Table of Contents:
- Build Summary
- Act 1
- Act 2
- Act 3
- Credits & Mods
Each link is highly recommended to offer you the full experience of this build.
"Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before."
Welcome all to my second character build, and an entry into the Gods & Mortals character building contest. It was my goal with this build not to fall into the common tropes that you may expect from a build themed around Nocturnal, which I have chosen as my focus deity. Rather than creating a "champion of Nocturnal" build, I've created something different, combining the selfish ambition of Mercer Frey with the piety and cunning of Karliah, to form something a little more complex.
The build's roleplay and gameplay evolve in tandom, providing a change in combat mechanics that suit the ever developing narrative. It tells a story of a lowly thief as he ascends to godhood through the theft of fate itself. The character follows in the footsteps of mortals such as Mannimarco and Talos, who ascended to a divine status through means of their own, and with the support of their corresponding god. To reflect this change, the gameplay begins with a focus on a unique form of nightbladery/spellswordsmanship, eventually shifting to the use of powerful spells and shouts to replicate god-like powers.
The idea behind the ophidian theme is entirely unique to this character. Early on, this character's use of daggers and poison spells will compliment this, but there is a greater purpose to the title. There are two turning points in this build, becoming a vampire lord, and becoming Dragonborn. This is illustrated as a progression from a snake (a thief), to a serpent (vampire) to a dragon (Dragonborn). The combat style is largely inspired by this theme, and while it may stray from Nocturnal near the endgame, that is completely intentional, as this character uses her influence and power to reach this level of power, eventually moving on from living in her shadowy protection to basking in his own divine glory, arguably making them the best thief to ever live.
Race: Dunmer. They really encapsulate the whole antihero aesthetic, and are personally my favorite race. No race is barred from worshipping Nocturnal, meaning this build can be any one of them. However, the extra fire resistance influenced my choice of certain perks and enchantments. If you choose anything else, keep this in mind.
Alignment: Chaotic Neutral. This character's ideology is very self-centered. There is no inherit evil in him, but instead it is his ambition that drives him to villainy, causing him to commit atrocious acts in the pursuit of his goals.
Primary Skills: Restoration, Alteration, One-Handed
Support Skills: Light Armor, Conjuration, Speech, Sneak
Powers: Shadow Stone, Embrace the Shadows, Shadowcloak of Nocturnal. Sneak is perked minimally and through Ultimate Combat it will be heavily nerfed. Implementing a self-imposed rule of not using invisibility potions, these powers are much more significant. Essentially, each ability serves the roleplay as being bestowments of power from the Mistress of Shadow herself.
Supernatural: Vampire Lord. This character's narrative drives him to accept Harkon's gift. Vampire Lord form was only used once in his build and that was to fight Durnehviir. However, vampirism in general plays a more important role, but it's acquired in the 20's. I used Better Vampires though the gameplay is not heavily reliant on its features.
Stat Allocation: 1/1/1 until you reach 200 Stamina, then 3/1/0.
Difficulty & Level: Master- may vary between players. Designed with a fun, challenging late game in mind, this build will take you to about level 50, while avoiding power-leveling and grinding, besides some reliance on skill trainers.
Combat: Ordinator and Apocalypse are essential to this build. Some themes and tactics include:
- Use of venom/poison type spells and bleed damage from daggers to create a reliance on DoT.
- Select perks and a key spell to keep menu shifting at a minimum.
- High mobility in combat, as well as high mobility outside of combat.
- Late game synergies combining high level spells, perks, and shouts to replicate divine levels of ability.
- Use of Conjuration perks and a Black Book power to create an incentive to sacrifice your minions.
"Every great story seems to start with a snake."
