Skyrim Official Strategy Guide Blog #1: Something to Shout About

Alongside Skyrim’s release, you’ll also be able to purchase the mammoth-sized, 656-page (in full color) game guide from Prima. To learn about the guide’s contents, here’s the guide’s co-author, David Hodgson

Overview. The Sky’s the Limit

Work began on the official guide in early May, when I commenced an overwhelming trek into every frigid corner of Skyrim. Initially, I was thinking this would be a similar experience to my work on the Fallout 3 guide. But then phrases like “even more epic” and “five times the size” were whispered to me. More than five months, close to 2,000 man-hours of work (between myself and co-author Steve Stratton), several thousand cups of tea and packets of Monster Munch later, and with a massive support structure from both Bethesda and Prima, the guide is complete.

That’s what 656 pages looks like!

This weighty tome clocks in at 656 pages. It is around 550,000 words. It has over 150 maps and well over 1,000 screenshots. It has an interactive online version with a malleable world map (and an iPad map app). But more importantly, it’s been designed to fundamentally aid the adventurer no matter what their skill level, knowledge of the series, or familiarity with past Bethesda titles. Here’s how the guide breaks down:

Training

After a comprehensive contents section, and the full lyrics (in both English and Dragon) to the “Song of the Dragonborn”, the first 70 pages of the guide are given over to general training.

In this, we cover:

The races, where specific advantages and innate abilities are shown: So you know, for example, whether a Dark Elf or Nord is particularly adept at the type of activities you’ll be relying upon.

Skills and Perks: After explanations on how each Skill is raised and improved (including portraits of all of the Skill Trainers of Skyrim), the guide exhaustively lists all 240+ Perks for each of the 18 Skills, and offers sound, tactical advice on each. This includes favored Perks to choose, based off copious testing, both in my grotty basement, and throughout Bethesda’s pristine QA and Designer departments.

Archetypes: Skyrim doesn’t pin you into creating a “wizard” or “warrior”. But if you’re happening to want to formulate the precise attributes (race, statistical focus, skills, perks, weapons, armor, followers, and strategic advice) for an adventurer with your favorite style of play in mind, we’ve an archetype for you

More Training: The training continues with advice on how to effectively kill enemies, whether you’re using brawn or cunning. Shouts and Word Walls are revealed next, as well as other abilities and diseases. After advice on crime and punishment across the nine Holds of Skyrim, there’s an exhaustive section on Crafting:

Crafting: The fundamentals, as well as expert information on Alchemy (foraging for ingredients and experimenting with their effects), Enchanting (imbuing an item with magical enhancements), Smithing (forging and improving items), and the “lesser” crafting activities (cooking, mining, smelting, tanning, and chopping wood), are revealed. Need to know the top three locations (as well as all the effects) of every ingredient in Skyrim? Or some incredibly strong potions (or poisons)? What about the base materials for fashioning Ebony Armor? Or the pittance you’re paid for chopping wood? It’s all here.

Yet More Training: The final part of Training grants you broader knowledge of your environment. There’s information on habitations (such as hold capitals) and dungeons (like Draugr crypts), mapping, and every type of puzzle and trap in the land (of course, with solutions on how to solve or avoid them).

Other areas of interest: Dotted throughout the landscape, or hidden away in some dark, dank hideyhole, are Standing Stones, strange Shadowmarks, and various kinds of books. Naturally, we pinpoint locations of each. Yes, that includes an example location of every book (including “common” books with stories to read) ever put to parchment.

Other advice: There’s plans on gaining favor with important, highfalutin folks across the province, a rogues’ gallery of every follower (with a portrait, their location, any prerequisites, and what skills they excel in, so you can compliment your style of play). After some advice on horses, carriages, and a visual list of every service, trader, crafting station, and collectible type in the realm, the Training concludes.

Inventory: The next 31 pages of the guide is a table-aficionado’s biggest thrill; stats, more stats, and even more stats. This covers every spell, weapon, armor, crafting element, and general item available to you across Skyrim. Basically, if it’s in the game (from soul gems to daedric artifacts; spell tomes to simple dungeon clutter), it’s in these charts.

