Skyrim Character Building » Discussions

Character Build: The Chemical Chameleon

  • April 8, 2013

    This character build is an attempt at making a character that uses alchemy to such an extent that without it he would surely perish. The build itself came from an interest in exploring alchemy to its fullest and utilize as many effects as possible. Dragons Alchemy Guide has been an invaluable help, I suggest you check it out. Many thanks to Phil, Ben C, Kyrellie and Argonian Fangirl for helping me out with this build. The alchemist art is from DeviantArt.

    I present to you,

    The Chemical Chameleon

    “Here, eat this” said the strange man while handing the bedridden woman a feather.

    “Is that a feather?” asked the woman, “I’m not eating that.”

    “No, no, no, that’s not a feather. It’s a hawk feather” he replied. She started to speak, “but …”

    He interrupted her, “a hawk feather sprinkled with vampire dust, very delicious!”

    “Ew, keep that away from me! You got to have something  that’s drinkable.”

    “Oh you want something to drink do you? Here, have this.” Said the man while handing the woman a glass with clear liquid.

    The woman smelled the liquid skeptically, but it had no odor. She took a sip from the glass, “is this water?”

    “Hmm? Oh yes, you said you were thirsty. Water is good when you’re thirsty, foul tasting though.”

    “I wanted something to cure me of this disease, not to quench my thirst!”

    “Ah! Here, eat this” said the strange man while handing the bedridden woman a feather.

    “What? I told you already, I’m not eating that! I want to drink something that will cure me.

    “Aha! You should have said so!” he said and took the glass of water. “Here, drink this” he said and handed her a glass of greyish liquid with a feather in it.

    She sighed, “is this just a glass of water with a feather and vampire dust?”

    “Oh yes. Drinky, drinky, drink it. Very delicious, a little bit moist though.”

    “What is the matter with you? All I am asking for is a concoction without vampire dust in it. Something that will cure me.”

    “Ah! Then I have just the thing. Yes, just the thing. Here, drink this!”

    “And what is in this?”

    “Hmm? Oh, canis root, imp stool and mora tapinella. Roots and mushrooms! Vegetables! Very tasty yes? Yes, very tasty!”

    “Thank you, that’s very kind of you” she said and drank the concoction. “What’s happening? I can’t move my arms and legs! What did you give me?”

    “What? Oh! Yes. I gave you a concoction to cure you. Your body is going to be paralysed and you’ll bleed into your lungs and stomach. But … you will be cured. No disease in dead flesh … maybe” he said.

    “You poisoned me? I just wanted you to cure my disease! That’s what I paid you to do! WHY?” she cried.

    “Oh. Here, eat this” said the strange man and fed the bedridden woman a feather.

    “Ah. No. But you’re cured now!” he said as her body became completely paralysed, she would be dead within seconds.The woman still in tears ate the feather, “does this mean I’m cured? Will I *cough* …” she coughed up blood, but continued, “live?”

    “Here, eat this.”

    The Build

    Race: Breton. Bretons are usually the race to, as Kyrellie said to me, “take the search for knowledge to the ‘obsessed and unhealthy level’”. This is exactly how I played my character Mr. Brew-Brew. Being obsessed with collecting (who isn’t in this game?) and tasting ingredients, and no hesitation to try out the various concoctions in combat. Mr. Brew-Brew was a somewhat mad scientist and wouldn’t hesitate to poison an entire city to see how a particular poison works.

    Stone: Ritual. This may seem like an unusual choice, but it is one of the few guardian stones that can’t be replicated with alchemy. It is also really fun and awesome.

    Alternate Stone: The Lady. I realize some people prefer not using greater powers, this is a solid option for those people. The effects are rather easily replicated with alchemy, so only use this if you’re really against greater powers.

    Major Skills: Alchemy, Pickpocket, Light Armor

    Minor Skills: Everything but Heavy Armor, Enchanting, Smithing, Restoration & Alteration.

    Apparel: Full Chitin Armor (pick up some bracers of alchemy), Nettlebane, Muiri’s Ring, Necklace of Peerless Alchemy & Various Staves.

