In a forgotten nook in the Wrothgarian Mountains of High Rock lies a small Orcish stronghold, barely held together and seemingly abandoned. Yet inside train Tamriel's most lethal monster-slayers, the hexers. Trained in widely-unknown Nord magic and alchemically enhanced, these mysterious warriors journey to all corners of the world to seek their fortunes and slay the most terrifying of beasts. Upon hearing of the return of the legendary dragons in Skyrim, one of the stronghold's prodigies will set out towards the cold Nordic lands, certain that he will find no shortage of work...
The Witcher universe is easily one of my favorites, right up there with the Elder Scrolls. So naturally I had to try to combine the two in my own Conjunction of the Spheres, if you will, with Skyrim being the place of convergence. This build is the product of the meticulous merging of both the lores and gameplays of Skyrim and The Witcher 3, while trying to stay faithful to both. Because of this, it should be noted that a decent-sized chunk of the lore discussed here, while plausible, is not canon. The end goal of this build is to have a character that plays like a witcher in Skyrim, and the lore is here to help you feel more anchored in the world. With that out of the way, I present to you...
Fun fact: "Hexer" is an alternate translation of the Polish word for witcher. It was also the name of a film franchise based off of the Witcher books. Unfortunately it got horrible reviews and was largely unsuccessful. Let's hope that doesn't set a precedent here...
Choosing the mods for this build was tough. While mods open up limitless possibilites for gameplay, making it trivially easy to essentially turn Skyrim into The Witcher 3 with the right combination, I didn't want to detract from Skyrim's feel too much. Therefore, I have limited myself largely to mods that are extremely common in other Skyrim builds, namely the Ordinator perk overhaul. That being said, feel free to add any other mods you want to get the experience you want.
Ordinator - This perk overhaul has insane synergies with a Witcher playstyle, as we'll discover later. Most notably are the synergies between Light Armor and Alchemy, which will combine to give us our trademark speed and ferocity.
Andromeda - Movement speed is a central pillar of this build, so Andromeda's Shadow Stone synergizes very well with what Ordinator will give us.
TK Dodge - This mod adds in a mechanic that should've been a part of Skyrim to begin with: dodging. So simple, yet it adds another level of complexity to the game's combat, and also brings it more in line with TW3's.
Combat Mods - Throwing a couple of combat-enhancing mods into the mix is highly recommended. I personally use Wildcat + Ultimate Combat, to make enemies smarter and fights more fast-paced and dangerous. Feel free to use whatever combat mods you like to get the experience you enjoy (Smilodon, other ones 'cause I barely know any, etc.).
~Build Overview - Stats and Equipment~
Difficulty: This will vary from player to player. Essentially you want to find a balanced difficulty (based on your combat experience and mods) that makes fights with the stronger monsters very dangerous and difficult, whereas fights with humans are quick and easy. Feel free to experiment until you reach that balance.
Race: Breton. Hexers will often recruit foundlings from other lands that they encounter in their travels, but the majority of hexer trainees are orphans recruited from nearby small Breton towns.
Stats: 0 M / 1 H / 2 S. Hexers don't use "conventional" magic, so you won't bother at all with Magicka. A large Stamina pool is necessary for attacks and maintaining your swiftness in combat, and a hearty Health pool will keep you alive should your enemies land a blow or two. Cap your Health at 200 and pour the rest into Stamina.
Stone: Warrior -> Shadow. Use the Warrior early-game for leveling your combat skills, then switch to the Shadow for the additional +20% movement speed in combat.
Blessings: Blessing of Talos. Always keep this blessing active to reduce the cooldown time of your Shouts significantly. Finding and activating shrines to get this blessing can be compared to the Places of Power from TW3, which is a nice touch.
