What’s better than roaming around the open world of Skyrim with nothing but adventure on your mind? Doing it as a badass, bloodsucking, darkness loving vampire of course. For those of us who played Skyrim when it first came out, the initial impression of the vampire mechanics in Bethesda’s sprawling Elder Scrolls epic was likely less than thrilling. However, things were improved immensely upon the release of Dawnguard and today are being refined and expanded even more thanks to awesome mods and Creator Club content.
In the interest of making this guide useful to as many players as possible, I’m not going to focus on modded gameplay elements, although I will list some fantastic vampire mods you can try out. Instead I’ll be providing comprehensive info on how to become a vampire, what powers you’ll get and how to mitigate weaknesses. I’ll discuss some awesome weapon and armour suggestions, show how to find them and will also outline a detailed vampire build with tips on which skill trees to invest in and which perks to select.
(Click the links below to skip further down in the guide to the selected section).
- Skyrim Vampire Mods and Addons
- Best Race For a Vampire
- Best Standing Stone For a Vampire
- How to Become a Vampire
- Vampire Powers and Weaknesses
- Skyrim Vampire Feeding
- How To Become a Necromage Vampire
- How To Level Restoration Fast In Skyrim
- Vampire Lord Perks and Levelling
- Best Vampire Skills and Perks
- How To Level Illusion Fast in Skyrim
- Decent Early Game Starting Armour
- Best Armour For Vampires
- Best Vampire Weapons
- No Vampire Playthrough Is Complete Without Your Own Undead Horse
- Vampire Playthrough Gameplay Strategy
- How To Cure Vampirism
Skyrim Vampire Mods and Add-Ons
As mentioned in the introduction, I wanted to write a guide that could be useful for as many people as possible, including those playing on consoles or who just prefer playing Vanilla. To that end I’ve only used one mod in this playthrough, which doesn’t fundamentally effect the build or play style, just where you start the game.
There are some fantastic mods out there though for those who are considering a more in-depth Skyrim vampire experience though. If you’re brand new to modding Skyrim on your PC you might find our beginner guide useful: How To Install Improved Graphics Mods For Skyrim Special Edition – Beginner’s Guide, which while focussed on graphics mods, will also take you through the basic of how to setup for modding. Here are some recommended vampire mods, if you’re going to give them a try:
- Alternate Start – Live Another Life: While not strictly a vampire mod, it’s got a great option for starting a new vampire playthrough. If you’re playing on PC or on a console where you’re able to install the Live Another Life mod, I highly recommend you grab it. It allows you to change out the opening of the game (which is a godsend if you’re a longtime player who’s already played through it countless times) and gives you the choice of a number of alternate starting locations.
Useful for us is the starting option “I am a vampire in a secluded lair”. It starts you off with having vampirism straight off the bat, which saves you from having to go and find some vampires to contract it. You also get a cool vampire lair as a starting point which you could use as an early game base if you so wished. Check out the video below to see what that start looks like.
- Better Vampires: This mod adds a comprehensive range of customisation options as well as adding a whole bunch of new vampire gameplay elements. It increases the ways in which you can feed on NPCs in game (e.g. you can feed on a staggered opponent in combat). It allows you to transform NPCs into vampires and have them become your loyal followers.
The mod also adds more detail to the powers and weaknesses you gain as a vampire. For instance, instead of just having a blanket nerf while outside in the day time, you’ll be more effected when standing in strong sunlight than when you’re protected by shade. The mod also introduces a completely new progression system which unlocks news skills and abilities based on how many people you feed off.
- Better Vampire NPCs: Whereas Better Vampires is all about your player character as a vampire, Better Vampire NPCs is focussed on the other vampires that you’ll come across throughout the world of Skyrim. This mod will expand the types of characters that appear as vampires, improve their appearance and make them scale in strength to use different skills based on your level progression.
- Sacrosanct – Vampires of Skyrim: More so perhaps than any other vampire mod I’ve come across, Sacrosanct significantly changes the gameplay of being a vampire in Skyrim. Like in Better Vampires, you get access to a whole new levelling system based on vampire feeding. But in Sacrosanct that system is much more nuanced and detailed. If you have the ability to mod your game and you want to try something a little different, definitely consider checking out this mod.
- Dawnguard: While not a mod, the Dawnguard add-on is a must have if you want to have a good time as a vampire in Skyrim. It rebalances the whole experience and prevents NPCs from constantly yelling at you. Basically, it makes a vampire playthrough a much more viable and enjoyable way to experience the game. Not only that but you also get access to a long and involved questline that gives you some awesome vampire related gameplay benefits like the Vampire Lord power and access to the Soul Cairn where you can find your undead steed Arvak. Most people reading this guide will likely have this add-on, as it comes included in Skyrim Special Edition.
