What is a Red Mage, you ask? The Red Mage is a jack-of-all-trades but master of none. This custom class is based off of the Final Fantasy class of the same name that appeared in a variety of different Final Fantasy games. Because a Red Mage's skill set is so wide and varied, it is important to note that never does a any given skill progress past mid-range (approx Adept level or 50 to 60%). Although a Red Mage is unable to learn any skill past a mid-range level, the trade-off is well worth it. What you get in return is incredicle versatility, able to adapt to any situation.
As a Red Mage, the races that fit the archetype the most are Dark Elves and Bretons, but you can be a successful Red Mage as any race. Personally I chose a Wood Elf just because I think they're the coolest.
Red Mages really have no formal history or lore in the Elder Scrolls, but are comparable to a Spellsword, with minor differences and more variety. The key to being a successful Red Mage is learning to adapt to your current situation. Unfortunately sometimes this requires you to carry multiple weapons and armor sets, but luckily you can easily "favorite" armor and weapons so you can switch equipment on the fly. Although the Red Mage is a jack of all trades, you really only need perks from maybe half of the skill trees, so you're more of a jack of half trades. :)
The way I've been choosing perks is in a rotation system. Of course, my method is only one of many and you can choose perks however you feel comfortable. But basically, to ensure a well rounded character I don't pick a perk in a skill tree until I've picked one in every tree I intend to major in. Of course using this method negates having major and minor perks but some skills I consider optional but recommended and are indicated as such. Also, the order I've listed the skills is roughly the same order I've put perks into the skill trees, but don't feel constricted to following it exactly, though I do recommend hitting One Handed and Light Armor as early as possible. It is important to note that since the Red Mage is a master of none, that you do not master in any one tree, therefore the highest level of spells and skills remain elusive to you. I didn't list any specific perks and left the choices up to you but in order to maintain a Red Mage playstyle it is vital that you progress no skill tree any further than 50-60% or Adept Level.
One-Handed - Your main melee attack. I personally chose to specialize in maces for the armor penetrations but feel free to pick swords or axes instead, or all three for that matter. Savage Strike would a good stopping point. Also, note that Red Mages do not dual wield so you would forego any dual-wielding perks.
Light Armor - Your main defense. Light Armor is the definitive Red Mage armor, because it gives decent protection while still allowing you to be mobile. Also, it weighs less than heavy armor and thus allows you to carry more loot. Unhindered is as far as I would go in this tree.
Block - Not a whole ton of perks going into this tree but an important skill to have nonetheless. Elemental Protection is probably a good stopping point and forego Power Bash since the Red Mage is not a power class.
Restoration - Your main source of healing. Very important. However the perks I would take are Novice, Apprentice, Adept, Regeneration, Dual Cast, Recovery, and optionally Respite. No higher than Adept!
Destruction - Your main distance and spell damage. Very important. No higher than Adept level and within each element, no more than Augmented Flames/Shock/Frost Feel free to pick and choose which elements you like, one, two or all three is fine. Forego Rune Master, as a Red Mage's magic is more direct.
Enchanting - Because you are using Light Armor and not clothing, buying pre-enchanted pieces is both rarer and more expensive, so being able to disenchant unwanted pieces and apply them to your armor (specifically armor you make yourself) is very handy. Insightful, Fire, Storm, and Frost enchants are pretty much it. Do not take Soul Squeezer, Extra Effect, or Corpus Enchanter. Enchanting is only a compliment to the Red Mage's already wide array of skills.
Alchemy - Very useful although it takes a slight backseat to Restoration in terms of healing. Poisons and Potions are very handy though and having a wide variety of both will only increase your versatility. Go no higher than Benefactor or Poisoner. Healing potions are a must, poisons are optional but recommended.
Illusion - Not as important as other magic skills, but useful and fun nonetheless. Used mainly for Calm and Fury. Highest skills you can take are Adept, Hypnotic Gaze, and Kindred Mage. No perks higher than that.
Speech - Useful for any class but I like to think of the Red Mage as one with a witty and charming personality. No perks higher than Persuasion or Merchant.
Smithing - Very useful to make your own armor. Of course only specialize in Light Armor. No perks higher than Advanced Armors and Arcane Blacksmith. Only take perks in light armor (on the left side of the tree)!
