Update: August 26. Now, more than three years after I first wrote it up, I decided to give the Incarnate a complete overhaul, including mods, better screenshots (not to mention armor) and a far better story than I could've written in 2015.
From seventh sign of eleventh generation,
Neither Hound nor Guar, nor Seed nor Harrow,
But Dragon-born and far-star-marked,
Outlander Incarnate beneath Red Mountain...
Race: There really is no need for a specific race, since the Incarnate is one of the TES heroes and no race is confirmed is canon. I personally choose Breton, as my Morrowind character was one.
Stats: 2 / 2 / 1
Standing Stone: The Lady or Lord both fit appropriately, but Heavy Armor + Steed = bae
Alignment: Neutral Good
Major Skills: One-handed, Block, Conjuration
Minor Skills: Restoration, Destruction, Heavy Armor, Speech
Quests: Civil War (Imperial side), Main Quest, Dragonborn, Dawnguard, Black Books, Daedric quests, Raven Rock
~ LORE ~
In the ancient days before the Empire, a warlord rose above the squabbling Dunmer tribes and Houses, uniting them under a singular banner, the Moon-and-Star of Azura. Under Nerevar, the Dunmer people prospered, defeating the Nordic invaders and living in peace with the underground Dwemer. Betrayed by the Dwemer many years later who had developed profane tools to use on the Heart of the fallen Lorkhan, Nerevar and the Dunmer marched to war. When his councillors got their hands on the tools, they coveted divinity and, after vowing to never use them, slayed Nerevar themselves and become the Tribunal, Morrowind’s Living Gods. Furious at the death of her champion and the arrogance of the usurpers, Azura cursed the Dunmer with ashen skin and red eyes, promising her Nerevar would return to destroy the False Tribunal.
Three thousand years later, Azura’s prophecy came true. The reincarnated Indoril Nerevar walked among his people again, killing the Tribunal and restoring the ancient faith of Daedra worship. The Nerevarine rose as the Protector of Morrowind and Her People, besting smugglers in their caves, a Mad God in the Clockwork City, and even a Daedric Lord in his own realm.
But then, he vanished. Rumours have it, he went east but more than two hundred years later and he was still never heard from. After defeating Hircine in single combat, there was no challenge left for him on Tamriel, so, he arrogantly followed the rumours of dragons to test himself. What the people of Tamriel never knew was that he had returned shortly after the Argonian Invasion of Morrowind. He saw the rubble of Balmora, the ruins of Necom, the sacred City of the Dead, and the Scathing Bay where the great Vivec City once stood. And he knew that, had he stayed, had he taken Vivec’s place in Morrowind’s religious and political sphere as he had been urged, much of this damage would not have happened. Perhaps they could’ve stopped the Argonians before they destroyed House Dres, maybe he could’ve stopped Redoran and Telvanni from cutting their way through Hlaalu, or led the Dunmer into battle against the forces of Oblivion.
Regardless, the blood of his people was on his hands.
In shame, unable to face the false heraldry the surviving Dunmer would place on him if they heard of his return, he left Morrowind and followed the refugees west as they fled the ashen skies and barren earth. He protected them where he could, abandoning his once treasured arms and armor as signs of respect and status he was no longer worthy of. Through the barrows and necromancer-filled halls in the wilds, he sought redemption, to overshadow his failures with new successes.
~ SKILLS ~
VANILLA vs. MODDED
While the first version of this build was played with Vanilla perks, I’ve since played with mods, this build in particular using the Ordinator perk overhaul, with Path of Sorcery loaded after it in order to get those perk trees instead. The perkspread is made with this mod combo in mind.
[ VANILLA LVL50 ]
One-handed : The main offensive skill of the Incarnate. Whether charging in to slash with your sword or stand at the ready for the enemy to come to you, a bandit, Forsworn, or Reaver will meet short death at your blade.
Vanilla : “Bladesman” is actually a considerable amount of damage and as a more stand-your-guard character, “Savage Strike” is a good defence against necromancers, as they can’t raise a headless corpse.
