|This guide should not be used to suggest any cheats or exploits for making money. All methods must be 100% legitimate.|
Making money is an important aspect of gameplay. Whether you are a novice adventurer in need of training and supplies, a seasoned adventurer looking for a new house, planning on enchanting items, or creating your own spells, a stable source of income is essential.
The amount of money you can make is unlimited and you can make it fairly quickly, so do not be miserly! Spend your money freely to get the items you want or need. The objective of this guide is to make significant amounts of gold using methods that are not immediately obvious. Players just starting out should refer here.
- The following generally improves vendor-selling-to-player prices:
- Raise a merchant's Disposition (100 is best); Fortify Personality helps raise it temporarily and automatically, and Fortify Speechcraft helps efforts raise it lastingly through Persuasion.
- Use the Fortify Mercantile spell effect, which strongly influences prices. Stacking this effect with multiple spells and items may not always reduce the opening price but is likely to have a marked impact on the price the merchant will accept.
- Ensure your Fatigue bar is 100% full (so maybe do not run to the merchant but walk or teleport with Recall; see detailed tip about that below).
- There are two creature merchants who will buy and sell items at their listed value; they have no Disposition or Personality of their own, so Personality, Mercantile, Speechcraft, Persuasion, and Fatigue have no effect on them, pro or con. The only variance from list price will be due to weapon or armor damage. These creature merchants are:
A lot of loot and many monsters are randomly determined and depend on your level when you open the container or enter the dungeon, due to the Leveled List system. High-level characters will find high-end equipment and monsters everywhere, and may get valuable container loot (especially with a high Luck) even for fights against bandits/smugglers who are weak for that PC level.
Low-level characters are better off with quest rewards, easily obtainable placed items, pearl diving, and similar money-making activities where the profit is fixed and the risk low, saving most caves for later.
It's a mistake to use tricks like Invisibility and Chameleon to "take peeks" inside every encountered cave, shrine, and tomb and their containers, and then come back for them later; you'll get foes and loot appropriate to the level at which you first did this there, not your current one. Another mistake is to set aside quests and go on a "bandit and smuggler extermination" rampage across the island when you're level 12 or so and think you can pull it off; this will shut you out of better loot in these places when you are around level 40 and have very high Luck (if you've been smart about leveling). For one thing, these places are the primary sources (without the Tribunal add-on, anyway) of Grand Soul Gems.
The Selling-to-merchants Bug
Curiously, player-selling-to-merchant prices are sometimes improved by using a Drain Mercantile spell effect on the player character, sometimes in combination with having a somewhat lower disposition. This is widely regarded as an outright bug. The disposition must be above 50 and below 100, with best results often around 85–90, but varying widely as a factor of your stats versus those of the merchant at any given time.
An effective routine is to raise disposition to this range (if it's not already there), without any Personality enhancements active (other than Charm, which seems to help), and use Drain Mercantile for selling, then use Fortify Personality enhancements to temporarily raise Disposition to at or near 100 without Persuasion (which would permanently change the Disposition), plus a Fortify Mercantile effect, for buying. One's ability to negotiate better buying-from-merchant prices (often much better) is boosted with abnormally high Mercantile skill. Necessarily, the Drain Mercantile to get good a good starting price suppresses the ability to haggle your selling price to even better profit (you may be able to raise the opener only 1 or a few gold). For particular vendors (they all have their own stats), it may be more productive to use this Drain Mercantile method to get better sell-to-merchant prices to begin with, or to use very strong Fortify Mercantile to get better ability to negotiate a low sell-to-merchant price to a better one; experimentation is required to best "work" each merchant, and it may shift with that merchant over time as your own stats change. Regardless, values of about +40 on the Fortify and -40 on the Drain are probably within reason for not straining roleplay plausibility to the breaking point.
It's not clear if this bug affects all versions of the game. A simple test is to save your game at a merchant with 100 Disposition, offer the merchant a semi-pricey item, like a 200-gold cuirass, and note the starting bid the merchant offers. Offer it again while affected by Drain Mercantile. Then reload the game, reduce the merchant's Disposition to around 88, and offer the item again with and without Drain Mercantile, and then try it again with Disposition in the 51–60 range. If you get notably better opening bids with any combination that logically shouldn't work, your copy of the game has this bug, and these tests should at least for that merchant indicate what combination of Disposition and Mercantile reduction to shoot for when selling. You may find it most expedient to enchant a "selling ring" and a "buying ring" to boost or reduce Mercantile to improve average prices, without trying to individually "work" each merchant.
Another way to improve your own selling prices is to boost Mercantile to abnormally high levels, as expected (driven high enough with stacked potions and/or spells, you can get all of a merchant's gold for a single goblet, a rather immersion-breaking exploit). It's "somewhat high" that doesn't always work intuitively, with "really low" sometimes working better.
