The Nightingale armor is a rare set that the player can only acquire through the Thieves Guild questline. The player must complete 9 of the central Thieves’ Guild missions before being named a Nightingale and thus given the armor.
As with any RPG, the player will continually search for the best of the best in their weapons, armor, and any other items that can give them a leg up over their myriad enemies spread throughout the in-game world. Skyrim is obviously, to anyone who has played it, no different.
The monsters in this game range from the terrifyingly giant and fire-breathing dragons to the minute and ugly Skeevers; therefore, the player has a lot on their mind every time they choose to leave the safety of the walls of Whiterun or Solitude for the lands beyond.
However, with all this being said, there is one more aspect pretty much everybody who plays games such as these will consider, this is the aesthetic of their items. I mean, how can you defeat Alduin in the best armor the game has to offer when it is simultaneously the ugliest thing you have ever seen.
Therefore, many great sets of armor in RPGs have to walk this line between beauty and utility in order to ensure their use in the game. One of the most evident pieces of armor which does this brilliantly is the Nightingale armor.
To this end, this guide will demonstrate to the player the inherent value and usefulness of the Nightingale armor and the backstory and lore behind it. Lastly, this guide will also help any intrepid Skyrim player acquire this beautiful set. So, what are we waiting for? Let’s get right into it!
A Little Background
This armor is more than some pretty piece of protection from the elements. These elements are swords, axes, and dragon fire.
Unlike some of the other fan-favorite armor sets found in the game, such as the Daedric and Glass armor sets, the Nightingale Armor can only be acquired by becoming a member of the titular group, The Nightingales. But who are The Nightingales, you ask? Well, let’s do some digging!
This faction is a secret subset of Thieves Guild operators, selecting only the best of the best for their ranks. The exact reason for the beginning of the faction is unknown. However, we do know that at some point 100 years prior to the events of Skyrim, a strange and mysterious body turned up wearing the Nightingale Armor, or what could be identified as an early rendition of said armor, having the same crest and everything.
As the player progresses through the Nightingales’ quests, one learns that their very existence is a secret to Thieves Guild members. Even those who have served their entire lives with the faction, billing the mysterious black-armored group as a mere ghost story.
However, after the player finds out that the faction is indeed real, they will also learn their true purpose. You see, as the upper echelons of the Thieves Guild, the Nightingales are tasked with service to the Daedric Prince Nocturnal, the being who is seen as the Daedric representative for the Thieves Guild.
It seems that in days gone by, the Nightingales would be called in to perform tasks for Nocturnal that only they could accomplish, feats of extreme skill and bravery.
However, as the faction dwindled, so too did their mission. When the player is finally born on the back of that prisoner cart in Skyrim, the Nightingales’ only job is to protect the shrines and materials of Nocturnal from those on the mortal plane who wish to use said shrines for their own selfish benefit.
The Nightingale member is given one of three gifts from the Daedra in question to achieve these tasks. One is the gift of the crescent moon which symbolizes an agent of stealth. These agents are experts in infiltration and can use the power called ‘Shadowcloak of Nocturnal’ to aid them in their mission.
The half-moon gift symbolizes the agent of subterfuge, and these agents can confuse the minds of those around them with their power ‘Nightingale Subterfuge.’ Lastly, the gift of the full moon will create an agent of strife who, through the use of ‘Nightingale Strife,’ can draw power from their enemies into their own self.
- The Nightingales are a faction inside of the Thieves Guild, which only the inner circle can enter.
- Once a member of the Nightingales, one must protect the shrines of Nocturnal.
- If the player joins the Nightingales, they will also be allowed to accept a gift from Nocturnal in the form of a certain stat boost or special power, which can be used once a day.
- The Nightingales function in a similar way to the Black Hand within the Dark Brotherhood. However, nobody in the Thieves Guild knows that the Nightingales are real, unlike the Black Hand and the Brotherhood.
