is one of the most powerful shouts in Skyrim, many Dragonborn do not realize how valuable these words are. They may assume that because it is the first Shout learned in the main questline, it must not be very good. But Unrelenting Force is the best defense against a swarm of enemies, as the knockdown effect is highly versatile and can buy time to escape or get in some quick damage.

However, most players do not realize that Unrelenting Force can instantly kill almost all enemies if they manage to shout them off of a high enough edge. Besides large creatures like Dragons or Mammoths, adventurers can use this shout to throw enemy creatures to their doom. Unrelenting Force can also be used as a defense to interrupt enemies when they are in the middle of attacking or casting a spell.

Searching for new shouts

Many new players do not realize they don't have to scour the entire map to find new words of power. Instead of tearing through every dungeon you come across, you can speak with Arngeir. Arngeir is the only Greybeard (besides Paarthurnax) who can speak without using the Thu'um, and can be found meditating around High Hrothgar. After the Dragonborn retrieves the Horn of Jurgen Windcaller for the Greybeards, Arngeir can be used to find new words of power by asking, "Have you located any Words of Power?" If the Greybeards have "heard a whisper of a word" then Arngeir will mark the location on your map and add a miscellaneous objective to the Journal. The Greybeards can only locate one word of power at a time, so you must find the current Word Wall marked on their map before returning to Arngeir. 

Another easy way to discover word wall locations is by testing out newly acquired Shouts. After the Dragonborn uses a Shout for the first time, a courier will be dispatched to track them down. The courier will bring adventurers a letter that marks the location of a word wall on their map and starts a radiant quest to discover a new word of power. Although the couriers will only give out one word wall quest at a time just like the Greybeards, the two quests are not mutually exclusive, and allow the Dragonborn to search for two words of power at a time.

Stop buying arrows

As players find more powerful arrows as they level up, they might be tempted to waste their resources crafting or buying a new type of arrow. However, through an exploit that has been in the game since launch, the Dragonborn can multiply their favorite arrows for free. This trick can be used wherever a friendly NPC archer is practicing their aim on a straw dummy target, such as the Great Porch in Whiterun or the Ragged Flagon in Riften. 

In order to farm arrows, players must sneak over and pickpocket all of the archer's own supply, then swap them with one arrow of the type desired. Unless the Dragonborn has the Perfect Touch perk, pickpocketing should be done while the archer is asleep. After switching the arrows, players can simply stand by the target and collect every shot the NPC archer fires at the target. The NPC archers will now have an infinite supply of whatever type of arrow you placed in their inventory.

Steal smarter

Even though you can find just about anything out in the wilds of Skyrim, the fastest way to collect specific items is by stealing. Robbing a store is not always easy though, as pesky NPC shopkeepers will sometimes refuse to leave their merchandise unattended. Luckily, the Dragonborn is able to physically interact with objects in the world, a feature that can be exploited to stealthily steal objects even while NPCs stand guard.

One way to steal objects without shopkeepers noticing is by picking them up and moving to a more discreet location. Once the object is out of its owner's sight, you can steal it with ease. But if the Dragonborn is unable to find a suitable place, there is another way they can exploit Skyrim's physics to steal in plain sight. A bucket or large enough pot can be carefully placed on the heads of shop owners so that you can rob their stores without them seeing a thing.

Use NPCs to level up your magic

The most effective way to level up any school of magic is by successfully casting as many spells of that type as possible. This means that players should constantly be casting spells whenever they have ample magicka in order to gain experience quickly. Although this strategy sounds great on paper, any guard that sees you walking around populated towns or cities while shooting lightning from your hands will rightfully ask you to stop endangering the public.

Even though players may find themselves being watched closely in these crowded areas, there are still ways to practice some magic in cities without getting in trouble. One of the easiest ways to increase the Dragonborn's Illusion skill is by casting the novice-level spell Courage on any friendly NPCs walking by. This is one of the few spells that can be cast on NPCs without any repercussions, and each successful casting of the spell will gain more experience for the Illusion skill. Another way for the Dragonborn to use a bustling city to their advantage is by using the adept-level Alteration spell Detect Life. This spell is extremely effective at raising Alteration in crowded areas because the amount of experience gained increases by the number of targets that it allows users to see.

Make your companion carry all of it

Every seasoned Skyrim adventurer knows companions are incredibly useful not only as allies in battle but also as pack mules to lug around all of their junk. The Dragonborn can trade items directly with their follower, but after amassing weight from all the different items they are carrying, the follower will reach their carrying capacity and be unable to carry any more loot. 

