- 1 A System for Playing Skyrim on Legendary Difficulty
- 1.1 Preamble
- 1.2 The Problem
- 1.3 The Solution
- 1.4 Navigating Perk Selection
- 1.5 Example Run Through
- 1.6 Tips, Tasks and Quests
A System for Playing Skyrim on Legendary Difficulty
What is written here is meant to apply to playing the legendary difficulty setting in Skyrim, but it can also be applied to the less difficult play settings. The default setting for the game is Adept in the middle of the original five possibilities. Nonetheless, according to Steam's Global Gameplay Stats, 12% of players never finish the first quest Unbound; 20% never reach level 5; 25% never reach level 10; and finally, 44% never reach level 25. Given these statistics at the Adept level perhaps some playing advice is in order even if it is facts pasted together with opinion.
This play system is very conservative. Some will find it boring, but failure is even more boring. The system is intended for die hard players who want to play all of the game on the legendary setting. While it is not designed for role playing (since a great deal of time and effort is spent buffing up the character rather than "living naturally") the system may prove helpful to the 44% who give up somewhere before level 25.
For those that have played through the game on a lower level, by definition this explanation cannot contain spoilers. For those who have not, sorry but there is no way to avoid them.
The most frequent mistake of character development is the lack of an overall plan which results in characters that are randomly average at many things but systematically great at nothing. While such scatter shot planning is not optimal on the lower levels, on legendary it will not work. There may be other systems, even better ones, but this one will work to get your character beyond level 60.
The primary challenge of legendary comes from the following two facts. Your attack is reduced to one-fourth of its normal or displayed value and your opponent's attacks are multiplied by three times their normal value. To put it another way, in a battle between your character and a non-player character (NPC) with equal health, skills, armor, and weapons, you must hit 12 times for every time you are hit just to be even! This applies to melee hits and magic hits. If your skill level is not that much superior (and the game's mechanics are slow enough to ruin even the most skillful player's advantage), then a confrontational style of play means dying a lot. Repeated deaths at an unprecedented rate are discouraging. You really don't want to be saving the game between every stroke of the blade.
As the game progresses your character needs to start with conflict avoidance, and money generation in order to improve armor protection, magic protection and offensive capabilities faster than the opposing monsters which do not have the same high upper limit for improvement. At some point these in some combination will surpass that of the opposition. The offensive capabilities are split between long range, short range and melee. Here is a system that achieves these things.
estimated perks: 1
If your character has not as yet gotten beyond the Helgen castle, the first suggestion is to change the race of the character to an Imperial. The Imperial's once a day power, Voice of the Emperor, allows you to get beyond the worst NPC mob just before the spiders and the final bear in Helgen Castle. It also solves the problem of the vengeful mobs of thugs who will seek out your character on the flimsiest of excuses elsewhere early in the game.
Moving through the Helgen castle you are actually making the first choices on your perk tree set up, beginning with Sneak. It is recommended that early in the game you take Stealth from the Sneak tree, if no Alchemy or Speech perk is ready. Remember, this is a non-confrontational style, so your entire journey through the castle should be made in sneak mode, as much as possible, allowing your companion to clear the way with the exception of the above mob. Do not help him melee, render any aid from your flame spell at a distance after the fighters are fully engaged, otherwise you will die if noticed by the opposition. For the final bear, the sneaking should be done very slowly (use the Caps-Lock on the PC) along the left wall. Get in the habit of moving around in the sneak mode, even in safe places like cities or in quiet times after the battle. Just be careful not to accidentally pick a pocket. On the way to Riverwood you should opt for the Thief Stone to more quickly develop sneaking, alchemy and bartering.
estimated perks: 13
In Helgen castle, equip only heavy armor, grab a sword, and grab things that are light but valuable. You need to get into the habit of evaluating items as follows: Any item should be worth 2 or more septims because 1 septim items sell for zero. As you approach your weight limit, toss items that are less than 5 septims per pound. Keep all arrows and lock picks since they have zero weight. You should exit the castle with a nearly full inventory.
You should take 3 perks from Speech: Haggling, Allure and Merchant. The last of these is a worthwhile convenience that greatly increases income at skill level 50.
