The Elder Scrolls

A Different Spellcasting System I’d Prefer in TES VI

Content of the article: "A Different Spellcasting System I’d Prefer in TES VI"

I do not like magic in the Elder Scrolls. I rarely, if ever, play mages. Granted I always learn a few healing spells and maybe a Detect or two, but otherwise? Blech. Now this isn't all down to spell choice either (I've been playing since Morrowind, when you could make your own spells). It's about inflexibility. I started my gaming life on Tabletop, where casting a spell was literally just declaring you cast it. Your entire inventory of spells at your disposal and you can cast them at a whim.

I hate opening the menu, sorting through it to find the right spell, equipping it, and exiting the menu. It just annihilates immersion for me. I added spell packs onto Oblivion and Skyrim, built custom spells in Wolverine Hall in Morrowind and at the Arcane University in Oblivion, but it was never fun to be a mage. I compared it to having to open your menu, search for the block function, and equip it before exiting the menu and blocking. Then you open your menu, equip swing weapon, and exit before you can swing. Skyrim helped a bit with equipping two spells, but its not enough. The underlying inflexibility remains.

I have over the last three-ish years (I had a boring job) fleshed out an alternative that would allow free access to your entire spell inventory. It had to meet certain conditions though.

  1. Immersive: It cannot pull you out of the game or the fighting. Whatever system it is has to allow you to still feel like your in danger and risking your life.
  2. Simple: Anything too complex is going to be a complete turn off and unappealing. The system has to be simple enough to fully understand after a single short tutorial.
  3. Helpful: If the solution doesn't make things better, it's not a solution. I came up with a lot of these ideas that had to be scrapped for not making things better.
  4. Immersive: Yeah, Immersive is up here twice. I really wanted it to feel like your a fetching Wizard who can tell the laws of physics to sit down and shut up. If it feels like just another version of swinging a sword or shooting a bow, it's not very immersive is it.

So, I came up with a system of menus and icons meant to be helpful and simple. To make it immersive, instead of opening your inventory (Skills/Magic/Inventory/Settings) which pauses the game and blocks your view of the fight, activating these menus slows time by 50%, the menus are minimalist, and 80% transparent.


I call the system Radial Casting *THUNDERCRACK*. It begins when you equip "Magic" to one or both hands. Not a spell, but a tool called Magic, its in your magic 'inventory' menu. Once you've got Magic equipped you can cast any spell at any time. Casting happens through three stages, one of which repeats.

Step 1) You click the appropriate spellcasting button. This should be whichever hand Magic is equipped to. Simple: Equip it to right click, right click to start casting. Once you click time slows by 50%, including for you, and the Radial School Menu appears. In the middle of the circle is a magical looking cursor thing (doesn't matter, but probably shouldn't be the arrow).

Step 2) The menu is a semi-transparent unfilled circle with the icons for TES VI's schools of magic, however many there are (I want my mysticism back). You move your cursor to the school of magic you want to use. The menu changes, showing a subsection of the available spells divided by a chosen category. You select one of these new categories, and this continues until you have your spell.

Step 3) Return your magical cursor to the center of the circle and the spell is cast. The end. Well, kind of. If the spell is a channeled spell (like Flames or Sparks) then you hold the button down until you want to stop casting. If its a single cast spell it just happens. If it's a sustained spell which consumes a chunk of your magicka until it's ended it happens until you dispel it.


I see a bandit and I want to cast firebolt at it. I click my Magic mouse button, time slows down and the ring appears. I move my cursor to School (Destruction) > Class (Fire) > Discipline (Ranged) > Spell (Firebolt). I return my cursor to the middle and a bolt of fire flies at the bandit. It doesn't hurt him much at all, as I realize he's a Dunmer, who is aiming his bow at me. I hit cast again, this time going to School (Alteration) > Class (Protection) > Discipline (Shielding) > Spell (Physical Ward). I move my cursor back to the middle and raise my ward. So long as I hold the mouse button down the ward remains (and my magicka drains (MC Master Vivec making gains (Rhymes so hot they melt window panes))).

