The open-ended nature of The Elder Scrolls games is partly what makes them so special. Players can create any character they wish, do what they desire, and explore the hundreds of locations dotted throughout Tamriel. Skyrim does this exceptionally well thanks to its fluid leveling system and streamlined gear.

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That amount of choice can result in some small roadblocks throughout a new player's journey, though. There is no incorrect way of playing an Elder Scrolls title, although there are a few ways players can make the game harder on themselves. Here are ten mistakes many newer Skyrim players make on their first playthrough.

Updated on October 11, 2021 by Rhenn Taguiam: While The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim was released in 2011, its ever-growing popularity led to the creation of wonderful mods, various special editions, and an upcoming Anniversary Edition that releases a revamped version of the game for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S. Given this renewed interest in Tamriel’s province of Skyrim, some franchise fans might simply think of Skyrim as a typical open-world RPG from Bethesda Softworks’ hit franchise. However, while Skyrim does offer the same open-world experience as its predecessors, characters might want to do specific steps in their first Skyrim playthrough to maximize their enjoyment.

15 Neglecting Roleplay

A player roaming around Skyrim

While there’s no “right way” to play any game, fans of RPGs trying Skyrim for the first time might fully appreciate it when they take the “roleplaying” element of the title more seriously. Thanks to mechanics such as Encumbrance, resting, and even fatigue, players can probably enjoy their first time in Tamriel’s Skyrim from the perspective of an actual character.

Doing so can allow players to get more “involved” and feel more “relevant” in the world of the game. This factors in greatly throughout the plot, as the player’s character may end up having to save Skyrim after all. Instead of feeling detached from the experience, a player immersed in Skyrim’s affairs might feel more fulfilled after finishing the game.


14 Consider Securing The DLCs Before Playing

A player in the Dawnguard DLC

Being a game released in 2011, Skyrim already released its fair share of DLCs. Thanks to “Dawnguard,” “Hearthfire,” and “Dragonborn,” players can not only access new areas but also get new features as well. These include options to become a Vampire, get a house, and even ride their own dragon!

Players trying Skyrim for the first time might want to try the game with all the DLCs installed. While there’s always the option to further improve game quality with Mods, players might want to skip this out for later. Instead, they can get the “full original” Skyrim experience with the original game and its official expansions. That way, the players can experience authentic Skyrim first before going all out with their Mods and other customization choices.

13 Getting All The Items

Items on a table in Skyrim

Minus the moral debacle towards stealing, an open world such as Skyrim gives players a ton of items to gather and pocket. Aside from consumables and gear, players can pick up crafting materials and even outright books. While there’s nothing wrong in this regard, players with a knack for “collecting” can fill their inventory quickly and get Encumbered.

This slowing mechanic aside, players who love getting all items they see can ruin the game’s immersive value. After all, players don’t necessarily carry backpacks that represent the items in their storage. Granted, such a thought might seem nitpicking. However, players who value Skyrim’s potential as an immersive experience may want to stay faithful even when it comes to the items they’re realistically carrying.

12 Pickpocketing All Of A Sudden

A player about to pickpocket an NPC

Given how most NPCs are “holding” their equipment in the same way as players, then a character with a high-enough Pickpocket can steal any item they like. While proactive pickpockets do catch the eye of the Thieves Guild, constant pickpocketing might ruin the game’s immersion.

Unfortunately, spamming the pickpocket action enough can raise a character’s Pickpocket level fairly quickly. Not only can this make Thieves Guild missions much easier on the get-go, this can also become a bit of a quick exit out of other game features. Most affected by this mistake would be the game’s in-depth crafting mechanic, which is designed to help players create gear and items through Enchanting, Smithing, and Alchemy.

11 Trying To Murder Everyone

A player stabbing a person

Any Bethesda fan who played their open-world RPGs knows the absolute mayhem they can cause as players, and the same applies to Skyrim. Given the right build, players might be surprised how easy they can kill creatures in dungeons. Of course, this exhilarating moment can encourage players to try their hand at murdering as many people as possible. After all, they can just reset a save point, right?

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As entertaining as this seems, going murderhobo in Skyrim can definitely ruin the game’s immersion. The game won’t allow players to kill crucial NPCs, meaning any accidental “kills” can spoil players on the importance of certain characters. Moreover, the sheer giggles in randomly sniping NPCs from rooftops can waste a player’s time instead of appreciating the rest of Skyrim’s story and environments.

10 Becoming An All-Rounder

Skyrim Skill Trees

Image from Culveyhouse (YouTube)

Every skill tree in Skyrim provides some impactful bonuses. It isn't uncommon for first-timers to spread their perks around six or more skill trees.

Do not do this. Perks are where most of a build's power comes from. Splitting it amongst multiple skills will cause a build's core combat skills to fall behind. Instead of investing perks into any skill tree that seems useful, use that skill for a short while and decide if that should be a cornerstone of the build. Focusing on just a few skill trees results in a much smoother leveling and gameplay experience.

