Someplace, somewhere, someone is playing The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim for the umpteenth time. Yes, me too. How does Todd Howard keep getting away with it? Some Skyrim players are getting up there in age – not you, Shirley Curry – and they’re starting to wonder if maybe violence isn’t the answer. Players can only lay waste to so many thousands of bandits before asking themselves, ‘Maybe there’s another way?’ In this recent play through, we decided to do just that and find out if maybe there’s a softer side to the Dragonborn. We’ll go into more detail below; but without further ado, here is how to be a pacifist in Skyrim:
Pick a race that gives bonuses like damage resistance or magic abilities–Breton is a good choice.
When leveling up, try to be well-rounded. Later on, if magic or stealth is more valuable to your pacifist character, level accordingly.
Go to the Lover Stone early in your play through to obtain leveling bonuses.
Decide early on how hardcore of a pacifist the character is–which enemies can be killed, and how can they be killed.
If your conscience allows it, hire a strong companion to do your dirty work for you.
Follow questlines and do dungeons that don’t require the murder of living beings.
Target dungeons that have non-living enemies like Dwemer machines or undead.
The Thieves Guild and College of Winterhold quests are great places to start.
Stealth skills that will help are sneaking, alchemy, speech, pickpocket, and lockpicking.
Magic schools that can best help you avoid violence are Illusion, Restoration, Conjuration, and Alteration.
Building a pacifist character in Skyrim isn’t about picking a character that can easily bash in a goblin’s skull. If a citizen of Skyrim wants to deal with conflicts peacefully, they’re going to have to dabble in the sneakier, magic-ier side of things. As for character creation, Skyrim isn’t a game that locks certain races into certain builds, but when starting it’s nice to have some bonuses.
The ideal pacifist starting race is Breton. This is due to two reasons:
They can absorb spell damage.
They automatically start with a conjuration spell (more on that later).
You also “create” your character as you level and do various activities. When choosing stats for a pacifist build, it’s a good idea to be well-rounded between magic, stamina, and health. Pacifists take a lot of hits while running away, which makes a fat red bar a must. Running and jumping to hard-to-reach places is also crucial, so don’t skimp on leg day. Lastly, magic is going to really come in handy as your most effective tool for avoiding conflict.
Many, many quests in Skyrim require the player to gruesomely murder folks (I’m looking at you, Dark Brotherhood), but there are some quest lines that are better suited to the gentle soul that is the pacifist.
The Thieves Guild quest line is a great place to start and has plenty of generated quests where the player can practice their stealth and magic without the guilt of murdering. The player can start this line of quests in Riften by speaking to Brynjolf.
The College of Winterhold is another good choice because it is an excellent source to purchase spells and find loot which will supplement the player’s magic abilities.
For the hardcore pacifists (those that won’t use summons or companions to kill enemies) most of the quests will be off limits as they require some killing. Unfortunately, this includes the main quest–don’t even get me started on Paarthurnax. As far as dungeons go, that will depend on the player’s moral code. Obviously, Skyrim’s ubiquitous bandits are human and we would never recommend them for slaughter. However, that doesn’t mean the player can’t rob them blind– but they should have a heart and avoid butchering them. As for Dwemer automatons and undead draugr, it’s a bit harder to say.
It really comes down to the cosmic order of things. Are Dwemer machines raising little Dwemer spheres back in their rocky homes? We don’t think so. Is killing a draugr affecting its standard of living? Probably not. These are the hard questions that pacifists have to ask themselves, and how they answer these questions will determine what quests are available to them. Be careful though: often times there are Falmer in the Dwemer caves, or bandits mixed in with the draugr. Here are some good Dwemer and Draugr dungeons to explore for sneaky pacifists:
Red Eagle Redoubt
High Gate Ruins
You’ll also need to decide if you want a companion for whichever quest you are currently pursuing. Usually, companions aren’t the best at sneaking; consequently, they are better suited for quests that require some muscle. Of course, this is all dependent on if you can even bring yourself to employ the murderous rabble.
