Skyrim:Quest Timing

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Quests to Start Immediately[edit]

These are quests with no hard level requirements, and no consequences that impact future events or other possible quests unless the impact is trivial or undesirable anyway, in which case it would be noted. If a quest has prerequisites, those must also qualify under these rules. Quests here also do not require any more than minor skill usage, because of the levelups incurred as a result, but keep in mind that quests that require outdoor travel may result in combat from random hostile encounters, possibly resulting in unwanted leveling. If the benefit comes from an intermediate part of the quest rather than as a reward for finishing the quest, that would be mentioned in the Notes section.

Early-Game Items[edit]

These quests have little to no skill use and allow very easy access to items that are better than what can be found normally at the beginning of the game. They aren't as useful to players past the early game stage.

Greatsword for a Great Man
Skill Use: None
Why: Balgruuf's Greatsword (temporarily)
Notes: The delivery quest reward is only 20 gold. You will be given the sword at the start of the quest and may use it as long as you like. It is better than any other early equivalent item.
Beginning Region: Whiterun

Take Up Arms
Skill Use: None
Why: Vilkas's Sword (temporarily)
Notes: After training with him, Vilkas asks you to take his sword to Eorlund Gray-Mane for sharpening. As is the case with Balgruuf's greatsword, you can use this weapon for however long you desire. Vilkas's sword is identical to a Skyforge Steel Sword in stats and appearance, and a sword of similar quality is not normally obtainable until you start the Companions questline.
Beginning Region: Whiterun

Andurs' Arkay Amulet
Skill Use: Limited combat
Why: Andurs' Amulet of Arkay (+10 Health)
Notes: The delivery quest reward is only 15 gold. There is no time limit on use of the amulet. A follower will easily handle the combat. The unusual gem located in the catacombs will trigger the Thieves Guild quest No Stone Unturned, leading you to A Chance Arrangement (below).
Beginning Region: Whiterun

Argonian Ale Extraction
Skill Use: None
Why: Potion of Vigorous Healing (Restore Health 100 points)
Notes: If you wish to do this quest without stealing, chop some wood outside the inn and sell it to Hulda. Her disposition will rise enough so that you can take low-value items, including the ale, from the inn without it being theft.
Beginning Region: Whiterun

Skill Use: None
Why: Alessandra's Dagger (temporarily)
Notes: You will be given the dagger at the start of the quest and may use it as long as you like. You should delay delivering it until you've reached level 40 of Restoration, as a bug prevents you from receiving the quest rewards otherwise. It is very light and increases speed for dual-wielding.
Beginning Region: Riften

The Taste of Death (first part)
Skill Use: One Speech use
Why: Amulet of Arkay (+10 Health)
Beginning Region: Markarth

Guild Quests[edit]

The first quests for joining some of Skyrim's guilds offer some interesting benefits, so if the player has an interest in joining one, it might be worth to do it ASAP.

A Chance Arrangement, Taking Care of Business and Meet the Family
Skill Use: Normally moderate (lockpicking, 1 pickpocket, fighting bandits), but can be minimized, as noted on the quest pages
Why: Thieves Guild Armor (including a hood that is one of the few non-necklaces providing Fortify Barter); access to a fence
Why Not: Takes some preparation to complete quests without skill usage.
Notes: Takes place entirely in Riften (midpoint Innocence Lost).
Beginning Region: Riften

Innocence Lost, and With Friends Like These...
Skill Use: None
Why: Shrouded Armor, which is superior to even dragonscale at low skill levels if you equip all four pieces; a word for Marked for Death; several minor benefits. You can also obtain a partial set of scaled armor off of Fultheim the Fearless if you kill him, which has an even better base armor rating than the Shrouded Armor, and is not normally available to you until later in the game.
Why Not: If you complete With Friends Like These... in favor of the Dark Brotherhood, Destroy the Dark Brotherhood! will not be accessible. Although the latter provides the same immediate benefits, it is a rather difficult quest, and it removes the rest of the Dark Brotherhood questline and related rewards.
Beginning Region: Windhelm, Solitude