Best Race for a Vampire in Skyrim
As with any build in Skyrim, there isn’t a hard and fast rule for the best race to play a vampire with. This is because any race can learn any skills and unlock any perks. That being said, the starting skill level bonuses afforded by different race selections as well as the racial bonuses you get based on your decision does make some races more aligned with our play style as a vampire.
The best race for playing a vampire in our opinion therefore is the Dunmer/Dark Elf. They have starting bonuses in a range of magic schools that we’ll be using as a vampire (especially Illusion and Destruction), as well as Sneak and Light Armor, both of which form part of our build.
Basically, Dunmer are sneaky mages at heart which fits in perfectly with our play style as a vampire. Not to mention the fact that they have a racial ability that gives a 50% boost to fire resistance, which removes the 20-50% fire damage weakness that comes with vampirism. They also get the Ancestor’s Wrath racial power which gives us a flame cloak that synergises perfectly with our focus on flame magic in the Destruction tree and is especially helpful in the early game.
Best Standing Stone for a Vampire in Skyrim
If you play the vanilla intro to the game (without using a mod like Live Another Life to change your starting position and conditions), you’ll come across the Guardian Stones very early, on your way to Riverwood. These are a fine choice, with either the Mage Stone or Thief Stone being the best option, for increasing XP gain for magic skills or stealth skills respectively.
Once you’re a vampire though, arguably the best standing stone to have active is the Lady Stone, which lies almost exactly due west of the Guardian Stones. The Lady Stone will give you a 25% buff to both health and stamina regen. This is very useful for our vampire build as it compensates for our lack of health and stamina regen during daylight hours, meaning we can much more easily travel during the day.
Good Starting Home Base For a Vampire In Skyrim
Not everyone feels the need for their own place to call home in Skyrim. But personally I always want to have somewhere that I can fast travel to and store cool items that I don’t want to sell but also don’t want to lug around with me on my adventures. Of course you could go the standard route and build your own house using the Hearthfire add-on, or buy one of the houses by currying favour with the various hold Jarl’s. But if you’re like me, you might be impatient and want to find somewhere more quickly and easily to serve you in the early game.
For that purpose, you really can’t go past Anise’s Cabin. Located in Falkreath in quite an idyllic spot, the cute cabin has veggies growing outside in a small garden. In the basement there’s an Arcane Enchanter and an Alchemy Lab which will be very useful for our build seeing as we’re focussing on Alchemy.
Once you kill the current inhabitant of the shack (sorry Anise), you can sleep in her bed, and all containers are safe for storage except for the satchel and the barrel in the shack itself. The dresser is fine to store things in (although all the items already in there that you take out will be marked as stolen) and every container in the basement is safe.
The video below shows how to get to the cabin from the Guardian Stones.
How to Become a Vampire in Skyrim
If you start your playthrough using the Vampire option in the Live Another Life mod you’ll be a vampire from the get go. If you start in the usual manner though you’ll have to acquire vampirism.
To become a vampire in Skyrim you need to be infected with the disease Sanguinare Vampiris and leave it untreated for three in-game days. This will then transition into full blown vampirism, with all the powers and weaknesses that entails. You can also gain Vampirism without catching Sanguinare Vampiris by siding with Lord Harkon in the Dawnguard questline.
If you want to catch Sanguinare Vampiris early on in your playthrough, without waiting for your encounter with Lord Harkon in Dawnguard, you can catch it quite easily from the low level vampires in Movarth’s Lair.
To reach Movarth’s Lair quickly in the early game, head to Whiterun and catch a carriage ride to Morthal. From there head due North-East and you’ll soon come across the lair. Make sure to stock a few healing potions or have a healing spell equipped. Then find the first vampire in the lair and keep letting it hit you until you see a notification pop up that you’ve contracted Sanguinare Vampiris. If you want to check at any time whether you have contracted it, you can look in your spells menu, under “Active Effects”.
Vampire Powers and Weaknesses in Skyrim
+20% Frost Resistance / -20% Fire Resistance.
|– Vampiric Drain.|
– Vampire’s Servant.
– Vampire’s Sight.
|– Champion of the Night.|
– Nightstalker’s Footsteps.
– Vampiric Strength: 5 points.
– Weakness to Sunlight: -15 Points.
| STAGE 2|
+30% Frost Resistance / -30% Fire Resistance.
|– Vampiric Drain.|
– Vampire’s Servant.
– Vampire’s Sight.
– Vampire’s Seduction.
| – Champion of the Night.|
– Nightstalker’s Footsteps.
– Vampiric Strength: 10 points.
– Weakness to Sunlight: -30 Points.
| STAGE 3 |
+40% Frost Resistance / -40% Fire Resistance.
|– Vampiric Drain.|
– Vampire’s Servant.
– Vampire’s Sight.
