The tale of the dragonborn, Bethesda Studios’ Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, available to the playing public since 2011, is becoming a modern classic, known to those who play games at “hardcore” and “casual” levels. In the same way the interactive story of the hero let loose in the wide world and civil war contained in the nation of Skyrim is pretty well known and received, the helpfulness of the game in crafting a few spells and magical artifacts is also recognized and loved by those who know where to look.
Schooled in magic and magic schools
Your typical high fantasy adventure, among the game’s humans, elves, orcs, and reptilian and feline folk, Skyrim is the home of many spell schools, the five major (dare I say traditional?) magics being Alteration, Conjuration, Destruction, Illusion, and Restoration. There are five levels of spellcasting, listed here from easiest to access to hardest: Novice, Apprentice, Adept, Expert, Master. Along with the “mana” system, a blue meter typically at the bottom of the player’s screen indicating how much magic they could consume before having to rest and wait for it to return, this staged spellcasting provides interesting playing, or at least something to button mash when panicked.
Spells are available all over the place, from general stores to alchemy shops, but the most high tier stuff is available at the College of Winterhold, a university dedicated to honing magic. The school is interesting, uniform dorky, and missions interesting to behold! Definitely for those interested in puzzles and combat magic.
As the “dragonborn,” whether you’ve actively pursued this quest of discovery or not, your avatar has access to the guttural language of the dragons and the dragon words singing to the player from cave walls and stony surfaces. These words form to make a spell-like ability called a “shout” that players can utilize to stagger their enemies and terrify townsfolk.
The game supports more than standard magic and magic-like activities for those who like to emulate our crafts in games. The other magic skills include Alchemy and Enchantments, where potions can carry exhilarating side effects and enchantments can boost our combat proficiency or Speech skill whether applied to Hide Armor or a Diamond Necklace. This also opens up skills related to picking flowers and encourages players to participate in mining and smithing (or at least carrying a large amount of Septims, the currency of the turbulent realm, to purchase reagents and equipment to enchant).
The most compelling part for many of the Elder Scrolls series Pagans I know has to be the plethora of gods discussed not only in Skyrim but in all of the previous games. The deities are split into two main categories: the Nine Divines (aedra) and the Daedric Princes (daedra for short). These gods are beautifully described, bring in-game bonuses with their blessings, and call to many players and fans. Click here for the introductary list of all 25 of them.
In general, the gorgeous aesthetic design of the game, presenting the skill trees as constellations, allowing players to decide the fate of an enormous and beautiful magic tree, the dryads that chased my hapless ass when I veered off the road, the giant I followed at first to increase my Sneak but then just to admire the creature as it wandered the snowy night, is incredible to experience. Beyond the mechanics of the game, I just loved how pretty the world looks and exciting the soundtrack is.
Fus Ro Duh: Basic spells
When my younger brother was in middle school, the game became popular among his peers. For an assignment in the mythology unit of one of his English classes, the prompt something about researching and writing a paper on an interesting mythos, one of his friends decided to do his essay on the gods of the Elder Scroll series. While I don’t know the intent of his friend, I do see how charming these deities have been through the incredible amount of love they get even seven years after the game was initially released.
There are resources for those who feel a calling to the Elder Scrolls pantheons. The tumblr My Book of Daedra is open to the public and consists of ways to make physical offerings to them as well as a healthy smattering of fan art. A Discord channel also exists for those interested in and/or wanting to connect with pop pagans and witchcraft tips related to the series as a whole.
On the technical/game-centric side, Skyrim has quite a reputation in the history of “modding” or independent parties altering aspects of a game’s engine such as creating new spells for players to use or making the dragons sound like Macho Man Randy Savage (all is explained in the article linked). It’s no wonder, then, that Pagan- and Witch-related mods also exist for the game, compiled in this post, including new cozy houses to build, witchcraft skill trees, replay-positive adjustments to the alchemy skill and cooking mechanic, and even a way to translate every text interface into a runic script. These elements add a little flair to playing that I appreciate as a magic-user and know have a lot of support from modders.
Fans have developed your more traditional spells. Linked on this composite post, many of the spells inspired by existing things you can cast in the game (Greater Ward, Become Ethereal) as well as potions (Greater Stamina). There’s even a recipe for sweet roles! Browsing through, I noticed that many utilized the dragon language in the game for interesting effect and were accessible to all mages, from Novice to Master.
For myself, I just enjoy the spaciousness of the game. Many of the spells I do require warming up and focusing, and my mind wanders. Having traversed the gorgeous landscapes and openness of the world, I often use that space as my focal point, one where I can wander without losing track of what I’m doing. The contained nature of the game and the semblance of endlessness does the brain wonders.
Not to mention the shouts, beautiful magic trees, hags, and loads of other material DIY magic makers can pull stuff from.
*Note for your inventory
One issue exists–Skyrim has been released at least seven times, at least according to this article. Within that article, the author is considerate to the fact that each release comes with a smoothing of mechanics/increased playability and improvements in environmental effects. For those working directing with this artifact, however, I worry about efficacy levels. Video game magic is relatively new, and I haven’t seen anyone consider how having multiple versions of a game on multiple platforms could alter how a spell works. For a game with a lot of spellcrafting support, we’re going to be able to witness any results. Should be fun!
All-in-all, Skyrim is a great game to check out.
I do enjoy how accessible the spells, mods, and game itself are for players with different intents. There are some cool things happening here! For example, fantasy author Terry Pratchett was involved with a mod for Skyrim that involved a whole new story independently added to the game. That’s fantastic!
How many of you have played Skyrim? What are some of your favorite spells, shouts, creatures, and areas?