Few games compare to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Released in 2011, this open-world RPG raised the bar in terms of storytelling, player choice, and stunning visuals. Even by today’s standards, the world feels vibrant and alive. The characters are rich, the stories captivating, and the ability to modify your experience keeps Skyrim feeling fresh.
Of course, part of what makes Skyrim worth playing today comes down to choice. Players can choose from a variety of races all with unique appearances and strengths to encourage roleplay. Because many of the quests leave the Dragonborn to cast the final vote, depending on your play style, the overall experience can be quite different. Even better, the land of Skyrim is truly massive. Traveling from Riften to Solitude on horseback takes in-game days. All the while, you open yourself to distractions such as bandits, desperate farmers, and even headless ghosts riding into the night. All of this is to say that Skyrim is large in scale and possibility. The reason so many gamers keep coming back is because there always seem to be more to discover and experience.
All that said, some might begin to wonder if Skyrim has any secrets left. After all, it has been the better part of a decade. This list is intended to shed light on some of the mysteries you may have missed as well as what the game could have been.
With that in mind, here are 25 Things Even Hardcore Fans Don’t Know About Skyrim.
25 Right In The Jarl
Strategy wins wars. During the Civil War questline, the player is tasked with capturing specific forts in order to secure a hold. Alongside your comrades, you’re tasked with uprooting enemies who have hardened their position and have no desire to leave. While these battles are amazing at first, after a few playthroughs, you might find the repetition stale. Luckily, you’re not just another grunt. You’re the Dragonborn.
24 Killer Cutlery: Fork and Knife
Skyrim is a massive game full of challenges to conquer and collectibles to acquire. Whether you find yourself hungry to prove your grit or you simply enjoy finding unusual items, this fork and knife are exactly what you need.
Forks and knives are relatively common in Skyrim. Normally found beside dishes, exactly as you’d expect, these items are little more than set dressing. Even if you try picking them up they’ll just appear in your inventory like a wooden plate or bowl. That’s what makes this dining set different. They’re weapons. Available after purchasing and decorating Honeyside in Riften, this fork and knife are literally the weakest weapons in the game. Talk about serious eating.
23 The Ideal Masters
The Ideal Masters are a mystery spanning the Elder Scrolls universe. Not much is known about them since they don’t really exist like most races. According to in-game lore, the Ideal Masters once had bodies, but they wanted something more. Somehow they managed to change their physical forms into pure energy and, like the Dwemer, have all but disappeared. Or have they?
Interactions with the Ideal Masters are exceptionally rare. They appear once in the form of large, pink crystals in 1997’s Battlespire where they attempt to manipulate the player. However, if you pay attention while traveling through the Soul Cairn during the Dawnguard DLC, you’ll notice almost identical pink crystals ominously looming over towers.
22 Frost: Horse of Legend
Chances are you are already familiar with the quest Promises to Keep. What you might have missed is Frost’s unique lineage. Upon stealing the deed of ownership, you’ll find the horse descends from Sleipnir -- the legendary eight-legged steed ridden by Odin. The name of the quest is another subtle literary reference; Promises to Keep being a line from “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost.
Consider this next time you decide whether or not to hand Frost over to Louis Letrush. After all, what could make a better horse for your hero than a descendant of the All-Father’s steed?
21 General Falx Carius
March of the Dead sees the Dragonborn tasked with assisting Raven Rock with a string of attacks from the Ash Spawn. Tracking down the source of these seemingly planned out assaults will bring you to Fort Frostmoth where a person from your past resides. Well, assuming you played Morrowind.
Responsible for the attacks on Raven Rock is General Falx Carius, originally encountered by the Nerevarine during the events of Morrowind. As it turns out, the centuries have not been kind to him. After nearly 200 years, the general was brought back by a now-passed necromancer. Coming back from the afterlife to have your butt kicked by yet another mythic hero sounds pretty awful, doesn’t it?
