There's plenty of builds that use, or even rely on, Shouts, and a number that depict the quintessential Nordic Dragonborn we've seen in Bethesda's promotional material. I wanted to play a character like the Dragonborn foretold in the prophecy and on Alduin's Wall, with a mastery of Shouts befitting of a Dragonborn that felt useful and powerful without being totally dominating all the time in combat. I wasn't originally going to make this character into a build, but I had a lot of fun with it and thought I'd share so that others could experience it. This build relies on content from the Dragonborn DLC. While not required, the Dawnguard DLC does have content to offer.
At the end of the Third Era, I, Martin Septim, sundered the Amulet of Kings, and with my dragonblood became an Avatar of Akatosh, sacrificing my mortal form to end Mehrunes Dagon's assault on Tamriel. Now, from my place in Aetherius, I felt the Firstborn of Akatosh return to Mundus from the mists of Time. I will cast my soul back to Tamriel in a new body to defend its people, though it will require a huge sacrifice of magicka. I will lose my magical abilities, but it is a risk I must take.
With this build, you play as Martin Septim, the last of the Dragonborn Emperors, reborn. His new purpose is to keep the citizens of Skyrim, and indeed all Tamriel, safe from the dragons and the numerous other threats he encounters throughout his quest. Due to his loss of magical ability, he takes up the armaments of the ancient Blades. In addition, he commands the Thu'um with great skill, and has a sharp mind and strong personality. Once he masters his mind and Voice, he can Awaken his Dragonborn blood to chain Shouts with devastating effect for a short time each day.
Race: Any. Since your soul has been cast into a new body, you're not the same Martin that Tamriel knew in the Third Era. I chose Imperial, though Orc has some nice skill boosts too. Both of their racial abilities prove invaluable for the Dragonborn.
Stats: Put 1 Stamina for every 2 Health on leveling up. Due to your loss of spellcasting ability, you train as a warrior to defeat your foes.
Standing Stone: Pick the Warrior Stone to quickly learn the skills you will need. Once you're confident in your combat abilities, the Lord Stone provides the additional protection you'll need to resist powerful magical attacks.
Skills: One Handed, Two Handed, Block, Heavy Armor, Alchemy, Speech, Smithing
Perks: Level 30 | Level 60
Equipment: Blades Sword, Shield and Armor, Ebony Blade, Dragonbane, Amulet of Talos, Ring of your choice, Fortify Alchemy Apparel
Quests: Main Quest, Dawnguard, Dragonborn, the Blades, The Whispering Door, Destroy the Dark Brotherhood, the Book of Love, A Return to your Roots
During my time at Cloud Ruler Temple I observed the Blades training with their curved Akaviri swords. It's time for me to put the techniques I picked up to use.
As a warrior, you're spending much of your time up close and personal, and you've got fighting skills to match. Early on, just use the best swords and greatswords you can get your hands on, but ideally you're after 3 blades of the Akaviri design - the Blades Sword, Ebony Blade, and even Dragonbane (a unique Blades Sword in Sky Haven Temple, which does shock damage or additional damage magic to Dragons).
One Handed in combination with a shield is good for being both offensive and defensive, but really comes into its own against archers and in single combat. The unenchanted Blades Sword is useful for Elemental Fury, and requires only a single perk to upgrade. Dragonbane is useful at higher levels when you can improve it with Smithing, and when you can craft more powerful poisons - the bonus damage to dragons is affected by magic resistance (or weakness, in this case). At high levels with Smithing your one-handed weapons will deal slightly more damage than your two-hander.
Ebony Blade with an iron will, refusing to kill innocents with the weapon but still making use of its powerful absorption effect. While this weapon might seem a bit out of place for the character, remember that Martin had a great deal of experience with the Daedra in the 3rd Era, and it fits quite well visually too! The Ebony Blade can be mostly charged by completing the Destroy the Dark Brotherhood questline - all the members of the Brotherhood count as 'friends', meaning killing all 6 of them grants 3 charges for the Blade, improving the absorb health effect to a total of 22 points. The Ebony Blade shines when fighting groups with the Sweep perk, since you absorb health from all of them. This weapon is ideal when dodging and bashing is preferable to blocking, or when you're wounded and can make full use of the absorb effect - especially handy considering your lack of strong healing spells. At high levels with Smithing your one-handed weapons will deal slightly more damage than the Ebony Blade, but miss out on the absorb effect.
