This powerful Skyrim Assasin build is based around a hybrid of Illusion magic and the Sneak skill. In this guide we’re focussing on up close dagger attacks, if you want to play a sneak archer, check out our Skyrim Archer Build Guide.
Note: You can put a few points into stamina and health if you wish, but for the purpose of this build, choose to upgrade magicka at most character level-ups. The reason for this will become apparent near the end of the guide.
- The Best Race For An Assassin
- How To Level Sneak Fast
- How To Get A Good Bow
- Illusion Levelling
- Easy Archery Level Up
- Valdr’s Lucky Dagger
- How To Get Gold
- How To Get Invisibility
- The Best Assassin Armour In Skyrim
The Best Race For An Assassin
Once you get to the character configuration screen the first thing you’re going to need to do is pick your race. The short answer here is, the race selection doesn’t make a huge impact on your ability to become a badass assassin.
For our purposes, I’m focussing more on the racial abilities and powers, instead of the bonuses to starting skill levels. This is because it’s easy to level almost any skill if you know how. For example, we’re going to be levelling our sneak skill to at least 70 before we’re even out of the tutorial.
Benefits of High Elf for an Assassin Build
- Our character is going to use invisibility to get up close and personal to our enemies before stabbing them to death in one blow with a dagger. So I want access to more magicka early on in the game to help level our illusion skill.
- The High Elf (aka Altmer) have the racial power Highborn which regenerates magicka faster for 60 seconds, once a day. This will come in handy when levelling and also when sneaking through dungeons with Invisibility before we’ve unlocked the Expert Illusion perk.
- They also start off with 50 extra magicka thanks to the their Fortify Magicka racial ability.
- They also start with the highest skill level for illusion at 25.
Once you’ve chosen your race, customised the appearance of your character and chosen a name play through the opening of the game until the point where you escape the dragon by entering the Helgen Keep. At this point you can follow either the Stormcloak prisoner Ralof or the Imperial soldier Hadvar, it doesn’t matter which for this build. In the play through I did for this guide I chose Ralof.
Follow Ralof through the Keep, collecting everything you can to sell later. If your inventory fills up, start dropping lower value items to remain unencumbered. Make sure to keep at least one dagger, one longbow and any arrow that you find. Loot all the Imperial soldiers’ corpses and take any arrow you can find.
How To Level Sneak Fast In Skyrim
You’ll eventually get to a cavern with a sleeping bear. Ralof will give you a long bow and teach you how to sneak. At this point you’re going to instead equip your dagger and start attacking Ralof (don’t worry he’ll forgive you). The video below by the awesome Youtube channel ESO shows you how to level your sneak skill ultra-fast by stabbing the immortal Ralof into a bloody mess:
Here are the steps to follow:
- Switch your difficulty setting to Legendary (so it takes Ralof’s health bar longer to run out)
- Start sneak hitting Ralof.
- When he’s bumped too far forward, walk backwards until he follows you and then sneak hit him into a rock crevice to your left.
- At first, you may not land a sneak hit on every blow. Once you gain a character level, choose to increase magicka rather than stamina or health (the reason for this will become apparent later). Then invest your first skill point into the Stealth perk in the Sneak skill tree. This will make you harder to detect while sneaking and you’ll likely find all your dagger blows landing as successful sneak attacks now.
- Continue levelling up your sneak in this way until you’re at least Level 70 and invest in all the perks except for Shadow Warrior, the level 100 perk. This is because our use of Illusion magic makes this perk less essential and we don’t want to level our character unnecessarily too early, which would lead to overpowered enemies.
Leave the cave system with Ralof and emerge into the outside world again. After you leave the cave, part ways with Ralof and walk towards Riverwood. On your way, you’ll pass the Guardian Stones. Make sure to activate the Mage Stone to help you level your Illusion magic shortly.
Speak to Riverwood merchants in business hours (8am to 8pm) to barter and sell all the random loot you’ve picked up so far.
You should have Whiterun marked on your map already. Once you’ve sold off all the gear you don’t want (which for the purposed of our build is everything except for your novice robes and hood, dagger, bow, whatever shoes and gauntlets you want to keep and useful miscellaneous items like potions and lockpicks) walk through the countryside to Whiterun.
Note: make sure to keep at least one healing potion to give to Valdr in the first quest coming up to get a dagger. Also, keep all your arrows.
When you get to Whiterun try and pass the persuade check to get into the gates for a free point of Speech.