Thieves Guild until the Twilight Sepulcher, Azura's Star (Black), First Lessons, Blessings of Nature
As you're dropped into the world with nothing but the clothes on your back, there are a few things you should take care of to start. Scrapping up enough dough to pick up the necessary spell books should be among your first priorties, along with joining the ranks of the Thieves Guild. Early on, thieving and looting will be important to acquiring money for skill trainers. Restoration, Conjuration, and Speech can use the extra boost in leveling, and doing so through training as opposed to power-leveling feels like a more natural progression, creating an actual incentive to thieving and acquiring wealth. Early on, complete the Blessings of Nature quest to restore the Gildergleam, as it unlocks Danica Pure-Spring as a Restoration trainer. I used this quest to justify the use of Ocato's Recital, which will be explained shortly. You should also make a note to head up to the College of Winterhold to gain access to all of the amenities they offer. Acquring the Black Star will serve an important part in the roleplay, as descecrating the artifact of a rival daedra to Nocturnal would cetainly bode in her favor, and the Star is signifcant to a later part of this character's story and relationship with Nocturnal.
The later parts of the Thieves Guild questline is when our character is actually exposed to Nocturnal, and it is through these quests that their relationship begins. During this development, I made sure to read any books relating to Nocturnal or the Nightingales, showing a genuine interest in who she is as a daedric prince.
"The Skeleton Key is an often misunderstood artifact. Those that seek to possess it tend to use only a fraction of its potential. Most mistake it for a unique and unbreakable lockpick. While this is true, the wonder of this device can only be appreciated once the owner is willing to expand his mind and abstract what defines "unlocking." This action refers to more than simple doors and portals. In the proper hands, the Skeleton Key has the capability to unlock hidden potential and untapped abilities. The extent of this power has yet to be discovered, which is a frightening thought if it ever fell into the wrong hands."
This description, found in Gallus's journal, describes the Skeleton Key as having unimaginable power, and this claim is further supported by in-game dialogue between the player and Karliah. I used what we know about the key to develop much of the roleplay for this build, as it will allow our character to unlock incredible power, and will aid in the creation of the Ophidian Divine itself. While there is no real use for the key in-game, apart from the fact that it's an unbreakable lockpick, we can use our imagination, as any roleplaying requires.
Everything covered in this section pertains to gameplay through about levels 1-25.
Equipment: Furs, leather, and Thieves Guild for now. It's easy to acquire and simple in style, and will serve you well for the early game. Pick up the best pair of daggers you can find as well. Jewelry is less specific, but anything to enhance magic capabilities or magic resistance is recommended.
Spells/Powers: Immediately you'll want to pick up Fast Healing, Steadfast Ward, Reanimate Dead, Oakflesh and the Shadow Stone. As for the spells added by Apocalypse, grab Wither and Ocato's Recital, then eventually Drop Zone and Reynos' Fins for utility.
Books: The Nightingales Vol. 1 and 2
Favorite's List: ☆
Glass Dagger (2), Shadow Stone, Reanimate Dead, Wither, Putrefy, Steadfast Ward, Fast Healing
Modded Spell Descriptions
Putrefy: Acquired after taking the Necromanticon perk in the Restoration tree, it is a projectile of poison magic that deals a decent amount of DoT to those it strikes.
Ocato's Recital: Stores the (beneficial self-targeted non-concentration) spell in your left hand and casts it for no cost whenever you enter combat. Up to 3 spells. Empty left hand to reset.
Now before Liss comes for my life for using this spell, I used it in a way that was balanced, justified, and important, requiring the character to first complete Blessings of Nature to restore the Gildergleam, and to limit the stored spells to 2, Oakflesh and Tree Rings. You can roleplay this as the character taking a piece from the tree in order to study its magics in order to ulitize them in his own arsenal. I will also explain in the gameplay section how we use the auto-cast feature to force us out of stealth mode and why that's important to the flow of combat.
Tree Rings: Caster receives 10 layers of tough plant skin, each increasing maximum Health by X points. Layers gradually fall off over the course of X seconds.
Wither: Reduces a target's movement speed and attack damage by 5% each second for 25 seconds.
