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There are some cabins and chests way out in the wild in Skyrim that don't seem to have any keys, as well as a couple chests in certain bandit hideouts. I recently found an Abandoned Cabin splattered with blood and a few nightshades and deathbells growing around it. There are no bodies that I can find and the door requires a key. In another cabin, there's a dead body and a chest which requires a key. No key on the body. And I've found one or two chests that also need keys in bandit hideouts. How do I get in? Is there a way?

EDIT: Funny thing—I actually found the cabin that you get kidnapped to after killing Grelod the Kind for Aventus Aretino. Still haven't solved the problem of the chests, but being related to a quest has been confirmed, for anyone wondering.

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    Can you post screenshots of the specific map locations for the doors and chests you've found? I'm not aware of any general-purpose method to open "Key required" doors or chests other than finding the key, but it should be possible to help you find the key you need. Commented Feb 13, 2023 at 18:24
  • They're most likely going to be related to a quest, the key is in possession of an enemy, the key is in a different container somewhere else on the map, or you're just not seeing the key.
    – Lady_A
    Commented Feb 13, 2023 at 20:27

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In general, Skyrim quests normally use dungeons in one of three ways:

  1. Just dump a MacGuffin inside of the boss chest and/or an extra boss at the end of the dungeon, and call it a day. This is the case for most minor fetch quests in the game, especially the repeating ("radiant") quests that you can get from various factions.
  2. Block the dungeon with rubble, a locked door, or some other physical obstacle, and mark it as "reserved" in the Creation Kit (so that radiant quests do not randomly select it as a possible destination). This is the case for most of the more significant quests, but some of them take option (1) above.
  3. The quest is given in the dungeon itself rather than by some external quest-giver. Skyrim only has a handful of these dungeon-quests. One of the more elaborate examples is Forbidden Legend. Interestingly, this quest makes use of Saarthal, which is also reserved by the College of Winterhold, but that's OK because both quests were specifically designed to use Saarthal together without conflicting.

As a rule of thumb, if an exterior door (i.e. a door in the exterior world, and not inside a dungeon or building) is locked with "Key Required," it nearly always indicates a quest of type (2) above. If an interior door or chest is locked in this fashion, it may indicate such a quest, or it may indicate that the dungeon must be completed in a specific order. The latter is rare, in my experience; although most dungeons are fairly linear, this is usually accomplished by level design rather than by locking doors (other than the "shortcut back to the entrance" door that is present in most dungeons).

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Usually it is the new Creation Club content.

For the least spoiler free experience you can take Creation Club in the menu and look at the different start locations in the descriptions and then do them.

Alternative Armors - Orcish Plate Armor is most likely one of the chests you have seen.

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  • This might account for one locked chest in the game, but is not at all likely an explanation for the bulk of locked doors and chests.
    – Joachim
    Commented Apr 4, 2023 at 18:57

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