The closest I’d ever gotten to a pure mage in Oblivion was a heavily armored battlemage with a shield, using touch spells instead of a weapon. At higher levels pretty much everything except for Destruction, Restoration, Heavy Armour and Block fell by the wayside. With this character I wanted to revisit a similar idea, but place a much larger focus on versatility. A past event based on Factions within the ES universe gave me a great opportunity to do just that.
I was always told at the academy back in Alinor I was a Mer fated for great things - in fact, I was recruited by the Thalmor upon my graduation. My first assignment was to journey to Cyrodiil, expand the Thalmor’s influence there, establish a base of power and gain the trust of those close to the Emperor. Well - I failed, and as reward for my efforts the Empire and my people have abandoned me to rot in the Imperial Prison. Or is this just a step on the path to greatness?
That sounds like the guard. Perhaps I’ll see what fate has in store…
You play as an academy-trained Thalmor agent, a powerful mage seeking to expand the Thalmor’s influence in Cyrodiil. A versatile spellcaster well-equipped to handle melee and ranged combat, the Thalmor’s training will allow her to tackle any challenge both in and outside of a fight.
Race: Altmer. Essential for roleplay, and provides some of the best racial bonuses for magic-oriented characters. Females are recommended for their superior speed and skirts.
Sign: I went with the Mage sign for the bonus Magicka, though if you think you can handle the additional Weakness to Magicka, the Apprentice can provide an even larger boost.
Attributes: Willpower and Intelligence are key for a pure mage, increasing your Magicka regeneration and maximum Magicka respectively. Regeneration is a function of your maximum Magicka, so Intelligence is much more important when leveling up. Other attributes worth improving are Endurance, Speed and Agility.
Skills: Destruction, Conjuration, Mysticism, Alteration, Illusion, Restoration, Heavy Armour
In combat, the Thalmor focuses primarily on using a versatile kit of Touch spells in conjunction with a Destruction staff for ranged damage. For defense, a partial suit of Heavy Armour is worn in conjunction with Alteration spells to increase armour rating while maintaining mobility. Additionally the staff can be used for blocking to avoid damage and stagger attackers.
The first line of defense, however, will typically be a summoned creature. My favourites were the zombie summons - they’re very tough, efficient to summon and can lay down a pretty nasty beatdown. In certain situations you’ll want a ranged attacker - I used the Ghost and Flame Atronach for this. At Expert level I switched to the Frost Atronach, which is very tough, has both melee and ranged attacks and can even heal itself. Plus, it’s increased size makes it easier to hide behind.
Being a High Elf you will be quite weak to magic attacks. I created a warding spell - 100% Spell Absorption for 1 second on Self - to block magic attacks. Unfortunately you need to have Expert Mysticism before you can create it though (unless you pick up the effect from a source outside purchased spells), so just try and avoid spells before then.
Here’s some of my most used custom spells.
Your primary damage-dealing spell, once you have access to Spellmaking. It started out as 8 Fire, Frost and Shock damage for 2 seconds on touch (requiring 50 Destruction), dealing 48 damage total. As my Destruction increased and spell costs decreased, I added 100% Weakness to Fire, Frost, Shock and Magic for 2 seconds, allowing for a devastating follow-up attack - either from this spell, a magic-using summon or a different spell. Plus, the weakness to elements means that even enemies that are normally immune to elemental attacks will be damaged by the follow up. Since the duration is so short, the weaknesses only add about 10-15 to the Magicka cost. Once I reached 75 Destruction, I doubled the magnitude of the damaging effects.
A deadly finishing move (especially when combined with the weakness from Destructive Touch) - Drain Health 100pts for 1 second combined with Soul Trap for 1 second on Target. This spell instantly kills anyone below 100 health and only requires 25 Destruction to cast. If you don’t want to overpower yourself, use a lower magnitude version at early levels. The Soul Trap effect really helps for recharging your staves. Watch out for enemies with Spell Reflection - your 100% Weakness to Magic makes you very vulnerable to this spell!
A longer duration healing spell is much more efficient than an instant one, though you will level up Restoration much more slowly. I used 3 points for 15 seconds starting out (45 total) and upgraded to 5 points for 15 seconds once I reached 50 Restoration (75 total).
A simple Paralysis for 1 second on Touch. Very efficient as most enemies take a second or two to actually stand up. Allows you to get some distance or provide your summon with some free hits.
100% Spell Absorption for 1 second on Self. Use this to block incoming spells and regain some Magicka in the process. This is definitely one to hotkey, as you usually need to activate it as soon as you see the enemy cast animation (especially with Shock spells).
A combination of Turn Undead and Fire Damage over time. Helps to damage undead enemies while they’re fleeing, especially as damage over time effects are very efficient.
A combination of the three elemental shield effects, providing armour and modest elemental protection. I went with 7% for each element for a good balance between protection and efficiency.
Of course, many standard spells are still very useful. I got a lot of use out of many summon and Feather spells, Sea Stride, and the Weak Fireball granted by the Skingrad Recommendation quest just to name a few.
For equipment, I used the Burgundy Linens with a Necromancer Hood and Ebony Boots, Gauntlets and Cuirass. The hood and skirt really creates a strong Battlemage aesthetic and the Ebony’s inscribed gold on black really filled out the Thalmor look. Before that level I used the best Heavy Armour I could find, and Umbra’s armour once I could take her on. Before level 15 it has stats similar to Orcish, and at higher levels it matches Ebony. I had all my apparel enchanted with Fortify Magicka, and used whatever rings/amulets I picked up in rare loot.
As for staves, I pretty much used whatever Destruction staves I could get my hands on. My primary, however, was the Mage’s Staff of Shock - it has a fast projectile, Daedra are typically weak to shock damage, and it has plenty of charges. Some other notable staves are the Staff of Indarys, which carries a similar enchantment, and Apotheosis (from Rindir’s Staffs in Imperial City) which does lots of damage of all elements. I usually held off on over-using my staff at lower levels so that I gained more experience with character skills.
Another notable item is Azura’s Star, allowing you to maximize the use of the souls gained from the Soul Tear spell without having to carry around lots of soul gems.
Roleplay - Objectives and Quests
As mentioned earlier, your objective here is to make connections and expand that Thalmor’s influence and power base through Cyrodiil. This typically means staying on the right side of the authorities, making new friends and allies, and increasing your standing in Cyrodiil’s social circles and organisations. The Mages Guild is the obvious one here, though other minor factions such as the various orders work as well.
I focused primarily on the Mages Guild questline, but took on various side quests with regards to acquiring powerful items and making friends and allies with powerful or influential people. This means that you can engage in most of the sidequests in the game, though your skillset isn’t exactly suited to the Fighters Guild for example. At higher Illusion levels you can always attempt the Thieves Guild and Dark Brotherhood if you so choose.
With regards to the Main Quest, I started it and joined the Blades, but didn’t go much further than that until later on. Ending the Oblivion Crisis is in the best interests of you, the people of Cyrodiil, as well as the Thalmor back home on Summerset. While your original plan to get close to the Emperor doesn’t quite work out in the end, the potential leverage over the Elder Council as the Champion of Cyrodiil could be… considerable.
Thanks for reading! While Oblivion and Morrowind might not have the breadth of perks that newer games like ESO and Skyrim do, I think the custom spells and enchanting systems allow for an entirely different kind of creativity when it comes to character building. I'm looking forward to seeing what other content my fellow members come up with!