– Vampire’s Seduction.
| – Champion of the Night.|
– Nightstalker’s Footsteps.
– Vampiric Strength: 15 points.
– Weakness to Sunlight: -45 Points.
| STAGE 4 |
+50% Frost Resistance / -50% Fire Resistance.
|– Vampiric Drain.|
– Vampire’s Servant.
– Vampire’s Sight.
– Vampire’s Seduction.
– Embrace of Shadows.
| – Champion of the Night.|
– Nightstalker’s Footsteps.
– Vampiric Strength: 20 points.
– Weakness to Sunlight: -60 Points.
Becoming a vampire is a blessing and a curse. A blessing because you get a whole bunch of cool new powers and passive bonuses and a curse because you suffer from specific weaknesses and a potentially debilitating aversion to the sun. Don’t worry though, with careful consideration of your build it’s possible to almost entirely overcome the downsides, and to augment and enhance the bonuses. You can read more of perk selection and strategies in this regard in the section further down this guide: Best Vampire Skills & Perks In Skyrim.
Vampirism has 4 stages in Skyrim that you move between, based on the amount of time since you last fed (there is a section further down in this guide on feeding as a vampire). Every 24 hours you progress one stage deeper into your vampirism with stage 1 being the lightest experience of vampirism with the least benefit and least downsides and stage 4 being the most affected. When you feed on the blood of some poor unfortunate in Skyrim you will return to stage 1, no matter what stage you were when you fed.
To see the different effects at each stage you can refer to the table above, and for more information about what each of the effects and spells entail see the details below.
Champion Of The Night
This effect is permanent across all stages of vampirism and boosts the power of your Illusion spells by 25%. Because the illusion skill tree is a core part of our build, this trait is very useful.
Similar to the Champion of the Night effect, but aimed at our Sneak skill instead. Thanks to Nightstalker’s Footsteps you’ll be 25% harder to detect while sneaking across all stages of vampirism.
This isn’t particularly relevant to our build, but if you were thinking of creating an unarmed character, this buff to unarmed combat wouldn’t hurt. Vampiric Strength gives you from +5 to +20 points of extra damage when using unarmed combat, depending on the stage of vampirism you’re in.
Weakness to Sunlight
Weakness to sunlight os going to be the main issue we have to contend with as a vampire. Before Dawnguard (and still if you’re playing without it), you could argue that the terror you inspired in NPCs on sight when at stage 4 vampirism was worse. But with Dawnguard installed you can now happily pass through polite society with nobody batting an eye, no matter what stage you’re at. You have a weakness to fire, but that’s almost entirely negated by choosing Dunmer/Dark Elf as a race.
The one remaining downside that you’ll probably notice the most is your weakness to sunlight. Not only will you no longer regenerate health, stamina or Magicka while standing outside in daylight hours. You’ll also have those three attributes reduced by 15-60 points, depending on your vampirism stage. Not to fear, by taking the lady stone and wearing Royal Vampire Armour we can help mitigate some of these effects. Also, you’re a vampire, what are you doing wandering around in the daytime!
Spells and Powers
Vampiric Drain sucks between 2 and 5 health per second from your target (depending on the stage of vampirism the player is in) and adds it to your own health. This is a novice level spell and even at stage 4 vampirism, the full 5 health drain per second isn’t particularly awe-inspiring.
However, the spell becomes a lot more viable if the player sides with Volkihar Clan during the Dawnguard questline and completes the quest The Bloodstone Chalice. The quest involves filling a vampire artifact called the Bloodstone Chalice from the waters of the Redwater Spring in Redwater Den. When this filled chalice is returned to Castle Volkihar, you can then activate it at any time to receive a temporary passive effect called Blood Of The Ancients. The Blood Of The Ancients ability augments your Vampiric Drain spell to not only drain health, but also drain Magicka and Stamina at the same rate.
Note: When you first unlock the ability it will only last for one in game day upon activation. But you can complete the side quest Ancient Power. The quest can be completed up to 5 times. After each time completing the quest, the activate time for the Blood Of The Ancients ability is extended, up to a maximum duration of 9 days.
Vampire’s Servant is a power you can use once per day as a Vampire in Skyrim. It allows you to reanimate a corpse to fight for you for 60 seconds, once per day. The power of this spell scales with your stage of vampirism, with stage 4 allowing you to reanimate very powerful corpses.
Vampire’s Sight is personally one of my favourite vampire powers in Skyrim giving you night vision for 60 seconds. It definitely comes in useful during a stealth playthrough and while exploring dark areas of the game. Unlike Vampire’s Servant and other once-per-day powers, Vampire’s Sight can be used as many times as you like with no restrictions.
