While I've been away for a long time, the only thing I can say is that university is a bigger time-suck than tumblr, Skyrim, and the Steam Summer Sale all put together, but it's all for a good cause.
This build is, for me, all about roleplay. My first properly roleplayed TES character was an Imperial legionary in Morrowind, while my first RP'd character in Skyrim was a dark crusader. The Knight of the Imperial Dragon is essentially their lovechild, a devoted but power-hungry consummate soldier. Consumed by her naive ego, she tries to save everyone by any means necessary, even embracing the dark magic of those she seeks to kill.
“When the Empire surrendered to the Dominion, they shamed us all.”
How dare you. It wasn’t your home being burnt to the ground. It wasn’t your capital being torn down. It wasn’t your countryside being plundered by elven battlemages. It was mine. And now you have the gall to leave the Legion when they need you most and claim you fight for men? You dare to rip apart the only thing keeping the armies of the Dominion off of Skyrim’s land and call it a rightful rebellion?
The only hope of a victory against the Dominion resides in the Legion, in a united Empire. I hope you see this one day, but until that day my sword will cleave the flesh from your bones with a smile on my face and pride in my heart.
Indignant and filled with contempt for Nords and their culture of barbarism and cheap mead, the Knight of the Imperial Dragon inherits her family’s profession of Legion soldiers and marches north to enlist in the fight in Skyrim. Unfortunately, as she made the trek from the Imperial City to the boarder, her horse was stolen and, with it, all her worldly possessions. Including her identification papers. When a patrolling guard didn’t believe her story, she ended up in a cart with the leader of the same rebellion she wished to squish and the damned horse thief. Small world.
Finally sorting out this mess with the Legion, she was stationed with a small garrison at an Imperial encampment in Riften. But the few soldiers were set upon by one of the marauding bands of feral vampires. As the only survivor, the Knight ran to Solitude, tearing her way through Stormcloak territory and nursing her own wounds. Unfortunately, it took her four days.
Stats : 2/1, but later change to an even 1/1/1
Standing Stone : Warrior/Lord -> Advanced Lady
Blessings : Stendarr, Kynareth -> Advanced Akatosh
Quests : Civil War, Divine Quests, Main Quest, Dragonborn, Daedric Quests, Dawnguard
Primary . These are perked heavily and used on a regular basis.
Two Handed / One Handed : While the original Imperial Legion is very much like the Roman armies, I lightly suggest two-handed if you have mods, one handed if not. With mods, we can bring Chrysamere back into Skyrim (without Enchanting) but the Romans were the ones who made the shield wall famous, so combined with a gladius (Imperial Sword) and shield, either one would really do—or both, even, if you like using two melee weapon skills. I can never seem to manage it properly, though. The perks I recommend are in the One-Handed tree but can easily be translated onto Two-Handed.
Block : With either shield or weapon, the Knight can parry and deflect blows or join in a shield wall with her fellow soldiers.
Archery : The soldier’s ranged weapon of choice. Traditionally, the Legion manufactured slightly crap steel crossbows for their foot soldiers, even if it has fallen out of fashion by the fourth era. Nowadays, we have longbows (and crossbows).
Secondary . These are used frequently and rarely perked.
Smithing : Each soldier is responsible for his or her own equipment, and with a soldier’s pay replacements aren’t cheap. This is mainly to make up for our slightly crap armor that we stay with for the entire playthrough.
Heavy Armor : It’s hard to be a champion in an Imperial leather skirt.
Alchemy : Ill-equipped for Skyrim’s terrain and weather, with no designated healers, the Legion soldiers have had to take up wortcraft to heal themselves. The fortify restoration glitch is what we’re aiming for, as well as health/stamina potions en masse, and later tons of fortify magicka potions.
Later on . These are only used after the transformation.
Restoration : Using her people’s innate talent in the purest magical art, the Knight can attune herself to the complexities of the undead and avoid the corruption of vampirism.
Alteration : As a double-edged sword, containing both Blood Magic and the blessings of magical armor, Alteration can either harm or enhance the user’s soul.
