Character Build: The Hedge Mage

Originally posted by Raidriar a longggggggggg time ago for a contest! Now, have it again!


Grr, two hours late! Can this still be allowed? My internet has been playing up, and Tae's just been moving house, so we've had a bit of difficulty pushing this one out. We had a hell of a lot of fun on it though, so without further ado, let us introduce you to the Hedge Mage!

I’m not good enough for your College, am I? Not intelligent enough? Well, I’ll show you...

Who needs a fancy-pancy College anyway? Certainly not me. Everyone told me I’d never be a mage, but just you wait! I’ll show you all up, and come knocking on your door, fire in my hands and dremora by my side! Then who’ll be laughing...

So you keep your dusty tomes and your outdated elitism! I’ll go where you pampered wizards don’t dare tread, in search of ultimate magical power...


Race: Any, though we’d advise something that isn’t associated with magic, for instance an Orc or a Nord.

Stone: Again, this is largely up to you. I’d advise avoiding the more mage oriented stones, like the Atronach, Apprentice, Mage or Ritual, to simulate a complete lack of magical knowledge.

Shouts: None!

Stats: 3:1:1

Major Skills: Conjuration, Destruction, Archery

Minor Skills: Alteration, Illusion, Restoration

The idea behind the Hedge Mage was to create a mage build following these two simple rules:

  • No buying spells
  • No using staves

You read that right! We’re making a mage who will only rely on found spells - no staves, no buying spells, no interactions with any magical NPCs at all if you can help it. We’re creating a grumpy, temperamental wizard who would much rather be out and about in the harsh land of Skyrim than spending time with those bookworms and their fancy-pancy College.

A playthrough with the Hedge Mage plays out like a gigantic scavenger hunt, with a real “rags to riches” vibe. You’ll be going out into the wild, with nothing but rudimentary magical knowledge, and searching for ultimate power along with a dog and a summon. Initially the going can be quite tough, but eventually you’ll start picking up more and more powerful spells on your adventures, and really start bringing the pain. It’s incredibly rewarding knowing that you’ve built up this spellbook yourself, through your own adventuring, and haven’t spent a septim on training or tomes.



The most interesting part of the build. Like we said before, it’s really rewarding building up your own spellbook rather than just buying spells from vendors. The only exception to the no buying spells rule is Morven Stroud in the Soul Cairn. This is the perfect vendor for the Hedge Mage - his spells are completely chance-based, and can be anything from Novice to Expert level. Plus, bargaining with a soul-trapped merchant is just the type of dark dealings a hedge mage would be involved in. If you do pick up something good from him, feel free to adjust the perkspread and throw a point into one of the mastery perks depending on the spell you got.


  • Candlelight - An elementary spell, but certainly useful, and it pleases the crowd. I "procured" this from a group of necromancers nesting in Fort Snowhawk, an erroding military stronghold near Morthal.
  • Oakflesh - While exploring Shrowd Hearth Barrow near Ivarstead, I happened upon a fellow wizard, pretending to be a ghost. He didn't seem much for conversation, so I fried him. After turning in his journal to the local innkeeper, he gave me the claw needed to explore the ruins further and find this dusty tome. 
  • Detect Life - Journeying through the Rift, I encountered a group of men sat outside a a fort called Treva's Watch. Long story short, I snuck in, killed thousands of bandits and several dragons, and emerged victorious. All very heroic really, and all I got was this simple spell? Gratitude is a thing of the past, it seems.
  • Telekinesis - I knew that healer was talking rubbish when she said to keep off the Skooma! A swig of the good stuff from Redwater Den and I woke up in a cell, with this handy little spell tome by some hapless mage's corpse. He was probably some College fetcher anyway, so he won't be missed.
  • Transmute - While exploring Halted Stream Camp, a bandit lair, I found this. So that's how alchemists were turning iron into gold! 
  • Detect Dead - After reading this big magical book, the Sallow Regent, under White Ridge Barrow, I was teleported to what seemed to be Apocrypha. Nice place really - the knowledge that can be found here is invaluable!