Skills are one of the key tools a Dragonborn pacifist needs to survive in the violent and chaotic world of Skyrim. Mastering these will make any conflict [sort of] conflict free. While leveling these up, it is always a good idea to have the Lover Stone activated. It is located just east of Markarth, and provides a 15% bonus to how fast skills level up.
If a player wants to focus on solely magic or stealth skills for a while, then pacifists will save time leveling those by activating either the Mage Stone or Thief Stone, which are located outside Helgen at the Guardian Stones. As opposed to the Lover Stone, these stones provide a 20% bonus to how quickly the character levels up either magic or stealth skills, respectively. Only one guardian stone can be active at a time.
Some Pacifists though (It’s me, hi, I’m the problem, it’s me) are too lazy to switch between stones and will just want the Lover Stone bonus. It is also important to remember that sleeping in a bed that the Dragonborn owns provides an experience point boost also, via a buff called ‘well rested’. This bonus gives your character a 10% bonus to how quickly they level their skills for eight in-game hours.
Here is a list of skills that players will want to work on to really become a master of nonviolence:
Stealth skills in Skyrim are normally reserved for thieves, assassins, and pickpockets. However, for the pacifist character, they are the perfect means to avoid conflict and earn some coin.
Sneak is instrumental to this build because if a giant can’t find who stole his mammoth cheese, then he can’t send them into the stratosphere. Players doing something so crazy as not killing in Skyrim probably already know this trick, but it is possible to level your sneak up as much as required at the start of the game. Exploits can be frowned upon by some Skyrim players, but being a pacifist is a massive handicap; consequently, it might be justified in this case.
Here’s a way to level up your sneak a ton at the start of the game:
Simply go through the motions of the vanilla opening of the game and stop when at the point where the player is introduced to sneaking. You’ll know you’re there when you are in the cave with the sleeping bear and Ralof (or the imperial if you’re a milk drinker).
Then, backstab that beautiful blond Nord while sneaking. Try to attack him along the wall in the opposite direction from the bear, towards the waterfall. Otherwise, he will inch towards the bear with each strike. You’ll quickly gain sneak experience when you land successful sneak attacks and level up.
While using this method, putting points into the sneak skill tree and obtaining the perks ‘backstab’ and ‘assassin’s blade’ while using a dagger will also increase how quickly your sneak levels up, because sneak experience from sneak attacks is scaled to damage dealt.
I can already hear readers clacking away on their keyboards, ‘But this is a Pacifist build!?’ Look, Ralof is an essential NPC, and he can’t die. He obviously doesn’t mind either, otherwise he would attack you. Once the player leaves the cave covered in their only friends’ blood, it’s time to start their peaceful adventure. Players should now easily be able to sneak around some enemies, instead of fatally wounding them and causing intergenerational trauma for Skyrim families.
It is a well-known fact that pacifists like flowers, arboretums, and general horticulture; and, pacifists in Skyrim should be no exception. It’s also convenient that alchemy is one of the easiest ways to become fat-cat rich in Skyrim. While there are plenty of exploits that players could use to quickly level up this skill, we suggest doing it right and bumbling around in the wilds collecting ingredients. This gives the player plenty of opportunities to spam spells and sneak around to level up other skills.
Once you have a portly purse, you can buy better spells and more alchemical ingredients, or you can buy other crafting materials for starting skills like enchanting and blacksmithing. Obviously, making your own soul gems is an issue, but buying them doesn’t break the rules. You’ll see that pacifists need to work in the moral gray quite often. The player will mostly want to use this skill as a means to buy companions, equipment, and abodes; however, there are other practical purposes. Let’s take a look at a pacifist-friendly potion and poison whose ingredients can be found without killing.
Invisibility Potion—ash creep cluster, chaurus egg, luna moth wing, nirnroot.
The invisibility potion will be a pacifist’s best friend for slipping out of sticky situations in the early game.
Paralysis Poison – canis root, imp stool, swamp fungal pod.
Paralysis poisons will help in those situations where players have to briefly and humanely incapacitate an enemy (or ‘future friend’ as we pacifists call them)
One of the harder skills to level up, the speech skill tree is important to keep in mind for this build. There are instances where the player can avoid conflict by sweet-talking their way out of predicaments, especially with the law people, or guards. In particular, the perks on the left side of the tree are very useful to pacifists because the most successful pacifists are usually the wealthier ones.