Now we come to the skill tree that is the queen and servant of the non-confrontational style for our system, namely Alchemy. Some may complain that it is boring, slow, difficult and expensive, but dying a lot is as well. Whatever your opinion may be, the very first perk taken should be Alchemist. Now any time an higher level of Alchemist is available (you have the skill and the perk point) it should be taken. If the Alchemy skill is not ready then the perk should be spent on one of the Speech perks. These two skills are also symbiotic. You will spend the first fifteen levels running around buying ingredients, buying alchemy and haggling apparel, making potions, and selling them. Initially, you will use the carriage transport available at the stables in the major cities. Later you will use fast travel. You will pick flowers in every city. At first you will buy ingredients that cost 6 or fewer septims, eat one sample of each, and discover or buy the recipes for potions. Never purchase an ingredient more valuable than 50% of the current average selling price. You will not use or store these potions, you will sell them.
At first, your character will look "out of balance". You will not have many "combat" skills. But your character is "out of balance" from the beginning on legendary anyway. What you will eventually have is a big bank roll and lots of 1,000+ septim potions to sell. Do not do any main quest stages. You will not be ready for dragons for some time. The bank roll is for purchasing quality necessary items. Things can temporarily be stored on the ground or in Faendal's house.
By the time you arrive at Alchemy skill level 80 you will have taken the following 10 perks: Alchemist (1 through 5), Physician, Benefactor, Poisoner, Concentrated Poison, and Green Thumb. The rest of the tree can be safely ignored since experimentation and this system enable you to produce what you need to use and sell.
Long Range Attack
estimated perks: 2
On the sneak perk tree, if you plan to use Archery (recommended) instead of Destruction as your long range attack, then additionally select: Backstab, and Deadly Aim but leave the Destruction tree empty. Stay off the left side of the Sneak tree. Muffled movement is better done by enchanting your own boots with Muffle (100% effective), using the game's many muffled specialty boots (50% effective) or casting Muffle spells. Light foot is there only if you are an inattentive dolt. Silent Roll looks cool but is a waste. If you insist on going the magic users path, then save these three perks for Destruction. One or the other; either Destruction or Archery with Sneak, but definitely not both for long range attacks. Archery can be significantly helpful early in the game only if you use paralyze poisons on your bow.
Close Range Attack
estimated perks: 8
It should be obvious by now, but melee attacks are your last resort. For close range the preferred attack is with a follower or summoned creature or both. Followers cost money, but from the above section money is not a deterrence. So always take a follower; Faendal at first, more powerful ones later. Always equip your follower with the best armor and weapons you can make or buy. Always give them some standard restore health potions to drink, give them plenty of empty gem stones and weapons of soul trapping both sword and bow. If you can do the quest A Night to Remember, which is really rather safe up to the final castle, give the award, the staff of Sanguine Rose, to your follower. Thus there will be three on your team even before you summon anything.
You really want to be able to summon atronachs (or better) so Conjuration is essential. Atronachs keep the enemy busy, atronachs take the hits, atronachs deliver the hits, and atronachs do not depend upon a dead body being conveniently available. So the recommended branch through the Conjuration tree contains these 5 perks: Novice, Summoner, Atromancy, Elemental Potency, and finally Twin Souls. The particular atronach varies from Conjure Dremora Lord (Expert) down to summoning a Familiar (Novice), but these require an additional 3 perks: Apprentice, Adept, and Expert. If you can summon a Flame Atronach they are very effective at least through level 30. If you are able to summon 2 Dremora Lords nothing stands in your way at the legendary level.
estimated optional perks: 4
If you insist on melee attacks it will be necessary to develop your Enchantment skill, but this is better done later in the game. The least perk intensive path is to take: Enchanter, Insightful Enchanter, Corpus Enchanter, and Extra Effect. This last perk will allow your weapons to administer some magic style damage and to simultaneously paralyze. If you only have one enchantment, paralyze is the most effective one for weapons in legendary since all of the damage enchantments are cut down to one-fourth. Just an enemy's falling down and getting up allows your character to get in three or four extra hits and to poison the weapon with a paralyze potion. In any case the extra hits usually fire another paralyze, so often the enemy once down never gets up. Wait until you have disenchanted the first weapon you buy with paralyze before embarking on this melee option. No matter their expense or level, the big three things to disenchant are: weapon of paralyze, apparel of waterbreathing, and apparel of muffling.