Modded : Ordinator really values strategic use of power attacks, with tactical effects depending on their use and your skill with the rhythm of combat.
Block : I love shields, they look badass and, if you have the right one, they really can complete a character’s look. With perking, it becomes a very powerful and useful defense.
Vanilla : A wholly defensive skill, boosting elemental resistance by 50% while blocking and other passive defensive perks make up for our lack of smithing skill.
Modded : With the addition of “timed blocking”, it commands a lot more player skill than Vanilla, though adding most of the same benefits to successful blocking.
Conjuration : Summoned minions from Azura’s realm of Oblivion are always useful and help take some of the heat off us in close-quarters fighting.
Vanilla : With no need for the Master spells and only using Daedra summoning, we can easily go up the left side of the tree.
Modded : Perks like “Witches’ Familiar” and “Atromancy” provide more synergy with Conjuration and Destruction magic (the former boosting magicka regen and spell power when your chosen daedra is summoned and the latter boosting the power of your Destruction spells of the same element as your atronach), and dropping a point into Bound Weapons becomes more feasible.
Heavy Armor : Primarily used for the Ebony Mail, a traditional Dunmer armor piece, which is also considered sacred to those who worship the Good Daedra. Since this build is all about the up close and personal, and there's no smithing, we need a healthy amount of survivability.
Vanilla : Up the right side to “Tower of Strength” lets us be tanky and in the fray, as well as all but getting rid of the annoying stagger effect.
Modded : Rising up to “Primal Fear” lets us be as intimidating in combat as both the legend surrounding the Nerevarine and the threatening Ebony armor really should make us.
Restoration : The Incarnate’s form of healing, as well as a devotional skill to Azura and the Daedra. The mod, Path of Sorcery, has some exceptionally powerful roleplay-friendly perks.
Vanilla : Adept-level spells are the most useful for our purposes, but the passive benefits like Respite and Recovery are both great.
Modded : Path of Sorcery really takes playing a godly crusader to heart with the “patron” line of perks. Every time they reference “Divine”, the perks really mean any god with a shrine and blessing (the Nine, Auriel, as well as Boethiah, Mephala, and Azura), which gives us access to a sweet line of powerful roleplay-friendly perks as Azura’s devotee.
Destruction : A secondary damage-dealing skill, primarily used for ranged combat.
Vanilla : Like Restoration, the highest level spells we’ll use on the regular are Adept and since we prefer using a shield, dual-casting is unnecessary, but we use every element as appropriate, taking each of the Augmented Element perks.
Modded : So as not to squander perks taking all elements through their “fingers”, we take the Augmented Element perks (boosting our individual elemental resistances to 30% each), and then our choice of additional effect perk.
Speech : Only makes sense that a general (read: politician) would know something about the art of oratory.
Vanilla : I wouldn’t suggest taking any perks here, as Speech requires heavy grinding to get the Persuade/Intimidate perks.
Modded : Take both ranks of the first perk, “Speech Mastery”, will make your Intimidate attempts 2 (then, 4) times more successful.
~ GEAR ~
Ebony Mail -- Boethiah’s sacred armor, gifted to her champion and Will on Nirn. There are many fantastic mods out there that revert the enchantment to that of previous games (which provided fire and magic resistance, as well as additional armor). This one is my current favourite.
Ebony Gauntlets and Boots -- There are few gauntlets and boots that really “fit” or look any decent with the Mail, but this mod changes the meshes of the Ebony ones, which makes me more alright about using ones randomly looted. Otherwise, the Blades Gauntlets and Boots look… somewhat acceptable but are unenchanted, and Daedric, I feel, really makes the character look more like a Hulking Doom Lord of Death™.
Dawnguard Helm -- For some reason, this helmet doesn’t suffer from the bizarre open neck on the Ebony Mail, and the standard steel makes it look all the more imposing and knightly.