Vampire’s Seduction can be used as an alternative to the Calm spell from the Illusion spell tree (or in addition to if you want to calm an opponent but have no available Magicka). It turns a hostile NPC or creature friendly for 30 seconds. The player can also feed on characters under the influence of Vampire’s Seduction, instead of waiting for them to sleep.
Embrace of Shadows
Quite useful for sneaking, Embrace of Shadows gives the user 180 seconds of invisibility and improved night vision. Only available when at stage 4 vampirism.
Skyrim Vampire Feeding
To feed as a vampire in Skyrim, sneak up to a sleeping NPC in crouch and select “pickpocket”. You’ll then see a menu where you can choose to either pickpocket or feed. Choose “feed” and you’ll feast on the blood of your victim, resetting your vampire stage to 1.
Before Dawnguard was released, the main reason for feeding in Skyrim and bringing down your stage of vampirism was to stop NPCs attacking you on sight when you were at vampirism stage 4. Now if you’re playing with Dawnguard installed (as most of you probably are), there is only really the weakness to fire and sunlight that come as downsides with a higher stage of vampirism, both of which are mitigated by our perk selection.
This means that for the most part there’s not much point in feeding as it will only reduce your vampiric powers and not really add any benefits. If you have a PC and can install a mod like Better Vampires this will invert the feeding/powers relationship so that feeding increases your power, making it a much more useful mechanic.
As well as feeding on sleeping NPCs there are a couple of other ways to feed.
3 Ways To Feed As A Vampire In Skyrim
- Sneak up to a sleeping NPC. Select “pickpocket”. Then select “feed”.
- Use the power Vampire’s Seduction. Then select the NPC as if talking to them. Then select “feed”.
- Attack an NPC with the Vampire Lord melee attack until they’re almost dead, then use a melee power attack and the Vampire Lord will feed on the victim.
How to be a Necromage Vampire in Skyrim
You may have heard of people playing Necromage Vampire builds in Skyrim and boosting a whole heap of perks and effects. Getting the strategy right can seem a bit overwhelming when you start out. But it doesn’t have to me complicated.
The basic summary of the strategy is this. The level 70 Restoration perk Necromage increases the strength and duration of spells targeting the undead. Because you’re counted as undead when playing as a vampire this means that spells you cast on yourself, as well as weapon and armour enhancements and some powers and abilities also get the buffed power and duration.
One important point to be aware of is this – Some perks are boosted by Necromage (see the list here), but they only get the boost if they are chosen after you unlock the Necromage perk. So it benefits your overall build if you work hard at power levelling Restoration as quickly as possible to unlock Necromage and hold off on unlocking any of the perks that get boosted by it until after you’ve got Necromage.
Note: If you’re using the Unofficial Skyrim Special Edition Patch (USSEP) mod, the Necromage effect for Vampires won’t work as the mod patches it. If you want to continue using USSEP but also benefit from the Necromage effect, you can use this mod which counteracts the part of USSEP effecting Necromage: USSEP Necromage Fix.
How To Level Restoration Fast In Skyrim
Travel to High Hrothgar and walk out into the courtyard. You’ll find an archway with high winds that damage you unless you use the Clear Skies shout. Don’t use the shout. Instead stand in the damaging wind barrier and heal yourself continuously using a restoration spell. In the video above I’m using Close Wounds.
Remember that you’re going to level Restoration based on how much damage you heal, so make sure you turn the difficulty up so that you’re losing health fast enough to match the healing spell that you use. While Restoration can be one of the slower skills to level, this method should work quite well and level you relatively quickly.
Remember when you use up all your Magicka you can step back and wait for one hour to regain it, which only takes a second, and is often quicker than waiting for your Magicka to regenerate on it’s own. Also remember to do this levelling at night so you don’t suffer from the Magicka regen nerf caused by your vampirism!
Vampire Lord Combat, Perks and Levelling
If you have Dawnguard installed, in addition to the previously discussed improvements to the vampirism system, you also get access to a completely new gameplay mode with it’s own perk tree and levelling system – The Vampire Lord.
The Vampire Lord is a form the player can take after agreeing to side with Lord Harkon in the Dawnguard questline. The player can then use an ability at will to transform into a magic weilding, winged demon called the Vampire Lord.
Vampire Lord Combat
While in the Vampire Lord form you are forced to use a 3rd person point of view and have access to two primary combat mechanisms: Blood magic and melee mode.
Blood Magic Mode
While in Blood Magic mode the character hovers a foot or so above the ground and uses a modified version of Vampiric Drain, which is shot like a missile out of the players right hand. Killing things with this attack gives you EXP towards your Vampire Lord perk levelups.
