While it might have been over 5(!) years since I posted my last build, the announcement of the Back to Basics contest inspired me to dust off one of my old ideas, where the journey is just as important as the destination, and dive headfirst back into the Elder Scrolls community here. As part of this project, I’ve also written a multi-chapter backstory over in the Story Corner; I’d recommend giving it a read first to get the most out of this build! It is with great pleasure that I present:
Race: Hailing from the province of High Rock, the Lamp Descendant’s Breton blood offers them significant protection against magic of all kinds.
Standing Stone: The Lamp Descendant utilises the Celestial energies of the Atronach Stone to both enhance their Magicka and bolster their effectiveness against hostile spellcasters.
Major Skills: One-Handed, Alteration, Destruction, and Restoration
Minor Skills: Conjuration, Alchemy, Smithing, and Enchanting
Attributes: 2 Magicka | 2 Health | 1 Stamina
Major Quests: College of Winterhold, Dawnguard, Laid to Rest, March of the Dead, The Wolf Queen Awakened
Alignment: Neutral Good
The Order of the Lamp, founded by Archmage Vanus Galerion back in the Second Era, were a group of knights who served as protectors of the Mages Guild. Only those both in good standing with the Guild and who could demonstrate skill in battle were permitted into their ranks. Since the dissolution of the Mages Guild at the beginning of the Fourth Era, many chapters across Tamriel have disbanded, while others have upheld their duty to protect others from magical threats.
This build follows the last of the Lamp Knights from High Rock, pulled towards Skyrim by the threads of fate. Arming themselves with light weapons, a wide array of offensive, defensive, and utility spells, alchemical concoctions, and secret knowledge, the Lamp Descendant is well-equipped to tackle any foe; whether they be man, mage, or monster.
Throughout the Lamp Descendant’s journey in Skyrim, their character development goals and roleplay-related objectives grow and evolve. I’ve organised these milestones into three distinct chapters. Each chapter introduces new gameplay elements, recommended quests and more.
For centuries, my family protected High Rock as the leaders of the Order of the Lamp. During my tenure as the Palatinus of the Lamp Knights, however, things were rarely so simple. We sacrificed everything on our final mission, and the Order is no more. I was captured and sentenced to death, but fate decided that my work is not yet finished.
My saviour, a mysterious Mer in golden robes, warned me of events unfurling in Winterhold that could put all of Tamriel in danger. My abilities have undoubtedly suffered during my captivity, but I must do what I can to prevent disaster.
One of my old comrades, Teldryn Sero, used to live in the Gray Quarter in Windhelm. If this threat is as dangerous as I’m led to believe, I’ll likely need his help.
In this first chapter, the Lamp Descendant is a newcomer to Skyrim. Despite being charged with neutralising a threat in the College of Winterhold, they have few skills and fewer allies at their disposal, thanks to spending months, if not years, languishing in captivity. Nonetheless, they are willing to intervene and assist others when lives and livelihoods are at stake, especially when dangerous magic is involved.
Starting out, the Descendant’s weapon of choice will be the Bound Sword. Picking up Novice Conjuration and Mystic Binding early will ensure you have a reliable weapon that is not only weightless, but will also increase your Conjuration skill with use. Further arming yourself with shock magic, wards, healing and Alteration armour spells over mage’s robes rounds out the core playstyle, making you a nimble and versatile combatant.
To get the most out of this skill set, you’ll want to make sure you’re using the right tools at the right time. A ward will allow you to close the distance and cut down an enemy mage, while a warrior who could be dangerous in melee could be weakened from a distance before landing a decisive blow. Respite is a key perk here, allowing you to quickly regain Stamina mid-combat and make up for your relatively small Stamina pool.
Along their journey to Winterhold, the Lamp Descendant is caught amidst the beginnings of the Dragon Crisis. With more than just Whiterun Hold in danger, they’re willing to step up and assist the Jarl with mounting a defense against the dragons. Once Whiterun is safe, it’s time to move on; there’s more pressing matters than visiting the Greybeards.