    I like the Chitin armor mainly for the goggles which suits an alchemist quite nicely. Nettlebane is purely chosen for the aesthetics, it looks poisonous. Muiri’s Ring, and the ‘of alchemy’ items, are obvious, they improve your alchemy. The staves are used for spellcasting.

    Shouts: I didn’t use any shouts and never felt it was needed. If you’re going to use shouts go for non-combat ones, like Aura Whisper, Slow Time, Clear Skies, Dragonrend, Throw Voice and Whirlwind Sprint. These are all shouts that can’t be replicated by alchemy as well.

    Quests: A Return to Your Roots & Mourning Never Comes.

    The reward from ‘A Return to Your Roots’ is a 25% chance to create a second potion or poison.

    Mourning Never Comes rewards Muiri’s Ring.

    Stat Spread: 0/4/2 - M/H/S.

    Skills and Perks

    I mostly chose passive perks so I could focus on alchemy to boost everything.

    Alchemy: Key Perks: Everything but Purity & Green Thumb

    This is the bread and butter of the build. Get this skill up very early on.
    I didn’t take Purity because I like the negative effects on potions and positive effects on poisons.
    Green Thumb isn’t really necessary with Hearthfire, if you don’t have Hearthfire then I recommend this.
    Snakeblood is a great perk to resemblance ones tolerance towards poisons from eating a lot of plants and bees.
    Experimenter isn’t really needed because we have the internet to look up effects, but it’s a great roleplay perk. I’d say only a madman starts drinking oil to see what happens.

    Key Perks: Poisoned, Misdirection & Extra Pockets

    This helps bring out the madness of the build and serves as a great way to keep the build interesting.
    Injecting your poison between some bandits toe (or putting it in his pocket and hoping he’s stupid enough to drink it) and see what the outcome is, is both fun and a little bit mad.
    Misdirection was a big part of the combat and usually dictated how I played through the dungeon by simply sticking to the first weapon I found/stole.
    Extra Pockets is simply so you have somewhere to put the massive amounts of ingredients and concoctions.

    Light Armor:  Key Perks: 3/5 Agile Defender & Windwalker

    Defense and stamina regeneration are both wonderful things, need I say more?

    Speech: Key Perks: Merchant & Bribery

    Bribery is mostly a roleplay perk. Being able to bribe guards after an unsuccessful pickpocket attempt is great, and you got plenty of gold so it doesn’t really matter that much.
    Merchant is necessary to allow being able to sell anything to anyone, it’s also a more reliable way of getting Powdered Mammoth Tusk if you should want to use this. It’s a helpful perk but ultimately it’s not necessary for the build, consider it luxury.

    Archery: Key Perks: Quick Shot & Steady Hand 2/2

    Both passive perks that greatly improve bows without altering damage too much.

    One-Handed: Key Perks: Savage Strike

    A great passive perk. Decapitations are awesome.

    Two-Handed: Key Perks: Great Critical Charge & Sweep

    Again, great passive perks. There’s little that’s more awesome than charging in with a warhammer. Sweep is just a great perk that doesn’t alter damage directly.

    Block: Key Perks: Quick Reflexes & Power Bash

    Quick Reflexes increase survivability by a great deal, and I like power bashing enemies with a shield.

    Sneak: Key Perks: Muffled Movement

    Not necessary if you have a lot of patience, but does a madman really have that? It helps.

    Destruction, Illusion, Lockpicking & Conjuration: Not perked but still used through staves (except for lockpicking).

    Perk Spread: Level 48

    Gameplay of a Mad Man

    The Chemical Chameleon is a fun build to play as any play style is available. We can generally put these play styles into a branch of The Mage, The Thief or The Warrior. With the Chemical Chameleon it’s possible to combine all of these fluidly into an interesting gameplay. Most of you know how to play most types of classes so this section is mostly to give pointers on how to make the Chemical Chameleon viable.

