The tales of the infamous brigands and buccaneers of Tamriel all follow the same trend: A rise to infamy from the dark underground, a brief reign of theft and terror, followed by an unceremonious death. Be it the Red Bramman or Skorvild, the consequences of their atrocities always seems to catch up to them, be it at the hands of lawkeepers, or by the blade of the adventurer who happened to wander into the right place. The true veterans of the cut-throat and cut-purse inclination are those whose names would never be put on paper or parchment. With that, I present the build starring Skyrim’s most successful offshore offender who falls under everyone’s radar. Overlook not…
Race: Nord. Apart from being one of the more prevalent seafaring races, their Frost resistance is invaluable in Skyirm and their daily power is a great free get-outta-jail card. Redguards and Argonians are also excellent choices, and Bretons are the go-to race for most Legendary-difficulty builds.
Archetype: Honest Laborer in civilization, Bloodthirsty Barbarian and Buccaneer in the wilds.
Skills: Two-Handed, Block, Enchanting, Lockpicking
Stats: A decent balance between health and stamina, around 2:1. Do not invest in Magicka.
Standing Stone: The Lord Stone is a great choice for the modest defenses it provides. The Atronach is just a stupidly powerful stone that I tend to avoid, since it renders mages harmless with minimal drawbacks, but this might be necessary at higher difficulties. Start with one of the 3 guardian stones outside Helgen and switch over to another stone at higher levels.
Essential Mods: Ordinator w/ perk points and Thief skill rebalance, Drop That Bear Trap, Heavy Armory, No Killmoves-No Killcams-No Killbites
Born around 4E 160 in Dawnstar, the Angler was born a seaman's son and possessed natural affinity to magic. His passion for learning and talents as an enchanter earned him admission into the College of Winterhold. There, he honed his arcane skills, and made a living offering his enchanting services at rates affordable to the common man.
However, like many others of his trade, the events of The Oblivion Crisis, The Great Collapse, and finally the Aldmeri conquest robbed those with arcane talents of their place in Nord society. The Angler was ostracized by his own customer base, and since the wealthy prefered premium enchanting services over his budget alternative, the Angler was left jobless. He tried his hand at the mercenary trade, where he suffered crippling injuries and was left to die.
Penniless, hungry and desperate, the Angler turned to a life of crime, robbing traveling nobles alongside other brigands. Though he swore not to kill, it was a mere inevitability in his line of work, and soon his passion for magic was replaced with a craving for coin and slaughter. After he had amassed enough wealth, he swiftly disposed of any other highwayman who knew his face and donned the persona of an honest fisherman, trading his catches in settlements while murdering and plundering in the waters and wilderness.
The Angler is an unimposing fisherman in the eye of the public, and a bloodthirsty brigand when out of sight. He is not concerned with infamy and reverence, the downfall of his predecessors, and instead strives to spill as much blood and pilfer as much gold as possible while exerting minimal effort and drawing minimal attention. Thanks to a leg injury from his youth, his abilities in stealth are greatly diminished, but for one who hides in plain sight, the handicap is not a concern.
To look the part, the Angler also uses tools modified to fit both of his trades, such that he draws as little attention as a lumberjack with an axe or a farmer with a sickle. But make no mistake; his oar cuts through flesh rather than waves, his fishing rod reels in unsuspecting deckhands, and his snares neutralize unwary pursuers in the dark, narrow passages of ships. The Angler’s disguise is completed by a set of simple clothes befitting a humble fisherman, enchanted to fit his needs, and a small filleting knife.
Sorry vanilla players, but this is a build that relies greatly on the content introduced in the Ordinator perk overhaul. That said, some of the tools used by the Angler (read The Fishing Rod) are powerful enough that build is viable at Master or even Legendary difficulty in vanilla Skyrim, even if that would detract from the assortment of deaths the Angler can inflict.
*I used the Ordinator mod add-on that grants 1 extra perk point when a skill reaches level 50, 75 and 100. Raising 4 skills to level 100 pulls the character up to level 37 and gives us 36 perks points plus a bonus 12. My perk spread contains 45 points, so 3 will be left over.
