Every witchhunter's got a sob story, some traumatic event or events to make them who they are. This one is no different. Only thing is, he can't remember it. The Mages took even that from him. He might've been a soldier, a sellsword, even a common cutthroat in his past. He might've had a family, might've been in the process of putting one together. Whatever he did have was taken when a traveling sect of particularly nasty magic users crossed his path. They took his possessions, his memory, even his name. They tortured him and subjected him to dangerous and vile magical experiments that would turn any College Mage's stomach. He could be considered "lucky" that his memories of those experiments are blurred and fractured, but those are his clearest.
The Mages had traveled from country to country with their "test subject" in tow, constantly on the run from guardsmen, witchhunters, and outraged farmers alike, and had set up their latest hideout near the Skyrim border. While they unpacked their "instruments," their prize plaything somehow managed to escape, running as fast as he could towards freedom, towards a new life, a second chance, towards . . . an Imperial ambush. So soon after he had escaped captivity was he once again put in bonds. On the cart ride to Helgen, he finally had a chance to gather his thoughts, realizing that the only thing he had left was a burning hatred for magic. He decided that, should he survive Helgen, he would dedicate himself to destroying those who would use magic for evil, driven not by what he remembers, but by what was taken from him, becoming . . .
The Mage Hunter
This is my first-ever build that I've posted anywhere, so I wanted to keep things simple. Like, really simple. So simple in fact, that things got back to complicated. I had noticed that the majority of witchhunter builds ended up using a ton of magic to fight magic, in a become-the-thing-you-hate-most sort of way, and while I'm a sucker for irony, I wanted to try out something I had never done before: a no-magic build. The Mage Hunter is thoroughly disgusted by magic, and will avoid it whenever possible, including spells, enchanted gear, and potions. This highly-aggressive approach against magic brought with it a few problems, which I had to delve into an often-neglected aspect of the game to overcome (more on that later). I’m new to this whole building thing, so please give me any constructive criticism you can. I promise I’ll only cry a little.
This build uses a small handful of mods which, in my worthless opinion, enhance the vanilla experience of Skyrim without going overboard. None of these are “required,” however they certainly make the build a lot better. I’ve taken the liberty of prioritizing which mods are most important for this build.
Ordinator – Overhauls the perk trees, eliminates a lot of what could be considered "filler" perks. Also allows Heavy Armor and Block to be more effective against magic (which is helpful). This build maxes out perkwise fairly quickly, so there isn't really a need to grab one of the Extra Perk Points options.
Imperious – Makes Skyrim's races more unique and changes racial bonuses and powers without being game-breaking.
Unofficial Skyrim Patch – Lets you temper silver weapons (among other things), which is useful for this build.
Organized Bandits of Skyrim – Revamps the bandit population and adds more Bandit Mages, which means there's more for you to stab.
The Build - Stats, Perks, and Equipment
Race: Because the Mage Hunter’s captors constantly traveled from country to country, any race would fit the backstory. However, I recommend going with one of the man races to make the hatred of magic seem less hypocritical. By that same logic, Breton is out, because they've got Elven ancestry. That leaves Nord, Redguard, and Imperial, which are all equally viable. With Imperious, being a Nord allows you to choose to deal extra damage to elves, which definitely fits your vendetta against magical beings and magic users. Being a Redguard grants some disease resistance (helps because you won't use Potions of Cure Disease), as well as improves your weapons upon killing humanoids. Being an Imperial allows you to regenerate a random attribute in combat as well as change certain attributes, such as resistances and stat distributions. I ended up going with Imperial.
Stats: 0 Magicka / 2 Health / 1 Stamina. You won’t be casting spells or anything like that, so there’s no need to boost Magicka. You’ll want a lot of health for tanking damage, because you won’t have any magical bonuses from gear or potions. The stamina will go into power attacking and bashing.
Standing Stone: None. The Standing Stones are chock-full of ancient magic, which repels you to your core.
Blessings: None. As far as you're concerned, the Divines let those Mages perform their terrible rituals and experiments on you and countless others, and are also responsible for your pain.
Shouts: None. You aren’t the Dragonborn, and you aren’t about to start using old Nord magic.
Powers: Colovian Star. This is the Imperial's racial power with Imperious, which replenishes the two attributes with the highest remaining percentage. I decided that this wasn't technically magic ("you just focus really hard"), and it makes for a decent panic button.
Major Skills: Block, Heavy Armor, One-Handed
Minor Skills: Archery, Smithing
Weapons: Penumbra, Silver Tanto, and the Enhanced Dwarven Crossbow. If playing without Immersive Weapons, grab a Dragonbone Sword and a Silver Sword instead. Side note: Penumbra can be found in the same place as the Targe of the Blooded (just before Blackreach). Leave all weaponry unenchanted.
