Gold Farming Techniques
Taking a break from the house tour (will finish, tho!); thought I’d talk about gold farming a bit. I’ve gone through a couple million gold since Homestead dropped; someone asked me if I had a huge bankroll to start with and was surprised I’ve been making 100 – 200K a week to fund my furnishings addiction. They wanted to know my “trick.” Honestly, that amount of gold is not extraordinary – the highest seller in my trading guild made 2 million gold in the first 3 days of this week, and she made 9 million last week. A 150K average is not hard. I rarely focus solely on gold farming; mostly I’ve just figured out ways to make gold while I’m doing the stuff I like to do.
Search “eso gold” on YouTube and you’ll get dozens and dozens of vids. They’re mostly fine, but each focuses on one very specific method, and most don’t work for me because I don’t like to do the things they describe. And some rely upon exploits that have been patched, or describe a random lucky break that’s impossible to replicate.
So here’s “The Zells Guide to Gold Farming for Beginners & People Who Hate Gold Farming.” Like my post on running Dark Brotherhood Sacraments & Thieves Guild heists, it will be long-but-thorough, and I’ll update it if I think of something new or if a patch requires it.
Let’s start with a foundation assumption: ESO is a game, and while you’re playing it, you want to enjoy yourself. People sometimes assume playing an MMO means spending hours grinding stuff you hate doing – I don’t play like that. First and foremost, my suggestion is that you find a method of generating gold that still feels like “playing” to you, and not like a part-time job.
I’ll describe the “serious” approach to these techniques if you’d rather spend a few hours a week hard-core gold farming and then not think about it again, and also “my” versions, which are more “farm as you go.” I’m a little ADD, and I prefer to sort of flit around in the game and let myself get distracted; my gold-farming techniques are integrated into that playstyle. I would encourage you to pick the techniques you like, adapt them to suit you, and fold them into what you’re doing already.
None of you will do all of this; my goal is to give you information and options.
Join a Trade Guild
Almost all gold-farming techniques require selling items to other players. You can do that in zone chat, but for efficiency you don’t want to be personally making deals for every single item. Usually I store my for-sale items on a banking alt over the week and set up a new round of auctions on the weekend, so I’m not constantly messing with it.
Not all guild traders are equal – if you’re serious about selling you need to join a dedicated trade guild that maintains a trader in one of the major hubs. Guilds have to bid for their trader location each week in an auction, and high-traffic spots auction for huge amounts of gold. There’s no “second choice” if a guild gets out-bid for a spot; if they lose a bid they don’t have a trader that week. So if your guild can’t maintain the cost of bidding – every single week – then their trader will come and go, and you will lose a week of sales every time.
The three big hubs are Rawl’kha, Mournhold, and Wayrest. Walk around and look at the guild names on each trader, and get a spot on the roster of one of those guilds. Some have per-week selling requirements to stay in the guild, but some don’t. Make sure before you join that you know where the trader is, and if there’s a selling minimum.
Add-ons: Consider DL’ing Master Merchant (MM) or another auction add-on, or get comfortable asking for price checks; you don’t want to undervalue your listings.
I’m starting with this because it’s a very common method lots of people find effective, and it’s reliable – mats always sell. I don’t sell a lot of mats mostly because I’m a crafter and a hoarder (I might need that!), but I sometimes fill up empty guild store slots with mats after the “real” sales are listed. (You have 30 listings per guild store.)
Mat farming is about character speed/skills and node density – your goal is to harvest as much as you can as fast as you can. Most people who do this run a farming pattern in a particular area over and over. I hate that, hardly ever do it, but I keep my crafting alts in node-rich world locations, so when I log in to get my hireling mails (see below) I run the character around their location and harvest. 10-15 minutes, then I log in with the next alt and she farms her location, etc. I also have the banker assistant so I can easily off-load any treasure chest items they pick up.
Note: If lots of people are harvesting in a zone, your time/profit ratio goes way down – ideally, you want every single node in the area with no competition. Harvesting is therefore best done during off-peak hours, no matter what zone you’re in.