Their ‘Key’ Focus
I don’t know if you were like me and played both Oblivion and Skyrim at a very young age. After all, Skyrim came out when I was roughly 13, so I simply do not know how I got the time to play Oblivion for years before its release, but somehow, I managed it, and here I am today.
Anyway, one thing I noticed when playing Skyrim for the first time was that the Skeleton Key I loved so much from Oblivion was back in the game, only this time, it was in the possession of Mercer Frey after he stole it from the Shrine of Nocturnal in order to make himself some quick money.
This was when I learned that the Skeleton Key I loved in Oblivion was actually a Daedric artifact that used the powers of Nocturnal to pick any lock. Therefore, later on in the Nightingales/Thieves Guild questline, when the Nightingales are tasked with retrieving the key back from Frey, I was all for it, hoping I would get my hands on the key again.
However, Nocturnal wants it back, telling the player that this artifact is the most important item they have on the mortal plane. After the key is returned to Nocturnal, the Nightingales main job becomes the protection of this very powerful lockpick.
Acquiring the Armor
As mentioned earlier, the game does not simply allow you to craft the Nightingale Armor; you have to earn it by making your way up through the ranks of the Thieves Guild and thus becoming a member of the secret faction. So, with this in mind, let’s have a quick look at the key quests one must complete in order to become a full-fledged Nightingale.
Joining the Thieves Guild
The player must first join the guild in order to work their way up inside it. To do this, simply head over to the markets in Riften between the hours of 8 am and 8 pm.
Once there, one of the Thieves Guild’s higher-ups, Brynjolf, will get the player to steal a ring from one of the vendors, planting said ring on one of the other market members. This quest, while simple, does take some skill and involves a slight risk of being caught, thus failing the entry quest. However, you still will be allowed to join.
Some Filler Quests
As with any faction quests in Skyrim, after the opening entry quests, the player must do some busy work whilst the writers casually drip feed you some exposition and not so subtly set up the rest of the story for the final few missions.
Once these quests are done and the player is introduced to the Guild Master, Mercer Frey, the fascinating stuff starts. Nope, false alarm, you just get some more busywork to get along with. This is until Karliah comes along. This former guild member and ally to Brynjolf supposedly betrayed the guild.
However, during the quest ‘Speaking with Silence,’ the player hears the truth from Karliah, how it was really Mercer who betrayed the guild. This, of course, was no surprise to anyone who knows how the developers of Skyrim like to set up their surprise twists. However, I’m sure it did catch some people unaware of the first-time round.
The Good Stuff
After the player hears that Mercer actually betrayed the guild, they will need to look for proof to bring to Brynjolf. In this quest, called ‘Hard Answers,’ the player must retrieve the diary of the former guild member and friend of Mercer, Gallus.
Once the player gets this journal and subsequently translates it from ancient Falmer (for some reason), the player learns that it was, in fact, Frey who betrayed the guild and murdered Gallus. Apparently, the old Guild Master had been stealing from the faction for years, and when Gallus found out about it, he had to go, leaving Mercer enough time to frame Karliah for the job.
This, therefore, reinstates the guild’s trust in Karliah and focuses their efforts on finding the now fleeing Mercer before he gets away with all of the guild’s funds and his life.
Becoming a Nightingale
The Dragonborn will have completed most of the Thieves Guild quests by this point, leaving only the final battle scenes between the player, Brynjolf, Karliah, and Mercer. However, before all of this, Karliah decides that in order for you all to be strong enough to defeat Mercer and the Skeleton Key he has subsequently stolen from Nocturnal, you must all become fully-fledged Nightingales.
This is when you find out that Karliah and Brynjolf are already members of this secret order and therefore are waiting for you to take your sacred vows. To do this, the player must begin Karliah directing the ‘Trinity Restored’ quest wherein the player will head outside of Riften and meet them by a set of standing stones, beside which will be Nightingale Hall.
This Hall is both the home and operations base of the Nightingales. The player will then receive their armor here. Later, they will also be allowed to pick their gift from Nocturnal here also.
