Aetherial Crown? Nope. Aetherial Staff? NAY! Every time I see a build (I am guilty of this too) using the crown or staff, I always think "poor shield" and think to make a build based around it. Well, this is that build. As I will explain in the description, the shield offers a very unique ability that does not need recharging and with the right set up, it creates an extremely powerful playstyle. I would like to thank Vazgen for the awesome pics I used in the build. So let's take a look!
The Forgotten is an explorer, a delver, a forager of forgotten lore. He searches endlessly for ancient relics and mystic knowledge to collect and augment his own powers. Harnessing specific items, he is able to overcome all enemies by specializing in repelling and preventing by keeping enemies at bay through the ethereal effect, crossbow stagger, as well as frost slow AND paralyze effects provided by the Deep Freeze perk, which in my opinion is the most effective destruction elemental effect. The Forgotten is a powerful Ethereal Shield/Crossbow Mage able to take on any opponent.
The Forgotten is able to overcome his foes through the use of Dwemer technology of his Enchanced Dwarven crossbow. With the Power Shot perk, each bolt will stagger an enemy with a 75% chance. This provides an extreme advantage over fighting enemies 1v1, and even the strongest of enemies will be stopped in their tracks. Exploding Ice Bolts also provide an added slow effect and damage to stamina.
He is also a potent frost mage. Frost spells are fantastic for a few reasons: The slow effect is invaluable when fighting multiple melee enemies. Slowing their advance makes for added time to sling spells their way. It also deals stamina damage which can ultimately SHUT DOWN power attacks giving The Forgotten a much higher survivability in that insta-kill power attacks will not be coming his way. Deep Freeze is also extremely powerful in that it paralyzes enemies and makes them drop like broken statues, giving you the chance to continued spell slinging or crossbow bolts while they are down.
The Aetherial Shield. If you have chosen the other two Aetherium Forge choices before, let me tell you: YOU ARE MISSING OUT. This shield provides a unique effect. Enemies that are bashed with this shield become ethereal for 15 seconds, unable to take damage or deal damage. What may not be realized is that the enemy also flees. What does this mean for a character build? A extremely powerful item keeping enemies at bay at all times. Once this shield is attained, any enemy within melee range is no longer a threat. The shield effect works on every enemy except dragons. Mammoths, draugr, dwarven centurions (which funny story, they no longer attack you when they come out of the effect). It works on even the most powerful enemies. Even the Ebony Warrior! Talk about total domination!! More will be explained in the battle tactics. The Forgotten is a build built to discover knowledge of all origins, exploring the deep, dark caves of the land and embracing the cold to destroy the guardians that protect this ancient knowledge.
Race: Khajiit - An early unarmed damage boost is great to have, the aesthetic is great, and Night Eye is often overlooked for builds. The Forgotten is an explorer of all areas, even the darkest of caves.
Stone: The Atronach - Ranged mages are an annoyance when Become Ethereal is on cooldown, and this takes the edge off.
Dragon Shouts: Become Ethereal (Meditate - +25% health regeneration), Cyclone, Frost Breathe (Dragonborn Frost), Ice Form, Slow Time, Whirlwind Sprint
Major Skills: Archery, Destruction, Enchanting, Sneak
Minor Skills: Heavy Armor, Block, Restoration, Smithing
Armor: Bonemold Armor (no pauldrons) - Fortify Destruction/Magicka Regen + Fortify Health, Bonemold Boots - Muffle + Fortify Stamina, Bonemold Gauntlets - Fortify Archery + Fortify Magicka, Dukaan Mask, Ring/Amulet - Fortify Destruction + Waterbreathing/Archery/Health/Magicka
Weapon: Enchanced Dwarven Crossbow - Frost Damage + Stamina Damage
Shield: Aetherial Shield
Spells: Ice Storm, Wall of Frost, Frost Rune, Whirlwind Cloak
The Forgotten's role in Skyrim is exploration. Heavy armor, shield, frost spells, and his crossbow have been specifically chosen to maximize survivability, damage reduction, and damage output while keeping enemies at bay. You are to focus on discovering all there is in the deep, dark recesses of Nirn in the hopes to unlock hidden knowledge that has been locked away for ages. The name "Forgotten" was chosen to represent the motivation for this build. He is constantly searching for hidden secrets linked to the land of Skyrim, augmenting his own powers, storing away artifacts in his multiple homes (thank you Hearthfire), as well as mapping out the land.
The Dragonborn DLC has provided multiple paths in which to increase our knowledge. The Black Books provide multiple powers given to us through reading them. A personal favorite is Dragonborn Frost, augmenting the Frost Breath shout to freeze enemies along dealing frost damage which is a great alternative to Ice Form. The Ancient Knowledge ability is also a great power to seek out, giving a 25% boost to wearing any type of armor. Dukaan Mask provides a 25% damage boost to all frost spells, making you even more powerful of an ice mage!
