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If I'm trying to learn a rare or powerful enchantment do I just have to be lucky enough to find a weapon or armour piece that has that specific enchantment? Seems like that could be annoying and very time-consuming if I'm trying to learn all of them.

Is there not an equivalent of spell tomes for enchantments, or some other method?

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up vote 16 down vote accepted

Disenchanting an item is the only way to learn the enchantment.

However, the strength of the enchantment isn't important. Once you've learned the enchantment, its strength when you apply it to your own gear is determined solely by your own skill/perks. For example, you can learn the Resist Magic enchantment either by disenchanting a Resist Magic +1% shield or a Resist Magic +40% shield -- It doesn't matter which.

If you've got a sweet piece of gear with a strong enchantment that you don't want to destroy, just keep your eyes open for a weaker/cheaper one. Merchants occasionally have enchanted items in stock, so be sure to check them.

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Disenchanting is the only way to learn enchantments.

Yes, it is annoying - I am currently at level 40 and have seen no resist frost gear.

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...and meanwhile my Nord, with her natural 50% frost resist, is finding nothing but frost resist gear! Random loot sometimes seems to be conspiring against you... – Kromey Dec 9 '11 at 18:30
Level 41, still no resist shock gear... Of course haven't met a dragon that tried to shock me yet so not too worried – John Buchanan Dec 10 '11 at 0:40

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