The most infamous weapon in the long history of The Elder Scrolls is undoubtedly the Wabbajack. This cursed demonic artifact takes the form of a staff decorated with carved faces expressing various emotions—a clue to the chaotic power lurking within. It doesn't look like much, but it's capable of some highly unusual and unpredictable magic, making it both extremely powerful and highly dangerous to wield.
Wabbajack first appeared in The Elder Scrolls 2: Daggerfall, where it was awarded to the player for killing a battlemage at the behest of Sheogorath, the Daedric Prince of Madness. It also appeared in Oblivion as part of the Shivering Isles expansion, where he played a bigger role. The mischievous Sheogorath loves toying with the mortals of Tamriel, and Wabbajack is an elaborate practical joke in the form of a weapon.
Cast it at an enemy and you never know what will happen. The staff can unleash all manner of strange, randomised powers, from turning enemies into harmless chickens to making them explode. Skyrim's version of the staff is the most fun to use, with a large selection of weird, wonderful effects—including several played for laughs—and it can turn a boring battle into a wild explosion of slapstick silliness.
In my continuing quest to find new ways to experience Skyrim, including playing as an NPC and as a pure mage, I was struck with an idea. What if I played the game using the Wabbajack and nothing else? No swords, no magic, no scrolls—just pure chaos. It sounded like the kind of preposterous idea Sheogorath would approve of, so I started a new game and did some tinkering with the PC version to get the staff early.
Some of the Wabbajack's powers are straightforward. There's a chance you'll fire a thunderbolt, ice spike, or some other spell from the Destruction school. It also has a chance to turn you invisible, absorb an enemy's health, or cast a mind-altering Illusion spell such as Fury or Fear. This makes it a powerful weapon—especially if you've completely fortified Destruction, meaning it no longer has to be recharged.
I headed to one of Skyrim's many bandit-infested ruins with the Wabbajack in hand. The moment I encountered a group of enemies, I immediately knew this playthrough was worth it. As I fired the staff, the screen exploded with arcs of electricity, balls of fire, and other magical effects. Sometimes it did nothing. Sometimes it made enemies flee in terror or paralysed them. It was like playing some kind of twisted slot machine.
Occasionally an enemy would turn into a mudcrab and start attacking its allies with its pincers. Sometimes they would transform into a chicken and run around in a panic. But the effects weren't always in my favour. Enemies would go transparent, making them harder to hit, or turn into a demon and attack me. That's the beauty of the Wabbajack: it can destroy foes, but every time you cast it, it's like rolling a devilish dice.
The problem with this weapon is that, if your Destruction skill isn't at 100, you'll have to keep recharging it with filled soul gems—a precious resource in Skyrim. If you're playing the game legitimately, this will make a Wabbajack-only run pretty gruelling. However, if you have no qualms about bending the rules, mods or console commands will let you use it indiscriminately, and ultimately have more fun.
Without regular weapons to fall back on, the random nature of the Wabbajack made dungeon crawling a decidedly hit-and-miss affair—quite literally in those instances when it decided it didn't want to deal any damage at all. It does that sometimes. You can at least cancel out an effect by shooting a target again and cycling through the spells, repeating until it conjures up a Destruction spell and kills them.
The Wabbajack has a lot of other quirks. Occasionally a woman will appear in the open world chanting its name, begging you to use it on her. If you do, she turns into a rabbit. If the staff transforms someone into an object, they'll never return to their original form, meaning they're essentially dead. For some reason, casting it on a dwarven centurion has a higher chance than other enemies to turn it into a sweetroll.
The sometimes overly zany sense of humour in Bethesda games can be grating, but the Wabbajack gets a pass. Random effects in RPGs are always fun, whether it's the Wild Mage class in D&D-based games such as Baldur's Gate, or Akalabeth: World of Doom's magical amulet, which could randomly turn the player into a lizard-person. Skyrim is already chaotic, but this cursed staff takes it to a whole other level.
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