Hailfire Peaks: Eastmarch Hold has a mountainous, constantly snowy environment in the northern section around Windhelm. To the immediate south, however, is a caldera dotted all across with hot springs.
Hammerspace: The player and those NPCs which s/he can pickpocket. The player can carry dozens of broadswords and battleaxes and still sprint. Some NPCs can have their entire inventory removed via pickpocket save for one item. If caught, the NPC may draw a weapon which was never in their inventory. This is also apparently where Khajiit ears and Argonian horns and feathers go when they wear headgear.
Handicapped Badass: Several characters, both living and in Skyrim history, have or had only one eye. These include Hakon One-Eye, Olaf One-Eye, Noster Eagle-eye (the beggar in Solitude), and Skjor of the Companions. Can also include the Dovahkiin, if played as one-eyed or blind.
Hard Work Hardly Works: Played straight, though not fully in a few places. The Greybeards had to study until their beards were grey in order to master the language of dragons and the power of the shout. The Dragonborn can merely approach a written Word of Power and absorb its effects, needing only to find all three to master a given shout (though in order to actually use the Words of Power, one needs to kill dragons and use their souls to unlock them). Arngeir points this out as he is training you, though he explains that the Greybeards do not mind the ease the Dragonborn has, for it is a divine gift and they are happy to aid him/her. Furthermore, because he/she hasn't actually had the study and training they had, whenever they speak anything that isn't related to a Shout the Dragonborn has no idea what the heck they're saying, requiring an explanation.
Harmless Freezing: The Ice Form shout freezes opponents and does some frost damage, but they thaw relatively unharmed in about half a minute.
Have a Nice Death: If you get killed by an execution. The execution by a dragon is probably the best example, as the dragon bites you off the ground and tosses you like a ragdoll.
Have You Tried Not Being a Monster?: You can ask Serana, pretty much the game's only sympathetic vampire, if she's considered getting cured. If you ask too soon, she'll close the discussion on it permanently; but if you're nice to her and patient throughout the Dawnguard questline, you can ask after Harkon is killed and she'll go and get cured.
During the Companions questline, Kodlak wants to be cured of his lycanthropy so his soul can go on to Sovngarde instead of Hircine's realm. Following his death in the assault on Jorrvaskr and the revenge on the Silver Hand, the Circle of the Companions gather at the Tomb of Ysgramor in "Glory of the Dead" to cure his lycanthropy posthumously by casting the Wolf Spirit out of his soul with the aid of the head of a Glenmoril Witch and then killing it. Following the quest in question, you can cure not only your own lycanthropy, but take quests to cure Farkas and Vilkas, two of the other three remaining werewolves of the Companions. All you need to do is wipe out the entire coven of Glenmoril Witches and bring back all of their heads. Aela, on the other hand, is quite fine with being a werewolf, and doesn't want to be cured.
Headless Horseman: You may encounter a headless horseman's ghost riding along the roads at night; he's harmless, though, and you can't interact with him. If you manage to follow him, he'll lead you to Hamvir's Rest which is likely where his mortal body is buried. Going there on your own will often result in you finding him already there (occasionally, even during the daytime).
Argonians are partially immune to all disease and can quickly (though not instantly) recover to full health with their Histskin ability.
Spriggans have the ability to recover all their health in an instant.
Trolls will quickly (though not instantly) regenerate any damage done to them, unless you Kill Them With Fire.
A Restoration perk instantly restores 250 hit points if the player's health falls below 10%, but only if the blow isn't fatal and only once a day.
Almost all NPCs and the player slowly regenerate health. It is unclear if this is an in-story ability of the Dovahkiin or an Acceptable Break From Reality; technically speaking, this is probably to prevent damage accumulation on NPCs so they can only be killed by a single brutal attack, rather than several survivable ones which add up to fatal damage.
The Dragonborn has a canonical example of this, tying into their unique ability to absorb knowledge and power from slain Dragons. Should a fight with a Dragon cause the Dragonborn's health to become very low, absorbing its soul will immediately restore a small portion of their health.
Heart in the Wrong Place: Averted. Forsworn Briarhearts, through a magical process, replace their real hearts with a magic substitute; they can clearly be seen with these hearts located in the centre of the chest. A high enough Pickpocket skill can allow you to literally steal their hearts!
Here There Were Dragons: Fans that pay attention to the background lore raised some eyebrows when their presence was confirmed, as dragons were said to be an endangered species few in number, kept alive by the Empire only in return for helping them in war. The game eventually explains this, and the fact that they're returning is mentioned from the start; Alduin is bringing all of the dead dragons back to life. Apparently the dragons' souls still survive unless they're absorbed by a Dragonborn, so the ones slain by non-Dragonborn people (such as the Blades) simply need their bodies rebuilt.
Heroic BSOD: Lucan Valerius and his sister Camilla give you a quest to return the Golden Claw which had been stolen. If Camilla is killed, Lucan just stares into space and doesn't say very much, and if you return the claw to him he sadly wishes Camilla was there to witness that.
Heroic Mime: Normally you talk to people, but you can play completely silent throughout the Dark Brotherhood storyline.
A book on Oblivion has an introduction that is also a Shout-Out to the quote by Friedrich Nietzsche, saying "He who enters Oblivion allows Oblivion to enter him."
In the "Laid to Rest" quest in Morthal, the player discovers that a clan of vampires is planning to conquer the city. Their leader is Movarth, who was first mentioned in Oblivion in the in-game book Immortal Blood as a vampire hunter who fell victim to the author, who was himself secretly a vampire. If you didn't see the book in Oblivion (or never played it), copies can also be found throughout Skyrim.
The Greybeards frequently warn the Dragonborn against falling prey to this kind of hubris. After s/he inquires about Dragonrend, Arngeir warns against learning it because Shouts require the user to become the concept they are summoning and Dragonrend would cause them to channel pure hate into themselves and risk becoming that evil.
This is a major theme in Dragonborn, where Miraak is revealed to be the First Dragonborn, a Dragon Priest who in ancient times abused his powers to rule over Solstheim and entered the service of Hermaeus Mora to try and acquire enough power to overthrow his masters, before trying to backstab the Daedric Prince as well. After defeating Miraak and being "rewarded" by becoming the new Champion of Mora, Frea points out that the Dragonborn was made for a greater purpose and has the choice not to walk down the same path.
He Who Must Not Be Heard: Three of the four Greybeards cannot even whisper as their voice has enough power to cause earthquakes. Arngeir, thus, speaks for them.
High Dive Hijinks: The "Bard's Leap", which consists of a bridge leading up to the edge of a waterfall. You do the math. Surviving nets you a free Speech bonus from the ghost of someone who didn't survive the leap.
Highly Conspicuous Uniform: Most NPC groups and nearly all player-joinable factions have a specific, unvarying and often rather conspicuous uniform worn by the NPC's that the player can obtain. While this makes sense for the military factions (Imperial Army, Stormcloak Rebels), even groups that logically wouldn't have a uniform (such as the Thieves' Guild and the Volkihar vampire faction) still have a uniform. Lampshaded in some of the guards' comments, where (for example) they will recognize you're a member of the Thieves' Guild by your Thieves' Guild uniform.
Members of the Silver Hand, a faction opposed to the Companions in Whiterun, will recognize Farkas during one portion of the questline because he wears the wolf armor given to members of the inner Circle. Since all the members of the Circle are werewolves, this is a case of ReallyHighly Conspicuous Uniform.
Hit Scan: There are three types of destruction spells: fire, frost and shock. Fire is the cheapest and most damaging, while frost has additional negative effects on the enemy. Shock, being the most expensive and least damaging, would look like a loser... except its attacks hit instantly, negating the need to Lead The Target and making it much easier to hit flying/fast targets. Oh, and it drains mana.
In one quest dungeon, you can release a trio of captive vampires, who will ignore you and run into the next room to kill their captors.
In another, a necromancer using ghosts as mooks can have those ghosts turned against him by grabbing a specific soul gem in the room.
The Dragonborn in general is a living case of this, using the dragons' own power against them.
You can learn pickpocketing from skill trainers, then steal back the gold you just paid them, further building the skill.
Hollywood History: You get to participate in creating a bit of this for Solitude. The copy of Olaf and the Dragon you find is too badly damaged to present to Elisif, so you suggest to the bard that you can make up the missing parts. Viarmo for the most part will go along with most anything the player suggests, but the more dramatic/fantastic options require passing a Speech check in order for him to accept. ("Olaf was the dragon. What a twist!")
Home Run Hitter: It is in your best interest to make sure giants never get within melee range, or at least not for more time than is needed for a quick swipe on your part.
Honey Trap: In Morthal, there's a female vampire who seduced a man into being her guardian while she and her master, Movarth, plan the town's destruction. Her seduction is so thorough that if you try to convince him that she's evil, he'll fight you to the death before letting harm come to her. Even factoring in the power of Vampiric Seduction at her disposal, the way she dresses makes it easy to see how she convinced the poor guy to become her Thrall.
Honor Before Reason: Pretty standard fare for any traditional Nord. They fancy themselves a Proud Warrior Race, with customs and laws that they won't bend for anybody. In fact, this is pretty much what started the war, especially since there's proof that the Thalmor were manipulating things from the start.
Played even more straight in regards to dragons. On two separate occasions (first in a flashback with Alduin and then with Odahviing), humans have lured dragons to an obvious trap just by calling its name with the Thu'um. The dragons see this as a challenge, and will come straight away.
In Odahviing's case, he says he was specifically curious about the Dragonborn, the one who had bested Alduin (however temporarily), though he admits he was overly eager.
Horny Vikings: The hero can opt to be the classic "horned Viking" using the horned variant of the Iron or Steel helmet (the other standard Steel helm is more like the real Vikings' headwear) when using heavy armour or the Scaled helmet in light armour.
The Nords in general can apply for this. Since the game takes place in their homeland, it really drives home how much of an expy they are to our real world Norse Vikings.