estimated perks: 6
Even if you do not initiate melee attacks yourself, you will need to defend against them. Heavy Armor is recommended, since it provides more protection early in the game. From Helgen, you should follow Hadvar, the Imperial, because his relative, Alvor, in Riverwood provides free Smithing materials. Use them to improve your Heavy Armor items. In Riverwood take Faendal's side in the quest A Lovely Letter to gain access to free archery lessons from him as your follower. This is done not so much for the immediate use of Archery as for gaining some levels and perks to spend. Take a lot of time in Riverwood preparing for the journey to Whiterun. Chop wood at night for extra money.
You need armor protection to be able to run or hide after the first ambush hit which is usually a wolf on the road. Imperials also get a +5 skill bonus in Heavy Armor. Heavy Armor and Smithing are two trees that have a symbiotic relationship. Steel Smithing is the first perk (requiring no skill) and steel is after all, Heavy Armor. Eventually Heavy Armor in the form of steel can protect against falls, can prevent being rag-dolled by shouts, and can be improved most easily using Wolf armor to get to the maximum useable 567. So take three Juggernaut perks as you go up in skill to 50. On the left side of the tree late in the game (about player level 45), you might add Fists of Steel, and Cushioned but save a perk by using Wolf armor instead of Conditioning. On the other branch of the perk tree take Well Fitted and later perhaps Tower of Strength. Note that bold perks are essential to the system. By skill level 50, Heavy Armor uses 4 perks to yield an 85% bonus.
At the 60 skill level Smithing requires only Steel Smithing and Arcane Backsmith. The second of these allows the improvement of enchanted weapons you have purchased. There is no point to taking additional Smithing perks since steel by itself can get you to the maximum useable armor rating and improved steel weapons are sufficient for winning and are superior to other materials improved without a Smithing perk.
To develop Heavy Armor it is recommend to purchase training in the early stages. To develop Smithing, opt for an early (or indeed one's first) mission to Halting Stream Camp north of Whiterun to get the spell book for Transmute. This spell allows the changing of purchased or mined iron ore into gold ore to smelt into gold for the manufacture at the forge of expensive jewelry which quickly advances the Smithing skill.
Other protection options are problematic. Light Armor takes longer to reach 567, and requires more Smithing perks to do so. Therefore it is not recommended for legendary. Alteration "flesh" spells are not recommended for protection since the hidden 25 point bonus per armor item gives them a permanent 100 point deficit plus their top armor is just 300 which is well below the 667. At best they only provide, for example, 300/(567+100) * 80% = 36% damage resistance. This is too large a handicap on the legendary difficulty. Restoration's wards are worse and subject to ambush by Falmer etc. dropping in from behind.
estimated perks: 4
Resistance to magic is capped at 85% and can be acquired a number of ways before having to use perks. Here are the first three tasks in no particular order.
- Journey to the Lord Stone to the east-southeast of Morthal to get a 50 point armor bonus and 25% magic resistance.
- Do the quest The Book of Love, given by Dinya Balu in Riften, for the Agent of Mara which provides 15% magic resistance.
- Buy a ring or necklace of magic resistance for 10%.
You should have an early 50% resistance. An enchanted shield and potions (Lavender and Chicken Egg) can combine for an additional 25% early in the game. Later in the game, for an additional 20%, there is the option of using the Alteration tree at skill level 50 requiring 4 perks: Novice, Apprentice, and two Magic Resistances. In some combination these should bring you to 85% magic resistance limit.
Getting Alteration up to the needed level can be done using the utility spells: Candlelight (Novice), Detect Life (Adept), Transmute(Adept), Telekinesis (Adept), Water breathing (Adept) and Detect Dead (Expert). A set of magic regeneration clothing specializing in Alteration is useful around the smelter to convert iron ore to gold and silver ingots. Silver with the right gems makes more valuable items than gold by itself, so remember to make some silver ingots as well to improve your Smithing and Alteration together.