Drop Zone: Creates a ring of cushioning magic at the target location. The caster takes no damage when falling into the ring.
Reynos' Fins: You swim 100% faster for X seconds.
"Among the night's children, a dread lord will rise. In an age of strife, when dragons return to the realm of men, darkness will mingle with light and the night and day will be as one."
Quests & Objectives
Volkihar Vampires, Pieces of the Past, Innocence Lost, Oghma Infinium (Path of Sorcery)
Joining the Dawnguard is a top priority, as the completion of the Volkihar questline is essential. It was rather easy justifying this character's choice to join the vampire hunters, as vampires are seen as children of Molag Bal, and doing anything to weaken another daedric prince's influence will play in Nocturnal's favor. However, upon meeting Serana and noting her possession of an Elder Scroll, taking Harkon's gift will be a no brainer, as it seems like the most immediate way to get closer to the scroll (we're still a thief after all). During this questline, there will be a lot of travelling, and during this down time, collecting the pieces of Mehrunes Razor will be on the agenda. I know it may seem like you'd be doing a favor for Mehrunes Dagon by assembling his razor, but I treated it more like a heist, and simply did it for a nice dagger, and wielded in with no such piety for Dagon, and I made sure to let him know it through the dialogue. I also destroyed his shrine. I also killed Astrid with quite a bit of prejudice, as kidnapping this character from his sleep and ordering him around is an absolute death wish. In your downtime, be sure to continue training Conjuration, Restoration, and Speech, finish out the Oghma Infinium quest, and continue acquiring wealth. Hit up the wealthier homes around Skyrim and run some side jobs for the Guild, because in the last phase of the build you won't have the chance to do so, since you'll be moving on from petty thievery for good. This act of the build should start wrapping up in the late 30's.
While this is a build, it is also a character, and what I've done is fabricated a story to essentially offer an entirely new origin story to becoming Dragonborn. Many "villain" builds utilize shouts and complete the Dragonborn questlines, but that would mean the gods bestowed the gift of the dragonblood to someone of an evil disposition, which has never sat right with me, so I set out to create a reasonable explanation as to how such a thing can happen.
There's no real way to do what the story describes in-game, and that's the point of the story. This is how I imagined it in my head while playing this character, and all it took for me to convince myself that this actually happened was by exiting Skyrim, writing this story, and reloading Skyrim. For any who choose to play this build, all it takes for you to immerse yourself in this new reality, is by stopping at the transitional point in the build, opening this document, and perhaps reading this story again. I understand if anyone has criticisms to this approach to character builds and story-telling, and my response to them is to think of it as a backstory, except it happens mid-game. A backstory never actually occured in-game, but you use it to tell your story regardless. Each takes a bit of imagination.
I have provided a link should you choose to read it, which I highly reccommend. But if you haven't the time, here is the summary: The character uses the powers of the Skeleton Key, The Black Star, and the Dragon Scroll in tandom to steal the blessing of Dragonborn for himself. Therefore, attributing his newfound powers to Nocturnal and the artifacts.
Everything covered in this section pertains to gameplay through about levels 25-40.
Equipment: The Nightingale set. This should be self-explanatory. However, I opted to use the Evil Mastermind set since I have a knack for overusing mods sometimes, plus the armor is beautiful and fitting. You should be upgrading to the Blade of Woe and Mehrunes' Razor as well.
Spells/Powers: After reaching 50 Restoration you will have the ability to grab Tree Rings and add it to Ocato's Recital if you have not already, and you'll unlock Death Cloud from the Necromanticon perk. Greater Ward and Close Wounds will also be purchasable from the CoW, as well as Revenant. As for vampire abilities, we'll only need one, and that's Invisibility. Better Vampires offers a new form of the vanilla Embrace of Shadows power that is much more interesting and doesn't require you to starve yourself. It's called Deflect Light and Shadow, and it's earned through feeding on bodies and growing in rank as a vampire, though the progression is rather slow, and can always be toggled to your liking. As for the utility spells you can add to your arsenal, make sure to get the Summon Arvak spell and Thundering Hooves.
