Skyrim Character Building » Discussions

Character Build: The Masked Merchant

Tags: #Character Build Pilgrim  #Character Build Alchemist  #Character Build Bard  #Peppo 
  • January 3, 2018

    It is said he's been travelling all over Nirn since the Third Era, that Talos himself met him and - charmed by his superior eloquence - traded him his most valuable weapons. It's unknown where he comes from or where he's going, but most agree that he went through the whole continent of Tamriel. Many people speak of the countless treasures in his stock: precious gems, priceless potions, top-notch enchantments and swords never seen before. Nobody knows what kind of human being hides behind that mask, nobody. In fact, some people think it's not even a human anymore, just the shell of a man that got corroded by the lust of the merchant's job.


     Since I noticed that basically all my builds feature armorless crafting-free characters, I decided to create something that is quite the opposite: a person that is skilled not only in Smithing but also Enchanting and Alchemy. What's the point, you might wonder? Simply enough, it's just for gold. If you're tired of all the usual quests and towns and want to play a character that doesn't focus on wandering aimlessly through Skyrim either, this is the right build for you.

     This character is designed to gain as much gold as possible by trading items thanks to his enchanted outfit; lightweight clothes, more carrying capacity than usual and high levels in Smithing, Enchanting and Alchemy increase the total income as well. Fighting is a secondary thing, so swords and bows aren't used much.





    Race: any

    Main Skills: Speech, Smithing, Alchemy, Enchanting, Sneak

    Standing Stone: Steed

    Stats: 0/1/2 until level 13, then 0/1/1

    Clothing: Masque of Clavicus Vile, Cicero's Clothes, Shrouded Boots, Shrouded Gloves

    Weapon: anything (swords, daggers, bows, staves, destruction magic etc.)

    Shouts: none






     So what is this build about? It's about a merchant that only wants to find items to sell, nothing more. It's not a fighting build, but not even a dedicated stealth build: most of the time, when exploring dungeons or ruins, the Masked Merchant will accept spending some gold to recruit a mercenary. Having a dog follower is also recommended. As you can see little to no points are spent in One-Handed, Archery and Destruction depending on the player's preference. A more accurate explanation is written below.

     There are absolutely no restrictions about the starting race, each one has a stats increase for at least one of the main skills. If you are really picky, since this build doesn't focus on fighting, you might want a power that prevents fights from happening (Nord or Imperial) or gives a major attack boost (Dunmer, Orc or Redguard). Plus, the Imperial Luck unique racial effect might come in handy.




     I noticed that most builds featuring mid-game equipment don't really have a way to deal with it in the earlier stages when it's not available. On the contrary, I like to play the first levels of the Masked Merchant with a set that doesn't give many benefits but it very easy to aquire and looks really good, arguably better than the main set. It is also entirely made of light armor, giving a sort of synergy for a total of 52 armor points.

    Torturer's Hood: in Helgen, right after siding with Ralof or Hadvar, you can find a torturer wearing one in the room with the caged dead mage, you just have to kill him.

    Shrouded Gloves and Boots: start the Dark Brotherhood questline, join the Sanctuary, pick them up and you're done.

    Solitude Guard's Armor: this one is a bit tricky, you need to kill a Solitude guard without being noticed. The easiest one is the guard defending the entrance to the East Empire Company Warehouse: just walk behind them, crouch and get a stealth hit, then finish them off. I suggest you do this after getting the other items, so you have the bonus damage from the Shrouded Gloves.

    Chitin Helmet: a better alternative to the Torturer's Hood if you have the Dragonborn DLC installed: you can loot it off a Reaver, craft it yourself or buy it from Glover Mallory if you're lucky.

    Other alternatives include the Mage Hood, the Cultist Mask and the Execution Hood.


     Now, talking about the main set, it focuses on getting the highest benefits in Speech and a little bit of Sneak: Cicero's Clothes and the Masque of Clavicus Vile together grant a +10 boost in Speech and 40% better prices, plus a small boost in magicka regen (5%) and One-Handed (20%). The Muffle enchantment on the Shrouded Boots, together with the Muffled Movement perk, grants 100% muffled movement when sneaking no matter the armor you're wearing, and the x2 backstab damage from the Shrouded Gloves is always nice. The full set grants a total of 39 armor points which, while not much, is pretty high considering the chest piece is armorless.


