Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Main Quest Guide Act I

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Main Quest Guide Act I
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Getting Started

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is a true open-world and multi-pathed RPG from one of the industry experts, Bethesda Softworks. This maker of both the Elder Scrolls and modern Fallout series returns with an epic, far-reaching tale of the Nord race in their frosty home region of Skyrim. This guide naturally features a number of spoilers, so read at your own peril.

There are many different quest lines to complete in Skyrim, along with tons of miscellaneous quests and objectives. The main quest is not necessarily the longest in the game, but it does have the most effect on your character and his or her growth. The game opens with your character regaining consciousness in the back of a wagon. You look around and realize that you are prisoner, bound and silent, and in the company of others. You are all headed to your execution, although you do not know what crime put you in this position.


Upon arriving at the chopping block, one of the guards will realize he doesn’t have your name on the list. This is your opportunity to provide your name, race and gender, as well as to fine-tune your character’s appearance. In Skyrim, elves actually look like elves, orcs are unmistakable, and only the human races can achieve a modicum of attractiveness.

With a little time, the dragon attacks.

Well, that was too close for comfort. However, we still have to get out of here. You’re unarmed, so duck your head and follow either Hadvar or Ralof. It’s your choice. Your path out of Helgen will vary depending on your choice, but keep close to your guide and you’ll have no problems.

Loot what you can from fallen guards and from chests without getting unencumbered and help your ally in combat. Pick up the weapons and armor you see and then hit the B button to enter your main menu. Press the L stick to the right to enter the Items section, scroll down to “Weapons,” and then push the stick to the right to make the menu slide out. Highlight the weapon you want to equip and use your trigger buttons to assign it to either your right or left hand. You can dual-wield melee weapons, equip a single or two-handed weapon, go with a sword and shield, try a melee weapon in one hand and a spell in the other, or assign spells to both hands.

Make your way through the keep and take the learning opportunities as they are presented. When you find a locked door and a stack of lockpicks, spend a few moments learning how this mechanic works. The doorway out leads to a cave where you will be facing Frostbite Spiders. You can either take them out from range with magic or use a shield to deflect their spit attacks until you close the distance. The next room pitsArticle Image you against a bear, but this is a great time to try sneaking. Make sure you have unequipped your armor and before clicking in on the L stick to drop into a crouch.

Ah, fresh air greets you at the cave’s exit. Follow your buddy down the hill to finish off this quest and get your next one. If you didn’t follow him, you can still meet up with his contact in Riverwood. Check your compass at the top of the screen to note the direction and take off down the road. Don’t miss the nearby Guardian Stones though. Choose the Mage, Thief or Warrior for your first Ritual Stone effect.

Before the Storm

Fighting an Orc

Riverwood is gorgeous this time of year. Whether you chose to follow Hadvar or Ralof, you’ll have a quest to speak to your new friend’s contact in this town. While your choice does guide you in one direction or the other for the separate Civil War quest line, you have plenty of time to make your final choice between the Stormcloaks and the Imperials.

Your next stop will be the nearby town of Whiterun, where the Jarl needs to hear about this dragon attack. Upon arriving at the city, you’ll find him in the building labeled Dragonsreach. You can’t miss it.

Bleak Falls Barrow

Talk to the court wizard at the Jarl’s request. Farengar needs you to go locate a tablet called the Dragonstone. This is a map of some sort, and you can find it inside the Barrow, on a boss-level Draugr. While here or in Riverwood, take the opportunity to sell off any weapons or armor you don’t intend to use. If you prefer bows, it’s helpful to trade in your melee weapons for extra arrows; you may go through quite a few in a typical dungeon. When you’re ready, press the Start button and pull the R trigger to bring up your objectives. Find the one sending you to the barrow, click on it to make it active, and then press X to show you the target on your map. You should now have a handy icon on your compass to lead your way. Head out from the eastern side of Whiterun to find it.

If you’re playing a stealthy character, you’ll appreciate the lighting in Skyrim dungeons. While the Night Eye spell is no longer, it’s also no longer necessary. Once you have cleared an area, you can use Candlelight to fully inspect the nooks and crannies. When you come to the first puzzle room, note the code above the doorway (the middle stone will be on the ground) and use the statues to replicate the code (snake, snake, fish). Note, that it’s a good idea to always save before attempting any puzzle solution, especially if you’re unsure of the correct answer. Pull the lever and your way will now be open.

When confronted with a set of thick spider webs, you can either cut them with a sword or burn them down with a few blasts of Flame. The big frostbite spider waiting for you on the other side is especially vulnerable to fire. If you prefer to melee him, be sure to block his attacks with either your shield or two-handed weapon. You can safely retreat back through the hole that you entered to get a breather, if you need it. Free Arvel when you’re done. You can either immediately kill him, or just stay back away from him. Either way, he is not long for this world. When he bites it, loot him for his journal and the Golden Claw. Picking up the Claw will trigger a side quest if you didn’t already grab it back in the Riverwood Traders. Inspect the palm of that claw (by turning it around in your inventory) for the code to an upcoming door.

This next section gives you a look at some of the traps that Skyrim dungeons can hold. Be wary of stepping on plates or domed sections of the flooring; they may trigger poison darts, flames or overhead dangers. Get past the swinging axe hazard using your sprint ability and then note the oiled floor. These slicks often have flammable pots hanging over them. You can use them against your enemies, sneak through them or trigger them yourself just to remove the threat.

Into the Sanctum

Pull the chain to open the gated way out of the waterfall room and follow the stream. The next takes you back outside, but you’re not done yet. Cross the bridge and find the door to take you back into the Sanctum section of Bleak Falls Barrow. Inside, you can use the oil and fire trap to take out the enemies approaching you from the front, left and right. You will finally come to the big circular door that requires your Claw. The code to the door is on the Claw’s palm (bear, butterfly, owl). Set the outer, middle and inner rings to match the code and then press A while pointing at the middle.

Article ImageOnce inside the final chamber, make sure to check out the wall for a word in the dragon language. You’ll understand it later. Save your game before you head toward the altar to trigger an attack by the boss-level Draugr. You have quite a bit of space to maneuver in here and you will want to take your time killing him. Keep some healing potions in your favorites menu, as you may need quite a few. This is your toughest fight so far, and you can try out several different combat styles until you find the one that suits you best. The Draugr may have some shouts or spells, and is always dangerous in melee range.

Loot the Dragonstone from his cold body and make your way back outside. There’s a shortcut at the top of the stairway in here. You can fast travel to Riverwood to finish the Golden Claw side quest, then go to Dragonsreach in Whiterun to deliver the Dragonstone to Farengar.


  • Quest information taken from the Xbox 360 port of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  • Screenshots taken from Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim website

This post is part of the series: Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Main Quest Guide

Each act of the main story line is presented quest by quest to help you maneuver through the game with ease.

  1. Dragonborn: Staying on the Main Quest - Getting Started in Skyrim
  2. Dragonborn: Staying on the Main Quest - The Greybeards and Beyond
  3. Dragonborn: Staying on the Main Quest Track in Skyrim, Act II
  4. Dragonborn: Staying on the Main Quest Track in Skyrim, Act III