The Elder Scrolls

A compilation of mods for mage and magic-related characters.

This will be a lengthy post, and the main inspiration for it is annoyance. Several times a month, I see a new post on the front page going "What mods should I use for a mage" and three comments underneath, all recommending Apocalypse. So instead I'm going to make a post with a bunch of recommendations and comparissons for a bunch of different builds, with the main goal being linking this post to anyone who asks for mage mods in the future, so that they may pick and choose according to their preferences. A few things to keep in mind:

  • This will be centered around SSE, and I will not be recommending anything that one would have to port themselves, so Lost Grimoire and Requirem are out of the discussion;
  • I have not, nor will I ever live long enough to come into contact with every single mod on the Nexus, so if you feel like I've missed something, feel free to bring it up below;
  • Some mods suit certain play styles better than others, so don't take any negative comparissons as anything against the mod or the author. Nothing can make every single person happy, and that's fine;
  • I have never played with a controller, therefore I have no idea what is needed to improve QoL on one, so I'm no touching on that topic either.

QUALITY OF LIFE

Let's start with the most important mod one needs in order for mages to even be a playable class in Skyrim, namely Serio's Cycle Hotkeys. This is by no means the only hotkey mod you could use, but as far as I'm concerned, it's the best. It's incredibly fast and responsive, you can load up to 15 different spells/powers on a single hotkey, it's independent of the favorites menu. With this mod, you can actually make full use of the spellbook.

Next up are a few mods to improve character progression. I have found that Experience is a must have as a mage character. You are using way too many skills at a time, you're leveling way too fast, rushing past the early and into the mid game within the first 3 hours of a playthrough. Experience slows down your pace by a bit. Challenging Spell Learning also gives your spell progression a bit of a curve. You can't simply eat an expert spell tome when you don't even have the magicka to cast the spell. As for your racial overhaul, Grace is hands down the best. It's a package of five mods, one for races, one for sexes, an RPG attribute system (always go with 6 or 0 points to assign at the start), a class system, and a simple power that gives you a boost of 10 points to a skill of your choosing, allowing you to build your background further. Constellations by the same author is the best Standing Stone overhaul for long playthroughs, as the power of the blessing depends on the in-game month. But there are alternatives for certain cases, which I will touch on later.

Emili is just an overall immersion boost, but I mostly take it for the loot and economy parts. Between that and the Curse of Generosity in Realm of Lorkhan, the economy of the game becomes actually challenging. But to offset that a little bit, there's Spellforge, so that you can actually get some of those cool new spells you will be adding to your game.

As for your equipment, I am currently using Reliquary of Myth, however, I've had my eye on Artifacts and Uniques for a while. I have yet to try it out, however some of the enchantments are insanely creative, such as the Black Bow of Fate not requiring any ammunition, or the Gauldur Amulet summoning an atronach, while increasing your summon limit by 1.

It's not really QoL for mages without improving the College though, right? SomethingObscure has a ton of mods for the College. But the one a lot of people like right now is the Ultimate College of Winterhold, which is a combination of the two biggest overhauls, Obscure and Immersive College.

MECHANICS

Certain mods exist to change up the mechanics of spellcasting in Skyrim. If the following mods sound appealing to you, give them a spin.

  • Starting with Spellsiphon, I really can't explain this mod. It has to be seen in action. There are videos of it on the mod page, so check it out and see if you like it.

  • Moving on to something that doesn't completely uproot the current spell system, but instead adds to it, there are Spell Charging and its sister mod, Spell Chaining. Spell Charging allows you to charge a spell the longer you cast it. It costs extra magicka, but it's also more powerful. Spell Chaining makes use of that mechanic by creating several different effects when combining charged elemental spells. These are very powerful, however they also require a lot of magicka and time to cast, so you can't exactly make use of it in the heat of battle. For simpler versions of both of these mechanics, look no further than Path of Sorcery, a great perk overhaul, one of the many that will be brought up in this post.

  • The Dark Arts is probably the best Necromancy mod that will ever come out. If you want something deeper than perk overhauls, this is the way to go.

  • Religion can also be quite the important mechanic, especially with how some deities make your character interact with magicka. While I am currently using Trua, Wintersun is an amazing mod.

