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Character Build: The Illithid

  • Member
    June 13, 2014

    The deepest, most unfathomable depths of Nirn is where they dwell. Their milky white orbs pierce darkness, observing the cretins that crawl beneath the surface.

    Aberrations from a time long passed now emerge from their bleak caverns seeking fresh hosts, sustenance, and forbidden knowledge. They have remained idle for far too long...

    ...the illithids have come!

    The Illithid

    Diabolical creatures of a lawful evil nature, illithids often meddle in the affairs of the sentient races. Ultimately, these psionic creatures seek the knowledge to control the universe and will align themselves with forces of great influence to meet their needs.

    Race: High Elf Vampire Lord

    Stone: Lord

    Skills: Illusion, Alteration, Alchemy, Restoration, Sneak, Speech, Heavy Armor

    Equipment: Miraak, Thalmor Robes, Vampire Gloves, Azhidal's Boots, Miraak's Staff, Ring of Namira, Amulet of Talos

    Powers: Unrelenting Force, Marked for Death, Bend Will, Sinderion's Serendipity, Seeker of Shadows, Secret of Arcana, Black Market, Dragonborn Force, Scholar's Insight, Vampire Sight, Mora's Agony, Vampire's Seduction

    Quests: Volkihar, Dragonborn, First Lessons, Diplomatic Immunity, Discerning the Transmundane, Dark Brotherhood, Black Books, A Return to Your Roots, Ancient Power

    Illithids, also known as mind flayers, must consume the brains of sentient beings in order to sustain themselves. Mind flayers have four tentacles that surround their lamprey-like mouth. Their psychic abilities allow them to control the minds of their thralls, giving them access to nourishment at all times. They typically live in secluded areas, often underground, to further their research. This is also partly because they despise sunlight and, while it does not harm them, their skin is sensitive to the ultraviolet rays. While they aren't vampires, the roleplay of an illithid lines up pretty well with vampirism which is why we'll become a Vampire Lord.


    The Illithid's Equipment

    Miraak's mask is the centerpiece of the gear, giving our character the tell-tale tentacles that define illithids. Although it is leveled, the goal is to acquire it early on. The actual enchantment can be boosted by Restoration potions later on if need be. The Thalmor Robes set the evil tone, reflective of a mind flayer's intentions. Pick up the Hoodless Thalmor Robes from the Thalmor Embassy but abandon the Main Quest afterwards. Vampire Gloves simulate their clawed hands and look generally badass. I have to admit, I love seeing that clawed hand clutching a spell. There's something so malicious about it.

    Azhidal's Boots may seem like an odd choice but Waterwalking is essential. Mind flayers are capable of levitation which isn't possible in Skyrim but Waterwalking is a pretty great substitute. Falling from any height into a puddle and surviving certainly sounds like levitation. The Muffle spell and Light Foot perk supplement this by mimicking the silent movement of levitation and floating over dungeon traps. Obtain Azhidal's Boots as early as possible to glide around Tamriel in style.

    The Ring of Namira really helps with the roleplay of consuming brains. By targeting a dead NPC's head and activating Feed, the camera angle for the feeding animation perfectly lines up to make it look like you're feasting on your foe's mind. The Health Regeneration from Namira's Ring will be the only way to naturally heal in daylight as a vampire.

    The Amulet of Talos is another necessity for the illithid's innate psionic powers. Bend Will, Unrelenting Force, and Drain Vitality are used quite frequently so we'll need to boost our amulet's effect with a 150% Restoration potion to get 50% shout cooldown. It's not enough cooldown to spam our shouts but will allow more than one use per battle. Fun Fact: the Amulet of Talos looks very similar to the emblem of the god worshipped by illithids.

    Miraak's Staff will round off our equipment. It's the perfect compliment for a mind flayer, offering great crowd control and a secondary form of damage. I also took a page from Ben C using Secret of Arcana to eliminate the staff's casting cost. Since it's a concentration-based effect, you can infinitely use Miraak's Staff even after SoA times out! This was extremely useful for undead and automaton which are not affected by psionic abilities. The earlier Miraak's Staff is obtained, the better. Besides, what would an illithid build be without probing tentacle madness!?

    Stat Placement: Magicka 2 / Health 1 / Stamina 0

    The Illithid is primarily a controller-type mage with an emphasis on Illusion magic and control abilities. The build levels fluidly with most of the perks being obtainable at early levels. Illusion and Alteration will skyrocket with the constant use of Muffle and flesh spells, the pre-battle ritual. I opted to avoid the Master of the Mind perk. It just doesn't seem right to be able to control the minds of mindless undead and automatons from a roleplay standpoint.

    Once vampirism is acquired, the Illithid will rely heavily on Alchemy to keep up the Magicka reserves. Healing will only come from the enemy's mind and body. Namira's Ring will grant Health Regeneration while Vampiric Drain, carried over from Vampire Lord form, will sap enemies of their psionic energy. The VL Vampiric Drain can be obtained through this exploit and should be equipped at all times, only switching the off hand when necessary.

