Surprise! After what has seem like forever, I finally got the chance to return to Skyrim and finish a build that has been laying around for months now. This is a twist on my favorite class in The Elder Scrolls universe: the Sorcerer. Because of some crappy mechanics in Skyrim, this class has long since fallen from the prestige it held it in Oblivion and Morrowind. That is all about to change though. I introduce to you, one of the most enjoyable, most powerful, most game changing builds this blog, well myself at least, has ever seen: the Sorceress.
In the absence of light, few can see. Even fewer can act. And all but one will lose everything. That one is the Sorceress. A child of the darkness, the laws of the living allude her. She possesses a mastery of the arcane and black arts not known to the living, dead or other worldly. Do not think the light will be your savior, for it has no bearing upon this … this creature. You cannot hide in the light and you can never escape the darkness. You are never safe. No one is.
Race: Breton Vampire
Major Skills: Alteration, Conjuration, Illusion, Restoration
Minor Skills: Enchanting, Heavy Armor, One-Handed
Shouts: Battle Fury, Bend Will, Soul Tear
Powers: Agent of Dibella, Lover’s Insight, Sailor’s Repose, Various Vampire Powers
Equipment: Enchanted Ebony Armor with Circlet, Bound Sword
What happens when you cross your everyday Sorcerer with a Master Necromancer with an all-powerful vampire and stick the product inside a bewitching, female? Well you get the Sorceress! I know that’s a lot mixing and matching and the product is just dropping “er” off the end of sorcerer and adding an “ess”, but I assure you that it makes all the difference in the world. At its heart, the Sorceress is a variation of a Dark Sorcerer swapping out elemental magic for the pure arcane. She fights with a sword made of pure magic and fires off spheres of the same that reduce enemies to ash. Clad in her heavy armor she has no fear when it comes to getting up close and personal with foes. In fact, that is when she is most effective, particularly against male opponents as they tend to fall to their knees in the presence of her beauty.
It is then they are given a choice. Die by her hands or at her side. If they choose to die then and there, she will bring them back to life only to fight for her anyway. She has such a way with men that she can lead her followers into an unwinnable battle and they will not even consider the thought of fleeing. Once they understand her power, they would sooner die then betray her because the punishment for doing so is far worse than a death by a gorgeous woman, she will tear their soul from their body. That is a fate even the dead can be afraid of.
The Sorceress has one skill that no other Sorcerer, or any mage for that matter, can boast: she can draw her power directly from the planes of Oblivion. The magic of these realms is far more potent than that of the mortal realm and as a result the price to tap into this infinite well of magic is miniscule compared to the power it unlocks. With an army of dead and living behind her and the power of Oblivion, who in the hell can stop her?
The one thing I loved about playing this build was that all the skills were intertwined, there was a sort of unspoken synergy between everything. It could be as subtle as flesh spells and healing spells allowing your Heavy Armor to level efficiently or as cryptic as Enchanting affecting your spell absorption. In any case, this interdependence makes the Sorceress a very natural, flowing build even with taking three magic skills to 100. The daunting task of mastering all three is lessened by the fact these three skills are very easy to grind if they somehow fall behind, and with all the excess gear you will have from leveling Enchanting there will be plenty of money to spend on training if any of the other skills fall behind (I’m looking at you Restoration). And for once, Enchanting is more of a minor skill. Since you are not aiming to take Extra Effect, there is no need to rush to grind it out, so that is another burden lifted. Like I said it is a very organic playthrough, but if by some chance it is moving too slow, you have the freedom to speed it up or balance it out.
This build can be divided into 3 stages, each coming with a respective perk. Each stage brings the Sorceress to a new tier of strength entirely. The first of which, starts with Necromage Vampirism. This is the first build I’ve played where Restoration doesn’t lag too far behind. But to speed things up a bit, all early excess money was spent training, Necromage is that important. This build functions very well at early levels, but once you get Necromage you will realize you were only playing with 50% of your potential. You should be ready to take this perk around level 20 or so if you train and heal whenever you can. Vampirism can be contracted either before or after getting this perk, just make sure you have it and the perk before taking the Atronach perk and getting any powers because the magnitude of these will be augmented by being a Necromage Vampire.
For normal Sorcerers the capstones are typically Twin Souls and Extra Effect. Well, the next stage we have is Twin Souls. This is relatively simple, it doubles your offense and your defense. Having two undead minions is better than one.
Now for the final stage, instead of Extra Effect, we have Master of the Mind. This can practically double your offenses and defenses (again) similar to Extra Effect, just in an indirect way. Until this point, and even after if you want, it is good to carry around a living follower so you have someone you can practice Rallying. Now with the perk, rather than only buffing your follower, you increase the power of your thralls and zombies making them nigh unstoppable.
Allure of Darkness
It is truly amazing how many people just tack Necromage on to a build for the sake of being a little overpowered or just tacking it on to increase one very specific thing like Quick Shot or Dual Flurry, I must admit I am guilty of the latter. So it is easy to see why people are getting tired of seeing it. Well this is not the case for this build. I have come to realize that if you are going to do something, then you might as well go for the gusto. Necromage is certainly not an add-on for the Sorceress, it embodies her. It is dark and powerful. But, in the case of the Sorceress, while she will certainly gain numerous boosts from being a necro-vamp. , the key is that her followers will be the overpowered ones. Anyone who has read my builds before should know by now that I am a sucker for numbers and I believe this build would not be complete without an adequate statistics section.
