This guide for TES V: Skyrim aims to explain, in short bursts, how to grind each skill to 100 with simple tricks that require as little tinkering as possible. A lot of these tricks work in conjunction with each other, and can help increase several skills at once in quick succession.
This guide is designed to offer simple solutions to grinding fast with minimal detailing of the inner mechanics of each grinding method. It just works.
Do note that most of these will result in extremely fast XP gain, with the immediate and long term result of botching up the game’s Level Scaling rather spectacularly. If you suddenly gain 10 levels, you should expect enemies within a dungeon to suddenly be much stronger than you can take, so be prepared for that.
While doing these grinds works for regular leveling and also for Legendary leveling, some skills (magic particularly) have different methods once you reach legendary due to the inclusion of high level skills, which makes their grind even faster and sometimes instantaneous.
Some overall guidelines to grinding:
- Sell things one by one. Selling things in bulk is wasted XP.
- Increase difficulty. You gain hits per XP, so more hits equals more XP.
- Don’t level up perks increasing weapon damage, or bother tempering weapons. It doesn’t give you more XP per hit.
- Keep everything you craft. You’ll need it.
- Make sure to keep the Well Rested and appropriate Standing Stone bonus active as often as possible. You may have to use the Ritual Stone sometimes, but it is optional.
- Use the pickpocket exploit as often as you can to get a headstart on a skill for free.
The sections are ordered by convenience, that is to say the general order in which it is easiest to increase your skills.
Magic skills are fast to increase if one knows how to exploit the XP gain system. Do note however that not all magic schools are equal, with Restoration being the slowest to increase and Conjuration the fastest. Because Conjuration is instrumental to increasing combat skills, it is recommended to maximize it first, possibly in conjunction with Illusion.
Prior to increasing any magic school, consider maximizing Enchanting so as to get as much magicka cost reduction as possible and drastically increase the efficiency of grinding.
Get Bound Sword as quickly as possible. Cast it in combat in your left hand and sheathe it immediately, then cast it again. Rinse and repeat.
Once you can cast Raise Zombie, simply raise a weak dead body nearby and kill it with your bound sword to increase your combat and conjuration skill. You can also cast Turn Undead on it to increase restoration.
Once you can cast Conjure Dremora Lord, switch to that instead.
For Legendary skills, use Storm Thrall. Cast it, kill it, rinse and repeat.
As a sidenote, make sure to trap as many souls as you possibly can for later use when grinding enchanting.
By far the fastest and simplest school to increase. All you need is Muffle. Simply obtain Muffle as soon as possible (it can be bought at an early level from Farengar) and spam it.
For Legendary skills, use Harmony. It grants a ridiculous amount of XP per target so cast it in a highly populated area. It does not count as a crime or as assault. The whiterun marketplace is a perfect target.
Use Turn Undead spells as often as you can. Repel Undead work in an AoE and grant you XP per enemy hit which makes them exponentially better.
In order from weakest to strongest the spells you should use are:
- Turn Lesser Undead
- Repel Lesser Undead
- Turn Undead
- Repel Undead
Get the Ritual stone and raise a large amount of pets near you, then spam Repel Undead on them to maximize XP gain.
For Legendary skills, repeatedly cast Bane of the Undead on as many undead targets as possible. The Ritual Stone is also perfect for this.
Cast rune spells on the largest possible groups of target: the XP gain for one rune is multiplied by the amount of targets hit. Not all runes give the same amount of XP. From less to more XP:
- Fire Rune
- Frost Rune
- Shock Rune
For Legendary skills, use Fire Storm on large groups of enemies. Blizzard is less effective but works by casting it alone since it does minor damage to you.
Simply cast whatever is the most readily available, highest tier Flesh spell in your possession, while in combat.
Ash Rune provides excellent XP gain per target hit if you are capable of obtaining it on Solstheim.
Once you have Paralyze, pick an unlucky target and repeatedly hit them with Paralyze.
For Legendary, use Mass Paralysis on the largest possible group of enemies, and use Dragonhide as often as you can.
Truly the most busted skill to increase, because increasing it will effectively also give you free skill points on other skills.
Go to Arcadia’s Cauldron. Get behind the counter and speak to Arcadia from behind her.
Train with her once. Crouch and wait for her to look away, quicksave.
Pickpocket the gold you just gave her. Quickload if you’re caught.
Rinse and repeat until you reach the 5 training sessions cap. If you’ve leveled up, level up then, increase your pickpocket perks (focus on making gold easier to pick). Train again.
Rinse and repeat until you either can’t pick the gold anymore (it becomes near impossible past a certain amount) or you’ve hit the trainer’s skill cap. Using enchanted gear (deft hands rings and amulets, or thieves guild armor) can drastically simplify the process.
