And we’re back.
One of my favorite items in TES IV: Oblivion was a unique staff that could be purchased from a shopkeeper in the Imperial City. It dealt 33 points of damage from each of the three major elements, and while it was a bit pricey for a fresh character, it would prove invaluable for many early/mid-game encounters.
This staff was called Apotheosis, and it has long been a dream of mine to recreate it in Skyrim.
As many regulars of the Forge are already aware, thanks to Blackblood’s excellent alchemist build, apotheosis is a Greek word that describes the transcendence of a mortal into godhood. With this build, I wanted to bring balance and power to the elements in a way that does justice to that etymology. This one was a ton of fun to conceptualize, play, and write. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have!
I am symbiosis. For two centuries have I lain, idle and neglected, deep in the wilderness of the Jerall Mountains. My last bearer performed many wonders while under my dominion. But we fulfilled our purpose long ago, and we parted ways: he to dwell in the Shivering Isles, and me to seek my next vessel in the realm of mortals. He was not the first. He will not be the last.
I am symbiosis. I hunger. How I hunger. But I cannot feed without a vessel. And through me, my vessel too will feast. He will grow fat from strength. And be he worthy, he too shall transcend his mortal shackles. He will not be the last.
I am symbiosis. My vessel approaches, drawn to the energy that radiates from my core. And I sense him, as I know he senses me.
I am symbiosis. And my long rest has ended.
- Race: Orc
- Alignment: Neutral Good (early game) → Chaotic Neutral (late game)
- Stone: Atronach
- Attributes: All Magicka
- Major Skills: Alteration, Two-handed, Heavy Armor
- Minor Skills: Destruction, Block, Alchemy, Illusion, Smithing
- Key Passives: Seeker of Sorcery, Force Without Effort, Blessing of Stendarr
- Shouts: Bend Will, Become Ethereal
The main feature of this build, as you should have already surmised, is Apotheosis itself: a stalhrim warhammer enchanted with Chaos Damage. It can hit multiple enemies with a single blow (sound familiar?), it can push the block cap in the endgame, it can deal solid damage even while bashing (and incredible damage with an outright attack - refer below), and it will stagger virtually anything in its path. The feeling of a power attack from a warhammer is deliciously visceral, and it really lends the sense of weight and power that a demigod should possess.
In terms of armor, the play here is a full set of tempered Nordic Carved gear with the mask of Zahkriisos. This is an awesome and imposing look, reminiscent of some of the great lords and demigods of mythology and fantasy (refer again to the gif linked in the prior paragraph). Even better, it provides quite strong protection, easily capable of hitting the cap in the endgame. And best of all, Zahkriisos allows us to untap the full potential of the Chaos Damage enchantment on our hammer! You may need to chuck on some Fortify Heavy Armor enchantments to truly maximize your defenses in the mid-game, but potions will be readily available.
For jewelry, your standard fare will be the Ring of the Beast and a Necklace of Peerless Blocking. The former literally doubles your Health pool. Without this, even with this character’s heavy defenses, you may find that some enemies still hit impressively hard. The necklace further hedges against that risk, ensuring that your blocked damage pushes as close as possible to the cap -- and again, potions can make up any shortcomings in a pinch. You should also acquire the Amulet of Articulation, which will allow you to properly remain in character when outside of combat. A nigh immortal demigod should be able to command and intimidate the mortal masses, don’t you think?
The Apotheote, being a seeker of godhood, is naturally very difficult to defeat. Indeed, this build can tank so much damage that it makes even The Undying look vulnerable by comparison! Allow me to illustrate:
- Worn Armor: 80% damage mitigation
- Dragonhide: 80% damage mitigation
- Blocking: 85% damage mitigation
- Grand Total: 99.4% damage reduction !!!
That’s right: An attack that would normally hit for 100 damage will instead do less than 1! The really nice thing about these different defensive elements is that you can mix and match however you like -- if you want to preserve more Magicka for spells, you can skip Dragonhide for some encounters. Or if you want to forego blocking and feel like an unstoppable badass, you can just chuck on Dragonhide and swing away, with no need to block any attacks.
Dragonhide normally only lasts 30 seconds, but we can do much better. With Alteration Dual Casting, Stability, and a custom potion at 120% magnitude, we can get over 3.5 minutes from each cast! Do take heed, however: You must not swap out any gear while Dragonhide is active, or else the effect will break (it is not meant to be used while armor is worn, but the game does not check whether armor is worn upon initial cast -- only once the spell is active). Also note that you will need either a Fortify Magicka potion, or else a Fortify Magicka and/or Fortify Alteration generic enchantment on an armor piece, in order to reliably dual cast Dragonhide.
