Skyrim Special Edition: How To Level Up Lockpicking With Less Stress

Hate picking locks for good rewards? Then this guide will show you how to do it faster with tips -- and one simple secret.

Hate picking locks for good rewards? Then this guide will show you how to do it faster with tips -- and one simple secret.
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Whether you have played the original edition of the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim or you’ve recently picked up Skyrim: Special Edition, you have most likely encountered many locked chests, jewelry boxes and doors throughout your travels through Skyrim. And you have probably wasted a good amount of lockpicks trying to crack open safes or valuable chests that hold great loot inside — am I right?

As you probably also know, lockpicks aren’t abundant in the game. Sure, you can buy them from merchants, but do you really want to spend money on them? Of course, not. But you will break them more frequently the more difficult a locked chest is (i.e. master chests). Oh, and to add insult to injury, the final perk in the lockpicking skill tree makes your lockpicks never break. But to reach level 100, you’ll need to pick a lot of chests…

Thankfully, we’ve got you covered. This guide will tell you how to pick locks without having to waste lockpicks, money or time. Let’s get started. 

Be Smart About Lock Picking! 

Picking a lock can be stressful and annoying!

Chests, particularly master chests, have great loot inside of them most, if not all of, the time. But it’s not just chests that have glorious loot! Display cases with valuables, doors that create shortcuts (and have really wierd things inside) and jewelry boxes. All of these provide you with useful items that you can wear or sell for a lot of money. So, what do you do (if you’re progressing legitimately) to take advantage of all these goodies?

If you are a thief/assassin build (or really any build for that matter), go with the Argonian class. They get a +10 to their Lockpicking perk, which not only makes it easier to pick low-level locks right off the bat, but also gives you an immediate stat advantage, making you closer to level 100 than any other class, helping you pick harder locks earlier on. 

PRO TIP: Don’t forget to activate the Thief’s Stone for an extra 20% boost!

Know Which Locks to Pick! 

I know it can be tempting to pick the lock of expert or master chests. Not only are they bigger and more gorgeous than regular chests, but they also carry better loot. However, I wouldn’t advise picking those types of locks until your lock picking skill is higher, or you have the skeleton key (which we’ll talk about in just a second).

Instead, jot down or take a mental note/memorize the location of the chest and then come back to it. Chances are, if you discovered it early, then your lockpicking skill was low, and/or you didn’t have enough lockpicks to successfully open it. Remember: patience is key. Master chests usually contain items that scale with your level, so if you come back later, you’ll receive even better rewards!

But On to the Mother of All Lockpicks … 

The Skeleton Key…your best friend

For those who don’t know, the Skeleton Key is the ultimate lockpick. What does it do? Well, it acts like every other lockpick in the game, but…it never breaks! Never.

You can spend the entire day trying to crack open a master chest, but this little thing will never break. The best part is, you won’t need any other lockpicks because this one will be prioritized (when you enter the animation, the game selects the Skeleton Key instead of a regular lockpick for you). Think of all the time you’ll save! No more wasting money on regular lockpicks and no more scavenging corpses. 

The key also grants you experience every time you break open a chest. Every time you see a locked chest, door or display case (no matter what level it is), pick its lock! 

How Do You Get the Skeleton Key?

Inside the Thieves Guild, an organization of professional burglars.


To get the key, you’ll first need to join the Thieves Guild, located in Riften, and progress through its storyline, where you are betrayed by Mercer, leader of the guild. After betraying you and the guild, Mercer steals all of the guild’s treasure (ironic, huh?), and runs away with it. Eventually, you find him and you have to fight him tp get the Skeleton Key.

Here’s the Quick and Easy on How to Defeat Mercer and Get the Skeleton Key Faster

Mercer can be tough. He can become invisible, and his weapon, if it hits you, drains 15 points of health per second. That can kill you fairly quickly if you’re not cautious or high leveled. But thankfully, he can be defeated early on! 

If you know all three words to FUS-RO-DAH, once the dialogue finishes, ignore him, and run all of the way to the top of the room (near the statue’s head). As soon as he comes up to you, use the shout to blow him off the statue, and see him plummet to his death. If he for whatever reason survives, quickly finish him off. 

Loot his corpse, and you’ll get the Skeleton Key! To finish the Thieves Guild storyline, the Skeleton Key must be returned to where it came from. However, you don’t have to do that! You can walk out and keep the key for yourself. When you reach level 100, you can return it. Simple as that. 

Now You’re a Lock Picking Master

Bright, shiny coins!

Really, the best way to skip the grind of lockpicking is to get the Skeleton Key. Once you retrieve it, keep it! Don’t get rid of it because there is no way to get it back! Use it to pick the lock of everything you see, and soon enough, you’ll be lock picking machine, one that’s got all of his pocket firmly stuffed with precious goods and gold. 

What are your Skyrim: Remastered lock picking secrets? Share them in the comments below! 

About the author


Long time gamer (15 years+). Most favorite title is either Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time or Majora's Mask. Prefer single player games to multiplayer games, but occasionally play them as well. Proud owner of N64 and Nintendo SNES.