Books: Mannimarco, King of Worms and An Accounting of the Scrolls
Favorite's List: ☆
Blade of Woe, Mehrunes' Razor, Shadow Stone, Deflect Light and Shadow, Revenant, Wither, Death Cloud, Greater Ward, Close Wounds
Modded Spell Descriptions
Deflect Light and Shadow: From Better Vampires: "Its effects cannot last for long, but you will remain invisible while interacting with the world around you. It is a lesser power that makes you invisible for 20-40 seconds (depending on your level) AND you can still interact/attack and STAY invisible. Stamina and Magicka will be consumed to maintain this ability while it is active. Because of the great amount of energy required to maintain perfect invisibility, you will be unable to use Deflect Light and Shadow again for 5 hours (game time)."
Death Cloud: Acquired through the Necromanticon perk when your Restoration reaches 50. Casts an AoE at a target location, dealing moderate poison/disease damage overtime to those it affects.
Thundering Hooves: For X seconds, your mount is X% faster, regenerates Stamina, and can swim upwards to run on water.
"I am the snake in the shadows and the dragon in the night sky. I am Nocturnal's darkness in the flesh, for she has made the prophecy of the Dragonborn mine."
Quests & Objectives
Twilight Sepulcher, Boethiah's Calling, Master Alteration, Final Descent, Dragonborn, Main Quest
The first part of the final act begins with the completion of the Thieves Guild questline, finally returning the Skeleton Key and speaking to Nocturnal. After this, you will perform one last act for Nocturnal, and that's slaying every cultist at Boethiah's Scallum. You'll need to travel here to pick up your final set of equipment anyways but you will not be completing Boethiah's quest and doing any favors for her. After this, you'll begin your quests as Dragonborn, visiting the Greybeards and exploring your newfound powers. Place priority on hunting down Miraak first before meeting with Delphine, as the cultist's claims of you being a "false Dragonborn" play unbelievably well into the story. This is obviously worrying to our antihero, that his secret may be revealed, so going to Solstheim to investigate is a top priority. It's also necessary as you'll need a number of powers acquired there to aid you in the main questline. You should be able to hit 90 Alteration pretty soon after starting this part of the build, and I recommend trying to do so before getting too far into the Dragonborn questline so you can complete the Master Alteration quest for Tolfdir. Final Descent should also be on your radar in order to gain the final word of power for Dragon Aspect. I loved the idea of saving the battle against Alduin for the very last part of the build, as there's really no better quest to end on than saving the world.
A major theme of this build is achieving a level of divinity, both through gameplay standards and roleplay standards. Throughout the story, the character undergoes two significant transformations, becoming a Vampire Lord, and eventually Dragonborn, putting him closer to godhood than any mortal could hope to achieve. His physical body is immortal as well as his metaphysical body, a.k.a his soul. To simulate divine abilities through gameplay, the build utilizes an interesting combination of tactics and spells which will be further elaborated on in the gameplay section.
The question of where this character's soul would go after death is something I've given considerable thought, and frankly I'm not entirely sure, and neither is the character. By making the oath to Nocturnal as a Nightingale, it's highly plausible that she'll be able to claim his soul upon death, but at the same time, by becoming a Vampire Lord, he's become closer to Molag Bal, who may also have valid claim for the soul. It becomes even more confusing when you throw in the factor of being Dragonborn and the belief that the Dragonborn ascends to Sovngarde, but given the events of this character's life, who can say that'll be his fate, especially given the fact he's a Dunmer? To counter this dilemma, the character gifts the Black Star to Nocturnal upon returning the Skeleton Key. If you read the story describing the ritual to become Dragonborn, you'll know the empty Star was used to trap part of the character's soul as he transferred the Dragonborn's soul into his body. It's an alternative to becoming a lich, where he'll defy the gods and take fate into his own hands. The Black Star filled with the soul of his previous self is a fitting gift to Nocturnal, seeing as he's possibly defied her by becoming a vampire, signing his soul over to another daedric prince. I simply dropped the Star in the spot where Nocturnal appears during your interaction with her, then left, never to return to that room again.
