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Characters and Balance

Discussion in 'The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim' started by Hircine, Aug 15, 2013.

  1. Hircine Gems: 1/31
    Latest gem: Turquoise

    Aug 14, 2013
    Likes Received:
    I played Skyrim in many ways, cheating by console, careful mathematical, logical analysis, role play, intuitive playing and throwing everything down the drain and turn happy-go-lucky while on the run from the law.

    During all these, I realised success is proportional to how well you are prepared to get it. So, in the gaming sense, your character and how they're built is a focal point in your ease of game play. IF you excel in Speech, Sneaking, Lock-picking, etc but end up toe to toe with a dragon.... well you can't lock-pick or negotiate with a dragon now, can we? On the other hand, going all brawn will not get you fine armor at cheap prices. So here, even if I'm not the greatest expert, I will slightly help your decisions on character builds. Should such threads exist, well, then, egg on my face! Or consider it a refresher.

    Phase 1: Race/Gender

    Unlike other TES games, gender starts to play a factor in Skyrim, due to two small, albeit relevant bonuses, the perk Allure, and the quest reward for the Heart of Dibella. These provide a price bonus with the opposite gender, or increase combat efficiency respectively. Although considered in-game as important (or the developers are quite cruel, making us lose a perk and do a quest for it), it isn't very relevant.

    Race, on the other hand, will determine a few bonuses.

    Skill distribution : With the abolishment of fixed character classes, the builds are more fluid. However, the starting bonuses are no to be taken lightly. Generally, Thief skills need more skill for greater chance of success and further fast development.

    Spells: Some races have a spell or two pre-learned than others, like the Breton's Conjuration

    Stat bonus: The Altmer were always considered the "mages" of Skyrim. In keeping with tradition, they are still mages, and even have an extra bonus to Magicka (specifically 50 points extra). A must-have for the extreme magic-guzzling mages.

    Powers: Your race gives you a certain power unique to that race. Some powers are quite valuable, while other powers grow obsolete over time in the game, or can be mimicked by other methods in the game. Examples include the Berserker Rage as a unique skill, Battle Cry as a mimic-able spell and also an obsolete skill, over time.

    Racial bonuses: All races have a racial bonus, except Altmer, who have the Stat bonus. These are constant effects and passively assist you.

    Most of the bonuses are resistances to something (50%, except Magic, which is 25%). Argonians have water breathing and weak Claws, Khajiit have Claws and Imperials have Lucky Find (which is finding more gold).
    Note: Argonians resist 50% disease, Redguards resist 50% poison, but Bosmer does both at once. Curious.

    Once you choose a gender and character, the game constraints you, a bit. I hope you made a good decision.

    Remember: If in doubt, just leap in and role-play. Later, you can return to actually win the game

    ---------- Added 13 hours, 34 minutes and 55 seconds later... ----------

    Phase 2: Levels and Perks

    This is a vital point in your character's abilities, obviously. Your levels increase in two ways:

    A: Skill experience
    When you use a skill, you get some experience in that skill, leading to the eventual leveling up of that skill by 1 point when the required amount of experience is acquired. Each level gained here leads to experience gained in the next part, universal level. Skill experience requires effort to gain, but an alternative is to train with NPCs. However, this option is limited to 5 levels per character level.

    B: Universal level
    This is your character's level, which is gained through experience awarded for each skill level. If you level up lower level skills, you get smaller levels of experience compared to the higher amounts from leveling up a already-powerful skill. When you advance in a level, your training counter resets to 0/5. Going several levels without leveling will not give you more chances. You have 5 chances to train each level; if you don't use them they are lost forever.
    NOTE: There is a increase in leveling difficulty by level 51, after which gaining levels is a struggle for each step.

    Now, gaining skill exp is vital in getting character exp, which is the main increase of the abilities of a character. For each character level, you get 10 points to distribute among 3 attributes, Magicka, Health, and Stamina. Additionally, depositing points in Stamina also gives 5 points to your Carry Weight. Each character level also awards perks, which can be put to use in making certain skill of the character get unique and passive boosts and abilities. For each skill level in a certain skill, the skill becomes stronger, or more efficient. Raising weapon skills increase the weapons damage output, armor skills increase armor effect, magic skills decrease the cost of spells in the respective schools, thief skills increase your success chance in the respective skill, or make it more efficient.

