Recently, I’ve seen several people around the forums wondering what to do now that they’ve finished Skyrim. Fear not, lost and wandering Dovahkiins! I am here to answer that question! One of the best aspects of Skyrim, in my opinion, is its replay value. Because of the very way the game was designed, it’s impossible to do everything and be everything with a single character. So if you think you’ve finished Skyrim, think again. There is still so much more to do. And so I offer you ten challenges to help enrich your next Skyrim playthrough!
1. Look at your last character, and make your new one the exact opposite.
If you’ve already played an Altmer mage, try a Nord or Orc warrior. If you’ve already been down the warrior road, try a Khajiit or Bosmer thief. If your last character was a noble hero, this time around, refuse to help anyone and only take on quests that wreak havoc. If you’re used to taking followers with you on every journey, try going it alone. If you won the Civil War for the Imperials last time, why not side with the Stormcloaks now—or go neutral!
You make a million choices when playing Skyrim, even when you don’t realize it; the key to keeping the game dynamic is to take the untraveled path the next time you reach that crossroads. You might be surprised at what you find.
2. Play to your character’s race.
Skyrim is my first experience in the Elder Scrolls world, and I didn’t discover the rich lore and history each race has until recently—and I was fascinated by it all. For instance, did you know that Bosmers are religiously carnivorous and cannibalistic? It came as a shock to me, but I immediately saw an opportunity to turn that into an interesting play style: a Bosmer who does not harm plant life, and who consumes their slain foes after battle. This would restrict your ability to craft potions and poisons, since you wouldn’t be able to pick or purchase any flowers or fungi to use—something that was a relief to me now that I was free from the pressure to HARVEST ALL THE THINGS. You’d also have to seek out the Ring of Namira very early on in the game, which might also lead you to quests and items that you wouldn’t have found until much later. And since cannibalism and lycanthropy go hand in hand, this might be the perfect time to finally become a werewolf!
Regardless of what race you choose, you should take it into consideration as you play. What side of the war would your character support, based on their race? A Redguard might side with the Stormcloaks’ aim for independence, having come from a province who had already seceded itself from the Empire; a Breton might join the Imperial Legion for no other reason than resenting Ulfric Stormcloak for the Markarth Incident; and an Altmer would likely remain neutral, since an ongoing conflict benefits the Aldmeri Dominion. And what about factions? It makes sense for a Nord to join the Companions, but would that same courageous and gallant Nord also join the Dark Brotherhood? Probably not. And is the College of Winterhold a good choice for a Redguard, whose people have historically shunned magic? Not so much. Limiting yourself to only the quests that fit your character’s race will not only be a challenge, but a rich roleplaying experience.
3. Set restrictions, and stick to them.
Speaking of limiting yourself! There aren’t many rules on how to play Skyrim, so to make the game more challenging—and interesting—it’s important that you set rules for yourself. You might decide not to fast travel anywhere, which could lead to the discovery of locations you’d never seen before. Or, you might restrict your character from any crafting—they can only use what they purchase or find. On the other hand, what if your character wasn’t able to barter with merchants? It would force you to rely heavily on crafting and stealing, but you’d no longer have to worry about looting every last septim from burial urns in barrows, or being crushed under the weight of all the goods you plan to sell once you get back to town. Another interesting self-imposed rule I’ve come across is that you cannot wear armor you’ve found, or taken from dead bodies, since that armor wouldn’t be likely to fit you—especially if they’re a petite Breton and you’re an enormous Orc. For an even bigger challenge, look at the skill or aspect you rely on the most, and ban yourself from using it. It’ll be like playing a whole new game.
4. Play with realism.
I’m willing to bet that your last character was both an anorexic and an insomniac. After all, the Dovahkiin doesn’t really need to eat or sleep in order to save the world... but wouldn’t it be neat if he did? I’ve recently adopted a more realistic play style myself, making my character eat at least one hearty meal a day, and sleep at least six hours each night. It’s nice to walk into an inn after a hard day of Draugr slaying, buy some grilled chicken, a sweet roll, and a flagon of mead for my dinner, and then sleep until the beautiful sunrise. It makes my Dovahkiin feel more like a person, and less like a robot.
And imagine how difficult it would be to run around Skyrim lugging three sets of Elven armor, a couple of Dwarven battleaxes, a few hundred potions, three dozen soul gems, and oh yeah, the rib bones of that enormous dragon you killed earlier this morning. By all rights of physics, your Dovahkiin should be pushing a wheelbarrow or two around on his travels in order to carry all that loot. To bring some realism back into the game, limit what you can carry; only the armor you’re wearing and the weapons you’re using. Twenty-five potions and ten soul gems, tops. And if you absolutely must pick up those dragon bones, go directly to town to sell them or drop them off at home before continuing on your journey.