First Lessons and Under Saarthal (first part)
Skill Use: Two spellcastings
Why: An apprentice-level spell for 30 gold; Lesser Ward for free; three Enchanted Rings (+20 Health); access to several miscellaneous quests that can be completed without any skill usage; access to the Atronach Forge; access to one word of the Ice Form shout, several minor benefits.
Notes: At 100 Magicka, you may not be able to cast the spell required without Fortify Magicka apparel or potions, so come prepared. If you stop before entering Saarthal proper (second zone), a follower will easily handle the combat. No departing carriage, but quick fast travel to Windhelm (terminus Innocence Lost).
Beginning Region: Winterhold

Other Benefits[edit]

A Lovely Letter
Skill Use: None
Why: 25 gold, a follower
Notes: Potential Archery trainer. Takes place entirely in Riverwood (the first town discovered by most players).
Beginning Region: Riverwood

The Book of Love
Skill Use: None
Why: Amulet of Mara (marriage, Restoration spells cost 10% less magicka to cast), Agent of Mara (+15% Resist Magic)
Why Not: Need to visit four locations spread across Skyrim, two of which cannot be reached by carriage.
Beginning Region: Riften

Bloody Nose
Skill Use: None
Why: A borrowed horse and 100 gold
Notes: Takes place entirely in Riften.
Beginning Region: Riften

Skill Use: Trivial
Why: A borrowed horse and leveled Potion of Invisibility
Notes: Takes place entirely in Riften. Completing Taking Care of Business removes the need to spend any gold to complete this quest.
Beginning Region: Riften

Few and Far Between
Time: 10-15 minutes
Skill Use: None (flower-picking)
Why: Free potions and poisons every few days
Notes: See quest page for easy locations of ingredients.
Beginning Region: Riften

Gather Wheat at Katla's Farm
Skill Use: None
Why: A borrowed horse, several minor benefits
Beginning Region: Solitude

The Mind of Madness
Skill Use: One Speech or Pickpocket use
Why: Wabbajack
Notes: Takes place entirely in Solitude.
Beginning Region: Solitude

Salt for Arcadia, Bothela's Discreet Delivery, Truth Ore Consequences, No News is Good News, and Rare Gifts for Lami
Skill Use: None
Why: Many of these quests will have rewards of their own, but the main reward - a reward that lasts the rest of the game - is the privilege to take their low-value items without stealing. These are the most valuable NPCs to obtain this status with, since they own apothecary stores. These supposedly "low-value" ingredients can be mixed into high-value potions that can be used to make a good amount of money. It is worth noting that, while Frida of Dawnstar and Nurelion of Windhelm both offer quests that provide this reward for their apothecary stores, these quests actually require some dungeon-delving.
Beginning Region: Whiterun, Markarth, Riften, Solitude, Morthal respectively

Coming of Age
Skill Use: None
Why: Steel Battleaxe of Fiery Souls, which has a very useful enchantment to learn in the early game, and a word of the Become Ethereal Shout.
Why Not: Salma may grab the aforementioned weapon during the fight before you can take it yourself.
Notes: Although Ironbind Barrow is full of draugr, you can simply let Salma and Beem-Ja rush ahead and do all the fighting. They won't die unless hit by friendly fire, so they can clear the entire dungeon for you while you tag along and gather all the loot. When you reach Gathrik let them and a follower distract him while you pelt him from range. By that point, Beem-Ja will be weakened from the boss fight, and can be killed easily once he betrays you. At low levels, Beem-Ja will not even use magic, so the earlier you do this quest, the better.
Beginning Region: Winterhold near Nightgate Inn

The House of Horrors (first part)
Skill Use: Limited combat
Why: Apprentice Robes of Restoration (Regen Magicka 75%, Fortify Restoration 15%), Apprentice Hood (+40 Magicka), Amulet of Stendarr (+10 Block), access to a free house
Notes: A follower will easily handle the combat.
Beginning Region: Markarth

