Skyrim is out for the Nintendo Switch, and that means a lot of people are experiencing Bethesda’s classic open-world RPG for the first time. This is an explanation of how to take advantage of some of the more complicated and opaque systems to easily get access to vast wealth and insanely powerful gear. It kind of breaks the game, but isn’t that part of the fun?
I have personally tested everything I have told you to do in this guide on the Switch version of the game, so you can be confident that this strategy still works.
Most players have a natural instinct to focus their efforts and their skill points in combat abilities. But if you want to get absurdly powerful gear and eventually build an engine that will net you a virtually unlimited supply of level-ups and skill points, you should actually focus on your Speech skill and the crafting abilities. You’re also going to have to get comfortable grinding.
Much of Skyrim’s most powerful gear isn’t obtained from dungeons or boss drops, but by leveling the game’s crafting system as high as it can go, and then using these skills with each other to make powerful weapons and armor. And to do this, you need to get a whole bunch of crafting reagents. And you can buy those with money.
A couple of initial pointers: After you complete the very first dungeon, the Bleak Falls Barrow, you can buy Breezehome in Whiterun. This house gives you access to a bed you can sleep in to get a Well Rested buff that improves the rate at which you increase in skill by 10 percent. You can also use the cabinets in the house and the satchel by the Alchemy Lab to store all the reagents and things you’ll accumulate as you grind.
The Guardian Stones, which you’ll spot at the start of the game, each increase the rate of skill gains for Mage, Thief or Warrior spells. Make sure to always have Well Rested when crafting, and make sure to have the Thief stone active when you are doing Alchemy, the Mage stone active when you’re doing Enchanting and the Warrior stone active when you are smithing.
So here’s how to get lots of money.
It’s worth explaining why you should pour a bunch of your skill points into the Speech tree, even though none of these perks will directly improve your combat strength.
Speech levels up as you buy and sell things, and you’ll eventually max it out if you’re using reagents from shops to grind your crafting ability.
Higher levels of the Speech skill raise the price you get for your goods and lower the prices that vendors sell goods back to you. The Haggler perk also improves prices by 30 percent, and the Allure perk gives you another 10 percent when you’re bartering with NPCs of the opposite sex.
You can also enchant a necklace to improve your prices, and there are a handful of other unique items that also improve prices. These stack with the perks, so it’s not an either-or situation. You want it all.
The Speech tree also contains the Merchant perk, which lets you sell any kind of item to any kind of vendor. This lets you buy all the expensive soul shards from a wizard or buy out a blacksmith’s inventory and then sell them potions to get your gold back. It also lets you offload the excess gear you create while grinding up smithing and enchanting to get more shards or ingredients. You want this.
Finally, the left side of the Speech tree contains the Investor and Master Trader perks, which allow you to increase the amount of gold that vendors have available. With these perks, you’ll be able to earn enough gold to buy all the houses in the game, throw money at any quest that asks you to pay for something and buy all the training you want. Without these perks, it’s hard to get rich in Skyrim.
Alchemy ingredients in Skyrim are pretty cheap, and the potions you create with them can sell for a lot of gold. This is the mechanism by which you will build your fortune.
Every city in Skyrim has an alchemy shop, and the shops refresh their stock every 48 in-game hours. If you are just getting started in the game, you can gain access to all the cities without needing to traverse the dangerous terrain between them by hiring the carriage that is waiting by the Whiterun stables. Once you have visited a city, you can fast travel to it, and by the time you have fast traveled a loop around all the shops, the first shop you have visited should have refreshed its inventory.
If you’re just starting out, you can quickly get a stash of alchemy ingredients by doing the first quest at the College of Winterhold. This quest requires you to cast one spell, and the NPC who gives the quest teaches you that spell, so it’s pretty easy to access. Once you’ve done this, you gain access to the Halls of Attainment and the Halls of Countenance, which each have several shelves stocked with alchemy ingredients — including two valuable Giant Toes — that you can steal. You can also break into some of the alchemy shops at night and steal the ingredients that are lying on the counters.
However, to get items you’ve taken from the world to respawn, whether they’re things you’ve stolen or plants you’ve harvested, you have to let 10 in-game days pass without revisiting the area you took the items from. You’ll want to progress from stealing or harvesting to just buying your reagents.
Once you have a few perks in the Speech and Alchemy trees and have started leveling those abilities, your potions will start selling for a lot more than the cost of the ingredients that go into them, so you can visit an alchemy store, buy all the ingredients in stock and then sell the vendor a couple of your potions to get all your gold back — and all their gold as well.
The amount of money a potion sells for, as well as the progress crafting the potion will give you toward your next skill-up is dictated by the number of effects the potion has, the potency of those effects, which is determined by your alchemy skill, your gear enchantment and your perks, and the cash value the game places on those particular effects.
Vendors pay the most for potions with unique effects like Paralyze, Slow or Invisibility, potions that Regenerate health, magician or stamina, and some of the potions that fortify certain skills. Fortify Carry Weight, in particular, adds a ton of value to a potion.
Some effects, like potions that add to your resistances or poisons that make enemies weak to certain elements, have lower resale values, even though they may actually be useful. Fortify Enchanting potions are some of the most powerful things you can make with alchemy, but the vendors don’t pay much for those at all. Luckily, you don’t have to memorize the valuations of effects to make valuable potions because the Alchemy interface tells you how much the potion you’re about to craft will be worth before you push the button.
The power of the potion is increased by having a higher level alchemy skill, gear that is enchanted to fortify your alchemy, higher levels of the Alchemist perk and the Benefactor and Poisoner perks. It’s worth investing points in these perks.
