You may view Speech as an unnecessary skill for your characters. You may believe perks placed in Speech are wasted. Well you are wrong on both accounts! In this post I will tell you about the benefits of the Speech skill, tell you what you can do with these benefits and even let you know how to level this skill to 100 in no time!
Crime and Corruption
Criminals can benefit greatly from the Speech skill. The first perk that helps a thief comes when Speech hits level 30 and you can take the Bribery perk. This perk opens a dialogue option with Hold Guards. You will be able to bribe the guard to ignore the crime he is trying to arrest you for. You will still have your bounty. Guards will say "Wait, I know you" when you walk by and may try to arrest you if your bounty is high. You can bribe the other guards too but each guard can only be bribed once. If a bribed guard catches you committing another crime he will arrest you or attack if your crime is serious enough. Guards will "reset" in 2 days meaning you can bribe them again after they reset.
Bribing guards makes crime much more simple. You can get away with pickpocketing, lockpicking, assault or outright theft without having to do the dumb old "save before you steal" routine. Unless you want to go to jail often you will need to take the bribery perk!
The size of the bribes you have to pay is dependent on two things. Your character level will raise the price of the bribes while your Speech skill level will lower the price. I have been unable to find specific equations for the cost of bribery but James has confirmed for me that it is somehow dependent on these 2 factors.
You can pickpocket your bribe money back from a guard. To "mark" the guards I have bribed and pickpocketed I will steal their arrows along with their money. This lets me check their inventory before I commit a crime near them. If their arrows are gone I know I cannot bribe them again and I wait for another guard to be nearby. This lets the second guard "catch" me and take my bribe.
Once your Speech skill reaches level 75 you can persuade guards to ignore minor crimes! This is a big upgrade from bribing guards. The bribery option conversation option will still be available but there will be a new "persuade" option. This works the same as bribery but instead of paying off the guards you just talk them into leaving you alone.
As said above, you can persuade guards when your Speech skill reaches level 75 but there are ways to get it earlier. Giving gold to a beggar will add a temporary +10 to your Speech skill. An Amulet of Dibella will add +15 to your Speech skill. The Masque of Clavicus Vile will add +10 to your Speech skill. The Blessing of Dibella, gotten from a Shrine of Dibella (one is in Riften), will add +10 to your Speech skill. The Amulet of Articulation can add a +5 up to +35 to your Speech skill depending on your character level when you get it. You will get the Amulet of Articulation later in a playthrough and by that point you will most likely not need the Speech boost it gives.
By giving money to a beggar, gaining the Amulet of Dibella (can be bought at Radiant Raiment in Solitude) and taking the Blessing of Dibella you will gain a total of +35 to your Speech Skill. This means you can persuade guards when your Speech skill is only at level 40.
The Persuasion Perk will lower the skill level required for all persuasion attempts by 30%. You can persuade away guards who catch you committing crimes at level 53 with the perk. The Persuasion perk requires a Speech skill level of 50 which means you can "persuade" guards long before you get the perk by using the method above.
Make sure to note that fortify haggling is not the same as fortify speech. Fortify haggling will give you better prices for items bought and sold but it does not affect your Speech skill level. You must have the items that fortify your Speech skill, not "haggling" enchantments and potions.
Everyone knows the Speech skill will lower prices for bought items and raise prices for sold items. Some details are not widely known.
The Merchant Perk is very handy, allowing you the ability to sell any non-stolen item to any vendor. This is a huge advantage for people who have a lot to sell and do not want to waste time selling these things to specific vendors. An Alchemy or Enchanting based character can use this perk to sell their creations to any vendor which cuts down on the amount of travel time required to empty your stash of pricy items. This perk also unlocks the vendors' personal inventory and makes it easier to find some items that normally are not widely available (alchemy ingredients).
The Fence Perk is better than it's description. It is said to allow you the ability to barter stolen goods with merchants you have invested in but that is wrong. This perk allows you to barter stolen goods with ANY merchant in the world! Because you have taken the Merchant Perk to get the Fence Perk you will be able to sell anything you have to any merchant out there regardless of stolen tags or who the merchant is.
Another benefit to having a very high Speech level is the items sold by certain vendors. I have noticed that the College of Winterhold vendors will sell better high level scrolls when my speech level is very high. I can buy scrolls for Blizzard and other spells that are not common with a low Speech level.
When you take the Master Trader Perk and later reset your speech skill after defeating Miraak (in the Dragonborn DLC) the affect of the Master Trader Perk will not reset. This means even though you reset the Speech skill you will still find merchants have 1000 extra gold. This does not work if you reset the skill by making it "Legendary". Making a skill Legendary uses the game's engine routines to reset the skill and will cancel all perks previously taken.