An Illusionist in Skyrim

An Illusionist in Skyrim, final entry: Solitude

Tom Francis at

This is the diary of me attempting to play Skyrim using only Illusion magic: I'm not allowed any weapons, armour, or magical items, and I can't attack anyone directly. The first entry is here, or you can see all entries to date here.

My attempts to play Skyrim using only Illusion magic have driven me to intentionally contract vampirism, for the sweet illusion powers it will provide. The disease takes three days to take hold, and I've spent them messing with the Stormcloak rebels for the Imperial Legion. My mission is to deliver some forged orders to a Stormcloak commander in Dawnstar, and on my first morning in town, it happens.

An Illusionist in Skyrim, part 15: the battle of Whiterun

Tom Francis at

This is the diary of me attempting to play Skyrim using only Illusion magic: I'm not allowed any weapons, armour, or magical items, and I can't attack anyone directly. The first entry is here, or you can see all entries to date here.

The whole concept for my character is that I never directly attack any living thing, so it's rather awkward that I now find myself getting all the credit for slaying a dragon. I didn't. I didn't even help. I was going to lead some angry giants over to beat it up for me, but the guards killed the dragon before I got there, so I just ended up setting some angry giants on the real heroes and then stealing all the glory.

So as the Jarl of Whiterun is singing my praises, naming me his Thane, giving me a personal servant, and entrusting me with his own battleaxe, I'm wishing he'd shut up.

An Illusionist in Skyrim, part 14: the giant

Tom Francis at

This is the diary of me attempting to play Skyrim using only Illusion magic: I'm not allowed any weapons, armour, or magical items, and I can't attack anyone directly. The first entry is here, or you can see all entries to date here.

A hail of arrows shoots past me, and I scramble up some rubble to get away from the Giant. I look back to see if he's following, just in time to see him crumple a guard like a tin can. Oh Lord. Sorry guard!

The Giant stomps towards me. I still don't have any stamina to sprint with, and I haven't really got anywhere else to run to, so I just run to the other side of the tower. More arrows pelt him as he trudges round after me, into full view of the rest of the guards. At first this seems like a good thing, but then he stomps off into their ranks and starts crushing them one by one.


An Illusionist in Skyrim, part 13: the dragon

Tom Francis at

This is the diary of me attempting to play Skyrim using only Illusion magic: I'm not allowed any weapons, armour, or magical items, and I can't attack anyone directly. The first entry is here, or you can see all entries to date here.

I park Sarah on a hill at a safe distance, and head on to the watchtower. I stop before I get there, and scan the horizon. I've just had an idea. I find what I'm looking for, then carry on to the tower.


An Illusionist in Skyrim, part 12: Bleak Falls Barrow

Tom Francis at

This is the diary of me attempting to play Skyrim using only Illusion magic: I'm not allowed any weapons, armour, or magical items, and I can't attack anyone directly. The first entry is here, or you can see all entries to date here.

I remember this! It actually shouldn't take long. I mount Sarah the Implausible Horse and canter up into the mountains.

I find it easily and trot up to the gate, alerting a few bandits. As I dismount, one of them runs in my direction yelling, confusingly, "You've beaten me! I yield!" Belrand emerges from behind a stone column and hacks him down. Ah. Hi Belrand!


An Illusionist in Skyrim, part 11: first horse to Whiterun

Tom Francis at

This is the diary of me attempting to play Skyrim using only Illusion magic: I'm not allowed any weapons, armour, or magical items, and I can't attack anyone directly. The first entry is here, or you can see all entries to date here.

I deliver the hard-won Jagged Crown to General Tullius back at Imperial Legion headquarters in Solitude, and receive my next assignment. It's to deliver a message to the Jarl (mayor/king) of Whiterun, telling him he's about to be attacked by the rebel Stormcloaks, and urging him to side with us Imperials. I'm not letting myself use fast travel, but this is pretty much going back the way I came, so I wouldn't mind cutting down my journey time. I wonder how much horses cost.


An Illusionist in Skyrim, part 10: a close shave

Tom Francis at

This is the diary of me attempting to play Skyrim using only Illusion magic: I'm not allowed any weapons, armour, or magical items, and I can't attack anyone directly. The first entry is here, or you can see all entries to date here.

The others catch up and praise me as a genius for figuring out that the fox, moth and dragon symbols on the claw correlated to the fox, moth and dragon symbols above the claw-shaped hole. Please, friends, this is what I do.


An Illusionist in Skyrim, part 9: Real Warriors

Tom Francis at

This is the diary of me attempting to play Skyrim using only Illusion magic: I'm not allowed any weapons, armour, or magical items, and I can't attack anyone directly. The first entry is here, or you can see all entries to date here.

Back on the road, we're still a long walk from *clears throat* Korvanjund. But the coast is clear, and we arrive in one piece by nightfall. There's a group of Imperial soldiers gathered outside the ruin, so I run up to them. Legate Rikke is addressing the men, and Hadvar, the man who saved me from Helgen while I hid behind furniture, is among them.

