Skyrim Character Building » Discussions

Let's Build: a Pure Mage. Part II - Vampirism or Lycanthropy?

  • Member
    May 23, 2016

    In Part I of this series, we looked at race as a factor in pure mage builds.  There was a lot of interesting discussion, so check it out if you haven't already.  

    While I came down in favor of a Breton initially, several members mentioned the advantages of the Altmer pure mage.  Their arguments, combined with the fact that I haven't spent nearly as much time playing an Altmer, have convinced me.  For the future discussions in this series, I'll be using Altmer as the foundation.  Of course, that doesn't mean the race question is settled once and for all.  Feel free to consider your own tweaks and changes as we go forward, imagining how your preferred options would interact with the different variables that we'll examine - that's what this is all about!

    This discussion will continue our analysis of building a pure mage, with the following goals in mind:

    -A strong focus on magic, with minimal (or no) use of physical weapons and armor

    -a blend of all (or most) magic disciplines. Conjuration + Illusion can win easily enough, but we want to utilize all the tools at our disposal!

    -minimal redundencies/maximum efficiency


    One piece that I didn't mention in the previous discussion was the question of vampirism.  So before we get into the skills proper, let's take a brief look at not only vampirism, but lycanthropy as they pertain to a pure mage character.


    Bloodsucking freaks enjoy/suffer the following passive benefits/weaknesses:

    -Poison and Disease Immunity

    -Frost Resistance and Fire Weakness (20-50% with Dawnguard installed)

    -Illusion and Sneak are 25% more effective

    -Weakness to Sunlight:  All attributes reduced (-15 to -60), and -100% to regeneration rates. 

    They also get some tricks: 

    -Vampiric Drain - a weak little spell, absorbing 2-5 health per second, depending on stage

    -Vampire's Servant - reanimation, 60 sec, 1/day (affects levels 6-30, depending on stage)

    -Vampire's Sight - Night Eye for 60 sec, multiple times per day. Way to go, vampires, you just stole half of the Khajiit's cool stuff! 

    -Vampire's Seduction - Calm effect, 1/day.  Not sure of the level cap on this, but I believe it operates like the basic Calm spell (to lvl 9).  Only available from Stage 2 on.  

    -Embrace of Shadows - Invisibility + Night Eye for 180 sec, 1/day.  Only available at Stage 4. 

    The juiciest prize here for a pure mage is obviously the Illusion boost.  My question is, does this 25% increase in potency allow you to forgo some perks in the Illusion skill tree?  I haven't run the numbers myself, but as one of our criteria for this build is efficiency, this could be very interesting.  In my few illusionist playthroughs, I haven't run into too many enemies that dualcasting couldn't affect, so I'm a bit skeptical that the vampiric boost here will have a tremendous impact.  But if it means we can avoid a perk or two from the Illusion tree, it definitely warrants a mention.  

    The other benefits are decent-but-not-essential, in my view.  They do allow your vampire mage to become a decent sneak even with little to no perk investment, and to dabble in some necromancy and Illusion effects once a day - and the Invisibility is especially nice.  But if you're already planning a necromancer, you won't need Vampire's Servant.  So vampirism grants some redundant powers, which this build is trying to avoid.  

    The Frost Resistance stacks nicely with the Nordic resistance, making you about as immune to frost as it's possible to be - if you don't mind living with the fire weakness.  Going in the other direction, a Dunmer vampire can eliminate the fire weakness thanks to his racial passive, and gain a hefty frost resist to boot.

    Then there's the possibilities afforded by the "Necromage vampire" glitch (or "feature", if you prefer).  Players using the Unofficial Patches can't make use of this, but for everyone else the Necromage perk in Restoration offers some excellent bonuses to just about everything a player vampire does.  There are really too many benefits to list if you go this route, and with a bit of work you can make a crazily powerful character.  For many players, I imagine this strategy is too good to pass up.   

    Just as a single example, Curse Never Dying pointed out in the comments that a Necromage vampire gets even more utility out of Illusion spells than a typical vampire would - potentially allowing low-level spells to remain viable for much longer, and saving on some perks.  Let's take the example of Fury, a Novice-level spell available to any Altmer from the beginning of the game.  

