Character Build: The Bonsamu

I would first like to apologize for the original build. I know that many of you liked it, but it was in no way the build I intended it to be. I just got caught up in the idea and rushed through it; I started to throw things together that worked without any real explanation. Most things were simply tacked on as some people noticed. It only took me 6 months and another reading of The Immortal Blood to realize it, but I hope this version of the build does itself, and the vampires of Valenwood, justice.

The Bonsamu


In the deep forests of Valenwood, there dwell four distinct bloodlines of vampire. The first, and some would say one of the most dangerous, bloodlines is the Bonsamu. Although these vampires are native to Valenwood, it is not uncommon to see them around Tamriel although you would never know the difference. This line of vampires has gained its respect not for their overwhelming force, but through their manipulative powers, pure magical prowess and their own signature spell: a calming spell so strong that it makes them unidentifiable as vampires and requires the light of a candle to break it.

Race: Bosmer Vampire

Stone: Serpent

Major Skills: Destruction, Enchanting, Illusion

Minor Skills: Alchemy, Archery, Conjuration, Restoration

Equipment: Clothing, Assorted Long Bows with Iron or Practice Arrows

Shouts: Animal Allegiance, Kyne’s Peace, Bend Will, Call Dragon

The Build

The Bonsamu are the charismatic villains that everyone loves to hate. They are master manipulators that wiggle their way in and out of every situation. They are the friendly faces that stab you in the back when you least expect it, well shoot in this case. They go a step further than just lying and deceiving, they force people to trust them with magic when their personal charm is not enough. 

Though they must manipulate intelligent beings like humans and elves, the animals of Tamriel are naturally drawn to them. Animals like bats, wolves, spiders and death hounds are particular favorites of the clan, but they will not hesitate to enlist the likes of any other animal they find necessary.

As I mentioned before, the Bonsamu are not the most skilled in pure combat. The only thing that matches their cunning and wit is their magic. Their natural affinity for the bow as a Bosmer makes it the perfect conduit to channel this pure magic power. With the help of their bows they can expend less magic energy while being more effective and faster combining to make a most efficient “spell caster.”


For a Bosmer it is odd to see Archery as a minor skill and so many magic skills as major. In the case of the Bonsamu, Archery is more of a conductor for magic. When combined with Enchanting and the school of Destruction, the strength of each enchantment is vastly superior to casually spell casting. But what makes bows special is the Quick Shot perk. This increases draw speed by 30% and 62.5% with the Necromage perk. With the Long Bow having the fastest draw speed of all enchantable bows already, this boost is certainly empowering. The power of these enchanted bows in tandem with their firing rate will grant much higher damage per second than conventional spells or normal Archery.

To help abuse this obscene firing speed, the Bonsamu specializes in the making of poisons. These poisons are used to raise the effectiveness of their spells as well as that of their allies. Effects may range from healing companions to dismantling the resistance of enemies.

Illusion magic is the one effect the Bonsamu cannot truly channel through their bows. There are two types of Illusion magic that they specialize in. The first being in Rally spells. These spells help show the charisma of this bloodline. They are able to rally a crowd with ease even if they are all animals. The other type of Illusion magic they use is Pacifying. They use this magic to conceal their identities and talk their way out danger. Once this power has been fully realized, they can avoid any conflict they wish.

Apparel and Bows

The Bonsamu choose to wear clothing that will not make them look too unusual as it helps keeping their Illusion up if no one is really trying to figure them out. For males, simple clothes or fine clothes work well. This gives the appearance of a friendly and trustworthy face. The women are typically the same. They wear casual or fine clothes to blend in, but some who are little more adventurous may choose something along the lines of tavern clothes. This adds a bit of a seductive side to their personality, but also an increased risk of being sought out. As for enchantments, their clothing is usually tailored for what they favor. Common enchantments include Fortify Destruction, Fortify Illusion and Resist Fire. The goal of these enchantments is to raise their efficiency with little fatigue while maintaining the illusion they are not vampires.

The assortment of bows are typically enchanted to recreate the effects of spells to give the appearance of casting without putting down the bow. There are infinite combinations of enchantments with the Extra Effect perk. There a couple bows that are necessities though. The first is a vampiric bow. Absorb Health with Absorb Magicka seems to do the trick. This combination really helps in ranged battles or when out in the sun with no regeneration. The other necessary bow is more of a series. It is a series of three bows, each enchanted with only one element (Fire, Frost and Shock) and possible a secondary effect that is not damaging. The reason for these bows will be explained more shortly. Aside from those, anything is fair game and the bows chosen should really reflect your take on the Bonsamu and what effects you find helpful.

