A whisper soon overwhelmed my thoughts, promising that which I was seeking. He called himself Clavicus Vile, and told me the Divines wouldn’t grant such a self-centred wish- but he would be willing to. I was skeptical of course, who could have such power other than the Divines? But he reassured me that no harm would befall me for this.
I was overjoyed, ecstatic- I mean, how could I resist such a gift?
Word had spread around town of “the girl with the voice of a Divine”, and many had shown for my performance at the tavern that night. I was nervous- as to be expected, but as soon as I grabbed hold of my lute and saw the eager patrons I was filled with excitement. Now was the time to prove myself and kickstart my career.
I remember the child standing in the back of the crowd, trying to see over the towering adults. I remember as her face lit up when I strung the chords of my lute and my voice pierced the silence. I remember the dark figure appearing behind her. I remember her cries as she was strung up onto a sword. No one turned, no one cared. I thought I was seeing things.
Then another dark figure. More people lifted with swords pierced through their backs. No one cared. They only cheered and clapped my performance. Blood spattered the walls. No one cared.
Bodies covered the floor. Blood on the ceiling. Blood on the walls. The room was red. The dark figures looked at me but did not attack. I could only flee.
No harm came to me, but I performed red.
- Ordinator- Perks of Skyrim
- Imperious- Races of Skyrim
- Andromeda- Standing Stones of Skyrim
- Apocalypse- Magic of Skyrim
- Zim’s Immersive Artifacts
- Alternate Start- Live Another Life
As a Breton you’ll start with three passives:
- Grail of Betony: Find a lost artifact that grants magicka and stamina regen.
- Spell Mantle: Resistance to magic, and absorb most incoming spells at low magicka.
- Stones of Galen: Each standing stone grants its own bonus effect.
After finding 10 standing stones you’ll unlock:
- Shared Ancestry: 1/day – temporarily gain the racial power of a target man or mer.
Being a Breton will gain you some minor protection against magic attacks, a bonus 100% regeneration rate to magicka and stamina once you come across the grail, and a nice added effect to our chosen standing stone. Some good choices for Shared Ancestry are Nord (1/day grants very fast magicka and stamina regen for a short time), and Imperial (1/day replenishes the two attributes with the highest remaining percentage).
Instead of simply helping you level faster, the Lover will grant you:
- Secret Admirer: The Lover periodically gifts you a random enchanted weapon or armor.
- Undying Love: Cheat death when slain, returning to life with full health. This effect has a 15-minute cooldown.
After finding all 13 standing stones, you’ll unlock:
- Lover’s Kiss: At will – target is magically bonded to you and can be called to your location with the Lover’s Call power.
The Lover’s passive effects are great for gameplay as well as roleplay. Secret Admirer will help you gain gold and level speechcraft, and Undying Love will allow you to make mistakes in combat with this squishy build. They also both fit with the “whoops I made a deal with the daedra” vibe, giving you mysterious positive benefits to counteract the curse this character received. With our Breton passive, The Lover with also cause all enchantments to drain 50% slower, allowing more uses for your dagger and staff. I didn’t find a use for the Lover’s Kiss power, but the passives of this stone are too good to pass up.
Stat Spread: 2 magicka / 1 health, until you get around 155 health, then the rest into magicka.
High magicka is needed due to the lack of enchanting and use of 3 summons at a time. The low health is justifiable through the use of sneak, illusion, summons tanking for you, and the ability to cheat death through The Lover stone. If you feel you need more health, be sure to make up the lost magicka through items such as the Mage’s Circlet, and Savos Aren’s Amulet.
Skills: Speechcraft, Conjuration, Illusion, Sneak.
The Archmage’s robes, Masque of Clavicus Vile, and Shrouded Shoes/Boots are all that’s needed for equipment. Zim’s Immersive Artifacts alters the Masque, making prices and bribes 35% better and causing almost all persuasion attempts to be successful- so you can get better prices when selling the enchanted gear and feel like a sweet-talking bard. The gloves/gauntlets, ring, and necklace are all dependent on how you prefer to play this character. Due to the amount of money you’ll be making through selling enchanted gear and performing for crowds, you can buy whichever enchanted trinkets suit your fancy. For a weapon you’ll be carrying around the Blade of Woe and Sanguine Rose. With Zim’s the dagger will absorb 25 points of health, and foes will flee for 3 seconds when first struck- useful in both regaining lost health, and as a defensive tool for enemies that get too close. The Sanguine Rose will permanently summon a dremora, but has few uses before needing to be recharged. Be sure to only bring it out when in a dire situation!
The only powers this character has are the passive Gift of the Gab, and the Perform ability made available by Ordinator’s speech tree. Because of the build’s background as a bard you can justify using any type of shout that the situation requires, but recommended ones are Throw Voice for getting enemies bundled together, Become Ethereal to escape dangerous situations, Aura Whisper for scouting out an area, and Dragonrend to get dragons in range of your angry dremora.