Horse Archer: The hero can be one of these after patch 1.6, but proper aiming can be difficult with no aiming crosshair.
Hot-Blooded: The traditional Nord way of life is, as Legate Rikke puts it, "following our hearts".
Hour of Power: Various abilities only last for a minute or so, then take an in-game day to recharge. One such example is the Argonian Histskin ability, which gives Argonians a minute of accelerated healing.
Huge Rider, Tiny Mount: A certain stable master outside of Riften invoked this while drunk one night. It didn't end well.
Human Pack Mule: The most common use of followers. A fair amount of them are aware of this. One of the abilities in the Dragonborn DLC lets you summon a Dremora Butler for the sole purpose of carrying your junk.
Serana: This better not be all the things you just can't be bothered with.
Hunter of His Own Kind: The Dovahkiin, possessing the soul of a dragon in a human's body, is basically this to the other dovah.
Taking Serana with you on Dawnguard missions make her this, even if she doesn't seem overly enthused by the idea.
Humans Are Warriors: Imperials and Nords, two of the human races, are both prone to fits of badass behavior when faced down by the so-called superiority of the elven races. See the fate of the entire freaking Snow Elf race for an example.
Hungry Weapon: The Ebony Blade is your reward for helping the Daedric Lord Mephala, and she urges you to use it on those you love the most so that the sword can absorb their essence and grow stronger. The blade feeds on betrayal.
Hybrid Over Kill Avoidance: Lycanthropy and vampirism are mutually exclusive; both are technically diseases, and contracting one gives you complete immunity to diseases, which means you can't contract the other.
A glitch allows you to subvert it anyway, but be wary that you can't avoid progressing in vampirism if you do.
In Dawnguard, the more powerful vampirism offered by Lord Harkon and Serana will purge lycanthropy. The werewolf blood offered by Aela in the main game will in turn purge vampirism.
Hyperactive Metabolism: Coming out second best in a fight? Just enter your inventory (which pauses combat), scarf down 6 bowls of soup, 9 salmon steaks and 4 cheese wheels - you'll be fresh as a daisy. Don't worry, your foe will wait.
Hyper Awareness: NPCs can quickly sidestep to dodge arrow and crossbow fire... even if you're in Sneak mode and they haven't seen you, and thus could not possibly know where the shot is coming from.
Hyperspace Arsenal: Like Oblivion, the encumbrance/fatigue mechanic attempts to avert this, but the PC is still capable of carrying several armor pieces and weapons, as well as other items, all at once.
Hypocrite: Several Khajiit (notably caravan boss Ri'saad), as well as Nord trader Ysolde, will lament that the Khajiit are not allowed inside cities, because "some" are thieves and the Nords have unjustly stereotyped them all... But all Khajiit in the game (except for walking Easter Egg M'aiq the Liar, and you if playing as a Khajiit) are thieves, assassins or involved in other illegal activities. All of them. Generic Khajiit appear as bandits and Dark Brotherhood assassins. A Thieves' Guild mission shows Ri'saad and the three caravans working under him dabble in fencing and smuggling, and Ri'saad openly sells illegal Moon Sugar and Skooma. Two other named Khajiit are Thalmor hitmen. Even J'Zargo, of the College of Winterhold, confesses to being a thief upon first meeting him.
Paarthurnax calls the Dragonborn out on this; regardless of whether you are playing as a heroic figure, by being of the same kith as the Dragons, you possess the same urge to destroy and conquer as they do.
While confronting Harkon for the final time, if the Dragonborn has sided with the Dawnguard, he can swear to purge all vampires from Tamriel. Harkon then asks if they intend to kill Serana as well. Refusing to answer or denying will prompt him to say, "Interesting that you can set aside your morals when it suits you."
Iconic Outfit: The horned helmet worn by the PC in the trailer. Also, generally speaking, all the official art and images of the Dragonborn, be it male or female, will depict the character wearing an Iron Helmet, Studded Armor, Iron Gauntlets, and Iron Boots; and usually bearing a sword (either with a shield or dual wielding blades).
If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten: To join the Dark Brotherhood, you have to figure out which one of three potential victims has a contract on their head, and murder them. After you've done the deed, it's revealed that it doesn't matter which one you kill, Astrid just wanted to know that you'd follow an order to murder someone without question.
She actually likes it best if you just say forget it and kill all three to be safe.
Given which one of the three is actually guilty of doing something that would (justifiably) provoke someone to call the Dark Brotherhood, calling him a "kitten" is not so far from the truth.
For bonus evil points, the official strategy guide reveals that none of them had contracts on them.
I Call Her "Vera": When enchanting an item, you have the option to rename it as you see fit.
I Gave My Word: Many Nords believe in this, particularly shown with Ulfric Stormcloak.
Odahviing, the dragon you capture at Dragonsreach, gives his word to be your ally if you set him free and is hurt if you ask how he can be trusted. Not only does he deliver, but he makes a Heel-Face Turn from that point on.
However, Paarthurnax comments that the Blades are right to distrust dragons, which may suggest that this is unusual.
I Have Your Wife: If the player joins the Dawnguard, vampires may kidnap their friends or even wife/husband. Thankfully, a member of the Dawnguard who is tight with Arkay, the god of death, will be informed by Arkay (or so he claims) of the deed and send you to rescue your friend/beloved.
It can also happen in Hearthfire. Upon coming home to the house you personally constructed, you'll be met by a bandit with a ransom note. Rochelle the Red demands you pay her 5000 gold for the safe return of your spouse. You can try paying the ransom, or you can take a different option. Cue Roaring Rampage of Revenge. note This will only happen if your spouse is at a home you built and there is no housecarl in residence (or the housecarl is the spouse). Otherwise, the housecarl bars the door and prevents the kidnapping. Additionally, this quest is not available with all spouses - the wikis have a list of 22 spouses who, for whatever reason, cannot be kidnapped.
I Know Your True Name: Played with. Twice in the game, dragons are summoned from anywhere in the world by speaking their names as a Shout, but not because it holds any power over them; it's because to speak a dragon's name as a Shout is considered a personal challenge, and because Odahviing and Alduin are too arrogant not to accept. Odahviing can be summoned any time after you learn his name, but only because he respects you.
With Dawnguard installed, the player can summon Durnehviir, a dragon that has been trapped in the Soul Cairn by calling his name.
Illegal Religion: The worship of Talos, the Ninth Divine, was outlawed by the Empire at the urging of the Aldmeri Dominion as part of the White-Gold Concordat that ended the war. The Thalmor want to stamp out Talos worship for a number of reasons, chief among them that they're trying to unmake him as a Divine as a prelude to trying to do the same to humanity itself, even if it means ending the world entire. While this isn't such a big deal elsewhere in the Empire, Skyrim was Talos' home, and the drive to stamp out his worship in his homeland has stirred up a lot of resentment, which is one of the factors leading to the civil war raging across the land.
I Love the Dead: Arondil's journals at Yngvild imply that, after being kicked out of Dawnstar, he discovered that he was a necrophiliac. After initially being hesitant to indulge in his urge to screw the dead, he apparently gave in.
It's far worse than real necrophilia, however, since he is having sex with their souls and not just their dead bodies! The topper is that there are Red Mountain Flowers (read: rose petals) scattered on and around his bed, in which you find a sleeping female ghost.
There's more. Since these female ghosts are under his magical thrall, it means they're being held against their will. And when you factor in him having sex with them in such a state, it basically amounts to rape. And considering that being under magical thrall can also mean they are still conscious and aware of what's happening (like the Apologetic Attacker ghosts located at Rannveig's Fast), it's no surprise that if the player breaks his hold on them by stealing a particular soul gem in his chamber, they'll go berserk and kill him.
There is another one, Lu'ah Al-Skaven, the insane necromancer in Ansilvund. Her husband died years ago; but unfortunately for her, there is not much left of his body because it was burned. Instead, she wants to use the Draugr bodies of the legendary lovers Holgeir and Fjori to be vessels for her and her late husband. She's a far more sympathetic example than Arondil, but still homicidally insane.
I'm a Humanitarian: Namira's followers have... exotic tastes. The player character can also become this after obtaining Namira's Ring. Additionally, the Bosmer (Wood Elves) practice ritual cannibalism as part of their "Green Pact." note Maybe. There's plenty of references to them supposedly doing so in the books, but the only explicit statement to that effect is in a book that suffers from a rather severe case of in-universe Cultural Posturing and was published (again, in-universe) several centuries before the events of the game.
Impossible Thief: With the proper perks, you can pickpocket the armor people are currently wearing as well as the weapon they are currently holding. With the Shadow Warrior perk, you can even do this while they are engaged in combat with you, causing enemies to become naked and unarmed as they are taking a swing at you. You can also pickpocket the briar hearts from Forsworn Briarhearts, and they die. Meaning you actually steal the (magical replacement) heart out of their chest.
Improbable Aiming Skills: The Falmer don't have much better or worse aiming with their bows than any other enemy, which is pretty damn impressive considering they're all blind. If they do know you're there, then they act much like any other enemy in terms of knowing where you are. However, the level of Super Senses required to fire an arrow at a muffled moving target from long range would make it impossible to even come close to backstabbing them, so this may come under Acceptable Breaks from Reality.
Indo European Fantasy Language: Dovahzul, the Tongue of Dragons. Seeing as how the series usually averts this, it was probably done because it needed to double as a Cipher. It has nearly no case-marking at all, appears to be almost entirely monosyllabic, and does not differentiate between past, present, and future tense. (Given the nature of dragons, this makes quite a bit of sense.) It was apparently created by a composer, rather than a linguist.
The written form is interesting, in that all its runes can be easily carved with claws of one dragon forepaw simultaneously. The official strategy guide includes the Dovahzul alphabet among its extras.
At least, that's what the guide and the in-game lore-book regarding it says. However, dragons in Skyrim don't have forepaws. Their upper limbs are bat-like wings, and the 'claws' at the end of the wings aren't shaped like the marks. This leaves them making the marks with their feet, either while hovering, or carefully standing on one foot.