Weaving these goals together means expending perks carefully. You will need some capabilities early on while others wait until later in the game. The idea is not wasting perks but spending them according to a plan in a timely manner. In the stealthy area, carry gloves or other equipment for extra sneak, pickpocket and lock pick skills. As already mentioned you have no need for light armor. As far as the combat area, never get close enough to have to use your shield or even block with a weapon. If you are not close you do not need to waste perks on block, one-handed or two-handed skills. In the area of magic, Illusion, Restoration and Destruction trees can remain vacant. Enchantment can wait until late in the game when you have money to buy soul gems and can enchant waterbreathing and muffling on cheap helms and boots. In fact, the extra effect enchanting offered at skill level 100 becomes almost necessary after player level 50. Alteration is filled only as magic protection is needed to free up equipment slots being used for resist magic. Reviewing, we see that only 9 of the 18 skills are of interest, and among those only 6 are of prime interest, namely:
- Alchemy and Speech for money and potions that can amplify everything,
- Conjuration for both attack and the tank role,
- Heavy Armor and Smithing for damage resistance, and
- Alteration for magic resistance but only after abilities, equipment and potions.
Archery, Sneak, and Enchanting are of minor interest or for later game alternate offensive capabilities.
Although there are 34 goal perks not all of them are immediately necessary. You will be able to engage fully once you have decent armor, magic protection, a follower and a creature to summon; all of which occur long before level 35. In any case, you cannot burn a point on a perk before you have the required skill level for it, but you will know why you are saving the perk points and your perk trees will develop systematically according to a long term plan. The keys to winning at legendary are patience, planning, and perks.
Example Run Through
You are Dominus Mercatores, an Imperial male, and an apple merchant from Bruma. On a trip transporting apples for wholesale to the merchants in Whiterun, you crossed the border into Skyrim near Falkreath from your home city in Cyrodiil. Because you have blond hair and blue eyes, you were mistaken for a Nord Stormcloak spy posing as a merchant and captured while sleeping near your apple cart on the road. Sleeping in the open and not at an inn is considered a perilous thing to do in Skyrim; not like any merchant known to the soldiers. You carried a steel dagger; while you have never used it anger, it confirmed your dangerous nature in the eyes of your captors and was confiscated along with the gold in your purse. You were then thrown into one of the wagons with other prisoners and transported to Helgen where the story begins.
Travel through Helgen
The Dragon, Alduin, will attack the village and in effect rescue you from being beheaded. Run to the tower fortification. Jump down into the Inn as suggested. Now ignore the urgings of others and instead wait to recover your health after jumping into the Inn. Once recovered, jump downstairs and exit the building. Follow Hadvar across the court yard and down an alley into the Keep.
In this first room, a dormitory, pick up gold coins and wine. Empty out both chests, get all 3 swords, and drop your prisoner clothes. Equip swords and the light armor. Always follow Hadvar at a safe distance and always in sneak mode as you exit each area.
SAVE (Use the ESC key for a preferred regular save, or the F5 key for a Quicksave)
In the next room, a round foyer, Hadvar faces two Stormcloaks. Wait until both are busy with Hadvar, sneak up, and from a distance cast the flame spell using short bursts so that the spell can continue to burn at no more cost of magicka. Go out of sneak and be ready to run. Loot the three bodies including Gunjar's and wait until your magicka recovers. Continue to sneak and follow Hadvar at a distance.
In the next room, a dining room, wait until the two Stormcloaks are completely involved with Hadvar. Again use the flame spell by casting a short spray and allowing the after effect of burning to continue its damage. Loot the two bodies. Do not take potatos, buckets, bowls, tankards or anything else whose value is 1 septim (1 gold piece). Do not take any pots since they weigh too much (3 pounds) for their value of 2 septims. Eventually you will need to drop some heavy but low value items. Take everything else including the ingredients hanging from the ceiling. Only move on when you have recovered magicka and health.