From illusion you’ll want Muffle, Ghostwalk, Fury, Frenzy, Invisibility, and Shroudwalk (master level). From conjuration you’ll want Conjure: Flame Atronach, Frost Atronach, Storm Atronach, Dremora Lord, Dremora Champion, Dremora Honor Guard, Xivilai Lord, and Dremora Assassin (master level).
- The College of Winterhold.
After her ‘incident’, the Oblivion-Bound Bard will immediately search for a place to learn to control her new powers. She will head to the College of Winterhold in Skyrim, believing it to be the safest place to learn without fear of persecution. She will leave the college for a while after discovering all she needed in order to contain her summons, but will come back after she’s toured around Skyrim. This questline will allow you the Archmage’s Robes, as well as other useful gear such as the Mage’s Circlet, Savos Aren’s Amulet, and Morokei. It’ll also give access to high level illusion and conjuration spells, and their respective master quests.
- The Bard’s College.
After travelling around Skyrim, playing at all the inns she comes across, and drinking with all the patrons, she’ll eventually learn of the Bard’s College in Solitude. Saying goodbye to her new drinking buddies, she’ll head over to Solitude to learn more about her craft. Upon arriving, she’ll quickly realize that the bards here have no interest in teaching an outsider, but instead will gladly make use of her magical talent to fetch things for them. While you don’t actually do bard-like things, this questline is more for roleplay and getting access to Gift of the Gab, which will allow you to level speech faster.
- A Night to Remember
The Bard is not one to turn down a drinking contest, let alone by one who doubts she can drink like the burliest of Nords. She’ll soon blackout, and awaken having to clean up a whole string of drunken messes. Completing this daedric quest will give access to the Sanguine Rose- a dremora-summoning staff useful for when you’re out of magicka.
- A Daedra’s Best Friend.
Upon The Bard’s arrival in Falkreath, she’ll hear gossip of the local blacksmith offering gold for the capturing of a stray dog. Thinking it’ll be some easy septims she’ll take the job, but as soon as she comes across Barbas she’ll feel an uncomfortable sense of familiarity. Knowing now how Clavicus Vile operates, The Bard will reject the Rueful Axe and instead get the Masque of Clavicus Vile.
She will begin to fall from grace after becoming Archmage, after learning to summon dremora and twist the minds of others into a frenzy. The power will begin to get to her, and after hearing chanting coming from a house in Windhelm she’ll find herself in front of the Dark Brotherhood. Being offered all the chaos and gold she could ever ask for, The Bard will gladly join in with her new family.
The Oblivion-Bound Bard is horrified at her newfound “gift”, which will make her avoid being near people- fearing it’ll lash out again. Her main purpose in Skyrim is the College of Winterhold, and she will head there as soon as possible in hopes to control and learn about her new abilities. Once she learns to contain her summons, she will travel all across Skyrim- performing at the many inns and taverns, still being a bard at heart. She’ll meet with all the patrons, and drink with all the patrons. She’ll eventually learn of the Bard’s College, and travel to Solitude to hone her craft. While not “morally pure”, The Bard is a charismatic character, caring for and helping those she comes across.
However, making a deal with a Daedra, willingly or unwillingly, is a corrupting force.
Her own desires will begin to take precedent over others’, and she will actively betray those who trust her if it means more benefit for herself. She’ll begin experimenting with her new powers, going out of her way to find wanderers or bandits to make use of in the wilderness. Playing the flute, infused with her talent in illusion will force enemies to dance endlessly. Playing the drum with the same melodic beat will cause madness and death to others. Coupled with her ability to summon demons, The Bard will begin to enjoy to ensuing chaos. This will lead her to the Dark Brotherhood, and all the death and gold and chaos her ever-increasing hedonistic desires could want.
Speechcraft- The Irresistible Melody.
Speech is the main skill that sets this build apart from other stealth illusionists, giving access to the Perform power. All perks needed from this tree are found in the middle-left branch starting with Performer, and while fun for roleplaying, Serenade is the only perk in this branch that you won’t require. This tree will allow The Oblivion-Bound Bard to take a more prominent role in combat, either forcing up to 5 enemies to dance spellbound while her summons cut them down, or play a drum which damages enemies and heals her minions. When using ‘Perform’ in combat, you will get the option to either use Irresistible Dance or Earthquake Drum. When not in combat, you will instead pull out a lute and gain money from characters nearby.
Conjuration- A Tale Weaved to Reality.
Conjuration synergizes nicely with the chosen speech perks, acting as your main offence while you support with your instruments. With Apocalypse- Magic of Skyrim you’ll gain a whole new arsenal of daedra to summon, allowing for a more tactical approach than just spamming Dremora Lord (although that’s still quite valid). With March of Oblivion and Edge of Oblivion, you’ll have access to 3 summons at once, allowing for some fun with combinations. Unleash Hell will give even the less useful atronachs more of a purpose- flame ones will cause a fiery explosion, frost ones reduce armor and magic resistance, and storm ones will cause knockdown. Dremora still reign supreme however, gaining increased attack damage and movement speed.