- Followers. One of the first things you’ll want to do is pick a follower and stick with him/her. The best types are honourable warriors (housecarls) or battlemages (J’zargo, Erandur). This follower will be your best friend, second-in-command and anything else you can RP. The Knight is trained to fight in a unit, not in single combat. Use your follower for cover fire or tanking as the situation demands; equip them with smithed Imperial Armor and potions, and induct them into the Legion.
- Attitude. We don’t like Nords; they’re smelly, primitive barbarians but they are people. Make a good impression for the Legion, so honour and valour are extremely important, and help by doing fetch quests (Amren’s sword) or menial tasks (Farengar’s frost salts). Show the Nords that the Empire isn’t all that bad. She’s also very curious about the world and has been known to enter random ruins without reason (hunting for Shouts).
- Religion. As an Imperial from Cyrodiil, she was born and raised with the Eight Divines, with Stendarr as the patron of the Legion and Kynareth as the patron of travellers. Wearing an amulet of Stendarr and taking his blessing save us multiple perks in Block, or using Kynareth’s saves us two and a half level-ups in stamina, more if you brew up Fortify Restoration potions. Don’t touch the daedra, but her curiousity will bid her to retrieve Dawnbreaker.
- Shouting. Having a Nord-hating Imperial as the Dragonborn happened to be one of my favourite roleplay choices I’ve ever made. Just because she’s never learned magic or wrapped her head around it, doesn’t mean she never wanted the ability to shoot fireballs at someone. Now, she can call down lightning storms and hurl people off cliffs. Shout as frequently as you can. It is a power of her enemy, but it is power and her first taste of magic.
- Combat. Laying down cover fire for her fellows as they charge forth, she can join the fray herself, with a tactical sword/board. Straight-forward and methodical, just like a soldier.
- Questing. I mainly leveled with dungeon delving and the odd fetch quest, but make sure you become a Thane of Whiterun and move the civil war questline along.
Their fingers frozen to their blades, the Knight and her fellow soldiers couldn’t fend off the horde. It was a massacre. At first, they thought it was the Stormcloaks, who had struck so swiftly and with such hatred, but the sight of fangs and red eyes proved them wrong. A few were carried off, most lay dead in the red snow. The Knight felt her wounds and immediately fled to Solitude, stealing a farmer’s horse and riding north. She had to inform Tulius of the slaughter. The vampires. It took her four days to ride from the deep south of the Rift to the northern coast. By then, it was already too late and there wasn’t a man or mer in all of Tamriel who could return her mortality.
- Post-vampirism. I spent a few days in Divine penance, doing a pilgrimage around Skyrim to visit all the wayshrines of the Divines and I finished the Divine quests. I ditched Lydia (my choice of follower) and my Imperial gear and Dawnbreaker, and refused to feed, the Knight seeing herself as evil and corrupted. Eventually, she came across the College, figuring that mad wizards who dabbled in the darkest arts would always make time for an undead pariah, and the Knight discovered that her vampiric blood granted her the skill to use magic. I didn’t do the College quests, only getting the spell tomes and regaining my character’s confidence, Imperial armor and follower.
- Feeding. From here on in your follower/best friend/lover/second-in-command will also be your portable snack. Asking them to sleep in any unowned bed allows you to feed on them. Try to pick a follower where allowing their vampiric friend to feed on them wouldn’t be ridiculously out of character (ie. Not Morthal’s housecarl).
- The cure. Isran gets pissy at several parts of the Dawnguard questline and demands you get cured by Falion in Morthal. The Knight does, but misses the power and even though she is aware of how her newfound power of magic is corrupting her, she finds vampires to turn her each time, reasoning that her soul and afterlife in Soverngard is safe as the Dragonborn and she’s not harming anyone. This is where her ego comes in; being a saviour is a very ego-centric career. Make sure to keep a stack of filled Black Soul Gems for the cure quest. You can pick them up already filled in warlock dungeons.
