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You'll begin the game riding in a cart. You'll soon learn that you've been captured by the Imperials, and that you and your companions are are being taken to the town of Helgen, where you're scheduled to be executed. Your hands will start out bound, so you won't be able to do anything other than look around. We'd recommend that you turn on the game's subtitles, so you can learn the names of the people around you, including fellow prisoners Ralof and Jarl Ulric, who are Stormcloaks.
When you arrive at the keep, you'll get to choose your race, gender and appearance. These choices won't make a lot of difference in the campaign (and you probably won't ever see your face again), so feel free to select whichever options appeal to you the most. For more information on the races, please refer to our
After defining your character, you'll witness an execution, and then it will be your turn. However, before the axeman can claim your head, a dragon will show up and send the keep into disarray. At this point you'll be allowed to move around, and you should run to Ralof in a nearby tower, where you'll be protected from the dragon's fire.
When you climb to the upper level of the tower, the dragon will break through the wall, opening a way for you to jump into the inn next door. You should jump through the broken roof of the inn and land on the upper floor. If you miss, then you'll need to re-enter the tower and try again.
Inside the inn, you'll need to drop down through an opening in the floor to reach ground level, where you'll witness a guard named Hadvar rescuing a boy. Hadvar will then call for you to follow him, and he'll lead to you Helgen Keep. However, when you approach the keep, Ralof will show up, and you'll have to make a choice -- to keep following Hadvar (an Imperial), or to join up with Ralof (a Stormcloak) instead. This decision won't force you to stay with one faction or the other (or really change much of anything), so once again you can choose whichever option seems best for your character.
Note: You don't actually have to wait around and follow Hadvar. You can just run straight to the keep, and your ally will join you inside.
Inside the keep, your ally will remove your bindings, and you'll finally be able to loot objects and use the interface. Then once you've found and equipped some gear, you'll need to make your way through the keep, fighting enemy soldiers (#4 and #6), spiders (#8), and possibly even a bear (#9) along the way. Please refer to the annotations below for more information about what you can see and do.
Outside the keep, your ally will decide to go his own way, but he'll recommend that you travel to the town of Riverwood, which is located to the north (Hadvar will suggest that you visit the blacksmith Alvor there, and Ralof will suggest that you visit Gerdur at the mill). Your ally will then start heading towards Riverwood, so you can follow him to get there.
1 - Foyer
Inside the foyer you'll find Gunjar's corpse, which you'll be able to loot for some basic equipment.
If you entered the keep with Ralof, then an Imperial Captain (of "forget the list" fame) and another soldier will spot you in the foyer and attack you, and you'll find a full set of heavy Imperial gear on the captain's corpse (including an
Imperial Officer's Helmet
) plus a full set of light Imperial armor on the soldier's corpse. You might also find a key on the captain's corpse (Ralof will loot it if you don't pick it up quickly enough), which you'll need to unlock a door in the foyer.
If you entered the keep with Hadvar, then you'll encounter a pair of Stormcloak soldiers here.
2 - Barracks
In this room you'll find a chest with some basic equipment and a key inside. The key will unlock a door in the foyer (#1). If you entered the keep with Hadvar, then he'll already have the key, and he'll open the door for you.
3 - Storeroom
You can pick up several potions in the storeroom.
4 - Torture Chamber
You'll discover some Lockpicks in a knapsack here. You can use the Lockpicks to pick open up the three cages along the western wall, inside of which you'll find a
, and a
Spell Tome: Sparks
, plus some gold and potions.
5 - Guard Station
Inside this caged room, you'll find some
on the counter plus and
against the wall.
6 - Major Battle
You'll have a major battle in this chamber. If you loot the corpses afterwards, then you'll find some Long Bows, Iron Arrows, and more.
Note: The purplish discoloration on the floor here is oil. If you cast Flames on it, then you'll light it on fire and take out the enemy archers. Just be sure you're not standing in the oil yourself.
7 - Skeleton
If you explore in this area, then you'll find a skeleton with some gold and a
Potion of Minor Healing
8 - Spider Cavern
You'll face several Frostbite Spiders here.
9 - Bear
When you approach the bear, your companion will recommend that you either sneak by it or use a bow to surprise it, and then he'll give you a
. The bear isn't actually all that tough, so you can also just run up to it and attack it.
- Keep entrance. This is the entrance you'll use if you join Ralof.
- Keep entrance. This is the entrance you'll use if you join Hadvar.
- World exit.