Skills and Perks
The Forgotten is well versed in combat skills, making him a formidable opponent to all given his reduction of damage with his use of Heavy Armor combined with Smithing. Taking only 3 perks in Smithing, he is able to improve his Bonemold armor as well as increase the damage of his Enchanced Dwarven Crossbow. Archery is the major damage dealing skill of the build and is incredible with the Power Shot perk, stopping enemies in their tracks 75% of the time. Of course, Block is taken to augment the use of the Aetherial Shield. It is good to note that the ethereal effect does not trigger is using power bashes or shield charge! This is why I took the left side of the tree. Block Runner and Shield Charge still have their incredible uses of gaining the advantage on enemies as well as slowing time given power attacks may get through to you.
Heavy Armor and Sneak? Yeah, that's what I thought too. But Sneak is an invaluable skill for this build. Given The Forgotten is an intellectual in the most basic sense, you are a great tactician and plan all of your attacks, plans, and approaches very carefully. Placing a well placed crossbow bolt from the shadows can give you the upper hand right off the bat. Bashing enemies from a hidden position making them ethereal and flee is also a great way to start off battles!
Destruction is the source of a multitude of powers. Frost magic sometimes gets a bad rap but it is definitely my favorite element and to me is the most useful. Slow and paralyze are the mainstay of this build's magic abilities. Melee opponents are LAUGHABLE when the full potential of this build is realized. Restoration is always useful to heal after a tough battle. Enchanting gives The Forgotten boosts everywhere! Archery, magic, health/magicka, it's all good. The harnessing of souls into soul gems is an art form that The Forgotten has used to benefit himself. Frost Enchanter both increases spell damage from Dukaan but also crossbow damage with slowing effects of frost dealing even more stamina damage with the Stamina Damage enchantment.
Gameplay and Tactics
The Forgotten has many useful combinations of his skills to overpower his enemies. As you are progressing through the build and taking the appropriate perks, experimenting with spells, skills, and item effects is the coolest thing about this character. The most important artifact you will attain is the Aetherial Shield. The shield's effect seems like it would not be effective since you are unable to damage your opponent. However when the enemy is ethereal (which the shield affects all enemies except dragons) they will flee, giving you the space and time to set up a frost disaster area to decimate your enemies, which brings us to our first tactic:
Aetherial Assault: Aetherial Shield bash -> Wall of Frost + Frost Rune + Dual Cast Ice Storm
This tactic is great for a few reasons. First, melee enemies will never touch you, but if they do you will be blocking their non-power attacks anyway, so it is no threat. Second, you can replace the use of dual cast ice storm with switching to you crossbow to pelt enemies with enchanted frost/stamina damage exploding ice bolts. Talk about frost annihilation. If you happen to be low on health, which is a rare event, you can then use your own ethereal powers. Become Ethereal is extremely powerful to use in combination with cloak and wall and rune spells.
Ethereal Decoy: Whirlwind Cloak + Wall of Frost + Frost Rune -> Become Ethereal Shout -> Shield Charge
Walking around enemies without taking damage is one thing. But having a frost field of doom set up all around you with enemies being flung away into it? Awesome. Enemies will get flung away with the awesomely powerful Whirlwind Cloak/Shield Charge into the frost field, constantly taking damage to both their health and stamina. Of course, other dragon shouts are awesome to use as well. Slow Time combined with Ice Storm is one to marvel at if you have never tried it!
Frigid Blizzard: Slow Time Shout + Wall of Frost + Dual Cast Ice Storm
Let's just say that if you have a large group of enemies that you want to disappear, you use this tactic. Ice Storm does damage over time, and when it is slowing enemies DURING slow time, it will be absolutely destroying enemies left and right before they can even know what the heck is going on. If you do not want to mess around with fancy spell set ups when you are only fighting one enemy at a time, then you can always turn to your shield and crossbow Dwemer technology to methodically take down harder opponents.
Crossbow Volley: Aetherial Shield bash + Enchanted Enchanced Dwarven Crossbow (Exploding Ice Bolts)
This build was an awesome endeavor. The Aetherial Shield is an item I urge other players to use more. Sometimes we get wrapped up in the cool effects of certain items that we do not take the time to harness the awesomeness of others. The shield provides one of the most unique effects in the game and using this strategy, you can become incredibly powerful against all enemies. Melee fighters are a joke, mages can be countered by getting close using Become Ethereal, and dragons are taken down very quickly from afar using your powerful crossbow. If you come up with any other tactic combinations (I did not list them all) then please do post! I also urge anyone to try this out with the other elements! Fire is a cool option, but enemies running away are harder to hit with your crossbow. Lightning was a close second, but I would rather have enemies be humiliated by falling like statues, and Ice Storm is most definitely the most powerful Adept level destruction spell dealing damage per second.