Character Build: The Berne Clan

Just one more reason to be afraid of the dark

"Our enemies dare to claim the night as their own. In their arrogance they think of the darkness as their ally but they merely adopt it, shrouding themselves in the shadows to hide their true nature from the world. They are mere day walkers; They no more attuned to the dark than the prey we feast upon. We in turn are the true masters of shadow; Darkness given form. We alone bear the right to call ourselves the children of the night, and in the end the darkness will betray them because it belongs to us."

- Raxle Berne

The Berne clan are one of three prominent vampire clans hailing from the region of Vvardenfell. Unlike the Quarra who boldly proclaim their intentions and lay waste to entire villages, members of the Berne clan prefer stealth and secrecy. The Berne clan are rumored to be far more attuned to the shadows than any other vampire clan in existence. They are the true masters of the night; Sliding effortlessly through the darkness, and invisible in the shadow. They hunt their prey in secrecy and silence, and their enemies disappear without a trace. 

The Berne clan are forever locked in a bloody war for supremacy against the Aundae and Quarra clan. A war that has withstood both the test of time and the disaster of Red Mountain. Throughout many centuries of bloodshed the Berne clan has undermined enemies and allies alike in order to survive against impressive adversaries. No tactic has proven too underhanded for the Berne, who have infiltrated and sabotaged their enemies numerous times; At times they've even gone as far as stealing blood from other clans, chemically altering the blood to use against their enemies or augment their own abilities. Records on the Berne clan are scarce at best. Hardly anyone who has encountered these twisted creatures has lived to tell about it.

Along with stealth and agility, the Berne clan are master blades-men and hand to hand combatants. These guys are essentially vampire ninjas. We'll let you take a moment to consider the sheer awesomeness of that combination...

The challenge with this build was in creating synergy between stealth, daggers, and unarmed combat. Alchemy becomes the glue that binds these three seemingly incompatible skills together. The end result is beautiful synergy between assassin and monk fighting tactics; A powerful necro brawler / shadow mancer hybrid that slips in and out of the darkness like its nothing, stack lethal poison damage like nobody's business, and beat down enemies with style.

Unique to this build is a means of raising from the dead a specialized minion capable of withstanding all manner of attacks. Alchemy and necromancy together allow for the creation of the perfect decoy; an enticing target that can not be killed by any means.

Ultimately my personal favorite part about this build is the viable unarmed damage without the use of game breaking gauntlet stacking. Concepts from James's discussion on Marked for Death as well as Teccam's character build, The Regulator, are used to drastically increase unarmed damage without the need to stack gauntlets. Poisons together with unarmed fighting allow the berne to deal respectable levels of damage with very few perks invested into offensive skills.

The Build

Race: Imperial Vampire. Imperials make sense from a lore standpoint as all members of the Berne clan are Imperials. In addition, Imperials start off with a bonus in many key skill trees critically important to this build, most notably restoration and heavy armor. You can never go wrong with Voice of the Emperor either. This powerful racial ability will buy time to escape a bad situation.

Stone: Ritual Stone. The Ritual Stone allows you raise a thrall of any level, which is perfect for those situations where even Dread Zombie cant get the job done. Even better, standard thralls wont disintegrate when the spell wears off, and the undying thralls will last indefinitely (More on that below)

Stat Distribution: 1M;1H;1S until magicka hits 200. Change over to 0M;1H;1S from that point onward. This gives you enough magicka to work with for the resurrection of undead minions and poison runes, as well as plenty of base health and stamina to survive.

Major Skills: Sneak, Conjuration, Alchemy, Restoration

Minor Skills: Heavy Armor, Illusion

Shouts: Marked for Death, Slow Time, Drain Vitality (glitched version learned along side Marked for Death), Throw Voice

Black Book Powers: Seeker of Shadows. 

Spells: Novice - Expert level Raise Undead spells

Beware what lurks in the shadows

Sneak grants this build many great advantages to both offense and defense. Combined with the vampire's 25% additional proficiency with sneak, you will be all but impossible to detect; a true master of the night able to move freely in the shadows. But sneak is valuable for more than just prowling around undetected. In combat your ability to slip away from the fray is an invaluable tactical advantage, enabling you to dictate the pace of battle. Sneak is also a valuable offensive asset, allowing you to approach a target undetected and attack with lethal poisons.

Alchemy is the true center piece of this build, leaving sneak in the dust at a distant second place. Expect to make use out of a lot of different potions and poisons. The Berne are master alchemists specializing in lethal and crippling poisons. Poisons are how you will level the playing field against powerful enemies who will just end you instantly. Such enemies become more manageable with stamina/magicka depleted and a sizeable chunk of their health gone.

