Skyrim diehard claims to have the RPG's strongest unmodded character after grinding to level 1,337 by spamming Illusion spells for 43 hours

Skyrim dragon
(Image credit: Bethesda)

Over a decade later, Skyrim players are still pushing Bethesda's iconic RPG to its limits. Tamriel's latest absurd accomplishment comes from Pawelos4, who claims to have reached level 1,337 on "the ultimate Skyrim character," who has apparently done everything that can feasibly be done. And they uploaded a stonking 11 hours of sped up footage to prove it. 

Pawelos has a history as a Skyrim completionist; they shared a 100% complete, 527-hour save several years ago. (Their level 1,337 character is also available to download via Nexusmods if you're interested.) In total, they say they've played 1,800 hours of the game – and their Steam profile agrees, with the time split between the original version and the Special Edition – and all of that knowhow has now gone into making the best character possible. 

All of their skills are not only maxed out at 100, but also upgraded to Legendary status. All completable quests, barring those with mutually exclusive rewards and outcomes, have been cleared, they claim. All spells, equipment, rare items, and even consumables have been acquired, meaning the armory of their base is really something to see. And all of this, they say, was done without any mods. 

The true eyebrow-raiser is the headlining claim of reaching level 1,337. Pawelos wasn't satisfied with level 1,000 or even 1,111 because they'd been done before, you see. To reach this new and dizzying height, they spent 43 hours and 7 minutes grinding, and then regrinding, and then regrinding their Illusion skill. Almost terrifyingly, all of the footage has been captured and preserved in a near-11-hour video with footage at 4x speed. "You can set the speed to 0.25 to experience it in real time," the video description reads. Thanks. 

The method involved is actually pretty simple. With help from a few accessories, Pawelos reduced the mana cost for Illusion magic to zero, letting them spam spells unreserved. The spell in question, Harmony, has no major effect on targets, meaning they could cast it in the heart of Whiterun, specifically from 9am to 5pm when the city is filled with NPCs, without a fight breaking out. 

With too many enhancements to list piled onto their character, Pawelos says it only took a few casts to get back to level 100 after resetting Illusion. This ended up being slower XP than spamming Telekinesis, they explain in the video, but that method risked breaking their game after level 300 or so. And so the cycle began, with the citizens of Whiterun getting Harmonized to all get out. 43 hours later, Pawelos had hit their target. 

"It definitely wasn't the most exciting activity in the world but I had some YouTube videos or Netflix playing on my laptop or phone 99% of the time," they said in a NexusMods reply. And yes, thankfully they did take breaks, with the Illusion grind "split into around 80 play sessions." 

The obvious question here is, of course, why? The next question would be: is this legitimate? This sort of thing is hard to prove definitively, and many onlookers have asked questions in response to Pawelos' YouTube and NexusMods posts, pointing out alleged inconsistencies in quests and levels. 11 hours of sped up footage is pretty convincing proof, though, especially looking at their Skyrim stats on steam, and Pawelos has doggedly responded to any and all naysayers to defend their grind. There's no doubt they're a Skyrim superfan, and after sifting through all this I'm willing to believe in the 1,337 dream. 

What does Pawelos get for all this? Well, among other things, they now have enough HP to survive a fall like this: 

perks of being level 1337 from r/skyrim

Update - February 27: I was luckily able to talk with Pawelos about their epic grind and their history with Skyrim, and was simultaneously surprised and unsurprised to hear them say that reaching level 1,337 was the easy part. Here's the interview in full: 

GamesRadar+: What motivated you to make a character like this?

Pawelos4: I don't play many games but the ones I do, I like to complete fully. I already tried making a 100% complete character before but after I finished, I noticed I could have done it much better. I wanted to beat my previous record level which was 271, and I while I was at it, I thought, why not beat everyone else's record too? The highest level I found anybody reached was 1,111, and I decided to go for the next catchy number.

Apart from leveling, what was the hardest part about this completionist grind?

Leveling was actually very easy but time consuming. The hardest part was definitely not missing anything and not corrupting or bugging my save. I had to constantly check all the wikis before entering any dungeon to make sure I'm not missing any noteworthy or special item while I'm there. I know most of the game quite well at this point but still I had to be sure. I played without mods so I had to be super mindful about bugged items, quests or characters and I kept every separate save file on my drive.

How many hours has this one character taken you?

Depends how you count. I have 1,800 hours in Skyrim across all versions and that's the game time number, but there was also time spent on research, so the real number to gain enough knowledge and be able to finish it is about 2,000 hours. But if you look at the save's time counter – that doesn't count any save reloads, which there were plenty of – it's only 387 hours of pure game time on this character.


(Image credit: Bethesda)

What is your favorite build type in Skyrim, and where do you stand on stealth archers?

My favorite build is definitely the master of all. I don't like to limit myself when my characters take so much time to finish so I'm used to playing as a maxed out character with no weak skills, and change my play style according to mission or location. Stealth archers are a lot of fun but so is a destruction mage, two-handed warrior, or a sword and board knight. They are all very fun to me.

What's your advice to players who are looking to maximize Skyrim in a similar way?

I'd say it's much easier if you install some mods that track your quests and fix bugs, I've seen others use them. But if you want to go vanilla like me, I'd say play a lot and learn about different outcomes to as many quests and world interactions as possible, and keep all your past saves because I know I had to load back a bunch of times. Do a test run where you learn and then go for the real one. Also, the wikis and their bugs section are going to be your good friend. And sometimes even then you will encounter a bug where you will have to search for a fix on some 10-year-old forum if you want to avoid console commands.

A reader reached out to me to share a leveling method: selling glitched Fortify potions worth millions of gold to power level Speech. They claim they went from level 78 to 1,400 in just a few hours. I wanted to gauge your thoughts on this method, especially as it uses a well-known glitch but no mods. 

Yes, this is definitely a super fast method that I am aware of. But I wanted to avoid all glitches and exploits on this playthrough, and I would consider my method to be a very optimal usage of the Harmony illusion spell. Other people wrote to me about the glitch claiming that I wasted all that time to make the big jump because I could have just enchanted my clothes with Fortify-million-health if I did the glitched cycle enough times, but that's not what this is about at all. I know people have been abusing that exploit for over 12 years now but I wanted to see how far a man can go without cheating in this game. 

After 5,400 dead NPCs and a 267,000-gold bounty, Skyrim player claims that they've "killed everything that was killable."

Austin Wood

Austin freelanced for the likes of PC Gamer, Eurogamer, IGN, Sports Illustrated, and more while finishing his journalism degree, and he's been with GamesRadar+ since 2019. They've yet to realize that his position as a senior writer is just a cover up for his career-spanning Destiny column, and he's kept the ruse going with a focus on news and the occasional feature, all while playing as many roguelikes as possible.