In the next room, the torture room, Hadvar is joined by two other Imperials and together they dispatch a couple of Stormcloaks. Loot the two bodies. Pickup everything of value. Use your lock picks, but only unlock things where you can see or believe there are valuable items. Lock picking can be practiced later in the game. The picks fetch a fair price and weigh nothing so don't use them up now.
The next room has several gibbets with skeletons, loot them all. Select your power, in this case Voice of the Emperor, which will be used in the next room containing a crowd of five Stormcloaks and a fast moving stream.
Let the battle get under way; you want all of the Stormcloaks to enter the room. When they are all there, enter and jump into the middle of the lake or pond through which the stream flows. The cast Voice of the Emperor. Follow Hadvar and talk to him if he stops. Continue through and out of the room. In the hallway throw the switch to lower the wooden bridge. Wait for Hadvar and cross the bridge together. Once across, rocks will cave in blocking off the Stormcloaks.
Leave Hadvar and make a sharp left through some broken bars into a tunnel. Loot what you find, return the way you came and rejoin him. Follow him down the next cave tunnel and loot the skeleton on the ledge.
The next room, a large cavern, has two waves of spiders. There are three in the first wave. Let Hadvar get involved in the fight, then sneak in and cast flame spells using the burst technique. As the last spider is dying, quickly back out of the cavern before the next wave descends from the ceiling. Repeat the stealthy assistance to Hadvar using the flame spell. Loot all five dead spiders, four egg nests which look like giant clams, and the two skeevers suspended from the ceiling in cocoons.
The last room contains a sleeping bear. Cross the stream at the small land bridge. Go up steam to loot a knife and potion. Go down stream and Hadvar will point out the bear. In the sneak mode, loot the cart. Engage the caps-lock key to enter the slow movement mode to move sneak past the bear. Stay to the left and sneak very very slowly past the bear. It may wake up, but freeze and it goes back to sleep. Once by the bear, be careful of the bones on the floor and exit the cave.
As you leave into the great out-doors you will get an automatic save. Your first quest is completed, and it is among the most difficult for the legendary level, because you have no control over preparation. It is a "come-as-you-are" party, and you do not have much stuff nor the option to prepare. But you have made it and that is no small accomplishment for an apple merchant whose only experience severing limbs has been on apple trees.
Journey to Riverwood
Hadvar says something about splitting up. Do not leave him; stay close to him. As you travel with him past the three standing stones choose the Thief Standing Stone. This is the best first choice of standing stones since you first want to improve your Sneak, Alchemy and Speech skills. Fight off any wolves the two of you encounter down the path and enter the town of Riverwood. You will be staying there a long time getting better and getting ready for the journey to Whiterun.
If you have played at other difficulty levels the odds are that you did not waste much time in Riverwood, but now you really need a follower and improvement in lots of areas before you set off to fight the wolves or worse on the road to Whiterun. Your tasks here do not come in any particular order except where explicitly stated otherwise. The list includes:
- Complete Faendal's quest A Lovely Letter by lying to Camilla and thwarting Sven.
- After that select Faendal as a follower.
- Sleep in Faendal's house rather than renting a room.
- Equip Faendal with the best light armor, bow, arrows and sword possible.
- Equip yourself with the best heavy armor, bow, arrows and sword possible.
- Now that Faendal is a follower, buy Archery training from him and trade to get your money back.
- Use Faendal's training in Archery to advance that skill to level 50.
- Take everything from Faendal's house that you legally can and sell it.
- Take everything from Alvor's house that you legally can and sell it at the Riverwood Trader.
- Chop wood all night long and sell it.
- Pick flowers and ingredients from in and around Riverwood but do not cross the bridge.
- Make potions in the Sleeping Giant Inn at their Alchemy station.
- Make and improve equipment using Alvor to learn Smithing and to get free supplies.
- Buy the spell book for summon a familiar (or better) if available.
- Buy the spell book Oakflesh if available.
Out of town
- Take a fast travel trip with Faendal back to Helgen to loot whatever you can before the city re-spawns.
- Caution: The five Stormcloaks in the stream room are still there.