Add-ons: If you’re going to do this seriously, I recommend DL’ing an add-on that tracks harvest nodes, preferably one that accumulates data from your guildmates as well. If gold-per-minute is your goal you want to move straight from one node to the next as fast as possible. You’ll also want to pick a couple of spots and work them exclusively, so you can develop an efficient pattern to run.
Character Specs: I recommend building an alt just for harvesting – build matters.
CP: Thief tree: Lover: Plentiful Harvest passive (10): 10% chance to double mats harvested – Absolutely non-negotiable if you care about mats at all, either using or selling. I recommend you have this on all your characters, actually; it’s only 10 points.
CP: Thief tree: Lover: Master Gatherer passive (75): reduces gathering time by half – Also non-negotiable for a dedicated harvesting alt, but probably not something you want on a character built for end-game trials, vet dungeons, or pvp.
CP: Thief tree: Lover: Windrunning passive (120): increase movement speed 2% – Useful on a harvesting alt, no way a “real” character gets to 120 in this tree.
CP: Thief tree: Shadow: Fortune Seeker (10) & Treasure Hunter (75) passives: increases the gold / quality of items found in treasure chests, respectively – Alts-only, but if your favorite harvesting locations also spawn treasure chests, consider investing the rest of your Thief CP in the Shadow line to get these bonuses.
Steed Mundus stone, Stamina build, Stable upgrades – increases movement speed, the length of sprinting time, and speed/stamina/inventory space, respectively. All good.
All The Hirelings – Grind all hireling crafting skills up to 32 and buy rank 3 hirelings, preferably on every character you have. You must have rank 3 to get gold tempering mats, but once you’re there, it’s free money in the mail. Or more mats to hoard. 🙂
Material Ranks in each Crafting Skill – The kind of mats your character will find is based on level (25%) and their crafting rank (75%). Your farming alt needs to be 10/10 on all crafts so you’re picking up end-game mats, and if there are chests in the area you’re farming in, grind the alt up to cap so they can get CP gear out of those chests.
Extraction Skills for all Crafting Types – Your best profit is going to come from the gold tempers you get when refining. Have at least one character with max’d out extraction bonuses to increase your chances for tempers. Never refine w/toons who don’t have extraction max’d.
Where To Go: Lots of options; find a zone you like running around in. Seriously. Craglorn – Crag is appealing to many because there’s a chance of getting nirn, which increases your profit margin tremendously, but because of that, there are always a ton of people harvesting there. Personally, I hate Crag – the mobs are annoying, the landscape is not my favorite, and it’s crowded. If you harvest here, pay close attention to your node/time ratio – your chance for nirn is not large, and if competing with others means you are only able to harvest a half or a third the number of nodes you would someplace else, then chasing nirn is lowering your gold-per-hour profit, not increasing it.
Starter Zones – All the starter zones are especially node-rich: Khenarthi’s Roost, Stros M’Kai, Bleakrock, and Betnikh, too. Honestly, though – I always feel a little guilty about harvesting in these locations because I worry there’s a new player trying desperately to gather mats for their first set of armor. But in terms of running a tight, fast, node-heavy pattern, these are good places. Remember: lots of people do this, so time of day matters.
Zones w/Good Set Armor – Go to Deltia’s page and make note of the zone sets he recommends for the most common builds, then look up where those sets drop. Pick a zone you like and go there, now look at your harvesting map add-on and pick a node-rich area that’s near a dolmen; respawning chest nodes are a bonus. Dolmen chests drop the set’s jewelry which always sells (for good sets). Kill the dolmen, loot the chest, farm the area, maybe fish out a fishing hole, maybe jump on a WB if others are around, work in a circle so you’re back to kill the dolmen when it respawns… Lather, rinse, repeat. If I decide to do dedicated harvesting, this is almost always how I do it. This works esp. well if a large dolmen group is running – they’ll help you kill the dolmen quick, then they’ll run off without stopping to harvest. Works less well for alts unless you grind them up to CP – you want the set items you’re picking up to be at cap.
Fishing is often listed as a gold farming technique, but if you don’t like to fish, it’s the worst way to make money because you will be so, so bored. I usually fish when I want to enjoy the scenery in a particularly lovely spot, when I’m burning off a bounty, or while I’m waiting for a dolmen to respawn. Profit is more of a side-effect.