    Masque of Clavicus Vile: the most important item, the one that defines this build and with the best enchantment. It is available from level 10 after playing the respective Daedric quest and deciding not to kill Barbas. It's a piece of heavy armor, but this is irrelevant since neither light nor heavy armor are skilled in this build.

    Cicero's Clothes: not only they're perfect aesthetically, they also grant a huge benefit for a merchant: 20% better prices is incredible, and it also comes with a 20% boost in One-Handed! If you decide not to kill Cicero during The Cure for Madness, you can still use the Jester's Clothes, which are a slightly (read: much) worse version of Cicero's Clothes but aesthetically identical.

    Shrouded Gloves and Boots: as said above, having the Muffle enchantment is priceless, and the extra backstab damage comes in handy.

     Playing half the Dark Brotherhood questline to get Cicero's Clothes might sound boring and break the player's immersion, but sadly it is needed (unless you want to cheat and use console commands of course). On the bright side, it is an easy way to get lots of gold, so in a way the Masked Merchant would be interested. Plus, you find lots of cool items and clothes you might need.







    Your main skill. It's one of the hardest skills in the game to level up, but luckily you don't need so many perks to have better prices: focus on the left branch of the skill tree, especially Allure and Investor. One thing that is often overlooked is that the highest your Speech level, the more likely it is to pass persuasion/intimidation tests.





    Smithing is probably the most profitable skill per piece sold, although getting ores and ingots can be a bit boring. Taking the right branch is mandatory, since it lets you smelt all the dwemer scrap metal to craft dwarven armor. I don't think the Arcane Blacksmith perk is worth taking, but it's your choice.





    You want to enchant as many items as possible before selling them: while you won't always have enough soul gems to do so, you don't need to keep them for yourself in case you want to enchant a piece of clothing or a weapon. So, every time you find and arcane enchanter, make sure you use all the filled soul gems in your stash.





    If Smithing is the most profitable skill per piece sold, Alchemy is the most profitable skill "per effort": making expensive potions is really easy, but I won't spoil all the best combinations so you can find them yourself. Also, there are some potions you will need a lot throughout your journey, namely the Potion of Invisibility, the Potion of Barter and a few more.





    Sneak is a necessary skill for the Masked Merchant, but I tried not to exploit it too much because it would make exploring dungeons too easy and this build would eventually become too similar to a generic stealth build. Muffled Movement is the most important perk since the Shrouded Boots enchantment only gives half the bonus, and the following perks are not bad either.




    Extra Skill

    You might notice that, for example, the level 20 perk spread only has 18 perks instead of 19: that's because I like putting a single point (three for the level 40 perk spread) in my main fighting skill. The choice is usually between One-Handed (swords or daggers), Archery (bows or crossbows) or Destruction (fire, frost or shock staves/magic), but Two-Handed can also be fun. Or, you could even use your bare knuckles!


     The first thing you want to do is putting a point in each of the crafting skills (Smithing, Alchemy, Enchanting), so the stuff you make is worth more; a skill point in your main fighting skill is also needed as soon as possible. After that, focus on getting the Muffled Movement perk.


    Level 20


    Level 40





     There are some things without which you can't start an adventure: the equipment of the Masked Merchant features necessary but lightweight items, so they can be brought everywhere and still make it possible to carry as many treasures as possible when travelling.


     The Masked Merchant's outfit

    Of course, wearing the right clothes makes the difference: you don't want to sell a very expensive item for much less gold just because you forgot to wear your outfit. And forgetting the Shrouded Boots when adventuring means being unable to sneak past Falmer or sleeping bandits. 




    Pickaxe and Woodcutter's Axe

    Carrying a pickaxe at all times is fundamental, you never know when you might find a gold ore vein or a hidden mine. It's lightweight, easy to find and you don't even need to equip it every time, what else do you need? The axe is a bit less useful but comes in handy nonetheless: you might want to befriend a stranger by selling them firewood or, if you're building a house (with the Hearthfire add-on), you might need to chop some wood.




