04/08/12 NOTE: As of the v1.5 patch, Smithing is changed to give experience based on the value of the item you create. This will make it similar to most other skills, and eliminates the efficiency of the iron dagger method. We'll post more information soon after some testing. Initial feedback has suggested that crafting jewelry with the "Transmute Mineral Ore" spell via iron ore is the new fastest method. If you have not installed patch 1.5, the dagger method will still be the best route. Enchanting remains unchanged.
After a relatively short amount of time, I have achieved 100 (Master level) smithing, enchanting, and conjuration. My process was simple and they were all achieved in under a day; I promise this won't take too long if you do it correctly! When I claim I achieved this under a day, I'm not trying to be cute by literally meaning "under 24 hours of playing." This was done in under 5 hours.
Note that the only major questline I had completed at this point was the College of Winterhold, which helps for gathering items but is not necessary (will get into this later).
Five things in one guide? Isn't that excessive?
Perhaps. It's important to note that this guide is just going to provide a general explanation of how I achieved mastery level of these three skills in a short amount of time. If you're interested in an in-depth explanation of EVERY method of training EACH of these skills individually, you'll have to read the skill-specific guides (which will be linked to in this guide as well, when completed). However, I promise that the following is the only method you really need if your only intention is to max the skill fast. If you have any questions you can post on the forum or in the comments.
All you have to do is travel between merchants that sell iron ore, iron ingots, and lesser/petty soul gems (filled or unfilled) while purchasing all that you find. The towns and locations with the highest number of merchants selling these items will be listed below (this list is not all-inclusive and does not include General Merchants who may have the items as well in lower quantities) - click "Show" to view the list.
I personally traveled in a loop between the College of Winterhold (~4 merchants all sell several soul gems, including Tolfdir, Phinis Gestor, Enthir, and Drevis Neloren), Markarth (Calcelmo in the Underground sells soul gems; general trader for ingots/ore), and Whiterun (Farengar for gems and the TWO blacksmith/armor merchants right by Breezehome). Note that this was before we had this handy table of dozens of merchants; I'm not claiming this is the most efficient route.
In addition to the iron you will need leather and leather strips for smithing; each piece of leather makes 4 leather strips. Buying full leather pieces is more economical than purchasing strips since you can just craft the strips yourself using a tanning rack (located with all of the other blacksmith things in Whiterun), although it's quite cheap either way. Since most merchants that sell iron also sell 10-20 leather pieces (which turn into 4 strips), you should be well on your way to having enough strips before you have nearly enough iron.
Note: It takes 2 in-game days for a store to reset its stock and the merchant's gold. This is offset by fast traveling between different towns in a loop (fast traveling causes time to pass in the game but you don't realize it).
Maintaining Profits and Cost Effectiveness
The following three guide sections (smithing, filling gems, and enchanting) don't have to be done in order. You'll probably have to do a certain number of gems and enchanted daggers at a time before your gold runs out. By enchanting and selling a number daggers every so often, your gold cache doesn't deplete so you can still go around buying gems/iron. Since the enchanted daggers will be rather expensive and you'll have more than any merchant can buy, it's convenient to sell a few at every place you purchase supplies from.
To maintain a profit, you should only be buying petty and lesser soul gems, as higher level gems will cost more than the enchanted daggers can be sold for after a certain point (as you craft more the items value decreases).
After you have your ore and gems, all you have to do is use the blacksmith forge to craft hundreds of iron daggers. I used Whiterun as the forge and tanning rack are right next to the fast travel point, two blacksmith/armor merchants that sell several of the items you need, and Breezehome for storage. It goes very fast; just 1 click per dagger without any menu movement. Think about how fast leveling Alchemy was in Oblivion with duped ingredients - it's about like that, assuming you have the materials.
Enchanting - Soul Gems & Unlimited Magicka
Filling Soul Gems
Enchanting's Perk Tree
The easiest way to fill soul gems involves an exploit(?) with companions. Give your campanion a weapon with Soul Trap (1 second is enough unless you're going to be helping kill the target, in which case ~3 works). Put ALL of the unfilled soul gems into your companion's inventory. The final step is killing NPC's that have the appropriate soul level for the gems you're trying to fill. Since petty/lesser gems are what we're using, you just need to kill creatures such as deer (petty) or basic enemies (lesser). The exploit works since when your companion soul traps and then kills a creature, EVERY unfilled soul gem of the appropriate level will be filled in his/her inventory. For example, having 50 unfilled lesser gems and 50 unfilled petty gems just requires killing two NPC's as opposed to 100 the normal way.
Note: If the above doesn't work (only one soul gem is filled at a time), a fix is taking your follower's entire inventory out and putting it back in after starting new conversation. This method is confirmed to be working as of the PS3's v1.2 patch.
After you have the daggers, you'll have to use them with filled soul gems at an Arcane Enchanter. The closest one in Whiterun is in Dragonsreach by the mage (Farengar). Select the gem, a dagger, and your enchantment. In order to maximize your profits you should at first switch between all of your available enchantments to find the one that results in the dagger having the highest value. Select craft, and repeat the process. Since we're just power-leveling, the level of the gem you're using doesn't matter. Petty gives the same amount of enchanting experience as grand; the only difference is the quality of the enchantment (and we don't care, because we're making shitty daggers for experience).
Enchanting Armor to Achieve Unlimited Magicka (Zero Spell Cost)
Now that you have 100 Enchanting, you can use the perk system's "Extra Effect" to be able to enchant two enchantments into every piece of armor! It is generally agreed that the best route to take to get this perk is by venturing up the center of the tree; refer to the right-hand image for more information.
[*]Enchanter (x5) - new enchantments are 20% stronger.
[*]Insightful Enchanter - skill enchantments on armor are 25% stronger.
[*]Corpus Enchanter - health, magicka and stamina enchantments on armor are 25% stronge.
[*]Extra Effect - can put two enchantments on the same item.
[/list]By using the "Fortify *Magic School*" enchantment, you will be able to achieve -25% cost on four pieces of apparel (chest, ring, necklace, and helm) for two schools of magic. The net result is -100% magicka cost (ZERO!) for two schools! This makes power-leveling all of your magic schools a matter of 10-20 minutes for level 100.
This is the easy part. All you have to do now is take the spell, soul trap, and find some dead remains of some NPC. I went to Labyrinthian (the dungeon from the Winterhold's College questline) and cast it on the dead skeleton remains right near the entrance. The corpse of any NPC will do - you can even go out and kill a nearby Skeever. By dual wielding soul trap, you can cast it twice as fast and in a matter of around (or under) one second per cast if you can time it right. Since you never run out of magicka to fuel this, you can cruise to 100 conjuration in probably 15 minutes
Note: I've been made aware that you are also able to cast Soul Trap repeatedly on Shadowmere (the horse you receive from the Dark Brotherhood). If you have Shadowmere, this will probably be more convenient than tracking down corpses.
Other Magic Skills
You don't need to stop at Conjuration; with zero spell costs, leveling every magicka-dependent skill is ridiculously easy and fast. For more information on the other Magic skills (and others), you can check out our Leveling Guide.
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