Thankfully, the best way to level this up is by simply conducting business. Sell potions and buy ingredients while trying to get the best prices you can. Note that, the skill will go up faster when selling and buying more expensive things.
Just because we’re saving lives and being moral doesn’t mean that we’re role-playing a saint. In Skyrim, you need to get into people’s pockets; it’s just how the game works. Go straight up the middle with this perk tree, and maybe only deviate for ‘key master’. There are a surprising amount of good targets in and around cities. Most city folk carry some jewelry or gems which are perfect, light-weight, items to nip off their person. However, be vigilant and if the player is caught then try to smooth things over with the guards by either bribing or persuading them.
Let’s face it, you’ve played this game enough that picking locks isn’t going to be an issue. They’re rare, but sometimes the player can avoid some areas rife with violence by picking a lock. The only issue is you can’t pick a lock without lock picks, so stay well stocked.
Magic is instrumental to any build in Skyrim. Usually, leveling up magic skills is straightforward and easy. For our pacifist build, many of these skills and spells can be ameliorated at the College of Winterhold. As you level up in certain skills, don’t forget to check vendors that sell spells and magical gear. Eventually, better gear and spells will become available, and using the less powerful variants can put you at a disadvantage.
This is perhaps the most important skill after sneaking. Spells that can make your enemies flee and make the player invisible are indispensable to saving bandit lives. Buy a low level illusion spell from the College of Winterhold or a court wizard and spam it; this is the easiest way to level up while simply walking around the map. Eventually, the player will be able to make enemies stop fighting, flee from combat, or even fight each other. Making enemies fight each other is a bit of a cheat in the official pacifist moral code, but some pacifists are rebels. After leveling enough, the player will gain the ability to go invisible; then the player can just role-play as a benevolent ghost.
When avoiding killing, it is also preferable to not die yourself. This skill helps you do that. Although restoration is not easy to level up, healing spells are very helpful when you’re starting out and not good at sneaking. Try to be well stocked on magic potions, so you can keep healing when taking hits. If the player decides to do be very hardcore about protecting any creature, then there are even spells to make undead, like draugr and vampires, flee from combat.
Alright, how to phrase this? If what you summon decides to kill stuff, that’s between them and Akatosh. Conjuration and powerful companions might be the only way for pacifists to finish some quests. As a result, conjuration is indispensable for a do-gooder that needs to put the messy parts of quests on their thrall’s conscience instead of their own. Leveling up this skill and choosing perks is pretty straightforward: buy the most powerful summons available and use them when someone needs…removing.
That’s right, the skill nobody uses. However, there are some great spells for pacifists in this school. Magic armor, resistance to magic, and paralysis are all spells a pacifist needs. There is a cheeky exploit if the player feels they just want to get to the good spells. Go to Treva’s Watch and complete the quest “Infiltration”, which can be done without the player killing people. The reward will be the Detect Life spell. When the player uses this spell in a crowded area, like Whiterun, their Alteration skill will quickly skyrocket.
Shouts are, for the most part, not going to help pacifists because they normally inflict some type of damage or buff on a target. There’s also the temptation to use shouts that are the same as illusion spells, but this is a trap. Unless the player’s character is strictly a stealth pacifist and doesn’t use magic, it is recommended to not use these because it will slow how fast the illusion skill levels up.
Aside from that, there are three shouts that can help any pacifist build:Become Ethereal, Slow Time, and Throw Voice. These are all excellent shouts that don’t have spell counterparts and can help players in tricky situations while avoiding fighting, or sneaking. Here’s where they can be found:
Now, your Dragonborn is completely ready to go out and cause as much peace as possible! We sincerely hope that you all had as much fun reading this guide as we had writing it. Have you found any other creative ways to be a pacifist in Skyrim? Let us know about your non-violent adventures down in the comments!
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Kelson is a spud head from out west. He is most happy when holding a milky tea with too much honey and playing a sprawling role playing game or reading a fantasy novel. His video game tastes vary but his main genres are looter shooters, RPGs, and real time strategy games.