If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably spent most of quarantine enjoying your oft-neglected game libraries. For Skyrim lovers, that almost certainly means a replay of 2011’s The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. This absolutely massive game has so many character races, storylines and guilds that it is a genuine task to accomplish them all. Some of the more complicated guild quests, in particular, have tripped up newcomers and veteran Skyrim players alike, which brings us to the Thieves Guild.
With all of its backstabbing and intrigue, the Thieves Guild has caused its fair share of confusion over the years. If you are looking to finally polish off this quest line but need a little help along the way, look no further.
The Thieves Guild in Skyrim
To begin, players need to determine if they even want to join the Thieves Guild. Unlike the Dark Brotherhood, there is no option to destroy this wretched hive of scum and villainy. You can, however, restore the former glory of the guild and take the place of its former leader.
The Thieves Guild is, well, exactly what it sounds like. It is where all of Tamriel’s most sticky-fingered residents end up. The enigmatic Mercer Frey leads this guild that has its fingers in many of the businesses scattered around Tamriel. Quests from members of the Thieves Guild will typically see you cooking the books at local businesses, clearing homes of valuables, and even planting stolen goods on various NPCs. You won’t be on the right side of the law as a member, but at least you won’t be slaughtering any innocents à la the Dark Brotherhood.
While the guild’s golden age has passed, there is still a chance to save it. Skyrim players can save the Thieves Guild from collapse by completing the main quests and tracking down the insidious machinations that have lead the guild to the brink.
How to join the guild
To join this shadowy underground (literally) organization, head over to the city of Riften. It is to the far southeast on your map.
Once you’re in Riften, it shouldn’t take you long to run into Brynjolf. Just head to the market during daylight hours, and he should track you down on his own. In order to learn more about the guild, Brynjolf will require a less-than legal task of you. Even if you bungle the initial test, however, you will be granted leave to seek the Thieves Guild’s home base, the Ragged Flagon.
To get there, you’ll first need to traverse the Ratway beneath the streets of Riften. Your first few times will be an exercise in frustration—damn those tunnels can be confusing—but you’ll eventually get a much easier back door into the guild’s headquarters.
You’ll only need to complete one more quest, “Taking care of business,” before you gain membership. This requires players to collect debt that three separate NPCs owe to the Thieves Guild. You can do this through force or a series of careful conversation options. Once you return to Brynjolf and Mercer with news of your success, you’re officially inducted into the Guild.
Don’t attack any member of your new clique, or the wrath of your companions will come down harsh and swift. The Thieves Guild tends to be more forgiving of stealing, but still, proceed with caution.
How to complete Skyrim Thieves Guild quests
There are a number of main quests, as well as radiant quests, available through the Thieves Guild. Radiant quests, which players can obtain through Vex and Delvin Mallory, will provide an unending source of income and experience.
Brynjolf or Mercer assign most main quests, with a few coming through guild associate Maven Black-Briar. By the end of the Thieves Guild quest line, you’ll have learned a lot about your sticky-fingered associates, acquired some armor with excellent stats, and received a choice between several enticing upgrades. You’ll also get your hands on the Skeleton Key, a wonderfully useful tool that, unfortunately, you must relinquish to complete the Thieves Guild quest line.
Return the key to where it belongs and, erm, deal with everything else. Then you’ll be in a position to take over as leader of the Thieves Guild. This title comes with a whole new set of powerful armor and a fantastic speech-related amulet. Just because you’ve completed the main quest, however, doesn’t mean you’re entirely finished with the guild.
Restore the glory of the Thieves Guild
Even after completing the main Thieves Guild quest, players will still have one potential quest to undertake. An achievement titled “Restore the Thieves Guild to its former glory” will remain even after you polish off all but the never-ending radiant quests for Vex and Delvin.
Once you’ve completed the main quest, you’ll need to perform five jobs for Vex and Delvin in four different cities: Markarth, Windhelm, Solitude, and Whiterun. Once you complete five radiant quests in a city, a new quest will be available through Delvin. Complete that quest to “upgrade” the Thieves Guild’s status in that area of Skyrim. Note: Quests in Riften don’t count, so don’t stress over completing them. Once you complete all four cities’ radiant and special quests, the Thieves Guild will finally be back to its former glory. This equals 24 quests in all.
Screw over Maven Black-Briar
This might seem a bit odd, but bear with me. There is a very large contingency of players who enjoy the Thieves Guild quests but hate—absolutely hate—Maven Black-Briar. Unfortunately, given she is a consistent associate of the guild, you’ll have no choice but to work with her.
If her snide comments and pretentious air have you wishing she wasn’t an essential character and could therefore be killed, you’re not alone. Thankfully, hardworking and diligent redditor u/RagnarokHunter has a solution for you. This glorious human, whom commenters dubbed “Bane of Black-Briar,” devised every possible way to screw over the Black-Briar matriarch.
In the very first mission you accomplish for Maven, in which you’re ordered to burn the beehives at Goldenglow Estate, make sure to bungle the job. Burn all the beehives and, though you’ll miss out on pay, you’ll know Maven’s coffers are hurting far more.
While completing the Thieves Guild quest line, you can also chat with Romlyn Dreth, an employee located at his home in the lower part of Riften. He’ll ask you to deliver some Black-Briar mead to an innkeeper. Upon completion, you’ll find that any mead bottles taken from the meadery no longer count as stolen. They sell for a pretty penny, too, especially in large quantities.
Another great way to irritate Maven is through a man named Louis Letrush. You can find him in the Bee and the Barb in Riften. He’ll offer you the chance to complete a deal with Maven’s imprisoned son Sibbi. The job, should you choose to take it, involves stealing a horse from Maven and delivering it to Louis. When you head over to the horse’s location, RagnarokHunter recommends you “kill every Black-Briar mercenary and take everything in the house not bolted down” for good measure. Oh, and you can also keep the horse for yourself. Take that, Maven.
A few additional tips for worsening Maven’s life are sprinkled throughout RagnarokHunter’s post, but they saved the best for last. At “the point in the main quest where you preside a peace council between the Legion and the Stormcloaks,” you want to ensure the Imperials end up with Riften. That will elevate Maven to Jarl. “That way you’ll be able to exile her when you capture Riften for the Stormcloaks.”
Vengeance has never tasted so sweet.