You can see which ingredients make which potions by consulting online resources, but alchemy gets a lot easier if you dump three points into the Experimenter perk, which allows you to eat an ingredient to discover all of its effects. This will then add all your ingredients to the menus for their various effects and will make it much easier to string together valuable potions. Once you’ve discovered all the effects, it may seem like those skill points are wasted, but you can get the points back. More on that later.
If you’ve discovered all the ingredients, you can string together a potion by, for example, seeing that a Salt Pile can be used to Regenerate Magicka and also Slow, so you can pair it with a Deathbell and a Fire Salts to create a potion that has both those effects and will sell for a lot of money.
Your alchemy production will quickly start to outpace the cost of ingredients, so as soon as you unlock the Merchant perk in the Speech tree, you will want to start selling excess potions to get filled soul shards and level enchanting. You can buy shards from general goods vendors and court wizards as well as from vendors at the College of Winterhold and Falion, the wizard who lives in Morthal.
To learn enchantments, you have to disenchant items that have the effect you’re trying to learn. Keep an eye out for items that fortify alchemy, smithing, bartering, the various magic disciplines, carry weight, archery, one-handed weapons, two-handed weapons, lockpicking, sneak and pickpocket. You can buy enchanted weapons and armors from blacksmiths, general goods vendors and the clothing store in Solitude.
Unlike alchemy and smithing, enchanting doesn’t level faster when making more valuable items; each enchantment you cast or item you disenchant increases your skill a flat amount. That means that you can level up all the way to 100 using cheap, lower end shards.
This also means that the best way to level enchanting is just to make a lot of Iron Daggers and throw enchantments on them. The banish enchantment adds the most value, so use that one if you can find a weapon with that effect to disenchant. You’ll have to enchant a couple hundred daggers to level enchanting to 100, but this is profitable, so it will feed itself and the other professions you’re grinding.
The level of your enchanting and also various perks make your enchantments more powerful, and the final perk in the tree lets you put two enchantments on each item, so it is very much worthwhile to level enchanting to 100.
Alchemy has a potion that fortifies enchanting, and enchanting can enchant rings, necklaces, gloves and hats to fortify alchemy.
So make potions to fortify your enchanting, and then, with those potions active, enchant gear to fortify alchemy using Grand Shards, the most powerful soul shards. Then go back with your fortified gear and make better enchanting potions, and then make another set of alchemy gear.
In base Skyrim, enchanting potions are capped at 32 percent, and fortified Alchemy gear is capped at 29 percent per piece. If you’ve progressed far enough in the game to complete the Dragonborn expansion content, which is included in the Switch version, you can push these numbers higher by obtaining Azhidal’s relics, which increase enchanting potency by 10 percent when equipped, and by gaining the Seeker of Shadows ability while crafting your potions and the Seeker of Sorcery ability when enchanting. With these, you can get potions that increase your enchanting by 40 percent.
Both enchanting and alchemy can fortify blacksmithing. That means that, without even using expansion perks, you can get plus-29 percent blacksmithing enchantments on a ring, a necklace, a glove and a chestpiece. And if you craft a blacksmithing potion wearing a full kit of fortified alchemy gear, you can make a potion that improves your smithing by 130 percent for 30 seconds.
Since the value you add when improving an item dictates how much you level up from performing the action, improving items with these bonuses active can max out blacksmithing very quickly. You’ve got plenty of money and potions from your alchemy, so you can just hit up all the smithing vendors in the various towns to buy the ingots you need, and the armors you create will sell for huge profits.
And if you activate these bonuses when your smithing skill is at 100, and you’ve got the relevant smithing perk for the armor type you’re modifying, you can create insanely powerful items. This has been the goal of this whole loop. You can hit the armor cap of 567 while wearing light armor, even with only a few perks in the light armor tree, and you can create weapons that can one-hit kill most enemies.
You can then enchant that gear you made to do things like improve your sneaking or archery damage by 47 percent or to add large amounts of elemental damage to your weapons.
But here’s a problem: Enemies in Skyrim scale with your character level. You’ve been leveling up as you did all this stuff, but you earned all your skill-ups and perks in Speech and crafting. You’ve got good gear, but the game is spawning powerful monsters because you’re past level 30, and your combat skills are grossly under-leveled.
Don’t worry; you can fix this. Skyrim’s leveling system allows you to make a maxed-out skill “legendary.” Doing this refunds all the perks you spent in that tree and reduces your skill in that ability to 15.
For most abilities, powering back up to 100 is pretty arduous, but it’s trivial to repeatedly level blacksmithing or alchemy once you’ve set up this loop. Potions are highly profitable immediately when you make them while wearing gear that improves your alchemy by 120 percent.
You can also re-level smithing extremely quickly using the enchanted gear stacked with the potions. Then you can sell off the armor and potions you make to get more money and more ingredients and more ingots, and then go around and around as many times as you want, getting richer and leveling higher.
Each time you level up, you can buy five points of a skill from a trainer. You can train up some combat skills while doing this, and you can get enough perks to cover your combat trees.
This is also how you get back those skill points you spent on the Experimenter perk; when you reset your alchemy tree, you get the points back, but you will still remember all the effects on all the ingredients.
Congratulations, you’re a god
If you do all this, you will become absurdly powerful. You can basically become a tank that spews instant death and is also invisible. There’s a sense of satisfaction from gaming the systems to gain power-overwhelming, but it kind of drains the suspense out of plunging into a falmer-infested Dwemer ruin. It may not be the best way to play if you’re experiencing Skyrim for the first time.
Also, the process described here is a long grind, involving at least 10 hours of repetitive fast-traveling between towns to buy up reagents and a lot of time spent in front of the alchemy lab, the arcane enchanter and the smithing forge.
However, this is a lot less painful on the Switch than it is with other versions of the game, because the Switch has much quicker load times than anything running off a conventional hard drive, and you can grind in handheld mode while watching TV.