    Hence, your levels in skills must increase for you to be strong. Since your abilities can only go up instead of down, this part isn't much worrying.
  2. Vorona

    Vorona Shadow-Whisperer

    Jun 7, 2012
    Likes Received:
    This is pretty cool. The grammarian in me needs to point out, though, that you do not get 10 points to distribute among the attributes. You get 10 points and must put all of them in one of the three attributes. "Distributing among" implies that you can put, say 3 points in Stamina, 2 in Magicka, and the final 5 in Health. You can't actually do that. You have to put all 10 in Stamina OR in Magicka OR in Health. I'm sure everyone knows that, but for some reason it just stuck in my head and I had to say something. I am guessing you are going to add more and I look forward to your thoughts on balancing skills as you level (based on your title and your initial scenarios)!
  3. Hircine Gems: 1/31
    Latest gem: Turquoise

    Aug 14, 2013
    Likes Received:
    To err is human, so do let that slide.
    Yes, there is more to be added to this. Each phase of character determination is a fixed part, like the aforementioned character creation and leveling. The next phase will be the perks, then abilities/powers. After all the phases, the alterable factors like birthsigns, equipment and followers come. Of course, any experienced or even competent player would know all this, but this guide is for two reasons. It is for making custom builds and plans without too much complication or planning, and partly it is for me. I understand and grasp things when I write or type it down to read it again. So the guide is actually the basics, but you can't build a statue without clay now, can you?

    ---------- Added 1 hours, 9 minutes and 31 seconds later... ----------

    Phase 3- The Skill Trees

    Now we get to the parts which require thought and planning. The number of perks are limited, and assigning them has a great impact on the abilities of the character, your gameplay style, etc. Hence, the skills a character prefers is the core of any strategy.

    There are 18 total skill trees, and 3 types of skill; Thief, Mage and Combat, each with 6 skill, 5 normal skills and one trade skill.

    The Combat skills are the most blunt (pun intended) skills you got. This consists of all forms of weapon mastery, which means that to be a melee or even non-magic ranged fighter in the mid levels, you should assign a perk or two here. So, the Combat Skills are: Two-handed, One-handed, Archery, Heavy Armor, Block and the trade skill Smithing.

    Two-handed is wielding a very large weapon. The advantage is huge damage output and blocking, but the disadvantage is low speed. There are no technique variations to this skill.

    One-handed is more versatile, with variations of technique, one weapon and empty hand allows weak blocking and attack, dual wielding gives huge damage, but no blocking. A weapon with shield is the traditional warrior, balanced and versatile.

    Archery is the use of a bow to hit far off targets. Quite straight forward, like an arrow. Archery is an important part of Thief, and some may consider this vital in the early game, due to some fire breathing oversized flying lizards roaming around.

    Block is using a shield. While block is thought to be a defensive skill, the right perks can make it tactically offensive.

    Heavy Armor is the variant of armor which provides more protection, hands down. It also hits the armor cap easily, and some perks give the character a good offensive capacity.

    Smithing is the trade skill here, involving crafting armor and weapons and also upgrading them. The upgrading part is the important thing here, unless you want to craft and sell your creations. This is necessary for the upgrade of enchanted items, a common thing mid- to end-game.

    To level Combat skills, the Standing Stone of the Warrior is to be used.
    NOTE: This stone doesn't affect Archery. Wonder why....

    The Thief skills are the social skills of Skyrim, and notoriously hard to master. However, excelling in these areas can allow you to have a bit of fun in Skyrim, so I personally suggest a Thief character, just for the kicks. The skills include the directly criminal Pickpocket and Lockpicking, the less criminal Sneak and the not-exactly-criminal-but-still-thiefly Light Armor, Alchemy and Speech.

