I’ve been meaning to write about my experience with the Thieves Guild for some time now, but I just kept putting it off. But with the hefty time demands of Skyrim & Deus Ex, I was starting to feel bad about having almost no posts, so I decided to get off my lazy butt (so to speak) & start typing. The Thieves Guild storyline is the only storyline I’ve completed thus far. I don’t intend to give everything away, but this is a recounting of my experiences with the storyline, including random oddities & useful hints to other players who are going through the quests.
Typically, the Thieves Guild is one of the first factions I try to join when played Elder Scrolls, mainly because merchants have the uncanny ability to know when an item is stolen to prevent me from selling it to them. How does that work, exactly? I could sort of understand if they recognized something I’d stolen from them, but I find it hard to believe you can tell one iron helmet from another. What, do you have to show a receipt with every item you try to sell in Tamriel? And even if you’re not playing as a thief, eventually you’re bound to come across a tasty item that already belongs to someone else. So it’s worth it to join the guild if for no other reason than to sell your stolen items.
Another benefit to the Thieves Guild is that, once you’ve completed the storyline, the fences’ gold increases to 4000, giving them more money than any merchant I’ve come across so far. There’s a fence in most of the major cities, so that means no more running from store to store or city to city trying to sell all your items.
To join the Thieves Guild, I had to travel to Riften & speak with a man named Brynjolf. Brynjolf is one of the few NPC’s in the game that I really like. Maybe it’s because he’s one of the few characters that don’t act like a total prat the first time you speak to him. Or maybe it’s because I get tickled every time he calls me “lass” with his Irish/Scottish accent. I’m easily amused…
There are actually two parts to joining. The first is to complete Brynjolf’s job by stealing from a merchant’s lockbox & planting an item on another merchant. *Tip* You can make things easier on yourself by breaking into the lockbox at night before starting the quest. You can only do the quest during the day, & the stalls are outside, so just wait until no one’s watching to pick the lock. It saves time during the quest proper. After completing the quest, I had to fight my way to the Ragged Flagon underneath the city. It was pretty easy, though, since it’s dark & easy to do stealth kills. Once I reached the Ragged Flagon, a small bar in the sewers, Brynjolf gave me another task before I could officially join: collect the debt from three Riften citizens. I won’t go into the whole details, but speak to Brynjolf for ideas on how to accomplish this without violence. (There’s no penalty for killing guards & whatnot, but the general idea is to avoid killing people.) Afterwards, I was officially made part of the guild & given the Thieves Guild Armor. It’s a nice set of light armor, each piece with a perk suited for thieves. *VERY IMPORTANT NOTE* Do NOT get ride of this armor, even if you don’t use it. Later it’s required as part of a quest to have a piece upgraded. If you don’t have the armor, you can’t complete the quest & therefore can’t finish the storyline.
I really like the thieves. They’re a lot nicer than most people. Be sure to take the time to talk to them all. They have some interesting stories on how they became thieves. Some also offer training. Some other important notes about the Guild:
- There’s a training room with each level of lock to practice lockpicking. These do not reset, so you can only unlock them once.
- Talk to Vex to appraise your “unusual gem” to get a miscellaneous quest.
- Vekel offers a miscellaneous quest that’s quite interesting.
- During quests, you’ll come across unique items that you can sell to Delvin.
- Be sure to pick up the book “Shadowmarks” which explains the symbols the guild uses. You’ll find these symbols around Skyrim, & can be used to indicate caches or places worth looting.
- Vex & Delvin offer Special Jobs that I’ll take about more later on.
- There’s a quick entrance from the cemetery next to the temple.
I was surprised that, overall, there isn’t much actually stealing in the quests. At least not until towards the end. You actually come across more like a spy or agent. The overall story for the Guild is that it’s fallen on hard times. Their luck has run out, members have left, & the only city they still have a foothold in is Riften. Over the course of the storyline, you’ll not only remedy that but find out what caused the problem in the first place.
I don’t want to go into great detail for each quest, because I don’t want to spoil it, so I’ll just give some highlights & tips.
Loud & Clear. It’s okay to kill the mercenaries, & you’ll probably need to for the outside portion. It’s hard to be stealthy when you’re setting things on fire. I only had to kill one mercenary on the inside, & that was because he was facing the room I needed to enter. I sneaked past everyone else. And managed to pick a man’s pocket while he was staring at me but apparently didn’t see me.
Dampened Spirits. You’ll get this from Maven Black-Briar, an annoyingly arrogant woman who backs the Guild in Riften. (I got back at her later by stealing her prized horse Frost & giving it to some guy. But karma must’ve caught up with him because I later found him outside Whiterun… stuck in the ground.) This is a deviously fun mission where I got to poison a mead batch & frame a man for it, while dealing with a demented mage who planned to attack Whiterun with an army of skeevers.