The Dunmer Bandit runs out of arrows and is now running at me with his dagger gleaming. I drop the ward and drink a potion of magicka. I cast magic again, but I don't have a whole lot yet. I choose a spell that will give me an edge in the coming fight and will occupy a portion of my mana until it is dispelled. I choose School (Conjuration) > Class (Binding) > Discipline (Weapons) > Spell (Dagger). I move my cursor back to the middle and a bound dagger appears in my hand. Until I use Magic again, a portion of my Magicka will be unavailable (a small portion for a small weapon). Using my dagger I am able to fight the bandit on equal terms, but he's better than me. My magicka potion has run its course so I block an attack, briefly staggering him, and cast Magic. I choose School (Illusion) > Class (Deception) > Discipline (Sustained) > Spell (Invisibility). I move my cursor back to the center and I become very hard to detect so long as I keep my mousebutton held down. Though my Magicka is rapidly depleting, I have time to sprint like hell and escape.

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Once I'm far enough away I crouch to hide, releasing my spell. The bandit is looking for me, but I've saved some magicka. I cast School (Restoration) > Class (Curative) > Discipline (Health) > Spell (Heal). I move the cursor back to the middle of the circle and I am awash with healing. With time, the bandit gives up and I slink back home to safety.

Five spells cast in one battle (Firebolt, Physical Ward, Bound Dagger, Invisibility, Heal). In a normal TES game we've paused the game 5 times, obstructed our view of the battle 5 times, navigated to the spell menu 5 times, searched for the right spell 5 times, equipped it 5 times, closed the menu 5 times, and then cast the spell when the world unfroze suddenly 5 times. With Radial Casting, we've slowed down time 5 times and navigated through four no-click menus 5 times, all without losing eyes on the battlefield, dealing with cluttered menus, or the jarring mental transition from Menu Hunter (Menu Hunter 2: MENU HARDER) to an sword swinging rpg.


That's a lot of menus to cast spells. What happens when I just want to go ham with fireball like a true pyromaniac? Simple!

Spells can be equipped individually from the magic 'inventory' menu just like they used to be. If you don't like the Radial Casting system, you don't have to use it ever (boo)!

However there's another option. When you put points into a School of Magics Perk Tree (a SMPT as the laypeople say) you gain a side benefit. Every odd perk put into the tree (1, 3, 5) lets you equip Magic further down that School's menu chain. Lets say you've put 3 perks into Destruction (a good choice for a pyromaniac). You have the following options for equipping 'Magic'. You can equip 'Magic', 'Destruction', or 'Fire' (or Ice or Lightning or another meta damage type like Friendship ).

These steps allow you to cut down your options (you can't access Alteration if you've equipped Destruction, or Ice of you've equipped Fire) in exchange for shorter spellcasting cycles. This also makes Immersive sense, because a mad pyromancer would be so attuned to the casting fire spells that the first part of them would be reflexive.


A few terms before we get into spells.

  1. Channeled: Much like the spells Flames, Sparks, and Frostbite in Skyrim, these spells continue until you let off the mouse button. I often use the phrase "While you concentrate" to mean holding the mouse button down.
  2. Sustained: These spells are cast instantly, like other spells, but a portion of your magicka becomes unavailable until it is dispelled (by casting it again). How much it blocks out depends on the spell and perks.
  3. Casting State: That thing I mentioned earlier on when we talked about time slowing down and a minimalist radial menu with icons appearing.
  4. Damage: Unless otherwise stated, spells deal the time of damage noted in their class.
  5. DoT: I assume everyone knows but incase someone doesn't it means a Damage over Time effect. All fire spells have a fixed % chance to inflict a DoT.
  6. Slow: Reduction in target move speed, attack speed, block speed, and casting speed (NPC) or cursor speed in the Casting State (PC). Most Cold spells inflict this effect.
  7. Stagger: A brief moment where the target stops what their doing and runs a little "oof" animation. It interrupts attacks and spells, but is often prevented by blocking.

Destruction Fire Ranged Firebolt A bolt of fire flies until it hits something.
Fireball A bolt of fire explodes on the first thing it hits.
Fire Trap A small rune appears where you're looking, exploding like a fireball when stepped on.
Firebeam A brilliant beam of fire penetrates anything it touches.
Melee Fire Touch You touch a target, dealing fire damage.
Fireburst The area around you explodes like a fireball.
Firecloak (Sustained) A cloak of fire damages anything that gets to close until you end the spell.
Incendiary Strike Your next weapon attack deals additional will light the target on fire.
Channeled Firefan (Channeled) A cone of fire from your hand damages anything inside it, so long as you concentrate.
Firefall (Channeled) A column of fire moves wherever you point it, burning anything it touches.
Firewall (Channeled, Sustained) A Wall of fire springs up wherever you point and remains until you dismiss it.
Firevolley (Channeled) Firebolts spring from your fingertips in rapid succession, though they many not always fly straight.
Lightning Ranged Stormbolt A jagged arc of lightning strikes whatever you're looking at.
Stormchain A jagged arc of lightning jumps from living target to target.
Downburst A gust of wind and lightning forces targets within an area to the ground
Storm Trap A rune appears where you're looking, casting Stormchain when stepped on.
Melee Storm Touch Touch a target, dealing lightning damage.
Stormcloak (Sustained) All Dunmer become hostile A cloak of lightning envelopes you, dealing damage to nearby creatures until you dismiss it.
Galestrike A target you touch is pushed back and struck by lightning. (