Conjuration provides you with useful meat-shields that can be used as dummy targets for your enemies, enabling you to flank and attack your enemies with impunity. Its an invaluable tactic as you wont have much physical defense to rely on with this character. Since you're taking the entire necromancy branch, anything you revive will have a boat load more health, making even the weakest of enemies a worthwhile minion. Leveling this skill to 90 enables you to gain a sweet pair of daedric gauntlets and boots at a very early level.

Illusion and Restoration play very singular but vital roles in this build. Illusion is taken purely for quiet casting, which is a nifty perk to have if you want to cast magic and shout without alerting every enemy in the room. Restoration is taken purely for the Necromage perk, a powerful perk choice for any vampire build as it causes all beneficial spells, abilities, enchantments, and effects cast upon oneself to be 25% more effective and last 50% longer. Did we mention this glorious effect applies to potions as well? 

Lastly Heavy Armor is taken purely to improve your unarmed damage. Daedric gauntlets are used to get the most damage possible out of the 'Fists of Steel' perk.

"The Berne clan are masters of alchemy, and it is through the use of deadly poisons that they earn their reputation for silencing enemies quickly, quietly, and permanently."

One thing you'll come to appreciate very much about this build is how fast it can be power leveled. Most of the above skills can be trained to their required levels quickly and easily. For those who aren't into power leveling these skills level fairly fast naturally as well.

The highest priority skills are alchemy and sneak. Your unarmed damage wont be strong enough at the start of the game so focus on developing alchemy for more lethal poisons and sneak for protection. You can reach 30 heavy armor skill easily with a visit to a heavy armor trainer. Adding your gauntlets' base armor rating to your unarmed damage is an invaluable boost. Other items and skills that boost unarmed damage are very easy to find, making unarmed combat more reliable early on thus allowing you to save poisons for more strategic situations.

Sneak can easily be maxed and fully perked before you even leave Helgen. All you need to do is sneak attack Ralof/Hadvar repeatedly while they crouch down to hide from that bear in the caves. It literally takes less than 20 minutes to max sneak this way. I personally feel that it does the Berne clan justice to start out right away as a master of stealth, but again if power leveling isn't your thing, the Thieves Guild quest line offers an easy way to level sneak naturally. Conjuration will level quickly from raising corpses, but if you're looking to speed that train along casting soul trap repeatedly on a dead body will level conjuration at an amazing pace.

You wont use much any illusion spells or restoration spells in your play-through but both are very easily power leveled. For illusion simply cast courage repeatedly on any non hostile target. You need only reach 50 in illusion. For restoration grab the atronach stone and head into Cronvangr cave, which is incidentally right next to where you get the stone. There is a flame pressure plate trap that separates the vampire and frost spider dwellings. Use the flame trap to damage yourself while healing and simultaneously absorbing magicka from the trap to keep the cycle going. Necromage will be yours before you know it.

Lastly, the multitude of easily crafted 3-effect poisons make alchemy incredibly easy to level. Avoid fast traveling and rob and purchase from alchemy shops frequently and you'll have no trouble gathering the ingredients.


Above you can see your final load out. Aesthetically it looks absolutely amazing. Its so very dark and savage looking. The heavy gauntlets and boots have no impact on your stealth ability as its way too high to even matter. The Morag Tong armor can be gained from the quest Served Cold, or through random encounters with the Morag Tong if you join the Dark Brotherhood (more on that below). The Atronach Forge will provide the Daedric gear needed. Check out the recipes HERE.

It is impossible to forge unenchanted daedric boots. Instead you must use the random pre enchanted daedric armor piece recipe ( way to go Bethesda). Try to score something useful like 'shock resistance' or 'fire resistance', or 'fortify stamina'. Even without enchanting perked, its worthwhile to enchant your gauntlets with 'fortify unarmed damage'.

The Ring of the Beast can be gotten very early in the Volkihar quest line. Make this item a priority. The additional health and unarmed damage is huge. With this item your health is boosted to roughly 400+ at level 40 if you follow the ratio. Its just high enough to somewhat compensate for your horribly low defense.

The twin shivs are both to be enchanted with paralysis lasting for 1 second each. The paralysis on the shivs are meant solely to stun enemies long enough to complete the series of strikes needed to stack the poisons. They are to be named so that they appear separately in the item menu as well as the quick menu, making the application of poisons a more streamlined process. The Shivs can be obtained from the quest No One Escapes Cidna Mine.

