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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim dragon hunting guide

Basic Information

Fighting the dovah is simple enough in theory, but actually performing it can be very difficult. Dragons aren’t going to pull any punches or take any crap from you once they’re aware of your presence. There’s a long list of things that can’t be done to these beasts and that’s going to restrict your combat choices. This will be complicated by your choice of playing style but more on that later. However the rewards for slaying them are well worth it – dragons carry a large amount of gold leveled for your character as well as Dragon Scales and Dragon Bones that sell for a good bit of money or can be used to make powerful armors.

Dragons don’t seem to be affected by having their stamina or magicka drained so cold and lightning magic are only marginally useful. Their breath attacks seem to be governed like a Shout, which makes sense, but it stops you from being able to do anything to slow those down. So you’ll want to keep a few potions to help you resist fire or ice so you’re prepared for either of the attacks they will use.

Above: Yes, that will be a problem

To start, dragons can’t be frozen, paralyzed or otherwise rendered immobile. It is possible to cause them to recoil away by hitting them with hard enough attacks but they won’t actually be staggered. They recoil briefly before attacking again, giving you barely enough time to raise your shield. This means that melee combat with them can become a big ol’ slugfest. Even if you have a bunch of NPCs helping you the dragon can lash out with its mouth, wings and tail to ensure that everybody in a radius around it suffers for coming close.

Above: Coming from the front tends to end with you as dinner

That doesn’t mean that you should never try to fight dragons with a group. If you have a follower, the two of you can circle around the dragon and try to confuse it. It will lash its head back and forth, unable to decide on who to attack, which means it will only attack each of you once or twice at best before getting distracted. At about the midway point of the game there is a chance to bring a trio of dragon hunters with you to dragon roosts to slay them; this will make killing them in these specific locations much easier.

With this in mind there is an “ideal” method for hunting dragons as well as methods specific to each of the three character types. These are the most important parts to bringing these behemoths down.

13 comments

  • Y2Ken - December 2, 2011 10:57 a.m.

    This is quite a useful guide. I'm comfortable now fighting dragons, although I do have to be a little careful - that bite finisher is a pain if you let them get too close. The first two random dragons I "fought" were both killed by giants, which definitely makes life a little easier. I've been doing a lot of hunting Words of Power (asking Arngeir for locations and then visiting them) so a number of those point you directly to dragon roosts.
  • ShowMeYourKitties - December 2, 2011 11:55 a.m.

    It's good to hear that the thief build gets easier, cuz right now it sucks for fighting dragons. I always have to lure the dragon towards a group of npc's to fight for me.
  • Manguy17 - December 2, 2011 12:34 p.m.

    As an archer ive found killing dragonsto be very easy most of the time due to the (glitch?) dragons prioritising everything else in the area as a target before me, including bunnies. And if theres cover i can normally just pop out and shoot an arrow and hide. This said (this is probally also a glitch) it seems that dragons arent scaling very accurately. the last few have just be plain old dragons and im lvl 42.
  • Manguy17 - December 2, 2011 12:50 p.m.

    also, ive had one game breaking backwards dragon, stuck flying into a wall. if i shoot it twice it would die, glicth around trying to find a place to crash, and thus would drop the framerates to unlayable, if it saw me it either flew backwards 100 metres and then froze, or flew sideways into a cliff and gets stuck dragon hunting is interesting.
  • HeavyTank - December 2, 2011 12:53 p.m.

    Very nice guide, although the game's weird lack of scaling means that now my character can actually one-hit dragons even on Hard, so sadly now nobody poses a challenge to him anymore.. Also, the Blades tell you to kill Paarth?How?Why?
  • Boomer1992 - December 2, 2011 1:09 p.m.

    On master difficulty, I usually find a thick tree or rock and play ring around the rosie with it until finally my bow has brought it to the ground.
  • Maineiac - December 2, 2011 2:51 p.m.

    Sorry to disagree but you are wrong about sneak attacks not working on dragons. While it is a hard situation to reproduce I was able to sneak up on a dragon and one hit kill it with a dagger thanks to the sneak tree dagger perk and dark brotherhood gloves.
  • D0CCON - December 2, 2011 3:03 p.m.

    I made two characters and they both deal with dragons very easily. My battlemage hits it with super fireballs of death until it lands and I use a bound/daedric sword to finish it. I'm guessing you can figure out what my archer does to it.
  • jag0023 - December 2, 2011 11:12 p.m.

    i don't know why maybe its my game but i have only encountered one dragon the first main story dragon
  • bradmillow0 - December 3, 2011 7:16 a.m.

    When I first fought Alduin I didn't die at all, I thought he was fairly easy and I didn't even have any followers with me at the time, with the exception of Paarthurnax
  • ThundaGawd - December 4, 2011 4:22 p.m.

    I play a stealth character, and I play on master, so just about any open encounter with any type of enemy is extremely difficult, but for the most part, when it comes to fighting any type of dragon, I just use literally any cover I can find (I've hidden behind a tree a few times) and hop out to shoot with my bow whenever the dragon stops to hover and breathe fire/frost. Another thing you guys should've mentioned is the use of Shadowmere, the horse form the dark brotherhood questline. I'm honestly not sure whether or not it's a glitch, but Shadowmere has an insanely high health regeneration rate, making it literally impossible for it to be killed by an enemy because it's health regenerates faster than it takes damage, making it the perfect tank during dragon fights.
  • Person5 - December 4, 2011 11:37 p.m.

    Its not a glitch, he's supposed to have a high regen and max health, but he CAN die, two bears killed him in my game which is weird cus he charges at dragons without a scratch on him, so while hes a useful horse, do be careful, and if he does die I heard he comes back to life in 3 days in the area he died at (unconfirmed for me though since I just reloaded my save)
  • Xerxes667 - December 4, 2011 7:57 p.m.

    ok... maybe it's just because of my level; 32: i did a lot of smithing which leveled me up quite quickly, but during the Kathspire Encounter, it was not a Frost Dragon that spawned but an Ancient Dragon, the first i ever faced, not only does he kill me but he slaughters my entire party (i have Lydia tagging along too) and the entire Forsworn camp at Kathspire.... i've tried to get past about 20 times and i keep dying. I'm a Nord focusing on Melee and Destruction Magic and i don't have Dragonrend yes (obviously) so he's just flying and strafing everyone.... how screwed am i? any suggestions?

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