Lightning Lure The next target you hit with a weapon attack will also be struck by lightning.
Channeled Stormshackle (Channeled) You deal constant lightning damage to whatever you target, occasionally staggering it while you concentrate.
Galeforce (Channeled) A cone of fierce wind pushes anything it touches back, striking it with lightning occasionally while you concentrate.
Stormwall (Channeled, Sustained) A cloudy wall springs up wherever you point, electrocuting anything that passes through it until you dismiss it.
Stormsprite (Channeled) A living lightning bolt bounces from target to target and back so long as you concentrate.
Cold Ranged Frostbolt A freezing bolt flies in a straight line, slowing and damaging the first thing it hits.
Frostball An icy orb flies out, slowing and damaging targets too close to its path.
Hailbolt A ball of hail flies out in an arc, dealing blunt damage and staggering the target, potentially knocking them down.
Frost Trap A small rune appears where you're looking, bursting in icy spikes when stepped on.
Melee Frost Touch You touch a target, slowing and damaging them.
Hailburst Balls of hail burst from you, dealing bludgeoning damage and staggering to those in range, potentially knocking them down.
Frost Cloak (Sustained) A cloak of frost chills and damages any creature close enough until you dismiss it.
Frigid Edge Your next weapon attack slows the target and causes bleeding.
Channeled Frostwind (Channeled) A cone of frigid cold slows and damages whatever it touches.
Hail Orbit (Channeled) As you concentrate rings of hail circle you as they grow wider, slowing, dealing blunt damage, and staggering targets, potentially knocking them down.
Frost Wall (Channeled, Sustained) Wherever you look, an icy wall springs up preventing passage, and chilling whatever comes into contact with it until you dismiss it.
Hailstorm Hail falls wherever you look, dealing bludgeoning damage, staggering targets, and potentially knocking them down.

As is highlighted in the table above, this not only increases the number of spells from skyrim to 36 (from 27) but also reduces redundancies (Fireball/Incinerate, Lightning Bolt/Thunderbolt, etc). To make sure spells don't become utterly useless as time goes on instead of dealing fixed damage, the spell damage scales with the skill and that school (and attributes if those make a comeback). In my mind, each point invested (or enchanted) into Destruction increases spell damage by 2% making a Journeyman (50pts) twice as powerful as a Novices (1 point) and a Master (100pts) twice as powerful as a journeymen. This will save one of the biggest problems with skyrim magic, that spells are weak as balls compared to enchantable honeable weapons. Skyrim magic used skill to reduce magicka cost (huh?)

A firebolt would deal relatively little damage at early levels but as the skill reached 100 it would be an extremely dangerous spell. With perks it could be highly lethal, especially for a pyromancer. See below.


The following perk tree is my general concept, not a hard and fast set. But the point is to encourage perks to provide flexibility or focus, while also fundamentally changing the character (never for the worse). The tree looks like the burning hand of Destruction, the the base "Novice" perk at the bottom of the palm and individual trees ending at the fingertips. If you're a visual type who likes to envision this, the Focus series is the pointer finger, the Adept series is the middle finger, the Rune series is the ring finger, the Dual cast series is the pinky, and the Battlemage series is the thumb.

Finally, just leveling the destruction skill will increase the amount of damage of your destruction spells by 2% per point (as mentioned earlier) so the perks are only necessary to make a Destruction play style integral to your build. You could have pretty decent destruction power by leveling the skill, with maybe two to three points even be very strong. However, a destruction mage who fills out most of the perk trees (Runes cap at a more generalist play style, rather than destructive) will be a force of incomprehensible power.