    Heavy Armor was mainly perked out of necessity. Miraak's mask and Azhidal's Boots negated the Mage Armor perks. In lieu of this, Heavy Armor potions and Juggernaut perks allow the mind flayer to take a few hits on Master difficulty, avoiding those dreaded killcams.

    The Illithid's Abilities

    Mind flayers rely on their innate, psionic abilities to survive. They constantly strive to develop these abilities and prefer them to magic or technology of any kind. An illithid's powers are largely telepathic by nature and shouldn't be underestimated.

    Mind Blast - Paralyze
    The dreaded mind flayer ability that stuns enemies with a wave of psionic energy and is usually followed up by the extraction of the victim's brain! Fortunately for our enemies, the ability requires an Alteration skill of 75.

    Mind Control - Bend Will, Follower Commands, Fear / Frenzy / Calm spells
    Illithids have the ability to influence and even control the minds of sentient beings. Bend Will and Illusion spells are self-explanatory. Another variety of mind control is commanding followers to do pretty much whatever you want.

    Psionic Force - Unrelenting Force
    The Illithid emits a powerful wave of telekinetic energy that sends foes reeling. It's very useful crowd control against enemies that are resistant to mind control.

    Energy Drain - Drain Vitality
    Through a telepathic influence, the Illithid drains the willpower of their foes allowing your thralls to defeat enemies effortlessly. Especially effective against mages and dragons.

    Absorption - Vampiric Drain (VL/Bloodstone Chalice)
    The mind flayer feeds off the psionic energy emitted from sentient creatures. Beware of the undead and automatons! No brain means trouble for a mind flayer. Vampire Lord form is only used to acquire this ability. I highly recommend completing the side quests to improve  the Bloodstone Chalice. It adds an Absorb Magicka and Stamina effect and combines with Drain Vitality and the Conjured Seeker to deplete all three of an enemy's stats very rapidly!

    Note: Having Serana as a follower greatly reduces the damage done by Vampiric Drain. Try to obtain Miraak's Staff before completing the majority of the Volkihar questline.

    Magic Resistance - Alteration perks + Lord Stone
    Illithids have an innate resistance to magic attributed to their psionic capabilities. Despite this great resistance, beware of fire spells! There might be a Psionic Fluid that could help with this...(see below).

    Brain Extraction - Namira's Ring
    Those four tentacles aren't just fashionable; they also allow the Illithid to feed on the brains of sentient races! Consuming brains and absorption are the only ways the Illithid can heal in sunlight.

    Telepathy - Detect Life / Conjure Seeker
    Illithids are telepathic by nature and probe the minds of sentient creatures nearby. They also have the ability to telepathically call in reinforcements when necessary.

    Teleportation - Fast Travel / Follower Commands + Vampiric Feeding
    Illithid's are capable of teleportation, instantly transporting to their desired location.

    Plane Shift - Invisibility + Muffle
    The last of the Illithid's abilities, plane shifting is often used as a defense mechanism but can also allow the mind flayer to catch enemies (or food) off guard. Feeding with Namira's Ring doesn't break Invisibility either.

    Mind Over Matter

    Commanding followers was a great way to roleplay brainwashing my thralls. An illithid typically wouldn't want to get their hands dirty throughout the Dark Brotherhood quests but brainwashing a scapegoat on the other hand... I completed most of the questline through this kind of mind control and it was a completely new experience. Watching a pawn take out my mark just to be slaughtered by the guards as I floated away felt incredible! Even if you don't play this build, I highly recommend trying this.

    Teleportation! Ready to have your minds blown? Using these same gameplay mechanics, the illithid can traverse great distances instantaneously! It does require one of two things aside from a follower and vampirism: a sleeping NPC or an NPC affected by Vampire's Seduction. Begin by entering Follower Command mode, highlight the required NPC, and interact with it. Two options will be available:

    • Feed
    • Attack NPC

    By choosing to Attack NPC you actually enter their inventory and can steal from great ranges! By choosing Feed, you transport instantly to their side and proceed to feed on them! Instant transmission! The range of follower commands is surprisingly far, 50 ft if I had to estimate in-game distance. Teleportation may be a bit situational but can allow the illithid to traverse heights and distances that aren't meant to be accessible right away. Say for instance, a visible enemy on the floor above could be used to transport to that level without finding the stairs, door, key, etc. It's definitely a fun mechanic to tinker with and could be useful to other builds such as assassins or thieves.

    Psionic Fluids

    Cranial Secretion: Fortify Alteration / Restore Magicka
    River Betty, Grass Pod, Vampire Dust
    Sweet nectar of the cranium, one drop will send a mind flayer into a state of heightened senses.

    Psionic Essence: Fortify Illusion / Restore Magicka / Stamina Regeneration
    Mora Tapinella, Scaly Pholiota, Red Mountain Flower
    The very life force an illithid craves, psionic essence amplifies their innate abilities.