  • Combat Gameplay Overhaul mostly concerns melee characters, but it gives you immersive leaning/head bobbing while running, and allows you to cast spells while jumping.

  • Enemy (R)Evolution of Skyrim is mostly a difficulty mod, however when paired with Enhanced Atronachs, your summons become a straight up menace.

  • Archery Gameplay Overhaul is for all you arcane archers. It even has the rings and the spells, pair it up with Arcanum and maybe the Ethereal Arrows from SPERG or Vokriinator (more info on those below) you will feel like a god.

  • Epic Restoration is one of the best mechanics for priests, clerics and paladins. It allows you to disavow Daedric Princes in the middle of their quests and earn divine blessings for it.

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SPELL PACKS

This part will cover the different spells you will be bringing down upon your foes. Beginning with the mods that must be present anywhere, we have Apocalypse, Arcanum (this is the version that is currently working, the main page is this in case you want to track it) and Triumvirate. These three have no overlap, nor any gimmicks that might turn some players off from them.

For those who want their spells to level with them, there is Forgotten Magic. Something like Elemental Destruction Magic is a great expansion on the vanilla elements, however this mod messes with resistances, requires patches for perk overhauls, and also adds some things that it has no business adding, such as waterwalking and poison spells that are added in other spellpacks, which only creates overlap and clutter.

Next up will be the messiest part of the post. I am trying to find a way to organize this well, but all of these are variables that depend on you and each other.

  • First up, Mysticism is as close to Vanilla as it gets. It mostly adds new ranks to already existing spells. I do however love its Conjuration a lot. If you want to be a Summoner first and foremost, take this one. The author also has a Standing Stone overhaul that makes the Ritual Stone give you an extra summon.

  • Odin is another pack that tries to remain close to Vanilla gameplay. This one however adds quite a bit of flair, and I believe it handles Destruction and Illusion much better than Mysticism. Also bonus points for being able to work alongside the mods directly before and after it, in the case of Mysticism, you would just have to pick which one you want to overwrite the other.

  • Tomebound is a spell pack which adds mostly spells that were in previous games, but are missing in Skyrim. Which creates some overlap with the two mods above. Now I've found that this isn't an issue with Odin, but if you try to combine this and Mysticism, it can mess with flesh and ward spells.

  • Cosmic Spells can be pretty great, however they have a hard time scaling due to lack of perks dedicated to unaspected magic. This can be solved with Vokrii, which will be further explored when it comes time to review perk trees.

  • For mages who want to use staves, most perk overhauls give them a branch in the Enchanting tree already, but should you decide that this is not enough, Useful Magical Staves can give your staves that extra little oomph you need.

  • Chronomancy is for those who want to mess around with time. This mod is good for that because it has consequences for it.

I've thought about a few other spell mods, such as Reach Magic, but after Triumvirate filled in a lot of niches at once, those seem a bit redundant.

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PERKS

The other part of your progression as a mage are the perks. And it's very important to choose which ones suit you best.

  • Starting with the most obvious choice, Ordinator. It's probably the most diverse when it comes to offering different playstyles, such as having only a set number of spells you are able to cast before you have to sleep, and also having a few options for spellswords and arcane archers. Only downside is that it requires a ton of perk points, but that can be solved with other mods, such as Grace mentioned ages ago, the attribute part of which includes luck, with an extra perk for levels being one of its effects.

  • Path of Sorcery has already been mentioned, and this one is the second most diverse, but not for lack of creativity, but rather because it leaves 12 perk trees untouched. As stated above, it includes perks with Spell Charging and Spell Chaining mechanics, but it also has a Blood Mage perk, which makes all of your spells cost HP instead of magicka, converting half of your magicka to HP. It might be good for vampire characters. It also contains the best Necromancy system (outside of The Dark Arts, of course) and the coolest Illusion tree out of any overhauls.

  • Adamant is probably my least favorite. The Alteration tree really tries to pigeonhole you into a certain style. Only three of the perks can work while wearing armor, and two of them are for dual casting, which throws off spellswords and mages with staves. Beyond that, it truly lives up to the "Vanilla" part of its Vanilla+ title. It also has a dependency on Mysticism, which means that at the very least, you can't use Tomebound with it.

