Most aspiring stealth characters follow the good old bow-and-dagger path, picking off their enemies from a distance or slitting their throats when the mood hits them. It's tried and true, but it is not always foolproof. You are not invisible - the possibility of being seen and overpowered by a heavily-armoured or magic-wielding opponent is always real, though become increasingly less common as your sneak skill improves. You have a weakness, though the AI is not smart enough to exploit it often enough to be a real hassle. There are times though, where certain boss battles and dragon fights may prevent you from striking from the shadows and can become bothersome to your deadly but under-armoured character. But what if you could become invisible? What if the enemies saw you only when you want them to see you? Where (almost) every battle is on your terms? There is a way friends, but to do so we must step away from the classic Warrior/Thief hybrid that constitutes the classic assassin archetype and delve into the magical side of things - a stealth wizard, if you will, but more commonly known as a Nightblade. Part 1: Setting Up Let's start at the beginning and set up your character. Race doesn't matter too much - you could pick anyone really. But here are some recommendations: Dunmer: I never used their racial power once, but the 50% fire resistance is very handy in mage fights, dragon fights, and when you step into a fire trap. Starting skill bonuses barely matter, but they do start with bonuses in basically everything we're focussing on. Also starts with the Sparks spell, allowing you to more effectively fight mages early game. Altmer: If you plan on just spamming spells, their starting Mana bonus and the Highborn ability will allow you to throw many destruction spells when you are forced to fight, or just spam fear/calm and walk away from everyone. Starts with Fury, an Illusion spell, and a magic school we will be using extensively. Breton: For the 25% magic resistance, of course. Starts with Conjure familiar - we won't be using conjuration, but it's the magic resistance that draws people to this race mostly, unless you plan on being a conjurer/necromancer. I personally chose to be a Dark Elf, partially for the starting skill bonuses, partially for the fire resistance, and partially because they, in the TES universe, fit the role in a roleplaying sense. Plus, my character looks BADASS. Now to plan out your character progression and the skills and perks you will be using: Sneak is a given - we are a stealth character, after all. You're going to want to get every perk in the Sneak tree, and as soon as you can, because the faster you become stealthier, the less vulnerable you'll be. Your first goal should be to get Assassin's Blade ASAP, because playing a Nightblade, or any stealth character, relies a lot on this perk. Light Armour will be needed. There are exceptions that I will explain later but for the most part you're going to need some kind of light armour on. It is much quieter and allows you to move faster than in heavy armour. Destruction will be your ranged mode of attack. Most of the time we will be using a dagger, but when you are forced to fight you will be able to call on powerful spells to blast your opponents away. You will use this more in the early game than the late game as it is more likely you will be discovered and forced to fight early on. Do NOT get all the perks in this tree - some are not needed. Illusion is the key to this mode of play, and also happens to be a magic school that the uninformed tend to dismiss as useless because it can't kill things. I will devote a section later to the use of Illusion. As far as perks go, you should get every perk in the tree. This school is incredibly powerful once you do. Part 2: Tools of the Trade Using Illusion Illusion Spells are an essential part of a Nightblade build. There are 4 kinds, and I will give a description of each and how they should be used. It is important to note that Illusion spells only work on enemies up to a certain level. While there are some enemies that cannot be affected, you can often overcome the problem with either a higher-level spell or by dual casting the spell, which increases the max level at which an NPC will be affected. Remember to get every perk in this tree - it will make Illusion your most powerful asset, along with your trusty little dagger. Fury: Fury spells, starting with the Novice level "Fury" spell, cause NPCs to attack everyone around them. You will be using these spells A LOT. You can clear out entire camps, forts and rooms simply by casting Fury spells until all the enemies have killed each other and only one remains. Thus, you do not have to do a lot of fighting yourself, although the enemy left over will probably be the most powerful, such as a boss character. You should get the best available version of these spells ASAP so you rarely reach the level cap. Fear and Calm: Fear spells cause enemies to run away for a period of time, while Calm spells cause them not to attack you for a period of time. Both should be used when you don't want/need to fight something - I frequently cast it on wild animals so I can just keep on running without pause (I don't fast travel). Which you use is up to you, both have roughly the same effect: the enemy doesn't attack you. Stealth Spells: Clairvoyance - when cast (you must hold it), a path to the current objective is shown. Sometimes comes in useful if you get lost or can't find a hidden door. Muffle - Cast this any time you go into a dungeon or enemy encampment or anything - it makes you absolutely silent. Not only that, it levels up your Illusion skill without having to be cast on an enemy. A must-have for a stealth character. Invisibility - I am baffled to this day why such a powerful spell is only Expert level rather than Master; IMO, it should have been the only Master level Illusion spell, and it would totally be worth