Bestiary: A 16-page bestiary outlines general warnings for fighting every single entity you’ll encounter across the province, along with their health, weaponry, and items to pick up. If you’re about to head into a vampire lair, for example, you can cross-reference your level with the type of vampiric foe in this bestiary, so you know what to expect. Or consult these monster charts, so you can (for example) find out what item a Spriggan drops (Taproot, as it happens).

For the more deranged player, the comprehensive charts allow you to (for example) cross-reference the damage your two-handed Daedric Battleaxe inflicts (25 points) with the health of the Level 28 Vampire Nightstalker you’re facing (413 health) to figure out how many times you need to hit one before they expire (16 and a half times, generally speaking).

Quests: A great swathe of this guide (just under 300 pages) is dedicated to helping you through every single quest that’s available. Due to the radiant quest structure and general derangement of the game’s developers, this numbers into the hundreds (there’s at least 500 variations of quest to try, and around seven times the number of quest-based activities compared to Fallout 3). Keeping track of these, finding them all, taking screenshots, adding little spoiler flags to quests with particularly spectacular revelations… well, this took around three and a half months alone.

The results are worth it; every type of quest is covered, and begins with a list of every important character you can interact with. For example, all of the thieves of the Thieves Guild are shown, along with a biography and any general help they give you. The main locations in Skyrim (such as the base of a particular faction) related to the group of quests are shown, along with every possible quest you can complete, in table format, with a pleasant little check box so you can mark off any quest you’ve completed. In fact, check boxes are attached to every table in the guide, so you can easily keep track of weapons, quests, and anything else you wish.

The hundreds of quests are broken down by type (the Main Quest, Civil War Quests,or those taking place in specific Dungeons) and Faction (the College of Winterhold, Dark Brotherhood, or more minor factions such as the Bards College in Solitude). The Quest chapters culminate in the dizzying number of iscellaneous Objectives, Favors, and World Encounters you can have. In short; if it’s in your Quest menu, it’s in this chapter.

The hardbound Collector’s Edition Guide

Atlas: The guide continues with more than 200 pages dedicated to every single location of important in the province; the Atlas. Adapting the Fallout formula, my co-author spent four months wandering through every one of the 350+ primary locations, and sourcing every collectible, trader, unique weapon, and area of interest. To put the sheer size of Skyrim into perspective; Fallout 3 had 115 Primary Locations. Plus, this guide has 200+ Secondary Locations, not shown on any in-game map, for you to stumble across (or head straight towards, if you’re following our precise guide maps and location entries).

In order to get this Atlas right, we pieced together every single part of the overworld from around 20 feet in height, and our map makers spent four entire months building a world map so truly mind-boggling, it may snap the minds of some viewers. There’s a future blog post dedicated to this  map (which is accurate down to every tree in the game). We made sure to show this in poster form, as well as segmented into each individual Hold. World encounters are tagged on each hold map as well.

Each location, whether it’s a sprawling hold capital like Markarth, a giant dungeon structure such as Labyrinthian, or the tiniest hut like Anise’s Cabin, receives a screenshot (or more), information on any related quests at the location, any collectibles, dangers, and even the recommended player level you should be before entering, as appropriate. Particularly confusing locations, and all hold capitals, are given additional interior maps. This means you can plan a trip anywhere, and know what to expect, or whether it’s better to start a quest first. However you utilize the Atlas during your gameplay, you’ll be at it for months.

Back of the Book: Finally, the last part of this tome is dedicated to Appendices, where all the important tables of collectibles are shown, along with every Achievement and Trophy (as well as advice on how to obtain every reward). A Dragon Language Glossary enables you to decipher Word Walls, and learn dozens of phrases and translate them into English, and there’s a nine-page, 2000+ term Index, so you can quickly search for a person or quest (for example), and find the appropriate page in seconds. I’m particularly happy we’ve got an index this time too, as it makes the game world eminently more searchable, and the guide a vital part of your adventuring.

Next Time: The next blog unveils the largest and most detailed strategy guide map ever made. And then dials back the hyperbole slightly.

Purchase the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Prima Official Guide and Collector’s Edition Guide where all strategy guides are sold. Buy the digital eGuide and interactive Jumbo Map Pack hereThis guide is also available as an iBook for the iPhone and iPad. An iPad map app will be available shortly after launch.