20 Cut Content: Extended Civil War
Opinions about the Civil War questline are mixed. Some remember their first time participating in the Battle of Whiterun as remarkable, while others struggle to compliment something that can, at times, feel incomplete. Both perspectives have their merit and, as it happens, both have hints of truth.
Among the cut content of the game is quite a lot related to the Civil War. From random large-scale battles breaking out throughout the world to opportunities to cut supply lines or assassinate high ranking officers, apparently, Bethesda had a lot in mind that was ultimately scrapped. Fortunately, modders have attempted to restore as much of this content as the game will support.
19 Helgen Survivor: Haming
You would be forgiven for missing Haming on your way to the chopping block. You might have heard a father tell his son to run inside. Or Hadvar instructing an old man, Gunnar, to protect Haming after the boy’s father is eliminated by Aldiun.
What many don’t realize is Haming survived. If you travel to the southwest edge of the Rift near Autumnwatch Tower you will come across a cabin on the side of a mountain. Inside you’ll meet Froki and his recently orphaned grandson Haming. The young survivor will remember you and the day well. In fact, Haming can be heard musing, “Someday, I’m going to kill a dragon all by myself.”
18 Altmer Only, Please
Brave the intense winter conditions northwest of Solitude and you will come across the Thalmor Embassy. Protected by sturdy stone walls, metal spikes, and armed guards, you would do well not to mistake this Aldmeri outpost with some high-end hamlet.
Tempting the guards outside of a few specific quests will mean dealing with a number of Thalmor Justicars. That response changes if you play as a high elf and dress in Thalmor apparel, though. Wearing a set of Hooded Thalmor Robes seems to disguise high elves long enough to take the place of a guard or even wander the grounds. Be careful about pushing your access though, this disguise has limits.
17 The Challenger
Push yourself to new heights of magical power and you may find a target on your back. Similar to the better-known Ebony Warrior encounter, magic users who push their skills over 50 open themselves to crossing paths with an opponent known only as the Challenger.
Unlike his ebony-clad counterpart, this opponent isn’t interested in your abilities as a warrior -- he wants to test his magic against yours. Interestingly, if you refuse to use magic to fight the Challenger he will actually begin to insult your choice of weapons. If you see any of your magic skills approaching level 50 keep an eye out.
16 One Man’s Trash...
The land of Skyrim is a curious place. Eagle-eyed players have noticed the nearly complete lack of toilets for example, but what about trash cans? Well, it turns out Bethesda thought of that one.
Next time you find yourself rummaging through barrels on the street, listen to the NPCs near you. Many of these characters will comment on the fact you are effectively digging through the refuse. Better yet, depending on that character’s background, their opinion will range from admiring your ingenuity to total disgust. If you prefer a little extra snark in their judgments, do this in Riften near Maven Black-Briar (as if she isn’t already awful).
15 Winter Isn’t Coming
Few properties can claim to have changed the world’s appetite for medieval fantasy like Skyrim. Of those few, Game of Thrones probably comes to mind. Both introduce vast worlds with compelling stories, engaging characters, and of course, dragons.
What you may not know is that Skyrim could have been Game of Thrones. According to Todd Howard, conversations started between Bethesda and George R. R. Martin’s representatives about imagining Game of Thrones as an open world RPG. Admittedly, both had similar visions for their worlds, but as we all know, Bethesda preferred to go their own way. Who knows, maybe the companies will reapproach the idea.
There are two ways to learn about shadowmarks. The first involves picking up one of the books of the same name found in the Ragged Flagon. Written by Delvin Mallory, this text offers a collection of the symbols along with their meanings. A useful guide for any would-be thief, undoubtedly.
The second way is simply paying attention to the symbols and learning through trial-and-error. Shadowmarks can be spotted on door frames throughout Skyrim and Solstheim. Each mark is a secret message warning thieves of whether the building is protected, dangerous, or ripe for the picking. Shadowmarks are as subtle as they are useful for those who understand their meanings.
