I'm on a skiing holiday. I'm not playing Skyrim right now, but I had two hours of battery life on my laptop to kill on the way, so I wrote some guides to alchemy and crafting. This is that.
Catching Luna Moths is a bit frustrating. Each of them are worth almost a thousand gold (two wings is two potions) when you combine them with Chaurus Eggs in an Invisibility Potion, but between you and the money there’s a lot in the way.
Luna Moths are only out between the hours of 8 and 11 PM. Furthermore, they’re only out in certain areas. I’ve found that they tend to hang out where the Butterflies do in the daytime. That would be Whiterun Hold and the forests of the Rift. It’s important to distinguish between the mountainous east and far west areas of Whiterun Hold and the relatively flat plains just to the west of the city.
Rorikstead is actually a part of Whiterun Hold, a bit farther west from Rorikstead you start getting into the Reach. I’ve never found any Luna Moths in the Reach. The best way to tell whether you’re in the Reach or not is to look for Juniper trees. In fact, the flora can tell you which Hold you’re in most of the time. For the purpose of this guide, you just need to stop going west when you run out of Tundra Cotton and start seeing Junipers.
You should also make sure that when you search the Rift, you avoid the sheer cliffs of the northern area where it transitions into Eastmarch. The flattish forests are a good spot to look.
In order to make potions of invisibility, you need another reagent. Options include Ice Wraith Teeth, Nirnroot, and Vampire Dust, but the most plentiful option is Chaurus Eggs. Note that Chaurus Eggs give the potion the unpleasant side effect of magicka damage. This actually improves the value of the potion, but it makes it nearly useless to thieves. Most thieves I know of use a fair amount of magic, making these potions impractical.
The last obstacle between you and tons of coin is finding a buyer. In Oblivion, you could sell any vendor anything he was willing to buy and get full price, so long as that price was under the gold limit. In Skyrim, each merchant has a set amount of gold that regenerates every once in a while. You sell a 50 gold potion to a vendor who has 750 gold, he’ll have only 700 gold left. And so on. That makes it hard to offload potions. You’ll have to travel around a bit.
Snowberries are one of the most useful ingredients you can collect, and it’s a good thing there’s a lot of them. They literally line the roads of any snowy area, and beating through the middle of a frozen forest can usually turn up dozens of them.
The reason I love Snowberries is because they are my second line of defense against Dragons and Mages. Let me explain. Snowberries can be made into potions of Resist Fire, Frost, or Shock. Combined with enchanted gear, they can give you the few seconds you need to close the distance between you and that blizzard spewing necromancer, and the time you need to chop his head off.
The second ingredient in the Resist Frost potion is ridiculously easy to find. It’s Purple Mountain Flowers. Really, grab the first ten plants you find, and odds are good at least three of them will be Purple Mountain Flowers. The key thing to look for is a little cluster of purple dots.
To make your Snowberries help you Resist Fire, you have a number of easily obtainable options. In the order I describe them, they are Bone Meal, Dragon’s Tongue, and Mudcrab Chitin.
Bone Meal has a minor application in a Damage Stamina poison, useful for those long duels with Bandit Chiefs, but it really only shines when you use it to Resist Fire. Bone Meal is a bit rare, but you’ll build up a stock of them if you’re very thorough in looting your enemies, particularly Draugr and Skeletons. I usually come out of any given crypt with at least five units of the stuff, though once I came up with thirty from one long crawl.
Dragon’s Tongue is a very, very common ingredient. In Eastmarch it grows as if it were Tundra Cotton. You can also come up with a bit that is planted decoratively in various cities, and if you’re the unscrupulous sort, you can find it lying around most apothecaries. It does have other uses, but I prefer to save it for potions of Resist Fire. I go through two or three of those things every time a Dragon shows up.
The last common ingredient that Resists Fire is Mudcrab Chitin. I usually run from the little buggers, not really worth expending a charge from my enchanted weapon to kill them. Still, they are really easy for anyone looking to find them. Basically, follow the water.
The last thing I use Snowberries for is in potions of Resist Shock. I won’t lie, I irk the Thalmor. I go through the “You got me, I believe in Talos” option every time I see some of them around, just so I can kill them without that pesky bounty. I even raid their Embassy from time to time, just so I can kill them some more. As you can imagine, I get a number of assassination attempts on a regular basis. The foot soldier types go down easy, but that one mage always give me a lot of trouble. I beat him with this potion.
Glowing Mushrooms. That’s the secret. Who would have guessed that in addition to being environmentally friendly lighting, they are also excellent insulators? You can find these mushrooms in most caves, but I find most of mine in caves that have Falmer in them.
Finally, Snowberries have a use that is neither Alchemical nor even practical. They are the Christmasiest item in the game. Deck the halls, dude.
Leather, is there ever enough of it? No, there isn’t. This is how I deal with that awful, awful tragedy.
There’s a nice little location called Greenspring Hollow. It’s in the northern part of Whiterun Hold, west of the city. Most adventurers would simply kill the Sabre Cat that tends to spawn there, but you should check inside the little lean-to. In that small wooden structure, you’ll find several pelts, deer, cow, bear, and sabre cat.
I’ve also found that Aela will give you tons of pelts over the course of her Animal Extermination quests. Most of all, she’ll give you 300 gold for tasks as simple as killing a wolf.
Finally, you could just walk from one hold to another with a bow in your hand, shooting any game you find, or any game that finds you. I’ve found that I sometimes set out for Solitude from Whiterun with 200 spare carrying capacity and I didn’t get there because I got encumbered from all the pelts I collected.