Sneak (Optional) - Not necessary but useful if you are partaking in the Thieves Guild and Dark Brotherhood quest lines, although a Red Mage is generally not considered a thief. Really, all you need is Stealth, Muffled Movement and Backstab.
Pickpocket (Optional) - See above. If you go with this skill, forego Poisoned and Cutpurse but grab Extra Pockets.
Magic/Health/Stamina - 4:4:2 Stamina really isn't all that important especially if you choose the Restoration perk Respite. The most important thing you can do in this aspect is to maintain a healthy balance between magicka and health.
The Lover Stone is the most recommended Guardian Stone as it boosts the leveling process of each skill equally.
The Red Mage is equally combative, wise, and cunning, therefore s/he should be able to take part in every faction, assuming none are in conflict with each other. So feel free to take part in the Companions, Mages College, Dark Brotherhood, Thieves Guild, Bards College, and any other faction you are able to join.
YOUR LIFE IN SKYRIM AS A RED MAGE
Like I stated earlier, any race will suffice but Dark Elves and Bretons will have slight advantages, due to Dunmer having well-rounded specialties and Bretons having a resistance to magic and a specialty in magic in general.
Of course picking your perks and getting the right gear is worthless if you aren't exercising your class's strengths. "But Zandt! You told me the Red Mage doesn't have any strengths! You said they are a jack of all trades!" I hear you clamor. The answer is in the question! You see, being a jack of all trades IS their strength. They are one of the most versatile and adaptable classes in Skyrim.
During early levels a one handed weapon, unenchanted light armor, a shield, and the starter restoration spell is really all you need. Approach melee and archer enemies with a shield and one-handed weapon, attack and block as needed. Heal up after fight and you're good to go.
As you level up and start to face more complex and more threatening enemies, it is preferable that you favorite every weapon and magic skill for easy access. Also, it is recommended to carry a variety of poisons and potions with you at all times. Having magicka and health potions are most important but stocking skill elixirs and stamina potions doesn't hurt either. Poisons are less emphasized as a Red Mage but are still useful.
I personally have different stances depending on my current situation. When I say stance I am referring to what is equipped to my right and left hands.
Shield/One-Handed - Your standard melee stance. Good when facing a tough enemy with high offense or multiple enemies.
Destruction/One-Handed - Great for going on the offensive. Best when facing a tough enemy with high defense and/or a weakness to magic. Having a destruction spell (fire/frost/electric) equipped in one hand allows you to pull away from the action if need be while still doing damage, and also is a great opener. Attack with magic as you approach and mix in melee attacks.
Shield/Destruction - Great for facing a melee or archer enemy or one with a weakness to magic. Having a shield equipped allows you to block melee attacks and arrows while dealing damage with magic in your other hand.
Ward/One-Handed - This is a great stance and is the ideal one when facing a magic-wielder that you want to get within melee range with. Best of all, you can cast a ward spell AND attack at the same time, unlike blocking with a shield. Also very useful for dealing with foes that are magic resistant.
Healing/One-Handed - More of a niche stance, but can be utilized when you want to stay on the offensive and still able to heal yourself.
Ward/Destruction - Another great stance especially for a mage vs mage fight. Wards protect you from magic spells and having a destruction spell equipped lets you fight fire with fire (or ice with ice and so on).
Healing/Destruction - This one kind of eats up your magic, but is useful in spurts if only because you can heal yourself as well as do damage from a distance. A decent stance for when both you and your foe are on the brink of death.
Ward/Healing - Not recommended, but can be used in extreme cases. The Ward shields you from magic while you heal yourself, but the problem is, it really eats up your magic fast. Only recommended when out of potions.
Shield/Healing - Again, not recommended but in extreme cases, and the fact that you can't block and heal simultaneously kind of defeats the purpose of this stance. But could be used in a situation where you are near death and out of potions.
Dual Healing - Not really used during battle but a great filler stance because of the fact that you are healing yourself twice as fast. In the event where you can keep your distance from your enemy long enough to get into this stance and heal, it is good to get a nice, quick heal.
So there you have all the different roles your Red Mage is capable of filling! Quite a nice repertoire if you ask me! Don't forget to enchant items and in the higher levels it is recommended to keep at least two sets of armor, if not more. At the very least keep multiple jewelry pieces, maybe one for magicka, one for health, one for speech, one for magic resistance, etc. What enchantments you keep are entirely up to you, but I think the very basic requirement would be to have one set of armor good for blocking, light armor, and/or health for melee fights, and another set focused on magic enchantments such as magicka regeneration and increasing your magicka pool.