Reader Comments

  1. Add an Android version and i will more than likely pick up the CE to go with my CE version of the game.

    11/11/11 better hurry up.

    Somewhat off topic. I heard a truck pull up outside a little bit ago and got all excited thinking i got my ce early. But it was the stupid neighbors ordering furniture. :(

  2. I agree with Finaldeath, although I’ll get the CE anyway. I think that Android has a big enough fanbase that, regardless of which platform is better (I am NOT restarting that ridiculous flame war, to each their own), I think that ignoring either one is alienating a substantial chunk of consumers out there. Please, please, PLEASE add in an Android app for the map, whether for purchase, or as a tie-in for the CE.

  3. I wish this crappy Amazon.de would also sell the english/international version~
    unfortunately all they can offer me is this Germanized crap which I don’t want – especially not for TheElderScrolls!

    I preordered the Guide from another store (Talia.de) – but until now they still don’t have a release date :( (2-3 weeks shipping time)
    Sucks azz

  4. how do i buy this book on friday when i have the game pre-ordered. is it available to buy as app from apple store for my iMac or iPad or even my iPod. I will be playing the game on the 360

  5. The interactive online map, do you get that with all copies of the guide or just the CE hardback version? Because on the amazon store description, only the hardback CE version is listed as having:

    FREE ACCESS to the interactive world map– Code inside

    The interactive world map includes over 150 location maps covering all 9 Hold cities. Each map shows the locations of every vendor, trainer, skill book, NPC, and unique item in the realm. You can toggle points of interest on and off and zoom in and out.

    The paper back doesn’t have that in the description.

  6. monster munch! lol im american and we have a british food shop down the street. i buy that stuff every monday. its some great stuff!

  7. I understand that a massive amount of work went into this (to create a comprehensive guide to any Elder Scrolls game is an impressive feat, to say the least), but as a player, I don’t quite understand why you would want it. My favorite part of these games is the wonder I feel at what might be in that cave, or around that corner, or what loot this new enemy will drop. I would hate knowing all that beforehand.

  8. I’m not sure whether I want to get the guide or not. I want to be prepared and know where to go specifically for certain things, but I don’t want to spoil everything either. Maybe I’ll just stick to the elder scrolls wikia…

  9. @Eric Standard: You get it for the artwork included, for the maps, and for the insane amount of info included. However, when I get Skyrim and the strat guide, I won’t crack open the strat guide until the end of the main quest. Then, and only then will I open it, and if I haven’t played through all of the guild quest lines, then I won’t look at those until I’ve seen them once already. Then, one I’ve discovered the important stuff for myself, I’ll power-manage my later characters. Still, I’m doing a last runthrough of Oblivion, and I’m STILL finding thing I’ve missed, and I’m a thorough explorer. The guides don’t ruin the experience unless you read every last page.

  10. Can you guys give us more info on the “interactive world map” According to amazon.com there’s a code that unlocks it included with the book, and its a $15 value. I can’t find any other info on it. I have no idea what it is.

  11. well done David. I must say that after getting the Dead Souls h/b Future press Guide, and knowing that I can still go to the wiki to look stuff up still doesnt stop me from preordering this. I suppose I am old fashioned. Yes I like mp3s and downloads, but I prefer cds and 12@ vinyl for my music and PACKAGING. Limited edition digipak cds, coloured numbered Vinyl records etc. Same for these guides I guess. sure I can easily look it up online, and folk have put their hearts and souls into game’s wikis. but i guess you have done as much if not much more bringing us these tomes. I also collect old books with older maps in them(hence I know that Skyrim’s and indeed Tolkien’s maps are based on 16th century maps by Ortelius(his Iceland ‘Islandia’map with the awesome sealife is a dead ringer for Skyrim style maps. or the other way around I should say)). I’m looking forward to my h/b edition of your guide arriving along with the C.E. of Skyrim that I ordered as a second copy of the game. Thank you and your team for your hard work bring us this tome. I cannot wait to feast my eyes upon all those maps you have for us. I’m getting the New Zealand version of Skrim at midnight in 46 hour peops. I know that all of you have been anticipating this game that stands head and shoulders above it’s fellow AAA competition, tho I’m sure Ezio deserves a place perched on one of those shoulders too. peace…