Note: When you’re in Vampire Lord form your Vampiric DrainThere is a bug in the game that nerfs Vampiric Drain and makes it much weaker than it should be if you’re accompanied by Serena. If you’re playing on PC you can fix this with the following mod: Vampire Lord Can Go With Serena
While in Melee mode the Vampire Lord moves quickly on the ground in a crouched stance. Instead of using magic, the character uses their claws to swipe at enemies. In this mode, you can perform a power attack bite on low health opponents. While not activated 100% of the time, when this move is sucessful the player feeds on the enemy, adding progress towards perk unlocks. If the player has the Blood Healing perk unlocked (see list of Vampire Lord perks below) this will also completely heal the player when the power move is successfully performed.
In addition to the two combat modes, the Vampire Lord can also make use of a number of unique powers that are unlocked and enhanced via the perk system. These are called ‘Night Powers’ See below for a list of these special abilities and their corresponding perks. They are used the same as other powers but have a shorter cooldown and can be used many times per day rather than once.
Vampire Lord Perks
As you defeat more enemies with either the blood magic combat mode or with succesful power attack bites in melee mode you’ll level up your character and unlock new perks which can radically buff your power and ability as a Vampire Lord.
- Power Of The Grave: The first perk on the tree grants an additional 50 points to your Health, Magicka and Stamina while in Vampire Lord form.
- Detect All Creatures: [Night Power] Similiar to the alteration spells Detect Life and Detect Dead, Detect All Creatures goes one step further and also detects Automatons. Pretty handy.
- Mist Form: [Night Power] Transfoms you into a mist that cannot be hurt for 23 seconds. This is useful for regenerating Health, Magicka and Stamina without being attacked.
- Supernatural Reflexes: [Night Power] Works pretty much the same as the Slow Time shout, Supernatural Reflexes slows the world around you significantly while allowing the Vampire Lord a relatively faster movement speed.
- Unearthly Will: This perk reduces the cost of Night Powers and Blood Magic by 33% (the Vampiric Drain spell you shoot from your hand when floating is the default blood magic and there are other unlockable blood magic spells listed further down below).
- Blood Healing: Killing an enemy by using a succesful power attack bite in melee combat mode also heals you completely.
- Poison Talons: Adds an additional 20 points of poison damage to your melee claws attack.
- Night Cloak: [Night Power] One of the coolest Night Powers, Night Cloak summons a swarm of murderous bats to surround you during combat.
- Vampiric Grip: [Blood Magic] Grabs a creature and pulls it close to you, choking it with a phantom grip.
- Summon Gargoyle: [Blood Magic] Summons a gargoyle to fight by your side.
- Corpse Curse: [Blood Magic] Paralyses your enemy.
Vampire Lord Levelling
To level up your Vampire Lord you’re going to need to kill a lot of things with your blood magic or with the power attack bite in melee mode. Remember that the normal melee attack without using the power attack won’t level you up.
Of course you could just play through the game like normal and swap into Vampire Lord form whenever you get into a combat situation. But you may find that you want grind out some levels and need to find a whole bunch of enemies to kill for that purpose.
One viable option for this sort of grinding is to search out the Forsworn camps dotted round The Reach. They’re all full of Forsworn who you can kill without upsetting anyone, in fact you’ll be doing other Skyrim residents a favour, and you should be able to get some good loot in the process. The camps also tend to be fairly close together, so you can do them all in one session without too much travel. You can see a list of Forsworn camp locations here.
If you’re having difficulty taking out the Forsworn with your blood magic try setting the difficulty lower and you should have no trouble, plus you’ll still level up just as fast.
Best Vampire Skills & Perks in Skyrim
I won’t list every single perk to take, as this is just a guide, and you might like to take other skill trees that I’ve missed such as Speech or Lockpicking for your own reasons. But the following skill trees are the ones I’ve focussed on for this build based on synergies between their perks and effects which I’ll explain below.
I’ll just be pointing out the key perks in each tree. But obviously you’ll pick more than the ones listed. For example, in all the magic schools you’ll likely work your way up to unlocking Novice, Apprentice, Adept, Expert and Master perks to allow for better casting of spells at each rung of mastery.
Click on the skills below to jump further down the page to further information about reasons for their choice plus perk analysis.
Restoration is the first skill tree that we’re going to focus on levelling as it’s key to unlocking the Necromage system. For more information on this click here to jump back up to the Necromage vampire section where I show how to level Restoration fast and how Necromage can make a big impact in your power as a vampire in Skyrim. On top of the benefits from Necromage, Restoration is great for buffing your Health, Stamina and Magicka which all get nerfed as a vampire when you’re out in the daytime.
- Necromage: Get this first as it will trigger buffs on all eligible perks taken after. For more information jump back up to the Necromage vampire section.
- Recovery: Increases your Magicka regeneration, which is crucial as a Vampire that’s going to be focussing primarily on magic skills.
- Respite: Respite is your key to endless stamina in Skyrim. Once you’ve unlocked this perk, whenever you use a healing spell, it will refill your stamina to the same amount that it refills health. This means that if you’re running across the countryside you can spam healing spells as you go and never run out of steam.
