An Illusionist in Skyrim: Part 1


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 and sudden death would inevitably ensue. 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, so I'm sticking strictly to this. 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.

Straight outta Helgen

I create a High Elf, since they're good with magicks, and give her a good magician's name: Sarah The Implausible.

Skyrim starts with your execution, which is conveniently interrupted by a Plot Dragon, who deals exactly no damage and only destroys parts of the castle that are in your way.

"Could the legends be true?" a guard says.

"Legends don't destroy houses," another replies. OK, but the things they're about can, right?

When I have to choose who to flee with, a rebel or a guard, I pick the guard, Hadvar. He looks better equipped, and when you're partnering up with someone who can't attack, equipment helps. He suggests I find some weapons and armour of my own. I take them out of the chest to make him happy, then drop them all clattering to the floor when he turns around.

Stormcloaks! I hide in a corner while Hadvar deals with them. Spiders! I hide in a cave while Hadvar deals with them. A bear! I run past while Hadvar deals with him. We're out.

"Thanks for your help," says Hadvar, while I study him for any hint of sarcasm. "I wouldn't have got out of there without you."

You would and you did. He suggests we both head to Riverwood, then for some reason adds, "It's probably best if we split up."

That's an excellent idea for you, but a terrible idea for me. I can only use Illusion spells and I don't have any Illusion spells—that doesn't give me a lot of options where I stay alive.

Hadvar sets off, and I traipse nervously behind him. He stops, looks at me, then silently turns back and carries on. After a few minute's walk, he says "You should go to Solitude."

Wow, dude. There are nicer ways to say it.

"The Imperial Legion could really use someone like you." Oh. They could use someone who never takes any action, even when her life is in danger? How?

I am musing this, and examining some stones, when I realise I've lost him. Shit, run! No, sneak! No, there he is!

Just as I reach him, a wolf collides with the side of my face. Ow! Save me Hadvar!

Hadvar hacks the wolf down easily, then turns to me. "I'm glad you decided to join me." I narrow my eyes.

Reaching Riverwood

Soon, though, we've made it to Riverwood, and Hadvar's uncle welcomes us, coos at our story, and says we're welcome to everything he has. After an evening meal of everything he has, I cross the street to the Riverwood Trader to see if I can actually acquire any Illusion spells.

I'm in luck! The trader has Fury, which makes enemies attack whoever's nearest, including their friends. I have to sell most of what Hadvar's uncle had to afford it, but it'll be worth it. For me.

Spells come as books, though, and I can't seem to read this one. I left-click it, I right-click it, I drop it, I fling it into my face, but the arcane knowledge isn't transferring. I check my spellbook. I already know Fury. High Elves start with it. I could have pissed off everything in Helgen with this!

It's still early evening, so I have time to go for a stroll and enrage the wildlife for a few hours before turning in for the night.

A long, winding path takes me past some beautiful views in the twilight. When it ends, a bandit draws her weapon. Two bandits draw their weapons. Fury!

The woman flares red and hacks at the man. He's aiming his bow at me, but now he turns to her. As they whack at each other, I'm unsure what to do—what happens when it wears off? I Fury the man too, just to make sure that if the woman stops attacking him, he won't do something stupid like 'forgive her' or 'understand that magic exists'.

The woman kills him, then comes for me. I realise this plan had no phase two.

I sprint down the mountain screaming, jumping rocks and steep drops, buckling my legs as I go.

When I finally stop, there's no sign of her behind me, and I'm almost back at Riverwood. I could have led her back to Riverwood. I walk back up the mountain path until I spot her, then lead her back to Riverwood.

This still involves a lot of running an screaming, but this time I stop running and screaming occasionally to make sure she's keeping up, then run and scream again.

By the time we reach Riverwood, it's dark. I can still see, but no one's around to help—they're all in bed. There aren't even any guards. The only one out and about is the village dog. The bandit kills the village dog.

Jumping a fence, dashing past a panicked cow, I finally find Hadvar's uncle. I hide behind him, and the bandit steps around awkwardly to try to get to me. Eventually he tires of this and punches the bandit a few times for being weird. She turns her attention to him, and—weirdly—he walks calmly to his house and leans against the wall. The bandit keeps stabbing him, and I'm suddenly worried he might actually die. Should I Fury him?

I ready the spell, but before I cast, Hadvar's uncle slowly reaches for his mace, turns to the bandit, and bats her into a vegetable cart. She's dead.

"Take what you need my friend," he reiterates. "Within reason, of course."

I mentally nod, walk into his house, and lie down in the family bed.

Next: Seeking Solitude.