- The Skeleton Key, which the player must return to Nocturnal, will not break in any lock the player attempts to open with it.
- The player can choose not to give the key back to Nocturnal, but this will have consequences.
- After Mercer is dealt with and the key is returned, the player is selected to be the Guildmaster.
The Armor Itself
Now that you have acquired your new fancy piece of armor, you will likely want to know everything that it has going for it, all its attributes and drawbacks. First of all, one thing which the player must consider before actually making their way to pick up their armor is their level.
Should the player be under level 19, the weakest version of the armor will be given. Between levels 19 and 31, the medium piece will be given, and therefore, after level 32, the player will receive the best iteration of the armor. Also, the entire set comes as four pieces, each with its own armor ratings and enchantments. So, let’s look at all of these individually:
This piece of light armor which has the Nightingale symbol centered on the armor’s chest, is skintight and has a cape attached to it. The piece, much like the rest of the armor, is entirely black and flows down the player’s body until it reaches the knee line, wherein it turns into a roman style cuirass or Pteruges.
This piece alone has an armor rating of 34, a carry weight of 12, and a base value of 1249 gold with enchantments of increased stamina and frost resistance by 20 points and 15%, respectively, at a base level. However, as with all pieces of this armor, its enchantments increase in effectiveness as the player levels up from 1-18, 19-31, and 32 plus.
These boots stick the theme of this armor by presenting as all black and tight to the player’s body. This piece has an armor rating of 10, a weight of 2, and a base value of 213 gold with an enchantment of muffled movement by 0.25 points, reaching a height of 35 points at level 32 and beyond.
Once again, these gloves come in the same black, tight format as the other pieces of the set. However, they feature a fingerless design, allowing the Nightingale thieves to move their fingers more freely and delicately for their many pickpocketing and lockpicking adventures.
These gloves have an armor rating of 10, a weight of 2, and a base value of 819 gold. They are enchanted with Lockpicking and one-handed performance buffs of 15% each. However, these rise to 25% each in the third iteration of the armor.
The last but most certainly, the coolest portion of the armor is the hood. This hood is actually more of a cowl, hiding the wearer’s face entirely, leaving only the lights of their eyes shining through. This hood is once again black and tight to the wearer; however, it also blends seamlessly into the armor and cape attached to the player.
This hood has an armor rating of 15, a weight of 2, and a base value of 804 golf, with Illusion spells costing 12% to cast at a base level. However, this rises to 17% in the third iteration of the armor.
When the armor is given to the player, they are also given two weapons for their personal use. These weapons, the Nightingale Blade and the Nightingale Bow, are sought after in their own right. This is not only because of their aesthetic value but also due to the enchantments on these weapons. Let’s take a look at the Nightingale weapons then!
Nightingale Blade – The blade is once again inspired by the swords used by Roman soldiers, having one central fold point and a wide circular pommel. However, this pommel has the Nightingale symbol on it, not some Roman image. These weapons, once again, come in different forms depending on the player’s rating when they acquired them.
At base, however, the blade has a damage rating of 10, a weight of 11, and a base value of 426 gold with a health and stamina absorption enchantment of 5 points. However, if the player ranks 46 or higher, the blade will have a base damage of 14, the same as a Daedric sword, and absorb 25 points of health and stamina from its enemies.
Nightingale Bow – The Nightingale Bow is easily one of my favorite weapons in the game. In keeping with the rest of the armor set, this black bow is styled similarly to the ancient Nordic bows found on the draugr throughout the game. It is given to the player as a reward by Karliah after the quest ‘Blindsighted’ is completed. The bow is once again given to the player in levels of effectiveness.
At a base level, the bow will have a damage rating of 12, a weight of 9, and a value of 420 gold. It is imbued with an enchantment that freezes opponents for 10 points and shocks them for a further 5. However, should the Dragonborn acquire the bow after reaching level 46, the weapons will have a base damage rating of 19, a weight of 18, and a value of 3700 gold. The enchantment damage will also jump to 30 and 15 points, respectively.