Fishing is profitable because of the Perfect Roe that can drop when fileting the fish, so do the math if gold is the only goal. The odds of PRoe are 1:100 – 1:200; that’s one fish out of a hundred, at best, and an average of ten holes fished dry to get it. PRoe always sells, but only for ~10K each. If you just cringed, fishing is not how you should be making money.
(Note: it’s possible to get rare housing items from fishing now, so if you want to sell those there’s an additional source of gold here. But the price of all housing items is dropping fast, so this is currently unreliable, just a nice possible bonus.)
If you still like the idea, my suggestion is to research first – get an add-on or find zone maps with fishing hole locations marked, and go to an area where enough spawn closely together that you don’t lose time travelling from place to place. Also be thinking about local mobs and how much time you’re going to burn killing things. Be sure to use the right bait for the type of water as well.
The Big Fishing Loophole: Having said all that – you don’t actually have to catch the fish, just filet them, and dock area containers can spawn un-fileted fish. Look at the docks, find one with many fish-dropping containers, then loot, log out, log in, and re-loot. I hate logging in and out, so I never do this, but I am considering moving one of my alts to a dock and farming the containers when I do hireling mails & harvesting. Another option is to identify docks you regularly pass by on your way from place to place and make a habit of grabbing & fileting the fish every time.
Note: Dock containers are almost always owned, so be aware you will get a bounty. If you don’t filet the fish before a guard wanders by you’ll lose it. Pick your location with that in mind; not all docks have guards or witnesses.
A lot of YouTube gold-farming vids cover stealing, and most have a “my route” map. They involve breaking into a lot of homes in a large town and looting 1-3 containers in each home. Check out YouTube (eso, stealing, gold farming) if you want to see a bunch of these routes. It’s perfectly valid tactic, but I don’t like loading doors, and I hate logging in and out. I also avoid safeboxes and locked doors if I can, because picking locks takes time, and I find it annoying to do. You’re also pretty much guaranteed to get a bounty doing this, and therefore have a chance to lose everything if you’re caught.
I vastly prefer to stick with buildings that have a large number of containers, and just stop in whenever I happen to be near one rather than making dedicated runs. If I do a focused stealing run, I still only hit the container-rich buildings, and use free ports (to guildmates, or homes near wayshrines) as much as possible so I’m not running around a lot.
Note: Because the number of items you can fence per day is limited (see below, Legerdemain passives), fence only green and blue items. 100 white items = 4000 gold; 100 green items = 10,000 gold, so don’t let your bag fill with trash, destroy white items as you go, or don’t pick them up. Also – don’t sell blindly. Blue housing patterns (for example) are still selling pretty well in guild stores, and you’ll be finding some. Launder those instead, and put them up for auction.
Character Build & Inventory: You need a thief build, not necessarily a Nightblade, though they do have useful skills for this.
Nightblade: Shadow Skills: Shadow Cloak & Concealed Weapon – not mandatory, but helpful. Shadow Cloak = ~2 seconds of invisibility, and if slotted Concealed Weapon increases your stealth movement speed by 22%.
Thieves Guild Skills: Clemency – once per day, you can choose to have a guard let you off for free w/out losing your items. I don’t go on long stealing runs with characters who don’t have this; there is nothing more frustrating than losing an hour’s worth of loot to a guard. Note: you only have 1 minute to get out of the guard’s line of sight after you use it or you will be stopped again, so hide and clear the bounty immediately afterwards.
Legerdemain passives – all useful, but Trafficker, which allows you to sell more items each day to the fence, is necessary. Also consider getting Light Fingers, which increases your pickpocketing chance – if you pick the pockets of every convenient npc as you loot the buildings, you’ll accumulate loot faster.
Medium Armor passives – can increase sprint speed and decrease the range you can be detected by npcs when stealthing. Also, if I’m doing a dedicated stealing run I wear 5 pcs of Night’s Silence (full move speed when stealthed) and 3 pcs of Night Terror (further decreases detection range when stealthed). Esp. helpful for non-Nightblades.