    Invisibility Potions (and a few others)

    Having a good reserve of invisibility potions is easy and necessary: the Masked Merchant is not a good fighter, and when there is no mercenary by his side he's basically helpless. There are many places you can explore succesfully by using a couple of invisibility potions and nothing more: bandit camps, standing stones, Blackreach, even some Dwemer ruins. Other potions you might need include Potions of Fortify Barter, Poisons of Slow and of Paralysis. Notice how they're all very expensive, so you can sell the ones you don't use often.



    Extra equipment

    As the Masked Merchant, Speech is not the only skill you need to boost: there are many items that increase Enchanting, Smithing or Alchemy, some of them with their own quest (more below). Actively switching between them is key, so I suggest marking them as favourite so you can equip them immediately. And if you find something with a useful random enchantment, don't disassemble it!



     The best ingredients for invisibility potions are Luna Moth Wings and Nirnroot (Crimson Nirnroot can be used too). You can easily gather 30+ wings in two minutes by taking a stroll ouside of Whiterun between 8:00-11:00 PM. As for the Nirnroot, the north-western coast of Skyrim has plenty of them, just walk through the north coast from Solitude to the west until you have enough. Blackreach has lots of Crimson Nirnroot, but you'll need to start a quest or the entrances will be locked.

     If you enchant items as often as I do, you might run out of soul gems very soon. The best place to gather them, other than from merchants, is probably inside Dwemer ruins, where you will also find tons of scrap metal to make Dwarven ingots.






     Playing this build, most of the gameplay revolves around finding treasures and crafting items, but not without a reason: you might want to buy the most expensive houses in Tamriel, pay trainers to improve your skills or simply reach level 100 in Speech.

     The Masked Merchant tries to fight as less as possible, as he can't handle a sword (or bow) well. Getting rid of Draugr and low-level bandits is easy, but for bigger targets you will need the help of a sellsword. I decided to use a Dwarven Sword because it looks really good with this outfit, is easy to make and deals a decent amount of damage, but playing with a staff is also really satisfying, especially since there are a handful of really good unique staves. A bow, for hunting lovers, is also a really common choice, but the most extreme players might want to use an Argonian or Khajiit and fight with their claws. Even Orcs, thanks to their Berserker's Rage, are really good unarmed fighters.

     As for the followers, the higher their level cap, the better: all hireable mercenaries cap at level 40, except for Teldryn Sero who caps at 60; all housecarls and a few more reach level 50 and J'zargo, Frea and most Dawnguard followers have no level cap. You can also craft them some enchanted armor, while you're at it. Even dogs are great companions.

     Aside from half Dark Brotherhood questline, there are other quests you could play: normally, the Masked Merchant wouldn't join factions like the Thieves Guild or the Companions, but the Bard's College and the College of Winterhold can be interesting. The best adventures, though, are the ones involving unique items, either Daedric quests like Pieces of the Past and The House of Horrors or simple dungeon quests like Silenced tongues and The Legend of Red Eagle (the dragon claw quests are fun, too). The quests involving items that improve Smithing, Speech, Alchemy and Enchanting are even more important.

     Interestingly enough, marriage is advised simply because the spouse becomes a merchant (so you can sell them the things you want to get rid of) and gives you their store profit. Followers make good marriage partners so you don't have to find them every time before recruiting them.

     There are many activites you can do to make some extra profit between a quest and the other, depending on how you like to play:

    • Cooking
    • Cutting wood
    • Exploring dwemer ruins and Blackreach
    • Finding unique items
    • Gathering ingredients for potions
    • Hunting giants or wild animals
    • Mining ores

     Talking about unique items, depending on your playing style you might want to either keep all the artifacts for yourself (maybe putting them on mannequins and weapon racks) or sell them. They're worth a lot of gold!




     If you're temporarily tired of circling between merchants to sell your stuff, you can start other adventures. There are lots of items and permanent abilities in Skyrim that grant bonuses for a variety of skills, and you can use them to increase your gold income: the Forgemaster's Fingers, for example, give a 12% increase in improving weapons or armor, which can later be sold for a higher price.

     For roleplaying reasons, I like putting on different clothes depending on my needs, so the character looks fit for what he's doing; the important part for me is keeping the face (with the Masque of Clavicus Vile) and the rest of the body covered so nobody can guess what race the Masked Merchant is.