    Cyrodilic Brain Serum: Fortify Heavy Armor / Restore Magicka / Ravage Magicka
    White Cap, Thistle Branch, Red Mountain Flower
    Consuming the mind of an Imperial appears to have latent effects...

    Dunmeri Cerebral Extract: Fortify Conjuration / Resist Fire
    Bone Meal, Snowberries, Lavender
    Ahhh, the bitter squish of Dunmeri brains. I feel like I could take on a dragon!

    A Place to Rest Your Tentacles

    After much thought, consideration, and research I've decided that there is no place more suitable for an illithid to reside other than Blackreach. It is nearly identical to the Underdark, a network of deep underground caverns where mind flayers reside in some of the D&D campaigns and novels. To be specific, Sinderion's Field Laboratory has everything that an illithid could ever need from a "home": an alchemy table, tons of ingredients, a variety of alchemical books, a few chests for those rare artifacts that need studying, and the fact that it doesn't respawn allowing safe storage! Not to mention a variety of species (AKA hosts/slaves) inhabit Blackreach. Explore this area extensively and let the inhabitants know who is in control.

    There are three Great Lifts in Blackreach that take you directly to the surface. The handiest would have to be the Alftand Great Lift because it's located right next to Sinderion's Field Lab. Their one downside is they actually have a respawn time of ten days. If you don't visit the lift within that time their doors will respawn closed, barring entrance to Blackreach. I found it best to stick to the Alftand lift when fast traveling to Blackreach and use the others when convenient in order to keep at least one from respawning.

    Divide and Conquer

    The Mind Control Spider Scrolls are an attempt to recreate the reproduction cycle of an illithid, ceremorphosis. Basically, an illithid larva is placed inside a sentient being's brain and begins to influence their actions. Once developed, the larva devours the brain and the illithid is considered matured, taking full control of the host. If ceremorphosis fails, both the host and illithid die which is the case in our Spider Scroll scenario every time. Poor buggers...

    After a thrall had followed me for a certain amount of time, they could be considered for ceremorphosis. To complete their maturity, duplicate Miraak's mask with a glitch and dress them up in Black Vampire attire for a more thematic follower! I mainly stuck to Mage-type followers for support.


    Precarious Alliances

    The Volkihar aren't a cannibalistic cult, they're vampires. These undead creatures terrify illithids because they cannot read their minds. The only weapon that mind flayers wield are their psionic powers and near to none of them are effective against the undead. It is through this fear that they seek an uneasy alliance. Also, stripping the sun of its accursed power is highly desirable to mind flayers as they hate its very existence.

    Allying with a Daedric Prince typically isn't a good idea. However, Hermaeus Mora will grant some incredible abilities in exchange for killing Miraak, a task the Illithid has no qualms undertaking. This questline should be completed as soon as possible to acquire the mind flayer aesthetics and awesome Stave of Tentacles! In an Elder Scrolls setting, I think illithids would greatly revere Hermaeus Mora if not worship him. Seekers are pretty darn close to an ES version of an illithid and we will most definitely count them as allies for this build. Seek out all the Black Books and the Oghma Infinium to appease the revered Prince of Forbidden Knowledge.

    The Dark Brotherhood was more of a personal choice for me. An illithid would never feel "at home" with a family of assassins and would probably eat Astrid's brain for her vile plot but it was so fun to force my thrall to do most of the questline while I took none of the heat. Half the time, the guards won't even know you're there! Just send in your brainwashed follower and enjoy the show, occasionally helping...or not. Could be a good test for a ceremorphosis candidate.

    Well that about wraps it up. Hope you've enjoyed my take on an Elder Scrolls Illithid! They're probably one of the coolest enemies I've ever come across in the realm of fantasy and this build only scratches the surface of their culture. For further reading check out this wiki.

  • Member
    June 13, 2014

    I'm not sure what these things are, but this build sells them well. Creepy, but seriously cool!

  • Member
    June 13, 2014

    H.P. Lovecraft in a character build? And I thought builders were running out of original ideas.

  • June 13, 2014
    Excellent as always.
  • Member
    June 13, 2014

    They're from DnD and are basically physic, mind controling Cthulhu. 

  • Member
    June 13, 2014
    Well, just you wait.....the Great Old Ones are not dead yet, another is rising
  • Member
    June 13, 2014

    They probably draw alot of influence from H.P. Lovecraft but I believe they are a creation of D&D. 

  • Member
    June 13, 2014
    Oh right, I thought it was from Magic The Gathering, it's all coming back. Creepy, and +1
  • Member
    June 13, 2014

    They're wicked, Tae! Definitely creepy too. Check out that wiki link at the bottom if you're intrigued.

  • Member
    June 13, 2014

    I rarely like builds these days, something has to be REALLY special to catch my eye, and I loved every moment of this build. I know nothing of D&D, but to me it did not matter in this build. It was sold perfectly. The look, the gameplay, and the artwork melded seamlessly together. It really feels like something built from the ground up to intertwine perfectly. And again, the artwork, as the kids these days say, is dope.