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The Life of an Assassin in Skyrim (Character Build)

Discussion in 'General Skyrim Discussion' started by The Balance, Dec 4, 2011.

  1. The Balance Own Face.

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    All, wrote up this piece over the weekend - having a blast playing through Skyrim with it. Hope everyone enjoys it as well. If you like this piece, you can check out this article and all the other one's I've written about Skyrim on my website.

    Thanks to the revamped leveling system in The Elder Scrolls 5 - Skyrim, you're more or less free from the stigma of creating and sticking with a certain class, and are left free to make decisions on your play style(s) as you progress throughout the game.

    Needless to say, this does little to discourage most 'power-players' - those who want the most out of their character build - from deciding early on how they wish to develop their character, and sticking with it.

    Throughout Oblivion, I was able to skate by relatively easily playing a stealth/archery focused character. Sneak attacks were outstanding damage, and the stealth aspects of the game added an additional level of complexity to approaching situations.

    When playing an assassin you're often left asking yourself a few questions before approaching combat - like wondering where the light sources are, or if an enemy has line of sight to you. Perhaps you're one of those super-patient players that sits still awhile and watches the movement patterns of enemies for a few minutes before deciding the best course of action. I've never been that patient, but thankfully the damage-dealing capabilities of a few of the enemies in skyrim force you to take stock of your situation before moving forward. Failure to do so will often result in reloading your most recent saved games, as failed assassination attempts are usually disastrous against multiple stronger opponents.

    Now, while the build I'm about to discuss is (I'm sure) nowhere near the best or most optimized for damage dealing, I feel it poses an excellent representation of the assassin play style that so many of us have come to love over years of gaming.

    Starting off is pretty simple, you want to make sure you always have light armor on, this lets you move faster and makes less noise - the lighter your armor, the harder you are to detect. That's important.

    You want to take your first perk, when you reach level two, and dump it right into the stealth tree. This will make you 20% harder to detect - enabling you to get many more sneak attacks, and give you much more time sneaking (and raising the skill) before you are detected.

    Leveling from here is best done from a melee approach first, and a ranged approach second. Stick with the dagger and a light shield (DO NOT DUAL WIELD). Why no dual wielding? Without the shield to block, interrupt, and mitigate damage, you'll be extremely vulnerable to groups of enemies, and anything (of reasonable strength) that survives your initial back stab.

    The fastest way to go about leveling this build is by sneak attacking in early levels. Take your time through smaller dungeons, and stay in stealth (by pressing the control key). Keep an eye on where enemies are facing, if they're walking, and whether or not there's a huge light source you'll have to walk into before getting to them. When you start to get close (15 feet), press the caps-lock key to turn OFF auto-run, and slow yourself down. This is crucial as until you reach higher levels of stealth, you won't be able to run when you're close to enemies unless you want them to have an excellent chance of spotting you.

    Approach enemies from the sides or rear if you can, but avoid being in their line of sight if you're in a lighted area, and/or if you're closer than 15 feet. Once you're in range, you can hold the W key down and do a power attack forward with your dagger, closing the distance on your enemy and executing the back stab for crazy damage. This is important to execute correctly, and it takes PRACTICE. A successful back stab will, up until level 50 or so, automatically grant you an additional level of stealth, and thus enable you to level your character quickly. Take everything in the stealth tree, up to the 6x and 15x back stab multipliers as soon as they becomes available.That's your goal - get those perks.

    *Note, its not necessary to power attack with a back stab. The damage multiplier comes off the weapon, not the attack type. Take careful note of this, because if the enemy is slow enough to turn around, you can back stab them multiple times. If you can pull this off, you can even kill dragons before they get a single attack on you.

    *Also of note, back stabbing dragons is extremely rare, you can spend hours and multiple save attempts trying, often its just easier to bow them down. Random-encounter dragons will just fly away if you stealth too long.

    In leveling, you're bound to also get other skill-ups, specifically for one handed weapons from using the dagger. You should spend any extra perks not immediately spent in stealth in the one handed skill tree, in the armsman skill. There are only five ranks in this perk, but all increase your one handed damage by 20% each. That includes daggers, which includes back stab damage.

