Character Build: The Dagger Duelist


The Dagger Duelist

Plenty of builds utilize daggers, but almost all the ones that do either use them for sneak attacks with Assassin’s Blade or dual-wield them. The Dagger Duelist does neither, opting for skillful usage of a single dagger in melee combat to take down his foes. While his weapon may be small and his defenses light, his superior reflexes and agility enable him to defeat any opponent.

Race: Redguard gives some nice skill boosts (+10 One-Handed, +5 Block and Smithing) as well as Adrenaline Rush and 50% poison resistance, which, combined with the Snakeblood perk, gives us complete poison immunity. With Lycanthropy, we have disease immunity as well.

Stone: The Lord Stone is nice for shoring up the Duelist’s defenses.

Stats: 0/3/1. The low weight of daggers reduces the need for stamina, while no magic is used at all with the build, leaving the focus on health.

Shouts: Elemental Fury is the primary shout of this build, and should be either running or on cooldown most of the time during combat. In addition, Become Ethereal is nice for advancing on ranged attackers unharmed, as is Unrelenting Force for crowd control. I also recommend picking up Aura Whisper and Throw Voice for situations that call for a stealthier approach.


Valdr’s Lucky Dagger: Received from the eponymous Valdr for clearing out Moss Mother Cavern, this is the Duelist’s weapon of choice. Its ability increases the chance of critical hits by 25%. Since it’s not an enchantment, the dagger doesn’t need recharging and more importantly, is compatible with Elemental Fury. The Skyforge Steel Dagger was my first choice but due to a glitch, it can’t be tempered. PC players that have the glitch fixed however should use it instead.

Bandanna: Not an actual item ingame, but rather a Mourner’s Hat renamed via enchanting. For the actual enchantment itself, go with either waterbreathing or fortify lockpicking, using a fortify enchanting potion to increase its magnitude.

Thieves Guild Armor/Gloves/Boots: This provides both a nice enchantment and aesthetic for the Dagger Duelist. Be sure to have the chestpiece upgraded when Tonilia gives you the chance.

Jewelry: All you need here is an Amulet of Talos and a ring of magic resistance.



One-Handed: Obvious skill choice for a dagger build. Key perks are Armsman, Fighting Stance, Savage Strike, and Critical Charge. Skip Paralyzing Strike; hitting enemies with a backwards power attack while wielding a dagger is more effort than it’s worth.

Block: This skill works great with daggers, as the quick swing speed enables you to get in easy strikes in between blocking enemy attacks. Key perks are Shield Wall, the bash perks, and most importantly, Quick Reflexes. Its effect actually lasts for a brief moment after you disengage block, so if you do that and then move to the side, you can easily avoid power attacks.

Light Armor: As you might've noticed in the equipment section, I didn't use the Thieves Guild Hood. Aesthetically speaking, I prefer to go without it and more importantly, it keeps your overall armor rating down, forcing you to dodge attacks instead. Perkwise, you’ll want to max out Agile Defender. Later on, you can spend two perks to get Unhindered to stay light on your feet.

Sneak: I didn’t want this build to turn into yet another dagger-assassin, but on the other hand, I wanted to incorporate a little stealth. My solution was to perk Backstab but not Assassin’s Blade. That way, sneak attacking enemies would be a good tactic, but not as lethal as Assassin’s Blade. Aside from Backstab, you’ll want to perk your way up the left side of the tree to Silence, only getting the first rank of Stealth.

Smithing: While the Duelist’s AR will be low, you don’t want it to be too low, and sharpening Valdr’s Lucky Dagger will keep its damage competitive throughout the entire playthrough. All you need is Steel Smithing for doubling the dagger’s improvement and Arcane Blacksmith for improving the armor.

Alchemy: Primarily used for Restore Health potions, with some poisons and other potions on the side. Grab all the perks in this tree except for Experimenter and Purity.

Lockpicking: The Dagger Duelist likes to do a little treasure hunting on the side, so the ability to open up tightly locked chests and doors is appreciated. I perked up to Master Locks and Treasure Hunter, avoiding Locksmith and Unbreakable to keep the lockpicking minigame a little more interesting.

You should have 50 perks once the build is completed.


Alchemical Concoctions

Restore Health: As your primary means of healing, you'll want to have a bunch of potions with this effect on you at all times.

Restore Stamina: I didn't find myself running out of stamina too much, and when I did, it usually wasn't too big an issue, but it's still nice to have a backup option.

Fortify Marksman: Due to a couple of glitches, fortify one-handed potions don’t increase dagger damage, but fortify marksman potions do, making them a solid option for boosting damage.

Resist Magic: While your inherent magic resistance from your ring and the Lord Stone should be enough for most encounters, you may want a little extra for tougher battles (e.g. dragons).

Invisibility: Having trouble sneaking up on an enemy? This effect will make it much easier.

Paralysis: A great poison for tight situations; just hit a strong enemy with this to give yourself some breathing room.



Ideally, you’ll start off fights with a quick sneak attack to take a good chunk off an opponent’s health. If you’re good with the Silent Roll + Critical Charge Combo, use it, though the short reach of the dagger makes it a difficult prospect. From there, use Elemental Fury and start slicing away. I mostly stuck to basic attacks while circling around my opponents to make it more difficult for them to hit me, with the occasional power attack thrown in there for good measure. Daggers don’t stagger on power attacks though, making heavy usage of power attacks less feasible. Bashing, however, does stagger, making it a key component in avoiding enemy attacks. Also be sure to use your array of potions and poisons as well as your blocking/dodging abilities to mitigate/avoid damage. Finally, your armor can always soak up a few hits.

As for roleplay, I played my Dagger Duelist as a mercenary who did some treasure hunting on the side. He took whatever odd jobs he could for cash. As such, most of my time was spent doing random bounty quests from Jarls and the like, but I also did the following questlines:

Main Quest: The Dagger Duelist isn’t really the type to be saving the world, but you’ll still want to do this questline up to completing the Horn of Jurgen Windcaller in order to get Unrelenting Force.

Companions: Being fellow mercenaries, the Companions are a nice group for the Duelist to run with. The radiant quests are particularly nice for earning cash. While I didn’t want to become Harbinger with this character, I did play the questline up to the Silver Hand so I could contract Lycanthropy for disease immunity.

Thieves Guild: And here we have the dishonorable side of the Dagger Duelist’s activities. Like with the Companions, I didn’t advance too far into the primary questline (only up to Scoundrel’s Folly) since the Duelist isn’t exactly a master thief, but I did spend a lot of time doing the radiant quests.

Dark Brotherhood: I felt this was a little too dark for the Duelist, but it’s definitely an option. Finishing the questline gives you the option of repeating Dark Brotherhood Forever as much as you want.

Overall, this was one of my most enjoyable Skyrim playthroughs to date.  Playing a single dagger build without Enchanting or Sneak is a quite the unique experience in Skyrim and a playstyle everyone should try at least once. If you liked this, then be sure to check out my other builds to see more!

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  • Never before have I seen a Dagger - who not only perks Block - but also doesn't go into the dual wielding perks. Great job, and you hit Rank:Apprentice

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