1 Novice n/a Destruction spells cost (Skill/2)% less to cast.
15 Focus Novice Select Fire, Frost, Lightning, or Generalist.
Fire: Fire spells deal (Skill)% more damage. You gain (Skill/5) fire resistance.
Frost: Fire spells deal (Skill)% more damage. You gain (Skill/5) frost resistance.
Lightning: Fire spells deal (Skill)% more damage. You gain (Skill/5) lightning resistance.
Generalist: When you hit an target with fire, frost, or lightning damage, they become (Skill/10)% more vulnerable to the other two damage types. You gain (Skill/4) resistance to fire, frost, and lightning.
45 Specialization Focus Choose Fire, Frost, Lightning, or Generalist. If you choose an element different from your Focus choice, you gain that element's Focus benefit.
Fire: Your fire spells are (Skill x 2)% more likely to ignite targets. You have a (Skill/4)% chance to absorb Fire spells as magicka.
Frost: Your frost spells slow effect is increased by (Skill)%. You have a (Skill/4)% chance to absorb frost spells as magicka.
Lightning: Your lightning spells have a (Skill/3)% chance to stagger their target . You have a (Skill/4)% chance to absorb lightning spells as magicka.
Generalist: Your destruction spells have a (2 x Skill)% chance to have an additional debuff from a different element (Fire: Damage over Time, Frost: Slow, Lightning: Stagger) a result over 100% adds a second non-element effect. You gain (Skill/10)% spell absorption.
90 Mastery Specialization Select Fire, Frost, Lightning, or Generalist. If it is not an Element you chose from Focus, gain it's focus effect. If it is not an element you chose for Specialization, choose its Specialization Effect.
Fire: When your targets catch fire, they are affected by a temporary Firecloak effect, as though you cast it, which you are immune to but the target and its allies are not. You ignore 50% of fire resistance and treat fire immunity as 100% fire resistance. Absorbing a fire spell also restores health.
Frost: Your slowed targets have a (Skill/5)% chance cripple a limb (legs from moving, arms from attacking, head from spell casting) this check is run every 5 seconds. Crippling a limb this way deals (Skill/20)% of maximum health damage to the target. You ignore 50% of frost resistance and treat frost immunity as 100% frost resistance. Absorbing a frost spell also restores health.
Lightning: Each lightning spell you cast has a (Skill/3)% chance to jump to another enemy for full damage, this check continues until it fails. If there are not other enemies it will affect the original target. You ignore 50% of lightning resistance and treat lightning immunity as 100% lightning resistance. Absorbing a lightning spell also restores health.
Generalist: You may replace elemental damage types with force, which ignores elemental resistances in lieu of magic resistance. Doing so increases the spell's cost by 25% and damage by 25%. You gain 35% resistance to Fire, Frost, and Lightning.
25 Apprentice Novice At 10% Magicka, destructions spells cost (Skill-20)% less magicka and deal ((.32 x Skill) – 7)% as much damage.
50 Journeyman Apprentice Destruction spells deal (Skill/2)% more damage.
75 Expert Journeyman Single target spells deal (Skill/2)% more damage. Area spells are (Skill)% larger.
100 Master Expert Your destruction spells cannot be interrupted. Killing a target with a destruction spell increases your move and attack speed by 10% and slows time 10% more in your casting state, up to 5 times. Lasts 10 seconds.
35 Runeworker Apprentice You may have (Skill/20) runes active at one time.
55 Runesmith Runeworker You may turn any non-sustained, non-channeled destruction spell into a rune. This is available as a new school of magic "Runes" which opens the same menu as Destruction without the Channeled or Sustained spells.
80 Runelord Runesmith You may turn any non-sustained, non-channeled spell into a rune. Choosing the Runes menu brings you to the school of magic radial.
20 Dual Cast Novice Equipping a spell or Magic in both hands allows you to cast a destruction spell for (150-Skill)% more magicka and deal (Skill)% more damage.
65 Twin Cast Dual Cast When dual casting a destruction spell, debuff effects of the spell are (Skill)% stronger (Fire DoT deals twice as much damage, Cold slows twice as potently, and Lightning is twice as likely to stagger).
30 Battlemage Adept Allies take (50 + (Skill/2))% less damage from your destruction spells.
60 Warmage Battlemage Allies struck by your destruction spells gain deal (Skill/2)% more damage on their next attack, this damage is of the appropriate element.

This is a very rough draft of a perk tree (The numbers are entirely arbitrary, but they formulas help explain the magnitude of power increase suggested with each perk), and a rough draft of a spell list (after all, magicka cost and damage are completely neglected in favor of effects). But, the concept is as I highlighted, but for 5 (6 damn you!) schools of magic all at your fingertips, available through the magic RADIAL CASTING KRAKOOM** KRAKOOM* *krakoom*.*


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