    Pickpocket is very appealing and quite fun, but the quests which require pickpocketing are rare and alternate methods exist, except in the Thieves Guild Quest.

    Sneak is an important part, as there are times when you need to hide. Also, some Sneak perks empower melee skills, and so can also be part of a Warrior build.

    Lockpicking is as the name says. There are many doors and traps to be unlocked, with treasure behind, but NOT a necessary thing. However, it is very useful in many situations.
    NOTE: In the previous TES games, there was an alternative to this, either by physical force (Daggerfall: Bashing doors) or the Alteration spell Open. Since I could find neither in this game, consider this skill carefully before commitment.

    Speech allows you to trade better, and also increases your Intimidation and Persuasion chances. Not necessary, but the alternative is usually a bribe, which costs a lot of gold.

    Light Armor is my personal favorite armor. It is harder to hit the armor cap with this, but not impossible. Light Armor focuses on evasion, quickness and the concept of a glass cannon with smooth wheels. One specific perk gives you stamina regeneration; useful, but the choice is upto you.

    Alchemy is a trade skill, involving combining natural ingredients and reagents to form potions. Personally, I don't like potions, as using them from the menu during combat spoils the realistic effect. However, with the right ingredients, you can craft potions and poisons, which would assist your Warrior and to a lesser extent, any other builds.

    NOTE: The thief skills benefit from the Thief Stone.

    The mage is a magic user, and magicka is required for this. Any build requiring magic needs to consider that as well. While weak in the beginning, a focused mage build can be terrifying by end game, at the expense of being a glass cannon. The Mage skills are varied and each make up for another aspect of a character.

    Illusion replaces Sneak and to a lesser extent, Speech. The Illusion skills focus on hiding and mind manipulation. The skill tree also has a perk which allows all spells to be cast without detection (more accurately, you cast them quietly).
    A must if you plan crowd control.

    Destruction is the main ranged damage dealer, replacing all the weapon skills. Since Destruction is powerful enough to replace close range fighting, while having some range elements to it, it is a useful skill, both as a primary or complementary skill. There are 3 variations; Fire, Frost and Shock, each with their tactical use.

    Restoration provides you with healing, mainly. But it also has protective wards (the magic shields, to be blunt) and methods to repel undead. The skill tree has an option to make the spells also heal Stamina, or speed up the Magic regeneration, or provide a last second lifesaving heal. An important skill in tooth and nail fights, or against huge numbers of undead.

    Alteration also gives the character alternate armor and the skill tree provides some resistance to magic and spell absorption, if you get that far. There is also the Detect Spells, which detect a type of unit in the general vicinity, the Light spells to illuminate the dark places, a handy transmute spell to get gold and silver from iron and Paralysis spells to provide a tactical edge.

    Conjuration is the way a lonely mage can get a friend to protect him. There are zombies, which are reanimated cadavers, and Daedra, which create the cadavers in the first place. At mastery of the spells, you can summon helpers for about 2 and a half in game years, unlike the few minutes previously offered. It also gives the aforementioned mage power over the souls of the defeated enemies, and the ability to summon ethereal weapons, if he prefers fighting up close and personal.

    Enchanting is the trade skill here, the use of a soul to imbue objects with magic. It can add a 'oomph' factor to anything, damage increase, skill increase, etc. One MAJOR part is how it can reduce, with the right perks, the magicka cost of 2 schools of magic to 0 (Zero, shunya in Sanskrit) (Nothing, absence, void) WHICH MEANS YOU CAN HURL ABOUT GODLY LEVELS OF POWERFUL SPELLS WITHOUT EVEN A BLINK OF AN EYE!!!!!!! This ultimately removes the need of Magicka for spells. If you craft 3 sets of armor with different pairs of Spell reduction in each, you will never need to use magicka, ever again. Making you, the harbinger of magical death.

    NOTE: The Magic skills benefit from the Mage Stone.

