Due to his overbearingly arrogant attitude and openly voicing his belief that the mages of the College are inferior to those of the Thalmor, the other mages of the College both dislike and are highly suspicious of him. He, in turn, is highly suspicious of others (including the Dragonborn and Quaranir). He also blames the Dragonborn's presence on the incompetence of the Arch-Mage. In conversation, Ancano will reveal that he is annoyed that he has not been called upon by the Arch-Mage for, "council." If asked, he also voices that the Thalmor are present in Skyrim to help with peace efforts, and this, "time of transition," for the Nords. If asked about his discussion with Mirabelle, Ancano reveals that he is angered by his "level of access" in the College.
During the College of Winterhold quest line, Ancano attempts to harness the energy of the Eye of Magnus, erecting a barrier between himself and other mages of the College; Arch-Mage Savos Aren is killed in the process, and Master Wizard Mirabelle Ervine soon follows, after sacrificing herself to give the other mages a chance to escape.
Ancano has knowledge of the following spells:
With Tolfdir still occupied in Saarthal, the Dragonborn needs to speak with Urag gro-Shub to find out about researching the discovery in Saarthal. After the Dragonborn learns from Urag that the books needed to research the Saarthal discovery were taken to Fellglow Keep by Orthorn, Ancano stops them as they are leaving the Arcanaeum to ask them about Saarthal. Once he gets the information he wanted, he allows the Dragonborn to leave to recover the books.
Urag gro-Shub has asked to speak with Tolfdir about the Night of Tears book. While speaking with Tolfdir, Ancano interrupts the Dragonborn, asking them to follow him to the Arch-Mage's quarters, as a member of the Psijic Order has shown up at the College and wishes to speak with them. After the Dragonborn has a private conversation with Quaranir, Ancano confronts him, but Quaranir feigns ignorance to his demand for answers and soon departs.
Mirabelle has explained that members of the Synod recently visited the College, mentioning the Staff of Magnus. The Dragonborn is asked to head towards Mzulft, as the Synod were last known to be heading there. After arriving, the Dragonborn discovers that Ancano has barricaded himself in the Hall of the Elements with the Eye, using its power for the benefit of the Thalmor and Aldmeri Dominion. When Savos, Mirabelle, and the Dragonborn enter to confront him, he uses the Eye to unleash a powerful blast that wounds Mirabelle and stuns the Dragonborn.
The Dragonborn needs to retrieve the Staff of Magnus from within Labyrinthian and return with it to the College of Winterhold. Mirabelle remains behind with the other mages to try and hold off Ancano, but when the Dragonborn returns, they learn that Mirabelle is dead, having sacrificed herself to hold off Ancano long enough for everyone else to escape. Tolfdir volunteers to join the Dragonborn with entering the College and dealing with Ancano once and for all.
With Tolfdir aiding them, the Dragonborn breaches the magical barrier Ancano has surrounded the College with and enters the Hall of the Elements to confront Ancano, who mocks their efforts to try and stop him when he believes himself to be invincible now thanks to the Eye. When Tolfdir tries to hit him with a Fireball spell, Ancano retaliates with a Mass Paralysis spell, incapacitating Tolfdir so he can face the Dragonborn alone, and opening the Eye to render himself invulnerable to damage until the Dragonborn can close it with the Staff of Magnus. After the fight, Ancano falls to the Dragonborn and is slain, and the Eye is taken by the Psijic Order to ensure its power does not fall into the wrong hands ever again.
- First encounter
"Another new Apprentice, I see. Are you of the sort that believe you're here to change the world? Or are you only in it for yourself? I assure you that I'll be watching you -- all of you -- very closely."
- What is it you do here? "I am an advisor to the Arch-Mage. The Thalmor wish to promote relations with your College. I am at the Arch-Mage's disposal if he requires advice."
- Does the Arch-Mage often ask for advice? "Perhaps not as often as he should. In time, I believe he will be more trusting."
- I'd like to know more about the Thalmor. "Now that stability has been established between the Dominion and the Empire, we seek only to help Skyrim. To guide its people through this time of transition, to help lead them to a better future."
- Mirabelle's discussion
- What was that conversation with Mirabelle about? "Your superior and I were simply having a... discussion about my level of access to the College."
- It sounded more like an argument. "Well, perhaps that is why you're merely an Apprentice here."
- Is there a problem? "Nothing you need to concern yourself with. I shall be quite capable of observing everything that goes on here."
- It sounded more like an argument. "Well, perhaps that is why you're merely an Apprentice here."
- There's a rumor that you're spying for the Thalmor. "What? Preposterous, and just the sort of thing I would expect from mages who have nothing better to do with their time. I have made it quite clear that my only role here is as an advisor to the Arch-Mage. I would suggest that you not further spread this rumor."
After talking to Urag gro-Shub about the missing books:
"You there. I have questions for you. You were in Saarthal, yes? It has come to my attention that something was found there."
- Maybe... "I know full well that you have. Please do not insult my intelligence. Tolfdir is still there now, is he? I shall expect a full report when he returns."
- Yes, we did. I just informed the Arch-Mage. "I am well aware. Tolfdir is still in Saarthal, is he? I shall be expecting a full report from him when he returns."
- How do you know anything about this? "It is my job to know these things. My role as advisor to the Arch-Mage is aided by knowing everything that transpires here."
- Why does this matter to you? "Something was discovered in Saarthal that was significant enough that Tolfdir sent a new member of the College, alone, to deliver word. That sounds precisely like the sort of thing that should matter to everyone. Especially me. Thank you for your help. You may go now."
