10 Ways to Make Skyrim a Cooler Place to Hang Out

Deep into The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim? Check out these 10 quick tips to make the game even cooler.

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Bethesda Softworks

Don’t set your friends on fire

I know it’s tempting to spray all that glistening purple-pink lamp oil pooled between you and a troop of advancing undead bad guys with gouts of fire to light things up, Nick Cage-style, but if you’re hiring mercenaries or following my housecarl advice, you’ll want to be mindful of their position, tactically speaking—friendly fire definitely happens in this game, and Bethesda neglected to code in a “fire bad!” artificial intelligence subroutine.

Don’t try to kill everyone

Sure, you could in past games, but so? To say you could? Because that made the game better how, exactly? In Skyrim, people you can’t kill (children, key individuals) just drop to the ground and submit before recovering a few moments later. That’s a good thing, because it lets the design team tell a better, more reliable story, while at the same time keeping us from dealing with the broader implications of mass murder, which are that, were you to go on a killing spree, Skyrim’s leaders would simply deploy an army to take you out.

Take time to improve your gear

Do this especially if you’re playing on the higher difficulty settings. It’s simple, really. From wildlife like rabbits and bears, you get hides, which you can convert to leather on tanning racks (found near most weapon’s shops). Leather begets leather strips. Both of those can be used to improve armor. And if you carry around a pickaxe, you can mine deposits for various types of ore, which can be refined into metal and used to improve weapons. The upticks are slight—a point here, a point there—but the benefits add up, especially as your smithing skill improves and delivers higher quality yields.

Use environment traps to soften up tough enemies

You don’t get skill points for luring enemies into found dungeon traps, so do this sparingly, but if you want to bring their health bars down to more reasonable levels, pressure plates that unleash piles of boulders or clouds of poison darts do nicely.

Keep an eye on your character in third-person view

If visual bugs that last the entire game sound like an eyesore, be sure to check your character after he or she’s been shot by archers. The arrows are supposed to “dissolve” after a few moments, but I ran into an irritating big where a shaft running through my character’s leg didn’t, leading me back six or seven saved games—and hours of work—to a point before the glitch to remedy the problem.

MORE: The Elder Scrolls Skyrim Looks Like Park City, Utah

Matt Peckham is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @mattpeckham or on Facebook. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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