    During the early game it will be beneficial to take a trip to Riften and pickpocket a staff of both the court wizard and the Talos worshipping priest they usually carry around some adept level destruction staves. A quick trip to the Atronach Forge in the Midden will also yield an early Staff of Flame Atronach (bring a corundum ingot and a greater soul gem, the broom and fire salt is there). Getting the quest to deliver Frost Salts to Arcadia from Farengar makes you able to get a staff for that as well (bring another broom, greater soul gem and refined moonstone).

    Remember to come back and get the Storm Atronach when the salts are available, by hitting some alchemists early you might be able to get that as well (bring yet another broom, greater soul gem and orichalcum ingot). This gives some great early firepower, especially against Draugrs who are immune to poisons.

    Getting training in some of the major skills (and speech) and pickpocketing the money back is a good way to level quickly and get the misdirection perk. There’s no need to worry about being overleveled as the first combat perk can be taken right away, and alchemy is the primary boost for damage. During a playthrough I went from 5-25 just training alchemy and speech (and pickpocketing my money back), and I had few problems killing enemies because of strong potions and poisons, just make sure alchemy stays high. Another, less powerlevelly option, is to only keep Alchemy high and the other skills low. This can easily be done with Salmon Roe from Hearthfire (Windstad Manor has a fish hatchery). Combine Salmon Roe with Garlic, Chicken’s Egg or Nordic Barnacle for one of the most valuable potion in the game, a picture by Vazgen showing the value of said potion can be seen here. You will never run out of money with these.

    Now onto actual combat. I usually started combat by poisoning by either reverse pickpocketing and continue by stealing his weapon 

    and poisoning him with it.  Then I would clear out the camp/dungeon with said weapon regardless of what it was. Use potions to boost whatever weapon type you get, and apply lots and lots and lots and lots of poisons. Paralysis poisons are especially useful early on, and very easy to make.

    Another interesting way to open combat is playing as a spellsword, use weakness to fire/frost/storm on your dagger with an Atronach to match and use staves to charm and maim (illusion and destruction staves). A dagger is ideal when playing like this because of its low damage, this means you rely on applying weakness poisons and drinking destruction/illusion/conjuration potions.

    Drink potions to boost your defense. Identify what you’re up against and chug potions accordingly. There’s really no need to drink resist fire potions when you’re up against draugrs, it would be much better to go with resist frost, resist magic, fortify health, fortify light armor, fortify health regeneration & fortify block (the more the better, moderation does not a mad man make). When facing multiple strong enemies it’s a great help to use the ritual stone to tip the scale and get a few followers to take on the rest, surrounding yourself by the poisoned dead is also a bit crazy. The ritual stone is just great fun regardless, use it when you want to feel like a crazy person with an army – when I use it I usually cackle like a maniac and commence a poison spree in some small town like Rorikstead … it’s great!

    The most important aspect of the Chemical Chameleon is actually drinking potions and using poisons, go figure.



    These are just some of the many available brews you can make. These are all roleplay concoctions since it’s generally easier to drink single effect beverages which are just as effective and generally easier to make. Nevertheless, I enjoyed putting these together too much to not have them in. I hope some of you will make your own cocktails and list them here, if you make me chuckle then I’ll add it to the list. I only wish you could name your drinks in game.


    Name: Berserkers Rage        Ingredients: Fly Amanita, Mora Tapinella & Troll Fat
    Effect: Regenerate Stamina, Fortify Twohanded & Frenzy
    “Orc urine! Get your genuine Orc urine here! The secret to the Orcs bad temper is all in their urine!” – Unknown Salesman who didn’t consider the consequences

    Name: Defenders Tonic        Ingredients: Felsaad Tern Feathers, Honeycomb & Tundra Cotton
    Effect: Fortify Light Armor, Fortify Block & Resist Magic
    “The only drink when wrestling bears in breezy short shorts!” – Sten the Bear Wrestler