The Green Pact

Being a Bosmer Alchemist is always a struggle because of the ever strict Green Pact. The basis of the Green Pact is that Bosmer cannot use plants or vegetation in the creation of anything, fungi is an exception. This ranges from buildings, to weapons, to potions and poisons. Thankfully the Long Bows used cannot be crafted and are found, but poisons are not as simple. The Bonsamu use poisons to increase their own damage capabilities along with their allies, but it also allows them to effortlessly heal their companions.

I am no Alchemy expert so the Green Pact really limited me to simple poisons. Here are some examples of what I used:

In essence there are up to seven permanent companions, six spiders and one death hound. Other pets can be conjured such as Familiars and some recruited out of the wild with Animal Allegiance or Command Animal. Since they are only temporary, it is not essential to keep them healthy. But cloaked spiders and death hounds are a different story. They have no time restraints and will stay as long as they are alive. It is a good idea to grab the Companion’s Insight power from the Black Book: Winds of Change, but for some reason spider scrolls are not affected and they can be damaged. (To be safe, I suggest using the following method on death hounds as well in case the power becomes bugged.) To heal spiders with poisons, choose a bow that matches their element because they resist it (for death hounds they resist frost) and then you can fire off a couple healing poisons. If you mess up, the spiders are very sensitive and will turn hostile if more damage is done than what is healed. On Master difficulty, a Long Bow with Practice Arrows will net a glorious 5 points of physical damage. As you can see, all damage comes from enchantments and speed. As long as you choose the correct elements to shoot your spiders with then they will remain on your side.  

The Wildlife

There are numerous species of animals that call Skyrim home and though the Bonsamu will have a connection with all of them, there are a few in particular that will always find their home at the side of these vampire archers.


The spider scrolls are the number one ally of the Bonsamu. They are living and breathing spiders with a bit of a kick to them. To create these spiders you need to head to White Ridge Barrow on the island of Solstheim and craft them in the imbuing chamber. Each spider has an individual recipe. To start off fire spiders require rubies, frost requires sapphires, shock requires amethysts and poison spiders need emeralds. Using a a flawless gem will grant six scrolls, this is important because there is a limited number of spider pods with only one that respawns, without using duplication glitches.

Spider pods will also determine the type of spider. A Damaged Albino Spider Pod will create Exploding Spiders; when casted will just lay on the ground until someone goes near them and then explode. Regular Albino Spider Pods will create Jumping and Cloaked Spiders (To make a cloaked one simply add a Salt Pile). Jumping Spiders do exactly what their name says, they will charge head first into battle, jump at enemies and explode. While Cloaked Spiders are a little more subtle, they charge into battle and sit at the enemies’ feet while their cloaks unload the majority of the damage.

The last type of spider utilized by the Bonsamu is the Mind Control Spider, it is only fitting. These spiders are created by using any soul gem and Albino Spider Pods. The problem is that they can only be created one at a time, so use them sparingly. The way they work is the spider is thrown and then latches on to the nearest enemy. It has the power of controlling nearly any humanoid in the game for 30 seconds! The best part is that after the time is up the enemy will die.


While not a living or breathing animal, it does play a large role. The casual Familiar is honestly nothing reputably, even in the beginning of the game. They are subpar at best with low health and low damage output. Eventually they become a force. When fully buffed by Illusion magic while being accompanied by seven other animals, it becomes a 60 second tank. Its job, with the rest of your animals is to keep the enemy off of you which it does exceedingly well given the right support. Since it only last for 60 seconds, it is not worth attempting to heal and it will not be too bulky until later levels when Master of the Mind is unlocked anyway because it is classified as a daedra.

The Flaming Familiar on the other hand is helpful from its acquisition. It is a running, ticking time bomb much like Jumping Spiders. The difference is this does not force you to waste spider scrolls, but it only comes in a fire variant sadly. Much like the spiders, it has a very generous casting range that comes with some unique angles. When using the Flaming Familiar, as well as Jumping Spiders, avoid having other followers or animals near the target because there is a chance they will get hurt in the explosion.

Death Hounds

There are two death hounds in Volkihar Keep that can be taken as followers: CuSith and Garmr. Both have identical stats and are level 5. Something that greatly surprised me is that they are classified as animals rather than undead. This means Illusion spells will affect them right from the start. Anyone that fights these things knows how annoying they can be. They have a mean bite and a small Frost Cloak that does about 1 point of damage per second.