Infant Immortality: Usually played straight, though a few child deaths occur in the storyline. A man in Morthal has recently lost his child as well as his wife to a house fire; a man in Cidhna Mine was forced to watch his young daughter be executed before he was thrown in; and in Falkreath, a little girl was mauled to death by a werewolf. However, none of these ever happen onscreen, and children are invincible to any of your in-game attacks.
Informed Attribute: Balimund in Riften says he feeds his forge fire salts so the flames burn hotter, and it's common knowledge among Whiterun and the Companions that something about the Skyforge makes the steel it turns out stronger. Despite this information, forging weapons in either of these two forges offers the same weapons with the same stats as any other forge; the only difference is that after the Companions questline is completed, the Skyforge can be used to forge a unique set of items that can't be made elsewhere.
Becoming a Nightingale is supposedly essential in order to beat Mercer. In practice, the Nightingale is only granted a suit of special armor and abilities. You don't need to wear the armor at all to find or kill Mercer, and the abilities are only granted after Mercer's been defeated.
This line was included in the game as a reference to the lack of any armor covering the knees.
Insistent Terminology: The description of High King Torygg's death. Pro-Stormcloak characters are quick to point out that Torygg was killed in a duel that met the requirements of Nord tradition, while pro-Imperial characters consider it to be murder and argue that Ulfric's use of the Thu'um prevented it from being a fair fight. To some extent, they're both right.
Insult Backfire: If an Orc Dragonborn approaches a Stronghold and calls the guard "pig-face", the guard will laugh and say the Dragonborn will fit right in before inviting them inside.
Insurmountable Waist High Fence: There aren't many of these, but Skyrim is a little bit more forceful than its predecessor in keeping you from going where you shouldn't - no more jumping over city walls, for example.
Most of the usual offenders in this trope have been avoided, though. In particular, you can gleefully jump over fences.
If you use cheat codes, you'll find that some walls have an invisible barrier that extends some distance above the actual wall (the Thalmor Embassy, for example, which you're supposed to infiltrate as a party guest), but if you jump high enough you can get in and break the quest.
Interface Spoiler: Dragon Shouts are captioned for players with subtitles on in the same way that any other utterance is, with the name of the dragon shown as well. This can rather spoil the main questline if one happens to catch the name of the dragon that attacks Helgen.
Delphine being more than she lets on can be spoiled if one has the subtitles on, if one returns with the Dragonstone to Dragonsreach and finds her talking with Farengar.
Quest objectives are always indicated on the map, even if there's no way the player character could know where the next objective is. However, this falls under Acceptable Breaks from Reality, as many quests otherwise would be Guide Dang It quests due to how obscure their objectives would be. (Morrowind required players to find their objectives and destinations using maps and notes, and this was considered very frustrating to many players.)
The top tier perk for Pickpocket, "Perfect Touch," allows the player to pickpocket items that NPCs currently have equipped. However, the perk does not work on essential characters (i.e. characters who are needed for quests and therefore can't be killed), thus allowing players with the perk to know that a character is special because their clothes can't be stolen.
In the quest journal, there is decorative knotwork surrounding the name of each quest. This varies depending on the type of quest (main quests, guild quests, Daedric quests, etc.) For many quests this isn't a problem, but for some of the Daedric quests, "A Night to Remember" being a perfect example, it may not be obvious at first that one of the Daedric Princes is involved. Finding this out can be a major twist.example like when Sam Guevenne is revealed to really be Sanguine
Internal Retcon: The Thalmor have arranged it so that they look like the ones who stopped the Oblivion crisis, not the Champion of Cyrodiil, at least within the Aldmeri Dominion. According to various books written outside the Dominion, Martin is mainly credited with stopping the invasion and the Champion has all but faded from memory. However, the Champion is properly noted in history as the one who defeated Mankar Camoran.
Interspecies Adoption: As of Hearthfire, there are several children available for adoption... all of them Nord, Imperial, Redguard or Breton. This means if you want to have kids and are an elf, Khajiit or Argonian, you're stuck with this trope.
Don't forget the Dunmer, Brand-Shei. He has that name because he was raised by Argonians.
Interspecies Romance: What you get if you marry anyone from a race other than the one you select during character creation. In particular, there are no available Bosmer or Khajiit spouses, so if you play as either of those, this trope is your only marriage option.
You'll also encounter a lot of these throughout the game's story - far more than you might expect in a country so infamous for its Fantastic Racism. These include:
In Riverwood, Faendal (Bosmer) is in love with Camilla Valerius (Imperial).
In the Thieves' Guild you have Karliah (Dunmer) and Gallus (Imperial). Karliah herself is a bonus example, as her confirmed backstory reveals that her maternal grandparents were this too - her grandmother was Queen Barenziah of the Dunmer, and her grandfather was Tiber Septim!
In Riften, fishery owner Bolli (Nord) is married to Nivenor (Bosmer). Theirs isn't a happy example, however, since Nivenor is a Gold Digger and will proposition any male Dragonborn who speaks to her, regardless of race.
Vantus Loreius (Imperial) is married to Curwe (Altmer), and they own a farm near the Whiterun/Pale border.
During the quest "The Book of Love," Dinya Balu sends you to help Calcelmo (Altmer) woo his beloved Faleen (Redguard). After the quest is complete, you can hang around the Temple of Mara and listen to conversations between Dinya Balu (Dunmer) and Maramal (Redguard). They are both priests of Mara, happily married, and expecting their first child!
Invulnerable Civilians: Averted, like in all Bethesda Role Playing Games. Towns are part of the world map, and are all potentially subject to random monster attacks. This mostly manifests as dragon attacks. Unlike Fallout 3, though, monster spawn points no longer occur inside or near the towns themselves, except for those very rare instances of dragons attacking a walled city, or vampire attacks after dark if you've installed Dawnguard. So it's less likely for a Deathclaw to wander into town and murder everyone (although some of the smaller settlements do have monster spawn points very close by and are therefore potentially subject to monster attack). And of course, you can always flee to a settlement having one or multiple enemies follow you.
I Own This Town: Maven Black-Briar basically controls Riften, the Silver-Bloods by and large own Markarth, and Kjeld may as well run Kynesgrove. The latter two hold their sway by virtue of owning the mines on which their respective cities depend for their prosperity, while the former holds hers through her close contact with the Thieves' Guild, the Jarl of Riften, and the Empire. In Maven's case, winning the Civil War for the Empire will make it official since she becomes the replacement Jarl, while the Silver-Bloods have one of their number as the replacement Jarl for the Reach in case of a Stormcloak victory.
I Surrender, Suckers: Nearly dead opponents will frequently plead "I yield! I yield!" but don't fall for it. They're only hoping for a breather so they can murder you as soon as relent in your attack.
Note, however, that opponents who are not automatically hostile to you (like bandits) and are fighting you for a non-faction related reason (say, someone who caught you pickpocketing, attacked, then received a beat-down from you) sometimes will stop fighting when they scream "I yield!" IF you sheath your weapons at that point. Otherwise, they will eventually stagger to their feet, see you still have a weapon drawn, and resume the attack at a sliver of health (often with heroic, agonized gasps like "No... Not... Like this!"). Amusingly, if they do stop fighting because you sheathed your weapons, they will frequently quip things like "Well, I guess you've had enough, then," as they walk off.
Of course, there are (very) occasional NPCs that will actually run once they've recovered, or simply walk about as normal, trying to forget it happened. The vast majority are liars, however, so any genuine repenter will likely to get killed regardless.
Spriggans in particular can restore themselves to full health, though they don't bother pleading in any comprehensible language. Also, see Reviving Enemy below.
Also Cicero at a point in the Dark Brotherhood chain. You are tasked to hunt him down through his blood trails, and finally you find him lying on the floor and bleeding. You have the choice to spare him or kill him, after he explains his reasons, and says that he has no more fight left in him; his fate is in your hands. Should you choose to attack him... he immediately stands up and gives a decent fight before going down.
This is pretty much what the Empire is trying - pretending to be a Vichy-esque nation for the Thalmor while building up strength so they can hopefully deliver them a more decisive defeat later.
It Amused Me: Pretty much the only reason behind the mess you find yourself in during Sanguine's Daedric quest. "Uncle Sanguine" invokes the trope practically by name when you talk to him at last.
It Has Been an Honor: Ralof says this to Ulfric in the intro, when they're lining up to be beheaded.
It's Up to You: Averted, in the Civil War storyline, anyway. If you delay, your side can and will take control of cities without you, although confusingly they will act as if you were there.
This is the entire schtick of the Daedric prince Clavicus Vile. He takes an unholy glee in twisting whatever somebody wishes for to the greatest possibility of homicide possible. Somebody asks for a cure for his daughter's lycanthropy? Give 'em an axe. A group of vampires want an end to their undead misery? Have somebody appear and slaughter them all. Somebody wants an end to the Civil War plaguing Skyrim? Do absolutely nothing and let the dragons kill both sides of the fight. The only thing that keeps him honoring a deal at all instead of just killing everybody is Barbas, the manifestation of his conscience.
This is also the case with the Ideal Masters in the Soul Cairn. Necromancers seek to bargain with them in an attempt to raise powerful souls, but more often than not the necromancers find themselves trapped in the Soul Cairn instead. For an example of another kind, the dragon Durnehviir made a deal to act as a guard for Valerica until she died. He's immortal, so this seems like a good deal. What they neglected to tell him is that she is too.
Jerkass Gods: The Daedric Princes again. In fact, Molag Bal's quest, while named "House of Horrors," is anything but scary (unless you are really that afraid of the Forsworn) and mainly serves to show you how much of an asshole Molag Bal is (Logroff is a jerk too). Mocking Molag Bal at the end is optional.
Joke Item: The Wooden Sword from the Hearthfire DLC. Justified in that it is a toy, though it is funny when you beat a bandit to death with it. Still odd since you can give your children real daggers, even Daedric/dragonbone ones, as gifts. Dawnguard lets you dual wield a knife and fork.
