Dawnguard guide: 15 essential tips and secrets for the Skyrim DLC
29th Jun 2012 | 15:23
Better weapons faster, bagging an Armoured Troll, crafting killer Dragonbone weaponry, summoning an Undead army, how to survive longer as a Vampire, how to access a super-powered crossbow, locating the Soul Cairn and grabbing enchanted items for free are only the tip of the iceberg. After 40 hours fighting for and against the neck-chomping vamps of Dawnguard, you can rest assured everything you need is on the next five pages...
How to... Get the best weapons faster
Depending on which faction you side with, you'll have access to either Fort Dawnguard or Castle Volkihar as a base for future quests - and both offer unique items to assist you.
In Volkihar Keep, you'll find Potions of Blood, which not only recover health when used but are also equivalent to a feed, reducing a vampire's need to attack citizens. The Bloodstone Chalice in the room off the main hall can be activated for the 'Blood of the Ancients' active power, which results in the Vampiric Drain spell absorbing magicka and stamina as well as health for one day. Also worth noting: several 'Vampire Cattle' are lying on the tables in the main hall, and - as you'll see if you click on the video below - talking to them repeatedly leads to interesting results...
In Fort Dawnguard, there's a plentiful supply of crossbows and bolts, plus a forge where further items can be smithed. Searching the interior reveals a selection of Dawnguard weaponry that is more effective against vampires than the equivalent regular weapon. You can also recruit Armoured Trolls in the fort. (More on that in a sec.)
How to... Recruit an Armoured Troll
After rejecting the Vampires and committing to the Dawnguard, the next quest involves recruiting a Nord named Gunmar to the ranks. Once he's installed in Fort Dawnguard, talk to him and he'll offer you an Armoured Troll follower in exchange for 500 gold. An Armoured Troll can be recruited in addition to a regular follower, and provides strong melee attacks during combat. They can only be given basic commands such as follow, wait and dismiss, and if left waiting for too long they'll return to the wild, and you lose them as a follower.
Although exclusive to the Dawnguard, players who side with the Vampires are not completely left out. Interacting with a Death Hound within Castle Volkihar gives the option to recruit it as a follower, and although not as strong as an Armoured Troll it can still dish out melee attacks during combat.
How to... Get the best crossbow
The crossbow is the main new weapon added to Skyrim, and although it's available to everyone the best version is exclusive to the Dawnguard.
After recruiting Sorine Jurard to Fort Dawnguard, speak to her to initiate the 'Ancient Technology' quest. This involves recovering crossbow and exploding bolt schematics from a number of locations across Tamriel (don't worry - the game directs you to the individual locations), and when all of them have been recovered, you unlock the Enhanced Dwarven crossbow for forging or purchase from Sorine. Once created and improved this is the most powerful crossbow available, making armour half as effective and dealing large amounts of damage.
How to... Survive longer as a Vampire
As a Vampire your health, stamina and magicka are all reduced while in sunlight and they do not regenerate, although this effect can be countered by wearing armour that boosts regeneration speeds. Unlike in vanilla Skyrim, Vampires in Dawnguard are no longer attacked on sight by NPCs once they reach stage 4, lessening the immediate need to feed at this advanced stage.
Vampires in Dawnguard also get the Vampire Lord power, which transforms them into the aforementioned megavamp form and gives access to a new perk tree of powers to unlock. These perks are not unlocked in the traditional way by levelling up, but are instead gained by using the Drain Life spell or bite power attacks.
While in Vampire Lord form, players can also flap their wings to sprint at the cost of stamina, and use a Bats power similar to the Whirlwind Sprint Shout to rush forward and cross gaps which couldn't normally be jumped over.
How to... Craft killer Dragonbone weapons
If you thought the Daedric Warhammer you lovingly crafted was the strongest weapon available in Skyrim, think again - Dawnguard's Dragonbone weapons are harder than an Adamantium Stallone (circa Rambo III, plainly).
Crafting them is no easy feat, however, as you'll need to have increased your Smithing skill to 100 and unlocked the Dragon Armour perk before you can begin. Once you reach that level all you need is the required number of Dragon Bones, Ebony Ingots and Leather Strips to forge your weapon of choice - which can also then be upgraded using a further Dragon Bone at a grindstone for additional damage.
How to... Learn the new dragon shouts
There are three new dragon shouts added with the Dawnguard expansion - Drain Vitality, Summon Durnehviir and Soul Tear - which can be obtained as follows:
This allows you to absorb stamina, magicka and health from enemies, and is learned by discovering three new word walls:
1. In Dimhollow Crypt during the 'Awakening' quest
2. In the Forgotten Vale during the 'Touching the Sky' quest
3. At Arcwind Point, located in the mountains southwest of Rift Imperial Camp
This is learned after defeating the undead dragon Durnehviir during the 'Beyond Death' quest, and can be used to summon him into Tamriel once all three words have been unlocked with dragon souls.
This last one is learned by summoning Durnehviir into Tamriel and allows you to turn enemies into allies who will then fight for you. Each of the first three times you summon Durnehviir to Tamriel he will teach you a new word of the Sour Tear Shout.
