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Skyrim factions and guilds guide

The College of Winterhold

Who should apply 

Mages and/or pyromaniacs

Location

You can access the college from Winterhold, which can be found at the northeastern corner of Skyrim. You’ll eventually come across this location during the main storyline, but mage builds looking to level up quickly will want to make the journey early on in the game. 

How to join 

At the north end of Winterhold, there are some stone steps leading to the college. A Dunmer named Faralda will be there at first to greet you and block your path. Talk to her and tell her you want to join the college. She’ll then ask you to perform a magic spell to prove your worth. If at this point you don’t have any spells, she’ll sell you one for 30 gold. You can even convince her to accept you based on your shout. Once you’ve done what she asks, you’ll have access to the college and the Achievement/Trophy will pop. 

Benefits 

Joining the college will give you access to full range of trainers in all the different types of magic. This is extremely beneficial once you have the gold to afford it. These trainers also sell spell books, either right off the bat or after certain faction-related quests. The main and side quests associated with the college will take you to areas where you can find some spell books and skill books, and the loot found is often mage-centric apparel or staffs.

By joining this faction you’ll earn the “Gatekeeper” Achievement/Trophy.

Rewards

The reward for completing the main questline is the key to the Arch-Mage’s headquarters and the valuable Arch-Mage’s Robes. These robes increase your magicka by 50 points, reduce the cost of all spells by 15%, and boosts your magicka regeneration rate by 100%. This combined with the Morokei mask (which you can get during the Staff of Magnus quests and which also boosts your magicka regeneration rate by 100%) makes the rest of the game significantly easier for magic users. Finally, you’ll receive a permanent 10% discount when dealing with any vendors inside the college.  



The Dark Brotherhood

Who should apply

Sneak builds and/or jerks who like murderin’

Location

The entrance to the Dark Brotherhood Sanctuary is a black door in the southwest corner of Skyrim, just west of Falkreath. Unless you’ve completed the steps below, however, you won’t be able to open it. 

Benefits

Unlike some of the other factions, joining the Dark Brotherhood won’t give you access to many trainers. You’ll only be able to level up your Light Armor with Nazir and your Alchemy with Babette. However, immediately upon joining you’ll be given the fantastic Shrouded Armor set:

Shrouded Armor: 32 defense, increases poison resistance by 50%

Shrouded Boots: 9 defense, silences your movements

Shrouded Cowl: 14 defense, 20% boost to bow damage

Shrouded Gloves: 9 defense, doubles backstab damage

Carrying out the assassinations quietly will naturally increase many of your skills, though it requires you to have some skill already. Also, the Dark Brotherhood quests are usually just plain fun. 

By joining this faction you’ll earn the “With Friends Like These” Achievement/Trophy.

How to join

There are several ways to get started with the Dark Brotherhood using only information heard from NPCs. You can speak to any innkeeper or bartender and ask for rumors or gossip. You can find Maul in Riften and persuade/intimidate/bribe him for info. You can go directly to Windhelm (your goal) and look for Idesa Sadri on the streets. The objective is to hear about a young boy named Aventus Aretino.

Alternatively, you can circumvent all of that by simply heading directly to the Aretino residence in Windhelm. Pick the lock on the front door, enter the house, and find Aventus upstairs. He’ll give you the “Innocence Lost” quest.  After you’ve completed it, find a bed to sleep in, and you’ll be awoken by a member of the Dark Brotherhood.

After you’ve completed her task, exit the shack and head towards the sanctuary, which will now be marked on the southwest corner of your map. Approach the Black Door found at that location and answer it’s riddle with “Silence, my brother.” Once inside, speak to Astrid. After doing so, an Achievement/Trophy should pop, signifying your entry into the Dark Brotherhood.

Note: If all else fails, the Dark Brotherhood will seek you out after you’ve killed enough innocent people. 

Rewards

At the end of the second to last main quest, you can obtain (legitimately) The Blade of Woe, a powerful dagger that absorbs 10 points of health with each hit. The damage output will scale up depending on the level and skill you are at when you obtain it. You’ll also net 20,000 gold for finishing the main questline, which is nothing to scoff at, especially early on in the game.  



The Thieves Guild

Who should apply

Stealth builds and/or kleptomaniacs

Location

The Ragged Flagon tavern located under Riften, a city in the southeastern corner of Skyrim. Look for a gate underneath the central plaza of the city to find the entrance to the Ratway, which leads to the tavern.  

Benefits

Once you’ve joined the Thieves Guild, you’ll have access to trainers who can help you level up in most of the thiefy skills (pickpocket, lockpicking, sneak, and archery) in exchange for gold. You’ll also obtain several weapons and armors throughout the quests that buff thief skills like sneaking, lockpicking etc. If you have a stealth build, you should seek out the Thieves Guild as soon as possible to claim these rewards, which make the rest of the game much easier.  

By joining this faction you’ll earn the “Taking Care of Business” Achievement/Trophy.

How to join

Go to Riften, located in the southeast corner of Skyrim, and look for Brynjolf. Talk to him and start the “A Chance Agreement” quest.  Complete this little quest (make sure to save throughout, since it involves sneaking and pickpocketing) then head through the Ratway under the city to reach the Ragged Flagon. Talk to Byrnjolf inside the tavern and complete “Taking Care of Business” to join the guild and pop the Achievement/Trophy. 