Everything covered in this section pertains to gameplay through about levels 40-47+.
Equipment: As seen in the images, I used the popular Ritual Armor of Boethiah for the final aesthetic of this build. The darkened dragon scales make it quite possibly the most fitting armor set I could think of. The armor has little to do with Boethiah apart from the fact you have to loot it off of a cultist at the Shrine of Boethiah, which happens to serve the roleplay well. After acquiring the set I proceeded to an enchanting table, using grand soul gems to give me minor boosts in magicka and magicka regeneration, and renamed each piece to "Ophidian's _____" and I stand by the fact that this build still classifies as no-crafting despite this. Although this potentially would oppose Nocturnal, by this point in the game the character begins straying from Nocturnal and instead becomes completely independent, while of course giving praise to Nocturnal where it's due, but not binding himself to her whims and tenets.
Since this build is all about convenience, you can get your final pair of daggers from the same place you got the armor. The Blade of Sacrifice is a dark, menacing blade with a snaking design, and you'll be wielding these babies fiercely. Although it is technically a downgrade in damage, matching daggers increase hotkey efficiency, and I don't recall many builds using the Blade of Sacrifice, so why not?
Spells/Powers: Be sure to upgrade to Dread Zombie and the Carrion Wind spell, added when your Restoration reaches 75. After completing the Master Alteration quest, you'll gain access to the spells Thrumming Stone and Talons of Nirn, two powerful geomancy spells added by Apocalypse. Upon returning the Skeleton Key, you will gain access to 1 of the 3 Nightingale powers. Be sure to pick up Shadowcloak of Nocturnal as a replacement to the Shadow Stone power and Deflect Light and Shadow, as it's the only invisibility you'll need from this point forward.
Shouts: Fire Breath is the staple shout of this character, allowing you to replicate the powers of a dragon itself. It's a form of fire damage that a vampire can make particular use of, being that it's not traditional fire magic. One of the words is quest locked however and requires you to join the Companions and run through Dustman's Cairn. This was quite annoying but I also give you permission to add one of the words through console commands, if you have the means. The other shouts this build makes use of are Dragon Aspect and Storm Call. Dragon Aspect will be picked up as you traverse through Solstheim, and Storm Call can be picked up at any time in this build, perferably early on.
Books: The Book of the Dragonborn and The Alduin-Akatosh Dichotomy
Black Books: The only necessary Black Book power will be Dragonborn Flame, acquired through the main Dragonborn questline.
Favorite's List: ☆
Blade of Sacrifice (2), Carrion Wind, Death Cloud, Paralyze, Dread Zombie, Greater Ward, Thrumming Stone, Talons of Nirn, Fire Breath, Dragon Aspect, Storm Call, Shadowcloak of Nocturnal
Modded Spell Descriptions
Carrion Wind: Added by the Necromanticon perk when your Restoration reaches level 75. Acts just like the Ice Storm spell, sending a whirlwind of poison and decay in a straight line, affecting all in touches, dealing heavy DoT.
Thrumming Stone: Magical vibrating rock that emits a tremor every 8 seconds, staggering enemies and reducing magic resistance by X% for X seconds. Emits 5 pulses.
Talons of Nirn: Whenever an enemy in the area is staggered, a spike of rock erupts from the ground, tossing the target and dealing X Stamina damage. Lasts X seconds.
These are NOT special moves, but instead a culmination of the various tactics this build utilizes, separated into 6 pillars, each pillar evolving and growing in power as new spells, perks, and abilities are acquired. Some will serve you throughout the entire build, changing slowly over time, while others will only reach their full potential towards the later part of the build.