Major Skills: Alchemy, Two-Handed, Light Armor
Minor Skills: Archery (unperked), Block, Speech
-The Hexer's Arsenal - Weapons and Equipment-
Steel for Humans
This is the first of the Hexer's swords, for use against humans and wild animals. Ideally it would be used only rarely, but Skyrim is an unforgiving land, where the line between monster and human is more blurred than one might expect. Over the course of your playthrough the exact sword you'll use will change and upgrade as better ones become available. I ended my playthrough with a Nordic Greatsword. Its aesthetic is perfect, and it deals more than enough damage for our needs.
Silver for Monsters
This is the Hexer's moneymaker, so to speak. The bulk of your playthrough will be spent searching for and slaying monsters, using the Silver Greatsword to do so. Silver weaponry is often underrated because of its lower base damage; however, when facing the undead or lycanthropes, the 20 point increase to its base damage makes it best in class. Although this bonus only applies to fighting the undead and lycanthropes, we'll use our silver sword against all monsters we encounter in the game: Frostbite Spiders, Trolls, Gargoyles, etc. Any damage deficiencies will be made up for with perks and "blade oils" (more on that later).
Getting your hands on the Silver Greatsword may be a bit tricky. They're carried exclusively by the Silver Hand, a group of werewolf hunters scattered throughout Skyrim. Essentially to get one I RP'ed the Hexer going into one of their camps to see if he could bargain for one, then "defending himself" when the hunters inevitably attacked. The final step was simply plucking a sword off of one of the fresh corpses.
After some time spent with the Dawnguard, the Hexer will adopt the Exploding Bolts into his arsenal. Fired from your crossbow, these bolts release an elemental explosion upon impact. Keep a few of each element on your person for the right moment.
This is the closest thing to TW3's bombs (barring some less-than-lore-friendly mods), and I thought it was a nice addition to the playstyle every now and then. They certainly have their uses... Especially if you ever need to go fishing.
Light, Flexible, and Durable
The Hexer's armor will be kept simple, strong, and easy to acquire. Use the full set of the dark variant of the Dawnguard Armor, minus the helmet. It's got good protection, and perhaps more importantly matches the Witcher aesthetic quite nicely.
The Hexer will also keep an Amulet of Talos around his neck at all times, for the buff to Shout cooldowns. Close enough to a Witcher medallion, right? The ring is up to you; I personally went with a Fortify Two-Handed enchantment.
Hexers are capable of ancient Nordic magic largely unknown to High Rock and beyond, passed down to them by a warrior-monk who had led his cult out of Skyrim after some conflict with the Greybeards. This magic is the Thu'um, or Voice, and hexers manifest it into simple Shouts that they use to great effect.
The Witcher universe has several "Signs" that the Witchers use: simple, yet versatile combat magic that can be cast instantly, without prior preparation. After some thought, I realized that TES's Shouts fit that profile surprisingly well. A bit of research later, and I was able to translate the effects of the Signs into Shouts almost flawlessly.
In the interest of both lore and gameplay, you'll only be taking and using the first word of each Shout. This makes sense "lore"-wise because of the severely limited training in the Thu'um that hexers would receive, and it also allows for short cooldowns, made shorter by equipment and blessings. The result is that although you won't be maximizing the effects of your Shouts, you can frequently use them to supplement your fights, often allowing you to deliver (or avoid) the killing blow.
Fus - Unrelenting Force
A short telekinetic blast that staggers enemies. Witcher equivalent: Aard.
Yol - Fire Breath
A gush of dragon's fire that wounds enemies and burns them for additional damage. Witcher equivalent: Igni.
Kaan - Kyne's Peace
A charm is placed on animals that prevents them from attacking the Hexer for a short time. Witcher equivalent: Axii.
Feim - Become Ethereal
Renders the Hexer immune to damage for a brief time. Witcher equivalent: Quen.
Fo - Frost Breath
A flurry of ice that wounds enemies and slows them down. Witcher equivalent: Yrden.
The Hexer will use a variety of potions to enhance his combat. In the interest of this being a Witcher-based build, we'll only use potions whose effects match the potions in TW3. I've taken the liberty of organizing the potions down below for ease of use.