There is however, time for a brief detour in Eastmarch to obtain the blessing of the Atronach Stone, and to head to Raven Rock and recruit Teldryn Sero. The Atronach Stone’s boost to Magicka is vital in the early levels, not to mention the spell absorption component. This can be combined with the Breton Dragonskin ability for complete immunity to magic for a short time each day, making it invaluable when fighting powerful magic users. Teldryn, on the other hand, is a skilled spellsword who will be a steadfast ally and primary follower throughout the rest of your playthrough. Especially early on, his spells, starting equipment and Armsman perks make him a force to be reckoned with.
Once you arrive in Winterhold, you’ll want to focus your efforts on unraveling the secrets of the Eye of Magnus, and working with the Psijic Order to put a stop to the machinations of the Thalmor. As part of this questline you’ll pick up a number of items which will remain useful for the remainder of your playthrough, namely Savos Aren’s Amulet, the Staff of Magnus and the Archmage Robes. If you’re playing with the Unofficial Patch, I recommend wearing the hoodless variant of the Archmage Robes with the Apprentice Hood for an alternative look.
I strongly suggest visiting trainers for some of the Lamp Descendant’s less used or more difficult to level skills, namely Restoration, Destruction, Conjuration, Smithing and Alchemy. These skills have certain perk milestones that we’re aiming for in later chapters, so it’s best to get a head start on them as soon as possible. On top of gold and treasure earned from questing, selling dragon parts and crafted jewelry is a great way to afford the often steep prices for training.
Finally, with their work at the College complete, the Lamp Descendant joins up with the Dawnguard. You’ve likely experienced vampire attacks first hand at this point, and it’s a great launching point into the next chapter.
Stratagem - Marie’s Gambit
One of my former companions, Marie, was an archer and apothecary of some skill. Her potions and poisons were instrumental to many of my plans, not to mention saving our lives on more than a few occasions. I’m no master alchemist yet, but I’ve picked up a thing or two myself.
Requires: Damage Magicka Regeneration poison, Crossbow, Staff of Magnus
Using a Damage Magicka Regeneration poison in combination with the Staff of Magnus allows you to nullify the powers of enemy mages or dragons by draining their Magicka pools completely. Use a crossbow to deliver the poison from a distance, and then switch back to the Staff of Magnus; there’s no need to reload. Alternatively, following up with a second bolt coated in a Weakness to Magic poison will further improve the draining effect. The absorbed magicka can be put to use with a ward for defense or a shock spell to deal damage and further drain the target’s reserves.
I first came to Skyrim to put an end to the threat of the Eye of Magnus, but in my time here I’ve seen so much more. Vampires and Dragons terrorise the province. Raven Rock is beset by an unyielding army of ashen monsters, not to mention the influence of the strange shrines across Solstheim. It seems like almost every village and city is plagued by supernatural perils. I can protect these people, but I’m going to need help, and not just from the Dawnguard.
I’ve encountered several competent spellswords and mages throughout my travels, and I’ve even heard that some of the Jarls are willing to sell land to those they hold in high esteem. Everything I need to rebuild the Order of the Lamp.
Chapter 2 is where the Lamp Descendant’s adventure really begins to open up. Now they have the opportunity to take on a wider range of missions, but still focused on protecting others from magical threats. The Dawnguard is a great place to start, but there’s no shortage of other appropriate quests throughout Skyrim and Solstheim, even beyond those I’ve listed here, that the Descendant is willing to undertake.
Throughout this chapter, you’ll also be looking to create a new home for the Order of the Lamp, using one of the homesteads available through Hearthfire. My top pick is Windstad Manor; not only does the fish hatchery give you further access to a range of Alchemy ingredients, but the Laid to Rest quest required to purchase the land is absolutely something the Lamp Descendant would involve themselves with. The Enchanter’s Tower, Library and Storage Room upgrades really let you dial in on the perfect look for the Hall of an order of spellswords and mages. Once built, it’s perfect for safekeeping any dangerous artifacts you find in your travels, and to create potions & poisons to both use and sell.