Scoundrel’s Folly. I found this to be the toughest mission as far as sneaking went. The first part was relatively easy. Just steal some wine to bribe an Argonian. But then you have to follow him through the East Empire Warehouse. It’s tricky because there are guards everywhere. I had to kill one because he wouldn’t go away. Even when I was hiding under the docks in the water, they seemed to know I was there. It didn’t help that I got lost & couldn’t find the door the Argonian disappeared through. But once I got inside the grotto it got easier. Just pick the bandits off until you reach Gulum-Ei to learn the name of the person behind the previous two plots. This is also the quest where you have to upgrade a piece of the Thieves Guild armor to progress.
Speaking with Silence. This is where the big twist is & where the Guild’s storyline really starts to come into focus. Your job is to travel with Mercer, the Guild Master, to hunt down the woman who killed the previous Guild Master. Just a few notes: any follower will wait outside & will reappear then you exit the Sanctum. There’s also a Word Wall where you can learn Disarm. And a funny thing happened to me at the end. While going through the dialogue to end the quest, I was attacked by a frost troll. This isn’t uncommon, since the world doesn’t freeze while you’re in conversation like it did in Oblivion. It was funny to me, because I could see the troll coming but couldn’t interrupt with something like, “Hey lady, there’s a troll behind you.” But the only trouble it gave me was that I had to start the conversation all over again.
Hard Answers. This is a pretty long quest & involves several stages. The basic idea is to find a translation for the Falmer language. This involves first traveling to Winterhold, then Markarth. Calcelmo can translate it but refuses, so you can either steal his key (easily done but means you have to sneak through the first part of the museum) or earn it by killing a large frostbite spider in the nearby ruins (it’s very quick to do, so there’s no reason not to). I took the second option & got sidetracked, because you gain a second quest to explore the ruins proper at the end. The museum is pretty interesting, so it’s nice to get to stroll through it. But once you reach the private area, things get tricky. I ended up killing pretty much every guard here because there’s no way to get past them unnoticed. Thankfully, there are lots of dwemer boobytraps to deal with them. You’ll need a piece of charcoal & paper to complete the quest, but there are some in the final room, so it’s not an issue.
The Pursuit. There are two ways to infiltrate the traitor’s house. You can either just kill the bodyguard or erase his debt by finding the item he lost in the lake. I took the second option, but I think it would’ve been easier to do the first. The item’s a pain to find, & I’m pretty sure that with a follower the bodyguard shouldn’t be much trouble. I also had a hard time finding the secret door. *Tip* Look for the wardrobe you can completely open. I also recommend leaving your follower behind at this point. I had to reload the game because Lydia died from a poison trap. There are no enemies after this point. Avoid the traps until you reach the bottom. Loot the place. Take special note of the locked case with Chillrend inside. You may recognize it from previous games. It’s under an expert lock, but it’s worth the effort. It’s a glass sword with both a frost enchantment & a chance to paralyze. I got it levels ago & it’s still my main sword.
Trinity Restored. This was the real reason I wanted to start with the Thieves Guild. In this short quest I picked up the Nightingale Armor, the best & coolest light armor in the game. Not only does it look cool, but has good enchantments for thieves.
Blindsighted. Here you’ll track the traitor down & get the Skeleton Key back. Unfortunately, you have to return the key to Nocturnal. I was surprised that you get two followers (any prior follower will stay behind & reappear once you’re done.) The ruins are extensive, but I learned that you can sneak past most of the Falmar. Since they’re blind, I think as long as you’re in stealth you can avoid them. Expect some lag in the larger, more open areas.
Darkness Returns. The last proper quest, you have to face four trials to return the Skeleton Key. Be sure to grab the journal. I also highly recommend having Whirlwind Sprint. In the end, I met with Nocturnal & was given the option to choose one of three Nightingale Powers. I, personally, recommend Shadowcloak. It’s a useful invisibility power that lasts for 120 seconds when you’re stealthed. The great thing about it is, although it wears off if you interact with something, you become invisible again when you sneak so long as the time limit hasn’t run out.
At this point, the main quests are over, but you’re not finished yet. To restore the Guild & become Guildmaster, you have to complete Special Jobs. When you complete five in the same hold, you’ll receive a special quest, that once you complete will bring new merchants into the Flagon. Vex & Delvin give the jobs. You can choose the type, but the locations are random. That’s the worst part. They’ll still give you missions in holds you’ve already finished, but you can keep turning them down for no consequence. I have a long list of “failed” quests in my journal now because they just did not want to give me jobs in Markarth. Delvin’s Number Jobs are the easiest. You just have to activate a business ledger while no one’s looking. It’s super easy to do. The books are always in the open, & even if the owner follows you around the store you can sneak it past them. You can only take one job apiece from Delvin & Vex. I stuck with Numbers & Burglary jobs.
After completing all four jobs, I became the new Guild Master. My prize was a new set of armor (still not as good as the Nightingale) & an Amulet of Articulation, which is supposed to make persuasion almost always succeed. And now I have my own little underground city
Not too shabby for a weekend.