Block and Two-handed are the skills which enable melee combat. Bleed like a Dog and the long range of two-handed weapons let us play the attrition game, while blocking keeps us alive. Once the foe’s health falls below 30%, Execute lets us swiftly end their misery. The other perks allow us to stagger enemies for prolonged durations, better evade attacks and perform nifty power attacks.
Lockpick is a fun skill that earns us big bucks, which can be spent on potions and trinkets, or to pay off the guards. Ordinator revamps Bear traps by letting us carry and use them for combat, along with perks which add utility on top of the damage. In combination with The Fishing Rod and Power Bash, we can keep the foe atop the trap for bonus damage. Game of Fate is an odd perk which incentivizes exploring all of Skyrim’s treacherous dungeons, which isn’t the easy bounty the Angler would usually seek.
Enchanting is the ever-useful support skill that allows us to shore up our defenses and bolster outgoing damage. Charge Tap and Staff Channeler provide sustainable recovery on the field and in battle. Apparel Enchantments are also very useful on a character toting minimal armor rating.
The Oar: Dwarven Halberd with Absorb Stamina (1 point) + Enchantment of choice
Although it’s the Angler’s basic weapon, it’s nothing to sneeze at. With a potent enchantment that lets us stagger-lock enemies, one can say that this is a two-handed Windshear of sorts. The true power of The Oar arises from the decent Stagger value (which determines how often foes will stagger when hit with a power attack), long reach and use of Battleaxe perks, letting us play the attrition game. The second enchantment is up to you: Shock Damage is resisted by few foes and cripples mages, Chaos damage can inflict a lot of (or very little) damage and Absorb Health keeps us alive. This enchantment becomes 50% more powerful when delivered with a power attack with Thunderstruck.
The Fishing Rod: Staff of Sparks/Storm Wall + Vampiric Grip
As the Angler’s signature weapon, the Fishing Rod "reels in" distant enemies and "trips up" nearby threats. This is downright broken in most 1-versus-1 fights. However, enemies are rarely alone, and this is the Angler’s premier method to even the odds. The ability to ragdoll and reposition enemies is invaluable in a land full of unforgiving terrain, and even when used indoors, it can take powerful foes out of the fight long enough that the Angler may finish off the small fry. Here's a guide for getting Vampiric Grip in Human Form.
Hunting Jaws: Bear Traps x 3
Now this is a cool Ordinator concept I fell in love with. The new branch in the Lockpicking tree lets us obtain and use bear traps present in the vanilla game and also upgrades them. At 100 Lockpicking, each of the 3 traps deals 200 damage, decreases armor by 1000 points (that’s not a typo) for 5 seconds, staggers and inflicts a chosen debuff, while automatically re-arming every 2.5 seconds. This is only made more absurdly powerful when combined with the disabling effects of The Oar and The Fishing Rod. The only drawbacks here are the tedium in deploying the traps (Drop That Bear Trap fixes this) and the risk of stepping on your own trap (Bear traps have no friendly-fire, so tread with caution).
Fillet blade: Knife with Fiery Soul Trap for 10 seconds. Just a side-arm used for chip damage and soul harvesting.
Salt-crusted Clothes: Enchanted set of clothing, boots, gloves, ring, necklace and hat (the bandana-looking one, ID 330B3). Useful enchantments include Resist Magic/Fire, Fortify Two-Handed, Fortify Health, Regenerate Magicka, Fortify Lockpicking and Waterbreathing.Simple clothes meant for an honest fisherman, these are part of the Angler’s disguise and bolster his offensive abilities.
When it comes to needless life-taking, the Angler is king. No traveler or vagabond who crosses the Angler in the wilderness would live to tell the tale. When he’s not quenching his bloodthirst, the Angler would occupy himself with the delicate art of breaking into people’s houses and lining his pockets with their valuables. Daytime larceny is the crime of choice, since residents leave their houses for work and allow the Angler to walk in, crack open their vaults and abscond with their valuables without the need for too much hurry or secrecy.