While building your new Hall of the Lamp, you’ll also want to find recruits that you can trust to uphold the Order’s mission. Even without mods, you’ll be able to swell the ranks back up to 5 members, including yourself. Teldryn Sero, your follower, and Valdimar, your spellsword housecarl in Hjaalmarch, are both ideal members. You’ll also be able to recruit two more members via your spouse and steward. Here’s a list of my top picks for these last two slots:
- Brelyna Maryon, a Dunmer Mystic from the College (Marry, Steward)
- Onmund, a Nord Sorcerer from the College (Marry, Steward)
- Talvas Fathryon, a Dunmer Conjurer from Tel Mithryn (Steward, Conjuration Trainer)
- Illia, an Imperial Mage from Darklight Tower (Steward)
- Belrand, a Nord Spellsword in Solitude (Marry, Steward)
- Marcurio, an Imperial Mage in Riften (Marry, Steward)
- Dravynea the Stoneweaver, a Dunmer Mage in Kynesgrove (Marry, Alteration Trainer, Spell Merchant)
Of course, you’re not limited only to these selections. If you have a favourite warrior follower for example, you could still arm them with a staff and recruit them to your cause. Rebuilding the Hall and the Order was one of my favourite parts of this build!
On the gameplay front, the Lamp Descendant spends this chapter really specialising and developing some of the synergies which make this playstyle so exciting. Firstly, you’ll pick up a new main weapon - the Dawnguard Rune Axe, obtained through radiant Dawnguard quests. On top of dealing bonus damage to the undead, making it perfect for dealing with necromancers, its enchantment lets it break through any ward spell with a single strike, truly allowing you to focus in on your mage hunter archetype. This allows the Bound Sword to become more of a utility weapon with the help of the Soul Stealer and Oblivion Binding perks. As for the rest of your equipment, you won’t need to be too picky; the Archmage Robes along with a ring and necklace to improve your weapon damage and spellcasting should suffice. For example, I spent much of this chapter with a Fortify Magicka Regeneration ring and Fortify One-Handed necklace.
As for Destruction and Restoration, picking up the Shock-related perks and Ward Absorb respectively will further improve your capabilities against not only ordinary magic users but several types of monsters as well. Ward Absorb is especially invaluable as mitigates the high Magicka cost of the more powerful wards. Further specialising in Alteration’s Mage Armour perks and spells maxes out your physical defense with Ebonyflesh. I chose to avoid the Magic Resistance perks altogether, instead relying on my wards and the Atronach Stone’s spell absorption effect against magical attacks. I also found it worthwhile here to invest in some higher-level spells like Close Wounds and Thunderbolt; despite being less magicka-efficient, doing more damage or healing in a shorter window will allow you to get back to focusing on your weapons and footwork sooner.
You’ll also want to lightly perk Enchanting and Smithing. A single rank of Enchanter and the Soul Squeezer perk will increase the efficiency of your soul gems when recharging the Staff of Magnus or your followers’ weapons. Picking up Steel Smithing and Arcane Blacksmith will allow you to improve not only the Dawnguard Rune Axe, but all kinds of items that you come across, especially when aided by Fortify Smithing equipment and potions. I took advantage of this by improving my followers’ gear as well.
Stratagem - Calindil’s Disjunction
Calindil, my mentor and advisor, was a spellsword of remarkable skill. I’d seen him do things with his magic that nobody else could, and it took more than a few of our enemies by surprise, throwing whatever advantages they thought they had into disarray. I’m fortunate enough to have learned some of these secrets; it’s time to give some of my foes the same rude awakening.
Requires: Oblivion Binding, Disintegration
A Bound Sword with Oblivion Binding perk and Disintegrating shock spells are the bane of conjurers and necromancers alike. A single stroke from your Bound Sword is enough to banish conjured Daedra of any level, or turn undead raised by necromancy spells. Shock spells can be used when fighting necromancers and vampires, ensuring that no remains are left behind for them to reanimate. Lightning Cloak is of particular note here, as it will instantly disintegrate any enemy in melee range as soon as they fall below 15% health.
The Order of the Lamp is back in action, ready to safeguard Skyrim and her people from those who would wield magic to do them harm. Thanks to our hard work and that of our allies, we’ve dealt with many of the immediate dangers to the province. But it seems our work is never done. Dragons still roam the skies, and hidden threats stir beneath our very feet. We’ll hunt them down wherever they may hide, as long as they continue to menace the province.
The locals keep calling me Dragonborn, the legendary hero who will save them from the winged beasts; like many legends, there’s always a thread of truth to them. Could this be the real reason the Psijics sent me here? Either way, it seems it’s time to face my destiny.
