I have just started out out playing a a High Elf stealth-mage in Skyrim and am wondering how to build up my character. I will definitely need Stealth and Illusion so I should should start sneaking everywhere and casting Fury and Muffle, I guess. My offensive options magic-wise are either Conjuration or Destruction. I also dislike followers since they get in the way and prevent me using my spells. My goal is to get Quiet Casting perk so I can attack enemies without being heard by sneaking around them. The problem is that perk comes only at 50 Illusion. Since I will need Illusion no matter which offensive magic path I take I am wondering which one I should take to stay alive early on.

Destruction has good attacks especially with dual casting but with Conjuration I can have someone else do my fighting for me or build up one-handed or archery by conjuring swords and bows. Also, does Calm or Pacify work on Dragons early on? I'm thinking I could run away instead of fighting them early. I currently have a level 8 character at 29 Destruction but pretty weak on other skills. I can kill bandits with one blast using Lightning dual cast but magic NPCs are a lot tougher. I get killed easy. I'm thinking of branching into other schools of magic. So whats the recommendation for an early on character trying to play this path? Which type/guild quests should I take? I realize Winterhold is a must but may come across many magic NPCs in that, don't know. Maybe I should focus on side/misc quests first? I guess my main questions are how I should play early on and which guild quests to focus on at this stage?

2 Answers 2


You just spam Muffle whenever you can. Reaching 50 points in illusion is not too difficult thanks to that, so you should have that perk pretty fast.

Using destruction or conjuration is another, very difficult to answer question. Personally, i got a few mods which add more creatures to summon like draugr, animal spirits, later powerful dremoras or undead dragons and so on. That makes conjuration much more effective and fun, especially since the creatures you can summon early without mods are only familiars and fire atronachs, which are both not really strong.

If you play without mods, you're better off with destruction. Once you got the adept spells like icestorm or fireball, you can take out enemies in no time.

You should also try to run through the Dawnguard DLC as fast as possible until you get the royal vampirearmor which grants 125% magickaregeneration, if I'm not wrong, you find it once you try to get into the soul cairn, in the room before with the 4 gargoyles and the secret door which leads into the hidden laboratory. You can also run through the entire Winterhold Academy quest where you get arch mages robes and krosis which will increase your magicka regeneration by ~200%, but i think they look ugly, so i don't use them.

If you got no problems with mods, i can only recommend the mod Balanced Magic which balances the magickacost early on. Playing a mage in skyrim is hard, especially early since your manapool is so low.

Hope this helps. If you got any more questions, just let me know.

  • thanks this helps. What about dragons? Will Calm or Pacify work on them? I guess since I don't like followers, conjured helpers would have been a bad idea. Even though I have the Mighty Magic mod installed I do have an issue with mods. I'm playing with the robes so my magicka regen is faster and am focusing on increasing magic over strength. magicka is 180 strength is about what i started with. I'm guessing magic NPCs should be hit with spells that lower magicka like Lightning? Still, I tried doing the Orphan Rock site early and got beat by a single witch not Hagraven. Oct 14, 2014 at 6:22
  • I think dragons are immune to these spells, even tho I am not too sure. I'll try it once I'm at home. When you get killed by a witch, you're probably playing on legendary, so i can only recommend: Dodging. If that doesn't work, try to grind up your destruction skills in easier regions first. Especially the area around whiterun, riverwood and falkreath is full of wolves and other weak creatures where you can upgrade your skills perfectly early. Oct 14, 2014 at 7:25

If you wear robes Alteration is pretty much a must, since it has spells that give you much needer armor (and perks that empower those spells if you wear NO armor at all).

Since you talk about mods there is one that fits the archetype you're thinking about, it allows spells to deal Sneak damage ; it changes the Sneak perks tree, if I remember correctly. I tried and remember it conflicting a bit with other spell mods, but that doesn't seem to be an issue for you :)

Witches are actually fairly strong, I've always done the hargraven quest much later in the game.

In vanilla Conjured Weapons are really strong, so a perfectly viable path is "being a sneak Guy who uses conjured weapons", HOWEVER sneak often won't work well on bosses; against them Destruction works better.

You should hoard soul gems to level enchanting later: that skill will allow you to drastically reduce the magicka costs of a couple of magic schools, or provide other bonuses as needed, and the max level perk is far too strong to skip it :)

As far as guilds go Winterhold and the Thieves Guild are your obvious choice. The Dark Brotherhood give other VERY STRONG sneak items, so look into them if you're fine being EEEEVIIIILLL :)

To address potions: YES, they are extremely useful, use them whenever and make them, they do have 2 weaknesses though:

  1. Weight
  2. Alchemy is SLOW

Both the potions and the ingredients weigh a LOT. Really, I found myself with a 700-carrying character bringing around something like 400-worth of ingredients ( modded game of course ;) ).

You do have options to address this problem, there are a couple really nifty Reweight mods which can make all potions and ingredients lighter or weightless ( I used to make potions weigh 0.1 and reduce ingredients weight by 50%, up to personal choice of course).

Alchemy is really a pain to level, so viable, yes, but also quite time-consuming IMHO. Again, there might be mods that make it faster, can't tell for sure as I've never looked for one.

This would allow you to beat the game, BUT if instead you use both Potions AND Alteration you'll get the best results :)

  • instead of using Alteration, could using Fortify Health and Magicka just before a boss fight be a viable option? I'm currently looking up where to get the ingredients for these potions? They seem to include Blue/Red Mountain Flower, Tundra Cotton and Wheat which should be easy to get i'm thinking... Oct 14, 2014 at 9:23
  • Edited the answer to address your question about potions :)
    – Ciacciu
    Oct 14, 2014 at 9:39

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