This is another one of my old builds from back in 2013. I'd been wanting to do a Dwemer-themed build since Dawnguard's crossbows came out, but there wasn't really enough content - until the release of Dragonborn, that is.
Scholar, master of items both magical and mundane, and skilled warrior, the Tinkerer delves deep into ancient ruins to further advance his knowledge. The Tinkerer particularly favors Dwarven items, preferring to wear Dwarven plate and wield an advanced crossbow among a few other items left behind by the Dwemer. He can be stealthy when he so chooses, able to pass unseen and unheard by many, even in heavy armor. He is also skilled with locks, and can talk his way in to getting a better deal for the artifacts he discovers. The Tinkerer's biggest advantage in combat is the nonhumanoid allies he has discovered/created during his travels.
Race: Race isn't really too important - no race in particular has skill bonuses or racial power that complements the Tinkerer's skillset too well.
Stats: I recommend going 0/3/1. The Tinkerer uses no magic skills in combat, and as primarily an archer stamina isn't a priority.
Stone: I recommend the Steed, increasing the Tinkerer's carrying weight for Smithing supplies, improving his movement speed in heavy armor and allowing him to move silently.
Archery: The Tinkerer is skilled in use of Crossbows, which he uses to inflict serious damage on any enemy from a distance, wether it be from the shadows or in open combat. The inherent stagger chance combined with the Power Shot perk is incredibly powerful; enemies stagger most of the time giving your allies time to attack completely unhindered. Key perks are all the way up the left to Quick Shot, and up to Ranger at higher levels.
Heavy Armor: The Tinkerer has mastered the use of ancient Dwarven plate. This armor provides impressive protection and can be improved greatly by the Tinkerer. Key perks are just Juggernaut and Well Fitted; at higher levels you can take up to Conditioning and get a different Stone ability.
Lockpicking: The Tinkerer's mastery of mechanical devices makes him naturally skilled at picking mechanical locks. The main objective of putting points into Lockpicking is for the Treasure Hunter perk, improving the Tinkerer's chances of finding good loot - mainly gems for the Imbuing Chamber. Key perks are up to Adept Locks and Treasure Hunter; at higher levels the Unbreakable perk is a good choice.
Smithing: The Tinkerer is a master of repairing, creating and improving weapons and armor in the Dwemer style. He can also create magical exploding crossbow bolts for specialist purposes. Key perks are up to Arcane and Dwarven Smithing.
Sneak: The Tinkerer spends much of his time crawling around in ruins, making sneak an invaluable skill against the dangers that lurk there. It also allows him to launch crossbow bolts from the shadows, taking enemies by suprise and inflicting massive damage. Key perks are just up to Deadly Aim and a rank or two in Stealth.
Speech: The Tinkerer can get a good price for anything he discovers in ruins, and will also haggle down the costs of items he needs for his studies. Key perks are really just ranks in Haggling.
Equipment, Followers and Bonuses
The Tinkerer makes use of a number of unique items, followers and devices.
*Note that you'll need to join the Dawnguard to get access to higher tier crossbows and bolts, as they are acquired through Dawnguard side quests and can only be crafted at Gunmar's forge.
Starting off with basic equipment, I used a set of Dwarven Armor (sans helmet) along with an Enhanced Dwarven Crossbow, both improved with Smithing. Since the Tinkerer doesn't use Enchanting, feel free to shop around for enchanted equipment - of course you can't get an enchanted Crossbow but the crossbow is a very powerful weapon! Ideally you'll want Fortify Archery jewelry and gauntlets, a Regenerate Health cuirass, and Regenerate Stamina boots. I managed to do quite well on Master with nothing but a Ring of Archery - you can handle much of your improvement through smithing only. Keep in mind that Dwarven gear will be most common in stores/dungeons around levels 10-20, so don't forget to shop around to find what you want! As for ammunition I crafted my own Dwarven Bolts, it's 1 firewood and 1 Dwarven ingot for 10 of them - the ingots are fairly plentiful and the firewood is an infinite resource! Don't forget to grab 10 or 20 bolts of each element type when you find the relevant salts.
The first unique item the Tinkerer uses is the Visage of Mzund, found in the Dwemer ruin Fahlbtharz on Solstheim. This unique Dwarven Helmet has over twice the armor rating of a standard helmet, an impressive +60 stamina enchantment, and grants the wearer the ability to use the Breath of Nchuak power - a close range area attack that uses stamina. This gives the Tinkerer something to do with his stamina pool, and while the ability does relatively little damage (especially on higher difficulties), it does have a few uses. Firstly (and probably the most obvious) is that it can help to finish off enemies, as it can be activated at any time - even when reloading a crossbow. Secondly, it's a huge help when battling the various new types of Spiders in Dragonborn - it will kill jumping spiders in midair (they only have 1 hit point), and can be used to detonate Exploding spiders or burst egg sacs from range. In the same dungeon this helmet is found it, you also found another important item - a Kagrumez Resonance Gem.