5. Don’t use perks.
I can hear you now. WHAT? NO PERKS? BUT THAT’S MADNESS! Yes, it is. That’s the point. Picking off bandits and bears in a single shot can get pretty boring. But if your sword wasn’t doing five times its base damage and if your armor wasn’t made of indestructible ebony, battles would be much more challenging. Enemies may level at the same rate you do, but they don’t get any of those awesome perks, so by eliminating that benefit for yourself as well, you’ll need to rely on skill and strategy instead of an unfair advantage. The same goes for sneaking. If you’re a stealth player, like I am, you’ll know how strange it is to watch your enemies practically walk on top of you without realizing you’re there. Without certain perks, you’ll be forced to take more care with sneaking, and you’ll actually have to hide in the shadows instead of in plain sight.
6. Ignore the main questline.
I mean, really ignore it. Once you get out of Helgen, go your own way—forget Riverwood, forget Whiterun, forget the Greybeards. Yes, you will sorely miss Unrelenting Force (and I personally would weep over the loss of Marked for Death), but that’s why it’s called a challenge! As with other challenges, you’ll be forced to think outside the box and find other ways to get by without relying on the crutch that Shouts can become. You won’t be the Dragonborn or get any special treatment for being the hero destined to save the world. You will be facing Skyrim without dragons—as it had been before Alduin’s attack on Helgen. It’s almost like going back in time!
Most importantly, though, ignoring the main questline means you’ll be focusing more on the others. I find many of the side questlines, like the Civil War and the Dark Brotherhood, more engaging and enjoyable than the main one, and I suspect that a lot of players are missing out on them because they’re too busy worrying about defeating Alduin to truly appreciate the other stories, big and small, that the game has to offer.
7. Make your own questlines.
We all know how to bring the Thieves Guild back to its former glory, but what if you want to resurrect the Cult of the Mythic Dawn? This, unfortunately, is not possible in Skyrim... but you can serve the Daedra, and recover their precious artifacts from unworthy hands. Make it your mission to complete every Daedric quest! Or go a step further and vow to only use the weapons and armor of the Daedra—use the Ebony Mail instead of plain old ebony armor, and the Staff of Corruption instead of a boring little sword. Finish your “questline” by reforging Mehrunes’ Razor, and then go forth and destroy Skyrim in his name!
You could also become a Blade. This is actually a legitimate questline in the game, albeit a much shorter and simpler one than the four main factions. To make it more interesting, your Dovahkiin’s aim could be to not only hunt dragons, but Dragon Priests as well, with a final goal of collecting Konahrik from the Labyrinthian.
How about the Thalmor? You can’t truly join them, even as an Altmer, but you can certainly help their cause by weakening Skyrim’s defense. Seek out and kill every Imperial legionnaire and Stormcloak rebel that you can!
Or, you could be Buffy the Vampire Slayer!
8. Go au naturel.
No weapons. No armor. Just a guy with a loincloth and two fists. Definitely a challenge, but very doable, and, if you don’t mind a bit of button mashing, it can be a lot of fun to be a barbarian who beats his foes down with nothing but his hands. The Fists of Steel and both Mage Armor perks are your best bets to successfully play this build, along with high skill in one-handed combat and alteration magic. Imagine the freedom of never having to worry about tempering your armor or enchanting your weapons! Think of all the extra space in your inventory you’ll be able to use for sweet rolls or cheese wheels!
9. Be a pacifist.
Take a vow that no one will die by your hands. Then go forth into Skyrim, and try to survive. This takes sneaking to a whole new level, as you’ll need to tiptoe around an awful lot of bandits... or, you can use illusion spells to calm your enemies, and turn them against each other. Take a follower with you everywhere, and let them do the dirty work. But first and foremost, find all three words of the Throw Voice shout; it will be a priceless tool. This challenge throws the combat out of a combat-based game, so you are guaranteed to have a much different experience than you did with any other previous playthroughs.
10. Crank up the difficulty level.
There’s nothing original about this challenge, but it bears mentioning. Turn your difficulty up to Master, and watch your confidence in your battle prowess fall faster than a troll you Fus Ro Dahed off a cliff. You’ll find yourself rethinking battle strategies and perk placements, and you’ll be running away a lot more than you’re used to. You will be learning how to play the game all over again. And when the day finally dawns when you can once again say that Skyrim is easy, the pride and accomplishment you feel will be well worth the effort.
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