    Fury affects foes up to lvl 6.  Vampirism increases that by 25%, or up to lvl 7 (assuming we round down).  Necromage vampirism would increase that by another 25%, or up to lvl 8 (rounding down again - hey, anyone feel free to check my math here...).  That's before any perks whatsoever.  Feel free to take Kindred Mage on your way to Quiet Casting and add another 10 levels, up to lvl 18.  Grab Dual Casting and it affects up to lvl 39 - not too shabby for a Novice spell!  

    Still - and I'll admit this is partly a matter of personal preference - I don't find these things quite worth the tradeoff of juggling regeneration penalties during daytime, or having to shore up fire weakness.  Even with the Necromage trick, there's a little too much work to be done for my taste.  My experience with vampirism is quite limited, though, and I'm sure there are some great potential combinations here that I'm missing - let me know in the comments!

    We're not quite done with vampirism, though:  there is still the Vampire Lord (VL) form itself to consider.  

    "Alternate forms" - Vampire Lord and Beast Form - are a mixed bag in Skyrim, since they are quite effective but don't advance any skills.  For some, that doesn't matter; the alternate forms simply provide a fun alternative playstyle.  And the VL synergizes quite well with a mage build.  While you can't cast any spells in VL form, your (presumably hefty) Magicka pool is augmented by a VL's 100-point boost (in *all* attributes), allowing you to hurl more red globs of drain at your foes.  You can also raise dead, attack with your Claws (aaaaand it's official: vampires are improved Khajiit), and do all sorts of neat summoning/gripping/paralyzing/etc. once you acquire perks in the VL tree.  

    But, again, if you've built an effective character, why would you *need* to transform in the first place?  

    For me, the one tempting thing about joining the Volkihar side in Dawnguard isn't VL form itself, but access to one very special item:  The Ring of the Erudite (explored here by Teccam and James, among others).  The Magicka regeneration bonus (and 100-point boost to Magicka) provided by this artifact are incredibly powerful, and well worth exploring.  Relycs has recently posted a discussion on utilizing this item plus the Ring of the Beast as ways to "refuel" your Magicka and Health, so there's lots of potential to be had.  

    There are lots of vampire builds on the site.  Some that stand out for our purposes here might include Mason's Nemesis, an Altmer vampire using all magic skills; Henson's Fearmonger, a Dunmer necromancer vampire; Warlocksg's Hemomancer, which utilizes several glitches involving VL form and relies heavily upon Equilibrium; and The Twilight of Meridia, a joint effort by Teej, Chris Diokno, Noodles, and Bonelord that also leans on Equilibrium for Magicka regeneration and raised corpses augmented by alchemy for meat shields and mayhem. 


    The consensus seems to be that vampirism is for mages, and lycanthropy is for warriors.  But as much redundancy as I see in being a pure mage vampire, there's even more redundancy in being a warrior who relies on Beast Form.  If you've built yourself as a tank, why drop your armor and skills to become a wolf? 

    Lycanthropy doesn't offer much to the pure mage, however.  Outside of Beast Form, your only reward is disease immunity.  Of course, the only *drawback* is the inability to get a "rested" bonus, so being a werewolf is certainly less of a hassle for players who don't want to deal with vampirism's several weaknesses.  

    Beast Form itself turns your wimpy mage into a melee contender, and you even get some crowd control in the basic Howl of Terror and your rag-dolling power attacks.  Some spell and magic effects will also follow you into Beast Form, including flesh spells, cloaks, and passive abilities.  But leave your summons at home; Beast Form dispels them.  Some character builds on the site make use of combining a mage's preparation with a werewolf's brawn, including Yvara's Frostwolf, Constantine's Wolf, and Wicked Conjurer's Concoctionist

    Is it worth joining the Companions and becoming a werewolf?  Well, the drawbacks are minimal, but apart from roleplay I don't see Beast Form adding too much to a wizard's repertoire.  Your Magicka is useless to you while you're transformed, and you'll need to get into melee range to do damage.  And doing damage is about all you can do, whereas a prepared wizard can control the battlefield with summons, shouts, and spells - and deal damage from a safe distance.  Of course, roleplay is as good as reason as any for making character decisions, so if you love the idea of your gentle scholar succumbing to the call of the wild, go for it!  It'll certainly make for an interesting change of pace.  