13 The Fate of Heimskr
Who you side with during the Civil War matters. Conquering a hold brings changes starting as high as who becomes jarl to whether or not people can praise Talos. It’s easy to miss how this all changes the lives of the small folk. Case in point, Heimskr.
Heimskr is the Talos worshipper tirelessly preaching outside of Dragonsreach. The Battle of Whiterun will destroy his home, but what happens after depends on you. Siding with the Stormcloaks will lead Heimskr to continue preaching. After all, his beliefs are now protected. Supporting the Imperials will land Heimskr in jail where he will continue to preach to his new, incarcerated flock.
12 Jailed On Ice
Bethesda knows that players don’t always play the hero. Sometimes the life of a thief or assassin is just too appealing to pass up. Those who refuse to abide by the law risk being thrown in the hold dungeon. Interestingly, there’s one jail few ever see.
The Winterhold dungeon is one of the most unique. Because the hold is largely in ruins, there simply isn’t much to tempt would-be lawbreakers. If you do manage to be jailed, you’re in for a surprise. The cells in Winterhold are individual cages lined up inside an ice cave Trying to break out is a little different too as your guards will be Frost Atronachs. Good luck with that!
11 Witch in the Woods
South of Riverrun is a lightly wooded forest. You may recall passing through this area after completing the Bleak Falls Barrow dungeon. The forest is full of game and borders a river with plenty of fish as well. Hunters should be careful, though.
Within this forest is a cabin and a lone woman by the name of Anise. She seems friendly enough and won’t say anything should you enter her cabin. Beware of her cellar, though. Those who dare climb down the hatch will find evidence of witchcraft and a letter revealing Anise’s desire to create a coven here. Unsurprisingly, Anise values her privacy and will try to eliminate you to protect her secret.
10 Giant Nirnroot
This one is a fun callback to Oblivion. You will need to travel to take a ship to Solstheim and travel to the northeast. Considering the rather hostile bandits and fauna, we recommend packing for combat. Survive long enough to reach the northeast corner of the island and you will come to a hilly region with a particularly eye-catching crop.
Giant Nirnroot. Several of them, in fact. Better yet, harvesting these gargantuan plants will reward you with a few Nirnroot each. You aren’t the first to find this area. The ghost of an alchemist can be found near some of these peculiarly large plants, likely too focused on the strange sight to protect themselves.
9 The Emperor’s Reading List
Following the Dark Brotherhood quest line will ultimately lead to an opportunity to slay Emperor Titus Mede II. While the series of events leading to this moment are an already example of masterful storytelling, the moment you actually encounter the emperor holds some intriguing gems as well.
The moment you arrive Emperor Titus Mede II seems to have a strange demeanor. Considering the recent attempt on his life, that’s understandable. However, the books found throughout his cabin may tell a different story. “A Kiss Sweet Mother” explains how to perform the Black Sacrament -- relatively common, though concerning. “Brothers of Darkness”, one of two in the game, is an exceptionally rare history of the assassins.
8 Haunting in Markarth
Markarth is a difficult place. As if the Dwemer construction jutting out of jagged stone wasn’t enough, the city is full of corruption, crime, and even a haunting.
A few steps from the market a priest will ask you about an abandoned home. If you agree to help him investigate, you will begin the quest House of Horrors. This quest is a compilation of disturbing voices, flying inanimate objects, and moral decisions fit for any horror film. That similarity is intentional, too. Shortly after entering the house, after everything goes crazy, you’ll find several chairs stacked on the dining table. This is actually an easter egg referencing original The Poltergeist.
7 Helgen Survivor: Imperial Deserter
Soldiers in the Imperial Legion know war. The most seasoned among them may have experienced the Great War and those too young to have fought likely saw or at least heard the stories. Scaring off those brave enough to enlist isn’t easy. That said, Helgen was different.
Gain access to Redwater Den, a skooma den, and you’ll come across this familiar face. Like you, the Imperial Deserter managed to survive Alduin’s fury in Helgen. Unfortunately, while fighting off the dragon he suffered a serious injury. The constant pain has since driven him here, addicted to skooma, unknowingly about to fall to a band of deceptive vampires. Skyrim is a harsh place.