Selling Valuable Items
Quick Explanation: Receive a Daedric weapon as reward.
- Travel to Vassir-Didanat Cave south of Balmora.
- Find Dram Bero in Vivec's St. Olms Plaza, Haunted Manor.
- Reveal to him the location of the mine. Use/sell your reward.
For characters able to handle Dremora Lords without much trouble, there's also an exploit to get an unending supply of them to kill for their weapons, which are Daedric at higher levels, and always at least Dwarven or Ebony.
Quick Explanation: Starting with a player level of 25 or so, the Dark Brotherhood assassins of the Tribunal expansion carry high-value loot which you can sell. Even the lower-level ones have valuable armor. Don't talk to Apelles Matius about them until after the tenth attack.
- You will be randomly attacked in your sleep (Rest, not Wait) by Dark Brotherhood assassins, up to a maximum of ten times. Their armor is valuable, and at a player level of 25 or higher, their weapons even more so. The attacks may begin as early as level 1, and may occur when you sleep anywhere (including wilderness) other than on the bedroll in the Seyda Neen Census and Excise Office.
- Sell the items for quick money, but probably keep one set of the armor for your own use; it's the lightest in the game (great for loot-hauling forays), and at lower levels it's the best-protection light armor readily available for some time.
- Rest on the Census bedroll to avoid attacks if you don't feel ready for them. Otherwise, when you want an attack, Red while standing between the bunkbeds in the Fighter's Guild bedroom; this spot causes the assassin (if he appears) to spawn trapped in a bed and an easy victim – you can kill him without him fighting back, earning you an extra item (a "Strange Dart") worth 2000. Keep track of the number of attacks.
- Avoid talking to Apelles Matius about the assassin attacks until after the tenth attack, the last one you'll receive and the last opportunity to collect this loot from the assassins without going to their home turf. Mentioning assassins to Matius will make the attacks stop immediately, after he suggests you talk to Asciene Rane about going to Mournhold. (There's not much for low-level characters to do there anyway; the goblins and Gaenor will kill you like a gnat, and even the little bar-bouncer quest requires more punishment than you can dish out yet.) So, happily "harvest" the ten assassins who'll unwisely come to you.
- When you reach level 25, higher-rank Dark Brotherhood members will carry a Daedric weapon; together with the armor, this loot has a nominal value of over 50,000 gold. There is no point trying to delay your ten sleep-assassins until level 25 in hopes of getting this gear, as there's an unlimited supply of Dark Brotherhood thugs for you to kill in their own clubhouse. If you've leveled carefully and are already regularly looting Golden Saints and Dremora with ease, for similar weapon loot, you are ready to take the fight home to the DB base in Old Mournhold, accessible through Mournhold's sewers, even if you can't yet handle the Goblins elsewhere in the sewer system. Range attacks, and Resist and Cure Poison, are your friends (also against the DBs' sewer neighbors, the Black Dart Gang).
- The DB members hiding out down there will respawn like creatures and generic city Guards, even if you have found and killed their boss, Dandras Vules. Venture in and pick off a few when you're short of cash, or clear out the whole lot of them on a regular basis. If you always remove their corpses, you can get more loot than you can carry just by exiting and re-entering their cells (a cavern and some manorial ruins inside it).
- Travel to Dren Plantation, Dren's Villa.
- Hide behind a pole in the room.
- Sneak slowly towards the cuirass and take it. You might need 15 or more levels of Sneak. Telekinesis for a few seconds can also be used, more safely.
Quick Explanation: Repair broken glass daggers.
- Buy one badly damaged glass dagger, for a just a few coins, in each of the following locations:
- Repair them yourself or have them repaired; sell them for a profit.
Master's Alchemy Set
Quick Explanation: Steal Master alchemical apparatus.
- Travel to Caldera, Guild of Mages.
- Enter the tower near Ernand Thierry and close the door behind you.
- Steal the alchemical apparatus on the top of the tower.
Quick Explanation: Steal a partial set of Orcish armor.
- Travel to Caldera, Ghorak Manor.
- Go to the top floor and take the Orcish armor from one of the crates around Duma gro-Lag, and the weapon and gold on the rafters above (use Jump or Levitate).
You may also steal any item in the manor with impunity, despite verbal complaints; all of its occupants have zero Alarm.
Quick Explanation: Steal filled soul gems.
- Join the Mages Guild at Balmora and complete Ajira's first quest.
- Start the second quest.
- While Galbedir is downstairs, take all the soul gems from her desk. Note that hereafter, any soul gems you have (regardless of type) will be considered stolen; stealing one from anyone is as if stealing them all. These ones in particular have Mages Guild faction ownership, too, so do not try to sell soul gems to the guild's personnel.