Fearstruck -- Another artifact of Boethiah, a shield, that has a nice, lore-friendly quest to get it as well as a unique power that works like Auriel’s Shield. Bashing enemies with it marks them for death, killing them will charge Fearstruck. Powerbashing with five charges releases an AOE Fire/Fear spell with no level cap.
Goldbrand -- Boethiah’s sword from the same mod, Goldbrand is a unique golden katana that does fire damage, while power attacks have a 10 second DOT fire effect. If you ever feel like blocking with the weapon, rather than the sword, it provides a free flame cloak, as well. If you feel this is too much Boethiah (I certainly did, at times), a number of mods make Mephala’s Ebony Blade a one-handed weapon (though no Dunmer should be killed to power it) and Elemental Fury is an exceptional shout with Silver Swords.
~ GAMEPLAY ~
Combat with the Incarnate should be familiar to many as being distinctly battlemage-y. Using a summon to either provide cover fire (Fire Atronachs are better with Fire Bolt than I am) or fight alongside (Lost Grimoire provides a well-meshed, Adept-level Winged Twilight, one of Azura’s guardians as a dual-wielding melee fighter), tossing on an occasional Destruction Cloak before charging in with sword and board to slice and crush enemies. Healing is taken care of by using Restoration spells, shield-mage style, to continue distracting enemies from your summon. Destruction spells are also used shield-mage style for mid to long range combat. Matching your element to either the enemy type (shock for mages, frost for warriors) or atronach (who are immune to their own element) is a smart move.
Named Dragonborn in an ancient prophecy, access to dragon souls and Word Walls opens up a new addition to combat in the form of Shouts. Strategy is the key word. Breathing frost, encasing foes in ice, and leeching power from your enemies belongs to the Nordic warriors who conquered Resdayn and subjected the Dunmer. Shouts like Aura Whisper, Dismay, Disarm, Cyclone, Elemental Fury, Slow Time, Unrelenting Force, and Whirlwind Sprint are suitable uses of the Voice.
A unique feature of Path of Sorcery is the middle path of the Restoration tree, which lets you choose and serve a particular godly patron. Though the end-game perk is being able to choose a Daedra who doesn’t already have an activatable shrine, patronage by Azura can start as early as 30 Restoration skill and represents the Nerevarine’s redemption in his own eyes.
The three different perks each have an upgrade, expanding on their original power. The Restoration skill level required to take each rank is in the brackets. The only thing necessary to begin Azura’s patronage is to complete The Black Star in her favour. Then, use her shrine at the Raven Rock temple.
Patron God (25/55) > Praying at a shrine grants you the god's favor for 3/7 in-game days, magnifying the blessing from the shrine by 25/50%.
Favored Child (35/65) > While you have the favor of your chosen patron, you are gifted with an incredible power that can be used once/three times a day.
Guardian (50/75) > Once/three times a day, if you have a god's favor, an ethereal guardian will appear at your side.
The empowered blessing from Azura will effectively give us a passive 15% bonus resistance to magic which, as a non-enchanting character, is pretty decent, as is the spectral golden guardian that will appear at low health, sent by Azura, but the unique daily power is damn sweet and really fits Azura’s role as the Prince of Dawn and Dusk, as well as the Goddess of Magic and Prophecy. The empowered version reads as follows.
For 45 sec, time slows down and you become aware of everyone within 200 ft, living or dead. During that time, you are ethereal and invulnerable.
A slick combination of Slow Time, Detect Life/Dead, and Become Ethereal, Azura’s Favoured Child power is dead useful and remains pretty useful throughout a playthrough, especially since you can get this combo as early as 35 Restoration.
I did occasionally use Boethiah’s as well, as one of the Three Good Daedra, and because it’s just such a damn cool effect and useful in bigger battles, though I did prefer Azura’s for general questing.
Reflect 50% of incoming damage and deal more damage at low health for 5 minutes.
Of course, its usefulness is really reliant on getting hit a lot in combat, but for something like the Civil War, it comes in handy.