As a thief, Nightingale, and champion of Nocturnal, stealth is obviously important. However, it does not define the gameplay. Stealth oriented builds require a splash of uniqueness to avoid getting repetitive, and for this reason, I've simplified stealth gameplay to draw focus away from it, while at the same time making it somewhat interesting.
With nothing to enhance our sneaking except Mastery 1/2 and the use of Ultimate Combat with Hardcore Stealth ticked on, stealth plays much more realistically, forcing you into a completely different mindset when approaching battles or robbing homes. This means walking slow (controller players have an advantage), or using Caps Lock to slowly creep up on enemies, as well as considering light levels and your enemies' line of sight. This is where the 3 cooldown invisibilities play a big role. Although not necessarily optimal in terms of power, they help significantly when opening combat, and will let you either get a jump on certain enemies, or escape the battle entirely. It was comforting knowing that I could dip out of battle at any second with the use of one of the powers, as if Nocturnal was watching over me and offering protection through the shadows. After opening combat with a powerful dual power attack, it will trigger Ocato's Recital, immediately alerting nearby enemies to your position. This mechanic forces you to avoid simply sneaking around slitting throats. When the character eventually becomes Dragonborn, the use of stealth and invisibility powers are replaced by shouts and newly acquired Master Alteration spells, symbolizing a shift from living in Nocturnal's shadow to basking in your own divine glory. This theme is further supported by resetting Sneak after defeating Miraak, and using those 3 perk points on new perks such as Throne of Nirn or Hurricane Force.
Perks utilized: Sneak Mastery 1/2, Backstab, Assassin's Blade
Spells/abilities utilized: Shadow Stone, Deflect Light and Shadow, Shadowcloak of Nocturnal
Equipment utilized: Dual daggers
This is the Ophidian Divine's versatile defense, inspired by the shedding of snake skin as well as difficult to penetrate dragon scales. Upon entering combat, as well as during it, he will be filled with a rush of adrenaline and bloodlust, fortifying his attributes, in turn fortifying his defensive, and even offensive, capabilities.
Using Restoration, which is vital to your arsenal of poison spells, you can acquire certain perks that will replenish your magicka and health in the midst of battle. Descending Light grants a significant boost to magicka regeneration upon entering combat, allowing you to get off a few extra spells or helping you restore a depleted magicka bar from a previous battle. The Wheel of Life and Enduring Ideal perks grant large healing buffs every 30 seconds or less so long as you don't cast a healing spell manually. I used this as a replacement to having Close Wounds in my favorite menu, and completely avoided manual healing, instead counting on the timer to hit zero and heal me whenever I got low. If you're already near full health when the buff is cast, the perk Overflowing Cup will act similar to Tree Rings, and it will fortify your health for some time. Light Armor also grants perks that will help with regeneration, but for stamina. Initiative 1 & 2 and Fight or Flight will allow you to maintain a decent reserve of stamina for battles, though power attacks should be used sparingly. Alteration comes into play with this pillar as well for obvious reasons. The Alter Self: Resistances perk will grant us a small bonus to magic resistance. Choose frost and shock since each of those drains a second attribute and the extra fire resistance is hard to justify on a vampire character. Ocato's Recital provides an extra 40 armor rating as well as a significant boost to total health, which will run out quite quickly. This combination of 'entering combat' buffs will create a window of greater power and advantage over your opponents and it should be used to the fullest. How you can do that is described in the next pillar. As for further defensive measures that are taken, this character can repurpose his skill in Restoration to cast ward spells when facing the all terrifying destruction mage or dragon. The first one will be free of cost with the Vigilant perk but keeping that one up for long is challenging. Prioritizing damage over defense is something you'll be forced to do. Of course you have an alternate method of defense, speed, and that will also be elaborated on in a later pillar.