How To Get A Good Bow
There are a number of unique bows in Skyrim that you can get later in the game that will make you a formidable archer. What I’m more interested in at the moment though is how to get a decent bow really early on in the game. My favourite early game bow that any player can pick up easily, even at level 1, is the Elven Bow in Jorrvaskr in Whiterun. This one is incredibly easy to get and will give you a headstart on your archery with a decent weapon. The Elven Bow has more than double the base damage of the Long Bow that you would otherwise most likely be using at this point.
Once again ESO Guides on YouTube has a great video showing you exactly how to find the Elven Bow in Whiterun:
How To Get The Elven Bow In Whiterun
- Walk into Jorrvaskr. This is the round building to the right of the middle level in Whiterun with the huge tree in the centre of it.
- Once you’re inside, turn right, walk down the stairs and enter the door into the living quarters.
- Turn right, take the first left off the main hallway and then open the first door on the left, close it behind you and you’ll see a locked glass display case on the left-hand side of the room. Inside is an elven bow and an archery skill book.
- Save before attempting the lock. Unlock the case and steal the bow and the skill book. If you break all your lockpicks load your save and try again.
For a video walkthrough of the above steps, check out the Early-Game Bow section of our Archer Build Guide.
Skyrim Illusion Levelling
The key to fast Illusion levelling in Skyrim (which gives us the use of the Invisibility spell for the ultimate assassin build) is the spell Muffle. There are a bunch of guides and videos online that recommend other methods which use Area of Effect spells like Rally. But after lots of trial and error, I feel strongly that the most efficient spell to use for power levelling Illusion is Muffle. Which is good news for us because it’s a cheap apprentice level spell which anyone can acquire easily from Whiterun’s court wizard in Dragonsreach.
How To Get the Muffle Spell
- Head to Dragonsreach which is the highest point in Whiterun (the building that looks like a cathedral).
- When you walk inside, ignore the request to speak to the Jarl and instead turn right into the room off the side of the main chamber where you’ll find Farengar Secret-Fire.
- If the court wizard isn’t in the room, wait until business hours between 8am and 8pm and he should appear.
- Buy the Muffle spell book off him.
How to Power Level Illusion Magic Using Muffle
- Equip Muffle in each hand and alternate casting between one hand and the other.
- Once you have enough skill points, unlock the Apprentice Illusion perk so you can cast Muffle for half magicka.
- Make sure you’re wearing the Novice Robes and Novice Hood that we looted earlier.
- Activate your Highborn ability to get a boost to magicka regen for 60 seconds as you’re doing this which will make the levelling even faster.
- When you’ve run out of magicka just wait for one hour and repeat. If you want to use Highborn again simply wait 24 hours and the power will be available.
- This will level your Illusion skill incredibly fast.
Don’t overdo the illusion levelling at this point because we’re not quite ready to obtain and use Invisibility yet and we don’t want to add too many character levels before we delve into our first dungeon to find out starting dagger.
Easy Archery Level Up
Before we jump into our first dungeon to get our decent early game dagger I want to level up our archery a bit so we can get some use out of our Elven Bow. This technique for levelling up Archery is fast and doesn’t cost anything. But we do need a bit of money to do it (don’t worry, we get all the money back). Once you’ve checked that you’ve got at least 300 or so gold and at least 20-30 arrows of any kind (iron arrows will do), fast travel back to Riverwood.
- Find Faendal, who’s usually wandering around town, sometimes to the left of the Mill. Talk to him about his problem and he’ll ask you to deliver a letter to Camilla Valerius. You can find her in the Riverwood Trader. Take Faendal’s letter to Camilla and chose the lie dialogue option. This will achieve Faendal’s aim of turning Camilla away from Sven, Faendal’s love rival.
- Return to Faendal and he will offer to become your follower. Accept his offer.
- Now ask him to train you in archery. Use the gold that you saved to pay for this.
- After paying for one level of archery training, ask to trade with Faendal and remove the money from his inventory that you just paid to him.
- Repeat this process to level up 5 times for no cost.
- You could repeat this process as many times as you like, as long as you have enough gold to pay for a single level of archery training (keeping in mind that it gradually increases in cost). After 5 levels of training, you just need to go up one character level to continue, which you can do easily by following the illusion levelling method from earlier in this guide.