Swallow - Potion of Regenerate Health
Thunderbolt - Potion of Fortify Two-Handed
Tawny Owl - Potion of Regenerate Stamina
Golden Oriole - Potion of Resist Poison
White Honey - Potion of Cure Disesase
Full Moon - Potion of Fortify Health
White Raffard's Decoction - Potion of Restore Health
Killer Whale - Potion of Waterbreathing
A Note on Blade Oils: The Witcher 3 has a fairly detailed system of applying a certain kind of oil to your blade to deal more damage against certain monster types. For the purposes of Skyrim, we're going to use Poisons of Damage Health to boost our damage output instead. This covers the whole range of poison-affected monsters (and humans). The Alchemy perk Bottomless Cup will allow our poisons to last for additional hits based on our Alchemy level, which makes this approach really shine.
~Perks and Gameplay~
Two-Handed: This is the Hexer's main source of damage. Shouts don't require any hands to use, so we get to take full advantage of the greatsword's additional range and damage. Any loss in speed compared to one-handed weapons is more than made up for with other perks. You also get the additional advantage of wearing your weapon on your back, which automatically grants you +10 towards your cool factor.
Light Armor: Protection is secondary with this branch; the primary benefit of perking Light Armor is the speed boosts brought by Ordinator. Hexers are extremely fast due to their extensive training and enhancements, able to dodge the superhumanly quick attacks of their quarry, and this branch will help to bring that into the game. The Keen Senses perk will let you forgo the helmet in true Witcher style while still taking advantage of the "if wearing full armor" perks.
Block: Dodging 100% of the time isn't very plausible, especially if you get cornered or are in a tight space. When the time comes, blocking can be used as a last defense or to throw off your opponent. The combination of Timed Block and Poke the Dragon encourages a combat dynamic where you essentially parry and riposte, matching the fencing style of Witchers quite well.
Speech: Believe it or not, this is our magic skill. Ordinator extends the Speech tree to include the Thu'um, offering some nice perks to increase the effectiveness of Shouts. Since we're only using the first word of each Shout, these boosts are very welcome. The other aspect of Speech that we'll use is the boost to prices and Persuasion/Intimidation. The Hexer is no stranger to haggling for the best price on a monster's head, or by threatening to bash a human's should he stand in the way.
Archery: Despite being unperked, this skill is very valuable to this build. The Hexer will make use of the Dawnguard's crossbows for damaging ranged combatants (namely dragons during the earlier stages of fights), but also to deliver the "bombs" described earlier.
Alchemy: No Witcher-style build would be complete without Alchemy. The Hexer will use the potions mentioned earlier to enhance his already-formidable combat prowess. You'll notice that many perks that would benefit this build greatly have been ommitted; this is in the interest of balance and roleplaying rather than pure build strength. For example, while taking the Advanced Lab perk would greatly enhance your potion strengths, it doesn't fit the character who is constantly on the move (you can only have 1 Advanced Lab at a time). Additionally, the series of perks that grant you additional potion effects have not been taken because it would make this build hilariously overpowered. We have taken perks that boost the Hexer's movement speed upon consumption of potions, which stacks quite nicely with the boosts from Light Armor.
"Aye, I seen one o' them hexers in action once. Killed half a dozen men in half as many seconds! Didn't even break a sweat!"
The combat for this build is peculiar in that it almost has two sides, one for each sword you use. On the one hand, fighting humans (bandits mostly) should be very straightforward and very quick. With only a handful of strikes in only a handful of seconds, you should be able to clear a room. This may seem a bit strong to you, because it is. Remember that hexers (and witchers) are superhumans, created to fight monsters that normal humans can't. You aren't exactly supposed to be slaying humans unless you have to, 'cause it's not a fair fight. Like, at all.
Your movement speed and steel weapon should be enough to make short work of humans, with the occasional Shout in between to stagger and damage. Dodge between strikes, and perform counterattacks immediately after any Timed Blocks for the bonus damage from Poke the Dragon.