"I'm glad you're here," he says. "I'll feel a lot better going into that place with your at my side." I've done absolutely nothing to earn his bizarre confidence in me, but actually he's right: he will feel better, because I now have Courage, a spell that brainwashes people into feeling good about risking their lives for me.


An Illusionist in Skyrim, part 8: the Pale Lady

Tom Francis at

I'm playing Skyrim with a rule: illusion magic only. No direct violence, just pure deception. I'm seriously low on health, completely out of mana, and trapped in an awkward corner with a lightning mage bearing down on me.

And at that point, the ghost of an angry wolf leaps at her. What the hell is happening? While she deals with it, Belrand runs up and crushes her with a dramatic swing of his axe.


An Illusionist in Skyrim, part 7: the Pale Blade

Tom Francis at

I'm in: I passed my initiation, got my official armour, sold my official armour, and am now an enlisted soldier of the Imperial Legion. In a dress.

More importantly, I still haven't broken my rule: no direct violence, only illusion spells. Hiring a lackey has solved the one problem I couldn't work around: killing quest-critical targets when there's no-one left to turn against them.


An Illusionist in Skyrim, part 6: the solution

Tom Francis at

I'm playing Skyrim with a rule: illusion magic only. No direct violence, just pure deception - which makes my current task tricky. Before I can join the Imperial Guard, I have to clear out a fort full of bandits. I've finally lured the toughest of them to his death at the hands of a passing archer on the road to Solitude, but there are lots more left alive.

Back at the fort, I have the same problem. I barge into the keep, use my Fury spell to trick the guy with the battleaxe into killing all his friends, then hit a brick wall. He won't follow me out, and no-one will follow me in, so I'm left with one very angry man I can't kill.


An Illusionist in Skyrim, part 5: the chase

Tom Francis at

I'm playing Skyrim with a rule: illusion magic only. No direct violence, just pure deception - which makes my current task tricky. I'm trying to clear out a fort full of bandits purely by making them fight each other. One of them's just fallen off the castle battlements, leaving me alone with an angry swordsman, so I've thrown myself off too.

I land on the rocky ledge, and find the archer there. All I've actually done is separate my enemies from my only means of dealing with them: each other. The archer's stranded on an outcrop, unsure of how to get back, so I duck into sneak mode and hug the castle walls until I reach the entrance.

I sneak all the way up to the main door undetected, wondering where sword guy has got to. At the door, I realise sword guy is at the door, leaning against the wall in his usual spot, camouflaged with the stone in the grey moonlight. He sees me.


An Illusionist in Skyrim, part 4: Fury

Tom Francis at

I'm playing Skyrim with a rule: illusion magic only. No direct violence, just pure deception. So naturally, I've enlisted myself in the emperor's army: the Imperial Legion.

For my initiation, Legate Rikke wants me to get to Fort Hraggstead and kill all of the bandits, which I'm sure will be easy with no way of actually attacking them.

"I've got a good feeling about you," she says, "and I don't often get good feelings about anything."

After this, you will have even fewer good feelings.

The fort is a little way West of Solitude: an easy stroll down the city road eventually branches into a rockier path up into the mountains. I try to infuriate a passing rabbit and miss six times. This bodes well.


An Illusionist in Skyrim, part 3: run and bear it

Tom Francis at

I’m playing Skyrim with a rule: Illusion magic only. No direct violence, just pure deception. So naturally I'm planning to join the Emperor's army: the Imperial Legion. Last week, I was on my way to their headquarters in Solitude. I'm nearly there.

There's just one more mountain range between me and Solitude now. I skid down its far side, cross a river, and see someone running towards me from the distance. I should run away, but I wait - I don't see a weapon, and it's unusual for an enemy to head right for you before you even get close.


An Illusionist in Skyrim, part 2: Seeking Solitude

Tom Francis at

I’m playing Skyrim with a rule: illusion magic only. No direct violence, just pure deception. I’ve just reached Riverwood and exploited the locals into killing some bandits for me, then gone to sleep in the Hadvar family’s bed.

Because I am bad at basic arithmetic, I wake up at 4am. The entire family is standing around the bed, watching me, waiting for me to leave. It’s not yet light, so I sheepishly get out of their way and move over to one of the single beds in the corner for two more hours.


An Illusionist in Skyrim: Part 1

Tom Francis at

In Skyrim, a mage is an unstoppable storm of destruction. In real life, a mage is just an illusionist: they can't do much except trick you. If one of them turned out to be the world's only hope of salvation, hijinks would inevitably ensue. Hijinks and sudden death.

Since these are my two favourite things, I've decided to try playing this way. Skyrim does have a school of magic comprised entirely of illusions, and I'd tried it out on an ill-fated adventure in Now Playing a few months back. This time, though, I want to be even more strict: I can't wear any armour, hold any weapons, cast any non-Illusion spells, or ever attack anyone directly - not even with a punch. Yes. This is an excellent idea.