- Attitude. Her hatred for Nords fades to the background, mainly because she has more important things in her life, but it doesn’t go away. She’ll accept help from Nords but her opinions on their culture don’t change.
- Questing. Wanting to prevent anyone else from becoming like her, she joins the Dawnguard (finish the questline) and makes use of her vampiric magic to turn against other vampires and protect herself better than her standard steel could (Restoration and Alteration). As she’s more powerful than she was before, the Knight thinks she can take on the dragons with more confidence (be wary of fire dragons) and makes progress in the Main Quest (finish it). I also suggest you complete Frostflow Abyss, which gives a 10% to the power of healing spells, while Potema’s Quest is one of my favourites. The Only Cure (Peryite’s Quest) is arguably the only daedric quest where completing it as the Daedra requests is the right thing to do. Spellbreaker will also be our shield here on in.
- Religion. She still prays to the Divines and is even more determined to avoid the Daedra, as an undead creature herself. Even if Arkay doesn’t approve of her, Akatosh as the Dragon God approves of her “hero-ing” and “Dragonborn-ing” around Skyrim and shows this through a more powerful blessing (Fortify Restoration Potions), allowing her to regenerate magicka even in broad daylight.
- Combat. This time, if things start to get rough, the Knight draws on the magic granted to her by her vampirism (no magic if she’s human) to heal her companion or grant herself tougher armor before charging in herself with sword and board. If wielding Dawnbreaker as a vampire feels wrong, give the sword to your follower and use your Imperial Blade or the sword General Tulius gives as a badge of office.
Between her draconic soul and vampiric blood, the knowledge of magic was common now to the Knight. Living within the darkness without ever allowing it inside. Apocrypha was another matter. Miraak was something else. Alduin had been vanquished because it was her destiny. Harkon had been slain because it was the right thing to do. But Miraak was what she could become, a frightening glimpse into her future. But as she held Bend Will in her lips, she wondered at its applications. Rather than send scores of men to their deaths, she could stand before the enemies of Stormcloaks and Shout them to kneel. Rather than execute Nordic war criminals, she could win them to their own side. It appears that even Daedric knowledge could be turned for good.
- Vampirism. This is the point (if ever) you ask Serana to make you a Vampire Lord. At this point, the form will be a little underpowered but will allow us to stack Amulets of Talos. I also started feeding on people other than Lydia, because if vampire blood allowed her to access powers of Restoration and Alteration then what could the blood of an ancient Telvanni or an accomplished necromancer bring her? I symbolized this new magical aptitude by taking the infamous Necromage perk, which gave her increased insights into potions, enchantments and spellcasting. You can also bring Vampire Lord powers into human form after a particularly prolific feeding (here), and I found Mist Form to be the most useful/badass.
- Attitude. She returns to helping people, doing a lot of minor quests because she feels a need to balance the darkness with goodness. This is when she understands the Nords and recognises that their savagery might not be such a bad thing. Clean out bandit forts for no other reason than keeping the hold safe, help the orphaned children by building homes (and increasing our Smithing skill massively; make sure to buy up all the iron ingots/ore you see from Day 1 to make this possible), and destroy the plans of the Dark Brotherhood and the Morag Tong.
- Questing. Mirrak is our first new priority. After he’s dead, start hunting after Daedric artifacts, in order to use them against evil people or to keep them out of the hands of their worshipers or masters. The only ones I advise NOT to do are Boethiah’s (no killing your follower), Namira’s or Mehrunes Dagon’s (killing random people) quests, but it depends on how dark you want your Knight to go. Finishing the Legion questline was the absolute last thing I did, as that was the Knight’s principle goal in Skyrim I felt her journey should end at Windhelm. I also completed the College of Winterhold questline, partially for Equilibrium. As a warrior, our health pool is impressive and high-cost spells like Paralyse or flesh spells can make no room for Restoration. Its darker magic also fits with the Knight’s new views on magic.