the wait. As it is, you need only be level 75 to purchase this spell from Drevis Neloren at the College of Winterhold. It makes you invisible for 30 seconds (longer if dual cast) or until you interact with/attack something. Once you get this spell, almost any troubles you may have been having with stealth will be gone - Backstabs will be easy peasy lemon squeezy. Note: The Master level Illusion spells, though you should definitely get them, are AOE spells that are used as an oh-plops button or to affect large groups of enemies. Most of the time, stick with the expert-level spells and, if you have a large group of enemies, use the Master ones by going invisible, getting close to them, then casting it and running away(if it's Mayhem) or keep going (if it's Hysteria or Harmony). Destruction: Your elementary back-up Should you get into an actual battle, you will need more than your little dagger to fight back. That's what destruction is for - you are a mage after all. You will always want the newest and highest level spells you can get because it will increase your damage output dramatically. They do, of course, cost a lot of mana, but you're going to be getting a huge mana pool anyway and if you're an Altmer it's not an issue. Note that while you can use Runes, it's not really necessary to use them and most of the time you're being aggressive, not defensive. You can safely skip them. Also, don't bother with the Intense Flames perk - we don't want them to run away, we want them to stand there like idiots and be burned to a crisp. Disintegrate is a tasty bonus, but if you have other perk priorities you can safely skip it. You should get Deep Freeze though. A quick overview of the three types of Destruction spells (doesn't require a big explanation, it's simple): Fire Spells do raw damage and cause targets that are on fire to take even more damage from subsequent attacks. Use against most targets, especially trolls and the undead (includes vampires). Frost spells damage health and stamina - use on heavily armoured and melee enemies. Shock Spells damage health and mana - use on mages to prevent them from casting at you. The exception is the Master spells, which obliterate anything. Which one you use pretty much comes down to, well, whichever you feel like using. Your Little Blade Ah, the dagger - without you this build would be a lot harder. The dagger is light, has a very fast attack and, critically, does 15x damage when you stealth attack and have the Assassin's Blade perk in the Sneak Tree. It is this that will make your dagger your Primary weapon - eventually, almost everything will die in one hit from it should you plan things right. But which one to use? Candidates: Glass: Since we're using light armour, you'll be able to max out the improvements to Glass Daggers and turn them into very deadly little tools, moreso than a Daedric Dagger you can't upgrade. You can also add your own enchantment(s) to suit your fancy. Daedric: You'll want to wear light armour regardless, but if you want to waste some perks to get Daedric smithing so you can upgrade a Daedric dagger fully, you will have a far more effective weapon than Glass. Again, you can add whatever enchantments you fancy. Blade of Woe: A very good dagger, better than Daedric, rewarded for completing a quest for the Dark Brotherhood. It has an absorb health enchantment on it, but you can make a more powerful one yourself. Mehrunes' Razor: A reward from Mehrunes Dagon for doing his bidding in the quest "Pieces of the Past", this dagger is similar to a daedric dagger with the exception that it has a 3% chance to instantly kill anything in the game. ANYTHING. It's not reliable, to be sure, but it worth getting simply because of that bonus. Of course, if you want your own enchantments, get a Daedric or glass dagger by all means - that enchantment will always work. *I personally use Mehrunes' Razor. The Clothes on Your Back Light Armour, all the way. It is quieter and does not encumber you as much as heavy. Plus, the Wind Walker perk gives you a stamina bonus for wearing it. You'll want to get Elven ASAP, and Glass ASAP after that. You'll be sticking with Glass until you get Dragonscale, which is the best Light Armour there is. You'll need to kill some Dragons though, and if you're like me, you're doing the main quest LAST, so you may have your Glass for quite a while. Alternatives: Shrouded Armour and Nightingale Armour (form the Dark Brotherhood and Thieves Guild respectively) are both excellent for stealth characters. They don't offer as much protection as the craftable armours, but provide useful enchantments to aid your abilities. Shrouded Armour gives you - 50% poison resistance (armour) x2 backstab damage (gloves) 20% more damage from bows (cowl) Muffled movement (boots) Nightingale Armour gives you (attributes vary by player's level) - Increased Stamina and Frost resistance (armour) muffled movement (boots) lockpicking is easier and one-handed attacks do more damage (gloves) Illusion spells cost less mana (hood) Which to take? The 2x backstab damage from the shrouded gloves is beast. It gives you 30x damage with your dagger. I would advocate wearing those gloves and everything else Nightingale, but there's a light armour perk that gives you an armour bonus for wearing a matching set of armour, which that would negate. Ultimately, it's up to you. *I took Nightingale. Being Dunmer, I had 50% resistance to Fire. Players lvl 32 and beyond get a 50% frost resistance from the armour piece, meaning I was now 50% resistant to two of the three forms of destruction magic. This made fighting mages easier (I slapped on my old Glass armour and later my Dragonscale armour when fighting dragons though). I had lockpicking maxed out, so the gloves made it even easier, and the hood allowed me to spam even more Illusion spells. Plus, it looks BADASS. Ok, I'm tired. Part 3 is coming soon. Feedback is appreciated. See ya 'round.