This was an interesting one, there's no other way for me to put it. I've read all of the popular Skyrim information sources and while it seems people understand the basic bash damage equation there are a few other EXTREMELY important factors that I can't find anyone talking about. For further reading please check out Nikolaj's discussion on this site.
This was originally just going to be a basic discussion explaining bash damage but it has developed into something more, this is something that is going to be my next playthrough build (I have only done some basic test runs) because I believe that this can be one of the most effected ways to play Skyrim. I'm going to first talk about how the bashing formula works and then I'm going to be talking about two key aspects of skyrim that I think might change the way people potentially play a 'Basher Build'. I promise I'll try and make the first part as quick and painless as possible because it's the second part that is of the real interest here. This will not be a short read, for that I appologize.
BASH DAMAGE FORMULA
The actual formula for bash damage is extremely simple but it needs to be covered first so we can later look at how we modify it. To sum it up briefly, with 100 skill shields bash for 12.5% of their BASE armour rating (AR) and all weapons bash for 25% of their BASE damage rating (DR). I'll use a few examples for absolute clarity:
*NOTE 1: All numbers cited are based on ADEPT difficulty
*NOTE 2: Skyrim does in fact track decimals. People often claim it rounds damage but it does not, this is a very important thing to remember
For bashing we have two key perks in the 'Block' skill tree that modify bashing damage:
An important thing to note here is that 'Deadly Bash' does not multiply the power bash damage, it multiplies the BASE bash damage. Power bashes are also multiplied but the key part is when you take this perk even regular bashes are multiplied by a factor of 5; this may seem trivial but it does come into play with bows. Bows bash for the same 25% of their DR as all weapons do but because you can't do a power bash with them many people think bow bashing is trivial. As you can guess, Deadly bash gives bows a 5x multiplier to their bash damage as well which makes the high end bows, while nothing amazing, viable for bashing damage. This concept will come up later and should be of great interest to all people who play as an archer.
So with our modifiers we now get the following for our three previous examples:
From this we can see two-handed weapons will have the highest bash damage output. A Dragonbone warhammer with both perks will be bashing for 105 damage which is nothing to sneeze at. Before I finish this section I must include a few special items:
So now that we've finished with all the formalities let's get onto the really interesting part of bash damage, and my argument for why it is awesome. This is where we go down the rabbit hole that is Skyrim modifiers and with a little creativity we can make a truly remarkable new weapon.
MARKED FOR DEATH
Some of you probably saw this coming, to those that are interested in learning more about using this shout please refer to this discussion. For the shorthand version I'll restate the important information and explain how it relates to this discussion.
Marked for death damages an enemies 'Damageresist' Actor Value which makes them take increased damage. The total effect it has after the duration is complete is as follows:
When we use bashing as an attack it is considered physical damage and thus falls under the 'DamageResist' AV. What this means is as we modify this value we can also modify the bash damage we do; in this case our basic steel shield with a deadly bash will do the following:
For those that don't want to wait for the duration of MFD to end then just consider your bash damage increasing by 9% per second as the shout eats away their armour rating; After 11 seconds of 3 words your bashes will already be doing double their original damage and increasing every second. I mentioned a Dragonbone warhammer doing 105 damage per deadly bash early, after the full effect of MFD that same weapon can bash for a maximum of 672 damage...that is not a typo. In conclusion bash damage is an amazing weapon and can be more than viable, even on master difficulty!
What? There's more? What the hell...
This is a topic I have yet to cover for a specific reason but I decided to just go ahead and do it. Fortify Marksman (Archery in Skyrim) is a bit of a wonky topic to understand. Enchanting and Alchemy can often have very different properties and this is one of those cases where the two magical effects are very different.
When you are using a bow the fortify effect will appear to be doing the same thing, a +25% enchantment raises your damage the same amount as a +25% potion. Many people are aware (I hope) that Fortify Marksman potions will boost the damage of all weapons and not just bows, people have been using this to boost dagger damage since the game came out. While many people consider this a glitch it is debatable. Marksman potions multiply the physical damage value of your outgoing damage and while this seems like an obvious bug on the surface what I think they should have done is call it a fortify damage potion (or something along those lines) as it was never intended to be simply a potion for bows, at least that's not how it was coded. So what the hell does this mean?
Just as 'Marked for Death' affects your enemies damageresist, 'Fortify Marksman' changes the offensive equivalent which is why all physical weapons benefit from it...and I mean ALL WEAPONS. Bash damage is considered a physical attack so by using fortify potions we can boost the damage of our bashes! I made some +105% fortify potions using basic alchemy gear (+75% Alchemy) you can find from merchants so let's look at some previous examples:
And before you ask, yes these two things will stack for damage that is absolutely ridiculous:
Our crappy basic Steel shield is now doing almost 600 damage, care to know what our friend Mr. Dragonbone warhammer can do? I'll save you the time and just tell you it's 1377.6 damage per bash! Consider, as well, that I'm using 105% potions where it's possible to boost that far more (Necromage vampires can get boosts pushing over 180%).