Complementing the physical defense, the Apotheote absorbs 80% of all incoming spells, and resists more than half of the magical damage that does breach his initial defenses: Zahkriisos passively resists 50% of Shock spells, and Fire and Frost can be easily resisted with potions that use snowberries as a foundation. Keep a few of these on hand for dragons and enemy mages who dare to assault you. In the endgame, these can get up around 85%, which is the resistance cap.
On the other end of the spectrum, this character can dish out some devastating damage via his wicked hammer. Throw in potions of Two-handed and/or Destruction, and you can see those numbers go through the roof: If all three elements proc, the magical and physical damage (fully buffed) will combine for over 650 damage with those potions up, assuming you optimized your tempering, potions, and enchantments. Incredible, considering this character doesn’t even perk Enchanting.
Even a demigod needs to eat. I recommend keeping a stock -- no pun intended -- of vegetable soup on hand before you enter a new dungeon. It lasts for 12 minutes, enough time to clear most dungeons, and is extremely cheap and accessible. Most cities have produce stalls, taverns, and general merchants, where you can buy the ingredients reliably for a few coins apiece. No reason not to use these liberally. They provide enough Stamina to get off a new power attack as quickly as our hammer can swing, and the health regen is actually enough to keep up with the damage you are likely to ever take too.
The final element of gameplay to consider is Illusion. It’s a decidedly minor skill here, but I think it is extremely fitting for a demigod to be able to instill fear, panic, or other crippling effects on his lesser foes. The presence of such an imposing and powerful lord should be enough to cause most enemies to reconsider whether they dare challenge this figure. Apprentice spells should be sufficient for your needs, especially with perks like Aspect of Terror and the occasional Illusion potion. Illusion should be used somewhat sparingly, more as a change of pace to keep things fresh than as a constant primary tool.
In order to balance out the frankly obscene defensive prowess this build offers, I advise playing this character on the “Adept-Plus” difficulty originally coined by asgard. It’s an elegant, simple solution to a fundamental problem with Skyrim’s difficulty and level scaling systems: As you grow in level, your enemies gain more Health. As you increase difficulty, you deal less damage. These two factors compound to make high level enemies feel like tedious bullet sponges on high difficulties, and it turns Skyrim into a slash-spamming simulator. Neither fun nor rewarding at all, in my opinion.
The concept behind Adept-Plus is that you never spec into Health when leveling up, and rely instead upon a steadily improving armor base to counteract the progressively stronger incoming attacks you will receive as your enemies scale in power. It simulates the good part of Skyrim’s difficulty scaling -- that you receive relatively more incoming damage -- by virtue of a smaller Health pool. But without the annoying part: tedious spongey enemies. It works quite cleanly, creating a more natural difficulty curve than ramping up to Expert or Master as the playthrough develops. If you’ve never tried it, I definitely recommend it!
Do note that this character can survive on “Expert-Plus” or even “Master-Plus” if you find it to be too easy on Adept-Plus. Just keep base Health at 100, and adjust difficulty as you see fit. Or consider swapping out the Ring of the Beast for a different ring, which effectively doubles incoming damage.
Between the intentional Health limit and the endless Stamina from vegetable soup, there is no need to spec anywhere other than Magicka. You will find that you have more than you ever need in the mid/late game, allowing you to mix things up by dual casting spells to help keep combat a bit more dynamic. Or, if you find yourself taking more damage than a demigod tank should be receiving in your opinion, you can always tick a few level-ups into Health if you prefer. But I feel the build is very well balanced as presented on Adept-Plus, given the frame of feeling like a superhuman tank.
Bend Will is great, both practically and thematically. Unlike any Illusion spells -- and at the expense of invoking the Wrath of Todd -- it just works. No buffs, no level caps, no aiming: Simply activate and sit back to watch as any NPCs and creatures it hits submit to your command. You can use them as temporary servants or thralls, or simply dispose of them if you prefer.
Become Ethereal is a fantastic utility shout for movement, positioning, battlefield management, etc. In particular, it is best used by the Apotheote to set up power attack opportunities. The first attack to break ethereal form is free. And if you play your cards right, you can use a single sweep attack to smash several enemies at once, or perhaps a lucky backwards power attack to stun a boss type enemy. Note that the “paralysis” described in the Warmaster perk description is actually a knockdown, meaning enemies that resist the Paralyze effect can still be affected by backwards power attacks!