6 Logrolf and Azzada
Passing through Dragonreach you may meet a cheery Redguard by the name of Azzada Lylvieve. He’ll credit his good mood to having the privilege of a wonderful family and his own land. It turns out Azzada grew up on the rough streets of Markarth until being rescued by a man named Logrolf the Bent.
Separately, during the quest House of Horrors, Molag Bal will task you to lure a priest into a trap in Markarth. The priest is named Logrolf the Willful. Probably a coincidence, right? A conversation between Azzada and his wife reveals that Logruf abandoned his home in Markarth. Is it just us, or does sacrificing Logrolf suddenly feel wrong?
5 Fifty Shades of Argonia
The citizens of Skyrim need a break. Politics, dragons, and vampires can be emotionally and mentally draining. Sometimes you just need a warm fire and a good book to unwind. When people do manage to make time to read, chances are they’re reading, “The Lusty Argonian”.
As it turns out, there’s another book challenging the critically acclaimed fiction. The Dragonborn DLC introduced a parody titled, “The Sultry Argonian Bard”. You’d be forgiven for missing this latest title though, as there are only two copies in the game. Luckily, you can find one of them rather easily in Helga’s bunkhouse. Let’s hope she isn’t still sore about that whole statue thing.
4 Sheogorath Remembers Oblivion
During Mind of Madness, you will find Sheogorath sitting across from Pelagius III at a long table. It’s a strange sight that draws you in. As a result, most approach the Mad God and are immediately sucked into the quest. However, if you hold back, Sheogorath will begin to speak to Pelagius III.
During this conversation, Sheogorath will make references to the past, specifically, mentioning “the Fox”, “a severed head”, and “cheese”. While this seems normal enough, from the Mad God anyway, these references align well with the Gray Fox, Mathieu Bellamont's mother's head, and Sheogorath’s strange obsession with cheese during Oblivion. Perhaps the Hero of Kvatch really did become Sheogorath.
3 Battleborn and Grey-Mane: A Love Story
Despite being one of the first cities most players encounter, Whiterun has a few well-kept secrets. One of which is rather romantic. Hang around the marketplace near Jon Battleborn. If you’re patient, you may catch him and Olfina Grey-Mane exchanging a few loving words.
Since their families are currently in a well-publicized feud, this is all rather hush-hush. Continue following Jon long enough and you can even find the couple meeting for a secret picnic outside the city walls. This romance is also a little dark. There is a chance the meat vendor, a wood elf named Anoriath will mention this relationship to Olfina In response, Olfina will threaten Anoriath to stay quiet.
2 Bones Under the Ice
In the farthest reaches of Haafingar is a place hidden from the world. A land of ice and snow once enjoyed by a people long since devolved into the animalistic creatures known as Falmer. This place is called the Forgotten Vale.
Accessible during the main quest of Dawnguard, the Forgotten Vale is a place of mystery. Remnants of Snow Elf society, a powerful weapon from the Dawn Era, and least known of all, dozens of skeletons at the bottom of the lake. You read that right. Swim beneath the ice of the frozen lake to find numerous skeletons without weapons, armor, or other indications of what happened. We’re all ears if you have theories!
1 Skyrim Was Almost overrun by ghosts
The afterlife wasn’t always meant to be so final. A little sleuthing into the game files reveals that a number of NPCs were originally intended to return from the afterlife. People would return as ghosts for a period of time and would essentially say goodbye or haunt those they left behind.
Although the feature was ultimately cut, development got far enough that many of these ghosts even had dialogue written made. Some of the dialogue reveals that living NPCs would even speak to those close to the deceased about their loss. Why this feature was ultimately scrapped is a mystery, but lucky for us, you can get a taste of it thanks to some modders.
Do you know any Skyrim secrets we missed? Let us know in the comments!