For starters, Necromage is going to boost any spell or effect casted on yourself or any undead by 25% magnitude and 50% duration… What that means it:
- ALL enchantments we place on our armor will be 25% stronger after you put the equipment on. For example a Fortify Conjuration effect of magnitude 15% will now be about 18% since the displayed values are typically rounded down.
- The Agent of Dibella increases from 10% more damage to enemies of the opposite sex to 12.5%, this is the same boost that Lover’s Insight gets just with the pseudo Allure effect added. So together we get a nice 25% damage boost against male NPC’s.
- Next we have Alteration effects. Necromage in tandem with Stability will double the duration of our flesh spells to last two minutes and will also increase the armor rating they give; now Ebonyflesh will add on 125 armor instead of just 100.
- Then there is Restoration, only appropriate that the tree this perk is actually in is one of the most greatly affected. In essence all healing spells will be increased two-fold. The first boost comes in the form of Regeneration which is a prerequisite for Necromage and it will boost all healing spells by a magnitude of 50%. This takes a spell like Fast Healing from 50 points to 75 points. Not too shabby, but we want more! Regeneration is additive with Sailor’s Repose which is another 10% bonus, well 12.5% when obtained after Necromage. This puts us at about 84. Still not enough. Factor in Necromage and now it goes from 84 to about 105. Now we are talking. To summarize, we just doubled the power of this spell from 50 to 105! That’s what being a necro-vamp. is all about. A similar boost will also be applied when using Close Wounds, Necromantic Healing and Heal Undead.
- Last, but not least we have Illusion magic (coincidentally the reason for the title of this section). I have actually used this trick once already in a previous build, after I stole the idea from Henson, but I’m going to explain it here again because it gets me all giddy talking about the possible power. So get those calculators ready! All vampires have an ability called Champion of the Night which is a 25% boost to all Illusion spells. Next we have Necromage granting another 25% bonus when casted on undead. Finally, since we are using Rally spells, Kindred Mage will increase the magnitude of them by 10 points. Let’s see where this takes us.
- Courage is normally a 25 point boost to health and stamina. With all effects considered, we are now at a 53 point boost!
- This is the same for Rally and Call to Arms except Call to Arms will also boost One-Handed, Two-Handed and Archery by the same amount.
Now the last thing to factor in is the Dark Souls perk. Which is another 100 points of health. Did I mention all these stack?
You now can have zombies with a 260 point health boost running around with a newfound mastery of their weapons.
To cap it off, we have Battle Fury (which works only on followers from my observations), Heal Undead, and Heal Other to further augment and protect our army.
Spell Absorption is the calling card of any great Sorcerer, dark, light, male, female, any of them! Although Mason has shown us it is not a necessity, it is usually pretty high up on the list of things needed for a Sorcerer. There is one calculation I left out before because it is deserving of its own section. A necro-vamp. is one of the few people capable of gaining 100% spell absorption, this is because Necromage will boost the Atronach perk from 30% to 37.5% and the Atronach Stone form 50% to 62.5% which when added together equals 100%. Now I know it is a hassle to use Conjuration with complete spell absorption because it absorbs some of your summons such as Atronachs, Familiars, Dremora Lords, even the Soul Cairn summons. This has been the bane of Sorcerers since Skyrim's release. Well let me tell you something, the Sorceress doesn’t rely on these types of summons and relies solely on reanimation! Which effectively makes full spell absorption a non-problem. I’m not a huge fan of this for that alone though.
You see, I wanted to take every Sorcerers' shiny new weakness and make it the Sorceress’ strength. And through some testing I did just that. When you absorb your own spell you absorb the BASE COST not the effective cost. That means, with our expansive mastery of Conjuration magic we are always going to gain magic from casting a spell and then absorbing it. A quick example is just trying to summon a Familiar. The base cost for this 107 magicka, at early levels with just the Novice Conjuration perk, this will cost a little more than 50 magicka. That means you are spending about 50 magicka to gain 107 magicka. Now to increase this gap, we add in Fortify Conjuration gear. To be fair, I didn’t reduce it all the way down to 0 cost, instead I enchanted three items with Fortify Conjuration with all of my Enchanting perks for about 31% reduction each, after Necromage. With all things considered and Conjuration maxed out, the Familiar spell roughly costs 2 magicka to cast so after absorbing it, you will have gained 105 magicka. The potential does not end there though. When we apply this same scenario to casting Conjure Dremora Lord, one of the highest single-hand casting base cost spells at a whopping 358 we see the real power.
You are paying 7 magicka to gain about 358 magicka!