- Fast travel back to Riverwood.
- Do not set out on any quests other than A Lovely Letter.
- When ready to travel to Whiterun you can choose to go directly down the road or to follow the river.
- If you move from one river bank to the other as you go down stream you may avoid all opposition.
- Use your first perk to improve Alchemy 20%.
- Use your second perk for Haggling at the beginning of the Speech tree.
To Whiterun and Beyond
Here the game becomes about buying ingredients and making potions to sell. It also becomes about using the carriage at the stables to visit each city and then fast travel back to Whiterun.
If you can put together at least 135 points of magicka (e.g. 110 plus a Novice Hood for 30), you are guaranteed to be able to join the mage's College of Winterhold. Of the randomly selected entry spells only two of the five require that much magicka, the rest are under 100. Upon entry you will get two rooms, one to the right of the entrance of the Hall of Attainment, and one to the left of the entrance to the Hall of Countenance which also offers on the second floor an Arcane Enchanter and Alchemy Lab with free ingredients.
If that is not enough storage or you fail the entrance test, you should join the thieves guild since they offer a home with lots of safe storage in the guild chests of the Ragged Flagon-Cistern. Even as early as level 13 using a Flame Atronach and Faendal you can complete the Thieves Guild Loud and Clear quest at Goldenglow Estate. You may die a few times and have to go back to resupply and sell items a few times but it is a realistic quest. The Flame Atronach will carry most of the burden, taking the most hits and delivering the most damage.
This is also a great time to do the Halting Stream Camp quest to get the spell tome for the Transmute spell and go to work on your smithing skill. Nothing helps smithing like making gold jewelry.
You should join the Companions to get immediate access to master level trainers in Smithing and most importantly in Heavy Armor. Since you can earn Smithing, buy only the Heavy Armor training. Later you can complete the quest Proving Honor's tough final room in which you pick up the fragment of Wuthrud. After that quest you are inducted into the Circle and can buy Wolf Armor. You need not do anything beyond that in the Companions.
Your weapons and armor can be tempered and enchanted far beyond any NPC's. Late in the game, most of the them are playing with the same equipment they had in level 1. At some point the advantage shifts to you despite the 12 to 1 initial bias.
Once your armor, magic resistance and weapons are maximized and you are able to conjure a couple of Dremora Lords, the game is actually overwhelmingly in your favor and it is time to go hunt some Dragons and complete the main quest.
Tips, Tasks and Quests
At the risk of repeating some of what you have already read, here are some useful tasks, tips, and quests in list format:
Task: Visit blacksmiths and general merchants looking for muffled equipment, buy it and disenchant it. Use a filled petty soul gem to enchant your favorite boots to get 100% muffle; use them on any foot ware just for enchantment advancement and re-sale.
Task: Visit blacksmiths and general merchants looking for waterbreathing equipment and do the same thing as with the muffled equipment.
Tip: In addition to the above, at a minimum, purchase and disenchant items to get: fortify alchemy, fortify smithing, resist magic, paralyze, and soul trap. The hardest of these to get is paralyze.
Tip: Even a 2 second paralyze enchantment on a weapon is an advantage since the target falls down and has to get up which takes longer than 2 seconds; that is much better advantage than one-fourth of some small 5 point damage spell (i.e. one point of actual damage.)
Task: If a bear is no problem, visit the shrine of Zenithar up on the hill to the right of the last guard tower on your way north out of Riften for an Amulet of Zenithar (10% prices). The Shrine of Zenithar (10% prices) is more easily accessed at the temple in Solitude.
Task: If two bandits are no problem, join the thieves guild for the safe storage in numerous Guild Chests and for the Thieves Guild Hood (10% prices).
Quest: After level 10, if you can handle multiple mages, talk to the blacksmith Lod in Falkreath for the A Deadra's Best Friend quest and rather than the Axe take the Mask of Clavicus Vile (an effective 24% barter boost).
Tip: Once at skill level 50 in speech take the Merchant perk to improve the market for your potions.
Task: For combat make potions of paralysis using imp stool, canis root, and mora tapinella.