Defensive Skills - Heavy Armor and Block
Both the Blades and the Imperial Legion used Heavy Armor and shields to defend themselves. Perhaps I should do the same.
Blocking is a strong defense, significantly reducing the damage taken from attacks. Even better than blocking is preventing the attack from connecting altogether, either through avoiding the blow or bashing. With training, bashing can be used as a serious offense, dealing increased damage and having a roughly 25% chance to disarm foes. Remember to avoid damage from archers and spellcasters by using a shield or a Shout like Whirlwind Sprint or Become Ethereal. Make use of the Imperial Shield at low levels, and the Blades Shield when you can acquire it.
Heavy Armor provides a last line of defense against physical attacks. Wear Steel Armor (style of your choice) until you can acquire the Blades set. With improved armor and the right perks, you should be able to reach the damage reduction cap of 80% between level 30 and 40.
Magic Resistance is a bit of a weak point compared to the other two defenses, especially on higher difficulties. It can be brought up to 50% with the Lord Stone, Agent of Mara bonus, and a basic Resist Magic ring. Additional temporary boosts can be found in the form of the Elemental Protection perk and potions.
Support Skills - Alchemy, Speech and Smithing
A sharp mind is useful for even for non-spellcasters, able to aid in battle or prevent it altogether.
Alchemy is a superb support skill, used to make both potions and poisons to give you an edge in combat. Some of the more useful recipes and uses of said recipes are listed in the Potions and Poisons section below. I like to get the Sinderion's Serendipity bonus from the Return to your Roots quest for a 25% chance to get a duplicate potion when crafting. Alchemy is a key component of the Awaken power, which will be explained later.
Speech allows you to command respect and wield influence like a true Dragonborn. It also provides better prices for items (especially selling potions, which will most likely be your primary source of Speech leveling).
Smithing provides a means to effectively maintain and improve equipment. Starting out, you can just grab the Steel Smithing perk (improving perk for Blades Swords and rely on Alchemy to boost your improvements up with potions. Later on you can level it up to grab Arcane Smithing and improve Dragonbane.
As befits a Dragonborn, you possess a mastery of the Thu'um matched by no other. In time, you'll fully unlock each and every Shout in the game. I'm not going to turn this in to a Shout guide - check out my Shout guide for in-depth info on the Shouts themselves, and my Dungeon Backdooring guide to get even the quest locked shouts. Some of my most-used Shouts included Become Ethereal, Elemental Fury, Fire Breath, Marked for Death and Whirlwind Sprint.
Throughout the build I've been going on about this mastery of shouts this character has. Using the Blessing and Amulet of Talos you've got a baseline cooldown reduction of 40%, which can be improved further with Alchemy. At higher levels you can use a 100% Fortify Restoration potion to boost the Blessing, bringing the base up to 60% - a well-balanced cooldown for a shout-oriented character.
Awaken Mode and Shout Combinations
Then comes one of the coolest things about this character - Awaken mode. Awaken mode provides a way around the restolooping, potion stacking and werewolf chatting to achieve 100% cooldown reduction in a completely legitimate way once your alchemy skill is high enough. Here's how it works:
- You have your baseline 60% cooldown reduction - 20% (Amulet of Talos) + (20% (Blessing of Talos) x 2 (Fortify Restoration 100% Potion))
- Unequip your Amulet of Talos, drink another 100% Restoration potion and re-equip the Amulet of Talos, totaling 80% cooldown reduction
- Use Dragon Aspect, bringing the total up to 100% and boosting the effectiveness of many Shouts.
On top of the normal Dragon Aspect bonuses and the ability to use Shouts at will, this opens up the door for some devastating shout combinations to use against an overwhelmingly powerful foe or group of foes. Here's a few of my favorites - if you've got one you like, stick it in the comments and I might put it up here!
Cyclone Blast: Use Slow Time and launch the target(s) into the air with Cyclone. When they are at the apex of their flight, blast them away with Unrelenting Force.
Glacial Tomb: Hit the target(s) with Marked for Death, and then freeze them solid with Ice Form. Their armor rating continues to degrade while they lie helpless, entombed by the ice. If you like, stack Marked for Death multiple times to increase the AR lost.