9 Buying Weapons And Armor

Skyrim Ulfberth Vendor

Buying weapons and armor from vendors might be the largest scam in Skyrim. Most guards will tell the player to upgrade their gear to Steel when talking to them, which directs players towards purchasing a full set of armor and weapons from local smiths.

This is a scam. Most enemies that wander Skyrim will have gear on-par or leagues beyond the capabilities of Steel. Gold should instead be invested towards a home, preferably a Hearthfire DLC home that can be expanded on.

8 Horse Diving

Horse in Skyrim

Horses have the unexplained ability to bend gravity itself to climb up 85-degree slopes. Plenty of players climbed the Throat of the World by using a gravity-bending horse instead of hiking up the mountain.

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While horses might be great at getting up steep inclines, they are awful at going downhill. Walking down any incline will cause the horse to slip on a pebble and begin to fall to the ground, ragdolling the player and usually killing them in the process. Horse diving is not as safe as one would think.

7 Avoiding Ralof Or Hadvar

Skyrim Ralof and Hadvar

Depending on who the player sides with inside Helgen will determine who escorts them to safety. Players can leave with either Ralof or Hadvar, each aligned with a major faction tied to the Civil War.

Regardless of who the player sides with, they will thank the player and tell them they will be heading to Riverwood. If the player follows them, they will be guided towards the first three Standing Stones of Skyrim, pass a dungeon, and will learn more about Skyrim. It's not a massive deal if players decide to go their own way, but it is nice to get a guided introduction to Standing Stones and exploration.

6 Rushing Through The Main Quest

Alduin, the main antagonist of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

Skyrim's main quest is entirely optional. That might sound counter-intuitive, but it's true. Nothing in Skyrim's quest is time-gated or requires the player's immediate attention despite what the story might imply. Some story-driven RPG fans spend their first playthrough rushing through the main story in hopes of receiving a deep, compelling plot.

For all of Skyrim's strengths, its story is not one of them. Skyrim has so many enthralling side quests, guilds, and activities to partake in that it easily becomes the core focus of the game. Take the game slow and enjoy the dozens of dungeons and vistas that inhabit Skyrim.

5 Fighting A Giant Too Early

Skyrim Fighting A Giant

Don't feel bad about dying to a giant during the early-game. Virtually every player decided to head west of Whiterun on their first playthrough and encounter Bleackwind Basin, the first giant camp players stumble across.

Slowly chipping away at its health with iron weapons, the giant typically flings players into the stratosphere with a single club swing. It's one of the most memorable encounters in Skyrim but one that could have easily been avoided if the Dragonborn gained a few levels.

4 Not Saving Often

Skyrim trip to RIverwood

Newer players need to build the habit of saving whenever possible. There are many moments in someone's first playthrough where they either die or wish to reload a previous save. Skyrim's autosave feature doesn't always create saves when one would expect.

One poorly-timed death is all it takes to lose hours of progress. PC players should get used to QuickSaving when possible (F5 by default) and QuickLoading when necessary. Console players should save their game whenever possible.

3 Killing A Chicken

Skyrim Chicken

When players first stumble across Riverwood, they will usually see a chicken walking around the main gate. Do not kill this chicken under any circumstances! Since it is property of the town, killing this chicken will incur a small bounty on the player's head.

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Thing is, the bounty total does not influence how guards treat the Dragonborn. A bounty as small as 20 Gold is enough to have every guard in the town draw their swords and attempt to kill the player. Getting away with stealing is easier than dealing with the consequences of killing a chicken. Don't do it.

2 Ignore Follower Actions

Skyrim Lydia

Followers are an important aspect of Skyrim. They will assist the player in combat, look over houses if appointed as a Housecarl, and are sworn to carry the Dragonborn's burdens. Those benefits are rather apparent when players get their first follower, yet followers can do so much more than carry loot.

Nearly every follower in Skyrim can open any locked object with no gear required. Talk to a follower and give them an order. Tell them to open a locked container and they will do so regardless of unlock requirements. Direct commands can also be used to let companions bypass their carrying capacity or wield Giant Clubs as weapons.

1 Focus On Optimizing

Skyrim Warrior Skill Tree

Due to the shoddy balance of Skyrim, it is incredibly easy to optimize the fun out of the game. Some players that come from ARPG or MMO backgrounds might focus on obtaining the best gear as early as possible to make the game easier.

As long as that seems fun, do that! For many players, this will typically lead to burnout as it requires players to maximize their crafting skills. If maximizing a character's damage output and perk decisions are making the game less fun, stop doing it! Many new players fall under the trap of trying to make the best character they can. This can also result in newer players looking up guides on Skyrim that spoil memorable quests or reveal game-breaking exploits.

Not every character is perfect, and that's ok. There isn't a single encounter in the game that demands a min-maxed character. Make a character that is fun to play. That is all that matters.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Anniversary Edition will release on November 11, 2021 for the PC, Xbox One/Series X|S, PS4 and PS5.


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