Character Build: The Poisoner


The Poisoner

When someone brings up the subject of poison in Skyrim, they’re usually talking about the harmful concoctions that you can make via Alchemy. The reality is, however, that there is a wide variety of options for poison damage in Skyrim. The Poisoner is a build that utilizes poison damage (and to a lesser extent, Paralysis) in almost all its forms. For those of you that don't have it, please note that this build does use the Dragonborn DLC.

Race: The Poisoner's skillset can mesh reasonably well with most races; I recommend Altmer for a boost to the build's magical abilities.

Stone: Due to the fact that its power deals poison damage (25 points of it, to be exact), the Serpent Stone is the obvious choice for this build. More usefully, it also paralyzes the target for 5 seconds.

Stats: 1/2/1. The Poisoner works best with a well-rounded spread. Lategame, due to the effects of Miraak’s Sword and Bardic Knowledge, you can stop with stamina and focus exclusively on health/magicka if you’d like.

Shouts: No poisoned-based shouts unfortunately, but the DoT aspect of Marked For Death and Drain Vitality thematically fits with the Poisoner. In addition, Aura Whisper is a nice alternative to Detect Life/Dead, Throw Voice is great for stealth, and Become Ethereal is useful for casting Mass Paralysis uninterrupted.

Black Book Abilities: The only absolutely key one here is Mora’s Agony (from The Hidden Twilight), since it has a poisoning effect. I also recommend picking up Secret of Arcana, Seeker of Sorcery, and Bardic Knowledge.



For weapons, the Poisoner uses Miraak’s Sword and Staff. The staff produces the same effect as Mora’s Agony, only on a smaller scale, while Miraak’s Sword absorbs fifteen stamina per hit. While the sword’s base damage is leveled, I wouldn’t worry about picking up the higher level versions; just pick it up as soon as you can. For recharging the weapons, I enchanted an Orcish Dagger with Soul Trap to capture souls in the Black Star. Until you acquire Miraak’s equipment, just use a simple Orcish Sword.

With regards to apparel, the choice is yours, though keep in mind that since the Poisoner perks Mage Armor, you’ll have to stick with stuff that isn't armor. The only essential piece is Miraak’s Robes since the tentacle explosion it triggers deals poison damage. Personally, I took a page from Ponty’s Arcane Bladesman in the looks department, and went with Miraak’s Boots, Apprentice Hood, Necklace of Restoration, Ring of Alteration, and some Thalmor Gloves self-enchanted with fortify one-handed. Until I got my hands on Miraak's stuff, I stuck with using generic leveled robes. With regards to the enchanted gloves, the Poisoner does not perk enchanting, but should have a decent amount of skill in it from recharging Miraak’s weapons. Combine that with Seeker of Sorcery, Ahzidal’s Genius, and a homemade enchanting potion, and the resulting enchantment should be somewhat decent.



One-Handed: Relying strictly on poison damage won’t get you far in Skyrim (especially with all of the poison-immune undead). Thus, the Poisoner keeps a sword handy for such occasions. Also, both Miraak’s Sword and the Orcish Sword have a really cool look for a poisoned-based build. Key perks are Armsman and the power attack perks. Later on, you can grab Bladesman as well.

Alteration: While Paralyze spells aren’t poisoned-based, they fit in well with the Poisoner’s nature, particularly with the green hue they give off, and thematically speaking, they tie in with the Serpent Stone’s paralyze effect. Aside from that, the Magic Resistance/Atronach perks are great for supplementing magical defense and Mage Armor enhanced flesh spells are the source of the Poisoner’s physical defense. Grab all of the perks in this tree except for Alteration Dual Casting.

Restoration: Using healing spells alleviates the need to make healing potions, but more importantly, Poison Rune is a great source of offense. Its effect deals damage over time and stacks, so go crazy tossing them out. Early on, the perks you’ll want to aim for are Adept Restoration, Respite, and Regeneration. Later on you can grab both ranks of Recovery and Avoid Death.

Alchemy: Wouldn’t be much of a poisoner build without poisons, now would it? That being said, the Poisoner uses potions as well. Perkwise, you’ll want to work your way up to Benefactor and Green Thumb.

Pickpocket: Just to go balls-out with the Poisoner theme, I went ahead and grabbed the Poisoned perk as well, using that as my primary means of delivering poisons, though I did poison my sword in situations where I was already detected. I also got Extra Pockets as well, simply because I love that perk. You should only need, at the most, three ranks in Light Fingers to reliably deliver your poisons.

Sneak: For staying hidden when dropping poisons into pockets. Avoid perking Backstab; you’re utilizing the Poisoned perk, not sneak attacks. Instead, just grab all five ranks of Stealth.

You should be at level 55 once the build is completed.