That Was Always There
Skill Use: One lockpick or pickpocket
Why: Speech training from Revyn Sadri
Notes: Revyn Sadri is the only Speech trainer who is also a general trader available at the beginning of the game. He can train you up to 50, at which point you can get the Merchant perk, which is very useful if you manage to get it early on. Once you have the perk, you can take advantage of every other trainer who is also a merchant of some kind, selling them loot and crafted items to get your gold back. This quest does require you to either pickpocket Viola Giordano's key, or pick the expert lock to her home, but it's not really that hard to pick expert locks at low skill levels. If you prefer the pickpocketing route, Silda the Unseen, the expert trainer in Pickpocket, also lives in Windhelm.
Beginning Region: Windhelm

Quests to Do As Soon As Possible[edit]

This section is for quests that do not qualify for "to do immediately" because they have a level requirement, or a nontrivial impact on the game (or a prerequisite quest does), or skill usage requirements that will force levelups, but once you reach a certain point, there is a benefit to completing these quickly.

Most Daedric quests fall into this category, since they all reward you with unleveled items. However, most of those items are useless to too many characters to merit mention here.

All of these quests require a significant amount of combat or other skill use that will result in levelups (potentially several, at low levels).

Siddgeir's Rare Gift, Kill the Bandit Leader (Jarl), and Thane of Falkreath
Skill Use: Moderate
Why: Thane of Falkreath.
Notes: The reason this should be done as soon as possible is because there are only a handful of citizens in the hold who have favors you can do for them, many of whom are not essential. Falkreath is especially vulnerable to random dragon attacks, due to its close proximity to Ancient's Ascent. Morthal gets its fair share of random dragon attacks, too, but A) Becoming Thane of that hold requires a potentially deadly struggle with a vampire, and B) there are plenty of quest NPCs in that hold (many of whom spend a majority of time indoors, safe from dragon attacks) that the loss of a few of them won't hurt as much as in Falkreath. There is a bottle of Black-Briar Mead at the tail end of the tutorial dungeon, just beyond the spot where your partner crouches to warn you about the bear, just in front of the partner to his right. This bottle can be used to quickly and easily complete the first of these three quests.
Beginning Region: Falkreath

Blood on the Ice
When: Special travel timing. See Blood on the Ice notes for details.
Difficulty: Easy
Time: Around 10 minutes, depending on your preferred style of play
Why: The Necromancer Amulet is a legendary-quality item very useful for low-level spellcasting characters, especially those interested in Conjuration, and can be sold for a lot of gold for a low-level character. There are numerous glitches associated with this quest, and the best fix is to start the quest as soon as possible and complete it all at once. Additionally, during Mourning Never Comes, you are given the option to kill Nilsine Shatter Shield for a bonus. Doing this will cause her mother to kill herself. This can cause a fair amount of problems with quest progression, so it's best to complete Blood on the Ice first.
Notes: Assuming you have previously arrived in Windhelm completing the Innocence Lost quest, the next time you arrive in the evening will likely start this quest.
Beginning Region: Windhelm

Paid in FullDB
When: After the quest Taking Care of Business.
Difficulty: Easy
Time: Around 10 minutes, depending on your preferred style of play
Why: Access to the hidden room in Glover Mallory's house, which is filled with valuable respawning enchanted gear.
Notes: Little combat and skill usage is involved, and you may travel to Solstheim as early as level one if you pay 250 gold to sail on the Northern Maiden. This cost is easily offset by the Blackguard's Armor set, which is more powerful than the Thieves Guild Guild Master's complete armor set and has stronger enchantments.
Beginning Region: Solstheim