Through completing the Kagrumez Trials in the dungeon of the same name on Solstheim, the Tinkerer makes an amazing discovery - a pair of Dwemer automatons he can use for his own purposes. 2 resonance gems are required to get past the first door - both of these can be found on the Reaver Lord in the ruin - which gives the Tinkerer access to a tougher Dwarven Spider Worker. While it isn't particularly tough, it can deal impressive damage when given the chance - staggering opponents with your crossbow will allow it to get in a few attacks. The second door requires 3 gems - the third can be acquired from Fahlbtharz along with the Visage of Mzund (see above), which grants the Tinkerer access to a Dwarven Sphere follower. This sphere is much more powerful than the spider, featuring impressive mobility, a highly damaging crossbow, a powerful melee attack, as well as being reasonably sturdy with it's high health pool and immunities. Both the Spider and Sphere go on the pet slot, allowing you to have a humanoid follower as well (see below)
The Tinkerer discovered a strange glowing crystal throughout his travels - Aetherium - and through a combination of hard work and skill, managed to create a staff to harness its power. The Aetherial Staff allows the Tinkerer to summon another automaton to assist him for a short time - about a 50% chance between a Sphere and Spider. There's a small chance that the summoning will fail and the automaton will fall apart as soon as it appears, but this is rare. Either automaton can add a big advantage in more difficult fights, drawing attention away from the Tinkerer and dealing out more damage. The only disadvantage of the Staff is that it takes a few seconds for your summon to appear!
In the ruin of White Ridge Sanctum on Solstheim the Tinkerer discovered a most wondrous object - the Imbuing chamber. Using albino spider pods he had discovered throughout his travels in combination with various other substances, he was able to create a variety of magically active spiders, bringing impressive firepower to the battlefield in many forms. There's 3 basic types of spiders - Exploding, crafted using Damaged Albino Spider Pods, Jumping, crafted using Albino Spider Pods and Cloaked, crafted using Albino Spider pods and Salt Piles. These spiders can be thrown onto the battlefield as if they were scrolls. Exploding spiders act like land mines, staying on the ground and exploding when an enemy gets close, or as soon as they take damage. Using the Visage of Mzund to detonate these spiders can be useful to start a chain reaction to hit multiple enemies - though keep in mind you can detonate your own spiders, and you will take damage from it! Jumping spiders will follow you and jump at enemies and explode when they get close, inflicting significant damage but destroying themselves in the process. Cloaked spiders will follow you, and act like a normal spider during combat - except they are cloaked in a powerful elemental aura. In groups these spiders can inflict massive damage if left unchecked - such as when enemies are staggered from your barrage of crossbow bolts! Each of these spider types comes in 4 elements - fire, frost, shock and poison. To create them combine their base ingredients along with an elemental gem - Ruby for Fire, Sapphire for Frost, Amethyst for Shock and Emerald for poison. This creates 3 spiders of the designated type - but using a Flawless gem doubles that number. This is important as there is only one respawning pod in all Solstheim (at the shrine of Kynareth on top of a hill south of Bloodskal Barrow), but you can use your favorite duplication glitch as well. There's another two spider types - while more costly to create (only one spider per pod, as opposed to up to 6 from the elemental spiders), they are incredibly powerful. Mind Control spiders are created with an Albino Spider Pod and any soul gem, and throwing one at a humanoid enemy will take control of them for 30 seconds - and they work on nearly any humanoid in the game! Last but definetely not least is the Oil Spider. While he might look little, under the right circumstances he can explode with more power than anything else in Tamriel. During combat he leaves a trail of oil wherever he goes, which can be lit with fire effects (such as explosive fire bolts). I'll cover how that can be used in the gameplay section below. You can have up to 6 spiders with you at a time, and they fast travel with you. I prefer to have a cloaked spider of each element with me, leaving 2 slots open for anything else I might need.
The Tinkerer hired a mercenary to aid him in dungeon delving, having no close combat skills of his own. I used the mercenary from Windhelm, as he has Two-Handed, Archery, Heavy Armor and Block as his good skills. I kitted him out with full Dwarven armor, a Dwarven Warhammer, and Enhanced Dwarven Crossbow. He really helps in combat, taking down enemies before they get close to you with crossbow and warhammer.
Last but not least don't forget to gain the Ancient Knowledge buff from Unfathomable Depths to further improve Dwarven items.
Playing the Tinkerer
The first thing to remember about playing the Tinkerer is that he's all about supporting his allies. You focusing on the archer in the distance while your follower(s) tie up the melee guys will end badly - you might take out that archer, but your follower will inevitably go down, leaving you vulnerable. If you work together, helping your follower by staggering the guys he's in melee with using your crossbow, he can take out all the baddies and then you can both concentrate on that archer. Once you get some cloaked spiders on your side they're also a priority - they can deal out massive damage but have relatively little health.
Don't forget to make use of stealth to open combat, set ambushes using exploding spiders, that sort of thing. A couple of exploding spiders can really turn the tide in a fight against groups of enemies, with a large explosion radius and high damage. The most powerful spider of all, however, is the Oil Spider. Some of you may have seen my Oil Spider Apocalypse video - you can pull off a similar effect with every oil spider you use. I don't know exactly how it works, but I know for sure it obliterates almost anything I've used it on. When an oil spider enters close combat with an enemy - they have decent health so you don't have to worry too much - the oil will start to pile up around them. Shoot an Exploding Fire Bolt into the oil, which ignites the oil, dealing impressive damage - then the spider dies. The spider then explodes with the FURY OF A THOUSAND SUNS, triggering a chain reaction where the spider causes large explosions for a few seconds. In the demonstration video (above), a single oil spider triggers 25 explosions within a mere 5 seconds. This power can be made even more potent by getting the spider into a group of enemies - summoning it straight in there works well - and then using Ice Form on them all. Now they're all knocked down, while the spider continues to produce oil. As soon as the effect runs out, shoot a fire bolt into the middle - the enemies will be trapped in the inferno while they try to stand!
Well thanks for reading all! Feel free to leave any constructive criticism and/or questions in the comments!