Best Alternative Light Armors
For those of us who are perhaps do not like the look of the Nightingale armor, or simply want a little bit of spice in our lives when it comes to light and or stealthy armor sets, there are alternatives available:
The Ancient Shrouded Armor
Should you really identify yourself or your character as more of an assassin than a thief, then this armor is perfect for you. Appearing like the classic shrouded armor provided to the player at the start of their time with the Dark Brotherhood, this set is the upgraded version of said armor and therefore packs a good punch.
To acquire the set, simply complete the quest ‘Locate the Assassin of Old’ for Olava the Feeble in Whiterun. However, this set is given as a bonus for completing the additional mission parameter entitled ‘Breaching Security,’ so be sure to do complete the mission right.
Once completed, the Dragonborn will be given the full set, which boasts a cumulative armor rating of 72, a weight of 7.5, and a value of 2346 gold. However, the good stuff doesn’t end there because each piece has its own unique enchantment.
- The Shrouded Armor increases the wearer’s Poison resistance by 100%.
- The Ancient Shrouded Boots muffles the wearer’s movements by 0.5 points.
- The Ancient Shrouded Cowl grants an additional 35% damage to Bows.
- The Ancient Shrouded Gloves work by doubling the player’s sneak attack damage with one-handed weapons.
This light armor version of the normal Dragonbone armor is simply the highest-rated and, therefore, best possible light armor in the game before you bring enchanting into the mix, that is.
To acquire this armor, the player can either wait until they hit level 50, wherein pieces will spawn randomly, or you could craft your own. To craft this set, however, you are going to need a smithing skill of 100, some dragon scales and a couple more of the usual bits and pieces required for such an armor. But don’t worry, I promise it’s worth it.
When the player puts on this entire set, the base armor rating sits at a staggering 111 points, weighing 26, with a value of 3600 gold. This armor also benefits from coming completely without enchantments; therefore, you are more than welcome to spec it out to your own needs if you want different sets for different occasions.
- The Nightingale armor and weapons change in their ratings due to the player’s level; therefore, it is best to wait until level 32 to collect your Nightingale armor.
- Wearing the Nightingale armor set will see the player be approached by thieves throughout the game with tributes in the form of gold due to your membership in the faction.
- The Nightingale Bow is the only piece of the Nightingale set that increases in weight alongside the player’s level.
So, there you have it, a complete and full-proof guide to the Nightingale Armor. Including how one goes about acquiring it and getting the most out of it.
In my opinion, the Nightingale armor is probably the coolest armor set in the game. Useful for sneaky archers and dagger-wielding warriors alike. Also, the aesthetic value of the set cannot be overlooked. In my opinion, it is simply the best-looking piece of faction armor in the game, standing at the head of the pack by some margin.
With this in mind, then, why don’t you get going and head on down to Riften and see if you can get involved in some schemes with old Brynjolf. However, keep an eye on that old Mercer Frey.
Nightingale Armor Guide: FAQs
Question: Is the Nightingale armor good?
Answer: The Nightingale armor is good, not only due to how easy it is to acquire in the earlier stages of the game but also because of the enchantments which come with the individual pieces.
Question: Does Nightingale’s armor level with you?
Answer: The Nightingale armor does not level with the player in a normal way. Instead of leveling with the player each time you increase in your own level, it increases in increments should the player have not already picked it up.
Question: What level is best for Nightingale Armor?
Answer: The best level to acquire Nightingale armor is level 32. This is when the armor provided to the player is at its maximum.
Question: What is the best level to get the Nightingale Blade?
Answer: The best level for the player to acquire the Nightingale Blade is at level 46. This is the level at which the blade hits its maximum rating and therefore is best acquired. At this point, the Nightingale Blade is as deadly as the Daedric sword at a base level.