- Shouting. Bend Will and Marked for Death become the Knight’s new favourite shouts after her jaunt into Oblivion. I warn you to not use Marked for Death among friendlies, as it permanently damages their armor rating which can’t be fixed without the console or mods. I also made liberal use of Become Ethereal and Fire Breath was my new midrange weapon. Combining it with a poison of Weakness to Fire, along with Ahzidal and Fire Within and a 100% shout reduction, it makes for a solid weapon. I was consistently doing about 150 points of damage with all three words, without Weakness poisons.
- Religion. As her time as the Dragonborn wears on, her devotion to the Dragon God of Time increases. Even though we’re necklace-stacking Talos Amulets, I considered this Akatosh blessing her path as his champion and Dragonborn. She, of course, takes his blessing as the Magicka Regeneration from Akatosh combined with Recovery 2/2 gives us 70% of our full magic regen in broad daylight.
- Combat. Using Method 3 on this page, we gain the 100% shout cooldown, but the range of shouts we actually use are strategic and very narrow (Fire Breath, Become Ethereal, Slow Time, Marked for Death), and since we are blocking for a lot of the time, shouting is used with the restraint and power expected of a dark Dragonborn of legend. Either Spellbreaker or Auriel’s Shield, depending on the situation and personal preference.
- Gear. I swapped my smithed Imperial gear for unsmithed Ebony that I found in Apogrypha, partially for the look but also to show her identity moving away from the Legion and more into that of a Champion. Even though we don’t have many perks in Heavy Armor, anyone that’s combined armor with flesh spells should know how quickly you can hit the cap.
Necromage + Sun Spells + Dawnbreaker + Recovery 2/2 + Blessing of Akatosh
Ironically, her devotion to her vampiric magic increases her prowess with Sun Spells, while Akatosh’s Blessing allows her to recover her magic in the blinding light of the day. She will be the only undead left standing.
Slow Time + Marked for Death (several) + Sunhallowed Arrows
Combining dark magic with a weapon first wielded by an aspect of Akatosh and blessed arrows, the Knight tears through time and her enemies.
Flamability + Ahzidal + Fire Within + Flame Breath
Bearing the soul of a Dovakiin and darkened magic, the Knight is able to unleash a fire more powerful than the Greybeards could ever hope to wield.
River Betty + Silverside Perch + Skeever Tail
Damage Health, Ravage Health, Damage Stamina Regen
Constantly emitting noxious fumes, the Knight can use this to drain enemies of life force.
Bear Claws/Hanging Moss + Rock Warbler Egg + Wheat
Fortify One Handed, Fortify Health, Restore Health
A standard mixture of wild ingredients for soldiers in the heat of battle.
Canis Root + Imp Stool + Mora Tapinella
Lingering Damage Health, Paralysis
A stolen recipe from Master Neloth's own blood and memories, a poisoned bolt can stop encroaching Stormcloaks in their tracks.
Ash Creep Cluster + Glowing Mushroom
A quick and dirty mash-up to help the Knight tap into her dragon soul, this is easy to whip up in big batches and stockpile.
Snowberries + Dwarven Oil + Moon Sugar
Fortify Magicka, Restore Magicka, Resist Frost
Enhancing the Knight's borrowed magical prowess, this elixir is stolen from Apocrypha's own seas.
- Chrysamere. The legendary Paladin’s Blade, powerful and uniquely enchanted, it’s the only proper two-handed weapon for the Knight to wield.
- Lord’s Mail. After a short quest, we can receive the Lord’s Mail, Kynareth’s artifact given to the Imperial Legion. As a heavily enchanted ebony cuirass, I’d advise getting it late in game.
- Better Vampires. I cannot, in good faith, make a vampire build and not include this in the related mods. It’s well balanced and makes vampires significantly more powerful.
Note: I do know there's an "error" with the perk spreads, that the Level 35 one includes Elven Smithing and the 50 one doesn't. I used Elven Smithing to stock up on Elven Arrows, then decided I didn't need the perk after making about 2500 arrows, so I took respec'd it at the end of Dragonborn.