  • Raise Zombie - Stolen from those necromancers in Fort Snowhawk. I practised on their corpses, but still haven't mastered the knack of making the damned zombies shut up.
  • Conjure Boneman/Mistman/Wrathman - While assisting the Dawnguard, I found a portal to the legendary Soul Cairn! Unfortunately the Ideal Masters weren't up for some selling of souls, but I did find these nifty spells on various altars. 
  • Soul Trap/Conjure Flame/Frost/Storm Atronach - After some rather impressive climbing, I snuck into the College Midden through a back entrance, and created these tomes using their Atronach Forge! Right under their noses, they never saw it coming - too busy buried in their old books.
  • Flaming Familiar - In High Gate Ruins I encountered a fellow mage called Anska. After traipsing through a Draugr infested dungeon, we defeated a Dragon Priest and found a scroll which revealed this explosive companion!
  • Reanimate Corpse - While venturing through the Pale I encountered a pair of adventures outside Ironbind Barrow. We cleared out the ruins, fought giant spiders, found an ancient Draugr the adventures called Warlord Gathrik, then got betrayed by the scaleback bastard. All in a days work really, though I did find this spell on Gathrik's now properly dead corpse.
  • Summon Arvak - Another useful find in the Soul Cairn. Some soul-trapped fool asked me to find his horse's skull, and as a reward gave me (what was left of) his horse.
  • Banish Daedra - After tracking a pair of Argonian thieves to Broken Oar Grotto, I found this handy incantation in an underwater chest.
  • Bound Bow - Exploring old forts infested with mages seems to be very profitable. Found this in a bucket in the prisons of Fort Amol (don't ask me how it got there, or what else was in said bucket - I'd rather not know myself really).
  • Conjure Seeker - While exploring Apocrypha I happened upon this eldritch summon. Mora is certainly smiling on me!
  • Flame Thrall - Another find from the Sallow Regent. Using Ahzidal's Secrets of Arcana I can cast this draining spell with ease. 


  • Flames - I've known this from my youth - very handy for setting foes (or houses) on fire.
  • Sparks - After narrowly escaping execution thanks to a dragon (long story), I found this on some imprisoned mage. I asked if I could have it, and took his silence for approval - I also took his clothes too.
  • Frostbite - Picked this up while exploring the Forsworn den Serpent’s Bluff Ruins. For some reason they took offence at me waltzing through their camp and stealing their stuff...
  • Ice Spike - While on Solsteim I was tasked with exploring Raven Rock Mine in order to find some old man's journal. All terribly dull, but I did happen upon this rather nifty hex.
  • Flame Cloak - Oh, the horror! The burning corpse of Yisra, on the shore south of Yngvild! Poor girl probably bit off more than she could chew by the looks of things. Guess she won't be needing this spell tome anyway!
  • Ignite and Freeze - After putting a large portion of my funds into some strange excavator, I discovered Ahzidal's Ring of Arcana in the ruins. Putting it on granted me some of the old enchanter's knowledge - looks like I should be throwing my septims at more weird expeditions and explorers!


  • Clairvoyance - After escaping Helgen I found Embershard Mine, a small bandit encampment. They weren't very polite, so I charred the flesh from their bones to teach them some manners, and took their loot to boot.
  • Courage - Another find in Treva’s Watch. While I'm not normally one for allies, it does wonders for my dog, and really teaches me the intricacies of Illusion magic much faster than anything else.


  • Healing - I've known this from my youth - very handy for stitching up wounds after escaping from foes (or burning houses).
  • Lesser Ward - Ah, Dwemer Ruins! Lovely places really, if you don't mind angry automatons wanting to ruthlessly dismember you. Alftand Ruined Tower hid this useful little spell.
  • Fast Healing - The Sallow Regent was a very profitable book! Just a glimpse into the world of Apocrypha and I'm already swimming in spell tomes, looks like I should be paying old Hermy a visit more often...
  • Necromantic Healing - Initially I thought being sent to Dimhollow Crypt by the Dawnguard was just going to be yet another boring fetch quest - then I found a damsel in distress! All very heroic of me really, I rescued the damsel, found this spell in the ruins and returned her to her father in exchange for her hand in marriage! Oh wait, she's a vampire? Looks like we're getting a divorce honey...