I believe that paying a little magicka to regain more is a fair trade off because it would just be silly to go from 0 to 358. This means you have to at least notice when your bar is approaching 0 rather than getting the 0 magicka flashing bar and just refilling. It is especially important to note that for the Sorceress in particular because she is a vampire and is under the influence of the Atronach stone, so when out during the day there will be absolutely no magicka regeneration outside of spell absorption and even in the dark there is very little because the Atronach stone hinders it greatly.
Being a vampire technically has no negative effects now though, outside of the weakness to sunlight reduction to every stat. Spell absorption means that the fire weakness is merely an afterthought and spell absorption combined with healing spells and Respite means that you are replacing passive regeneration, which is 0% in the day light, with active regeneration which is something that is certainly a lot stronger.
The last little trick I want to talk about is using reanimate spells to “kill” someone. Ironic right? The reason I put the word kill in quotations is because you are not actually killing anyone. Rather you're turning their physical body into a pile of ash (here is an example), perfect for the diabolical Sorceress! This acts as a replacement to Destruction magic and goes along with the whole idea of using pure arcane magic instead of elemental. It is also another way to prevent this build from going too over the top because there is a bit of unpredictability when it comes to doing this.
To use your reanimate spells as weapons you first need to dual-wield them. Dual-wield, not dual-cast, the difference is that we do not want the dual-casting perk. Charge up both spells, and release them at roughly the same time. Aiming for the mid-section produced the best results for me. You can use anything from Raise Zombie to Dread Zombie, I personally used which ever spell I was using to reanimate at the time because it leaves your favorites menu a little less cluttered. It may take several tries and when you first start doing it, it make take a hell of a lot more. Eventually you get in a rhythm and it only takes you a few tries or less each time. A word of caution, it does not kill them that is why it works on any NPC in the game from children to dragons. But when you do this they are gone, inaccessible and un-reanimateable. I would not use this on dragons, anyone you want to revive or anyone you actually need to kill like Arvel the Swift, just as a precaution. They cannot be looted per say, but you can pickpocket the ash pile if you really want to. Your followers will continue to attack the ash pile until it is actually dead sometimes though. How they kill ash piles, the world may never know.
Here is where we put it all together (finally, I know). Right out of Helgen pick up the Mage Stone, this will really help push through the early levels since you are packing five magic skills. Next thing, after picking up your spells, is you are going to want to grab a follower. Preferably male, for roleplay reasons, and preferably a warrior so not Faendal. I went with Stenvar just because I have always liked him. With your follower you can now practice using Heal Other and Courage, which should greatly help level both Restoration and Illusion. As I said before work on training Restoration as often as possible because the sooner you get to Necromage the sooner you see the full power. As for Illusion, it never hurts to cast Muffle as you stroll along Skyrim to give it an extra little push. For equipment, use the best heavy armor you can find until you get that nice set of Ebony. When you enchant your own armor, focus on Fortify Conjuration and them whatever else you feel you need whether it is Fortify Health, Magicka, One-Handed, etc. The best way to level Enchanting is going to be to pick up all the Petty Soul gems you can find and buy at early levels because they become scarce later. Your Bound Sword should do a nice job filling them up once you get the Soul Stealer perk. You can then use them to enchant whatever you loot. This will do a good job of making you money and leveling. Win-win situation.
As far as combat goes, you can always take the more traditional Sorcerer approach and sit back slinging spells, just instead of throwing balls of fire or chunks of ice you will be shooting Rally and healing spells with random reanimate spells to make equally random ash piles. OR! You can take a more Death Knight-ish approach and go head first into the fray with your flesh spell up, Bound Sword in one hand and healing spell in the other with your follower and undead at your heels. You should always have at least one undead thing with you. Revive everything you see. They keep the pressure off you and on your enemies, with the added bonus of giving your Conjuration some experience. When in battle take advantage of the high base power of the Bound Sword and use power attacks, it cost minimal stamina which will just be regained when you heal anyway. It definitely gives the feel that it is actually magic slicing through people when you can one-shot someone. After you feel comfortable with how things are moving along switch over to the Atronach Stone, now you can create temporary 100% spell absorption using Dragonskin and the stone. This opens up the floodgates because you are no longer bound to running out of magicka, or health for that matter, and makes opposing spell casters weep since they can’t touch you and you can banish or turn their summons.
Once you get Necromage, immediately get vampirism if you don’t already have it and complete the quests to get the Agent of Dibella, Lover’s Insight and Sailor’s Repose. Don’t forget to reactivate the Atronach stone to get the Necromage boost. There is no urgency to get the shouts since they mostly require going through entire questlines to retrieve so get them when you feel ready. The final thing to say is once you get Twin Souls and Master Conjuration choose your thralls carefully. I actually stuck with one being Stenvar and the other Vorstag because they are both in your face fighters, that are simple to hire, which make it easy to sit back or get right in there with them. Before they die, or you kill them, give them the equipment you want them to have because after they die there is no going back to change it.
Well that’s all folks. Sorry for this outrageously long thing, there was a lot of stuff I feel I needed to cover for this to be complete. Or maybe I just love to hear myself talk. Either way, thank you for reading and I hope you will give it a try and enjoy it as much as I have. This build kind of rebuilt my passion for this game so it is pretty damn special if I do say so myself.