ESO Video Guide for archery levelling:
For our purposes, we’re just going to get archery up to level 20 which will be enough to unlock the first perk in the archery skill tree – Overdraw – twice. You should have enough skill points left over to choose this perk twice. If not, keep levelling up your illusion or archery skill to unlock more character levels and perks until you can get two levels in Overdraw. This will increase your bow damage by 40%.
Valdr’s Lucky Dagger
While there are a number of more powerful daggers, the one we’re going to get first is Valdr’s Lucky Dagger. It has a nice 25% chance to make a critical hit and doesn’t have bad base damage for an early game dagger. It also looks pretty cool and has a good backstory. Most importantly it’s pretty easy to get very early on in the game. Before beginning this section of the guide, make sure you have at least one healing potion in your inventory as you’ll need it for the quest we’re about to do.
- You’re heading to Moss Mother Cavern. Put a custom marker on your map, West of Riverwood and North of Falkreath, just west of the river near where you found the Guardian Stones. Just to the east of the mountain range. You can fast travel to the Guardian Stones and walk from there or just walk from Riverwood.
- You’ll find Valdr sitting outside the cave. Give him a healing potion when he asks for one and agree to help his friends. This will start the quest Hunter and Hunted.
- Enter the cave and clear out the enemies within. You’re going to be facing three Spriggans and one bear. Use your Elven Bow to take them down from afar as Valdr keeps them busy up close.
- Save after each enemy, edge through the cavern slowly so you only trigger one enemy at a time. I was level 15 at this point and while the spriggans weren’t too difficult, if Valdr fell and they ran straight at me I would die pretty easily. If this happens load the previous save and try the enemy again.
- When you kill the spriggans and the bear, you’ll receive Valdr’s lucky dagger. To make your dagger more effective at this point you could put some spare skill points into the One-Handed skill which you would have likely levelled up a bit back when we were stabbing Ralof repeatedly. The only perk worth getting at this point is Armsmen, which will increase the base damage of your dagger. Keep in mind that the Sneak perks we unlocked earlier will give this dagger’s damage a 15x multiplier. Once we get the Shrouded Armour that will go up to 30x base damage.
The next step in building our assassin is unlocking the invisibility spell, so we can get up close and personal for our overpowered dagger attacks. That spell costs nearly 2,000 gold though. So before we do that I’m going to show you a really easy and quick way to get lots of gold and valuable items in Skyrim.
How To Get Gold
There are as many ways to get gold in skyrim as there are ways to play the game. Which is to say, there’s almost infinite ways to do it. But one of the quickest and easiest ways get some gold early on in the game is by visiting Dawnstar’s hidden chest.
You can follow my instructions below and/or watch JohhnySDVR’s YouTube walkthrough video:
How To Find The Hidden Chest In Dawnstar
- Fast travel to the Whiterun Stables, just outside the city and speak to the horse carriage driver Bjorlam. Hire his carriage for 50 gold to take you to Dawnstar.
- Walk along the top path into town until you get to the opening of a mine on the other side of Dawnstar.
- Crouch down and look in the clump of trees to the left of the mine opening until you get the prompt to open a chest.
- Take as much as you can carry from the chest. Focus on the highest value items and don’t forget to take low-weight/high-value items like strong poisons and potions. There will also be 750 gold in the chest.
Travel back to Whiterun and sell your stuff at various vendors, waiting 48 hours to reset their gold when needed. Your goal is to get at least 2,000 gold. Once you have that we’re going to go get our invisibility on.
How To Get Invisibility
- Take a carriage ride to Winterhold (or walk, or fast travel if you’ve already discovered it).
- Walk up to the entrance of the College of Winterhold where a wizard named Faralda will ask you to pass a test to enter. Her test is incredibly easy, you just need to cast a random spell. If you don’t have the spell she asks you to cast you can buy it off her cheaply.
- Once you’ve passed the test, Faralda will ask you to follow her, but she walks really slowly. So you can just run all the along the parapet and into the college on your own.
- As soon as you’re inside the grounds turn right and take the first door on your right into the Hall of Countenance.
- Find Drevis Neloren on the lower level.
- To be able to buy the Invisibility spell book you need to have an illusion level of at least 65. So if you haven’t already levelled this high, now’s the time to do it. Use the Muffle power levelling technique described earlier to get your Illusion skill level to 65.
- Wait for 48 hours so that Drevis restocks his inventory.
- Buy the Invisibility spell book off him. Read the book. Now you know invisibility.