On the topic of shouts: Certain shouts are far more potent with just 1 word when used in quick succession. Become ethereal outlasts its cool down, whirlwind sprint can be used to effortlessly glide through rooms, drain vitality can be used to essentially seal an opponents magic and power attacks indefinitely, and 1 word of marked for death can be stacked 4-5 times in the time it would take for its 3 word version to cool down. The Talos amulet and blessing reduce shout cool downs by a total of 50% (thanks necromage!) making the above 1 word shouts available for use very frequently. Many more options open up when you're able to use shouts almost on demand.

Their feral appearance and savagery belies a subtle and cunning nature that has kept them a step ahead of their enemies for centuries.



The Berne clan are master alchemists and it is through the use of deadly poisons that they earn their reputation for silencing enemies quickly, quietly, and permanently. Below are some of the concoctions you have at your disposal. This list may seem intimidating, but don't be put off. The ingredients are actually very easy to come across. The vast majority can be found exploring, and most of these are common in alchemy shops. Speaking of alchemy shops, robbing them blind is never a bad idea.

The real here kicker are the poisons, all of which have effects that can be rapidlyy stacked up to 4 times! A lingering damage health poison with a magnitude of 20 will deal a whopping 800+ damage over the course of 10 seconds. You'd need heavy investments in 'One handed', 'Smithing', as well as the 'Assassins Blade' perk to rival that kind of damage. You're getting all that with just 'Alchemy' and two measly shivs'.

The potions are designed to make you a more effective brawler and a more effective escape artist. The fortify marksmen effect, oddly enough, will improve damage dealt with any attack, even your fists. At higher levels you'll more than double your damage output

It should be noted that ravage magicka does not work the way the game advertises. Instead of reducing max magicka by a set amount, they work exactly like their lingering damage counterparts. This makes ravage magicka far superior to the lingering variety as the ravage variants have twice the magnitude.

Don't be afraid to deviate from what is listed below and experiment on your own. Half the fun of alchemy is experimentation



Agony: Damage Heath + Ravage Health + Lingering Health Damage

Imp stool + scathecraw + skeever tail

A vile concoction of what seems and feels like concentrated hatred and malice. Violently eats away at victims blood vessels as it courses through the veins. 


Misery: Paralysis + Lingering Health Damage + Damage Health

Human flesh + imp stool + (orange dartwing, scathecraw, mora tapinella)

A sadist's best friend. Attacks the victims nervous system, causing paralysis. The victim remains conscious while being able to feel every ounce of pain 


Silence: Damage Health+Lingering Damage Health+Ravage Magicka

Imp Stool+Orange Dartwing+Red Mountain Flower

A trump card against those of the Aundae clan. A deadly poison that strikes at the source of the victim's magical power.




Ferocity: Fortify Marksmen

Canis root, juniper berries, spider egg, elves ear

Blood stolen from the Quarra and refined into a potion created to match their immense physical strength and ferocity. Improves all damage to include unarmed damage.


Blood Lust: Fortify Conjuration+Fortify Health+Restore Health

Bone meal / frost salts/ lavender + blue mountain flower + wheat

The stolen blood of the Quarra was also made into a potent elixir meant to allow its consumer to match the Quarra clan's absurd level of endurance. Conjuration spells are also fortified creating longer lasting thralls.


Flight: Invisibility + Fortify Health Regeneration

Luna Moth Wing + Vampire Dust

A simple potion enabling both a quick escape and the chance to regroup when needed




Special Techniques


Pinpoint Strikes

Requires: Agony or Misery poisons, Concentrated Poison perk, Dual Wield Power Attacks, Paralysis Enchanted Shivs (1 second stun)

Deliver a series of deadly pin point strikes to an opponent's vitals using concealed poison tipped blades. Opponents may be temporarily stunned and suffer fatal poison damage, and/or severe crippling effects, based on the poisons used.

Two quick dual wield power attacks allows each blade's poison to be applied twice, resulting in poisons stacking up to 4 times. The chance of paralysis from the enchantment is also applied 4 times, granting you a large chance to stun enemies in the process. Stunned enemies always end up being knocked down, which means having to waste time getting back up. The high chance of paralysis also denies them the chance to step out of the way of your attacks 



Requires:  Silence poison, Drain Vitality (glitched version 1 word), Talos Amulet & Blessing, Necromage

Cripples an opponent, instantly depleting magicka while halting regeneration. Affected enemies are unable to use abilities that require magicka for a significant duration. Drain vitality can be reapplied on opponent to keep their abilities locked. 

Silence is a powerful tool against powerful opponents such as dragons, and powerful mages. Without magicka most mages become completely useless in battle. It is especially useful against dragons, because their breathe attacks are tied to a 150 pt magic pool. Removing their ability to use breathe attacks forces them to land and use melee attacks. Your necromage enhanced shout cooldown ensures Drain Vitality's effect far outlasts its cool down, meaning you can easily keep an enemy silenced for good.