As stated multiple times in this guide, the Red Mage is a jack of all trades and master of none, therefore in order to stick to the Red Mage archetype it is important to remember not to master any skill tree. Being that the Red Mage is a very flexible class, feel free to interchange different perks to suit your tastes. For instance by no means do you need to specialize in all 3 one-handed weapons or all 3 destruction spell types. Pick and choose what you want. I personally chose to specialize in maces only for melee weapons, but all 3 elements in Destruction but not to their fullest extent.
It will do you well to carry around a pick-axe in case you run into any ore you can mine and smelt. Not only can you make weapons, armor, and jewelry, but it is also a good money maker. Don't forget to loot any pelts you come across and tan them into leather. Also, seeing as Conjuration is not a skill utilized by the Red Mage it is highly recommended that you find a weapon with a Soul Trap enchant in the event you have some empty soul gems you wish to fill. Keeping 2 or 3 different melee weapons is a good idea. Have one enchanted with Soul Trap, for use ONLY when your foe is low on health and you have empty soul gems you want to fill. This makes it very easy to control which souls you are trapping. Have your main weapon enchanted however you like, whether it be a bonus to one-handed weapon, one that does elemental damage, or an enchantment that causes spells such as Frenzy or Turn Undead.
Like I said, the Red Mage class is easy to tailor to your personal playstyle and therefore there are no set perks that you must take and everything I wrote is moreso a list of guidelines than actual strict rigid rules. Try a variety of different set ups and go with what works best for you. Most of all, have fun with it!
Hope you enjoyed my take on the Red Mage! Happy adventuring!
This is the first build I have submitted so constructive criticism is appreciated! :)
Red Mages don't use Alteration, and Enchanting is definitely more of a minor skills than a major one. The point of a Red Mage is to make everything balanced, so that there are no major and minor skills. :) Thanks for the suggestion though.
Considering your avatar picture, I knew exactly where this came from! Go FF1.
This is just my opinion but I think the MOST important stipulation of this quide should be to not allow any skill tree to move past ADEPT level until all chosen skill tree levels reach that point.
Further, master and penultimate perks must not be utilized. I think you mentioned that somewhere but it should be in your first paragraph.
If this is played correctly, you won't have enough perk points to move very much past ADEPT level though regardless.
P.S. Here's a thought. Perks that require more than 70% skill level cannot be taken. Though I suspect you might have to drop that number to 60% to maintain more of a challenge.
If you use wards a lot you may want to consider Ward Absorb. It does require a rather high restoration level (60) but can be obtained with only novice restoration previously invested into.
Ward Absorb is cool but Red Mage isn't a pure mage and I think it is beyond the class's skill level. But thanks for the suggestion!
Thanks for the advice guys! I chose not to use Alteration because, well Red Mages don't really need or use any spells from that school of magic. I also purposely chose not to have any major or minor skills because Red Mages are jack-of-all-trades and don't specialize in anything. Saying One-Handed or Destruction is a major skill and Restoration is a minor skill would mean that 1-H and Destruction would be its specialty.
It's true that no skill should ever level higher than adept level. I did say be sure not to master any skill and they should generally be leveled equally, but I didn't specify at which level to stop. But I think adept would be a good stopping point. My character is only level 30-ish so I have a ways to go but a good handle on the class and it's been working out really well for me!
You should definitely specify that right away. I don't think enough people know what a red mage is. Nothing past Adept, and if you agree with me, no perks past 60% mastery.
One other thing. You might consider further limiting the level to which perks in smithing, enchanting and alchemy can reach to no more than 50% mastery perks.
Combing the three in a character often tends to OP your character.
I edited the Skills and Background section. Hopefully it will give people a better idea of how a Red Mage should be played. Thanks again for the advice!
Hearted and bumped. Hopefully this gets to at least ADEPT build level with 12 likes. It would certainly match the theme of a Red Mage.
Go! Go! Go!
Thanks! This is like my 50th build in Skyrim but the 1st one that I'm actually happy with so I decided to post it! :) Too bad there's no red light armor though...
Telvanni robes in dragonborn extension, they also give 75% magicka regenereation. You can also kill or possibly find a solitude curiass... Maybe look in the barracks.