Remeber how I mentioned bows profit from the 'Deadly Bash' perk? Is there something else a lot of archers use? Perhaps fortify marksman potions! The bash damage from a bow probably isn't enough to change the world but if you are an archer that uses fortify potions (you should be) then note that with deadly bash you can bash for up to 50+ damage using a dwarven crossbow...not something to ignore.
This isn't directly tied into Bashing damage but it is something related to this discussion that people might find useful. How the 'Disarming Bash' perk works is as follows:
This is a long winded way of saying Disarming Bash has a 50% chance of disarming any enemy under level 99 (except ghosts). I couldn't find this information anywhere so hopefully this answers this question.
So there we have it, a comprehensive breakdown (I hope) of how bashing damage works in Skyrim. There have been a few people that have made videos/threads showing off their basher builds but I can't find any where they use MFD or Fortify potions to boost the damage. Having run through a few dungeons using nothing but a shield (I was in robes) to bash and using these tactics I was amazed at how insanely good this style is. With Ebony flesh, the Lord stone and a Daedric shield I was running at almost 400 AR which is 48% damage mitigation and when I blocked (which was always) with maxed out block skill I basically had over 90% damage mitigation and was able to bash for damage into the hundreds while stagger locking everything. This might be the most overpowered playstyle I've ever used. For any concerns for Stamina please refer to Vegetable Soup, using soup you will be able to chain bashes for 12 minutes.
I know a few people were eager for me to write this discussion so I hope I didn't disappoint. Even though many people know about MFD few seem to use it in builds like this, but I couldn't find anyone talking about fortify potions at all so hopefully this discussion will bring some new ideas to the table. If there are certain shields/weapons you are wondering about chances are I tried them and they weren't significant enough to mention here. As always, I thank everyone who takes time to read this and welcome all questions and comments you might have.
Now, If only there was another type of combat style that benefited from MFD and Fortify potions that nobody seems to know about...hmm...Stay Tuned!
My understanding is that Berserker Rage, like the Fortify Marksman potion, buffs all outgoing physical damage. So yes, it should have an effect. Though you are relegated to only using it once per day, of course (unless you know something I don't).
James, this is yet another fantastic and eye-opening writeup. I've half a mind to drop my current WIP build and start a concept for a heavy-armored Khajiit H2H/MFD/Crossbowman, using tactics from all your recent guides. Can't wait to see what you come out with next!
that sounds fun!
My hope is that you fine creative people here can use some of this information to make some fun builds. Next discussion will probably be unarmed, although it is very similar to this one. Perhaps people can now figure out how I've been doing insane damage with unarmed without wearing any heavy armour or gauntlet stacking or fort. restoration potions.
I've definitely got it figured out. My next build will keep me tied up for at least another week yet, but when that's done I'm already chomping at the bit to put your findings to use. Any chance you might put together a build of your own using some of this stuff? You deserve to be the one who first brings it to the CB group.
My favorite thing about this site is how people help each other. The lore group can provide lore backing for a build, the art group can provide screenshots, the CB helpdesk can provide good information on what to do and how, the tips group will provide good information on specifics (even more so now that you are producing these articles!). There are a lot of people who will help you through emails (PMs) too if they think youre going to actually use the help.
Making a good build can seem like a big task but its not as difficult as it seems with all of the aid you can find around here.
I hope you do post that Monk build. If you have questions/concerns about posting a build, or just want some feedback or anything like that, I'd be happy to provide some input.
I've been spending this evening/night drafting and revising a concept for a build that combines your findings on bashing, unarmed, and MFD. I'm really happy with how it's coming together, and can't wait to see how it works in action.
I think at this point, I actually will put my other build on hold to give this a shot. It's only shaping up to be a level 30-35 build, and it should level pretty quickly. I could probably have ready to be posted within a week, maybe even a few days if testing goes well. I'd love some input from you if you're interested, James. Maybe I could send the draft to you...
But like I said before, I think you deserve to be the one who first brings these discoveries to the CB group. So you should post your Monk!
would bow enchantments increase the damage of any weapon as the potion does?
Unfortunately, no. James briefly touched upon this in the writeup: "Enchanting and Alchemy can often have very different properties and this is one of those cases where the two magical effects are very different." The Enchanting effect (including the Blessing of Auriel) *only* boosts the actual Archery skill, whereas the Alchemy effect boosts all physical damage output.
I beginning to think you're going to fit in extremely well around here James!
Going to? He's already arguably contributed more to this group than anyone else, except perhaps Nik, and maybe Ponty. James is the man!
I agree, his discussions are brilliant! Reminds me of Nik's posts.
Wait...these two guys should team up! That'd be sweeeeeet!