As described above, this combination allows for the Apotheote to achieve a stunning 99.4% physical damage reduction, as well as 90% magical resistance (80% absorption + 50% to each element).
The potions allow for the Apotheote to elevate both the physical and magical damage of his attacks to terrifying levels, as discussed above. Sweep is ideal when facing a horde of mid/low level enemies, whereas Warmaster is for dispatching solitary boss type enemies.
Don’t forget that either of the above moves may be supplemented by Berserker Rage once per day, granting twice as much damage dealt or mitigated! Since the Apotheote’s defense is already so insane, I advise using Berserker Rage more for offensive displays.
Key potions for the Apotheote to brew include:
- Fortify Alteration: Grass Pod + River Betty
- Note: Add Red Mountain Flower to get Restore Magicka as an extra effect
- Fortify Block: Tundra Cotton + Bleeding Crown
- Note: This also comes built-in with Resist Magic! Add Jazbay Grapes to get Fortify Magicka as well
- Fortify Destruction: Glowing Mushroom + Nightshade
- Note: Throw in Wheat to add a Fortify Health effect for even more survivability
- Fortify Two-handed: Dragon’s Tongue + Fly Amanita
- Note: Comes with built-in Fire Resistance. Add Mora Tapinella for Fortify Illusion
- Resist Fire & Frost: Snowberries + Fly Amanita + Thistle Branch
You may occasionally want to dabble with Fortify Heavy Armor in the mid-game, and perhaps Fortify Health Regen or other effects.
I always recommend building at least one Hearthfire home for alchemist characters, and this is no exception. The garden and greenhouse are crucial to maintaining a passive supply of ingredients with minimal effort required. I also recommend keeping a full set of generic magic apparel with Fortify Alchemy enchantments next to your alchemy station. Rings are a bit harder to come by, but the Ring of Pure Mixtures is a simple enough option. Muiri’s Ring is slightly better if you opt to join the Dark Brotherhood -- this is not essential to the character, but it would not be inappropriate to do.
In your first few levels, focus on gathering a set of heavy armor and a two-handed weapon. You should be pretty well off on survivability from the get-go, with four pieces of heavy armor giving +100 hidden AR, as well as the ability to block at will. Grab Oakflesh as well for further defense and to begin leveling up your Alteration. Pick up Destruction Dual Casting early on, and swap freely between dual-cast spells and your hammer to keep both offensive options in line.
I liked modeling this playthrough after the classic fall from grace: I started out as a journeyman Orc warrior seeking new challenges and testing his mettle. I ran through several standard adventuring quests in the early game, honing my skills and adding to my arsenal. However, after a chance encounter led to “discovering” Apotheosis around level 25, the seeds of conquest were planted. In roleplaying terms, I considered this discovery to be the encounter with the Champion’s Cudgel (perhaps named in honor of the staff’s previous wielder, the Champion of Cyrodiil, last known bearer of Apotheosis? Who’s to say, really?). Being a semi-sentient, semi-divine dark weapon, it is reasonable to me that it might be able to alter its form in subtle ways to best appeal to its vessel. In this manner, the Apotheote acquires the means to his Apotheosis: the stalhrim warhammer described above.
Yet as his power begins to grow, so too does his thirst to conquer. The Apotheote begins to see himself as superior, to seek out threats against his claims of dominion and dispatch them. With every foe vanquished, with every increase in strength, he grows ever darker, ever more distant and detached. This need not be a wholly evil character, but at a minimum, it warrants a cold and hard persona, especially toward the late game. Someone detached, unpredictable, ruthless. A loner whose only interaction with lesser men is to dominate, manipulate, or captivate.
Eventually, the Apotheote will cease seeing himself as a mortal at all, and begin his final conquest -- death. In so doing, he will push the boundaries of magic. He will journey to distant lands seeking unique powers and abilities, and he will obliterate some of the greatest powers in Tamriel: Alduin, Miraak, Harkon, a bevy of daedric princes, and more besides.
In your own playthrough, you may wish to go all-in on the evil shtick. You may even want to dabble in vampirism or lycanthropy for a time, or even permanently. These would not be inappropriate for this character. Indeed, joining the Volkihar to learn their secrets, claim their treasures (Ring of the Beast!), and overthrow their lord is a key part of the Apotheote’s power climb. Personally, I preferred to cure my vampirism fairly quickly, as it was tied to a sire, which made me feel less overtly powerful/controlling. Once my Apotheote got a taste of power, he began to want it all for himself, and to despise those who had their own.
Thanks for reading my build. Feedback and questions are eagerly welcomed.