Bethesda Softworks is sending a clear message with its recent release of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. That message is: you can get ahead in life by being a jerk.
What? I didn't say it was a wholesome message.
It's true though. In Skyrim, the best rewards will often come to those players who embrace their dark side. The Dark Brotherhood and Thieves Guild both demand quite a bit of law-breaking, and their respective questlines are among the game's best. Stealing brings all sorts of rewards on its own, a veritable horde of potions, scrolls, books, weapons and apparel that you wouldn't otherwise be able to obtain. As our guide to Skyrim virtue points out, being Good brings you.the satisfaction of moral superiority and little else.
Finding The Black Market
The first step that any young, budding criminal in Skyrim should take is securing a place in the region's Thieves Guild. You'll find it tucked away in the city of Riften, in an underground pub called The Ragged Flagon which is accessible from the Ratway. The problem is, you'll get no love from the people there -- thieves, the lot of them -- until someone has vouched for you.
Fortunately, you won't have to go very far if you're already in Riften. The city's central market is home to a stall that is overseen by a man named Brynjolf. He needs help from someone who is skilled in the thieving arts, and you're the one he's chosen. Perform the task and you'll get the intro you'll need, and open up the Thieves Guild questline. Perform one more task for Brynjolf after you meet him in the Flagon and you'll get the best reward you could ask for: access to Tonilia, the guild's fence. Finally you have someone who will buy your many stolen goods!
Murder For Hire
Thieving is plenty disrespectable, but if you really want to embrace the dark side then you're going to have to start spilling some blood. Fortunately, the Dark Brotherhood assassin's guild returns in Skyrim, though you'll have to find them first.
There are actually some pretty fantastic spoiler-y moments involved with taking your first steps in the service of the Dark Brotherhood, and I'm not going to spoil those. I will, however, set you on the right path. Since you're already in Riften squaring yourself with the Thieves Guild, head over to Honorhall Orphanage to have some words with the kids. You'll hear about one escaped orphan named Aventus Aretino; he's returned to his family home in Windhelm. You'll want to see him, and then head back to the orphanage. Once you've completed your task, find a bed and sleep in it. The rest will take care of itself. Have fun, and choose wisely.
A Deal With The Daedra
While you won't spend much of your time jumping in and out of the various Daedric realms of Oblivion during your time in Skyrim, you will have more than one opportunity to provide aid to the Elder Scrolls equivalent of demon-princes.
Unfortunately, there's no specific pattern for you to follow with these Daedric Quests. Sometimes you'll find a shrine to one Daedric Lord or another and receive your task there, as was the case in Oblivion. Alternatively, it's entirely possible to randomly find yourself questing in the service of a Daedric Lord without ever setting foot near an oversized statue.
Maybe start with Molag Bal's quest, which can be found in the city of Markarth. It's an easy task to complete early on in the game and you get a sweet Daedric mace for your troubles. To get started, visit the city, leave and then return. Follow the upward-sloping path into the city until you come across a doorway being blocked by a priest, Vigilant Tyranus. Converse with him to get yourself started on a task that eventually earns you the favor of the Daedric Lord of Corruption.
The above tips offer far-reaching advice designed to help you cement your evil place in the land of Skyrim. This, on the other hand, is an opportunity for doing evil that presents itself early in the game. Sven and Faendal are two Riverwood residents who are both in love with the same girl. Each one is out to ruin the other's chances with her. That's where you come in.
Whichever of the two you speak with first will give you a falsified letter signed by the competing would-be lover that says awful things about the girl in question. It doesn't matter which of these two you help from a good/evil standpoint; they're both jerks, and they probably deserve each other more than they do the woman they're both pursuing.
Given that, base your decision entirely on which of the two jokers can be made to help you the most! Sven is a bard. A musician. You know what musicians are, right? Starving artists. With no useful skills to offer, Sven will fork over what little money he has if you help him. Faendal, on the other hand, is a skilled elf bowman. Help him and he'll join you for the occasional adventure. He's also a trainer. The choice is an easy one from here: help Faendal for the greater reward.
The Bloody Bonds Of Matrimony
You can get married in Skyrim, a fact that I covered in yesterday's "virtuous" guide. To set up a wedding, you'll need to learn about marriage from Riften's priest of Mara and buy the necessary amulet from him for 200 gold. Wear it and strike up conversations with anyone you like until you find a suitable mate. Then set your wedding date. All of this was covered yesterday; it's the wedding where you have the option of steering things toward a dark turn.
First, know that you can set a date and then stand up your spouse-to-be at the altar. Do that. It doesn't get you anything tangible, but it's fun. Your lover is pissed, but not so pissed that he or she can't be convinced to try again. So set another day. Show up this time. You'll have two "evil" options at the altar that are worth considering: you can stop the wedding and call everything off, or you can stop the wedding and murder everyone in sight.
Really, your choice from here should be obvious.