Task: For combat and sale make potions of slow using deathbell, salt pile and red mountain flowers. This is a high priced potion from common cheap ingredients.
Task: For survival make potions of fortify health and restore health using blue mountain flowers and wheat.
Task: For survival make invisibility potions from vampire ash and luna moth wings.
Task: For survival and sale make potions of resist frost plus resist fire using snowberries, thistles, and dragon tongue.
Task: For utility make potions to fortify smithing using blisterwort and glowing mushrooms (or spriggan sap.) Likewise, make potions to fortify enchanting using snowberries and blue butterfly wings (or spriggan sap.)
Tip: These utility potions can be stored together with the materials and equipment for each skill.
Tip: Once there is a stronger version of a potion available in inventory, sell the old weaker ones.
Tip: Always eat the first example of an ingredient, buy the recipes copy them and sell them back, and read the spell manual in the next room of Arcadia's Cauldron in Whiterun.
Quest: After reaching level 14 talk to Sam Guevenne in a tavern, usually The Bannered Mare in Whiterun, and accept his drinking game challenge to get the Sanguine Rose staff to summon a Dremora. The only challenge is the fort Morvunskar. Do this if your companion, your summoned creature, and you are having trouble with forts and other multiple member mobs.
Tip: Give the staff to your companion to use. Give your companion weapons with Soul Trap enchantments and lots of empty gem stones. He should easily trap enough to keep the staff and the weapons supplied. Later, when you are rich, buy gems and let the follower use weapons you have enchanted with paralyze.
Quest: Begin this low level quest, The Book of Love, by talking to Dinya Balu in Riften's Temple of Mara. It is easy and the award is the Agent of Mara providing 15% magic resistance as a built in ability.
Task: Once you can handle three bandits, you can trade the Thief Stone for the Lord Stone. It is located east of Morthal and northeast of the Shrine to Mehrunes Dagon. Follow the path starting north of The Hall of the Vigilant. Selecting this stone adds 50 points to your armor rating and 25% to resist magic.
Task: As soon as you can, use your Flame Atronach to wipe out the bandits in the Halted Stream Camp north of Winterhold to get the spell book Transmute. Also, mine a great deal of iron ore there to turn into gold for smithing into jewelry to quickly advance your smithing skill.
Tip: To advance Conjuration cast Soul Trap spells on dead bodies; to advance Illusion cast Muffle spells whenever; and, finally, to advance Alteration cast Transmute spells on iron ore, cast Detect Life spells in towns, or Telekinesis spells on cabbages to play basketball. Mages at the College commonly practice spells so you are not breaking character by doing so. (Restoration and Destruction are not essential components of this system.)
Tip: Buy heavy armor training. You need it, but it is hard to earn the old fashioned way.
Tip: Buy archery training from your companion Faendal and trade with him to get the money back.
Task: Join the Mages College in Winterhold for easy access to a first home with safe storage, an Alchemy Lab with free ingredients, an Arcane Enchanter with free enchanting gems, and mages who sell spell books, training and gems. Do not start their quest line until later if at all.
Task: Join the Companions (fighter's guild) for Heavy Armor training and eventual access to Wolf armor.
Tip: The only faction that requires advancing through is the Companions to get Wolf armor.
Tip: Start the main quest after you have magic protection above 65% and armor protection above 567. Random attacks by dragons are deadly, annoying, and unnecessary; while they are very cool, no shout is essential to this system if dragons are absent.
Tip: Be very afraid. You are essentially a Conjuror wearing heavy armor taken to the max and using strong magic resistance supplemented by potions of resist frost and fire as needed. As such you are not a "tank" or a "meat shield". If your style is heroic charges into the teeth of the enemy, get over it. Let your summoned creatures and companion with his summoned creature do the fighting. Go into sneak mode, dump a summoned creature, sneak back out, wait for your creature to be near death or its time expiration then dump another one into the fray and again sneak out. You will know the battle is won, when your creature returns to you or utters something like, "There could be no other end".
Tip: You can also check for battle progress by entering third person and zooming out to view the battle ground.
Tip: If you are surrounded and losing, use your Voice of the Emperor power. Sort things out and either resume the battle or run.