Journey to the Center of the Mind: Sheogorath's quest has you going into the mind of the deceased, murderously insane Emperor Pelagius III. Sheogorath apparently finds it a lovely vacation spot, since he's been hanging out in there for about a decade.
Jump Scare: Some dungeons feature giant spiders dropping from the ceiling. Have fun.
In the Inner Sanctum of the Forgotten Vale, you'll find frozen-solid falmer. Many of them are holding bits of loot. Grab some and see what happens.
Just Between You and Me: During the "Forsworn Conspiracy" quest, your investigation leads you to a man who will gladly explain all the sinister details of said conspiracy. When you point out his self-incrimination, he reveals that his servants are Forsworn agents who plan to kill you at the end of the conversation (not that you should be surprised, since they pulled a similar stunt when you were talking to the last guy).
Justified Tutorial: Quite a lot of them in rapid succession, but broken up into logical portions. Shortly after the dragon interrupts your execution by roasting the garrison, you're ordered to run for it (movement tutorial), followed by jumping off a ruined tower into a nearby inn (jump tutorial). You run inside the keep with a companion who tells you to arm yourself (inventory tutorial), you fight off some hostile enemies in the basement of the keep (combat tutorial), you find a storeroom and search it for potions (looting tutorial), you see some goodies locked inside a cage in the torture chamber (lockpick tutorial), and near the end of the caves leading out there's a sleeping bear you can either sneak past or stealth-attack with a bow (sneaking and/or bow tutorial).
After making good your escape, you can follow your cohort (either one of the two you can side with) to the village of Riverwood, where the local Blacksmith can offer to teach you some basic metalworking skills if you ask for work (Smithing tutorial). Failing that, the smith at Whiterun walks you through the process step-by-step.
You can also get an alchemy tutorial, an enchanting tutorial, and an archery tutorial from various NPCs specialized in these disciplines.
Kamehame Hadoken: Combining two of the same Destruction spells into one overcharged shot, right down to the pose. Lightning Storm and Incinerate especially invoke the Trope Namers in performance.
Kangaroo Court: In the opening, the Imperial Captain orders your execution even though you aren't on the convicted list. This alone gives the player plenty of motive to side against the Empire. Note that in this case, there isn't even a "court" involved; the Empire is executing everyone involved (be they Stormcloak, random horse thieves caught in the cordon, or roaming Dovahkiin) without bothering with a trial.
Should you choose to follow Hadvar, during the journey back to Riverwood, he will state that he believes your aid in helping him escape Helgen alive is more than enough to earn you a pardon, despite his belief that you were still wrongfully arrested in the first place, and even vows to straighten the matter out with General Tullius and vouch on your behalf if you decide to join the Imperial Legion.
Karma Houdini: The Black-Briar family. Their head, Maven, is connected to the Thieves' Guild, the Dark Brotherhood and the Empire, and runs a powerful mead-brewing plant. She's so rich and powerful that she's untouchable by authorities, and the Thieves' Guild mentions that nothing happens in Riften without her express consent. If you side with the Empire, she gets named Jarl after they conquer the city, and she even says the title is a formality and that she's always been the one running the city. Riften is a Wretched Hive, since even the city guard are in Maven's pocket. The Houdini part is that she's marked as essential, so you can't kill her, and there's no quest to bring her to justice. The worst thing you can do to her is steal a horse, and she genuinely doesn't care about that; if you choose to rat out the man who asked you steal it, she'll tell you to go on with the theft. Of course, destroying the Dark Brotherhood under her nose and becoming Thane will make her begrudgingly respect you as she hands you the title of Thane of Riften (which is seen as A Fate Worse Than Death).
The rest of her family isn't as horrible but are still carrying out her will. Special note, though, goes to Sibbi, who is in prison for a measly eight months because he killed his fiancee's brother. Why? The siblings found out he was having an affair and confronted him about it. Then when you visit him in his nicely furnished jail cell, he tries to hire you to find his fiancee so that he can kill her too. You can send his men on a wild goose chase or keep him in the dark about this.
Thonar Silver-Blood, who was responsible for all the events of the "Forsworn Conspiracy" quest, gets off scot-free if you choose not to side with Madanach in escaping.
However, you can condemn him to a particularly delicious Karmic Death. After the quest, he is no longer essential, so you can cast a Frenzy spell on him and let the city guards, who he's got in his pocket, kill him.
If you go with Ralof, the first weapon you get is an axe... and the first NPC you get to fight and kill is the Imperial captain who insisted on your execution via beheading.
Many dungeons have Apocalyptic Logs or ghostly visions that let you see the fate of the adventurers who preceded you. In many cases, one or more members of the group chose to betray their fellows, only to die themselves.
Ulfric Stormcloak used a Dragon Shout to kill High King Torygg in the backstory. If you side with the Imperial Legion, you are given an opportunity to kill him. While Tullius gives you his sword to do the deed, you are perfectly free to shout Ulfric to death if you wish.
Keystone Army: Any minions that are summoned or reanimated with the Conjuration school die immediately upon their creator being killed.
Mikrul Gauldurson, a named Draugr boss, is aided by a variety of non-Boss draugr. Kill him before the others, and they all drop on the spot. If you're really fast with a powerful bow, you can actually kill him before he even gets the chance to summon them.
Kiai: The Shouts are generally this along with Calling Your Attacks and Make Me Wanna Shout. Both the player character and NPC also do this when performing power attacks. Most notably, Dremoras always do it in over the top manner. The subtitles even agree with it. Rrrraaaarrggghhh!
Kick the Dog: A quick glance around the bases of the Silver Hand will clue you in that they don't just hunt werewolves; they capture and torture them, then display their remains as trophies. They also seem to have a hatred for normal wolves as well, as many can be found gruesomely slain in their bases.
Upon first walking into Honorhall Orphanage (whether on the mission to kill Grelod the Kind or merely wandering in to see the place), you can hear the horrible old lady promise extra beatings to those who "shirk their duties", shortly before telling them that they can forget about ever being adopted. And then she expects them to tell her they love her.
Many of the Daedric quests present opportunities to do this yourself, such as torturing a priest of Boethiah into submission (Molag Bal), luring another priest into a cannibal den so that you and the other cannibals can feast upon him (Namira), luring a follower to the Pillar of Sacrifice so he or she can be sacrificed and used as a conduit (Boethiah), or murdering ten of your closest allies to power up an evil katana (Mephala).
Hermaeus Mora kicks the dog in a big way during the second to last quest of the Dragonborn DLC's storyline by killing Storn Crag-Strider.
Kill It with Fire: Justified. Of the Fire, Ice, Lightning spells that make up the Destruction school of magic, fire is arguably the most useful of them. Targets on fire take more damage from other attacks as well as continue to take damage after the initial hit. Being that Skyrim is a far northern land, many types of enemy (including trolls, vampires and draugr) have no special resistance to or are weak to fire, and draugr are some of the most common enemy types found in pretty much every tomb. As well, many dungeons come with oil slicks that can be set alight with spells or by looking for and knocking down a lantern, and they burn for a while and do good damage. All in all, fire will probably be your most used type of elemental attack.
The Dragonborn expansion offers an unpleasant surprise for fire-reliant players, as the majority of human enemies are now Dark Elves, who are all 50% resistant to fire, in addition to the fiery Ash Spawn.
Kill It with Ice: Ice destruction spells, doing damage, slowing foes, and depleting the target's stamina. Unfortunately, this can be a little Awesome, but Impractical as a mainstay offensive spell, since undead (a common enemy type) are resistant to cold, as are Nords (who are understandably over-represented in the region of Skyrim), leaving only a certain subset of enemies vulnerable to it.
Kill Steal: The Dark Brotherhood contacts you after you take on a mission in their name. The contractor was performing a ritual to summon them, but you got there first. Even if you just kill the intended victim without ever speaking with the contractor (and thus have no in-story knowledge of the Brotherhood's involvement), they will still have a beef with you for stealing the contract.note Oddly, this is only the case with that specific kill. If you kill anyone else for whom they've received a contract, such as Narfi or Alain Dufont, they don't bother you at all.
In the expansion Dragonborn, once you've awoken the Arc Villain Miraak (also a Dragonborn), he will teleport in and absorb the soul of any dragon you kill.
Kleptomaniac Hero: Stealth-oriented players will almost definitely turn into these. The player's tendency to steal everything that isn't nailed down and then steal the nails is lampshaded several times through the Thieves' Guild questline.
In fact, when you visit an Orc chieftain, he expounds that he got his position by challenging his father in open combat. He's waiting for the day that one of his sons will do the same, and succeed. An orc Wise-Woman adds that Malacath firmly believes in this.
Klingon Scientists Get No Respect: Nord mages. Onmund at the College and Farengar Secret-Fire in the Whiterun court have to put up with this attitude. It wasn't always this way; if you declare yourself the Archmage to Tsun when you meet him in Sovngarde, Tsun laments that Nords have lost the respect their forefathers had for the "clever craft". Conversely, Thalmor soldiers get this treatment from their mage ruling class, never mind that even a grunt Thalmor in armor knows attack magic.
Neloth in Dragonborn isn't impressed if you tell him you are head of the College of Winterhold. He does find it impressive that you're the one who found the Eye of Magnus though. A few more decades of dedication to magical study, and you might be qualified to become his apprentice.
Late in the main questline, you enter Sovngarde, and among the old heroes are several men and women wearing what are obviously mage robes. One of them is even wearing the College of Winterhold's Archmage vestments!
Knee-capping: Try counting how many guards used to be adventurers like you, then took an arrow in the knee.
The Guard Captain in the opening orders your execution, despite your name not being on the list, purely on the basis that you were captured with the Stormcloaks; the other soldiers seem to think it's a bad idea, but can't do much about it.
The Silver Hand: werewolves can be a menace, but they wish to exterminate every single one, and are not above torturing and skinning captured ones.