    ‘s

  12. I remember way way back when Dagegrfall was rullign my Little Spell-Knights life , exploring dark and deep caves with torches underground dangling roots and common such ancient nd forgoten things, great snowy field mazes covered by winter sub light and lakes and ponds, hidden within sylvian like wooded areas. allthis was in beutifull 2 dimensional 3d and I loved every bi linear second of it , even the parts where it took one whole month to explorea dungeon at least an hour a day for the means of opening the very last and completely seemless hidden segment of a ‘Legendary Dungeon’ “quest”! it took about another month for me to order the tomb and for it to arrive and I was greatly satisfied when the hidden tunnel grindingly opened and exposed light to its hidden wonders ‘Legendary Quest Requirement’ – inside.. very very worth it and if this is a sign that Bethesda arent ho,lding back on the crypticness of its past and traditional world archology and myth busting IQ strain, it will be worth it just for a read between your own RL Skyrim quest and getting stuck! fantastic guidesand appreciations of spells and other wonder make it a good read non the less!

  13. good for you! I did not dare tackle my preorder copy of Dark souls until my guide arrived 3 weeks later. Tho Skyrim is not Dead souls, it’s not a walk in the park in Dora’s adventures either. I might try your method and leave the guide sealed until I play it thru. I might…lol
    46 hours until I collect my Skyrim game at midnight on thurs here in N.Z.

  14. I remember way way, back, when Dagegrfall was rulling my Little Spell-‘Knights’ life , exploring dark and deep caves with torches and book cases , underground dangling roots and other common yet fantastic and, such ancient forgotten things. great snowy fields with hedge mazes and roses , poppies covered by winter sun light and clouds and lakes and ponds and rivers sometimes hidden within sylvianesqe wooded areas.dark stormy forgotten nigths of rain and thunder in the pitch black with nothing but darkness and this flamings great red Daedric morning star of wrath fire ;I had made myself with a Twilight soul shard ; and a ancient lost Daedric flail ‘btw’ and climng the sandy walls or arabian esque hammer fell cities at midnight to practice my mystical purple fireball of illusion spell or green mist of gold glittering enchantment watching them dissapear slowly into the horizong of the 2 week long desert wondering if it would travel the full distance it would take me to ride a Real 2 weeks by horse at least illujmitaing the tips and edges of the many cactus, and all this was in beautifull 2d across the deep dimensional 3d buildings and I loved every bi linear second of it , even the parts where it took one whole month to explore a dungeon at , spending at least an hour a day for the hidden means of opening the ‘very last’ and completely seemless hidden segment of a ‘Legendary Dungeon’ “quest”! it took about another month for me to order the tomb and for it to arrive and I was greatly satisfied when the hidden tunnel grindingly opened and exposed light to its hidden wonders inside, notably one ‘Legendary Quest Requirement’ – inside.. very, very worth it! and if this is a sign that Bethesda arnt holding back on the crypticness of its past and traditional ancient world archology and myth busting IQ strain, it will be worth it just for a read between your own RL Skyrim quest and getting stuck! fantastic guides and appreciations of spells and other wonders make it a good read non the less!

    • (AND AGAIN PROPERLY – THIS TIME SPELD PROPERLY AND WITH BONUS ^_^ SMILES)
      I remember way way, back, when Dagegrfall was rulling my Little Spell-’Knights’ life , exploring dark and deep caves with torches and book cases , underground dangling roots and other common yet fantastic and, such ancient forgotten things. great snowy fields with hedge mazes and roses , poppies covered by winter sun light and clouds and lakes and ponds and rivers sometimes hidden within sylvianesqe wooded areas.dark stormy forgotten nigths of rain and thunder in the pitch black with nothing but darkness and this flaming great red ‘Daedric’ morning star of ‘wrath’ fire ;I made with a Twilight soul shard ; and a ancient lost Daedric flail ‘btw’between me and the many red eyes of advancing trolls-gouls from the nearby barrow and climng the sandy walls or arabian esque hammer fell cities at midnight to practice my mystical purple fireball of illusion spell or green mist of gold glittering enchantment watching them dissapear slowly into the horizong of the 2 week long desert wondering if it would travel the full distance it would take me to ride a Real 2 weeks by horse at least illujmitaing the tips and edges of the many cactus, and all this was in beautifull 2d across the deep dimensional 3d buildings and I loved every bi linear second of it , even the parts where it took one whole month to explore a dungeon at , spending at least an hour a day for the hidden means of opening the ‘very last’ and completely seemless hidden segment of a ‘Legendary Dungeon’ “quest”! it took about another month for me to order the tomb and for it to arrive and I was greatly satisfied when the hidden tunnel grindingly opened and exposed light to its hidden wonders inside, notably one ‘Legendary Quest Requirement’ – inside.. very, very worth it! and if this is a sign that Bethesda arnt holding back on the crypticness of its past and traditional ancient world archology and myth busting IQ strain, it will be worth it just for a read between your own RL Skyrim quest and getting stuck! fantastic guides and appreciations of spells and other wonders make it a good read non the less!