- Regeneration: Boosts your healing spells so that they heal 50% more than they otherwise would. If you’re going to master Restoration magic you may as well be really good at it. Taken with Respite this also means you’re haling 50% more stamina as well.
You gain a permanent boost to staying undetected across all phases of vampirism, so it makes sense to capitalise on this innate strength. Also as you may want to be sneaking up on people to feed on them, having a high sneak skill is important.
Everything in the left hand side of the perk tree, starting with Stealth which gives you a greater chance of sneaking undetected an moving up to include Muffled Movement, Light Foot, Silent Roll, Silence and Shadow Warrior.
All these perks are going to make you harder to detect while sneaking, with a special mention of Silent Roll for being one of my favourite perks in the game. It makes moving around while in stealth a tonne more enjoyable as you can spam a nifty forward roll. This basically equates to being able to (almost) sprint while crouched. Because we’re not going to be relying on one handed weapons, daggers or archery we can completely ignore the right hand side of the tree, which deals with damage modifiers for those weapons, and save those perk points for other uses.
Like Sneak, Illusion builds on the innate buff to Illusion magic afforded by vampirism. You get a natural buff to Illusion magic as a vampire: the Champion Of The Night ability is active across all stages, which increases the potency of Illusion spells by 25%. I.e. Invisibility will last 25% longer.
Illusion also helps boost sneak with spells like Muffle and Invisibility. While Destruction magic will be our main combat mechanism in this build, we will also be making use of Illusion’s mind control magic such as Calm, Fear and Frenzy.
How To Level Illusion Fast in Skyrim
Illusion is one of the easier schools of magic to level in Skyrim and can therefore be used as a means to power level your character in general, by reaching 100 Illusion and then making the skill legendary and starting the levelling from scratch again.
The easiest way to level Illusion is with the spell Muffle. It’s an apprentice level spell, which you can buy from Farengar Secret-Fire, the Court Wizard in Whiterun. Once you’ve learnt the spell simply equip in either hand and alternate casting it constantly while travelling through skyrim. You’ll find your Illusion level shooting up in no time.
- Quiet Casting: You’re going to be sneaking around a lot. Unless you want you to alert nearby enemies every time you cast a spell, you’re definitely going to want to unlock Quiet Casting ASAP. This perk allows you to cast spells quietly, so as not to alert nearby NPCs.
- Aspect Of Terror: At face value, the Aspect of Terror perk doesn’t seem to be the most vital choice in the tree. It’s stated effect is to allow Fear spells to work on higher level opponents. This is useful to a degree, but you’ll likely get more use out of Pacify or Frenzy spells in your vampire playthrough, so you might not see Aspect of Terror as being a priority. Where it comes into it’s own is through the unstated side-effect buff that it can give to your Destruction fire magic. To unlock this bonus damage, make sure you unlock the Augmented Flames (1 & 2) perks in the destruction tree before getting this one. Check out this explanation of the Aspect of Terror fire damage strategy in my Spellsword guide here.
- Master Of The Mind: Allows your illusion spells to work on the undead, daedra and Automatons. I highly recommend unlocking this perk. It’s going to make your Dwarven ruins exploring a whole lot easier. Being able to cast Frenzy on pretty much anything in the game is a big help.
Destruction is going to be our primary combat mechanic in this build. I was tempted to use a dagger to take advantage of Sneak perks that give massive damage multipliers, or to level archery for the same reason. But I was determined not to end up making another sneak archer build. Plus, you’ll already be developing a large Magicka pool for Restoration and Illusion, you may as well consolidate your build full into the magic side of things and make use of that significant Magicka pool.
- Augmented Flames (1&2): We’re going to focus on fire magic for a few reasons. 1) It’s badass. 2) We can boost it with out Aspect of Terror Illusion perk (see here). 3) We already have an Ancestor’s Wrath flame cloak ability thanks to being a Dunmer 4) Out of Fire, Forst and Shock, Fire magic uses the least amount of Magicka, meaning that we have plenty left over for our Restoration and lllusion spells. Make sure to take both ranks of this perk before unlocking Aspect of Terror.
- Destruction Dual Casting: Shoot fireballs with both hands at once for double the fun. Does more damage plus allows you to unlock Impact.
- Impact: Allows you to stagger enemies with dual cast destruction magic. This is very useful for giving you a moment to swap out for a Restoratoration or Illusion spell while they’re recovering.
While many magic school users choose to focus on enchanting to make overpowered enchantments, I wanted to choose Alchemy instead because I enjoy collecting the ingredients. You can also make a lot of money from selling potions. You could choose to do both enchanting and alchemy but it’s a good idea to limit your focus on fewer skill trees so you don’t spread your perk points too thin.