    Of the two "alternate form" options, lycanthropy confers fewer benefits but no real drawbacks, whereas vampirism offers some potentially excellent rewards but at a heftier price.  My take?  I'd prefer neither for a pure mage who aims to blend the effects of many schools.  Lycanthropy is an interesting feature, but we'll be far more effective outside of Beast Form.  Vampirism's Illusion boost is good, but our pure mage will rely on more than just Illusion magic, and will probably be able to get along just fine without the 25% bonus.  In the meantime, forgoing vampirism means not having to worry about weaknesses and other hindrances.  If anything, temporary vampirism would provide a way to access the Ring of the Erudite - kill Harkon and get cured ASAP would be my preference.  

    So, what do you think?  Does a pure mage benefit from adding vampire or werewolf abilities?  Do you consider either one a game-changer for your mage builds?  Leave your comments below, and next time - seriously - I'll tackle the all-important question of skills and perks.  

  • Member
    May 23, 2016

    No pics today, folks - I'm putting up broken links for some reason.  Will look into it. 

  • Member
    May 23, 2016

    Honestly, I'm not personally a fan of either, and usually opt out.

    I will say that vampirism seems to offer a whole lot more for a pure mage than werewolf. You can do some pretty interesting things as a necro-vamp mage. The only real value I see from becoming a werewolf is as a panic button when the magicka runs out; THAT would be crazy useful, but isn't really all that mage-ey.

  • Member
    May 23, 2016

    I'd say stay away from both. 25% boost sounds nice on the paper but in the reality it does not do much, especially since you have dual casting. The best boost for the vampires (not counting Necromage glitch) is the Ring of the Erudite, but I would actually advise against it, to keep the game challenging. Having access to all the magic schools at once is hard to balance already :D It is also good to not to worry about regeneration rates 

  • Member
    May 23, 2016
    I think you should include the necromage/vampire glitch and, to make up for it, the possibilitys that a mage has if he/she chooses the Dawnguard side (because if you choose Volkihar, you cant get the stuff from the Dawnguard and vice versa).

    For me it's always the vampire side because they've got the Rings of Bloodmagic (I dont cure vampirism just because I want access to the castle & all the merchants/trainers.
  • May 23, 2016

    As others have said, I'll just echo that I'm surprised you didn't mention Necromage vampirism.  The boost to enchantment strength is nothing to scoff at.  Obviously player-enchanted stuff can get you 100% cost reduction in all five schools (if you're okay with helmet+circlet exploits), but it even boosts the strength of random enchanted loot you find in the world, which is insanely good for a mage.  Your magicka regeneration gets nerfed in the sunlight, but wear enough boosted gear and you will hardly notice.

  • Member
    May 23, 2016
    You missed the perfect example for a werewolf mage Ponty made a pure werewolf mage build I would mention the name but I forgot it.
  • Member
    May 23, 2016

    That would be The Shaper, I believe.  I considered it, as it is a pure mage and a werewolf, but I don't see a lot of synergy between your "human" form and Beast Form in that build.  Which is fine - there doesn't have to be synergy everywhere - but it still didn't really answer the question for me of why Beast Form was useful in the first place.  

    If Beast Form was something you could use instantly, for those panic moments of being ambushed in close quarters, I'd see how it would offer more to a physically weak mage.  But it takes several seconds to shift, during which you can't move, and I'd think that'd leave you pretty vulnerable.  So you need to plan ahead in order to use BF effectively - but again, if your mage side is strong enough to handle everything, why shift out?  

  • Member
    May 23, 2016

    Right - I forgot the necromage vampire thing entirely!  I'll edit the above.  

  • Member
    May 23, 2016
    The real reason beside necromage vampires for either one is fun or roleplay,because they do not offer much more beyond that.