While the Dawnguard questine is started to obtain Vampiric Grip, I decided to abandon the questline entirely and cured Vampirism to avoid the sunlight penalty (it doesn't remove Vampiric Grip if it has already been obtained through the glitch, but if you somehow lose grip again, you won't be able to get it back). As a proud, lone wolf, the Angler probably wouldn't join guilds or submit to becoming someone’s thrall, although he is not entirely above doing so temporarily for personal benfits. You can completely ignore most of the questlines in the game (or indulge in them briefly), and instead simply wander through the land looking for targets, taking in the scenery, discovering unmarked secrets and lopping off heads.
While it is impossible to find a fence without affiliating with the Thieves’ guild and leveling Speech, the Angler can clean up stolen goods so that they won’t draw suspicion from the average honest merchant.To do this, simply:
1) Drop all ill-gotten goods into a container you own (e.g. chests in purchased houses)
2) Instruct a follower to take it out
3) Take the items from the follower's inventory. Their stolen tag would no longer persist.
The hard part is getting a container under your ownership and the simplest way to do this is to buy a house, preferably near a body of water. Honeyside, Windstad Manor and Riverview Manor all make excellent choices. At a steep price of 5000+ septims, along with the baggage quests preceding the purchase, it’s no walk in the park, but it’s an investment that pays for itself. Once enough coin is amassed, it can be used to buy training, potions, gems and enchanted items.
The Angler adapts one of two stances while scattering Bear traps in strategic spots. When used in closed quarters or narrow paths, the environment forces enemies to walk through the traps to get to you, making them extremely effective. In open locations, toss them out and coax foes through the traps. Do note that mages will not pursue you until you are in range for Flames/Frostbite/Sparks, and archers will only chase you once you’ve entered their melee range and do not back away too quickly, so the Bear traps alone are not enough.
The Fisher Stance makes use of The Fishing Rod. Depending on the terrain, enemies can be pushed off from a height and killed instantly. In restricted spaces, it can be used to temporarily remove enemies from a fight, or toss them into bear traps. The weakness of this stance is the Angler's small Magicka pool, so focus on removing important targets. Once we’re outta blue juice, it’s time to switch over…
The Oarsman Stance makes use of The Oar. Staying at the edge of the enemies’ range, the Angler uses The Oar to rack up damage on enemies, kiting them through the minefield of bear traps. Combinations of Power attacks, Power Bash and Ram’s Head keep single enemies completely still and unable to retaliate. Execute deals tremendous damage against weakened foes, meaning that almost every strong enemy has 30% less health in practice. Decimate and Quick Reflexes work wonders when outnumbered.
The Angler will frequently use the odd traveller or bandit den to satiate his murderous tendencies, with loot being a peripheral benefit. These foes who lack magical prowess are the Angler’s preferred prey. Melee enemies are the simplest to beat, as they can be blocked and retaliated ad infinitum. Archers are a bit harder to deal with, due to the Angler’s low armor and inability to block arrows, but they are harmless once the distance has been closed. Dwemer constructs are powerful melee opponents, but Quick Reflexes allows their attacks to be easily dodged (constructs like to power attack a lot), and Hotwire is a new Ordinator perk that makes short work of any dwemer constructs if your lockpick game is on point.
Early on, with minimal resistance to magic attacks, the Angler will struggle to take on strong mages and dragons. Later on in the game, a larger health pool and magic resistance (Enchantments, the Lord Stone, Apocalypse-Proof) will make the Angler resilient against magic. Once he’s able to live through the barrage of spells thrown at him, mages are on the menu. Dragons are much more challenging, but they are easy to block and stagger-lock thanks to their slow and telegraphed attacks. As long as the dragon doesn’t have company and isn’t airborne, it is easy prey.
I wanted to build a pirate who doesn't conform to typical Robert Newton-inspired pirate tropes, and instead took inspiration from real-life seamen who turn to crime in times of hardship. I had wanted to use vampiric grip in a build for the longest time, but it always felt way too overpowered. Restricting the magicka pool and making the main weapon 2-handed not only watered down the absurdity that is Vampiric grip, but also gave rise to two unique stances and a much more interesting playthrough. I also got to play around with the Bear traps in Ordinator, which is probably my favourite new addition after the Cursed Septim.
Many thanks to Curse for hosting the contest, to the other participants for riling each other up, and to you for reading this. Hopefully you'll have as much fun with this build as I did. Cheers!