It’s arguable whether this should be a secondary or a primary stat. It’s either very high in the secondary tier or lower in the primary tier. Either way it’s a must have. Personally I love collecting alchemy ingredients, which always makes this a fun skill tree to level up. You can use alchemy for healing, and for Attribute buffing to counteract the Vampirism nerfs. You can also use poisons with the Pickpocket perk Poisoned , which makes Alchemy synergise not just with the Pickpocket tree but also with Sneak and Illusion.
- Experimenter (1,2 & 3): This perk reveals more effects from alchemy ingredients when you eat them, with the third level of the perk revealing all four effects of an eaten ingredient. This is really useful for unlocking alchemy recipes and allowing you to make use of all the ingredients that you pick up. In the late game, if you’ve eaten one of every ingredient in the game, you can always max out your Alchemy skill and make it legendary to reclain the perk points and use them somewhere else. As once all ingredient effects are revealed you’ll no longer need the perk.
- Poisoner: One of the ways we’ll be making use of our Sneak, Illusion, Alchemy and Pickpocket skills all in one move is by stealthily placing poisons in peoples pockets to kill them. It may not be the most lethal combat move in the game, but it’s definitely one of the most creative and it’s a hell of a lot of fun. Taking the Poisoner perk makes these poisons do 25% more damage.
- Green Thumb: When you pick a herb, mushroom, firefly or other alchemy reagent you get not one but two of the resultant item in your inventory! Who doesn’t love a two for the price of one deal.
Seeing as how you’re sneaking around anyway, you may as well have a good pickpocket skill to steal stuff off people while you’re at it. You don’t need to level lockpick as we’re going through the thieves guild quest just long enough to get the unbreakable lock pick and then not progressing, so we get to keep the pick forever. This makes increasing your lockpicking skill very optional (even though you could still do it for the auxiliary perks like finding extra treasure). But we’re going to spend those perk points on Pickpocket perks instead which can add some great utility to our build, like extra carry weight. And of course the ability to poisin people by leaving our alchemy creations in their pockets.
- Extra Pockets: Increase your carry weight by 25%. Useful for us, as we won’t be prioritising Stamina increases with our level ups, so will miss out on the resultant carry weight buff.
- Poisoned: Silently harm enemies by placing poisons in their pockets.
- Night Thief: Get a +25% chance to pickpocket if the target is asleep.
The least important of the skill trees, but useful for a bit more survivability, and mainly for the stamina regen buff to counteract the stamina regen nerf from vampirism.
- Wind Walker: When wearing all light armour you’ll regenerate stamina 50% faster. This is super useful for our vampire when out and about during the day as it largely mitigates the effect of sun damage on our stamina regen.
Decent Early Game Starting Armour
The main criteria for picking armour for your vampire is that it’s light armour – so that you gain benefits from your Light Armor perks – and that it does something to boost your primary build attributes – Either sneakiness, alchemy, pickpocketing, Magicka regen or Destruction/Illusion/Restoration power.
While not an amazing set for the late game, the Thieves Guild Armor is a pretty good early game set for a few reasons:
- You can get it early on in the game very easily while levelling some of our key skills, plus we’ll be completing part of the Thieves Guild questline anyway to get the Skeleton Key.
- It’s light armour and looks pretty cool.
- It buffs carrying capacity and pickpocket success.
Best Armour for Vampires in Skyrim
We’re going to stick with the theme of picking armour that we find as part of questlines we’re pursuing anyway. For our next set of later game armour we’ll aim for the Vampire Royal Armour found in the Dawnguard questline.
My main reasoning for going with the Vampire Royal Armour is its hefty boost to Magicka regen of 125%. It also fits in really well from a lore standpoint and as a vampire there’s probably not a better loking piece of armour that you can find in the game.
Another great option would be a high level set of Mage Robes with added buffs to Alchemy, Restoration, Illusion or Destruction. Be aware that while this would provide you with some great stat increases, you won’t benefit from your Light Armor perks anymore.
Best Vampire Weapons in Skyrim
If you’re going purely for max damage output, your best bet would likely be a decent dagger and to unlock the Sneak perk Assasin’s Blade for 15x damage output on sneak dagger hits. If you were then to wear the Shrouded Gloves which give double damage to backstab attacks, you’d end up with 30x damage for your dagger hits. This is enough to one-hit most enemies in the game, eveb at harder difficulties, or at least seriously deplete their health.
In our build though, as mentioned earlier in this guide, we’re going to focus on Destruction magic as our main offensive skill. My go to spell is Incinerate, which, while not having the destructive power of Fire Storm, is a lot quicker to cast and more versatile.
