One of my favorite parts of my first ever Skyrim playthrough was collecting all of the Daedric artifacts. At that point, I had never played any other Elder Scrolls game, so all of the game’s lore was new to me. Going through each of the Daedric Prince’s quests and becoming each one’s champion was an incredible feeling, both for the uniqueness of the artifacts, as well as all the new stories and information I was discovering.
Out of all the Daedric artifacts in Skyrim, though, there’s one that doesn’t quite live up to the splendor and grandeur of the others. That’s the Skull of Corruption.
The Skull of Corruption is the artifact of Vaermina. It’s a staff that had its ability changed between Oblivion and Skyrim, going from a unique piece of weaponry to a generic, boring AoE staff that isn’t affected by your Destruction perks. In other words, it gets outclassed incredibly easily, making its actual use as a weapon non-viable.
Despite that, it’s a mythic and unique piece of loot, so you should be making a point of getting it regardless. That’s why I’ve put together this Skull of Corruption guide. I’ll walk you through what the Skull does, how to use it, and most importantly, how to get it in the first place.
Key Details up Front
- Location: Nightcaller Temple
- Cost: None (Quest Completion)
- Weapon Type: Staff
- Related Characters: Erandur, Vaermina
Despite there being a whole bunch of lore on Vaermina, naturally given that she’s a Daedric prince, there isn’t too much lore regarding the staff itself. It first makes an appearance in-game in Daggerfall. However, thanks to ESO, its first appearance in the lore, as far as I can tell, is 2E 582, the time at which that game takes place.
While I can’t find any official material dating the Skull any older than that, we can guess that it has actually been around a lot longer, what with it being a Daedric artifact and all that.
Vaermina, unlike Mehrunes Dagon and Molag Bal, has never attempted an invasion of Cyrodil. As such, the Skull of Corruption has never played an integral role in any major, cataclysmic events in the Elder Scroll’s history. We do know, however, that the protagonists from Daggerfall, Oblivion, and Skyrim were all offered the Skull by Vaermina at some point. It is unconfirmed if any of them accepted the offer.
While we don’t have much on the Skull’s history, we do have an amusing anecdote given to use by way of Daggerfall.
According to that game’s description of the Skull, it was once in the possession of a master of the Thieves Guild. The Master used the skull to create a copy of her enemy. Upon killing the original, the copy then took the Skull and used it on the Master. However, the Master’s copy, rather than fighting her, ended up ruling the Thieve’s Guild alongside her.
The Skull of Corruption has a pretty unique appearance, even compared to the other Daedric artifacts in Skyrim. It’s maintained the same general theme and aesthetic over its different generational incarnations. All versions of the staff feature a layered, spine-like pole topped by a horned skull. It’s unclear what creature this skull is meant to belong to.
In Oblivion, the eyes of the Skull of Corruption are clearly visible and red. However, in Skyrim, the entire staff is a monochrome grey and the eyes have been covered. I’m assuming this was purely a design choice by Bethesda rather than a lore/story-dependent one.
That’s not the only change/retcon that the Skull undertook during the transition between Oblivion and Skyrim. The effect of it also changed. The original use of the Skull of Corruption was to create a nightmarish copy of whoever it was cast upon. This copy would then attack the original. This was the Skull’s ability in both Daggerfall and Oblivion.
In Skyrim, the Skull does an AoE attack and can charge itself with dreams. That’s it. It’s a shame to see such a unique piece of equipment reduced to something so mundane, presumably due to technical limitations or development constraints.
Follow Erandur to Nightcaller Temple
You’ll find the quest giver for Waking Nightmare in the Windpeak Inn in Dawnstar. You’re looking for a Priest of Mara by the name of Erandur. It shouldn’t be too hard to find him.
When you meet him, he’ll explain that the entire town of Dawnstar’s population is being plagued by nightmares caused by the Daedric Prince Vaermina. This is backed up by some dialogue you can overhear as you travel throughout the town.
Erandur will tell you that he will stop the nightmares if he can return to Nightcaller Temple and enlists your help. You’ll then need to follow him to the Temple. Alternatively, you can wait and meet him there instead. The Temple is a short jog outside of Dawnstar, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting there.
Bear in mind that this quest is pretty high leveled. You’re going to come across Frost Trolls outside of Nightcaller Temple, as well as other high-level enemies like Ice Wraiths and Snowy Sabre Cats. Once you and Erandur take care of the creatures outside, you’ll be able to talk to him.
He’ll explain that years ago, the Temple was raided by an Orc war party. The Priests of Vaermina within, knowing they could not defeat the party, released something called the Miasma. This Miasma put all of the inhabitants of the Temple to sleep. Erandur warns that once you enter the Temple, it’s likely that both the Orcs and the Priests will wake up.
Locate the Dreamstride
At this point, you’ll need to follow Erandur through the temple, passing the sealed Skull of Corruption along the way. You’ll come across members of the Orc raiding party, as well as a door with a barrier.
At this point, Erandur reveals that before he was a Priest of Mara, he was a member of the cult of Vaermina that ran Nightcaller Temple, hence how he knows so much about it. He’ll then ask you to escort him to the library in search of a way to breach the barrier blocking your progress.
Dispatch the enemies in the library and speak to Erandur. He’ll tell you that you’re looking for an Alchemy book called the Dreamstride. Your quest marker should point you directly towards it, but if not, it’s located on a pedestal in the corner of the upper floor of the library.