Estimated Levels: 40+
Quests: Dragonslayer, At the Summit of Apocrypha, The Wolf Queen Awakened, Waking Nightmare
Other Objectives: Achieve mastery. Continue building the Order. Neutralise radiant threats.
At the start of this final chapter, the Lamp Descendant has hit many of their gameplay and roleplay milestones. Now it’s time to finish off some remaining questlines, tie up loose ends, and achieve mastery in the Descendant’s core skills. There’s options here for continuing to play and develop your character well into the endgame.
First off, it’s finally time for the Lamp Descendant to tackle the Dragon Crisis and Dragonborn questlines. Until now, your time could be better spent helping the people of Skyrim more directly rather than making the trek to visit the Greybeards. But it’s clear by now that the dragon attacks aren’t going to stop, and as the so-called Dragonborn, you may be the only one who can put an end to them. With no other options, you’ll have to see what the Greybeards have to say. Furthermore, recognition of your status as Dragonborn heralds the arrival of the Dragonborn Cult, drawing the Descendant further into the mysteries and threats surrounding the island of Solstheim, culminating in the cleansing of the Stones and a final battle against Miraak.
The Wolf Queen Awakened quest line in and around Solitude, as well as the Waking Nightmare quest in Dawnstar (in Erandur’s favour, of course), absolutely epitomise what the Lamp Descendant and the Order of the Lamp is all about. They're a fantastic way to close out your playthrough, but there’s still more to do if you wish. Other quests where the Descendant can put their skills to use protecting others from supernatural dangers or to rediscover lost knowledge and relics are good options, such as the Dawnguard and Shalidor’s Insights radiant quests. The Cutting Room Floor mod even adds a repeatable quest from Tolfdir to track down and eliminate a rogue College mage.
Another option is to continue building the Order of the Lamp by founding new branches across Skyrim. Purchasing property and constructing new Halls in Falkreath and the Pale further extends the Order’s reach across across the province, and provides the opportunity to specialise them with other upgrades, such as the Greenhouse and Alchemy Laboratory, if you so choose. Don’t forget to recruit stewards skilled in the arcane arts to serve alongside your new housecarls. As always, any rare or dangerous items you recover should be taken back to one of your Halls for safekeeping.
As we approach the end of the Lamp Descendant’s character development, all that’s really left is to achieve mastery in their 4 major skills. Master-level Destruction and Restoration spells are invaluable, as you will see in this chapter’s Stratagem below, but in many cases Master Alteration spells like Dragonflesh can be overkill. Nonetheless, many of the utility perks in Restoration and Alteration, such as Avoid Death and Atronach, while not strictly necessary are excellent choices for some final perks. Specialising in the axe-specific perks completes our investment in the One-Handed skill as well.
This chapter is where I suggest starting to perk Alchemy. Now that the Lamp Descendant’s other perk trees are finished, investing in a range of potions and poisons can really push the Descendant’s stats and abilities past their limits. Potions of Fortify Destruction, One-Handed, Smithing and Magicka can be used to improve the Descendant’s offensive power, while debilitating poisons are utilised to target enemy weaknesses. I’ll list some of my favourite recipes below; you’ll note that many of the ingredients can be grown in Hearthfire homes, obtained from the Archmage’s Quarters, or are otherwise readily available.
- Nightshade + Hanging Moss + Chaurus Eggs: Damage Magicka & Magicka Regen
- Nightshade + Glowing Mushroom: Fortify Destruction
- Garlic + Jazbay Grapes + Tundra Cotton: Fortify Magicka & Fortify Magicka Regen
- Canis Root + Hanging Moss: Fortify One-Handed
- Glowing Mushroom + Blisterwort: Fortify Smithing
- Salt Pile + Yellow Mountain Flower: Fortify Restoration
- Canis Root + Imp Stool: Paralysis
- Jazbay Grapes + Torchbug Thorax + Wheat: Weakness to Magic & Lingering Damage Magicka
This isn’t to say that Alchemy can’t be used in earlier chapters, though here is where it really becomes a focus. The Shalidor’s Insights scrolls from the quest of the same name can also serve a similar purpose, further enhancing the Descendant’s magical capabilities.