Actually playing as the Bonsamu is not as complicated as it may seem. At any given time you can have out six spiders, your death hound and a familiar. I like to keep a mix of Frost, Fire and Shock Cloaked spiders depending on the situation. Then in the last few slots leave it open for Posion, Jumping, Exploding and Mind Control Spiders.

Going into battle requires some preparation. You can begin behind the scenes by buffing your pets or if you get caught off guard, Calm or Paralyze any enemies then prepare the army. Early on, the Courage spell is relatively consistent but as the party grows it becomes less efficient. Eventually only Rally and Call to Arms will be used religiously. Both Courage and Rally are affected by Animage and Kindred Mage. For our purposes, we will look at Animage. This grants an 8 point boost to the health and stamina increases. Then the vampire power Champion of the Night will increase all Illusion spells by 25%. Finally dual-casting the spell will make it 2.2 times stronger. Courage and Rally will increase the Health and Stamina of your animals by about 90 points while Call to Arms will be about another 30 with everything taken into account. When all added together your pets can net close to 210 points of health. This is about three times more than what they normally have. If you couple an amazing health pool with the healing factor of your poisons, they become near indestructible. Word of warning, make sure they are healed before the Illusion effects wear off because you run the chance of them dying once their health returns to normal. Rather than wasting poisons, once outside of battle switch to Healing Hands and help recover your animals.

With scores of health and some nasty cloaking effects, they will rip apart enemies on their own. But once you tie in poisons that make enemies weak to magic, your own attacks and the Serpent Stone to potentially leave the enemy for dead as they lay their helpless, it becomes down right overpowering. At first it may seem tedious, but once you realize you will at most have three elements out at a time that you would actually heal and not every spider or hound will sustain the same amount of damage, it is not too bad to switch between bows once in a while and with Concentrated Poison you will be able to heal a couple at a time.

The Bosmer power Command Animal with the shouts Animal Allegiance, Kyne's Peace, Call Dragon and Bend Will, help extend your army. Command Animal will typically only work on one animal at a time and can only be used once a day, but it is very helpful early on. Next would be Kyne's Peace which is a good way to calm the wilds early on as well. Animal Allegiance has sustained use because of its area of effect and magnitude. Even at one word it can command just about any animal aside from a mammoth, this makes it invaluable once you factor it in that it works on multiple animals at a time within a given radius. Finally, Bend Will and Call Dragon were used solely to tame Dragons. It just did not seem right for a master manipulator that has such a close bond with the wild, not be able to command dragons. 

If by the grace of heavens anyone makes it past the onslaught and reaches you, they will see your true form: Vampire Lord Form. There is not much to say about Vampire Lord Form because there are only so many options with it. But it is the ultimate fail safe. If enemies have already be poisoned with Weakness to Poison and/or Weakness to Magic then you will truly shine as a Vampire Lord. Melee mode is the best option because you won't run the risk of harming any summons, if they are still out, and you do not need to escape. The two keys are going to be Poison Talons and Night Cloak. Both of which are augmented by the poisons that were set earlier. I have also found that Blood Healing or using Corpse Curse are good transitions back to revert back. With Corpse Curse laying the same foundation as the Serpent Stone.


Chain Reaction

“When he looked at me I felt a sense of relief, like everything would be okay… Now here I am… Laying in a pool of my blood waiting to die.”

Calm Spell/Serpent Stone + Exploding Spiders + Rune Spell + Flaming Familiar

This was found out of just experimenting. The idea is, if you can Calm them, then you can kill them. It is hard for any other build I've played to generate the potential damage of this technique. You simply calm the enemy then proceed to set up a death trap. You can lay out a total of six exploding spiders plus one rune. Which is pretty much laying down seven runes. Next you can unleash a Flaming Familiar and shoot one your spiders. Shooting an Exploding Spider will propel it forward a little before it explodes. If done correctly, you can clear a whole room by just setting off one spider because it will either force the others to explode or it will make the enemies turn aggressive and force them through an impossible minefield.

The Change

“I brought the light up to my face and smiled. He was surprised, even stunned by the pallor of my flesh, the dark hunger in my ageless eyes, and the teeth. Oh, yes, I think the teeth definitely surprised the man who could not afford to be surprised.”

Candlelight + Vampire Lord Form

Though it is nothing special, it is fun and a good roleplay experience. Once in a while I would dismiss all my followers to experience the thrill of being on my own, with a bow and no armor. First activate Candlelight. This will attract every enemy in sight. You can try to mow them down with your bow alone, but typically it will not be enough if there are a few enemies. With your back against the wall, they will edge close enough to see the real you. By willingly breaking the Illusion you change into Vampire Lord Form and slaughter them.


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