A Night To Remember
When: Level 14
Difficulty: Easy. With speech skill of 50 and two invisibility potions no fighting is required.
Why: The Daedric artifact the Sanguine Rose is a very powerful staff for a player or follower.
Why Not: Choosing to fight and/or buy one's way through this quest can be quite challenging at low levels.
Notes: The speech checks required for peaceful and/or inexpensive progress can be achieved using skill boosting potions, shrines and blessings.
Beginning Region: any tavern

The Break of Dawn
When: Level 12 (required), 24 (suggested) or 40 (recommended)
Why: If you favor one-handed weapons or have a follower who does, Dawnbreaker's unique enchantment is exceptionally powerful and can turn difficult undead areas into cakewalks.
Why Not: Kilkreath Ruins have minimum level 24. The quest's "enemy boss" can be extremely difficult to beat, but has a maximum level 40. You may want to wait a few levels, or even longer, if you don't really have a use for the sword. If you are level 38 or higher, the creatures inside the dungeon will have grand souls, making them extremely useful for Enchanting.

The Forsworn Conspiracy and No One Escapes Cidhna Mine
Difficulty: Easy/Medium
Time: Around 20 minutes, depending on your preferred style of play
Why: Armor of the Old Gods and/or Silver-Blood Family Ring, also can make some Forsworn non-hostile depending on how you complete the quests.
Notes: These quests do not qualify for "to do early" because of their skill use demands. Assuming you arrive in Markarth on The Book of Love quest, the timing will be about right for some minor skill usage without excessive level raising. Only the first two investigative steps of Forsworn Conspiracy should be done initially, and the remainder delayed until conditions are ripe. Note that if you side with the Stormcloaks in the Civil War, if you complete Forsworn Conspiracy before Compelling Tribute and then wait until after Compelling Tribute to start Cidhna Mine, it will become unavailable permanently. It is also possible to have the same effect result from completing Forsworn Conspiracy, then completing Season Unending before Cidhna Mine, even if you have not joined the Stormcloaks.

Take Up Arms and Proving Honor
Difficulty: Medium
Time: Around 30 minutes, depending on your preferred style of play
Why: After completing both these quests you are given a Skyforge steel weapon (which are equivalent to elven weapons but lighter), and you can buy more of them if you wish. Also note that Farkas is badly bugged, so if you leave it for too long it will become much harder to complete until you reach very high levels.

Frostflow Abyss
When: Level 20
Why: 10% bonus to healing spells.
Why Not: This quest may be difficult for some characters due to the large number of Falmer and chaurus, and is of no benefit if you rely on potions for all your healing.

The Heart of Dibella
Difficulty: Medium
Time: Around 30 minutes, depending on your preferred style of play
Why: 10% bonus melee damage to the opposite sex, access to the master-level trainer in Enchanting.
Notes: This quest does not qualify for "to do early" because of its skill use demands, and it also has a major bug that can break it. It's certainly worth completing as soon as you're comfortable doing so though, especially for female characters.
Beginning Region: Markarth

Ill Met by Moonlight
When: Before contracting lycanthropy.
Difficulty: Easy/Trivial
Time: Around 15 minutes
Why: The Cursed Ring only affects werewolves, so getting this out of the way before that's relevant means not having it trigger at random and getting you a massive bounty or even killed. Sinding will easily handle all of the killing for you, especially at low levels. However, if you choose to kill Sinding, he is a difficult fight.
Notes: Assuming you arrive in Falkreath during the With Friends Like These... quest, the timing will be about right for some minor skill usage without excessive level raising.
Beginning Region: Falkreath

Lost to the AgesDG
When: As soon as possible. See Aetherial Crown for more details.
Difficulty: Medium/Hard
Time: Around 2 hours, depending on your preferred style of play
Why: The unique bow Zephyr and the Aetherial Crown. The Aetherial Crown lets you combine two Standing Stones at once, leading to powerful combinations such as The Apprentice Stone and The Atronach Stone, or faster leveling such as The Lover Stone (+15% XP for all skills) and one of The Guardian Stones (+20% XP for magic, stealth or combat skills).
Why Not: Killing Alain Dufont before starting Mourning Never Comes can limit options for Mourning Never Comes (due to conflicts)
Notes: A fair amount of travel, combat, and skill usage is involved in this quest, making it difficult to avoid leveling.