Tip: If ambushed run, summon a creature, and run through him so that he gets the attention of whatever is chasing you, then turn around to conduct the battle.
Tip: If attacked by a mob member who has split off from the pack, summon your creature even if it means that it breaks off combat elsewhere; run through or stay behind it as circumstances warrant. Once you are safe, be quick to re-summon a creature to the center of the fight.
Tip: Wear down the enemy. Better to cast ten creatures in a row, than to cast just one and die, ten times in a row.
Tip: If you must help out, use archery and save your magicka for summoning. Getting in close with a melee weapon invites your one-shot death and starting all over.
Tip: Favorite your paralyze poison, slow poison, fortify health and invisible potions. Do likewise with your summon-able creatures, shield and bow. Get in the habit of using the favorites list in combat. Limit favorites to combat needs. Candlelight, Detect Life, Detect Dead, Waterbreathing, Clairvoyance, etc. should NOT clutter the favorites list even if used a lot.
Tip: Use the shield in left hand and conjuration spell in the right.
Tip: Hiding in sneak mode using an extreme third person view allows you to safely watch many battles.
Tip: Early in the game evenly split between magic and health when leveling up. You only need stamina when using the zoom view for archery. Once the magic is high enough for casting two Dremora Lords only select health.
Tip: Solve any weight problem by religiously dumping things at home or selling them, carry potions of fortify carry weight, and correctly use your horse.
Tip: Your horse is a mule and mountain goat. It is not a combatant; keep it out of combat unless you are rich enough to buy another.
Tip: When you discover a place immediately fast travel to it. This saves the game with the new place and usually re-unites your party. Then ride the horse a short distance away out of any combat zone.
Tip: Once the exterior surface is clear of opponents, fast travel to the place even though you are already there and ride the horse right up to an entrance. Give yourself space to the left to dismount. Dump weighty things around the horse and enter the place (cave, dungeon, building, castle, etc.)
Tip: Upon exiting the place pick up the weighty things, mount the horse, fast travel home, and dispose of all things. People with weight problems usually are not dumping stuff and not using their horse's mule-capacity correctly.
Tip: If you loot heavy stuff early in a dungeon take it back outside and dump it by your horse.
Tip: Be prepared to divide a mission into many small trips between home and the mission site. Some quests will require things you have run out of or things you did not think of. Some will require you to dump off vast quantities of loot. There is no shame to not doing the quest in one fell swoop; despite any "Hurry up" dialog the quest will wait just fine. In fact "Hurry up" dialog is a certain sign that you had better slow down and look. However, if a quest giver NPC asks a question like, "Are you ready?" it usually indicates that the mission is a long one way trip that cannot be divided, so plan carefully and answer truthfully.
Tip: Playing on legendary takes more real time, so patience and planning are virtues.
Tip: After getting the Merchant Perk on the Speech tree, selling potions brings a flood of money to buy whatever your heart desires and whatever potion making requires. This usually happens in the mid-twenties levels and the game starts to feel like a easier downhill effort.
Tip: Understand the armor formula and maximize your armor.
Four pieces of armor and a shield give 125 hidden bonus points to armor (at 25 points per each.) Take your displayed armor rating, say 417 and add the 125 for 542 actual armor rating. Divide the result by 834 which is 100% protection. In this example that is a damage reduction of 65%. This means on average you are suffering the remaining 35% of the damage being dealt out, but remember that the damage is tripled! So your final effective rate of damage suffered (FERDS) is 105% of normal damage (which is a great saving over the 300% FERDS you have with no armor.)
It is easy to see why armor is very important for legendary level players. At a displayed rating of 435 your FERDS is 100%, and you have reduced the initial 3 to 1 handicap to an even 1 to 1. At the displayed rating of 542 your FERDS is 60% which is theoretically the best you can do based upon written sources. However my intuition, from playing at legendary level with characters actually having higher displayed armor ratings, leads me to believe that the rating cap may be different on legendary. It may maximize at a displayed rating 653 for a 93.3% cap which after tripling for legendary gives a FERDS of about 20%.