Now that you know the spells, you’re probably wondering how gameplay plays out. At first you start with just Flames, Sparks and Healing, and you’ll need to rely on those until you get the Bound Bow tome. Once you acquire Bound Bow you’ll want to go adventuring for spells, and in what order you do this is up to you. You might want to shoot straight for Solsteim in order to get Ahzidal’s Ring of Arcana, or may want to start the Dawnguard early in order to get to the Soul Cairn and the summons that can be found there. The beauty of this build is in how you build up your spellbook, and it is really up to you. If you’d rather focus on stealthy sniping, the Alteration spells can be rather useful. If you’re into hiding behind summons, go with Conjuration suplemented with a bit of Restoration for healing your undead minions. If you’d like to get into the thick of things, pick up spells like Flame Cloak, Ignite and Flames to maximise DOT.

Some useful tactics depending on your current spells:

Augmented Flames and Aspect of Terror (taken in that order for maximised damage) will greatly enhance your fire spells, particularly Ignite, Flame Cloak and Flames. A good way to take out melee enemies is to hit them with a few Ignites, activate Flame Cloak, then just stay in melee range spraying them with Flames in both hands. The damage starts to add up very quick, particularly if you stack on the Ignites.

Freeze and Frostbite are great for locking down opponents, and are very effective against those melee heavy hitters who will likely one shot you. Frost Atronachs really help here as well for maximum slowing and frost/stamina damage.

Sparks is the only shock spell that deals equal damage to health and magicka, making it very effective alongside Augmented Shock for taking out magical enemies. Throw in a Storm Atronach and you’re looking good.

Summons are your best friends in this build. Since you’ll be severely lacking AR, you’ll want to use your summon as a meat shield. It’s also worth knowing which summons to use when. Flaming Familiar can replace the Fireball spells in that it can be fired at any range, and deals impressive damage for its cost. Flame Atronachs are useful tanks in the early levels; just hide behind them in narrow corridors and spray Flames through them at the enemy. Wrathmen and Ice Atronachs are the ultimate tanks, and you can even heal the Wrathman with Necromantic Healing. The Seeker is also a surprisingly useful tank, and can also deal some impressive damage.

Against longer ranged foes you’ll want to rely on Flame Atronachs and Mistmen, and against closer ranged foes nothing beats a Frost Atronach or Wrathman. The Flame Thrall can be cast in conjunction with Secret of Arcana in order to have a more permanent companion. I didn’t find the raise dead spells to be particularly useful after the earlier levels - their main advantage is in how fast they level Conjuration in comparison to other spells, which is great considering you want to hit Adept Conjuration asap.

I also ended up bringing a dog along - one of the Dawnguard Huskies does nicely. This created a nice little party of a rejected mage, his dog, and his summon. Don’t forget to cast Courage on your dog as well, for that extra boost.

For equipment, I recommend just going with the basic robes and hood you get along with Sparks in Helgen. You don’t want to come across as too wizard-y, but nor do you want to dress like a commoner. The Novice mage stuff provides a happy medium, though if you really want to go without it to fully simulate shunning all that is magical, feel free to do so. You don’t need a weapon either, since you’ve got your trusty spells.



The perkspread mostly revolves around getting the relevant rank perks for your spells, but also in dealing damage either through Destruction magic or your bow. Pick up perks whenever you want and in whatever order you want - it all depends on which spells you go for first. I’d always advise picking up ranks of Overdraw whenever you can, as the Bound Bow can deal impressive damage and will be your primary form of offence. Definitely pick up Augmented Flames before Aspect of Terror - that way your Ignite, Flames and Flame Cloak will be doing some awesome damage, making these low level spells viable. This build is all about the journey and your adventures and attempts to build up a killer spellbook, so just go with whatever feels right!