    Name: Stalkers Essence       Ingredients: Ashen Grass Pod, Namira’s Rot & Purple Mountain Flower
    Effect: Fortify Sneak & Fortify Lockpicking
    “Sneaky sneaky goes the cat, always mindful of the giant carnivorous bat” – Khajiiti Proverb

    Name: Escape Artists Secret Ingredients: Chaurus Egg, Garlic & Vampire Dust
    Effect: Fortify Stamina, Invisibility & Regenerate Health
    “They told me to go away … and away I go, Precious! Gone, gone, gone!” – Deranged Beggar


    Name: Burning Sensation      Ingredients: Bleeding Crown, Deathbell & Juniper Berries
    Effects: Weakness to Fire & Weakness to Poison
    “Flame on! *Horrible screaming*” – Last words of the apprentice who tried to recreate flame cloak with alchemy.

    Name: Lightning Conductor   Ingredients:  Bee, Bleeding Crown & Giant Lichen
    Effects: Weakness to Shock & Weakness to Poison
    After I drink this I’ll be able to wield the power of the gods in my hands!” – Short-sighted Telvanni Wizard moments before he was struck by lightning on a clear day.

    Name: Winter is Coming        Ingredients: Abecean Longfin, Bleeding Crown & White Cap
    Effects: Weakness to Frost & Weakness to Poison
    “Tonights forecast … a freeze is coming!” – Maniacal Cryomancer

    Name: Mages Best Friend     Ingredients: Deathbell, Salt Pile & Scaly Pholiota
    Effects: Slow & Weakness to Magic
    “Halt or I’ll blast you with my mighty stick!” – Old Bearded Imperial Battlemage

    Name: Decay                       Ingredients: Imp Stool, Scathecraw & Skeever Tail
    Effects: Ravage Health, Damage Health & Lingering Damage Health
    “Death and Decay is all around us, it’s a veritable feast!” – Follower of Namira

    Name: Timeless Living          Ingredients: Canis Root, Imp Stool & Mora Tapinella
    Effects: Lingering Damage Health, Paralysis
    “Always in motion is time, but you are not” – Small Wise Orsimer

    Be sure to also check out the comprehensive list of potions and posions by Vazgen.

  • April 8, 2013

    You repeated your Race section into your Stone section. PS: Not done reading, just thought I'd point that out.

  • Member
    April 8, 2013

    Alchemy based build! I love it. It is also always fun to play as a madman or a kook. I really like the breakdown and listing of useful potions/poisons at his disposal and it shows the planning ... or maniacal experimenting you have played with. I am a sucker for cool art, and this is a cool presentation. An alchemy build is very versatile and you have shown that well. Big +1!

  • April 8, 2013

    Ah, so that's where that section went. I was moving some pictures and the entire section moved. I just added it in again because I couldn't find it at a quick glance.

    Fixed and thank you.

  • April 8, 2013

    Many thanks!

  • April 8, 2013

    No problem and I really like the build. Drugs FTW.

  • Member
    April 8, 2013

    Wow! A build with based on Alchemy - my favorite skill! Insta +1

    Can I use your Defender's Tonic recipe in my Useful potions with DLC ingredients page (you'll be credited of course)? Also just want to mention one minor thing. The effects of your Stalker's Essence potion are actually Fortify Lockpicking and Fortify Sneak without Fear. To get the listed effects you'll need to substitute Purple Mountain Flower with Powdered Mammoth Tusk. If you wanted to get these particular effects may I ask it's use? It'll be essentially a Fear poison that fortifies enemy's lockpicking and sneak skills. 

  • Member
    April 8, 2013

    I get that part but you'll not be able to drink that potion. It'll be a poison that needs to be applied to a weapon.

  • April 8, 2013

    I thought I removed that effect. My bad. I made a lot of theoretical potions and poisons before testing them out and I came to the same conclusion.

    Feel free to list it.

  • Member
    April 8, 2013

    Thanks!  I just noticed that you have Fortify Stamina in your Escape Artist's Secret. The potion with these ingredients will have Fortify Light Armor instead.

    Chaurus Eggs + Garlic + Vampire Dust will result in effects listed now