    Each of these skills are useful, depending on how you plan to tackle the game. Personally, I suggest One-handed or Destruction for any build, with Sneak or Illusion, Light Armor or Alteration and Lockpicking. Enchanting is also a must, no matter what. It's that badass. Even though unlike previous TES games, you have to choose your Major skills, Minor skills and main playstyle, and focus on it. The right decisions are important, as the Perks need to be assigned to them, and that, friends, is the meat of the matter

    ---------- Added 7 hours, 28 minutes and 54 seconds later... ----------

    Phase 4- Major and Minor Skills/Specializations

    This is one of the pseudo-phases, which is the result of hypothetical consideration of skills to be mastered as a vital part of the character, rather than just to make him strong i.e. consider this part fixed and concrete, even though it IS flexible.

    You need to divide skills between primary skills, secondary skills and the rest. But first, you need to think of a character specialization. This is what kind of a character your guy is.

    Let's say your guy has 10 parts, and you need to fill in the parts with the skill types, to determine which way he'll focus. Consider C- Combat, S- Stealth, M- Magic.

    Balanced Character - CCCSSSMMM, leave one out.
    This is the "equal importance" guy, who balances his skill.

    The pure mage. No other skill is considered.

    Thief - SSSSSSSSS(C/M)
    The thief, only stealth skills are important, but one form of combat is also required.

    Warrior - CCCCCCCCC
    The warrior, no brain, only brawn.

    Also consider a bit more complicated setup.

    Combat Mage - CCCCCCMMMM
    Prefers to gut you rather than fry you, but will do both.

    Mundane Assassin - CCCCCSSSSS
    Equal balance of stealth and combat, which provides stealthy kills.

    Spectral Assassin - MMMMMSSSSS
    The same as above, but magic related.

    Different levels of focus also play a part.

    Magic Soldier - CCCCCCCMMM
    Competent in magic, but not a master. The frontline guy.

    Fighting Mage - MMMMMMMCCC
    Skill enough to handle melee fights, but excels at spells.

    However, each type of skillset i.e.: Warrior, Mage, Thief, has it's own variations within. A thief can be either a profit guy (Speech, Alchemy), the petty criminal (Lockpicking, Pickpocketing) or the fighter (Sneak, Light Armor).
    Similarly, the Magic schools are varied and each has a different strategy to it.

    Hence, the skills chosen must be divided further and bit more specific. Say, take the example of the Combat Mage. Sounds like a fighter? Well, let's change that.

    This guy will take the Major (important) skills as Heavy Armor, Alteration and Conjuration, wit minor skills as Restoration, Smithing and Archery.
    Heavy Armor and Alteration provide him protection, Conjuration gives him an ally, Restoration lets him replenish lost life. Smithing lets him get the most from his armor, and Archery is the combat skill to provide offense.

    Now we got a tank-like character, although his armoring will be overkill. He can easily hit Armor cap at low/mid levels. So his description changes.

    So, I'll help you choose your Major/ Minor skills. Major skills must include one form of damage dealing, either direct or indirect. Minor skills also includes any trade skills.

    Also, there is one more thing: A skill may have sub-divisions within it.

    To be more specific, a skill might go two ways. Consider Conjuration. It can either be the conjuration the name states, or summoning weapons, or just Soul Trap. In One-handed, you can be a single or dual weapon user, and also specializations for each weapon. So, if you will take a whole skill, then it is major. If only part, and it's not very important, then minor. IF it contains only part but is vital, then Major.

    Considering all this, let me create a hypothetical character.

    Major Skills:
    1) One-handed, dual wielding and only swords.
    2) Light Armor
    3) Restoration

    Minor skills:
    1) Smithing, Light Armor variant.
    2) Conjuration, Daedric conjuration.
    3) Sneak, Surprise attacker variant.

    Hence, my guy is a sneaky, fast guerilla tactician, fighting and retreating, hitting from the shadows, calling in distractions. As a trade, he creates armor, while also helping him craft his weapons/arsenal.

    Since he's a guy with 2 combat, 2 magic and 2 stealth skills, he is balanced, but the description is otherwise. We ca show him as:
    CCCCMMMSSS i.e slightly inclined to combat.