  • Vokrii is what I'm currently running, and I'm very happy with it. It's Vanilla+, so it doesn't take a ton of perks to get going, but it also has quite a bit of flair to keep things interesting, such as a branch for the cloak spells, or an Alteration perk that allows you to move while casting master level spells, but making them 25% weaker.

  • SPERG is another V+ perk overhaul with some interesting mechanics. Every tree has perks that are given automatically at certain checkpoints like in Oblivion, with perks to unlock branching out from them. While the warrior trees are quite boring, there are some really fascinating ideas in the magic perks, with a few synergies here and there. For instance, Archery has a perk that makes it so if you don't have arrows when equipping a bow, it gives you bound arrows, that benefit from bound weapon perks. It's worth looking at.

  • If you really don't feel like choosing, there is also Vokriinator, which started as a simple fusion of Ordinator and Vokrii, and has since become an absolute monstrosity. It's overwhelming, can be buggy if you don't get the load order exactly right, and it's the greatest mod of all time if you want to build a truly overpowered character.

  • Shieldcaster perks for you battlemages make it viable to wear a shield as a mage. It's small and has patches for a lot of bigger perk overhauls.

TONAL MAGIC

Tonal magic is supposed to be a big deal in Tamriel, but the tonam magic we got in Skyrim was a bit lacklustre. The shouts are mostly known as a meme in the base game. Well let's fix that problem, we're making the Speech tree a magic skill. Keep in mind, this works best with Ordinator or Vokriinator

TRANSFORMATIONS

We can't really talk about magic without discussing magical transformations now can we? Let's get the most useless one out of the way first:

  • Werewolves don't really make sense thematically for most mage characters. But for the few magic users who want to join the Companions, there's Growl which does a lot of things that I don't care about because I don't like being a werewolf, but the most important of them all, is that your magicka isn't a useless stat while transformed with this one.

  • There are countless options for vampires in Skyrim. Hell, we've already brought up the blood magic in Path of Sorcery. Let's start with the most well known one, Sacrosanct, and its less scripted sister, Sacrilege. Both of them offer new perks, new powers based on race, an aging system and a rework to the feeding system. The latter is simply lighter on your game, and doesn't have a quest to feed on powerful people. Better Vampires does a lot of the same, but in a different way. For instance, Better Vampires age with levels rather than in-game time. You should also look at and compare the spells to make your choice. As for enhancements that can work alongside any of these three, you can increase your blood magic arsenal with Ace Blood Magic and Dark Envoy. For extra vampiric perks, you can grab Haemophilia, once again courtesy of the Custom Skills Framework.

  • Finally, the transformation that cannot be found in the base game, Lichdom. Undeath allows you to go on a massive quest to unlock immortality, with Undeath Immersive Lichdom acting as an overhaul to that mod to give it some more spice. If you don't want that massive quest on what is at this point a very outdated mod however, the author of that rework has also made his own Lichdom mod from scratch. Path of Transcendence It doesn't have as gripping of a story, but I like the mechanics better nonetheless. If none of these options is your speed however, then all you can do is wait. Enai is currently working on a mod for Liches/Dragon Priests, and that is bound to be amazing. Last I saw it was the next mod he wanted to release, but we don't know when that is.

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SPELLSWORD

I was goind to put this under the Mechanics category, but unlike Archery, there were actually quite a few mods that dealt exclussvely with this type of playstyle.

  • First up is Battlemage, which is probably the simplest of them all. If you have an unenchanted staff or a weapon with the Arcana enchantment, you can use them to cast spells. The MCM allows you to assign different spells to the different types of power attacks, as well as one for bashing and unenchanted staves. You can also have multiple spell profiles and switch between them with a hotkey.

  • Spellsword also relies on an enchantment, however this one is a little more complex. You can enchant an item with a certain spell, you can have several spells on your gear, and you can cycle through them in combat. When you want to cast something, you press a certain hotkey, and then either attack or block. That will launch the spell. I personally prefer the previous method, where you can launch any spell you know, rather than spells you have enchanted on your items.

  • Finally, there's the Wizard Warrior which looks the sickest in its screenshots and videos. It's also the most popular. But for whatever reason, I was personally never able to properly navigate and make use of this mod. I don't really understand what I'm doing wrong, but if you can get this to work on your setup, great job, it's probably great.

Well, this is all from me. Took me hours to get this abomination out, I hope it helps at least someone in finding what they're looking for. Cheers.

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