No Stone Unturned
Difficulty: Easy/Medium
Time: A while, but worth it!
Why: The reward you receive at the end of a long chain of quests, Prowler's Profit, will make your character rich, quickly and fairly!
Why Not: Thieving may not appeal to some players and finding all 24 gems takes a very long time (you will need to traverse many locales and clear many of them, unless your sneaking is good).

Promises to Keep
Difficulty: Medium
Time: About 20 minutes
Why: A free horse
Why Not: Requires fairly good combat or stealth skills.

Unfathomable Depths
When: Level 15
Why: Smithing increases 15% faster; permanent 25% increase to armor rating while wearing Dwarven armor.
Why Not: Not much value to characters that wear no armor, or those who don't use Smithing.
Note: Ancient Knowledge actually gives a 25% bonus while wearing any type of armor except Dwarven and increases effective Smithing skill by 15% when tempering weapons and armor instead of giving a Smithing leveling bonus of 15%. This bug was supposed to be fixed by the final version of the Official Skyrim Patch, but was not. The armor bonuses it actually gives are therefore useful for a wide variety of characters.

Quests to Save for Later[edit]

This section is for quests that have unique leveled rewards with genuine value, or sweeping impact on the world.

Dragon Rising
Why: Completing this quest early ensures a large number of Dragon Souls by exploring, if you are capable of surviving the dragon's attacks.
Why Not: After completing this quest, Skyrim will be full of dragons. Deferring it until you're in the mood to fight dragons lets you explore the world in relative peace and allows you to learn Words from Dragon Lairs more easily. Note that starting the quest will not cause dragons to appear; only after killing Mirmulnir will dragons start spawning.
Note: While A Blade in the Dark is active dragon locations will be limited to dragon walls. Other than dragon walls, random dragon encounters are nearly eliminated while A Blade in the Dark is active allowing for controlled access to dragon fights.

Joining the Stormcloaks or Joining the Legion
Why Not: Joining either the Stormcloaks or the Legion removes access to all the opposing faction's camps and causes "random encounter" fights to occur. Capturing towns has been known to break certain quests.

Bards College miscellaneous quests, and other quests that offer skill-ups as rewards
Why Not: Early in the game, skill-ups will come easily enough as it is. You should turn in these quests when the corresponding skills are at 95-99, where natural skill-ups will be hardest.

When: Start it immediately to enjoy the weightless dagger. However, turn the quest in when your restoration skill is at level 40 or higher.
Why Not: A glitch in the quest causes you to not receive the quest reward if your restoration skill is less than 40.

Quests to Start but not Finish[edit]

These are typically quests that involve a temporary follower who is essential, allowing you to add an unkillable ally to your party. The best of these by far is Barbas from A Daedra's Best Friend, who is uniquely invulnerable rather than merely unkillable, though his behavior can make him hard to tolerate.

Darkness Returns
Why: Completing the previous quest Blindsighted, which automatically starts this quest, will gain you the Skeleton Key, an unbreakable lockpick. The powers you gain access to for completing this quest, which results in the loss of the Skeleton Key, can be easily acquired by other means.

The Taste of Death
Why: Brother Verulus will follow you in addition to any other followers you may have.

Speaking With Silence
Why: Mercer Frey is a fast, invincible killing machine who dual-wields two powerful weapons and has a variety of powerful combat skill perks, including Dual Flurry and Savage Strike.
Why Not: Since Frey can't be told to wait, he can often give away your position when you're trying to be stealthy.

Trinity Restored
Why: Brynjolf is just as good as Mercer as a follower.
Why Not: He has the same drawback as a follower that Mercer does.