On the other hand is your fights with monsters. Depending on how crazy you've gone with the combat mods, fighting creatures like dragons or giants should be pretty dangerous: high Health pools, high damage, high risk. You'll find yourself more on the defensive, dodging lethal attacks and maintaining advantageous positioning. The defensive Shouts like Feim (Become Ethereal) and Fo (Frost Breath) should be used more to help you reposition and heal, while Yol (Fire Breath) is great for clearing out hordes of the weaker undead.
In fact, you may find that a little preparation is needed before each fight. Check your stock of potions to make sure you have what you need, apply your blade oils, and ensure that you have enough "bombs" if you need them. It's not quite the level of preparation that TW3 might require, but it's enough to get you immersed in the Witcher style.
After initiating the fight, utilize your movement speed to avoid any ranged attacks (Breath attacks mainly) and leap in and out for strikes. Letting yourself get hit is oftentimes fatal, or at the very least a huge hit to your limited Health pool.
Your "bombs" offer you a nice advantage as well. Fire Bolts can be used against Trolls and the undead for a good chunk of damage, Frost Bolts can be used against larger enemies to slow them down, and Shock Bolts can be used against monsters like Hagravens to limit their spellcasting. Be creative!
~The Path - Quests and Roleplay~
- Ill Met by Moonlight. This is probably the closest Witcher-style quest there is in Skyrim. There's a monster to be slain or spared, and a complicated moral choice to be made. Classic Witcher 3 dilemma. The choice to kill or spare Sinding is yours.
- Dawnguard Radiant Quests. The Hexer will join up with the Dawnguard to make some extra coin slaying vampires. Their resurgence is... profitable, to say the least. You'll be doing a lot of these.
- Crossbow Schematic Quests. Helping Sorine Jurard locate ancient Dwemer schematics might not seem like a very Witcher-y thing to do until you realize that your arsenal will be upgraded significantly. In addition to the enhanced crossbows you'll get your "bombs," and every item helps in your relentless pursuit of horrifying beasts.
- (Optional) The Dawnguard Questline. Whether or not the Hexer goes further than simple vampire contracts is up to you. I personally avoided it because it didn't fit my character's no-nonsense mercenary mindset, but if you're looking for a fun, deep story with a great potential for character development, go for it.
- Radiant Hold Bounties. Before you go "Witchers aren't assassins!" let me clarify: I'm talking about the bounties on dragons and giants. These are literally Witcher contracts: the town leader puts a bounty on some monster troubling the area and you kill it. Clean, simple, and honest work. Okay, maybe not so clean... Remember to wipe your blade.
The criteria for doing a quest is pretty simple: Is there a monster (not human) to slay? If so, take it, kill it, take the money, repeat. If it doesn't pass this simple test, then chances are you probably shouldn't do it for this playthrough.
The Hexer's interactions and personality are largely up to you, much like in TW3. However, you should keep in mind that the Hexer is in Skyrim to make money by killing monsters, not to make friends. So don't do petty quests or random favors, even if they offer you money. Chalk it up to your "hexer's code." Personally I played my character as a grim, no-nonsense hexer. I was there to kill monsters and make money until either of them ran out. Other, more amiable personalities are completely open to you. Just remember why you're there.
Your movement throughout the world of Skyrim will be fairly erratic. I recommend using fast travel only sparingly, instead riding your trusty horse from town to town in search of work. You'll get more interesting encounters that way. The waiting mechanic should also be very rarely used. If you arrive in town at night, don't just wait until morning: rent a room at the inn and keep an ear out for work opportunities. You'd be surprised at the level of depth this adds to your character.
One more important note: This build won't work unless you read your character's dialogue aloud in your best, most gravelly Witcher voice. It just won't. You may need to pick up a chronic smoking habit to make it happen, but hey, that's the price you pay for awesomeness.
And there it is, my attempt at a Witcher build. Hopefully my made-up lore wasn't too offputting, I just wanted this character to feel more in place in Skyrim. Either way, the playstyle's still there, and I hope you enjoyed it. Happy Building!
Also be sure to check out this amazing gameplay video from Kruger! It's an absolute honor to have my build featured on the channel!