    Smithing Outfit

    • Blacksmith's Apron or any kind of Clothes
    • Any kind of Boots
    • The Forgemaster's Fingers (start the respective quest and never give the gauntlets back to the orcs)
    • The Silver-Blood Family Ring (finish the respective quest siding with Thonar Silver-Blood)


    Alchemist/Enchanter Outfit

    • Any kind of Robes
    • Any kind of Boots
    • Gloves
    • Muiri's Ring (found during one of the quests of the Dark Brotherhood) or Frida's Ring of Pure Mixtures, both increasing Alchemy by, respectively, 15% and 12%


    Citizen Outfit

    • High-quality clothes: the Wedding Dress is the one I like most, but any kind of Fine Clothes is really nice as well
    • Fine Boots or Wedding Sandals
    • Gloves


    There are also a couple of good necklaces for the regular outfit, namely:

    Locket of Saint Jiub: by far the best choice, but can only be obtained by gaining access to the Soul Cairn which means playing half the Dawnguard questline; it gives 50 points of carrying capacity and 50 stamina points.

    Charmed Necklace: given by Revelers, lets you carry a bit more weight (25 points).

    Amulet of Articulation: really good for the Speech increase but requires you to play the Thieves Guild questline, so I wouldn't suggest it.





     Thanks for reading it till the end! I hope you liked reading about the Masked Merchant as much as I liked playing it, I really spent a lot of hours on this character. Since I can't find any other interesting idea at the moment, this will probably be my last build for a while.

  • January 3, 2018

    I really like how you take the time to explain early gear. I am a fan of this and always explain how I'm functioning in the early game with my builds, so hats off to you. I also am digging the art. You've managed to sell (seee the pun!) me on three crafting skills. 

  • Member
    January 3, 2018

    I really have to compliment you on your amazing presentation once again. Presentation and artwork really dictate whether or not I like a build and I definitely like what you did with this. I'm not sure if it's the screenshots or the rounded/faded effect you have on the images, but it all comes together really well. Those borders look great too!


    Edit: I just gave the build another quick glance and similar to Long-Chapper, you really sold me on the 3 crafting skills too. I rarely see that in builds due to how quickly a character can become overpowered, but you pull it off well. The only other build I can recall extensively using 3 crafting skills without making it a chore is Shinjin's collab build The Knights of Iron.

  • January 3, 2018

    Damn, that was an insanely fun build. I love the way you've pitched running a crafting only character, and the use of the Masque was absolutely brilliant, I don't know if it was entirely your intention but I could see Vile working very well with this character if you went full Daedra Worshipper mode. Like there's an entirely valid way to tweak this build, only slightly to give it a darker morality that could make for a very interesting character with the idea of the build. That, and the build is just interesting overall, not many builds can pull off not only triple-crafting but also Speech? That's insane but you've pulled it off perfectly.

    Then you've got the presentation and I second Aslepyh here, it's truly stunning, the build is just really nice to look at while also being...not simple but maybe simplistic? Not sure how to describe it, but it's got a very relaxed but nice feel to it. The build itself reads like that which is awesome. So a like from me for sure :D

  • January 8, 2018

    Mega-Dragonborn-of-Doom (1921) said:

    Damn, that was an insanely fun build. I love the way you've pitched running a crafting only character, and the use of the Masque was absolutely brilliant, I don't know if it was entirely your intention but I could see Vile working very well with this character if you went full Daedra Worshipper mode. Like there's an entirely valid way to tweak this build, only slightly to give it a darker morality that could make for a very interesting character with the idea of the build.

    Never thought about it but it does sound great for roleplaying, maybe with a dog follower as Barbas.

    And thank you all for the kind words. :D


  • Member
    January 8, 2018
    All I gotta say is "Whatta yah buying?"
  • Member
    January 10, 2018

    I don't usually like passive builds. I like hard hitting aggressive characters, typically mine end up being tanks. But I really like the aesthetics of your characters skills and how they function for a simple purpose. I'm definitely going to try this one out some time!

  • Member
    January 10, 2018
    Sweet build I am a massive fan of speech and smithing but I was never really a fan of enchanting and alchemy but now I absolutely am :D