Illusion- Songs of Madness.
Illusion is used to compensate for the low number of sneak perks, allow your spells to be silently cast, and cause enemies to go mad- attacking anyone in sight. The two branches you’re going to want here are the middle one, avoiding all side perks in the branch except Shadow Refuge, and the right-most branch, splitting off at Fickle Fate and getting Master of the Mind. Also be sure to grab dual casting to allow frenzy spells to effect higher level enemies, and Quiet Before the Storm’s first point to make all spells silent. Invisibility spells are The Bard’s primary defence, and with Shadow Refuge they’ll cause you to sneak 15% better and take 35% less damage. Frenzy your foes, then hide back in the shadows as they tear themselves apart (with your daedra kindly helping them do so).
Sneak- The Moving Shadows.
While your muffle boots and invisibility spells will be doing the heavy lifting, it doesn’t hurt to put two points into Sneak Mastery. You’ll have enough magicka to cast invisibility and ghostwalk frequently, so no more perks in this tree are needed in order to remain hidden.
Requirements – Illusion, Conjuration, Signed in Blood, Edge of Oblivion.
While not an active ability, An Unwitting Pact passively represents the curse laid upon The Oblivion-Bound Bard. Her instruments altering reality, her thoughts summoning demons- all for the amusement of the daedra. Signed in Blood and Edge of Oblivion come together to add a constant debuff to this character for the benefit of her summons- preventing health regeneration to give it to her daedra, and making her weaker when no daedra are summoned to allow for the conjuring of another.
Requirements – Earthquake Drum, Witching Rhythm, War Drummer, Frenzy, Pandemonium, Daedric Summons.
With Witching Rhythm and War Drummer, your Earthquake Drum will deal 50% more damage, reduce the magic resistance of enemies by 200%, heal your daedra up to 20 points, and give them 100% increased attack damage just after every beat. Cast frenzy on your opponents, and while they focus each other with 50% more damage from Pandemonium, use your Earthquake Drum along with your daedra to aid them in the process of killing each other.
Requirements – Irresistible Dance, Lord of the Dance, Daedric Summons.
Forcing 5 nearby enemies to dance without any way of resisting it, while your daedra hack them away? What could be more fun! Summon your preferred team of daedra, then perform next to a group of enemies to force them into a trance- they’ll be unable to attack or run. You will be out of stealth and forced to stand still while you perform however, so make sure all ranged opponents are either dealt with, or close enough to become affected.
The Oblivion-Bound Bard spends most of the time in the shadows, revealing herself on occasion to perform with her enchanted instruments. Always have the invisibility or ghostwalk spell in your hand, as getting caught off-guard can quickly result in death or Undying Love being used up. Ranged combatants and mages with area-of-effect spells are your weakest match-up, so either focus your summons on them, or lure them near other enemies with Throw Voice to set up for Maddening Melody or The Last Dance. If you do happen to get surprised, Become Ethereal can get you out of tricky situations. Out of all the creatures I encountered, none were resistant to Earthquake Drum, but dragons and dwarven automatons resisted ‘Irresistible’ Dance.
There are many different combinations to choose from with 3 summoning slots and 8 daedra, so here are some of my favourites:
- Crowd-control: Storm Atronach, Frost Atronach, Dremora Champion. The Storm Atronach and Dremora Champion both have knockdown effects, while the Frost Atronach can tank hits and lower the resistances of nearby enemies.
- Sweet DPS: 2 Dremora Lords, Frost Atronach/ Dremora Assassin. Dremora Lords still are the go-to damage dealers. The Frost Atronach will reduce enemy armor and magic resistance, and the Dremora Assassin is an archer that will reduce the health of those under 250 to 1 for 10 seconds, so pick one depending on the situation.
- Dragon-Slayer: Storm Atronach, 2 Flame Atronachs. If you don’t have access to Dragonrend this is the best combo for dragons that won’t land. The Storm Atronach is a solid stream of ranged damage, and the Flame Atronachs will cast a never-missing fiery explosion. If you have enough mana to support it, recast Flame Atronach to reset the 30 second timer on the explosion. Fire dragons will have a higher resistance to this, so you can swap out the Flame Atronachs for Xivilai Lords if it’s not doing enough damage.
- Mage-Bane: Dremora Honor Guard, Storm Atronach, Xivilai Lord. The Dremora Honor Guard will lower the magic resistance of enemies by 25%, then your Storm Atronach and Xivilai Lord will zap away their mana and their life.
Besides Earthquake Drum, the only other direct-dealing offensive option is the Blade of Woe. Because of how squishy this character is- and with all the other options at your disposal- running in and stabbing your enemy should be a last-ditch effort for damage. The Blade of Woe, however, is great as a “oh hi I didn’t see you there” for enemies that get too close, causing them to run away when hit. It’s also the build’s only direct way of healing, so choose wisely where and when you stab.