Introduction Skyrim is arguable the largest and most open single player RPG game that we currently have access to. The level of depth and possibilities that this game presents to the us, not only in terms of the quests but to plain character development, is simply insane. For most, this openness and freeform style is welcome - we can put the disc in, play for a few hours doing absolutely nothing other than kill time and then move on our way. For others, like myself, this openness and freeform style can be a bit of a curse. This game demands hours and hours from us to complete and fully enjoy - that amount of a commitment is not something we make lightly, without having an investment in it. So how does one create an investment in their Skyrim character? By becoming immersed with the world the game offers. This guide is about how to do this, but primarily focuses on character build, creation and development for those who desire to roleplay their way through this divided, dragon infested world called Skyrim. Creating your Character The first step in truly enjoying Skyrim is truly enjoying your character. A lot of people first attribute character creation to simply their race and appearance, but if you want to enjoy Skyrim, it goes much deeper than that. The game itself provides you with a bit of a backstory leading up to the events of the actual game - Ulfric and his gang were captured near Darkwater Crossing (almost like they knew they would be there) as well as Lokir, a horse thief. You were caught attempting to cross the border. If you want to stay with the canon storyline (this isn't something I do often, and I'll go into how to avoid it), this is a fairly good place to start, and you should do so by asking yourself "Why was I trying to cross the border?" Were you trying to enter or to escape Skyrim? Perhaps you've heard of the civil war and came across the border to try and join the Legion (or the Stormcloaks)? Perhaps you're trying to escape this conflict but now you're dragged into and, even worse, a fugitive? Perhaps you're an Argonian slave the Stormcloaks and you were trying to escape during the confusion? There are a lot of options to choose from, especially the deeper you poke into the lore of the game. For that, I highly recommend doing some research on either the UESPWiki, TESWiki or Elder Scrolls Lore. While largely incomplete, what is provided has great detail. Although it's not required to become some sort of lore buff just to play Skyrim, it may help to know simple things, at least about the race you play. Where are they from? How are they perceived in Skyrim? For example, without knowing the Argonians and Dunmer are horribly discriminated against by the Nords of Windhelm, you might end up play an Argonian loyal to the Stormcloaks... which wouldn't make a lot of sense, would it? Or that Khajiit are almost always perceived as skooma addicted thieves. In my opinion, the best place to start is really what you want your character to be and grow from there to give you a background worthy of such progression. I mean, being handed the fact that you snuck across the border doesn't give you a lot of build direction. Perhaps if you want to play an archer, you could be a hunter who accidentally wandered across the border - wrong place, wrong time. The point is that you want to give yourself a good foundation and proceed from there. The stronger your foundation is for your character's history, the easier the rest of the process will be and will come to you. If you're like me and don't want to be pidgeonholed into the canon beginning, proceed through Helgen as normal (or better yet, let the NPCs do everything). Take anything you think would make sense, like a bow, food, potions, gold... whatever. When you get out, run to Whiterun and fast travel to another city. Completely ignore the main quest and start your life as an up-and-coming pickpocket in Riften, a scholar in Winterhold, a a traveling minstrel in Solitude. You'll always be able to continue the main quest in a roleplay sense, seeing as how Gerdur owns the mill and her family founded Riverwood, and Alvor is the blacksmith. Finding a reason to talk to them would be simplicity itself. Let the Game Work I see a lot of people grasp the first part of this post, but really struggle with what comes later. They get so stuck in how they want their character to progress that they try to force character into this role by avoiding certain game aspects entirely. In my experience, the best thing to do is create that strong foundation and build upon it as minimally as you can. It's fine and great to have an overarching idea for your character and where you want them to go. Maybe you start out as a simple mercenary with no magical inclination, but you want to end up as a master spellsword vampire. Great! Fantastic! But please, don't run aimlessly across Skyrim to a vampire cave and become a vampire and enter the Collage, do the quest... your character has no real reason to do anything of things or be in any of those places, and that is going to cause you grief. You're disassociating yourself (and your knowledge) with your character's, and this is where the problems really begin. We're going to keep this example and show how I flesh it out later, so let me just add one more thing... The game will guide you, most likely through it's radiant quests and encounters, into certain areas and roles. This is how your character will grow and develop. By truly letting go of your own desires for your character and simply letting the invisible hand of Skyrim push you along, you'll find that your character not only becomes more relatable, but more real. This is especially noticeable if you further the roleplay and go beyond simple dialog options and really develop something with the NPCs. As an example, click the banner in my signature and read The Hunted - my character forms a deep friendship with Ri'saad, one of the Khajiit in the caravan that can be found outside Whiterun. At his core in game, he's really not all that interesting. But when I put the world of Skyrim on him along with my characters actions, even NPCs can become fleshed out and become crucial parts in your character's development. An Example So let's say we're going to follow the canon story of the game. We want this character to just start out as your typical mercenary, but we want to end up being a spellsword vampire. So how do we make this happen? Well first, a mercenary... what race should we be? While you can literally choose any, the easiest option is to default on which race would do it best. However, you can obviously change this up to fit your desires. For example, while an Altmer (High Elf) probably wouldn't make the best mercenary, he would make a decent spellsword. For my sake, I'm going to be simple and suggest a Redguard - they make great mercenaries, and Hadvar even refers to you as possibly being one in the opening. So now I'm a Redguard mercenary that got captured with some Stormcloaks while trying to cross the border. At this point, in my be a good idea to think about which side you want to aid in the civil war, if either? From a story perspective, it might be hard for you to sympathize with the Imperials, considering their eagerness to chop your head off within the first 10 minutes of the game... for the sake of simplicity then, let's say favor the Stormcloaks. But why? How? You're neither a Nord nor from Skyrim, so what could your reason possibly be...? The Empire. You'll recall Ralof mentions that it was like the Imperials knew where Ulfric would be. And they did. Why? Because they hired you to join their cause and give them up. As a Redguard, you may feel some animosity towards the Empire - they did, after all, sell out your homeland to the Aldmeri Dominion - but as a mercenary, you must follow the coin. And oh, was it a large sum indeed. However, when they captured the Stormcloaks, they captured you. You know that the Empire planned to capture and execute Ulfric without a proper trial. Perhaps they plan to make it look like an accident? Regardless, you're a liability - and that's why you're going to be executed. So when you escape, you go with Ralof - better a false friendship than a treachery, right? So maybe you go and you're lead through the point where the Greybeards shout out for you to come to them up at the Throat of the World. But do you? You're a mercenary - you're know damn hero. That, and you're a mercenary who's been cheated - you want vengeance. So you travel to Windhelm, per Ralof's instructions, and official join the rebellion. Or maybe you join the Companions - they seem like your style. One way or another though, you want to become a spellsword vampire, so how? Perhaps you run into a vampire (quite possibly, especially with Dawnguard) and, after becoming a vampire, you head to the College to seek a cure or some answers. Maybe you stumble across a spellbook, study it, and find that the ability to set your foes on fire comes in quite handy. Don't forget that Redguards, in their lore, look down upon magic except the school of Destruction - they like that one. Maybe you recall that and decide to expand your horizons? As I said, one or way another, the game will eventually guide you where you want to go. If you take anything from this small guide, take this: the key to successfully enjoying a good roleplay through Skyrim is to become invested in your character by taking yourself out of the equation and letting s/he experience the world for you - you're simply there to watch. It starts with a strong foundation, some flexibility and creativity, and some patience. Trying to force yourself to become something simple for the sake of being it is going to make for a bland and distant gaming experience. FAQs I feel like this guide will benefit from the questions I'm asked more than just what I've written, so ask away, even if it's simple for assistance.