Navigating the frozen tundra of Skyrim can be treacherous in The Elder Scrolls V, especially early in the game when you haven’t developed many skills. Dragons, giants, trolls, bears, saber toothed tigers, mammoths, werewolves and bandits are all waiting in shadows to snatch your life from you without so much as a virtual tear shed for your low level character. One thing that can help you survive is to have a follower fight by your side. Regular followers can also carry all the loot you will find in the various dungeons, watch towers and forts. While having one follower is great, having multiple followers can really help you with the tougher enemies in the game. It is also a lot of fun to explore the massive world in Skyrim with a group of characters who have different abilities and personalities.
I am going to attempt to keep this as spoiler free as possible. Those of you who do not want even minor details spoiled for you, may not want to read this. I will try not spoil any major surprises in the game.
Once you settle the quest in favor Faendal, you can talk to him again and select the option to ask him to follow you. You can then talk to him again and select the option to trade with Faendal and take any gold he has on him. After you have done that, talk to him again and ask him to train you in archery.
You can be trained by a trainer 5 times per level. Each time you train, you will gain one level in the skill that the trainer is an expert in. If you would like to train for free, simply talk to Faendal again after you train, select the option to trade with him and then remove the money you paid him for training. This is a quick way to level up your archery skill early in the game. Archery is a very important skill to have early in the game because it is one of the only ways to attack a dragon that is in flight.
The next thing you will want to do is advance the main quest line a little bit. As you follow the main quest, you will be summoned by the Grey Beards. Go and meet with them and do what they ask you to do. In the process of doing that, you will meet a woman named Delphine. She will introduce you to a man named Esbern. If you keep doing what they ask you to do, eventually they will want you to take them to a place called Sky Haven Temple during a quest called Alduin’s Wall.
Once you get to the point where they want to go there, you have the option of traveling with them or going separately. If you choose to go with them, they will become a type of follower. They will travel with you no matter where you go or what you do. They will fight alongside you against any enemies that target you.
The nice thing is that they don’t replace your regular follower. As long as you don’t complete the Alduin’s Wall quest, they will follow you in addition to your regular follower.
Although Delphine and Esbern will follow you, you cannot access their inventory or have them carry items for you. You can command them to wait in a specific place, but you cannot issue other commands to them that you can to your regular follower (like search a body, pick a lock, steal something, attack someone or do a job for you). Despite this, they are very good followers to have in a fight.
Delphine is a warrior. She uses bow and arrow effectively at long range and then fights with one handed weapons in close combat. She is a very capable fighter at any range.
Esbern is my favorite character in the game. He is voiced by Max Von Sydow who has won numerous awards as an actor (including being nominated for an academy award for best actor). This fact alone makes him one of the least annoying followers in the game.
Esbern is a mid-level mage that conjures a very strong Frost Atronach to fight with him in combat while he stands back and attacks with dual fire bolts. The nice thing about Esbern is that he fights from various distances at once. The Frost Atronach rushes in and fights up close while Esbern fights from a distance. If you have a spell to summon your own Atronach, this can make for a very deadly combination. My character can also summon a Frost Atronach and having two Frost Atronachs (which are very strong in melee combat), yourself and three followers makes for a pretty formidable force against any foe.
You can now go and start exploring the rest of Skyrim for as long as you want and you will have three followers with you. This will really help you in the early stages of the game. It also makes exploring a lot more fun. Having battles with your own private army of followers against a group of bandits, giants or even a dragon can make for some epic battles.
You can go back and talk to the leader of the Grey Beards and select the dialog option that asks him if he has heard about any words of power and he will put a marker on your map of a place where you can find a new “shout”. Once you find one shout, you can go back and talk to him again to find another shout. Usually these shouts are in dungeons where you can find a lot of loot; however, they also have some tough bosses. That is why you should do them while you have multiple followers.
If you ever lose your followers, try fast traveling to a new location and they will usually show up with you. If you still cannot find them, then they have probably left. You can usually find your regular follower where ever you met them. In Faendal’s case, you can find him in Riverwood. If you lose Delphine and Esbern, you can usually find them near the Alduin’s Wall quest marker on your map.
It is possible to have even more followers. There are a couple places in the game where you can either buy or find a dog that will become a follower in addition to your other followers. Dogs can be helpful, but they can also be liability in combat. They tend to rush in and attack even when you are trying to be stealthy. You will encounter other quests in Skyrim where someone will become a follower until you complete the quest. If you don’t complete the quest, they will continue to follow you until you do.
Using this method, you can add even more followers to your party. Three followers is probably an optimal number though. It still makes the game challenging. Even with three, there are times where they get in your way. If you have more than three, navigating tight dungeons and cramped hallways can be an exercise in madness. One trick is to use the Unrelenting Voice shout to move them out of doorways where they are blocking you. They don’t seem to like it, but they also won’t attack you.
If you ever want to get rid of your followers, simply complete the quest they are involved in. Once the quest is completed, they will no longer follow you and there will be no way to get them to follow you again. You can dimiss any regular follower by talking to them and telling them it is time to part ways.