The Mage Hunter uses a simple sword when fighting nearly any enemy. However, he does have a silver weapon on hand in case he comes up against the undead or lycanthropes. This comes in especially handy when he joins the Dawnguard.
Armor: To achieve my build's aesthetic: Dragonbone Ebonsteel Hood, Einherjar Heavy Cuirass, Wild Hunt Gauntlets + Boots, Targe of the Blooded. If playing without Immersive Armors or with another armor mod, just grab whatever Heavy Armor looks good and works well for you. Try to leave the face uncovered if you do. Make sure that none of the armor is enchanted.
He encases himself nearly head to toe in heavy armor, insulating himself from all attacks, physical and magical alike. The only part of his body left uncovered is his face – he wants Mages everywhere to know exactly who killed them.
Jewelry: Whatever looks good. I went with plain silver. Just leave it unenchanted.
One-Handed: This is the Mage Hunter's main source of damage. He wields an ordinary sword to great effect, chaining together attacks to cut down any foe. The perk Cross Cut is especially useful, because you can chain a normal attack and immediately follow up with a devastating power attack. Very few enemies will stand up to his vicious attacks for more than a few seconds.
Block: The Mage Hunter relies on his shield as the first line of defense against any attack. Additionally, he can use it as a powerful weapon in conjunction with his sword through bashing. For maximum effectiveness against attacks, timing is crucial. Timed Blocks, if executed properly, can negate magic attacks, which makes up for the lack of enchantments. The usefulness of bashing is multiplied through the use of the Targe of the Blooded. This shield isn't technically enchanted, and thus can be tempered without the Arcane Blacksmith perk. Its bleed effect stacks, making it a weapon in and of itself. Don't worry about the low-ish AR, either: Smithing will take care of that.
Smithing: This is the only crafting skill the Mage Hunter will use. He realizes that his armor and weapons need to be top quality, since he refuses to augment them with potions or magic. Bringing your items to Legendary quality will give them the AR and damage necessary to combat your enemies effectively.
Heavy Armor: When his shield fails him, the Mage Hunter's armor is the only thing standing between him and certain death, be it from sword or sorcery. As a result, he has studied how to use it to maximum effect. It will insulate him from elemental attacks and reflect blows. If the headgear you're wearing has no AR (wearing an unarmored hood), grab the Face of Death perk as well. It'll make up for the missing AR.
Archery: Sometimes there are too many enemies for the Mage Hunter to handle at once. Other times it's one enemy that is way too strong to face head-on at first. Whatever the case, he makes sure to bring an Enhanced Dwarven Crossbow with him everywhere. While he isn't a sneak archer, the Mage Hunter will loose a couple of shots from afar before charging into battle. The perk Long Shot makes this strategy far more effective (no pun intended). Additionally, the crossbow will put him on even ground with high-up archers and mages. Don't hesitate to engage in a sniper duel.
The Vendetta – Gameplay and Quests
Most of the time, you'll play as your basic bash-and-whacker. Execute Timed Blocks to avoid spell damage, bash to interrupt power attacks, and keep your shield raised to block arrows and negate their damage. When the time is right, chain together normal and power attacks to quickly cut down enemies. To spice up the monotony of a sword-and-shield character, I threw in a simple but effective rule: If the group you're fighting contains a magic user, target them first. The Mage Hunter becomes overwhelmed with rage upon seeing an enemy mage. Remember to switch to your silver weapon when fighting the undead or lycanthropes for extra damage.
When faced with hard-to-reach ranged attackers, pull out your enhanced crossbow and shoot them down. Feel free to thin out large groups of enemies from afar with your crossbow as well. Just remember you aren't a stealth archer.
At this point, you may be asking: If he doesn't use potions, enchantments, or spells, how does the Mage Hunter heal himself? True, a lot of the damage you'll be taking will be reduced considerably by a combination of your shield, a high AR, and a high health pool, but you'll still need to replenish your health if you have any hope of surviving. This is where that often-overlooked aspect of Skyrim that I mentioned earlier comes into play. I am, of course, talking about . . .
"Finally, some good freakin' food . . ."
Cooking is something that I feel doesn't get enough credit in Skyrim. Truth be told, I barely cared about it until I decided to play a character that used no magic whatsoever. However, after a bit of research and testing, I found that cooking was more than adequate for keeping the Mage Hunter alive and well. Just be prepared to be weighed down a bit by the amount of food you'll be carrying.