Flurry: Use Slow Time and immediately follow it up with Elemental Fury. While time slows down, you can swing your weapon even faster than usual.
Fiery Vortex: Use Slow Time and and Cyclone. While the targets are suspended in the air, incinerate them with a few casts of Fire Breath.
Potions and Poisons
Alchemy is a key part of the Last Dragonborn's combat effectiveness. In this section I'll mention some key brews and their uses.
Fortify Restoration (Yellow Mountain Flower + Salt Pile): With 100 Alchemy, all appropriate perks, and Fortify Alchemy gear amounting to 33%, you can make a potion of 100% Fortify Restoration - a requirement for the devastating Awaken mode. You can also use this to improve other buff potions, such as the Fortify Smithing potion.
Fortify One-Handed (Hanging Moss + Canis Root) and Fortify Two-Handed (Dragon's Tongue + Fly Amantia): Very useful for a quick but significant boost - make sure you assess the situation and pick a weapon before drinking to avoid wasting the potion. The Two-Handed potion also resists fire.
Fortify Health and Stamina (Boar Tusk + Wheat + Garlic): This surprisingly simple potion gives a significant boost to Health and Stamina, and is also extraordinarily valuable.
Fortify Block and Resist Magic (Bleeding Crown + Tundra Cotton): Great for fighting dragons, significantly boosting your blocking resistance and slightly reducing magic damage.
Resist Fire, Frost and Shock (Fly Amantia + Hawk Beak + Snowberries): While the Hawk Beak can be a little difficult to acquire, this potion is great for fighting powerful warlocks.
A few of the Fortify Magic School potions also affect certain Shouts. See my guide in the Tips and Tricks group for more.
Damage Magicka and Damage Magicka Regen (Butterfly Wing + Blue Butterfly Wing + Hanging Moss): This potion is perfect for dealing with Dragons. When a dragon runs out of magicka (their magicka pool is quite small) they can't use their breath weapon any more.
Don't forget to throw in some of the basics like Damage Health and Weakness poisons. Remember that you can combo a Weakness to Poison poison with any other poison in the game. This has some great synergy with shouts - using Weakness to Poison and then Weakness to Magic makes Marked for Death much more powerful - magic weakness increases the armor lost.
Playing the Character
There are 3 main facets which define the way you play the Last Dragonborn - the Protector, Dragonborn and Adventurer.
The purpose of your return to Tamriel is to protect its people from the impending dragon crisis, as well as whatever fate has in store. This means completing major questlines like the Main Quest, Dawnguard (Dawnguard side, obviously), Dragonborn and other side quests to make Skyrim safer for its citizens. Remember not to commit crimes and act with honor.
As the Last Dragonborn, it is your destiny to defeat Alduin and rid Tamriel of dragons. In this, the Blades can be one of your greatest assets. To get and keep command of your own Blades dragon hunting team, you'll need to kill Paarthurnax, though if you want to avoid this many mods provide a way around it. Building your elite team can be a fun exercise - I took J'zargo (I completed the Saarthaal quest as a service to the College so I could recruit one of their apprentices), as well as Durak and Celann from the Dawnguard once I completed that questline. All 3 of these followers have no level cap, Celann and J'zargo are proficient in Heavy Armor, and they all have good close combat and ranged combat abilities. Sky Haven Temple also makes an excellent home - the large chest at the entrance and the armory chest containing the Blades Armor are safe for storage.
As an adventurer, you're always seeking out new challenges and sources of power to better serve your purpose. Seeking out the Words of Power is a good way to make a tidy bit of gold and get a lot of experience. Don't be afraid to pay for training, particularly for skills like Alchemy. You have a significant amount of experience with the Daedra from your past life, so you can complete their quests if you wish and either store their artifacts for safekeeping, or use them if you're feeling brave.
This build really kept me interested the whole way through. I spent about 50 hours on this character - probably the longest I've spent on any since my first way back in 2011. The promise of mastering Awaken mode, learning each and every Word of Power, the wide range of quests to do, and the great synergy of Shouts with the melee alchemist combat style really kept me going.
I hope you enjoyed reading (or even playing) this build as much as I enjoyed playing it. I was after a fitting send-off for both my days playing Skyrim and writing my own builds, and I have to say the Last Dragonborn did not disappoint.
Lastly, thanks to the Skype crew for letting me bounce some ideas around and giving me a bit of advice!