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I want to start playing Skyrim for the first time but I'm a little confused. I'm not sure if activating any of the DLCs (Dawnguard, Dragonborn and Hearthfire) will affect the original storyline and side quests.

If yes, in what order should I use the DLCs?

If no, can I use them all at once?

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    As a rule of a thumb in modular/moddable games (Bethesda ones especially) you can assume that during one playthrough you shouldn't change the modules/mods installed. That means if you want to have content available you should have it activated since the beggining. – Deltharis Dec 10 '15 at 13:28
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    @Deltharis "I want to start playing Skyrim for the first time" – Key-Six Dec 10 '15 at 17:27
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Both Dawnguard and Dragonborn have new map areas added. When you start dealing with named vampire NPCs, that's Dawnguard (although there are a couple named vampires in the main game, but no major plots). If you traveled to Solstheim, that's Dragonborn. The DLC quests are independent of the main quests so you can't accidentally mix them up.

Hearthfire don't really have quests. It has extra custom houses which are significantly better than the vanilla ones.

As for using them, you really should have all your DLCs activated at the start, before you create your character, since converting your save file at a later date can cause unforeseen issues. However, if you have already played for a bit with the vanilla game, it is still playable to convert later, since these official DLCs expect you to have an existing character.

I also recommend looking for the unofficial patches as they resolve multiple issues not fixed by the official patches.

  • I haven't start playing yet, so I'll activate all of them. :) Thank you. I'll also take a look at the patches. And a side question: Does the same apply for Falskaar? – Key-Six Dec 10 '15 at 6:10
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    Falskaar is a custom mod, so it won't be at the same level of the DLCs. Check the mod pages and its related resources for details on whether to start the game with it or not. – Nelson Dec 10 '15 at 6:13
  • Like noted in my answer Dawnguard is not independent from the main story. I always stayed away from the main story and had to do 50% of it because I could not proceed in Dawnguard otherwise :( – Khaz Dec 10 '15 at 13:50
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    Discerning the Transmundane is a Daedric quest not a main story quest, it is simply often picked up while following the main storyline – IG_42 Dec 10 '15 at 15:07
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    Both Dawnguard and the main quest uses the Elder Scroll: Dragon. That's the only part where they "mix". Having a single common quest item doesn't mean they are "mixed". You do not progress the main quest by doing the Dawnguard line, nor vice versa. You just happen to use one item that is also used in the main quest. – Nelson Dec 11 '15 at 0:54
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In general, each DLC adds content to the game and they can all be safely installed and played at the same time. The fact that some of the foes you'll face in the wilds of Solstheim are a little tougher than those on the mainland may encourage you to face the challenges of a little later.

I don't generally focus specifically on the main story lines in any order, but I frequently find myself finishing the dawnguard story-line before I finish the main Skyrim story line ...

...to both cut down on the muggings by the faction I'm working against and because I find that uncontrolled vampires do more damage to the populations of my cities than do uncontrolled dragons.


The Hall of the Vigilant

The only Change that may leave you feeling that you've missed out on something is that loading and reaching level 10 will cause the Hall of the Vigilant to have been sacked by vampires. The location does not seem to have any quests to which you'd loose access. Though a player that intends to specialize in Heavy Armor may wish to visit for a single point of training from a book, The Knights of the Nine. There is also a Daedra Heart laying about which is rare enough to consider visiting before it's sacked.

Entertainingly enough, there is also Keeper Carcette, an Expert Restoration Trainer there to serve the 0-75 Restoration training needs of your pre-Level 10 characters. Not much of a loss as Danica Pure-Spring, of Whiterun, is a Master trainer (0-90), as is Florentius Baenius, who is added by the same DLC that kills off Carcette.


Another interesting change is that...

...folks don't get violently aggressive toward you if you allow yourself to become a stage 4 vampire. Personally I think it's a shame that you no longer need to manage your "hunger" if you're careless enough to allow yourself to be turned by a common vampire (not to be confused with the much smarter/cooler Vampire Lords, who will keep a stable of "Cattle" for you to feed upon).

  • Florentius Baenius is also an alchemy merchant, so whatever you're losing is completely negated by the fact that Florentius basically gives you free training if you can make potions. – Nelson Dec 11 '15 at 0:49
  • There's a copy of Knights of the Nine in the longhouse at Narzlbur(orc stronghold near Kynesgrove, which is just south of Windhelm). Turn right as you enter, then look right in the next room. It is in the middle of a stack of books(True nature of Orcs, Code of Malacath). You can read it for the skill up(or 2 if you have scholar's insight from one of the black books on Solstheim) without having to steal it. Collette Marence of Winterhold is an expert trainer in Restoration and a spell merchant Respawning supply of 4 daedra (hearts) at the shrine of Mehrunes Dagon after Pieces of the Past. – Jtenorj3 Mar 19 '17 at 1:38
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Activating any DLC will not affect the original storyline.


Environmental changes:

You may get attacked by the followers of the dragonborn and get different responses for being a vampire.

If yes, in what order should I use the DLCs?
I recommend doing the main or side quests first. You'll get the required items and levels needed to conquer the "harder", required parts of the DLCs.

For the later parts of Dawnguard you need to have

the Elder Scroll

from the Main Quest.

And I highly suggest not going into the Dragonborn DLC until later in the game (Traveling to Solstheim and further adventuring) because I had problems beating later enemies which were essential to the Quest. So far so good, I will come back later and have my revenge! Time to farm some dragons!

Seemed like a fun idea... Until the antagonist came and stole each Dragon Soul. This may occur after you met him the first time.

For more information on WHEN to start the DLCs have a look at this question. If you feel ready to start with the DLCs, the order of Dawnguard or Dragonborn does not matter. Feel free to do Hearthfire anytime you like, as it doesnt require any power.

If no, can I use them all at once?
Yes, as with most other Quests you can play all of them at the same time unless:

You are in a different dimension. In that case you have to finish the mission that got you there first.

  • The antagonist of Dragonborn stealing dragon souls happens even before you've been to Solstheim. – Philipp Dec 10 '15 at 23:17
  • Not true. It only happens if you have reached the Temple. I've been to Solstheim and got Bend Will from an exterior dragon stone and all the Black Books, but no dragon soul stealing for me yet. – Nelson Dec 11 '15 at 0:50
  • Black Books: There are 7 total, but you can only get 5 of them without diving into the Dragonborn quest line. One you go through at the start, another you go through later in the quest line. As far as the achievement/trophy, you only need 5 of the 7 for it to unlock. – Jtenorj3 Mar 19 '17 at 1:39

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