Know When to Fold 'Em: The Conjuration Master quest requires you to summon an unbound Dremora and force it to retrieve a Sigil Stone. It cannot be conventionally killed, so you accomplish this by summoning it, kicking its ass, resummoning it, then kicking its ass again until it finally gives up and decides to placate you.
Lampshade Hanging: Of the Soft Water ever so common in games. The journal of Sid the Warlock notes that "Putting a foot or two of water [in a cage below a trapdoor] didn't help either. In fact, it may actually be making things worse." If the player manages to avoid the trap and sneak below, an unwary bandit falls through and dies on impact with the water.
However, as long as it's deep enough, water in Skyrim still plays the Soft Water trope straight. It's even deliberately used in one location.
And just like he was in Oblivion, Lucien Lachance's spectral form.
You get to be one when you impersonate the Gourmet for the Emperor's assassination. "Do not question the Gourmet!"
Last of His Kind: In the Dawnguard DLC, during one of the main story missions, you run into Knight-Paladin Gelebor, who is one of the last, if not the last, of the Snow Elves - which is what the Falmer were before they became the monsters you encounter frequently in Dwemer ruins and caves. He was guarding a sacred place along with a few other surviving Snow Elves, and since they were rather isolated, it took some time for them to hear about the Snow Elf/Nord conflict that drove the former underground. He then tells you the Falmer, whom he calls "the Betrayed," attacked the temple and overwhelmed them with their sheer numbers, which ended up driving his brother insane.
Leeroy Jenkins: Everyone. This is the primary reason that Vampire (if you've got Dawnguard installed) and Dragon attacks inside Hold cities are a Scrappy Mechanic; anyone within range will drop what they're doing and run headlong into a level 81 enemy even when they themselves are capped at significantly lower, including potential quest-givers and merchants.
Lethal Chef: Part of a Dark Brotherhood quest has the player become this to kill the Emperor.
Leave No Witnesses: One option you have. Commit a crime within sight of a law-abiding citizen and you get a bounty added to your head. Kill the people who saw you do it and the bounty disappears.
Left Hanging: The political plotline is considered by both leaders to be a mere distraction before the inevitable second Great War, but that story peters out after one side wins the civil war.
Let's Fight Like Gentlemen: Fair hand-to-hand brawling is a specific combat mechanic in this game. Many towns contain someone looking to brawl with you if you put up a wager, always with the rules of no weapons or magic, just fists. Of course, you can boost your unarmed combat damage in a number of ways without technically cheating, turning the fight into a Curb-Stomp Battle. You can also heal yourself.
Let Us Never Speak of This Again: Said word for word in the Mage's college after an experiment with another student's spell turns the PC into a string of different animals - after turning them green the first round.
Level Grinding: As is tradition with the series, skills (and thus levels) can be increased by using them repeatedly, even if it means doing tedious repetitive tasks for minuscule increases.
Level Scaling: The scrappy mechanic from Oblivion is back, but it's done in the much better received manner of Fallout 3. Essentially, each type of enemy has an average of somewhere between four or five types. Once you reach certain thresholds, the new higher level enemies appear as bosses, the old bosses become mid-bosses, the old mid-bosses become Mooks, and so on. There are no enemies that scale past 50, so you are free to widen the gap after that mark, but many enemies already stop before that, making it possible (unlike in Oblivion) to meet easy-peasy low-level bandits late in the game. Also, there are some enemies with set minimum levels, so be careful if you think you're going to go on any low-level challenges. One thing that makes it easier in Skyrim than it was in Oblivion is the elimination of stats beyond Health, Magicka, and Stamina; you can no longer gimp yourself by failing to level up the right skills as you go, although perk selection can still leave you at something of a disadvantage if you opt for noncombat perks early on.
Level Up Fill Up: But only when you go into the Skills screen and choose an attribute to increase. It can be to your advantage to ignore a level-up early in a fight, and process it later on when you're in rough shape.
Light Is Not Good: Like the Daedric Princes, several of the Divines are portrayed in a darker light.
An in-game lorebook seems to suggest that the only real difference between the Aedra (gods) and Daedra (demons) is that the former participated in the creation of the universe and thereafter were only able to affect it in a limited way, whereas the latter refused to participate and are now free to do whatever they want.
The Vigilants of Stendarr, despite being knights of the god of mercy, have little to offer those who worship malicious Daedric Princes.
Stendarr Vigilant: Stendarr have mercy, for the Vigil has none to spare.
If your character is male, then a group of Dibella priestesses strong arm you into a quest by threatening you.
The most notable priest of Mara is a former fanatic of Vaermina.
Alduin, the Big Bad of the game, is not only supposed to be the dragon god Akatosh's "son," but also an "aspect" of Akatosh. The explanation is fragmentary at best. One fan theory says that the dragons are "fragments" of Akatosh based on a line from a developer in-Universe text, and that he was the first to split, making "sons" of Akatosh just the way they explain it to humans.
As an extension of this, dragons as a whole are effectively angels from the in-universe religious viewpoint.
The guardians of the Eldergleam Sanctuary, associated with the nature goddess Kynareth, will kill anyone inside the sanctuary if the tree is harmed - even harmless pilgrims that came there just to admire it and have nothing to do with damaging the tree.
The Vampire's Bane and Stendarr's Aura spells from Dawnguard.
The Rune Shield of the Dawnguard creates an aura of sunlight that damages undead over time while one blocks, and shield bashes cause a spark of light that deals more damage to vampires.
Auriel's Bow, a weapon that can turn the Sun into a Kill Sat if shot with the appropriate arrow.
Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards: Played with. Warriors are perfectly able to finish the game just find by sinking their levels into HP, Stamina and associated perks, equipping the best armor they can find and swinging a big weapon. Mages begin with the handicap of low magicka and few spells, and Destruction spells do not scale their damage with your level. But by the end of the game, Conjuration spells can reanimate the dead indefinitely, giving you extra followers of your choice from the huge line-up of NPCs, Alteration spells give effective buffs and have spells like Candlelight and Waterbreathing to help with exploration, and with the right enchantments on your equipment, you can cast spells of a particular school of magic or two for zero magicka cost. So while warriors are Boring, but Practical, mages grow to be far more versatile. Which is objectively better depends on your definition of better.
Played straight with thief-based builds. Early in the game, enemies will always catch you Sneaking and your damage output won't be very high. Later, with the right perks and contact with the Thieves' Guild and Dark Brotherhood for some of their faction armor, your backstab damage does 30 times the base, stealth archery shots can kill even dragons in one hit, and with the right perks you're practically undetectable and can safely and patiently take out rooms full of enemies one by one.
Inverted with abuse of the forging system. A mage's spells will never get stronger, but it's possible to boost your forging skill high enough to make a sword that can oneshot 90% of the game. Even worse, it's possible to dual wield for additional damage bonuses and an increase in your attack speed...which can be further increased with a dragon shout, to allow you to execute three power-attacks in under a second.
Loads and Loads of Loading: In the console versions. The PC version depends on a few different things, meaning it may qualify for some, but not for others.
Logic Bomb: In the "Yellow Book of Riddles," one of the jokes has this as the punchline.
A man says, "If you lie to me I will slay you with my sword. If you tell me the truth I will slay you with a spell."
What must you say to stay alive?
"You will slay me with a sword."
Lockpicking Minigame: You are shown the keyhole and can move a lockpick in a circle, then rotate the lock when it is in position. If it is just right, the lock will rotate 90 degrees and open; otherwise, it will stop at some point (the further down it gets, the closer you are) and the pick will break. The more complex the lock, the more precise you have to be in placing the pick, although a higher Lockpicking skill score gives you more room for error. Breaking picks gives you a small skill boost, while opening a lock gives a larger one (how large depends on its complexity).
If a guard ever tries to arrest you for crimes, often you have the option to bribe them or talk them out of it, or submit and pay off the bounty or go to jail. Alternatively, if playing on the PC, you can just press the Escape key to exit the conversation and they'll usually just let you leave.
If you somehow knock someone off a high ledge and the fall kills them, guards and the bounty on your head only register it as assault on your part; you aren't blamed for the death. Provided you can get them in the right place to kill them by the fall, you can use Unrelenting Force (FUS RO DAH) to kill NPCs for a measly 40 coin bounty, then can loot them freely. As a bonus, this also means the loot items don't count as stolen and can be sold to normal merchants.
The mechanics play with the first part, however. If your bounty is very low (as in for minor theft or accidental assault), guards will not even bother to apprehend you, but you can still choose to submit and pay your bounty. Higher bounty will cause guards to attempt to arrest you immediately, while excessive bounty will cause guards to attack on sight.
Stolen items are flagged as such in the menu and can only be sold to fences, special contacts with the Thieves' Guild, or else you need a specific perk to be able to sell stolen items to merchants. But as long as you don't sell the items, the game doesn't care what else you do with them. You can give stolen items to NPCs to fulfill quest objectives, and if you steal crafting materials and expend them crafting something, the resulting item is not flagged as stolen, even if it's a suit of armor where every ingot and leather strap used to make it was not thirty seconds ago stolen from the blacksmith to whom you're now selling it.
With the addition of Dragonborn, you have the Summon Dremora Butler ability, with which you can bypass several gear-removing situations by giving him all your stuff and then resummoning him to get it back. This lets you smuggle all your weapons into jail, or get additional gear for the "Diplomatic Immunity" quest.
Before the 1.4 patch, you needed to grab the Stone of Barenziah while you were at the Thalmor Embassy cause you ain't going to be able to go back there again. To add insult to injury, if you collected 23 stones but miss that one, you're stuck with carrying a whole bunch of non-redeemable Plot Coupons with no option to remove them from your inventory, aside from cheating to clip your way back inside. If you identified them as Stones of Barenziah before picking up more than one, none of them stack. The Embassy stone now appears in Reeking Cave, a short tunnel that you travel through during your escape, and you can reenter it.
Conversely, if you found all of the Stones of Barenziah before getting them identified, the quest won't properly progress, so you still can't turn them in. At least then they only occupy one line in your inventory.