Selling to the Museum
Quick Explanation: Find and sell valuable Artifacts to the museum.
- Own the Tribunal expansion.
- Find Artifacts in various dungeons.
- Sell them to Torasa Aram in the Mournhold Museum of Artifacts.
Each artifact sells for up to 30,000 gold, and several of of dubious usefulness to a player anyway.
Selling Large Quantities of Items
Quick Explanation: Kill respawning Daedra for their item (and souls).
- Go to Falas Ancestral Tomb at Gnisis.
- Kill the three Daedra inhabitants.
- Loot and dispose of the corpses.
- Leave and reenter the tomb; the Daedra will have respawned once more.
- Repeat as needed.
This technique can be used at any location where non-unique Daedra spawn, including in and around most Daedric shrines. When you can handle it, the most efficient course is to find one with multiple Daedra outside (up to five at some shrines), plus more inside, and keep going in and out, disposing corpses each time; you'll have a tremendous amount of loot in no time. Do a Mark so you can Recall back for what you had to leave behind, or pile it all up and use the next trick below, if you exercised some pre-planning.
Quick Explanation: Collect more loot than you can carry and teleport out of the dungeon.
- Cast Mark next to a merchant.
- Clear out a dungeon.
- Carry as much loot as you can and deposit it all in one location within the dungeon. Repeat until satisfied with your loot.
- Put in it one pile, so you don't have to move to get it all. Then pick up all of it.
- Cast Recall to return to the merchant.
Quick Explanation: Kill respawning NPCs for their items.
- Go to one of the many villages, towns, cities, or forts in Vvardenfell.
- Commit a minor crime to earn a small Bounty.
- Lockpicking, or sleeping in an owned bed, will safely earn you a Bounty of five gold.
- Theft of low-value items, and pickpocketing attempts, carry the risk of increasing a witness NPC's Fight attribute. This might be a problem with some NPCs, unless it is a Guard.
- Talk to a Guard or Ordinator. Resist arrest. Kill. Loot. Repeat as needed.
- To clear your name, just pay off your Bounty. If you are a member of the Thieves Guild, you need only pay half your Bounty, when you finally decide to pay it off, if you go to right guild person to do so.
- You may have to temporarily drop items you have stolen before. Paying the fine removes all stolen and contraband items in your inventory. However, you can recover confiscated goods from the Evidence Chest in the closest Imperial facility or (in odd cases like Wolverine Hall) Fighters Guild.
- An alternative to the petty crime shtick: If you have a decent amount of Speechcraft, you can just Taunt (and re-raise their Disposition via bribing, in case it gets low). If taunting provokes the guard to attack you, you may kill him without earning a Bounty, as it counts as a self-defense. It also works against other non-hostile NPCs.
- Another option is using Frenzy Humanoid to spur the attack.
Quick Explanation: Sell an item that will kill its wearer.
- Make or find clothing or armor with a deadly, constant-effect enchantment.
- Sell it to a merchant; if it is more valuable than what the merchant is currently wearing, the merchant will wear it.
- Wait for the merchant to die, then loot the body. Note that if somebody witnesses the merchant's death; it will be reported as your crime.
Quick Explanation: Dive for pearls.
- Travel to any of the various shores and grottos of Vvardenfell.
- Collect Pearls from the Kollops. Beware of the usual Slaughterfish and (after the first few levels) Dreughs.
- Walk along shores, including of rivers and pools; you can often find Kollops visible in shallow water, and these are typically harvestable quickly enough you won't be attacked.
- Fortify Luck increases the chance of a Kollop containing a Pearl.
Quick Explanation: Make potions and sell them.
- Buy ingredients from a merchant who restocks them.
- Using Alchemy, combine the ingredients into a potion. The following spell effects increases your chances of success:
Quick Explanation: Trap and sell souls.
- Acquire the Soultrap spell effect; then get a ranged (on-target) version of it from a Spellmaker.
- Capture the souls of creatures you kill in soul gems.
Soultrapping summoned creatures may prove to be a sustainable source of income, and is easier than harvesting wild ones, since summons can be struck up to three times before fighting back. Just do it quickly.
It helps to get a weapon with the Soultrap effect on strike, either for long enough to consistently win the fight, or for shorter durations to use as a final-strike weapon.
Be aware that Golden Saints hate being Soultrapped and will always stop attacking to try to Dispel the effect (or any other you place on them). This can be used to your advantage: You can hit them again and again with a Soul Trap on strike weapon, probably without taking any damage from the GS yourself. The down side is that hitting them with a weak ST weapon then switching to a higher-damage regular one usually results in a failed ST attempt, because it will have been dispelled by the time you kill the GS.