      • Thanks Anya for pointing out some of the finer points such as spells which has always been a tricky thing to learn along with alchemy. Probably will pick this up sooner or later depending on local availability.

        Wowzers thats a valley of mountains worth of hard work to have miraculouse accomplished in such a short time frame of May to November.

        Hail David Hodgson! Hail Steve Stratton! The fiery furnace of an iron willed work ethic burns like the infernal planes of Oblivion within their hearts!

  15. Nice shot, and I’m planning on getting a copy, but what’s the coin? I thought a penny, roughly equivalent to a local 50c or old NZ 50c, to begin with but realised they’re old money. A 5c\10c piece?

  16. Grrr. I despise game guides for games like the Elder Scrolls series. In my opinion it ruins the replayability, or the chance for me to find new things the next time around. I prefer to learn and explore on my own.

  17. You can’t even write a blog post without riddling it with grammatical and spelling errors, how can you be trusted to write a 600 page strategy guide? I guess this means another guide from Prima that is so littered with poor writing it is barely comprehensible.

  18. @Anon

    The post is hardly “riddling with grammatical and spelling errors”. One or two maybe, but it’s perfectly readable. Stop being such an unappreciative ass. You try writing a guide that detailed and see how far you get.

    Besides, the guide was no doubt proof-read multiple times by different people before it was published (unlike a simple blog post) so I wouldn’t worry too much… The Oblivion guide was fantastic after all.

  19. Also in the paperback strategy guide I noticed throughout the entire guide at the bottom of every page, Training is misspelled as Traning. XD I work at GameStop so I let everyone know who goes to purchase it. ^.^

  20. Please Bring the official guide in Spanish to Spain !!!!!! Many are eager of this great Spanish official guide to this great game! because we need it! guide in Spanish for Spain! guide in Spanish for Spain!

    Regards

    a Spanish

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  22. Hi, loved your previous fallout guide, but hated the tiny typeface of the f3nv. A real injustice to the content. I would love to buy a copy of the skyrim guide, especially the hard bound version, but it isn’t available here in the land of monster munch. Any idea where, when or if I will ever be able to get a copy. What has happened to the UK distribution? Ps I am a pickled onion flavour fan myself.

  23. Looks like a nice, completely unnecessary book. I’m sad how dumbed down games have become these days. I miss the good ole days of gaming when you actually played the game rather than reading a guide telling you exactly what to do. Besides, modern games themselves are their own guide, with nifty little arrows pointing you exactly where to go for every aspect of the game.

    I miss games like Ultima 5 and the original Fallout where they dropped you in the world and let you figure out everything on your own. I spent an entire year playing Ultima 5 on my Apple IIe before I beat it. Even Morrowind was leaps and bounds more a “thinker’s game” than Oblivion and Skyrim. Long gone are the days of real exploration, and the sense of accomplishment you felt when achieving a long sought after goal. Long gone are the days of thought provoking directions on how to locate the dungeon. Now all you get is “Here let me mark it on your map.”

    I miss things like…

    “The burial caverns lie to the south-southeast of the camp, a north facing door in a little hill halfway between us and the slopes of Red Mountain. Go north from the camp to the water, then turn east. At a rock cavern on the beach, turn and head straight south until you find the door…”

    Heaven forbid you have to take any notes while you play!

    Just 2 copper of an old disgruntled gamer.