No Vampire Playthrough Is Complete Without Your Own Undead Horse
Getting around Skyrim is a lot faster on a horse. They can also help you climb up previously unscalable mountains and are generally a more fun to get around than walking. The only downside is managing your horse to always keep it with you and prevent it being killed in battle.
Arvak, the undead horse found in the Soul Cairn totally avoids these downsides because you can summon it whenever you want and it doesn’t matter how many times it’s killed you can always bring it back to your side. Definitely the most useful horse in Skyrim.
To learn the Summon Arvak spell you need to complete a quest called Find Arvak’s Skull in the Soul Cairn. The tricky part of the quest is locating the skull without a map in the sprawling underworld of the Soul Cairn. Although, if you follow the video below you should be able to find it without much trouble.
Skyrim Vampire Playthrough Gameplay Strategy
Choose your standing stone, become a vampire, get Muffle, start power levelling restoration
- Once you’re either out of the vanilla opening or have started the game through the Live Another Life mod, head to the Lady stone so you can counteract the health and stamina regen nerf in daytime caused by vampirism. Click here to jump back up to the video: How To Find The Lady Stone.
- If you’ve started the game in vanilla skyrim without using the Live Another Life mod, you’ll need to contract Vampirism. Click here to jump back up to the section: How To Become A Vampire.
- Travel to Whiterun and head up the hill to Dragonsreach to buy some spells from the Court Wizard Farangar. Buy Illusion so you can power level Illusion and the highest level healing spell available. You may need to adventure around a little to save up the money to buy the spells. Once you have Muffle, use it to power level Illusion as you travel around. Click here to jump back up to the section: How To Level Illusion Fast.
- Follow the main questline as far as High Hrothgar so that you can power level restoration in the courtyard. Once you reach the courtyard, spend some time there power levelling restoration. Ideally until you reach level 70 so you can unlock Necromage. Click here to jump back up to the section: How To Level Restoration Fast.
Start with The Thieves Guild Questline
- Now you’re a vampire, you should have Necromage unlocked, and hopefully if you’ve been spamming Muffle as you sneak around you should have levelled your illusion magic up a decent amount as well. Now would be a good time to work through the Thieves Guild questline to get the unbreakable Skeleton Key. Head for Riften. An easy way is to fast travel to Whiterun Stables and take a carriage ride from there. When you arrive, find Brynjolf in the town square and talk to him to start the first Thieves Guild quest, A Chance Arrangement.
- When you’re playing through the Goldenglow Estate mission during the Thieves Guild questline you can drag out the mission by sneaking around a lot while using your vampire powers to improve your stealth. This is a good opportunity to power level your Sneak skill.
- If you end up in all out combat your Ancestors Wrath power is going to be your best friend. After using it, remember to wait 24 hours when possible so you can have it ready for use in the next combat. When entering non-stealth combat just cast Ancestors Wrath and run around the enemy shooting them with your flame in one hand and keeping yourself alive with a healing spell in the other.
- Continue on playing through the thieves guild quest until you reach the quest Blindsighted, at the end of which you’ll receive the Skeleton Key. The Skeleton Key not only looks awesome, but is also unbreakable and the only lockpick you’ll ever need. As we’re focussing on being a vampire in this playthrough and not so much on finishing the Thieves Guild questline, we’re going to stop progressing through the Thieves Guild quests as soon as we get the Skeleton Key, which will allow us to keep the unbreakable lockpick for ourselves for the rest of our playthrough.
Now Move Onto the Dawnguard Questline
- Now you’ve levelled your sneak skill up, picked up some Thieves Guild armour and secured yourself the very stylish and unbreakable Skeleton Key, it’s time to take your vampire powers to the next level by becoming the Vampire Lord. Start the Dawnguard questline by heading to Fort Dawnguard.
- Follow through the Dawnguard questline until you’re offered a gift of vampirism by Lord Harkon. Accept his gift and you’ll acquire the ability to transform into the Vampire Lord.
- Make sure to pick up the Vampire Royal Armour when you’re in the area underneath the castle. Click here to jump back up to the video: How to Find Vampire Royal Armor.
- Soon after picking up the Vampire Royal Armor, you’ll reach the part of the quest where you descend into the Soul Cairn. Near the enrance to the Soul Cairn you’ll be able to start the quest to find Arvak’s Skull and learn how to summon him. Click here to jump back up to the video: How To Find Arvak.
- I won’t list anymore of the steps in the Dawnguard questline so as not to give away spoilers. But at this point you’ve pretty much fulfilled the foundations of the build and it’s up to you to adventure as you see fit on your trusty undead steed. I would recommend finishing Dawnguard though as you receive a very cool item when you do so.
How To Cure Vampirism In Skyrim
So what if you try out being a vampire and it’s just not for you? Fear not, in that case, you can always cure yourself. You just need to follow the steps laid out in our very short visual guide story: How To Cure Vampirism In Skyrim.