Alchemical Concoctions

Rune Enhancer: Combining any two fortify restoration ingredients will make this, a potion of fortify restoration. As the name implies, it’s essential for boosting the damage output of Poison Rune.

Assassin’s Elixir: For this potion, you’ll want to combine two invisibility ingredients. It helps in situations where you might risk being detected before you can plant your poisons.

Swordsman’s Elixir: (Canis Root, One-Handed Ingredient, Marksman Ingredient). This creates a potion of Fortify One-Handed and Marksman. Due to a glitch, fortify marksman potions boost all forms of physical damage, not just archery damage. With the edition of fortify one-handed, your sword damage will be boosted twice as much.

Philter of Magicka Enhancement: (Jazbay Grapes, Moon Sugar, Red Mountain Flower). Fortifying, Regenerating, and Restoring Magicka, this concoction is great for powering up your spells.

Philter of Elemental Resistance: (Snowberries, Hawk Beak, Fly Amanita). This potion will further your resistance to all three elements (especially when paired with a potion of magic resistance), though Hawk Beaks are unfortunately hard to find.

Immobilizer: Simply combine any two paralysis ingredients to make this poison. It’s your only source of paralysis in the early going (outside of the once a day Serpent Stone), though it should be largely supplanted by the more convenient Paralyze spell once you perk Expert Alteration.

Ravager: (Deathbell, Giant Lichen, Skeever Tail). This creates a poison of Damage Health, Ravage Health, and Weakness to Poison, making it a nice go-to poison for boosting damage output.

Debilitator: (Imp Stool, Scathecraw, Skeever Tail). With Damage Health, Ravage Health, and Lingering Damage Health as its effects, this is a truly deadly poison. Note that Scathecraw is a Dragonborn-only ingredient.

Magebane: (Glowdust, Hanging Moss). This creates a poison of Damage Magicka and Damage Magicka Regen. As the name implies, it’s for use against mages.

Warriorbane: (Deathbell, Skeever Tail, Large Antlers). This creates a poison of Damage Health, Damage Stamina Regen, and Slow, for use against physical fighters.



Combat with the Poisoner isn’t terribly complex. Start off battles by sneaking towards your opponents and planting poisons. When detected, cast a flesh spell, pull out your sword and start hacking away in melee range. As other enemies move in to attack you, throw down a Poison Rune between them and you to start stacking on some DoT. Since the Poisoner’s AR caps out at 300 with Ebonyflesh (the small boost from Miraak’s Boots aside), Miraak’s Staff and Paralyze will be particularly important lategame for limiting the number of enemies you have to face, and therefore the damage you can potentially take, at a given moment. Use potions and healing spells as necessary, and should you feel the need to use another poison, coat your sword with it. If you get really overwhelmed, use Mass Paralysis.

With regards to roleplay, I didn’t do anything particularly specific with the Poisoner, and just played him as a Chaotic Evil sort of guy. I did roleplay him as a worshipper of Peryite due to their similar interests though, and completed The Only Cure, though I didn’t use Spellbreaker in combat. It could be easily incorporated into the build though, particularly with the inclusion of the Block skill and/or the Ward Absorb perk.

Some alternative gameplay options are available with the Poisoner. First of these is the Ebony Mail. Its poison cloak is perfect for the build, but I decided against using it in favor of Miraak’s Robes. That being said, if you’d rather use it, or simply lack the Dragonborn DLC, then you can drop the Mage Armor perks in favor of Heavy Armor ones and make the swap. You can even use the equipment stacking glitch to equip both if you’d like.

The other option to consider is the Vampire Lord form. One of the perks in its tree, Poison Talons, makes your melee attacks do 20 points worth of poison damage while transformed, making it another potential tool in the Poisoner’s arsenal. While I did try to incorporate Vampire Lord for the sake of Poison Talons for a little while, it felt rather tacked on, so I decided to drop it for the final product. That being said, feel free to use the Vampire Lord form if it tickles your fancy.

Finally, there’s the Poison Spiders that can be created in the Dragonborn DLC. I’m not a fan of spider scrolls, but they’d certainly be fitting for the Poisoner.

I’m a big fan of builds that tie together aesthetically or thematically, and the Poisoner definitely fits the bill with its focus on poison and paralysis. If you liked this, then be sure to check out my other builds to see more!

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  • Definitely going to try this build :)

  • I've been going through some of the Forge's older builds, and found this gem on my archaeological dig. Well done on this one! The aesthetic you created sounds really cool, and It's neat to see some of the more overlooked/less used mechanics in Skyrim getting explored and exploited. Neat concept overall.

    Also I found your choice of images very well done. They definitely contributed to the presentation and my ability to envision the character. Since they weren't actually pictures from within the game, it kinda let my mind run wild as to how I would create the character.

    Once again, well done all and all. Hope to see some more from you in near future. 

  • Hey Albino - loving this fella - don't forget your Rank:Apprentice tag

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