    Once you've got your level 50 sneak skill, you should also get the silent roll perk. This enables you to close the distance on enemies quickly and SILENTLY while tapping the ALT key, and moving forward while running and sneaking. Very useful, but takes some practice to get good with. It's important to realize that this doesn't mean you have to roll in a straight line - you can direct the roll with your mouse, just as if you're sprinting. This lets you roll around corners, away from spells, etc. with some practice.

    You'll have extra perks backstabbing your way to 50, and eventually 70 stealth - where you'll get the fantastic perk called silence - which makes running while sneaking viable at all times, as it no longer effects enemy detection.

    Once you've got assassin's blade, you'll notice that it's not particularly useful in all situations - no matter how much you want it to be. On your way there, with some of those extra perk points, go ahead and throw a few in archery, overdraw to be specific, and start to level that tree up. This will give you a ranged option to opponents that are out of reach. It will also be your primary damage dealer against dragons and most bosses, as trying to back stab them is nearly impossible without a lot of saving and loading the game.

    When leveling, be sure to level Hit Points and Stamina on a 2/1 ratio, respectively. Stamina will allow you to utilize your silent roll more frequently (You won't ever really need more than 200 Stamina, level HP exclusively once you're there), and hold a drawn bow for longer while zoomed in and observing enemies. Both crucial to your survival. Don't bother with Magic (yet). As with all characters, Enchanting is a fine profession to take up if you're bored.

    The real shining moments from this class come not only the involved game play of having to precisely time your attacks and offensive strategies, but also in watching your enemies nearly explode when you hit them and receive that 15x damage multiplier. It never fails to bring a smile to your face.

    One last piece of advice regards to shouts, the throw voice shout is pivotal to your distraction capabilities. You can not only scout ahead with it by shouting across a room while sneaking, but you can divert attention away from you so that you can bypass enemies, or line up some bow-shots, or perhaps more importantly - you can get someone to investigate something and turn their back to you. Very Sneaky.

    And finally, you shouldn't plan on going through extensive melee combat with your dagger. After your back stab attempt, swap out. Either progress up the one handed tree and select a favorite weapon, or go 2-3 perks into the conjuration tree and summon some pain. Conjured weapons are a fine substitute for real ones, although they can not be enchanted - summoning a powerful bound sword only requires two perks up the conjuration tree, for novice conjuration and mystic binding.

    I hope you enjoy this build for what it's worth, you're a subtle powerhouse with a lot of burst damage at your disposal. Certainly not for the ultra-impatient, but I'd encourage anyone looking for a change of pace in Skyrim to give this a shot.


    If you enjoyed this article and want to read more, I've got a whole bunch about Skyrim (and other games) on my website. Thanks for reading!
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  2. The Balance Own Face.

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    Updated this article with a few notes submitted from readers, thanks again to all who contributed!
  3. Agincourt 'Cry God for Harry, England and Saint George!'

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    Sorta of what my rerolled Assassin is using altho never thought about switching to conjured weapons nice post mate , might need breaking down a bit more for the the newbies tho, a more step by step guide but as a experianced player it made sense to me!
  4. The Balance Own Face.

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    Step by step is tough, as leveling can often be unpredictable. But I see where you're going with that - I'll take that into account with my next build article, thanks!
  5. thecelticlatino Active Member

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    Looks good, definitely something to be considered for my next stealth character. Thanks.
  6. The Balance Own Face.

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    Shadow Warrior is insanely fun. Confusing enemies mid-combat by re-sneaking is priceless - some of the stuff that they say really shows how much attention to detail Bethesda paid towards their voice actors and scripts.
  7. Panthera Don Gato

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    Nice thread. I agree with most of it. I have also thought about conjuration, but here where is my opinion differs from yours... It would be nice to conjure 2 swords plus combine with illusion quiet casting and later on having invisibility spell to combine with the last perk in sneak tree. I strongly disagree about not using dual sword! Why? What kind of assassin brings with him a shield? Another reason why I play with dual sword as assassin. It's becouse no one can say I'm playing like a coward. If im cought than i face my problems head on. And dual sword it's way to awsome to cast it away and suits well to assassin characters! The rest it is a nice guide for the new ones or players who want to try diffrent style of playing.
  8. ActOfGod Let's kill someone!