How to... Fight as part of an undead army
After learning the Summon Durnehviir Shout during the 'Beyond Death' quest you can call upon the undead dragon to appear in Tamriel. Firstly you'll need to acquire three dragon souls to unlock all three words of the Shout, as with any less than all three words the Shout will not work. Once completed, you can Shout to summon Durnehviir to arrive and assist you in battle. Durnehviir not only provides physical attacks on enemies, but also conjures up ranks of undead soldiers to fight alongside you, making him a more than worthy ally.
How to... Fast travel to the Soul Cairn
During the quest 'Chasing Echoes' you explore the ruined tower of Castle Volkihar, before performing a ritual to open up a portal to the Soul Cairn. Getting to and from this area via the dark passageways of the Vampire stronghold can be a pain, but there is a shortcut that will save you a lot of time.
Once you reach the room where the portal opens up, look for a door up some stairs marked 'Volkihar Balcony' which takes you outside. This will add the location 'Castle Volkihar Balcony' to your map which you can then fast travel to and from, providing easy access direct to the Soul Cairn whenever you like.
How to... Unlock the fastest horse in Skyrim
While travelling around the Soul Cairn you may encounter the spectral form of an undead horse named Arvak, although it disappears when you try to approach it. By locating Arvak's skull within the Soul Cairn and returning it to his soul master nearby, you will learn the conjuration spell Summon Arvak.
Casting this spell at a cost of 120 magicka causes the undead steed to materialise in front of you, and this can be cast back in the real world of Tamriel. Not only is Arvak the fastest horse in Skyrim, but it can also be summoned at will, meaning you'll never be stuck without transport again.
Follow our video below for the exact location of Arvak's skull.
How to... Find Jiub
Fans of The Elder Scrolls series should recognise the name Jiub, as he was encountered during the introduction of the third instalment Morrowind. In Dawnguard his spirit has been trapped in the Soul Cairn, and by tracking him down he will tell you his story before setting you the quest 'Impatience of a Saint' to recover the missing pages of his book.
By tracking down all ten pages within the Soul Cairn and returning them to Jiub he will reward you with a valuable book containing the complete manuscript. More importantly you'll also receive the 'Locket of St Jiub', a very useful amulet that grants +50 stamina and +50 weight capacity to the wearer.
Want the exact location? Hit Play on the video below...
How to... Grab enchanted items - for free
Once you go through the gap in the wall into the second area of the Soul Cairn, look to the right and you'll see a spectral trader by the name of Morven Stroud. Speak to him and he'll offer to trade his remaining items in exchange for Soul Husks, which can be harvested throughout the Soul Cairn.
For every 25 Soul Husks returned to Morven you can choose to receive a sword, battleaxe, light armour, heavy armour or spell tome. These items are blessed with a random enchantment, so if there's a specific type that you're after you can save before making the trade, then reload and repeat until you receive the item you want.
How to... Open barred doors in the Soul Cairn
Within the Soul Cairn there are a number of areas that are inaccessible as the doors are barred, with no obvious switches or levers to open them. Think a bit more laterally though and you'll notice there are glowing orbs set in stones nearby. Shoot through these with either a bow or crossbow and the gate will open once all targets are hit, allowing you access to the hidden booty inside.
How to... Cure Vampirism
Being a bloodsucker is all well and good if you side with Vampire Lord Harkon, but it tends to be frowned upon if you're a member of the Vampire-hunting Dawnguard faction. If a Vampire attacks you there's a chance you'll become infected with Sanguinare Vampiris, which you then have three in-game days to cure by using a Potion of Cure Disease or activating any of the shrine blessings.
Should you end up going full Vampire, there's still a way back to normality. Speak to any barkeeper while affected by Vampirism and you'll be directed to a mage named Falion in the city of Morthal. After finding him and providing the item he asks for, he'll perform a curing ritual to rid you of any Vampiric tendencies, and this process can be repeated as many times as required.
How to... Access the new Werewolf powers
Vampires are not the only group to receive a makeover in Dawnguard, as Werewolves have also been overhauled. If you're already a Werewolf you'll lose that power by becoming a Vampire as you can't be both at once, but if you side with the Dawnguard or subsequently contract Lycanthropy then a new perk tree of Werewolf powers is available.
Like the Vampire Lord powers these perks are not unlocked by levelling up, but instead by feeding on the hearts of dead corpses, with a greater number of hearts required as more perks are gained. The new perks include greater strength, the ability to summon stronger allies and an additional health and stamina boost - which as a Werewolf unable to wear armour could make all the difference.
How to... Beat everyone at mounted combat
To coincide with the release of Dawnguard, the latest Skyrim update adds the ability to fight on horseback to your arsenal. Sadly you can't use magic in this situation so drive-by spellcasting is out, and bows/crossbows should only be employed for longer distance attacks as they are completely useless at close range.
Ideally, a long weapon such as a Warhammer or Battleaxe should be used for mounted combat as they can swing further and deal greater damage. Although this type of fighting can prove fiddly, it's useful as your horse will absorb some or all of the damage you would otherwise have taken... although you and your horse can still be killed so be wary against tougher foes.