Why: Once you meet them after the initial portion of Irkngthand, both Brynjolf and Karliah - two powerful fighters in their own right - will follow you, even outside the dungeon.
Why Not: Two followers who can't be told to wait means two times the risk when trying to be stealthy.

An Axe to FindDB
Why: A weightless pickaxe you can mine with.

Why: Serana will follow you in addition to any other followers you may have. Unlike other temporary followers, she can be told to wait.

Quests that Conflict[edit]

This section is mainly for quests that "break" another quest (i.e. prevent it from being completed), and quests that stop you from fully completing another (e.g. preventing you from obtaining all possible rewards). Quests that merely "interrupt" each other (e.g. delay the completion of another) should only have such information on the affected pages.

The new quest system in Skyrim (known as "Radiant" quests) means that there are few quests that don't potentially interact with others (sometimes to your benefit, sometimes not) on top of all the typical quest collision issues in a sandbox game of this size. Quests that can be interrupted by radiant quests, usually by making you clear the dungeon that quest takes place in resulting in waiting for it to repopulate before the new quest can be completed, should have that possibility listed on their own page (Purity of Revenge is a known example). Radiant quests can even do this to other radiant quests. However, radiant quests that break other quests should be listed here.

The Civil War questline has been known to cause problems with multiple quests all over the realm. You may want to leave them for as long as possible. The problems mainly occur when Jarls are replaced with their respective controlling-faction counterparts. One known conflict is Search and Seizure in Markarth. If the Stormcloaks take over the city then the quest giver is removed from the game. These problems can also arise because of Season Unending (a main quest) when you exchange ownership of some holds (in this case The Forsworn Conspiracy and No One Escapes Cidhna Mine have been known to be broken).

Start The Forgemaster's Fingers before completing any of the 8 Blood-Kin quests.
Why: You will be unable to obtain The Forgemaster's Fingers, granting the wielder a +12 bonus to Smithing.

Start Kill the Bandit Leader (Ahtar) before Lights Out!
Why: During Lights Out! you are required to trek through Broken Oar Grotto, where Captain Hargar lives. If you kill him before starting Kill the Bandit Leader, you will never be able to start that quest and be unable to recruit a potential follower.

Do Harsh Master before starting Summerset Shadows.
Why: If the radiant location is Uttering Hills Camp, the bandit leader that you have to kill will be permanently replaced by Linwe once "Summerset Shadows" starts, making "Harsh Master" uncompletable.

Do The Straw that Broke before Kill Narfi
Why: As soon as you start Kill Narfi, you will be unable to start or complete The Straw that Broke.

Do Build Your Own Home (Falkreath)HF before Kill Helvard
Why: Killing Helvard may make it impossible to have Siddgeir like you enough to sell you a plot of land in Falkreath. This can be overcome if at any time the Stormcloaks take over and replace Siddgeir as jarl, otherwise you miss out on a house and some achievements/trophies.

Do The Spiced Wine before Bound Until Death
Why: As soon as you start Bound Until Death, The Spiced Wine becomes unavailable.

Do Blood on the Ice before Mourning Never Comes
Why: During Mourning Never Comes, you are given the option to kill Nilsine Shatter Shield for a bonus. Doing this will cause her mother to kill herself. This can cause a fair amount of problems with quest progression, so it's best to complete Blood on the Ice first.

Do Rare Gifts (Torbjorn Shatter-Shield) before Mourning Never Comes
Why: During Mourning Never Comes, you are given the option to kill Nilsine Shatter Shield for a bonus. Doing this will cause her mother to kill herself. Torbjorn will no longer need the Amulet of Arkay for his wife.

Do Mourning Never Comes before Lost to the AgesDG
Why: During Lost to the Ages you are required to trek through Raldbthar, where Alain Dufont lives. If you kill him before starting Mourning Never Comes, you cannot obtain the bonus reward in that quest. Helpfully Alain is never hostile, unless directly attacked, so it is safe to walk past him.