A Word Wall containing part of the Call Storm shout is located in the final dungeon of the main quest. If you didn't get it before entering the portal to Sovngarde, too bad; there's no way to get back to the dungeon.
The Nahkriin Mask can also become Lost Forever if you forget to loot it from Nahkriin's remains or if you rushed to the portal and entered Sovngarde before he removed the staff since, again, the dungeon becomes inaccessible after the main quest. To further add insult to injury, if this happens, it will also become impossible to obtain the ninth mask, Konahrik, since getting it requires you possessing all eight Dragon Priest masks.
If you summon the ghost of Lucien Lachance after joining the Dark Brotherhood, be careful against enemies who can use the Disarm shout. If you drop a weapon which is better than the one Lucien is using, he'll take it, and since he cannot be looted after death, there is no way to get it back.
The second part of the quest centered around Potema the Wolf Queen is triggered by your character leveling up. Until the patch which removed the level cap, doing the first part of the quest at level 81 (the maximum level) would stop the courier from visiting you and prevent you from finishing the quest.
It's possible to lose access to the Waterbreathing enchantment, as there are no guaranteed drops or loots with it, and because of the way the game scales possible loot (whether dropped, looted, or stolen), the odds of finding an item enchanted with Waterbreathing steadily decrease as you level up, eventually rounding down to zero. Fortunately, Dawnguard adds one instance of guaranteed waterbreathing loot drop.
It is still possible to miss the Muffle and Fortify Barter enchants for the same reasons, the former much more than the latter. While the enchantments themselves are available on quite a few items, none of those items can be disenchanted to learn the effect. Moreover, each one works on precisely one type of apparel (boots and necklaces, respectively), meaning finding one is extremely rare. If you haven't found these by the time you're ~level 67, you never will. Check the general stores often.
The secrets of the Dwemer have long been lost to the mists of time, but they accomplished things that absolutely baffle even the most proficient mainstream mages today - like being able to build a machine that can discern knowledge from an Elder Scroll without any training on the part of the reader. The best the game's quests allow is the construction of a crossbow by stealing schematics for them for the Dawnguard.
A more mundane version is encountered in Dragonborn with the usage of Stalhrim, a super-hard mystical ice found on Solstheim. The secrets of forging it are only known to the Skaal who have passed it down for centuries, and mining it requires an Ancient Nord Pickaxe; something about the construction of those pickaxes allows them to chip apart Stalhrim deposits when normal pickaxes break apart, and not even the Skaal can figure out why.
Lost World: Blackreach. A vast underground cavern, connecting three completely different Dwemer cities, and accessible only through their deepest levels. At the beginning of the game, their entrances are sealed off, and the location is barely even heard of by scholars of Dwemer lore, let alone generally explored.
Low-Level Advantage: As a Vampire Lord, your powers improve by killing people with your bite attack at low health, or using the Vampire Drain move. Since low level enemies are weaker and appear more frequently when you yourself are low level, Vampire Lord becomes incredibly fast and easy to level at low level: Most enemies die in 1 or 2 shots of the vampiric drain, and gaining Vampire Lord perks do not cause your character level to rise. Which means there is also no danger of doing it too much and finding yourself facing enemies too tough for you to handle because you leveled too fast. Unlike doing it at a higher level where leveling Vampire Lord is a chore since the un-upgraded drain and melee attacks take forever to chip at higher level enemies' health.
Luckily My Shield Will Protect Me: The Block skill has a lot of surprising utility once you level up its perks. Among the most useful is one that grants you a resistance to magical damage when blocking, so your shield-guy can stand up to dragonfire now. Another lets you charge opponents with your shield and bash them out of the way. Still another slows time if an enemy starts a power attack (which will slam through a block if it lands) while your shield is up; see Bullet Time above.
Lunacy: Lunar weapons can only use their effects while the moons are out, and the Lunar Forge similarly can forge such weapons under the same conditions.
MacGuffin: The Elder Scrolls and Auriel's Bow in Dawnguard. In the vampire questline, it's justified in that these items are needed to fulfill the prophecy. But there's no reason given why you and the Dawnguard are unable to besiege Castle Volkihar and take out Harkon, once you let them know where the castle is. Auriel's Bowwill be needed to negate a barrier, but your character is never told this beforehand and has no reason to think there's a problem going without it.
MacGuffin Delivery Service: Even worse, when storming Castle Volkihar you bring with you the key pieces of Harkon's plan, Auriel's Bow and Serana. If the Dovahkiin were to be killed, Harkon would presumably enact his plan right then and there.
Made of Iron: Only you (or poison, due to a glitch) can kill your spouse. Watch as they take a Megaton Punch from a Giant and come running back for more.
Magic Pants: Played with as a werewolf; you wear no clothing when transformed, and when you change back into your normal form, you're unarmed and in nothing but your skivvies, but all your equipment is in your inventory and need only be re-equipped. So it's more like Magical Undies and Backpack, I guess?
Fun fact: dead werewolves often seem to have "ruined trousers" in their inventory, when looted....
Magical Society: The College of Winterhold is the primary Magical Society and can be joined by the player, but a member of the Psijic Order also makes a few appearances during quests that involve the College.
Magitek: Dwemer technology is half "steam engine," half "magical golems," evidently, as nearly all of their robots run off of soul gems rather than conventional power sources (and the steam appears to be generated magically).
The Dwemer have developed technologies that have reality-bending powers (or outright reality-breaking powers in the case of Numidium), so much so that they can use magitek apparati to divine information from Elder Scrolls, circumventing that pesky blindness problem that the scrolls cause. Just casting magic is a quaint thing to them, but they were extraordinary enchanters, and that's the part that makes the "magi" in their Magitek.
It's actually implied by some writings that the soul gems are not involved in the basic operation of Dwemer animunculi. Those soul gems are linked to the shock attack of non-worker spiders, and may otherwise be involved in high-powered attacks, but whatever makes the animunculi move has never been made clear.
Make Me Wanna Shout: "Dragon Shouts" are the highlight of both the game and of your character, the Dragonborn. In the franchise's expansive lore, it's also known as the Thu'um, the power of the Voice. A variety of alternative magical effects are invoked by shouting words in the ancient Dragon language; to use a computing metaphor, you're using root-level commands to reality to achieve these effects. Only the first word is needed to get the basic effect of a Shout, but each successive word increases its potency. Here's a list of all the shouts.
IIZ SLEN NUS: Ice Form. A shout that flies through several foes, freezing all of them in the shout's path.
FO KRAH DIIN: Or the regular variety of frost breath, sans freezing them where they stand, more akin to Fire Breath below.
RAAN MIR TAH: Animal Allegiance. Gets nearby animals to fight as your allies.
KAAN DREM OV: Kyne's Peace. Calms animals so they don't fight at all. Useful for dealing with angry bears or wolves.
FUS RO DAH: Unrelenting Force. A basic shout, its effect simply staggers or completely bowls over whoever you shout it at. Already has reached meme status since it was the first shout whose words were revealed to us.
One Bonus Boss capable of FUS RO DAH will use it from a distance. Expect to spend half the fight airborne.
Take Up to Eleven in Dragonborn, where you can disintegrate the target with the proper bonus.
TIID KLO UL: Slow Time. Allows you to go to town with a melee weapon, or to easily dodge deathtraps.
(Laas Yah Nir): Aura Whisper. A "quiet" shoutnote IE: has a significantly quieter sound detection event that allows you to see the energy of other beings, even through walls, and detects any form of mobile creature, alive or dead (unlike the Alteration spells of the same effect, which only work for either one or the other). Surprisingly long range and short cooldown (though not short enough to maintain constantly). Very handy for sneaky types, and also useful at determining if there's an ambush in the next room. Indispensable in draugr ruins for figuring out whether those sarcophagi have active undead waiting to hop out or are really empty.
(Zul Mey Gut): Throw Voice. Another "quiet" shout that throws a projected voice that utters off a quick infantile insult, distracting guards to where it originated from (and presumably away from where you want to sneak to/through)
YOL TOOR SHUL: Fire Breath, creating a burst of flame across a wide swath that does a ton of damage and staggers most enemies. Even just the first word has the range and width of FUS RO DAH at full power, with a staggering effect, and hits with enough whammy to make most bosses sit up and take notice.
JOOR ZAH FRUL: Dragonrend. Since Dragons have no concept of transience (much like we have a difficult time truly grasping the concept of infinity), the three words that make the shout (Mortal, Finite, Temporary) are like Kryptonite to them when used in Thu'um. Utterly confused by the words they hear, dragons promptly faceplant into the ground. Also useful for interrupting dragon breath attacks - even moreso than Unrelenting Force, due to its quick cooldown at the first tier of the shout. This is also the first Thu'um ever created by humans, using words that dragons are literally unable to use as part of a shout; while they can speak the words normally, they can never truly comprehend them and thus cannot use them as part of a Thu'um, and only mortals can use the shout.
FEIM ZII GRON: "Become Ethereal". Renders you completely immune to all harm, but you can't hit enemies either. Deathtraps, foes... not even Fall Damage will hurt you. Attacking will end the effect prematurely; you will never feel the "can't hit enemies" restriction beyond that.
ODAHVIING: Summons a friendly dragon who owes you a few favors to your aid after you convince him to swear loyalty to you.
As of Dawnguard, DURNEHVIIR lets you summon another dragon, a Dracolich in fact, from Soul Cairn, who counts as one of your summoned minions, so yes, you can summon both him and Odahviing, if you're willing to wait that long for the shouts to recharge.
STRUN BAH QOnote The "Q" in "Qo" is misspelled as an "A" in the Shout menu; it is written as a "Q" on the Word Wall and pronounced as such.: Is that dragon flying too high for you to score a hit? No problem, Storm Call turns the weather to your advantage and strikes the dragon down with lightning. (And anything else nearby, for that matter, use responsibly.)