Pick it up and return it to Erandur. He’ll then go off on even more exposition about this potion called Vaermina’s Torpor. The Torpor allows the drinker to use dreams, or memories, to travel distances in the real present.
Drink Vaermina’s Torpor and Witness the Memory
You now need to follow Erandur into the Temple’s laboratory in search of Vaermina’s Torpor, taking care of more Orcs and Cultists along the way.
In the laboratory, you’ll be sent off to find Vaermina’s Torpor. Just like with the Dreamstride, you’ll get a quest marker pointing you straight to it. It’s literally on a shelf inches away from where you should be currently standing. It looks like a large health potion, so you shouldn’t be able to miss it.
You’ll be instructed to drink the Torpor, after which you’ll be transported into the memories of a Preist of Vaermina called Casimir. After a short conversation with some other priests, you’ll need to make your way through the Temple in reverse.
Follow your quest marker and ignore all of the fighting going on around you. You’ll eventually reach a chain. Pull it, and the dream will end. After waking up, loot the nearby Soul Gem and the barrier will dissipate, allowing Erandur to pass through it.
Enter the Inner Sanctum and Resolve the Quest
Follow the route you just took in the dream in reverse, into the Temple’s inner sanctum. You’ll need to take out all of the enemies that were present in the dream, including the Priests you were talking to at the start of it. Once the Priests are dead, Erandur will begin to cast a spell that will destroy the Skull of Corruption.
At this point, you’ll hear Vaermina herself inside your head. She’ll tell you that Erandur is deceiving you and wants the Skull for Himself. She claims that once his spell is complete, he’ll turn on you. She then asks you to kill him.
Vaermina is lying, of course. However, this does present you with two ways to resolve Waking Nightmare.
Let Erandur Live
If you let Erandur live, he will complete his spell and destroy the Skull. He won’t turn on you as Vaermina claims.
Afterward, you’ll be able to recruit Erandur as a follower, but that’s it in terms of quest rewards. The Skull of Corruption will be lost to you for the rest of the playthrough, meaning you won’t have access to all of the Daedric artifacts.
If you do as Vaermina commands and kill Erandur before he completes his spell. You’ll be able to claim the Skull of Corruption for yourself, ending the Waking Nightmare quest.
The Skull of Corruption is unique amongst Skyrim’s staffs in several different ways. For one, it’s not affected by any of your perks, so it’s not technically classed as a Destruction staff. Secondly, its unique effect requires charging by stealing people’s dreams.
What does this mean? Well, in addition to charging the staff with Soul Gems, the player can steal the dreams of sleeping NPCs to give the Skull of Corruption a rather significant damage boost. You can steal dreams by casting the staff on an NPC while they’re sleeping. This doesn’t count as an attack or a hostile action, so you can cast away without any consequences.
Each time you cast the Skull on a sleeping character, the staff will charge by five. You will get a pop-up message on your screen indicating how many charges the staff currently has every time you use it. Unlike its soul charge, you can’t tell whether or not you need to charge the Skull of Corruption from the menu.
In combat, once charged with dreams, the Skull can expel those dreams to increase the damage the Skull deals. It damages in an AoE, although it’s not exactly an explosion. This means that friendly characters, including followers, can easily be damaged by it as well as enemies.
How to Obtain
Complete Waking Nightmare
To get your hands on the Skull of Corruption you need to follow my walkthrough of Waking Nightmare. By running through the quest and making sure you don’t allow Erandur to destroy the staff, you’ll become Vaermina’s Champion, allowing you to take the Skull of Corruption as your trophy.
Doing so, much like the other Daedric quests in Skyrim, requires you to pick the “morally bad” choice at the end of the quest. You’ll need to turn on Erandur who, for all intents and purposes, is trying to do the right thing by destroying the staff.
However, your choice during Waking Nightmare won’t affect any other part of the game. Skyrim has no real built-in morality system, so the only reason you shouldn’t complete Waking Nightmare in favor of Vaermina is for role-playing purposes.
Question: What happens if I take the Skull of Corruption?
Answer: If you take the Skull of Corruption during Waking Nightmare, you will complete the quest and be forced to kill Erandur.
Question: What does the Skull of Corruption do in Skyrim?
Answer: The Skull of Corruption is a staff that deals area of effect damage. This damage can be buffed by charging the staff with dreams collected from sleeping NPCs.
Question: How do you steal dreams with the Skull of Corruption?
Answer: To steal dreams with the Skull of Corruption, simply cast the staff on a sleeping NPC. This won’t deal any damage and does not count as an aggressive act.
Skull of Corruption Guide: Conclusion
That’s all I’ve got for you in this Skull of Corruption guide for Skyrim. As much as I wished the Skull acted as cool as it looks, it just doesn’t. Beyond being a collector and wanting to get your hands on all of the Daedric artifacts, there’s no real reason to go out of your way to get the Skull.
Waking Nightmare is a short, uninspiring quest that, despite its dream sequence, is pretty boring to playthrough. The same thing goes for the Skull itself. Despite all the fancy wrapping paper, it’s plain and basic underneath. All it does is some meager AoE damage. The dream-stealing gimmick that comes along with that is nothing more than an inconvenience.
Compare Skyrim’s Skull of Corruption with that of previous iterations, and the whole thing just leaves a sour taste in the mouth. At least, it does for me. Still, I like collecting all the Deadric artifacts, so I would recommend you do too. Hopefully, this guide will make getting the Skull as quick and painless as possible. Whether or not you use it, though, is up to you.