You’ll probably have noticed by this stage that I haven’t made any mention of Shouts so far. I rarely found myself having need of them, instead focusing more on my weapons and spells. Up until this point, the Descendant has seldom had reason to delve into many of the places where the Words of Power are hidden. The only Shout of particular note is Slow Time, allowing a few extra moments to set up some of the Descendant’s Stratagems, such as Marie’s Gambit and Volnaro’s Retribution.
Stratagem - Volnaro’s Retribution
“This is the end for you, Palatinus. The forgotten leader of a dead Order. It’s time to snuff out the Lamp for good.”
It’s been years since my battle with Volnaro, a formidable Thalmor Battlemage, but sometimes it feels like just yesterday. Volnaro, charged with the celestial energies of the Atronach and the magic of the Zero Stone, unleashed a ferocious lightning storm in our shared last stand. He was megalomaniac with delusions of godhood; it takes resolve and conviction to wield that kind of power responsibly. Power that I now possess.
Requires: Lightning Storm, Guardian Circle, Atronach Stone and/or Dragonskin
The power of a Guardian Circle can be absorbed to provide near-limitless magicka, allowing the Descendant to channel a Lightning Storm and annihilate their enemies for the full duration and beyond. Using Dragonskin to achieve 100% Spell Absorption will make you completely invulnerable to magical attacks while channeling, or you can remain at 50% to still receive the healing benefits of the Guardian Circle. Due to the relatively low cost of Lightning Storm, this can be performed as soon as you hit 90 Destruction and complete the Destruction Ritual Spell quest. Until you master Restoration, the Guardian Circle can be cast from scrolls; alternatively you could perform a more complex setup using Circle of Protection as described in Curse’s Force Adept build. Combining this Stratagem with Fortify Destruction potions and Shalidor’s Insights can make it devastatingly powerful, dealing upwards of 225 damage per tick.
That’s what my father told me as we stood amongst the dead of a ruined city in Hammerfell during the Great War, but things have changed a lot since then. The Order’s numbers have dwindled from dozens to barely more than a handful. I’ve lost more friends, family and comrades than I can count. With everything going on in Skyrim, and indeed all Tamriel, it seems like circumstances are only getting worse. I need to do more. I need to *be* more.
As long as I’m casting a shadow over my enemies, I think I can take that chance.
Estimated Levels: Ú͠n̡͝k͜ņ̛҉o̵̢͡wn̸
Quests: The Black Star, The Break of Dawn, Black Books
Other Objectives: Seek forbidden knowledge and power. Bargain with the Daedra. Tread the line between light and dark.
As someone who has spent their life battling against malevolent forces such as necromancers, vampires, Daedric cults, and more, the Lamp Descendant is well aware of the dangers involved in such practices. But when thousands of lives hang in the balance, will they be able to resist reaching for these forbidden powers for the sake of others? In this optional chapter, I’m going to outline some options open to those looking for a darker tone to their playthrough. Most of these options are roleplay-related, so they can be slotted in amongst the other chapters at any point.
The Descendant’s past is full of grief and loss, and such an event occurring during your playthrough would be a perfect launching point down this path. In my case, I encountered a pair of Frost Dragons attacking the settlement of Stonehills. Despite my best efforts to slay them while shielding the townspeople from their deadly breath weapons, very few of them survived. One of the townspeople approached me afterwards and said “My son died. Things will be different now.”
Some of the seemingly harmless Daedric quests, such as The Break of Dawn and The Black Star, pose quite a dilemma for the Lamp Descendant. In the Break of Dawn quest, you are cleansing the Kilkreath Temple of a vile necromancer, however doing so will empower Meridia. You could choose to defeat Malkoran and leave Dawnbreaker unclaimed, take the weapon and store it away, or wield it against your enemies, expanding Meridia’s influence in the process. A similar predicament is encountered during The Black Star. Both rewards are invaluable for maintaining the Staff of Magnus; but restoring Azura’s Star will once again empower a Daedric Prince, while cleansing it with Nelacar will create a dark object of necromantic power. It is ultimately up to you how your Lamp Descendant will resolve these conflicts, but consider just how far they are willing to go to obtain these artifacts.