The Hedge Mage is, essentially, the ultimate outcast. Born into a non-magical family under a non-magical sign, it seemed like he was destined to spend his days as a farmer, a smith, or another similarly boring non-magical profession. However, he had other ideas. Rather than conforming with stereotypes he decided to train his mind and become a master wizard. The going was tough, but by his coming of age he had enough rudimentary magical knowledge to journey to the College of Winterhold. What he was met with did not suit him in the slightest however…

Now, you all know that when you approach the College you’re stopped by Faralda, who briefly questions why you’re there then offers you the quickest and easiest initiation test of your life. For any other wizard the spell she asks would be child’s play. But not for the Hedge Mage. You have no idea what she wants you to cast - you can barely manage to cast flames or heal yourself, let alone create light or summon a creature from Oblivion - and no way are you willing to fork out 30 septims to do so. This will be your only interaction with the College, and perfectly simulates why the Hedge Mage will turn his back on those pompous scholars and instead venture out into the wilds.

From now on, we recommend removing yourself of most of your worldly possessions and instead living off the land, sort of like a hunter, just with magic. Go pick up Bound Bow, then start building up your spellbook. The Hedge Mage appreciates his roots and understands the value of work, so will help out those in need. Don’t accept any old quest however - you’re still a mage, so you’ve got to have a little arrogance about you. You certainly won’t stop Braith from bullying Lars, but you’d certainly help Andurs clear out his crypt.

While this is a no-crafting build, Alchemy is certainly an option. As you’ll be spending most of your time wandering around, you’ll be picking up lots of ingredients which can still make some decent potions and poisons even without the perks. This also really lends to the living off the land feeling, and sometimes those invisibility or paralysis concoctions can save your life.

Not only is the Hedge Mage a wandering wizard, he’s also a crowd-pleaser. Don’t you just love all the reactions you get from having a flame cloak, a summon or some other spell active? The Hedge Mage flaunts his magical power to those less attuned than him, if only to boost his ego. Unlike the other mages, who are more conservative and protective of their magic, the Hedge Mage flaunts it every chance he can.

So, what we’ve got here is essentially a drifter, a wandering wizard who lives off the land on the quest for ultimate magical power. He’ll travel from city to city, helping those in need with his magical aptitude, and generally try to build up a good reputation for himself, unlike the College. We decided to avoid guilds and main questlines altogether - this guy isn’t a Dragonborn, nor a master assassin/warrior/thief/wizard. He’s but a simple, if arrogant and touchy, mage. So shoot for the more interesting and strange quests instead. When you arrive at a city, give it a quick look around, and talk to as many peoeple as you can - you’re guaranteed a quest or two that way. We also highly recommend not fast travelling - it’s so much more interesting playing through this build as a wanderer, and fast travel just kills that.

Some quests that truly reflect the wandering, investigative wizard type - The Forsworn Conspiracy, The Windhelm Butcher, The Bards College, The Lost Expedition and in general most dungeon delving or artefact hunting quests. Solsteim is also the perfect place to explore - those black books are too good to pass up for a power hungry amatuer mage.

Finally, on septims - you’ve got no use for them. You’re not buying spells, which are usually the biggest drain on a mage’s bank, and you’re not going to be shopping at all really.So, you'll spend it all on a wizard's lair of course! Build yourself a gigantic Hearthfire manor to truly show your wizardly power.

Closing Remarks

We had a ton of fun on this, and we hope you all give it a try! A massive thank you to the CB hosts for all the hard work they put into this.

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  • Well repost or this is still really cool build. I love the concept of this build because you never know what spells you’ll end up with in the end. 

  • ultimate replayvalue, no playthrough like any other :)

  • This looks like a fun style to play. Going to make a new character as soon as I get home tonight. Great work! Thank you!

  • I live the hedge mage idea. Getting all your spells in the world away from the courts or the college is such a sick idea. 10/10 for that sweet RP. 

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