Leniency Edicts – reward items for TG and DB quests; they allow you to clear bounties. Keep a stack on the character, use one when you get a bounty to zero it out, especially if the character doesn’t have Clemency, but also after you have to use Clemency so you don’t get stopped again.
Invisibility potions – Keep your invis pots in your quickslot when stealing! If you get stopped and don’t have Clemency, flee, drink a potion, and hide to break the guard’s aggro.
Bag space – Time = gold and you can’t put stolen items in the bank, so clean out your backpack as much as you can before you start and make as few runs to the Refuge as you can. (Do not use Pirhanni the Smuggler; she takes a 35% cut.)
Where To Steal: If I’m doing a dedicated stealing run I don’t enter buildings with less than 5 containers. I habitually count containers so I know which buildings are the best in each area I regularly visit. Here are some suggestions:
Wrothgar: Scarp Keep – Scarp Keep has about 70 containers. Really. If you don’t mind re-logging, you can farm and re-farm in this building until your bags are full.
Auridon: Vulkhel Guard: bank/manor – There are about 20 containers in the VG bank. (Lots of guards, though, so be careful.) That’s the most in one building in all of Auridon, and also happens to be near a player apartment (for easy porting in), a wayshrine (for easy porting out), and there’s a handy Refuge entrance as well.
Stormhelm: Wayrest: castle, bank, and inn – All 3 buildings have many containers, a few safeboxes, and quite a few pickpocket opportunities. (Alcaire has containers, too, but their wayshrine is not convenient and I’m hardly ever in that area.)
Glenumbra: Daggerfall: inn, castle, bank – As w/Wayrest: containers, npcs, and some safeboxes.
This is not at all a definitive list, these are just places I frequently visit in the process of doing other things. I said before that this guide will help “integrate gold farming into your play style” – while I do sometimes clean out my bag, re-gear and go on dedicated stealing marathons, most often I just stop in and clean out these prime buildings whenever my thief characters pass by them. Before and after Wrothgar WB runs, I hit Scarp Keep. When my thieves port out of a dungeon to the Mara’s Kiss apartment in VG I hop over to the bank and clean it out before moving on. I log in with my bank alt at the end of every play session to grab the auction items out of the bank; she is in the Daggerfall bank and there are 9 containers there.
Your “best buildings” might be different. Take a look around places you often visit, count the containers, and decide which buildings are worth clearing out when you’re in the neighborhood. Note the location of Refuge entrances as well; some are a pain to get to, but some you’ll pass by on a regular basis – if you’re in the habit of stealing as you go, also get in the habit of stopping by those handy Refuge locations to clean out your bags when you pass by them.
Note: I started writing this post before the anniversary event, which has cratered the selling price of motifs. I have no doubt they’ll go back up, eventually, but certain motifs may never return to their previous prices, so keep that in mind. (I am loving the event, but it has thrown a wrench in my income stream.) That’s the joy of MMO’s – things change, you have to adapt. I’m leaving this section mostly intact, but be aware all this is in flux.
Before the anniversary event, my single biggest source of income by far was motif farming TG heists and DB sacraments. I hated them at first, but by the time I had the sets I needed, I could do them easily and now find them weirdly relaxing. It takes 7 minutes to run a heist and the reward bag always includes a TG motif now. That means the selling price has dropped, but they’re still a few thousand each (not during the birthday event), which is not bad for <10 minutes effort doing something I find fun anyway. There’s only a ~30% chance of a motif page with a perfect Sacrament run, but again, it takes <10 minutes and some of the pages sell for over 20K. (haha, not now) (Here’s my post about how to run heists/sacraments successfully.)
Specifics here are especially useless – this really depends on where you like to quest and hunt. Look at motif-dailies in areas you enjoy, and if you can, leave an alt in the quest location, ready to do it. I leave two characters sitting in the Dark Brotherhood Sanctuary, and one in the Hew’s Bane Thieves Guild, geared up specifically for those runs, and I do them almost every day I log in to get their hireling mails. I have another alt who “lives” in Kvatch and I do Arena and Folly dailies when I log in with her – Minotaur and Order o/t Hour motifs are rare drops, but they are pricey, sell well, and I like doing those dailies. A “reset” PUG forms almost every night just after midnight for Wrothgar, Gold Coast, and Hew’s Bane WBs, if you enjoy world boss runs.