Before we move onto the next section make sure you’ve unlocked the perk Quiet Casting in the Illusion skill tree so that you can sneak around and cast invisibility without alerting enemies to your presence. It would also make your life easier if you had Expert Illusion for half magicka expert level spells, but it’s not essential. If you’ve continued upgrading mostly magicka up to this point you should be able to use the invisibility spell regardless.
Equip your invisibility spell and your lucky dagger and you’re ready to go get the best assassin armour in the game.
The Best Assassin Armour In Skyrim
While many people settle for the Thieves Guild Armour or Nightingale Armour when playing a stealth character, these are both eclipsed by the Dark Brotherhood’s Ancient Shrouded Armour. The only problem with this armour is it involves joining the shadiest group in Skyrim, the Dark Brotherhood and carrying out a series of cold-blooded murders. Even for people who like to play as stealth characters, this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea (Although it is a fun questline if you’re into that sort of thing!).
Thankfully YouTube Skyrim wunderkind ESO found a way to get the armour without joining up with the murder cult. Watch his video below, or if you’re more of a written word kind of Dovahkiin, you can read the instructions underneath.
How To Get The Ancient Shrouded Armour
- You need to have learned up to at least Quiet Casting in the Illusion perk tree. At this point, I was level 17 and I was one perk off getting Quiet Casting. Use Muffle to get enough levels to unlock quiet casting. At this point, I’m now level 18, with 300 in magicka and not much in the other stats.
- Fast travel to Whiterun and walk north-east to find the Ritual Stone. Put a custom marker on your map here:
- You might come across some wolves or giant spiders at this point. If you do just cast invisibility (hopefully before they notice you) and run past them.
- Cast invisibility before walking up to the ritual stone and sneak up behind the necromancer. You should be able to one-shot him with your lucky dagger.
- Activate the ritual stone.
- Fast travel back to Whiterun and take a carriage ride to solitude. From here you want to walk west to Deepwood Redoubt. Use invisibility along the way there to avoid fights if you come across enemies.
- Use invisibility to get past all enemies. Use the door opening technique where you hold in your invisibility spell, open a door and then release the spell as the door is opening, or in the loading screen. This allows you to arrive at the other side of the door invisible.
- Once in the redoubt go to the end of the first hallway and open the gate.
- Sneak through into the next area, walk up the ramp to your right. go past the two forsworn.
- Run through the swinging blades trap.
- Follow this path around until you get to a room with an expert level locked door on your left. In this room go to the right and through a passageway that takes you to a bedroom with a sleeping Forsworn.
- Save your game. Sneak attack the sleeping Forsworn and you’ll likely take off about half her health. Immediately cast invisibility again and back away from her until you’re undetected. Move forward in sneak and hit her one more time with your dagger for the killing strike. Loot her body for a key.
- Use this key to unlock the door in the previous room.
- Sneak past the swinging gate trap.
- You’ll get to a narrow bridge. Run past the forsworn (don’t worry if they notice you) around the corner and up a few stairs to a doorway leading outside.
- Go through the door and you’ll immediately have a forsworn attacking you, just run past him and cast invisibility. Keep running until he loses interest.
- Make your way up through the various snowy platforms until you get to Hags End.
- Sneak past the two mages and a hagraven in the first room and make your way up to an iron door at the top of some stairs.
- In this next room, you’ll find more mages and another hagraven. As soon as you open the door, cast invisibility and sneak forward, past the enemies to a hidden stone door behind the throne.
- Cast the ritual stone power just in front of the stone door.
- Straight after casting your ritual stone power, run all the way out of that area. As soon as you get outside, turn around and you’ll find a resurrected Dark Brotherhood Assassin.
- Kill your assassin pet and loot his body for the ancient shrouded armour.
- Use invisibility to run past all the forsworn back to the door that leads into the redoubt. From here you should be far enough away from any enemies to fast travel back to Whiterun or whichever friendly locale you want to retreat to.
You Now Have A Totally Badass Assassin
- Wearing the ancient shrouded armour your dagger hits now do 30x base damage.
- Your archery is buffed by your armour by 35% and you have a decent starting bow.
- You high-level sneak combined with your invisibility spell lets you dart through any dungeon undetected and take down most enemies with a single blow.
- From here, Skyrim is yours. You could try upgrading your stamina and archery to unlock perks that allow you to zoom in and slow down time. You could also max out your illusion skill and learn the master illusion spells. With these you can set whole dungeons into a frenzy, attacking each other while you sneak around and pick off the stragglers.
- Thanks for reading guys, have fun 🙂
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