Perks utilized: Descending Light, Vigilant, Forbidden Sanctuary, Wheel of Life, Enduring Ideal, Overflowing Cup, Initiative 2/2, Fight or Flight, Alter Self: Frost & Shock
Spells/abilities utilized: Ocato's Recital (Oakflesh & Tree Rings), Greater Ward, Dunmer Fire Resistance, Vampire Frost Resistance
Equipment utilized: Necklace or Ring of Magic Resistance
Unlike most spellswords, the Ophidian Divine combines blade and spell in a cruel and unusual way, weakening his foes through decay and blood loss. This pillar is the trademark technique in this build, focusing almost entirely on DoT, like a venomous snake coiling around its prey, slowly draining the life from its body.
This is the primary method of damage dealing and the subsequent spells should be early in your hotkey order. It's important to get off Bite Marks/Twin Fang bleed damage as soon as possible, following up with any of your poison-esque spells. This pairs extremely well with the high mobility that this character has, as your enemies will slowly decay while they desperately attempt to close the distance and connect hits. Wither will slow enemies down as well as weaken them for some time, allowing you to go for dagger attacks with less of a risk. Paralyze will replace Wither in the late game, though it will require a decent percentage of your magicka to cast, so use it sparingly. Make heavy use of the spells added by the Necromanticon perk (Putrefy, Death Cloud, and Carrion Wind). Combining them can do an even greater amount of damage over time, but will require you to spend more magicka, which could be saved for spells like Greater Ward and Dread Zombie. It's important not to immediately drain all of your magicka upon entering battle as our base regeneration is nothing special. Running out of magicka will force you into a pure melee, which can be feasible, but fighting head on against multiple enemies leaves you vulnerable to a variety of attacks. However, against simpler opponents, dual wield combat is encouraged, so long as you can dodge attacks and capitalize on opportunities to use dual power attacks. You're able to swap between dual daggers, dagger/spell, or dual spells as you see fit.
Perks utilized: Bite Marks 2/3, Ravage 2/2, Savage 1/2, Twin Fang, Man O' War, Necromanticon, Chalice of Tears, Plague Doctor
Spells/abilities utilized: Wither, Putrefy, Death Cloud, Carrion Wind, Paralyze
Equipment utilized: Dual daggers or one dagger
What is a god without followers willing to die for them? Harnessing the powers of death and divinity, this pillar combines some unique abilities that makes the killing of reanimated dead do massive AoE damage. Early on, minions serve as tanks and distractions, but after achieving the necessary abilities, he'll be sacrificing his subjects in a hellish blaze.
A nice thing about this synergy is that it only requires one keybind, and that's your strongest raise dead spell. The real beauty of this one is in the Fire Breath shout, as it's a form of fire damage that sets off the Corpse Gas perk from the Conjuration tree. Essentially, killing one of your minions with fire damage will result in a massive explosion of fire, dealing tons of damage to nearby enemies. The shout will kill your minion 9/10 times, but lowering their health through other means first is the safe thing to do. Not only will your foes suffer a ton of fire damage, but they will be forced to contend with one or possibly more fire wyrms that will emerge from the corpses created by Fire Breath. This ability is through the power Dragonborn Flame, acquired during the pursuit of Miraak . So not only are we sacrificing minions to deal tons of damage, but we are also rewarded with additional allies in the form of fire wyrms (which are similar to Ice Wraiths), very fitting to the Ophidian Divine. Until this point is reached, the perk A Plague Upon Thee will increase the versatility of your minions, and they will mostly serve as distractions or tanks mid-battle, though keeping a minion raised at all times will not be a priority.
Perks utilized: Ravenous Dead, Preservation, A Plague Upon Thee, Corpse Gas, Windborne
Spells/abilities utilized: Black Book: Dragonborn Flame, Dread Zombie
It's hard to roleplay having divine powers if you travel at the speed of an average Joe. The Ophidian Divine's skill in Alteration allows him to bend reality, granting him an otherworldly advantage over the terrain. His speed in combat is just as fearsome, zipping in and out of reach of his opponents, dodging and weaving as if a divine wind flowed through him.