~ ROLEPLAY ~
Feeling forsaken by Azura, the Goddess of Prophecy, who refused to warn him about Morrowind’s coming disasters the Nerevarine hopelessly guarded the well-trodden paths the refugees of Morrowind took through the Velothi Mountains. He blended in with them as yet another anonymous man with nowhere else to go and listened as they cursed the Tribunal and the Nerevarine, who had left their prayers go unanswered. As the bulk of the refugees were relocated by the Empire into Wayrest and Skyrim, he followed them, keeping his distance. Caught in the middle of a scuffle between the Imperials and local Nords, the Imperials took his silence as guilt and threw him in the back of the carriage.
When the dragon attacked Helgen, the Nerevarine discovers the references in prophecy of being “Dragonborn” did not simply mean being born of the Dragon Empire. Taking it as the smallest sign that Azura had not yet abandoned him, but left him this piece of hope and opportunity to prove himself a hero once more (Main Quest).
On his way to visit the Shrine of Azura (Azura’s quest), he stops by Windhelm, only to find the refugees so graciously welcomed by the High King living in the unsafe squalor of the Grey Quarter. He promises the very confused Dunmer he would make Skyrim safe for them (Civil War, Imperials). As the months wear on, rumours spread of the Dragonborn, that he’s become a bit too friendly with the elves and the Daedra for the Nords’ tastes, that he has played this role in history once before.
Remembering the words of Veloth, the priest of Boethiah who taught the ancient Dunmer how to deal with the Daedra, the Nerevarine makes his soul known to Oblivion once more, following the Prince’s orders as he sees fit and taking advantage of their powerful artifacts or locking them away to prevent mortal corruption (Mephala, Boethiah, Clavicus Vile, Hircine, Malacath, Mehrunes Dagon, Meridia, Vaermina).
With the Civil War resolved and the dragons dead, the Nerevarine looks to the common people, championing their causes and safety in every hold (Thanehood), ridding the countryside of bandits and marauders as he goes.
As an uneasy peace begins to settle over Skyrim, the Nerevarine turns his eye to Solstheim (Dragonborn) and the last ruins of House Redoran. Hlaalu was honourably removed as a Great House almost two centuries before, so maintaining Redoran’s control is merely keeping the peace (Served Cold). One of the last masters of Telvanni, however, unnerves the Nerevarine as he covets Hermaeus Mora’s foul temptation to mortals. Getting to them first and securing them from the dangerous House Telvanni is the only logical choice (Black Books).
Years pass in relative peace before the Volkihar vampires begin their assault on Skyrim -- and are summarily put down (Dawnguard) -- but throughout the Nerevarine’s adventures, all his accomplishments and victories, the greatest moment in his modern career was when he was passing by an old Riften farmhouse and heard a Dunmer call to his wife, “That’s him, dear, it must be. By the Three, that’s the Nerevarine, he’s saved us all! Azura bless you!”
~ MODS ~
I’ve played with these on Classic Skyrim and still haven’t installed Special Edition; if any of these mods exist there, I don’t know of it.
Lost Grimoire and Apocalypse Spell Pack : Magic mods that add lore-friendly or otherwise fitting spells. In particular, Lost Grimoire adds a Winged Twilight summon and Apocalypse expands on the variety of Destruction spells.
Moon-and-Star and Daedric Cloaks : Two small mods, the first adds the Nerevarine’s ring from Morrowind (Fortify Speech 10pts), the second adds well-made cloaks featuring the sigils of the Daedric Princes in logical locations.
Artifacts of Boethiah : Adds in the shield Fearstruck and the blade Goldbrand as rewards through the quest to participate in Boethiah’s Tournament of the Ten Bloods.
Ebony Mesh Replacer and Zim’s Artifacts : The mesh replacer makes the Ebony Gauntlets and Boots a little more fitting with the Ebony Mail, while Zim’s is my current favourite artifact mod and makes the Mail more warrior-focused.