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I am now at level 32 in the game, and all the items that I can buy from the shops seem like too basic compared to what I find in the dungeons. Are there any special shops with very powerful items that I could have missed?

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I am level 51 and the best things in game I bought in Whiterun and made them better by my character. Other good things I got through quests or made them by myself smithing and evolving magically. An ebony greatsword goes from 37 damage to 87 through smithing at about 160 mostly due to selfcreated items and then I add two magic effects. Things like these can not be bought like the Nightingale Bow. Other best things you can get from Daedra or Dragon Priests.

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A unique merchant, added by the Dragonborn DLC, is the Dremora Merchant. According to the UESP wiki's "Dremora Merchant" article, "At higher levels, he is the best constant source of Daedric items".

Since Daedric items can be hard to come by, it might be worth transacting with this merchant if you're at a high enough level. Since this guy can be summoned almost anywhere, it is easier to buy and sell items from him.

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Vendors level their inventory as your level increases - and monsters get harder or become different. Harder monsters. Harder dragons. The loot you get from dungeons gets better.

Everything levels up with you.

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Not sure, i know for a fact that some vendors upgrade their item lists as you go deeper trough the quest line, happened to me several times in the Circle of Mages.

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In my expirience (lvl 46, only been to around 4 cities and done quests) the vendor you sell most to, gets better items.

At least the smith next to my house seems to have better items than most other vendors I've found (esp. compared to the guy at the Skyforge). It could just be a coincidence, but I'd like to think that vendors you traded more with, got better and better items.

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The guy at the Skyforge is different. Most other vendors will have leveled loot. It has nothing to do with who you sell to. I see just as much nice stuff in Solitude where I just arrived as in Whiterun, where I sold nearly everything for over 30 levels. –  agf Nov 22 '11 at 23:30
    
@agf Ah ok, I just thought that your trading with them had some influence on it, but if the Skyforge guy is different, I guess not... though I find it strange as the Skyforge guy is held in high regard throughout Skyrim (or at least often mentioned by the other blacksmiths). –  Holger Nov 23 '11 at 8:55
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He's known for his steel -- Skyforge steel is better than normal steel. –  agf Nov 23 '11 at 13:05
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