Do you like Dwemer ruins? Dwemer motif pages drop from Dwemer containers, but there is a one-hour timer on them – if you get one, it will be an hour before you can get another. If I’m farming Razek’s Wheel, for example, I log out as soon as I find a motif page, and go play another character for an hour. As an added bonus all the containers are reset when I log back in.
If you like Craglorn, do the dailies while you’re farming – Yokudan, Ra’Gada, and Celestial motifs all sell high. Do you like public dungeons? Then go pick up the Mages Guild and Fighter Guild dailies so you’ll have a chance at Draugr motifs in addition to whatever you find in the dungeon.
So my suggestion here is to research motifs you have encountered doing stuff you like, find out exactly how to increase chances to make them drop (important details aren’t always obvious, like Dwemer motifs being on a timer), then make that a regular part of your play time.
You might have noticed I rarely do one thing at a time, and I esp. rarely farm gear to the exclusion of all else unless I want the set for myself. Certain gear sells well, though, so it’s a good idea to factor that into your gold-farming tactics, but you’ve got to know which sets/traits sell, and I’ll again suggest checking out Deltia’s page for the currently-hot ones. Group dungeon & trial gear is tradable only amongst the party; what we’re really talking about here are zone sets.
So do your research on zone sets, pick a zone that’s fun for you, and start killin’ bosses. I already mentioned the idea of camping a dolmen and farming mats around the area between spawns, but dolmen groups (moving from dolmen to dolmen, as fast as possible) are great for farming gear and also give good exp – best way to get the General Executor achievement as well. World Boss groups are also good for this, as are some public dungeons.
Try to combine goals whenever you can. Baharah’s Gloom in Hew’s Bane has a ton of containers in a small space, so it’s great if all you want is furnishing patterns – and I’ve spent a lot of time there – but you won’t get salable gear in BG, and since everyone’s farming patterns there, the price has plummeted on the Outlaw’s motif pages that the boss drops. (And the birthday boxes have pushed the price on those motifs down further.)
On the other hand – Bangkor’ai bosses drop Vampire Lord, Seventh Legion, and Spriggan’s Thorns gear – Spriggan’s is highly sought after and good pieces sell for big gold (the right Spriggan’s staff can go for 250K). Dwemer containers drop Dwemer motifs, and recipe-possible containers drop furnishing patterns. So farming Rezak’s Wheel in Bangkor’ai means you simultaneously have a chance at high-value weapons, Dwemer motifs, and furnishing patterns. Much better than Baharah’s Gloom where patterns are the only real loot. Look for overlaps like that when you’re farming.
Auction House Flipping
I mention this last because it’s the least playing-the-game activity for me; too much like real work. But it’s a technique some people use, and this is about helping you find a tactic that works for you, not for me. I said the top seller in my trading guild can make 9 million in a week – this is how she does it.
Add-ons: Add-ons are essential here; most people use MM (Master Merchant) and AwesomeGuildStore, at least. Be aware that MM pulls it’s data only from the guilds you are in, so if you aren’t in good trading guilds your data is weak.
With the add-ons installed, take a tour of little guild traders in out of the way locations. Use MM’s above/below feature to find the items priced under MM, and buy them. Use AGS to search for specific items you know sell well (Perfect Roe, gold tempers) and buy any priced too low. For example, PRoe will always sell for 10K, so if you see any priced lower than that (low enough to cover your auction listing fee and the guild’s cut) buy it all and relist it at 10K. People who sell a lot of PRoe are probably not fishing it themselves, they’re re-selling.
Obviously, you’ve got to have the gold to bankroll this up front, it’s highly dependent on the quality of information in your MM database, and it takes time to individually search the out-of-the-way guild stores. I’m told that high seller I mentioned spends 1-2 hours a day searching guild stores for items to flip – personally I’d rather play Pong, but there’s no arguing that her system works.
And we’re done!
WordPress tells me I’m over 4000 words on this post, which is clearly ridiculous, but hopefully each of you found something helpful. Have a great weekend, and happy hunting!