Agile Shadow

Requires: Slow Time (1 word), Talos Amulet & Blessing, Necromage

Harness your affinity for the darkness and become like a shadowy blur to your enemies, striking them seemingly from all sides. 

An invaluable technique in an open brawl which makes it much easier to out maneuver your enemy. In this state its all too easy to land multiple hits on an enemy before they have time to react. Slow Time will last significantly longer thanks to Necromage and your necromage enhanced shout cooldown ensures it lasts almost as long as its cooldown. Pin Point Strikes, a technique normally reserved for stealthy attacks is quite easy to use in this state as well. 


Shadow Shifter

Requires: Shadow Warrior, Undead Minion 

Vanish suddenly, forcing enemies to shift  their focus to a different target. Invisibility potions greatly improve the effectiveness of shadow shifter when fighting in close quarters. 

A simple yet invaluable technique that make good use of undead minions. Shadow shifter takes advantage of the fact that once the AI is fixated on a target, they will not relent until that target is destroyed. Dark souls and necromancy perks as well as  fortify conjuration potions come into play by offering you sturdier, longer lasting minions. 


Corpse Puppet

Requires: Pin Point Strikes w/Misery poison, Any Raise Undead Spell, Bloodlust Potion

Creates a decoy target using the body of  a slain enemy. The decoy will attract the attention of all enemies in range compelling them to attack it relentlessly. The decoy is impervious to all forms of damage but cannot move or deal damage in return. Up to two of these specialized thralls can be in play at one time. 

Alchemy and Necromancy bring new meaning to the word synergy. Enemies killed while under the effects of a paralysis poison can be resurrected as a damage immune zombie. Enemies never stop attacking their chosen target until it dies. The trap lies in forcing them to attack a target that cannot die. What lies next is swooping in from the shadows and decimating an entire room full of enemies with no one aware of your presence. Dual casting a raise undead spell allows the decoy to last much longer. Shadow shifter will force anyone focused on you to shift focus back to the decoy.

Before you ask, this picture was not accidentally flipped upside down.


You're not meant to rush blindly into the fray with this build. That'll just get you killed. The Berne possesses more health than a typical stealth build, but don't get reckless. It is by no means a replacement for a strong armor rating. Preventing you from getting one shot by a single strong attack is about all the extra health is good for.  Become accustomed to scouting, assessing the enemy, and planning your moves before you act.

Ultimately your goal in most fights is to put enemies into a situation where they are focusing on your undead minions rather than you. Corpse Puppet takes this a step further and forces enemies to focus on an undead minion that cannot be killed. 

Pinpoint Strikes will kill just about anything in one go, but it is a resource dependent combination so its best used against strong enemies you want to quickly remove from play. Its also best used from stealth or under the effects of slow time as it takes a bit to set up. If your victim dies under the effects of paralysis they can be raised as in invulnerable Corpse Puppet should the need arise. 

Silencer is an invaluable technique against dragons. Breathe attacks can be quite devastating, especially from fire breathing dragons. Agile Shadow makes it easier and safer to approach dragons and other dangerous magick users to strike them with the poison. 

In open combat make liberal use of Agile Shadow as without the ability to block this is your only effective means of survival in this situation. You'll find Pinpoint Strikes quite easy to land in this state so take advantage of this. 


Impossibly silent and unnaturally agile. Most never see them coming until its too late


Among the quickest things we came to an agreement on where what quests to take on and why? Our master of shadows is among the last of the clan. Centuries of bloodshed between the Berne, Aundae, and Quarra have left the clans all but annihilated. Your goal in Skyrim is to rebuild your clan and restore it to its former glory. But beware. What remains of the Aundae and Quarra will surely think to do the same, and will no doubt thwart your plans if given the chance. As if that were not enough, you have the Dawnguard and the Vigilants of Stendarr to contend with as well. Nobody said this would be easy.

Rolling with this we decided that missions we took on would all revolve around the acquisition of power, the forging of alliances, and the elimination of those who pose a threat to our plan. Naturally we picked our allies very carefully as not everyone would willingly aid a vampire. That being said, you're not looking to become the thane of every hold. Your allegiances are of a darker variety. Ultimately these considerations left us with a fair bit of freedom as far as what quests we could tackle but what is listed below are essential. 

Volkihar Clan - Cruel beyond all reason and powerful beyond all belief, Harkon will prove to be a formidable opponent. Defeat him, however, and all that was and ever will be his can be yours. The dismantled Volkihar clan will be the foundation from which you rebuild the great Berne clan. The castle makes for one hell of an upgrade from those old Dwemer ruins. No doubt the destruction Skyrim's most powerful resident vampire clan will also draw the attention of your enemies, which brings us to...