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    I think I am going to substitute your shield with a nice, enchanted sword. No swapping necessary if sh** goes down. Just start hackin' and slashin', maybe run away and start shootin' meh bow away. I mean, I haven't even gotten the game yet, but I know more than probably half the people who are a few levels in :D
    Panthera Tigris likes this.
  9. Migaluch Member

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    Really enjoyed the article, then checked out the website and liked that piece on useless perks. This definitely makes me want to make an assassin character, as I play a warrior-esque one right now. Do you plan on writing about warrior and mage builds at all? I'm sure that they are very different than the assassin build, but there still should be enough strategy about them to make a good article. I think it would be neat to read about how to utillize blocking and bashing most effectively, as well as a comparison of using swords, axes, or maces, and if their perks are worth it. Thanks for contributing to the community!
  10. The Balance Own Face.

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    Thanks for the support - I'm glad you've liked what I put up so far! Yeah, I plan on going into Mage and Warrior builds, and even a mage/warrior hybrid build I'm having a ton of fun playing. I like to keep things varied, as you can see Skyrim is hardly the only game I write about on my website :) But stay tuned, a new build will be out early this week :)
  11. The Balance Own Face.

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    It's so crucial to understand the importance of using a bow and raising archery as your main source of damage once you break stealth. Higher level archery perks as incredibly worth it.
  12. ActOfGod Let's kill someone!

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    I think I'm going to duel wield daggers and use a bow. I'll put most of my points into stealth and level that first. Then I will level both archery and one-handed and what not to get some extra dagger damage. I'll also put points into things like locksmithing, pickpocket(probably only the insert poison one, looks like it could be useful), and maybe alchemy. Just a little to help my life as a Thief and Dark Brotherhood member, once I get the game that is.
  13. Panthera Don Gato

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    Just one advice when you get detected, change from daggers to swords. Becouse you will do more damage, considering that as dual wielder you can't block yourself, your aim is to finish fight as soon as posible.
  14. Nightmare Shadow Master of Shadow

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    From my experience, my dps with daggers is higher than with swords. You see, my dagger weighs 2.5 lbs, where as a sword is heavier which means it swings less. Over all, I think a speedy dagger is key for the assassin. But to each his/her own, that's the great part about this game.
  15. ActOfGod Let's kill someone!

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    And I believe with the way I'm going into my builds, I'm getting a lot of extra dagger damage. I plan to kill with long, hidden shots and to slit throats from behind. Not sure if I even want to bother with poisons. I'll probably stay mostly Sneak, Archery, and a few one handed. I'll go a little into Illusion I think it is to get silent casting so I can do the invisibility spell, possibly into light armor to make it weight nothing(although I'm not sure if that factors into to sneaking. Can someone clarify whether armor weights makes a difference in silence?), and then, as I said, a little pickpocket and lockpick for my thiefery needs.

    Oh, and I guess smithing and enchanting to create my own armor and make it beastmode.
  16. Panthera Don Gato

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    True, but i kind found much easiar and faster to deal with enemies with swords, than with dagers. From the same reason i didnt mention maces wich are havier and do just few hit points more than sword.
  17. Nightmare Shadow Master of Shadow

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    If I were you, I'd delve into the poison and potion world. I mean after all a thief/assassin needs to make the most of what they can. The majority of the stuff used for alchemy can be found whilst wandering around Skyrim, plus if you ever are in desperate need of coin, just make an expensive potion you wouldn't use and sell it.
    Panthera Tigris likes this.
  18. Panthera Don Gato

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    I agree with nightmare shadow... if you consider enchanting, you could use few perks in conjuration, soul bind for soul traping with bound swords to fill soul gems.
  19. Nightmare Shadow Master of Shadow

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    In this game you do what works for you. I do keep a sword on hand for the case when I need to deal actual damage, however, I just made my new assassin, so I will keep everyone up to date on how the damage comes out with both swords and daggers. That said, I have a question.... Glass sword/dagger versus Daedric sword/dagger.
  20. Panthera Don Gato

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    I would go for daedric dagger vs glass sword, maybe even vs glass dagger.

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