It is too easy to get excited about that first house you are offered, and we all want to be able to stash our loot. The problem is that not all of the houses are a good deal. For example, the Whiterun house doesn’t have an enchantment bench, which means that you will have to go to Dragonsreach if you want to enchant without leaving Whiterun.
In my personal opinion, the best deal is the house in Riften. It has plenty of storage, plus alchemy bench, enchanting bench, storage mannequins and even some wall mounts for nicer weapons. It also has a tanning rack on a balcony, and direct access to outside of Riften. It is the only house you can enter without being within the city limits.
Collection Quests still suck
The main difference between collecting items in Oblivion and Skyrim is that in Skyrim they try to give you a better reward. For example, the most annoying collection quest is given by Ingun Black Briar, she wants you to get her 20 Nirnroot, 20 Nightshade and 20 Deathbells. Your reward? She gives you a key to a chest she will periodically re-stock with some interesting potions.
If you don’t want to blow a week on this quest, it is pretty simple:
1. Nirnroot: go to Solitude, around the lighthouse, and start walking on the coast, by night. You will find your 20 Nirnroot very quickly.
2. Deathbells: go back to the same spot outside of Solitude, only this time go towards the marshes. There are Deathbells all over the place.
3. Nightshades: there are plenty of these planted within the Solitude city limits. If you need more, go to places with graveyards, including the area in and around the entrance to the Thieves Guild.
You can also be a bit paranoid and predict that certain things will always get the attention of these collectors, for example rare alchemic ingredients, flawless gems, books and certain metal ingots. I try not to sell any of these because I still remember all the trouble I went trying to find them on my first character.
Dragon Claw Keys
This is one of the first funny moments I had with the game because you get a hint that the solution to the puzzle is in the palm of your hand. What this means is that whenever you have a dragon claw key, simply look at the key, it will show you what to dial on the door!
Turning Stone Pedestals
All over the province you will run into stone pedestals that rotate and show three or more unique animals, these pedestals act as a rudimentary combination lock. In every single instance I have seen, the solution is either a hint in a book, or somewhere close by. For example, in a location the solution to each pedestal was displayed right on top of the pedestal. In another location they were underneath, hidden by some vines and other plant growth. The most difficult one I can recall was a mirror image of an arrangement in a nearby room.
Stones of Barenziah
I am not happy with this quest because it is unfairly long in terms of effort, and the payoff is not on par with the work. On top of that, I believe it is worthy enough to warrant its own achievement.
The basic problem with collecting the stones is that certain areas overlap quest storylines. This means that you can’t get all of the stones unless you are a member of the Thieves Guild, have made it past a certain stage of the Dragonborn storyline and you have done enough work at Solitude to allow you to purchase the mansion. The overlap with the Dragonborn quests is infuriating because if you don’t pick up the stone at the Thalmor embassy, you are screwed. The only way to get back inside is with a glitch that is very hard to recreate (Google it). Worse, you cannot hex edit your inventory to give yourself the missing stone, it only counts if you pick up each unique stone at its correct location.
I would simply ignore this quest during my first character. By then you will instinctively know which places to go to pick up about half of the stones. Here is the order in which I picked up mine with my second character:
- Whiterun, Dragonsreach: in the Jarl’s bedroom area.
- Riften, Mistveil Keep: in the Jarl’s chambers.
- Dark Brotherhood Sanctuary – do this as early as you can, you will lose access to this room later in the storyline.
- Dead Crone Rock: on a makeshift altar in front of the Word Wall at the top of the final tower.
- Whiterun, Jorrvaskr (Companions): In Kodlak’s bedroom.
- Markarth, Treasury House: next to bed in the master bedroom.
- Thalmor Embassy: In Elenwen’s Solar, in a bedroom (during or after the main quest “Diplomatic Immunity”)
- College of Winterhold: shelf in Arch-Mage’s quarters.
- Dainty Sload: on a table in the Captain’s Quarters.
- Markarth, Understone Keep: on a table in a locked side room of the Dwemer Museum.
- Black Briar Lodge (East of Riften): in the upstairs master bedroom.
- Whiterun, Catacombs inside of the Hall of the Dead: In one of the wall crypts near a skeleton.
- Windhelm, House of Clan Shattershield: Upstairs first bedroom on the left.
- Windhelm, Palace of Kings: on a table in Wuunferth the Unliving’s quarters.
- Solitude, Blue Palace: on a shelf in Jarl Elisif’s quarters.
- Solitude, Proudspire Manor: master bedroom.
- Ansilvund: near Fjori’s ghost in the burial chambers.
- Yngvild: chamber behind the throne in throne room.
- Fellglow Keep: on a counter in the workroom at the top of the front foyer.
- Hob’s Fall Cave – necromancer’s sleeping area
- Pinewatch: Move through Pinewatch until you get to the Pinewatch Bandit Sanctuary. Once in the Bandit Sanctuary defeat 3 bandits in the first room before moving up the ramp on the right. In the next hallway defeat 1 bandit before moving up a flight of stairs. In the next room you will find empty draugh tombs, directly to your right you will see a locked door. Lockpick this door and inside you will find the stone on the top shelf of the right bookcase.
- Rannveig’s Fast: on a table near the watery prison.
- Stony Creek Cave – in the Bandit Wizard’s cavern.
- Sunderstone Gorge: on the altar in front of the word wall.
This list is based on the lists at http://www.uesp.net/wiki/Skyrim:Stone_of_Barenziah and http://elderscrolls.wikia.com/wiki/Stones_of_Barenziah