First and foremost, food will be used to replicate two potion effects: Restore Health and Regenerate Health. For those of you who didn't know, 5 Rabbit Haunches/Salmon Steaks is essentially the same as 1 Potion of Minor Healing. The total weight is 0.5 and it restores 25 points of health in total. This is the Mage Hunter's staple for healing up instantly. But you can also effectively increase your health regeneration by consuming Vegetable Soup. This will let you regenerate 1 point of health per second for 720 seconds (12 minutes). What? Doesn't sound great? Well, turns out the effect stacks. Eating 10 of these will regenerate your health by 10 points per second for basically the duration of any combat. Combine that with proper evasion techniques, and you'll be back at full HP in no time. The recipe for Vegetable Soup is 1 Leek, 1 Tomato, 1 Cabbage, and 1 Potato. All of these ingredients can be found en masse for free on most farms you come across. I also carried a bunch of soups and whatever food I found laying around with me, in case I happened to need a lot of health quickly.
It should be noted that Vegetable Soup has another very useful effect: Regenerate Stamina. The stamina regeneration probably won't be super useful for bringing your stamina up in the middle of combat, but that doesn't mean it won't change how combat plays out. Since you'll be constantly regenerating stamina, you'll always be able to perform power attacks (they require at least 1 stamina), which gives you a huge advantage. This is really useful for just about any warrior, magic-indulging or not, so keep it in mind.
Cooking also finally allowed me to really make use of the Hearthfire DLC, through the newly-added Oven. The things you can bake with this DLC are a gods-send for someone who won't use magic. For example, prior to discovering baking, I had no idea how to counter disease without potions or blessings. This became a very pressing problem once I joined the Dawnguard. Then I found out about Garlic Bread, which, for the low-low price of 1 Bread and 1 Garlic, will cure all of your ailments.
To make use of the baking mechanic, you'll need access to one of the player-built homes added by Hearthfire. Since cooking is so important to this build, I recommend getting the home as soon as possible. I took the one in Falkreath. Grab the Kitchen as soon as you can, and build the Oven inside.
For higher levels, when consuming 50 Rabbit Haunches to heal up gets old, switch to eating Chicken Dumplings. These weigh the same as Rabbit Haunches but restore 3x the health (5 will mimic a Potion of Plentiful Healing). They also restore 1 point of health per second. The only problem might be acquiring Chicken Breasts; Anoriath sells them in the Whiterun market. Recipe is 1 Salt Pile, 1 Chicken Breast, 1 Leek, and 1 Garlic.
If you're missing going into your Active Effects tab and not seeing any kind of magic resistance, fret not, for baking will save the day! The Lavender Dumpling offers 10% magic resistance for 60 seconds and restores a small amount of health. I ultimately decided that even though this recipe uses a few Alchemy ingredients, it didn't use them in an "alchemical" way. At the end of the day, it's your choice whether or not this counts as "magical" food. Recipe is 1 Moon Sugar, 1 Sack of Flour, 2 Snowberries, and 1 Lavender.
Recommended Quests: Dawnguard (side with the Dawnguard), The Man who Cried Wolf + The Wolf Queen Awakened
Basically you should take any quest that pits you against magic in some way, without forcing you to use it. Feel free to take radiant bounties as well, since you know that most bandit camps have Bandit Mages. Stay far away from the College of Winterhold, obviously.
In addition to whatever anti-mage quests you come across, you'll want to clear out any mage-inhabited Forts. The Mage Hunter saw a map in Dragonsreach detailing their locations, and will clear them if he even smells magic. Some of the Forts that fall under this category include:
- Fort Kastav
- Fort Snowhawk
- Fort Amol
Ever since his horrifying ordeals in the lairs of mages, the touch of magic burns the Mage Hunter. Whether this is a psychological effect or some kind of residual one from the experiments is unknown. He doesn't really care. Fact is, he won't touch magic if he can help it, unless it's with his blade.
Due to its simplicity, the majority of the build's value will come from the choices you make. Above all else, you play as someone with a fierce vendetta against magic, and that dramatically affects your interactions with a significant number of NPCs and items in the game. When playing, ask yourself some questions:
- How aggressive is your approach to magic? Sure, you'll never cast a spell, brew a potion, or use enchanted items, but will you be willing to do quests for or trade with "friendly" mage NPCs? Or will you go so far as to believe that magic is too dangerous for anyone, and kill them (example: Farengar)?
- What are your morals? You may not remember your past, but your personality and moral inclinations remain. For example, if you were a criminal in your past, you might have looser stances towards thievery or murder to achieve your goals.
- How do your feelings about magic change throughout your journey? Do you become more tolerant of it over time, or is your hatred deepened? Perhaps seeing a particularly disturbing mages' lair filled with torture equipment is the last straw for your already-shaky sanity, and you end up going on a rampage, killing anything magical you see.
There are a thousand and one ways to play such a simple character, which is probably what gives it the most value to me. Do what feels right for you, and heck, if you want to see how a different path turns out, play it again!
I had a blast putting this build together, and I hope that your eyes didn't bleed too much if you read it. Reading the builds from this community has been a huge inspiration for me to create new and interesting ways to play such an open game. I'll take any feedback to heart in future builds (got a few ideas already), so please give me any tips you can. Happy building!