As the Lamp Descendant searches for sources of forbidden knowledge and power, they will likely end up scouring the endless halls of Apocrypha for dark secrets. Black Books are a great way to explore this side of the character and pick up some new abilities in the process. In other quests, you might be willing to make sacrifices in the name of a greater reward, or ignore someone’s plight altogether in favour of your own goals. Whether the Lamp Descendant can resist becoming warped by the influence of the Daedra and other entities is for you to decide; you might end up with a truly corrupted hero who seeks power for its own sake, paralysed by their fear of things to come.
How far down this path the Lamp Descendant treads will ultimately determine the fate of the new Order as well. You could choose continue building the Order with a select group of close allies, sharing these dark secrets and trusting them to keep you in check should things go too far. Alternatively, seeking out new associates more understanding of you and your new abilities is another option; Eola, Aranea Ienith and Serana are good picks here. Finally, ashamed of what they have become, your Descendant might retreat to the shadows entirely, abandoning the Order but continuing their mission alone or with a close companion like Teldryn or Serana.
This path also offers some additional gameplay options as well. First off, I would suggest trading out the Archmage’s Robes for the Robes of Miraak, providing a darker aesthetic. When combined with the Atronach perk, you’re able to still reach near-100% Spell Absorption while Dragonskin is active, even without the assistance of the Atronach Stone. You could instead seek the blessing of the Apprentice, representing a more volatile source of power, or the Ritual, should you choose to also venture in the Dark Practice of necromancy. Blood magic through Equilibrium and Daedric summoning are also solid options; for an especially corrupted Lamp Descendant, Vampirism might even be on the table. On top of its regular benefits, the Descendant’s investment into Restoration also provides access to the infamous Necromage Vampire exploit, allowing them to boost many of their active buffs. Lastly, the Black Book abilities Secret of Arcana and Seeker of Sorcery provide an alternative setup for the Volnaro’s Retribution Stratagem and an all-round boost to magic skills respectively.
Stratagem - Dark Eclipse
Calindil always told me that no magic was inherently evil, and that it was only how it was used that matters. In recent times, I’ve found myself employing the Dark Practice for myself, defiling the corpses of my enemies, feasting upon their souls, and wielding the weapons of the Daedra. I’ve gained power beyond measure, but sometimes I wonder - do I still know which side I’m on?
Requires: Ahzidal’s Ring of Necromancy, Spell Absorption, Necromancy
With Ahzidal’s Ring of Necromancy, the Lamp Descendant is able to take advantage of their high Spell Absorption rating by channeling the explosive power of their raised dead. Absorbing the death explosion from one of your zombies, raised through ordinary Necromancy spells, the Ritual Stone power, or the Soul Tear shout, will restore a significant portion of your magicka. Especially when using the Ritual Stone power, striking down one of your zombies with Dawnbreaker can trigger a chain reaction, dealing massive damage to anyone unfortunate enough to be caught in the blast and almost certainly fully restoring your magicka reserves.
So much has happened in the few short years since I arrived in Skyrim. The Psijic Order and I foiled the Thalmor plot to abuse the Eye of Magnus; I worked with the Dawnguard to stop the Tyranny of the Sun; the Blades, Greybeards and I thwarted Alduin’s plot to devour the world, not to mention the First Dragonborn’s machinations on Solstheim, and dozens of other missions. The Order of the Lamp is thriving once again, with many of our knights and many more of our allies spread all across the province. Our vaults are full of rare and dangerous items, kept safe from those who would misuse them. It seems things are finally getting back to normal. Perhaps it’s even time for me to name a successor to my position as Palatinus.
The Nords who call this province home are proud people, and despite their distrust of magic they seem to have welcomed the Order with open arms. I might have lived much of my life in High Rock, but once everything is said and done, I’ve nothing to return to there; Skyrim has become my home too. And the Order of the Lamp is here to stay.
Well, thank you so much for reading! It’s been a blast getting back into the community and working on the Lamp Descendant, from writing their tale in the Story Corner to actually playing and working on the build. I’d love to hear any feedback or questions in the comments below, and I’d be especially honored if you checked out the backstory as well.
Best of luck to the rest of the participants of the contest, and a big thank you to the organisers and judges; I know firsthand that these aren’t easy to run. Regardless, I’m looking forward to seeing the results!