The Archmage's Ruminations

Guide to Help my Silly Friend Brian Understand Skyrim

Blogmaster Helen Cothrel,

A good friend of mine, Brian, has been fascinated with my love for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim ever since the game’s release a little over a year ago. He’s not much of a gamer, so he had a lot of questions about why it was such a big deal. I figured I’d write up a quick-and-dirty post covering the very basics of the game. Here’s my “Guide to Help My Silly Friend Brian Understand Skyrim.” Don’t be afraid! I’ll try to get you through the nerdspeak unscathed.

The Basics

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is the fifth installment in The Elder Scrolls game series. Released in November 2011, Skyrim was developed by Bethesda Game Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks. Skyrim is an action/adventure RPG. (“RPG” is a nerd acronym meaning “role-playing game;” in RPGs, the player assumes the role of characters in fictional settings.)

The Story

The Elder Scrolls series is set in the fictional continent of Tamriel, and each installment in the series has taken place in a different province on the map. Skyrim is set in the northernmost province: Skyrim. In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the main story focuses on your efforts to kill Alduin, an ancient dragon prophesied to annihilate the world. The main quest line is spent discovering the story of Alduin and what you must do to defeat him. Though pretty well done, the main quest is dwarfed by the immense game world and the sheer amount of content. Other notable quest lines include those that stem from joining guilds (separate groups for mages, fighters, and thieves) in the game world, as well numerous quests bestowed upon you by the Daedra Lords, immortal god-like beings of the underworld.

Map of the continent of Tamriel.


The Elder Scrolls series utilizes nonlinear gameplay. Here, “nonlinear” means that the player can complete challenges, missions, or quests in different sequences; there is no set order in which you must complete separate quest lines. That is, you can tackle the main story line immediately after beginning the game, or 150 hours later, after you are level 65 and have finished every single side quest and explored every cave and dungeon thrice. The leveling system is straightforward: you start at level 1, and as you use skills (archery, alchemy, or sneaking, among others) you get better at those skills and level up. Nonlinear gameplay is coupled with an open world; essentially, that means the player can roam freely through the province of Skyrim while playing the game.

Skyrim is enormous, so this translates into a level of world-exploration you’d be hard-pressed to find in other games. A player will spend a good bit of time traveling and exploring. Other time is broken up between the following:

  • Crafting items with blacksmithing, alchemy, and enchanting
  • Talking to NPCs (non-player characters) to receive, advance in, or complete quests
  • Combat with bandits, giants, dragons, and various beasts of Skyrim, either by chance or as part of a quest


Characters in the world of Skyrim are one of ten races that are found throughout The Elder Scrolls series. Races are organized into human, elven, and beast (the cat- and lizard-people). Characters are impressively customizable, and each race has a couple of unique abilities and bonuses.

The races of Skyrim, both male and female.

The player’s combat abilities consist of:

  • Magic: from shooting fireballs from your hands to healing yourself
  • Stealth: for example, sneaking up on an enemy and stabbing them from behind
  • Weaponry: bows, blades, maces, and so on

I could go on, but I hope this quick guide helps you understand Skyrim just a little more. I know it’s not a deep commentary on the game, but you should be able to tell that Skyrim is a huge game with a lot to offer.

Thoughts? Questions? Or, is there something you like to see me write about? Leave a comment!


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