LOK VAH KOOR: An inversion of the above, clearing away clouds, fog, rain, snow, or anything else so you can see clearly. Do it at night and odds are you'll also summon an aurora as well. Can also be used as a Defog of War implement, clearing out fog or even meteorically inclement weather.
KRII LUN AUS: "Marked For Death." Weakens armour and life force periodically.
SLEN TIID VO: Alduin uses this one to resurrect the dragons. Only Alduin can use it... At least, for now. Not a typical resurrection spell; from the words' translation, "Flesh Time Undo", it apparently works by being a literal "undo" function.
VEN MUL RIIK: Conjures a thick fog around the landscape. Again, only Alduin uses it. More precisely, he uses it during the final battle in Sovngarde.
FIIK LO SAH: What could have been used as a sort of decoy attack to get pressure off of you ends up being just an unplayable shout used by the Graybeards to produce target practice dummies for your Thu'um lessons from them. Oddly, there are still player voice files for the shout in the game's content archives.
RII VAAZ ZOL: "Soul Tear." A Dawnguard-specific shout that lets you tear out the soul of a target (if they're weak or injured enough), filling a soul gem, and revive them as an undead thrall all in one fell swoop.
GAAN LAH HAAS: "Drain Vitality", another Dawnguard shout which drains the target's life and magicka and restored your own.
DIIL QOTH ZAAM: Summon various Dem Bones from the Soul Cairn. Cannot be used directly by the player, but is used by Durnehviir that can be summoned.
The Dragonborn DLC introduces four new shouts:
MUL QAH DIIV: "Dragon Aspect" Boosts your armor and melee damage, and grants you a boost to shout power and cooldown rate at full power. Also gives you a nice dragon-themed Battle Aura. The "dragon aspect" of it also hearkens back to lore about Tiber Septim, a previous Dragonborn, how the Nords looked upon him and beheld a dragon.
VEN GAAR NOS: "Cyclone". Summons a cyclone to toss objects and enemies into the air.
MID VUR SHAAN: "Battle Fury". Enchants the weapons of your allies, letting them attack faster (much like Elemental Fury).
GOL HAH DOV: "Bend Will". A legendary shout that Hermaeus Mora taught Miraak as part of a Deal with the Devil. With one word, it only allows you to purge the All-Maker Stones of Miraak's corruption; however, once Hermaeus Mora unlocks its full potential for you, you can use two words to subjugate mortals and three words to control even dragons, allowing you to ride the beast.
Not a Thu'um Shout, but while you're a werewolf, hitting the "Shout" button causes you to let out a blood-curdling howl that makes enemies around you run away in fear. Useful for crowd control while a werewolf so you can better focus on savaging your foes one at a time. Acquiring special totems and praying to them can change the effects of the howl. The Hunt totem turns the howl into a powerful Detect Life spell, and the Brotherhood totem allows a werewolf to summon a pair of wolves with a howl. In Dawnguard, the new Werewolf perks increase the effectiveness of all three howls. The default howl can affect higher level enemies, the Hunt howl indicates the status of all enemies as well as their location, and the brotherhood howl at full strength summons a pair of spirit werewolves that are as powerful as their summoner.
Nords have an innate "Battle Cry" power which terrifies everyone in proximity - including your allies. Imperials, conversely, have the "Voice of the Emperor" power which lets them calm hostile opponents temporarily.
Meaningful Name: Vilkas and Farkas, two of the Companions, whose names mean wolf in Lithuanian and Hungarian respectively. A case of Werewolf Theme Naming. Also, a mad skeever (rat) controlling mage you encounter is named "Hamelyn"
The inn in the first town you encounter is named The Sleeping Giant Inn. The innkeeper turns out to be the leader and one of only two surviving members of the Blades and will be vital to the main quest.
Dragons have a tendency to charge into the middle of existing battles and attack everyone. The other two sides usually put aside their differences to deal with the massive fire-spewing immortal god-monster assaulting them, but not always.
While it rarely if ever leads to a three-way fight in-game, the Reach is claimed by three different factions — the Empire, the Stormcloaks, and the Forsworn, native Reachmen who object to their being conquered by the Nords in the first place. Being little more than bandits and terrorists by this point, there's No Campaign for the Wicked, but they provide an interesting foil to the Stormcloaks in many ways. Ulfric put down their latest rebellion incredibly brutally, and set Markarth up as a city accepting of Talos worship... while worship of the old gods of the Reach is still banned.
Mentor Occupational Hazard: The Dovahkiin has a severe case of this. Nearly every single person who serves as a mentor to you in Skyrim ends up dead. Kodlak Whitemane, Astrid, Lord Harkon, possibly Paarthurnaax, Savos Aren - the list goes on. In some cases the trope is Zig-Zagged, such as Astrid and Harkon's deaths being largely for you to gain more power, but otherwise, mostly played straight.
Mercy Kill: If you kill a bandit who has been raised from the dead by a necromancer, he will thank you as he disintegrates. NPCs who are thralls to vampires may also utter things like "At last!" when you kill them, as you have freed them from their mental enslavement.
This is one way to view the Dark Brotherhood contract on Narfi.
Astrid asks you to do this in a late Dark Brotherhood quest. Seeing how badly burnt she is due to the Imperials setting fire to their hideout, as well as their having killed almost all of her "family", it's not hard to see why she would rather die at this point.
Mighty Glacier: Dwarven centurions. You can outrun them without even having to sprint (unless you get caught in their steam clouds), and their only ranged attack is fairly easy to dodge from a distance, but they resist magic, arrows bounce off their armor (if not completely harmlessly), and that's not taking into account their huge HP pool. And if you try to fight it head-on, you'll have to dodge everything perfectly or be willing to down a ton of potions, since its hammer and axe hit quite hard and the steam blast hurts a LOT. They are, however, easily defeated with a high-level bow and decent arrows.
Miles Gloriosus: The eponymous braggart in the song Ragnar the Red, who meets an untimely end at the hands of an unimpressed shieldmaiden.
Dragonrend does this to dragons by forcing them to experience mortality, something their minds literally cannot comprehend.
The Thalmor pulled an epic one on Ulfric Stormcloak prior to the events of the game. Specifically, they tortured him for information during the Great War, then told him that it played a crucial role in the capture of the Imperial City - in spite of the fact that the city had already fallen by the time he broke. It's implied that he never figured out they were lying.
Mind Screw: The nature of Alduin. While the previous lore suggested he was Akatosh, he is a physical aspect of Time and the firstborn of Akatosh, who is... a physical aspect of Time. So he is his own son.
Also, in-world, Dragonrend. Basically, you're telling the dragon that they're, "Mortal, Finite, Temporary", something that they don't have a word for or understand in their own minds since, before man, they've never had to deal with the concept of life ending for them. What it does is mindscrews the dragon so badly that they don't have the mental capacity to fly, or Shout, for a few seconds.
The Minion Master: Any Conjuration-focused mage. However, the player can take it to extremes, commanding at any one time: a dog, a follower, two Dead Thralls (with the Twin Souls perk), and a friendly dragon, and if you give the follower and thralls summoning staves, another three daedra on top of that.
You can accidentally get the court wizard of Windhelm arrested, if the player doesn't catch the subtle clues and goes straight to the authorities instead of confronting him directly.
Happens in the side mission "Forsworn Conspiracy". Except this time, the one getting arrested is you! The Guards, attempting to cover up recent murders, decide to pin the blame on you and serve you a life sentence in the mines.
If you join the Thieves' Guild, you cause a few of these by framing one merchant for theft and another merchant for running an unsanitary establishment. The latter, though, is a Jerkass Victim and guilty of other things - just not the one for which he's being put away.
The game actually opens on this note. You wake up under arrest (in proud Elder Scrolls tradition) being carted to a public execution because they think you're with the rebels they captured. Notably, one of the Imperial soldiers has his doubts about you but the other, his captain, says to get on with the beheading.
Money for Nothing: Money is terribly easy to obtain once you've gotten on your feet. Chances are you'll come out of any given location at least 1000 septims richer for it, and that's not counting the loot. But that's just the beginning. You can exploit the crafting system to make bows worth thousands of septims from dwarven garbage and petty soul gems, or buy an alchemist's entire inventory then sell it back to them for a profit as potions. It even levels your skills at the same time. And if you complete the "No Stone Unturned" quest, it just gets ridiculous. The reward for that quest is a permanent and quite significant increase to the chances for finding gemstones in containers. That means every container starts forking out pretty stones worth hundreds of septims.
Additionally, once you become the leader of certain factions (like the Companions and the College of Winterhold), you are given your own special lodgings within the faction's home base. These special lodgings are stuffed with treasures ranging from valuable ingots to daedra hearts to soul gems to potion ingredients to high-level weapons, and they are yours to do with as you wish. And they respawn, anywhere from once a week to once a month, giving you unlimited sources of quick cash.
It comes to the point that the very few things that you need to buy (or are simply more efficient to buy in bulk) are easily worth just forking out the tiny amount of gold. In fact, the real problem late in the game is that merchants are too poor; they only keep between 1000-3000 septims on hand at a time, forcing you to trek between several towns if you need the cash. The "Investor" perk doesn't help much, either, only adding a measly 500 septims to the pot (unless you exploit the mechanics by reverse-pickpocketing more gold into their inventory, which increases the pot). The "Master Trader" perk does give every merchant an extra 1000 septims, but even this isn't much help. This trope is probably why player housing is disproportionately expensive (albeit a one-time purchase) and skill trainers charge up the wazoo at higher levels; you can afford it.
The various houses player can buy provide only marginal benefits to the player (which can be obtained by other ways via the various free lodging from the factions, or various free crafting stations all over the game world) but cost a literal fortune to buy and upgrade - especially if one is trying to own all of them.
Hearthfire adds an additional Money Sink by providing the chance to purchase three additional lots of land and build houses from scratch on them. As you'll be paying for most or all of the lumber, quarried stone, clay, and other components, the housing projects will keep your pockets from getting very heavy until they're all finished.