Rewards

When you become Guild Master,  Brynjolf will give you the Amulet of Articulation, which grants you instant success at any persuasion attempt and increases speechcraft depending on the level you are at when you receive it. Tonila will give you the Guild Master’s Armor set: 

Guild Master’s Armor: 38 defense, +50 carry weight

Guild Master’s Boots: 11 defense, increases pickpocket success by 35%

Guild Master’s Gloves: 11 defense, improves lockpicking by 35%

Guild Master’s Hood: 16 armor, improves prices by 20%

You’ll also have access to three different Nightingale roles at the very end of the main questline, which you can change as you please after each day. Here are the roles, each of which grants a special power:

Agent of Subterfuge: Casts frenzy on any single enemy regardless of their level

Agent of Strife: Absorbs 100 health from an enemy

Agent of Shadow: You can turn invisible for two minutes

Finally, as guildmaster, all fences that you’ve discovered (NPCs that will buy stolen goods from you) increase their buying allowance from 1000 gold per day to 4000. 

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25 comments

  • McSpermie - December 2, 2011 4:53 p.m.

    Useful guide, made sure I didn't miss anything.
  • IChooseUAntistaMON - December 2, 2011 5:08 p.m.

    I completed the theif's guild but apparently there is a glitch where you can't become the Guild Master unless you do specific quests before the final quest
  • HankVenture - December 2, 2011 5:10 p.m.

    I've completed the Thieves and Brotherhood guilds and while their missions are fun, I didn't feel the impact like I did in oblivion. I didn't feel like I did anything truly important, I mean the endings were significant but I just was craving a lot more to it for me to get those titles. and the brotherhood had funner missions in Oblivion I think, but still thank you for the guide
  • Craza - December 3, 2011 2:32 p.m.

    I didn't like how evil and corrupt the Thieves Guild felt, so I haven't done any more of their quests. In Morrowind, they were kinda the good guys, like a guild of Robin Hoods and I loved that. In Oblivion too, it never felt like I was just one big douchebag. I felt like I was actively helping people. In this one, they really just are bunch of thieves without regards to the type of people they're stealing from. I haven't gone to the sanctuary for the Dark Brotherhood yet, but I'd really like to go through their quests. That was my absolute favorite part of Oblivion. Those quests were the most unique and fun, even if the slaughter of that entire base of operations at the end disheartened me.
  • ombranox - December 5, 2011 6:45 p.m.

    Murderfying the Emperor was fun. I made sure to use bound blade in the process.
  • D0CCON - December 2, 2011 5:16 p.m.

    I didn't know you could physically join the Greybeards and Blades, which are both pretty cool. I'm personally working on the companions right now so I can turn into a freakin werewolf. No aversion to sunlight AND people don't hate you unless they see you turn? It's like being a vampire except better and with no major annoying side effects.
  • inkyspot - December 2, 2011 5:33 p.m.

    I messed with the mage guild was thinking about the thieves guild, just didn't like people hating me or having to rough up people that were innocent. So I reverted back to an older save. My brother did the vampire thing and I thought the side effects sucked. I also did the Imperial Army (I couldn't care for either), but I felt that they were more welcoming to different races as the the Stormcloaks. Me with my honeyed words.
  • winner2 - December 2, 2011 6:34 p.m.

    Same here with the thieves guild, I don't think I ever got any special amulet or master armor after I beat it. That's one really annoying glitch cause I don't feel like completely redoing a sneak file just for that
  • jackthemenace - December 3, 2011 12:56 a.m.

    It's a little more complicated to get 'Guild Master' status than just finishing the questline- you have to do a whole bunch of those optional side jobs, and eventually Delvin'll tell you to go do a special quest in one of four main cities. once you've done all four, there may or may not be a fifth one to do (I can't remember), but Brynjolf then gives you 'Guild master' status, as well as a snazzy 30g cheevo.
  • azureguy - December 2, 2011 9:28 p.m.

    Good guide overall, but I think you've made a mistake by the Blades: Delphine is a woman, not a man. Also, I should point out that in order to complete the Thieves' Guild quests and get the final achievement, you must do some of the side-quests Vex and Danton offer you. These quests eventually unlock about 3 or 4 other quests, and once these quests are done, you can proceed to the ceremony.
  • ranivus - December 3, 2011 1:41 a.m.

    Wheres the vampires?? East india Company?
  • closer2192 - December 3, 2011 2:23 p.m.

    The Dark Brotherhood sent an assassin to kill me... what does this mean?
  • sirdilznik - December 3, 2011 6:12 p.m.

    It means someone wants you dead.
  • jimmynak - December 3, 2011 5:17 p.m.

    i feel i should warn people not to use the leveling up glitches with hadvar at the beginning of the game. thanks to enemies leveling with you this makes the faction quests much harder. or maybe i just suck at rpg combat i dont know.
  • Kaeda - December 4, 2011 noon

    The Amulet of Articulation is glitched. It's supposed to be level-dependan, but the version you get is randomly determined. You could get the best at level 1, the worst at level 50, etc. Save before you finish the last Thieve's Guild quest.
  • worleykins - December 6, 2011 9:10 a.m.

    iv been turned into a vampire and i hate the side affects = (. can anyone tell me how to get cured?
  • azurechocobo - December 9, 2011 1:58 p.m.

    Go become a werewolf. Seriously, it works
  • swift123 - July 10, 2013 1:34 a.m.

    u go to an inn than u ask the innkeeper for rumors and sometimes thers a mission that can cure u worleykins
  • joshua-wilkinson - December 9, 2011 12:49 p.m.

    how do you get married on skyrim. xD
  • Matt Hughes - December 9, 2011 3:18 p.m.

    There'll be a followers guide posting shortly that explains it :)

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