Important note: in the base game, you could do this on followers who could also train you such as Faendal. The Unofficial Patch fixes this. Be mindful of this if you use the unofficial patch.
Get an absolute ton of lockpicks. Find a master lock. Keep breaking picks to gain XP. Use of the skeleton key makes this even more convenient.
Besides that, you may just obsessively pick every door you come across, while focusing on harder locks.
Remember all those potions you made ? All those enchanted rings and dwarven bows ?
Sell them all. One by one.
The amount of money you actually earn does not matter. You can even give away items for zero gold to a broke merchant. All that matters is that you do so one at a time and not in bulk.
Preferably, make sure you have the attack speed boost mentioned in the one-handed section below.
Cast Conjure Dremora Lord. Sneak up on it. Perform a dual-wielding power attack (hold both mouse buttons at once) and make sure all three hits connect as sneak attacks.
Rinse and repeat.
With the exception of enchanting, crafting XP is based on the value of whatever you’re crafting. So the goal is to make the most expensive stuff, with the least amount of components.
Start with gold rings. Gold can be acquired very easily by going to Halted Stream Camp, getting the Transmute Mineral Ore spell, and mining the location for all the Iron Ore it’s got.
Keep making gold rings until you have enough skill level to obtain Dwarven Smithing. If you have access to flawless diamonds, make gold diamond necklaces instead of rings.
Buy all the dwarven ingots you can find, and go to dwarven ruins and pilfer them for all the dwarven metal you can find (go in with a follower, they’re heavy). Remember that most forms of dwarven materials (large decorative struts, scrap metal, etc) can be smelted into large amounts of ingots.
Smelt all the remaining iron ore you got. Make dwarven bows. Just keep making dwarven bows.
Put it all aside for enchanting. Remember to improve the bows at a workbench whenever possible for extra XP gain.
The soul gem you use doesn’t matter. The value of the effect also doesn’t matter. Each enchanted object gives you a flat amount of XP. So simply store as many objects as you can (all the gold rings and dwarven bows you just made, basically), get your hands on a large amount of soul gems either by buying them or soul trapping everything, and enchant them.
If you want to make speech level faster, prioritize types of magical effects which yield more expensive items. This is optional and not really needed.
Alchemy XP gain is based on the value of the potion. So just make a lot of potions with extremely high value and ignore less valuable effects.
The two potions you’ll primarily be making are:
- Hanging Moss + Bear Claws + Giant’s Toe
- Salmoe Roe + Histcarp + Jazbay Grapes
The first is done simply by going around and hunting bears and giants while grabbing hanging moss where it grows (which is basically everywhere).
For the second, build Windstad Manor, get a hatchery and a garden. Fill the hatchery with salmon and histcarp and plant some Jazbay Grapes. Come back regularly to gather the ingredients.
Arcadia is a high level trainer and can give you training for free by exploiting the pickpocket exploit (see further below) or by selling her all the garbage expensive potions you just made.
Increasing combat skills is in Skyrim perhaps the most tedious for a variety of reasons. Namely, the ways to drastically increase XP gain are of limited quantity and usefulness. They are however present, and it is possible to shorten the time it takes to increase your combat skills with a few tricks.
Ideally, you will want to increase combat after having increased conjuration, as having access to Conjure Dremora Lord will drastically and thoroughly hasten the process for a lot of reasons.
Shadowmere is also an excellent punching bag but may take some time to turn hostile. Conjured dremora lords turn hostile nearly instantly and are more readily available.
Fastest way to increase one-handed is to spam the dual wielding attack (click both left and right mouse buttons as the same time, without doing a power attack).
The weapon in the right hand should be your best available, non-enchanted mace. The weapon in the left hand should be your best available, non-enchanted dagger.
Use Elemental Fury to increase attack speed.
Perform the following sequence to permanently buff your dual wielding attack speed:
- Get Necromage (restoration perk)
- Become a vampire
- Get Dual Flurry (one-handed perk)
- Cure vampirism, optional
Get a dragonbone battleaxe. Shout elemental fury. Hit things until they die. That’s it.
Make sure to get the thief standing stone if you want to bother with small extra bonuses.
Use a bound bow with the Mystic Binding conjuration perk. There are no further tricks than to simply pin as many arrows as possible into hostiles using the mystic bound bow.
Make sure to have as high a block percentile as possible, be it through perks, a good shield, potions or enchants.
Find a very tough target that hits hard. Get it to be hostile, then just block repeatedly.
Spellbreaker against a Conjured Dremora Lord is ideal.
The amount of damage you actually negate doesn’t matter. Just get hit by whatever deals a lot of damage, and keep healing yourself.
Use potions and restoration to keep your health high. Use a conjured dremora lord to beat you senseless as you keep healing up.