Skill trainers increase skill level by 1 per payment, and will do so five times for one player level. This starts out at a few hundred gold, but reaches up to 4000 in the 80s range. If you're a good pickpocket, you can steal your money back, but 3000 is usually the soft cap for that unless you artificially boost the skill past 100.
The Dragonborn expansion has an optional sidequest that costs roughly 10,000 gold to complete, since you have to keep paying miners to dig out areas of the dungeon in which it takes place.
Rarely, animals will have jewelry and gold coins in their carcasses. Yes, this includes the frost spiders. In cases like bears or trolls, it's understandable, because they probably ate someone along with their coin purse.
Dragons drop valuable Bones and Scales, which are some of the most expensive loot in the game. In addition they usually carry coins on them... as well as armor. Three guesses at how the dragon got them, and the first two don't count.
Ash Spawns normally drop ores, which can range from the valuable and rare (e.g. Ebony) to the common but still valuable (e.g. Gold). At higher levels, they can also drop flawless gems which can sell for several hundred each, making Ash-Spawn-hunting a very profitable venture.
Gargoyles, in Dawnguard, have ores and gems of varying values as well.
Monologuing: It's common for an enemy to walk up and announce their intention to kill you. Sometimes, you can end the conversation quickly and kill them before they're even done speaking.
Can be done with hilarious results against Lord Harkon from Dawnguard before the final battle while he argues with Serana. Because the player isn't "conversation frozen" as is usual for boss battles in Bethesda games, while they're talking you're free to walk up behind Harkon with your Assassin character, bring up Mehrunes' Razor or the Blade of Woe, and backstab him for massive damage. Harkon will immediately teleport to his "boss battle" starting position and just as immediately turn into red ash.
Monster Sob Story: The book The "Madmen" of the Reach is one for the Forsworn. Whether or not it justifies their long list of atrocities depends on the player.
The author of that book also wrote The Bear of Markarth: The Crimes of Ulfric Stormcloak, a creatively embellished account of how Ulfric dealt with the Forsworn and the Nords who wouldn't help him in his siege of Markarth.
Monty Haul: The quest where you retrieve a special Bonemold formula for Glover Mallory in Dragonborn is an unintentional example. You can sneak into the location with the instructions from behind, avoiding a mildly-challenging dungeon, so getting to the location is the only part that presents a challenge. As a reward, Glover lets you take his old gear and supplies from his basement stash, which includes a valuable, unique set of armor and many precious gemstones, which is worth several thousand gold alone. However, everything in there respawns twice a week, allowing you to farm it indefinitely.
Moon Logic Puzzle: The Dwemer machine holding The Elder Scroll. Two buttons rotate a large globe on the ground with various rings and lenses on it, a third button rotates lenses hanging overhead, and a fourth button which can only be pressed when the alignment of the pieces are right and unveils the objective item in the machine. Attempting to understand what is actually happening as you press the buttons will likely just confuse you; you understand you have to align something, but what and how? The game developers appear to have assumed you won't understand and will just be pressing buttons at random, because that's actually the way to do it.the solution press the second button until the third button activates, then press the third button until the fourth one can be used
Morale Mechanic: When a humanoid enemy (usually bandits or civilians) reach a certain health threshold, they drop to the ground while crying out for mercy or declaring their surrender. Sometimes subverted when they run away, only to heal and attack again.
More than Meets the Eye: Many characters. Some are not human despite looking human, some have murderous tendencies while being seemingly innocent on the outside. Babette appears to be a young girl but is a vampire assassin centuries old, who not only kills as a member of the Dark Brotherhood but sometimes kills in gruesome ways, then laughs about it when retelling the tale.
Most Wonderful Sound: After you fork over 2000 septims to him in the Dragonborn DLC, Ralis Sedarys says, "I never get tired of that sound," referring to the clinking of gold entering the inventory. invoked
Mugging the Monster: Unsurprisingly, the many thieves, robbers, bandits, and brigands of Skyrim share the traditional RPG thug deficiency in being able to tell that the guy they're about to accost is in fact, walking on a road made of the bodies of everyone s/he has mangled, even if they are wearing armour made of dragon bones and carrying a bloodstained greatsword. One random encounter even includes a dialogue option that says "I just don't have time for this" in response to getting mugged. Yes, you can essentially tell the muggers that you're too busy to be robbed right now. They attack anyway.
Mundane Utility: Dragon shouts are devastating against your enemies, but they can also be used to do things like freeze animals to make it easier to hunt them or knock objects off shelves and out of sight so you can steal them, or disarm traps by remotely triggering them. Or go fishing.
Unlocking all doors is apparently only the most simple use of Nocturnal's Skeleton Key. In the right hands it could be used to unlock metaphorical locks such as the ones that limit human ability.
The "Become Ethereal" shout lets you fall off of cliffs without taking fall damage. This makes it a useful shortcut tool.
You can use the "Slow Time" shout to catch arrows out of the air, skillfully dodge deadly attacks by dragons and giants... or you can just use it to make potions last longer instead. Normally, skill fortifying potions last for 30 seconds, only enough time to improve between one to five items, depending on what you're doing (smithing improvements are simpler and therefore faster, while enchantment has several steps). With a full duration Slow Time, you can extend that into nearly twice as long with no penalties since you are not slowed while browsing the menu.
Unrelenting Force is a mighty tool to destroy enemies, but it serves an equally useful purpose in that it can be used to swat butterflies out of the air to collect their wings.
Aura Whisper lets you locate your enemies to sneak around them or determine if the next room is filled with dozens of hostiles. It also lets you find people you're looking for in large buildings.
Whirlwind Sprint is probably the most abused shout. Other than for running away or closing the distance to hostile spellcasters, it is also useful for crossing chasms and rivers, or just for walking around quickly, or perhaps to 'cheat' in a game of Tag.
You can also use it when you're over encumbered and would otherwise be forced to walk at a snail's pace until you unload your inventory. Perhaps not coincidentally, the fully leveled Shout covers almost exactly the distance between Whiterun's main gates and the local player house.
You can use Elemental Fury to quicken the rate at which you hack your enemies to pieces with melee weapons... or you can use it to clean out a mine's ore veins in record time with a pickaxe.
Dwarven ruins can be filled with flame vents set up to roast unwary intruders. However, bandits in Raldbthar have discovered another use for them: cooking.
One of the shouts the Greybeards use is Bex, which harnesses the awesome power of the Thu'um to open and close doors and gates.
By the end of Dawnguard you have in your possession three Elder Scrolls. And all you can do with them is sell them for a few thousand goldnote Or not even all three, if you had to buy one back earlier in the Dawnguard storyline. You can't even display them in your home because they're quest items and so must stay in your inventory. Dexion even asks what you plan to do with them, and two options (use them to find fame and fortune, use them to make indestructible armor) are not only also mundane, but are not allowed to be attempted.
Have the power to raise the dead? Raise a corpse to carry your stuff. Store the items on the corpse first, raise it, and then kill it once you fast travel back home.
Lycathropy nets you a powerful beast form and associated perk tree which can match a lot of the threats in the game. It also has a far more mundane use: disease immunity. Even if you never use the beast form, having this trait does away with a number of very annoying status effects that come from skeever bites and Nordic tomb traps, not to mention completely protecting you from garden-variety vampirism, a full-blown case of which requires a black soul gem to cure.
Murder Is the Best Solution: After you kill Grelod the Kind, one of the orphans notes that so many problems can be solved by killing just one person, and that the possibilities are endless.
My Country, Right or Wrong: Some Nords still loyal to the Empire, or at least the idea of it, shade into this: they hate the policies forced on them by the treaty with the Thalmor, acknowledge the Empire is not what it used to be and that they've suffered for their loyalty, but "the Nords have never been fair-weather friends".
My God, You Are Serious: The guards' reaction when you ask them to whom you should report that you killed the leader of the Dark Brotherhood.
Constance Michel also reacts this way if you tell her you're the Dragonborn, Harbinger of the Companions, or Arch-Mage of the College of Winterhold when asking to adopt one of the orphans in her care.
My Little Panzer: You can give your kids wooden swords, which do as much damage as you can expect... Or you can give your kids any dagger - up to and including enchanted and/or tempered dragonbone daggers and even some unique ones.
The Circle of the Companions turn out to be Werewolves who have decided to help and protect others rather than devour them.
Even some high elves have an antipathetic attitude towards the Thalmor: a senior Legion officer presiding over a camp near Riften is a high elf, and finds the Thalmor to be detestable.
The player can be any of the elven races without gaining favor or alliance with the Thalmor, and he or she can just as easily be a Nord serving the Empire or a Stormcloak-aligned Imperial. In fact, most of the playable races lack their cultural baggage from pre-Skyrim lore, so the player will often be the odd one out of his or her people. This is pointed out directly when some non-Nord races ask Ulfric about whether the Stormcloaks will accept them - the line is something about how Skyrim is home to more races than just Nord and loyalty is what's important. Too bad his townspeople didn't get the memo.
Mythology Gag: It is heavily implied by Sheogorath that he is, in fact, the Champion of Cyrodiil, the player from Oblivion. Makes sense when you consider Oblivion's DLC.
There is also a book that gives help on thievery which has apparently been written by the player character of Oblivion (assuming that person completed the Thieves' Guild storyline).
M'aiq the Liar shows up... for about the third game in a row. He's a random encounter on the road, and will make commentary about some of the newer (or weirder) elements of the game. Listen to his sweet lies here.
The New Gnisis Cornerclub, a Dunmer tavern in the Grey Quarter of Windhelm, is named after Gnisis, one of the cities in Morrowind, from whence the Dunmer hail.
During the Civil War questline, one quest will have you deliver a set of forged orders to an enemy officer to divert their troops away from a lightly-defended fort. However, if you're wearing a set of either Imperial or Stormcloak armor when you do this, the officer will ask why you're out of uniform, which is exactly what would happen in Morrowind if you joined the Imperial Legion and tried to talk to anyone in it without wearing a proper Imperial cuirass. Bonus points for one of the factions involved actually being the Imperial Legion to boot.