What is it with wet-dog-smelling people who hate the moon and blood-drinking albino people scared of sunlight? I swear, vampirism and lycanthropy are all the rage, always have been, and will probably continue to be amusing people for decades to come. As for me? I’m really not fussed, since both are always shitty conditions to have and there’s always some stupid downside to plague you. Screw immortality, I like going outside on a sunny day, then looking at the moon at night.
Skyrim is no stranger to these two curses. The only problem is that they’re both pretty shit. That’s not to say that these illnesses are shit in all Elder Scrolls games, apparently playing as either one is actually pretty fun in Elder Scrolls Online, but I’m not in the mood to download like 150GB of stuff just to try them. Especially since I don’t want to spend money on DLCs that I’m forced to download no matter what.
But yes, Skyrim. And werewolves. And vampires. Let’s start with vampires.
There’s two ‘strains’ of vampirism, although they both have the same downsides. Fire damage gets worse the longer you don’t feed, but you also become more resistant to frost. Like pretty much everyone else in Skyrim. You also get the Vampiric Drain spell, a held spell akin to Sparks and Flames that allows you to, well, drain health from enemies. Normally, one has three days to cure themselves after being infected (either by using a Potion of Cure Disease or visiting an Aedric shrine), but after that, you’re a vampire. You can feed on people who are asleep by sneaking up to them and then clicking on the prompt that appears. Since vampires are pretty common enemies in dungeons and throughout the Dawnguard story, and because you can be infected simply by a vampire using Vampiric Drain on you, it’s always a good idea to carry a Potion of Cure Disease with you.
The buffed version of vampirism, Vampire Lord, is given to you only by Harkon or Serana, the bastards from the Dawnguard questline. Which means it’s DLC only. The Vampire Lord is a toggle-able transformation that can be used at will and turns you into an ugly demonic humanoid thing with tiny pointless wings. Even if you are an Argonian, Orc or Khajiit, you end up looking like a humanoid. Still, could be worse, since being a Vampire Lord gives you a unique skill tree, which you can only access via being a Vampire Lord and can only gain skill perks in by killing people with your two main attacks – Power Bite and Vampiric Drain, the latter a slightly better version of the normal spell vampires get. You need over 150 feedings to fill out the entire skill tree.
The weird thing about Vampire Lord is that it has two forms – melee only and spell mode, toggled with the sneak key. The melee mode is you attacking with teeth and claws, running along on the ground, while spell mode makes you hover in the air and move faster. You also get a Raise Dead spell alongside your Vampiric Drain spell, and your normal abilities are replaced with vampire ones. It is sometimes worth it though to play as a Vampire Lord, as one can unlock the Vampiric Grip spell, working exactly the same way Darth Vader grabs people and chokes them. With the added bonus that you can drop people off cliffs.
Lycanthropy though is a pain in the backside. You can only get it via the Companions, and you can only get it twice – once when you join their Circle, and once later from whatshername if you either cure yourself or get yourself infected with vampirism. Yep, you can’t have both at once, you need mods or console commands for that.
But being a werewolf is a whole different thing. Basically, you turn into a werewolf, become melee only, and are stuck like that until your ‘timer’ runs out. You can extend the timer by feeding on the corpses of humanoids you have killed. Once your timer runs out, you can’t transform again until 24 hours later. In the early levels of Skyrim, being a werewolf isn’t too bad, but it’s an ability that loses strength over time, as you lose all your armour and weapons, and are running around naked and unarmed. The Vampire Lord at least can use ranged spells.
Lycanthropy gains its own skill tree with the Dawnguard DLC, which at least attempts to make the curse a bit better. But still, crucial things like being able to feed on animals are neglected until later up in the skill tree, and unlike the Vampire Lord, you have to level up by feeding on enemies, which requires you to do a vaguely gory animation every single time. It’s boring, it’s tedious, and you can’t even loot corpses in the normal fashion, you have to wait until you turn back to normal.
If you do decide to become a werewolf though, do Hircine’s quest Ill Met By Moonlight in favour of Sinding, the werewolf imprisoned in Falkreath. The Ring of Hircine allows you to transform into a werewolf more than once a day, which is handy. A word of warning, the cursed version will cause you to change at random, so be careful.
Really though, both Vampirism and Lycanthropy are best improved by mods. There are loads of mods that improve pretty much every aspect of both, and there’s plenty to choose from.
Or you can flat out ignore them, because you’re the fucking Dragonborn.