"I need you to come with me immediately. Let's go."
- I don't understand what's going on. "Really? Well, allow me to clarify the situation. I'd like to know why there's someone claiming to be from the Psijic Order here in the College. More importantly, I'd like to know why he's asking for you specifically. So we're going to go have a little chat with him, and find out exactly what it is he wants."
- Why are you so concerned about this? "I'll be the one asking the questions. All you need to know is that the Psijic Order is a rogue organization, believing themselves to be above the law. They have clashed with the Aldmeri Dominion before, and I have no intention of allowing that to happen here."
- Aren't you just an advisor here? "Technically, that is true. But I still report to the Aldmeri Dominion, and I cannot ignore this situation. Don't worry, you can return to your petty squabbles and meaningless 'research' as soon as this matter is resolved."
In front of the Arch-Mage's Quarters:
"Now, you are going to speak to this... Monk... and find out why he is here, and then he will be removed from College grounds."
- What do you want me to say to this monk? "Find out why he's here, and what he wants."
After talking to Quaranir:
"I'm not sure what just happened but I assure you I will get to the bottom of it."
- Get to the bottom of what? "Whatever it is those Psijics are up to. They cannot be trusted. For all we know, he's here to scout out the College. I'm sure they want to undermine our efforts."
- What efforts would they be undermining? "This! This... Orb. The Eye of Magnus, whatever you want to call it. It's clearly powerful, and no doubt they want it for themselves! I expect to be informed if they make any future attempts to contact you."
- Have you ever heard of the Augur of Dunlain? "The what? No. No, I'm quite sure I have no idea what you're talking about. I suggest you mind your own business and return to whatever it is you do here."
- Mirabelle Ervine
Mirabelle: "I believe I made myself rather clear."
Ancano: "Yes, of course. I'm simply trying to understand the reasoning behind the decision."
Mirabelle: "You may be used to the Empire bowing to your every whim, but you will find the Thalmor find no such treatment here. You are here at the pleasure of the Arch-Mage. I hope you appreciate the opportunity."
Ancano: "Yes, of course. The Arch-Mage has my thanks."
Mirabelle: "Very good. Then we're done here."
Mirabelle: "I've had yet another complaint. Please stop barging in on experiments in progress."
Ancano: "My dear, I am merely observing the proceedings."
Mirabelle: "Well then 'observe' from a greater distance. You're making people uncomfortable."
Savos: "I'm sorry, were you about to say something?"
Ancano: "Well, what is the meaning of this?"
Quaranir: "I'm sorry, I'm afraid I don't understand."
Ancano: "Don't play coy. You asked to see a specific member of the College. Here he/she is. Now what is it that you want?"
Quaranir: "There's been a misunderstanding. Clearly I should not be here. I shall simply take my leave."
Ancano: "What? What trickery is this? You're not going anywhere until I find out what you're up to."
Quaranir: "I'm not 'up to' anything. I apologize if I have offended you in any way."
Ancano: "We shall see about this..."
Ancano: "I'm afraid I must intrude. I need to speak to your associate immediately."
Tolfdir: "This is most inappropriate! We are involved in serious research here!"
Ancano: "Yes, I've no doubt of its gravity. This, however, is a matter that cannot wait."
Tolfdir: "Well, I'm quite sure I've never been interrupted like this before...the audacity!...[to player] I suppose we'll have to continue this at some later time, when we can avoid interruptions."
Ancano: "You've come for me, have you? You think I don't know what you're up to? You think I can't destroy you? The power to unmake the world at my fingertips, and you think you can do anything about it?"
Tolfdir: "Spells have no effect!"
Ancano: "I am beyond your pathetic attempts at magic. You cannot touch me."
Tolfdir: "The staff! Use it on the Eye!"
Ancano: "Enough! Still you persist? Very well. Come then. See what I can do now."
- "I have many important things on my mind. Your concerns are not among them."
- "Are you quite sure we need to be speaking?"
- "I'm disappointed to say I've learned little during my time here."
- "I had hoped your scholars would be on a level comparable with my own colleagues. They are not."
- "Another new Apprentice, I see. Are you here because you believe you can change the world? Or are you only in it for yourself? I assure you I will be watching you - all of you - very closely."
- "You've come for me, have you? You think I don't know what you're up to? You think I can't destroy you? The power to unmake the world at my fingertips, and you think you can do anything about it?" ―During "The Eye of Magnus"
- He and Elenwen are known to be the only Thalmor that own the non-hooded Thalmor Robes.
- Despite the fact that Ancano is an essential character, he can be attacked and, "killed," without any bounty or hostility from any surrounding people.
- Ancano may not become hostile when attacked by the Dragonborn, even when they are in their werewolf form.
- When Ancano is using sparks on the Eye of Magnus, it will deal no damage when in front of it, and Wards will have no effect on it.
- Ancano is voiced by Alexander Brandon, who voices only one other character in Skyrim, Amaund Motierre.
- When conversing with Ancano, there is an option to ask, "Who are the Thalmor?" However, if one has already spoken to other agents—random Thalmor Justiciars, Ondolemar in the Understone Keep, etc.—about the Thalmor, Ancano's dialogue option changes to, "I'd like to know more about the Thalmor."
- The Dragonborn can return to the College and defeat Ancano, but only once Morokei is defeated and the Staff of Magnus is obtained. If the Dragonborn has not been given the Staff of Magnus quest and completed a few side quests, Ancano's barrier will become small. Ancano will also not harness the energy of the Eye of Magnus, but instead walk around the Eye. The Dragonborn can interact with Ancano, but not while he is within the barrier.