The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Main Quest Walkthrough

From Helgan to High Hrothgar

Bethesda has brought The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One for the first time, and to the PC for a second time with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition. For some, this will be the first playthrough of the awesome action RPG and for some, it'll be the umpteenth, but with how complex and involved the world of Skyrim is, everyone needs some help now and again.

This guide will cover the main questline only, so the huge amount of sidequests you'll run into along your journey in Skyrim won't be listed here. Of the main quest, there are really two threads that somewhat intertwine. The first thread, which will be covered in this guide and is the focal point of the main quest is the return of Dragons to Skyrim and your ascension as Dragonborn. There is also the Skyrim Civil War storyline which we feel is secondary to the return of the dragons, as such we'll only be covering that thread in as it overlaps with the return of the dragons storyline.

Elder Scrolls V Skyrim

Bethesda Softworks


The game starts with you riding in the back of a wagon. You're tied up, and for reasons unknown, you've been branded a criminal. Your destination is Helgen, where you're to be executed for crimes against the Empire or something of the sort. Once you arrive to be executed all hell breaks loose when a dragon arrives and begins attacking the Imperial Garrison.

Here you'll have the chance to follow either Hadvar the Imperial Soldier or Ralof of the Stormcloaks. The only thing this really affects is who you'll be fighting on your way out of Helgen. If you pick Hadvar you'll be fighting Stormcloaks, if you pick Ralof you'll be fighting Imperials.

This is a tutorial quest, so just follow the onscreen prompts and you'll soon find yourself outside. Once you're outside you'll complete the quest Unbound and start the quest Before the Storm.

Before the Storm

No matter who you ended up following in Helgen, once you make it out of the caverns they'll tell you to meet up with their cousin (Gerdur if you went with Ralof, Alvor if you went with Hadvar) in Riverwood, then push onward to talk to the Jarl in Whiterun. The road to Riverwood is a pretty calm and uneventful stretch. Make sure you stop by the Guardian Stones and pick between rogue, warrior, or mage. Just pick the one that matches what class you plan to specialize in and you'll get a bonus that will help you out.

Once you make it there just follow your quest marker to either Gerdur or Alvor and they'll hook you up with some swag. Also, take the time to practice with the Blacksmithery there as Blacksmithing is the best way to get some of the higher-grade weapons in the game.

Feel free to look around town, and once you're ready to head to see the Jarl just follow the road out of Riverwood towards your quest marker towards Whiterun. The stretch of road between Riverwood and Whiterun isn't too dangerous, though you might run into a Mudcrab or some other low-level wildlife.

Once you arrive at the gates of Whiterun the guard will tell you that the city is only open to those that have official business right now. All you have to do is inform the guard that Riverwood is seeking help and he'll open the gates for you.

To find the Jarl, just head to the huge building at the highest point in town. Once you enter, inform the Jarl that the dragons have returned and he'll be a swell dude and dispatch soldiers to Riverwood to defend the small village. Once he does that the quest Before the Storm is marked complete and the Jarl will ask you to help his court mage Farengar to research the dragons.

Bleak Falls Barrow

Farengar needs a Dragonstone, and being "so busy" he needs someone else to fetch it for him. Since you're one of the few known to encounter a dragon and live to tell the tale, he figures you're the best for the job.

To get a Dragonstone, you need to head to the Bleak Falls Temple. Exit Whiterun and follow your quest pointer and soon you'll be in Bleak Falls Barrow. Along the way, you'll more than likely meet some bandit swordsmen and archers. Use this opportunity to hone your combat skills and continue into the snowy mountains towards the quest marker.

Once you're there enter Bleak Falls Temple. There's not a ton going on near the entrance, but be on the lookout for loot. There'll be two bandits, but not much else. As you head further in you'll find a room with a lever and a gate. Don't immediately pull the lever or you'll be hit with an arrow trap. Instead, look to the left side of the room and you'll see three pillars you need to match with the pattern above the door. Once you have matched them correctly, then pull the lever and the gate will open.

Once you're through the gate, continue to pick up loot and hack through the cobwebs. You'll eventually meet Arvel the Swift, a thief who was enwebbed by a Frostbite Spider. Though he didn't manage to kill it, he has wounded it, and once you proceed ahead and finish it off you can come back and speak to Arvel. He's going to try and screw you, so kill him and take the Golden Claw you find on his body. Then head further into the crypt.

When you reach the swinging axes just time it right and sprint past them. Just keep heading further into the crypt and eventually, you'll reach a stone door with symbols and a keyhole that looks like it'll fit the Golden Claw in it. Look at the Golden Claw in your inventory and match the symbols on the door to the ones you see on the claw itself. Then put the Golden Claw into the keyhole and the door will open.

You'll see some glowing engravings in the next room and you'll need to approach them. Once you do you'll learn your first Word of Power, Unrelenting Force. There will be a sort of mini-boss in the form of a Draugr Overlord. To defeat it, use the terrain to your advantage and if possible use a bow or magic to deal with it from afar.

Once it's dead you can loot the Dragonstone from its corpse. Check the room for loot, then head up the stairs to exit back into the main Skyrim overworld. Once you return the Dragonstone to Farengar, Bleak Falls Barrow will be marked as completed.

Dragon Rising

As soon as Bleak Falls Barrows completes, Dragon Rising will start. A dragon has been sighted outside of Whiterun and the Jarl is deploying his troops to meet it in the field. After a brief conversation in the planning room, you're to meet Irileth, the Jarl's commander of the guard, outside of town.

Head out of Whiterun and towards the Western Watchtower. You'll find it in ruins, destroyed by a dragon. Irileth and her unit will be standing nearby, and once you rendezvous with them, the dragon Mirmulnir will make its appearance.

This dragon is a pushover compared to the ones you'll meet after this quest. The easiest (and pretty much only) way to deal with Mirmulnir is with ranged weaponry. If you're concentrating on a rogue or warrior-type character, a bow is more than likely the best weapon to use. If you're a mage, Mirmulnir is weak towards ice-based magic. From time to time Mirmulnir will land, but make sure to stay away from her. This is when she does her most damage. By using ranged weaponry, you can back off and keep firing arrows into her outside of the range of her attacks. 

Whatever route you take, just keep pounding away at Mirmulnir, she has a lot of HP, but she'll fall eventually. Root around in her corpse for a fat stack of loot, and she'll disintegrate, leaving you with your first Dragon Soul, which you can use to unlock Unrelenting Force, your first Shout power.

To finish up the quest, return to the Jarl. He'll tell you about the Dragonborn, and let you know that the Greybeards have summoned you. He also gives you the title of Thane of Whiterun, which makes you a pretty big deal.

The Way of the Voice

Your next quest activated automatically after speaking with the Jarl after killing Mirmulnir will take you into the frozen tundra of Skyrim's interior. This might be your first big trek into the wilderness of Skyrim, which is fairly inhospitable and filled with things that want to kill you. Make sure you grab some healing items.

Head to the town of Iverstead. Once you get there go through the town and you'll find a bridge leading to a path into the mountains. The trek up to High Hrothgar, home of the Greybeards isn't too bad, but if you see a Frost Troll, try and stay clear. Frost Trolls are immensely powerful and at your current level of experience, you will probably die.

Once you reach High Hrothgar, you'll meet Arngeir, who doubts your provenance as the Dragonborn. Prove him wrong by using the Unrelenting Force Shout to impress him into acknowledging you as Dragonborn. He'll tell you of the Greybeards' history and what you as the Dragonborn must do. He also teaches you another word of the Dragon language which further strengths your Unrelenting Force Shout.

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