Destroy the Dawnguard - The Dawnguard will be after your head more fervently than ever after ousting Harkon. End this threat once and for all by taking the fight to their front door. With the Dawnguard's leadership dead, the faction can be crossed off the list of obstacles standing in the way.

The Dark Brotherhood - Its up to you how you want to address these guys as either joining them or killing them have their advantages. Kill them and you eliminate a potent threat your enemies will no doubt employ to stop you. Join them and you have the most infamous band of assassins on your side. I personally prefer joining them as the questline yields many valuable rewards. Aside from that, being able to sneak in and kill the Emperor himself will stand as an absolute testament to the power of the Berne clan. Try to avoid killing anyone except for the Emperor himself when sneaking aboard his ship. Nothing says "I am one with the shadows" like sneaking past dozens of armed guards and killing what they're trying to protect. 

The Thieves Guild - Rebuilding will require funds, and as a vampire you're short on friends willing to throw money at you. That's where the thieves guild comes in. They don't care what you are so long as you get the job done. You have your own agenda however and have little interest in helping the Thieves guild restore themselves to full power. Walk away from the Thieves guild for good with the Skeleton Key in hand. You could care less about the Thieves guild falling out of favor with Nocturnal. The key will serve your ambitions and become a valuable tool for infiltrating Quarra and Aundae strongholds. 


  • Avoid traveling during the day time. If you must do so for questing or merchanting purposes, wear a disguise. Wear common cloths or hooded robes to move about unnoticed among mortal kind. 
  • Avoid incurring any bounties. A bounty suggests that the wrong people know who and what you are. Drawing unneeded attention to yourself goes against the whole notion of stealth and secrecy.
  • Feed regularly but do not get caught. Feed at least once every 3 day under the cover of night. Gameplay wise this will help reduce your weakness to fire attacks.
  • If tasked with killing an individual, you must eliminate him quickly and quietly. 
  • Kill off any Vigils of Stendarr you happen to come across. Better to kill them off while they're still a weak faction than allow them to grow in power and become a threat.
  • Take on all daedric quests with the exception of Meridia. She doesnt exactly get along with the undead. The securing of powerful daedric artifacts deprives the Aundae and Quarra the chance to use them against you. 


Recommended Mods

Unarmed Warfare - An excellent animation pack that replaces those clunky unarmed power attacks by changing all unarmed power attacks into various kicks. 

Sokco's Guild Starter - With Guild Starter, you can now start your very own guild, and all that talk of restoring the Berne Clan is no longer left to just your imagination but actually possible in game.  Recruit almost anyone to join a guild commanded by you. You can choose virtually any location to act as your base of operations and up to 10 members can be recruited. You can send your guild members out on missions, have them follow you, and level up your guild. 

Unique Vampire Dens - This mod adds five unique "hidden" vampire dens to Skyrim. Each of the major cities (Solitude, Whiterun, Markarth, Windhelm, and Riften) has a vampire den somewhere within the city. The perfect place to establish a base of operations for your clan.

Better Vampires - Changes the dynamics and benefits of feeding. Feeding now strengthens rather than weakens you and as you feed you will begin to see an increase in your abilities such as slightly faster movement and attack speed and stronger unarmed damage etc. 


Closing Remarks

I hope you have enjoyed our take on easily one of the most kick ass vampire clans in Elder Scrolls. We hope you enjoy reading this build and we are eager for you to try it out yourself. 

I'd like to thank Raidriar who has been a thrill to work with once again. There seems to be no limit to what we can produce when we put our minds together. I look forward to what we might produce next. 

I thank Mason for hosting the Factions event that inspired this build. 

I thank Teccam for his valuable input and criticism, as well as his Regulator build from which I drew inspiration. 

Lastly, I thank James for his brilliant research into both Marked for Death and Drain Vitality



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  • Great build but uh, I think something's wrong with the presentation. There's just this one picture, it's well, it looks like it's flipped upside down. :P

    • You smart ass.
      • Why thank you Curse!
    • This has always been, and will always be funny. :P
      • Whelp, I figured someone had to say it.
  • So... much text...
    An impenetrable wall of it.
    • There's enough picture to break apart segments of text. You'll live.
    • Meh, anything written by Curse is worth reading through.

      • Well not everything.
    • My snarky answer aside, yes this build is perhaps my longest one in terms of text because it is also my most complex build.

      There's much to explain in terms of both the lore surrounding this clan and the mechanics that make this build work.
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