However, what most players do not realize is there is actually an exploit that can allow followers to carry an unlimited number of items. Instead of trading directly, the Dragonborn should instruct companions to "pick up" items, bypassing the weight capacity check. You can either drop items individually or place them all inside a single chest and then command followers to pick up everything inside the container, even if the companion has already surpassed their weight limit.

Stop wasting money on the Whiterun house

Eventually, even the most nomadic Skyrim adventurers realize that they need to buy a home where they can store their valuables and rest for their next quest. Since Balgruuf the Greater grants the Dragonborn the opportunity to purchase land in Whiterun early on in the main quest, one of the first big purchases players tend to make is buying the key to Breezehome. 

However, these same players would probably be upset to learn that they wasted 5,000 septims when they could have just used an exploit to get the house in Whiterun without spending a single cent. In order for this exploit to work, the Dragonborn must initiate dialogue with Proventus Avenicci in his room while they are next to either his wardrobe or bedside table. After agreeing to purchase the house in Whiterun, players must quickly exit the conversation and store 5000 gold in either the bedside table or wardrobe. When players turn back to face Proventus Avenicci, he will present them with the key to Breezehome, and the gold can be retrieved after Avenicci leaves.

Stop paying for training

The fastest way to increase proficiency in specific skills in Skyrim is by finding and paying trainer NPCs. These trainers can be found across large cities in Skyrim and will charge a hefty sum for training in whatever skill they happen to specialize in. However, if players do not want to spend their hard-earned gold on training, there is an exploit that allows the Dragonborn to train for free. In order to take advantage of this exploit, players must find specific trainers that can also become followers. 

There are seven trainers who can be companions, each of whom requires the completion of some type of quest in order to be available as the Dragonborn's follower. After a trainer has become a companion, players can trade with followers after every training session to take their gold right back. Five of these trainers belong to the warrior guild The Companions, and can only be recruited as followers after the completion of the Companions' main plot line. These trainers include Aela the Huntress (Archery), Athis (One-Handed), Farkas (Heavy Armor), Njada Stonearm (Block), and Vilkas (Two-Handed). One of the other trainers, Faendal (Archery), can be found in Riverwood and recruited after siding with him when completing the "A Lovely Letter" quest. The final trainer, apprentice mage Talvas Fathryon (conjuration), is only available in the Dragonborn add-on.

Not eating enough ingredients

Each ingredient has four different effects which can be used for brewing potions at an alchemy lab. These effects can be discovered by either reading recipes, eating ingredients individually, or by attempting to brew a potion. Although brewing can be helpful when trying to level up Alchemy, the process can be wasteful and involve a lengthy series of trial and error if you don't know which ingredients share magical effects. 

Failing to create a potion by using the wrong ingredients earns less experience and can waste valuable resources, so the best policy is to always eat new ingredients as soon as they are found. Eating new ingredients will instantly reveal one of its four different magical effects. Once you level up Alchemy enough to reach the highest rank in the Experimenter perk, you will be able to discover all of the effects of the ingredient by eating it.

Stop fighting Briarhearts

Although most players do not realize it, there is a much easier way to defeat a Forsworn Briarheart than facing it head-on. There are two different types of Forsworn Briarhearts: melee fighters who dual-wield one-handed weapons, and magic users who cast destruction and conjuration spells. Both types are high-ranking members of the zealous Forsworn clan that seem to be partially undead. The ritual used to create these occult enemies involves cutting out a Forsworn warrior's heart and replacing it with a briar heart, a kind of seed in Skyrim. 

This briar heart, which is always partially exposed sticking out of the supernatural warrior's chest, is the Forsworn's greatest weakness. The briar heart is much more vulnerable to damage when targeted by a bow and is easier to score a critical hit on. Besides making an excellent target, the briar heart can also be pickpocketed from the Forsworn's inventory, instantly killing them and leaving a gaping hole in their chest. Getting close enough to pickpocket a Forsworn Briarheart is no easy task, however, as they have very keen hearing.

Galloping through water

When players are attempting to traverse a large body of water, the swimming mechanics of Skyrim can make any type of progress painfully slow. Although horses can paddle across deeper waters slightly faster than the Dragonborn can swim, at the end of the day, nothing is as fast as galloping. Luckily, there is a glitch that allows you to ride your steed just as fast across the water as it can on land.

This exploit begins after you have already ridden your horse deep enough into a body of water that your mount is swimming. Once your steed starts paddling, you simply need to dismount and then remount while still in the water. After you get back on, your mount will be able to gallop through the water as if it were on land, letting you get across much faster.