I recently figured out an incredibly fast way of leveling up your character in Skyrim. First, it pays to understand just how one levels up. Skyrim contains 18 skills, each of which can independently level from 15 to 100. Examples include One-Handed, which levels each time you use a one-handed weapon, and Light Armor, which levels each time your light armor is damaged in combat.
The skill of choice for quick leveling is Alchemy. Each time you create a potion at an alchemy table your Alchemy level increases a little bit. The magnitude of the increase is proportional to the value of the potion created. In other words, create lots of powerful potions and level up fast.
This process is optimized once your Alchemy and Enchanting skills are leveled to 100 and all of their perks are learned. This won’t happen all at once, but if you follow the steps below they will level quickly. Once you max them out, repeat the steps below to optimize the process.
Potions are created by combining two or more ingredients that you discover wandering around Skyrim. These include flowers you can pick, flying insects you can trap, and parts of enemies left behind like a Giant’s Toe. You could collect these ingredients in the wilderness, but that approach is very slow.
Instead you should grow ingredients yourself. You can do this in the Hearthfire DLC by building your own house. Other guides have covered how to do this, so I’ll skip those details. The key is to include two things in your house – a garden and a greenhouse. You need to harvest three ingredients: creep cluster, mora tapinella, and scaly pholiota. Each of these can be discovered or purchased on their own.
The benefit of planting in a garden and greenhouse is that you harvest three to five plants every time they grow. Once you advance your alchemy skill to level 70, you can unlock the Green Thumb perk that doubles that amount. That means 6 to 10 plants for each pot or plot that you plant in. There is no faster way to collect ingredients.
The reason I choose these three ingredients is that they create the most powerful potion possible given the plants that you can grow at your house. Plants regrow every three days, so mining them requires that you pick all of them out of your garden, go inside, pick all out of your greenhouse, then press Select and fast forward time three days. Go outside, pick the plants from your garden, and repeat.
Before creating potions, you want to be wearing apparel that bestows the Fortify Alchemy bonus. The four pieces of apparel that allow this bonus are your helmet/hood/circlet, bracers/gauntlets/gloves, amulets/necklaces, and rings. You can max these out with a bonus of 29% stronger potions. The bonuses stack, so you will want to be wearing all four pieces of equipment with the 29% bonus.
Any piece of equipment that does not already have a bonus attribute can be given one at an arcane enchanter, provided you have learned the enchantment by disenchanting a piece of equipment that possessed the bonus. If you play the game for any amount of time, you can collect these four types of items in abundance, usually on bandits or others that you kill. You can also find some in chests, smith your own, purchase them from merchants, or pickpocket them. Pickpocketing will label your item as “stolen,” which means they can be confiscated if you get in trouble with the authorities, so better to avoid this option if possible.
The enchanting process is also going to require the most powerful soul gems – the Grand Soul Gems. These can be purchased in bulk at the College of Winterhold in the Arcanaeum. Buy all you can, fast forward two days so that the merchants’ inventories reset, then buy more. You’ll need somewhere around 20 to make this work.
Once back in your house you are almost ready to enchant your apparel with the alchemy bonus. You need to ensure your enchantments are as strong as possible, so you will want to use a Fortify Enchanting potion just before you enchant your equipment. These can be created at the alchemy table by combining Blue Butterfly Wings and Snowberries. The butterfly wings are easily farmed in your greenhouse, while snowberries are almost everywhere in snowy regions. You can collect hundreds of these, especially once the Green Thumb perk is activated.
The next step is a loop. Create four Fortify Enchantment potions. Walk over to your enchanting table and use the potion. Start the enchantment. Take one of the helmets you’ve collected, select the Fortify Alchemy enchantment and the Grand Soul Gem, and create the new equipment. It will give the equipment a 26% alchemy bonus, 1% higher than the maximum possible without the Fortify Enchantment potion. Consume another potion, enchant the pendant, and continue until all four items have been enhanced. Equip them, return the alchemy table and create four more Fortify Enchantment potions. Because of your new equipment these will be stronger than before. Continue the process until you have four pieces of equipment with the maximum 29% alchemy bonus.
Now start creating hundreds of Fortify Carry Weight potions by combining the creep cluster, mora tapinella and scaly pholiota you’ve been harvesting. If your Alchemy level is already at level 100, make it legendary. Use a perk point to activate the Alchemist perk immediately, then start creating potions. At level 20, activate the Alchemist perk (again) and the Physician perk. Activate the other perks at levels 30, 40, 60, 70, 80 and 100. Once you’ve reached level 100, make the perk legendary again and repeat.
In leveling up the Alchemy skill so quickly, you will notice that your character’s level increases quickly as well. You can gain about two levels each time your Alchemy skill goes from level 15 to level 100.
There are some other major benefits that accrue during this process. Because the Fortify Carry Weight potions are so valuable, you can sell them off to merchants and make more money than you will ever need.
I also use this method to update my other skills’ levels. I do this by maximizing my character’s level bar, then finding someone who can train me in a skill. For example, Vilkas in Jorrvaskr in Whiterun can train you in Two-Handed combat. You can level the skill five times at each character level. Once you’ve trained five levels, level up your character, talk to Vilkas again and level up five times more. With the right trainers (see other strategy guides to figure out which), you can raise all of your skills to level 90 without even using them once.
I wrote this quickly, so if anything is confusing let me know. I can add more details or images to help the process along. I hope this was helpful, and have fun exploring Skyrim!