    NOTE: You major/minor skills need not be just 3 each, or the same amount in both. All that is to be done, is to prioritize, imagine the character and the gameplay, and mold the character to the game.

    Phase 4.2: On what to choose

    The thing is, there are some things to remember when prioritizing.

    1) Have one form of direct combat anywhere.
    2) Have skills that complement, not clash. Using dual wielding with two-handed is stupid, only either one is needed. To further be stupid, add Block to it as well. On the other hand, Light Armor will give some stamina regeneration to you, for costly power attacks, or bow tactics.
    3) Just because these are the priority doesn't mean you should neglect the others. You might need to hide, even if you like getting into the thick of things. So Keep all skills one tier below the current, i.e, If you Magic is the main stuff and mastered to a Expert level, then you other skills must be at Adept or more, no matter what.
    4) Unless you're a mage, you need an armor skill.
    5) A single trade skill, which you deem the most useful in your game is needed. I humbly suggest Enchanting.
    6) Keep your Major skills as the most commonly used skills, followed by minor and then by the rest.

    Consider all this, and go forth.

    NOTE: By the high levels, you may flip out a skill once it reached the point where you master it totally, with another important skill. Keep doing this till you master everything.

    ---------- Added 0 hours, 31 minutes and 52 seconds later... ----------

    Phase 5- Perks and how a person grows.

    Perks. They are the focal factors in the Character build equation. I speak in this entire guide only for the vanilla game, and so, perks once placed can never be removed, and there's only 81 of them. This is where you need to plan the most, where to spend perks, and how.

    As said above, there are different ways a character's skill can turn out. This is controlled by perks. Perks also grant passive/special abilities, or give you helpful/tactical bonuses, or just makes a skills stronger, or better. There are a few repeating "types" of perks:

    0/5 perk: This perk has 5 levels, but only one is necessary to bypass this. All such perks empower something directly.
    0/1 perk: Adds a single skill, with a fixed magnitude.
    0/1 Tier perk: These are present in all the Magic schools, save Enchanting. Each such perk (there's 5 in each school) increases the spell-magicka efficiency.
    0/(2/3) perk: The rest. Provides a skill, or effect which can be raised in magnitude further.

    Depending on what you plan your character to be, you might spend perks to just bypass it, but when faced with a decision, value a perk at how many perk points you'd give for it, and then decide whether to select the prerequisites.

    Each skill tree has its own branching and divisions. Sometimes, to get a particular perk, there are 2 different paths to it. Usually, all the perks have as common which tree they belong to, and their effect and what it benefits. However, when a perk starts branching, then all the skills in one path have some slight difference to the other paths. For an example:
    Smithing has 3 branches from Steel Smithing, A Light Armor version, a Heavy Armor version and Arcane Blacksmith. Of the three, Arcane Blacksmith terminates after just one perk, while the other two provide smithing for one variant of armor, with both ending at Dragon armor, which has both Heavy and Light Armor. Hence, common factors can cause two paths to connect.

    NOTE: Once you go up the tree through one of two paths to a perk and get the perk, you can't travel down and get the other path backwards.

    Perks are a very complicated thing to explain fully, or even partly. My suggestion is to check out the perks available, then plan how you will get them, when and why. Make the right decisions. Your Major skills will have more careful and prudent use of perks, with the Minor skills coming second. To upgrade the rest or not to is upto you. In some builds, entire skill trees are just left, abandoned forever in gameplay. In my builds, the most dropped out skill used to be Illusion, Heavy Armor, Two handed, Alteration, etc. But never consider a skill useless, in active gameplay or otherwise. You might be surprised.
  4. Merlanni

    Merlanni Veteran New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!)

    Nov 12, 2005
    Likes Received:
    Good posts.

    Simple version: make the character that you want and stick to it. concentrate on a few key skill-trees and stick to it.

    My favorite build is dark elf fighter/mage. I use one handed, block and light armor on weak enemies, magic and bows on strong ones. I stay away from things like speech, smithing, heavy armor, two handed. I select destruction and restortation as dominant and add others later.

    I use training on skills I do not use much, like enchantment or skills that are slow to develop.
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