Early on you will be rather slow, but your speed will gradually increase as you level up. This is done through multiple abilities. For one, being a vampire and using the Better Vampires mod will grant you a slight speed and jump height increase, and these buffs are improved as you feed on more people. Also, the Unhindered and Windrunner perks allow you to operate in battle with a considerable advantage over your foe. If you make use of the TK Dodge mod then this is further enhanced, though I won't say it's necessary to have. Combining these small buffs, lightweight weaponry, and the Wither spell, you'll be able to weave in and out of reach of your enemies with relative ease, pairing well with the DoT methods that this build employs. This mobility allows you to replicate the speed of a snake in battle.
Outside of combat, there are a variety of spells that this build can utilize. I prefer avoiding fast travel as I feel it makes the game more realistic and rewarding, and the use of these spells make traversing the world much more tolerable. For one, spells such as Drop Zone and Reynos' Fins replicate the abilities of many serpentine animals, allowing you to overcome certain obstacles that would slow most people down. Use them during travel or even to escape combat. As for regular travel along roads and paths, this character makes use of Arvak and the Thundering Hooves spell from Apocalypse, which covers Arvak in a green glow, allowing him to run much faster and even over water. It's a steed befitting any god, and it's well-suited for someone who is constantly on the move and doesn't have time to care for a live horse.
Perks utilized: Unhindered, Windrunner, Windborne
Spells/abilities utilized: Summon Arvak, Thundering Hooves, Drop Zone, Reynos' Fins, Vampire speed buffs/active effects
Equipment utilized: Light armor set
The Ophidian Divine
Combining the most powerful Alteration spells known to man with his newly found powers as Dragonborn, The Ophidian Divine harnesses powers to replicate godhood itself, controlling earth and sky, overpowering his enemies with ease.
As you approach the final stage of this build, you'll gain access to shouts and Master Alteration spells, allowing for some truly impressive feats. Alteration spells added by Apocalypse offer new types of geomancy spells, and the ones classified as Master are truly something else. However, why stop there? Combining these spells with the Storm Call shout, you're able to rain down lightning on your enemies, while ripping rocky spikes out of the ground to impale your foes. The Throne of Nirn perk will automatically raise a rocky platform out of the ground when standing still for 5 seconds while your hands are raised, granting you an immediate high ground advantage over your enemies. While atop the throne, your spells will last longer and be more powerful, so be sure to cast Thrumming Stone and Talons of Nirn while you're on the rocky spire. With your leftover magicka, cast your DoT poison spells to deal extra damage. After this deadly combo is complete, you can either remain on the throne, holding up a ward to deflect ranged attacks, or you can jump down and join the madness with your dual daggers. Although it is slightly OP, that's kinda the point, but don't get too cocky, as powerful destruction mages, archers, and dragons can still get the better of you. Dragon Aspect will deter some of the incoming damage from them, and the Serpentine Skin synergy will also help. Combining this with the blood sun using Auriel's Bow can make for a truly cataclysmic effect. If you're indoors, or don't think casting such powerful spells is necessary for a fight, utilizing the Throne of Nirn perk is still recommended, and from the throne you can cast whatever spells suit the situation. This build is quite flexible, and allows for some creativity on behalf of the player.
Perks utilized: Throne of Nirn, Windborne, Force Redoubled, Hurricane Force
Spells/abilities utilized: Thrumming Stone, Talons of Nirn, Dragon Aspect, Storm Call
Equipment utilized: Auriel's Bow, Bloodcursed Arrows
The image I wanted to create for this build would not have been complete without help from The Sunflower Manual (The Moonflower Mist on Discord) with the beautiful screenshots they willingly took for me, helping me in seeing out my vision. I don't think I would've felt confident in posting this build without them. So seriously, give them credit where it's due.
Edgar Allen Poe for letting me use a quote of his under the first image.
Mods - Ranked in order of importance
Ordinator - Perks of Skyrim:Absolutely essential to playing this build. Almost every aspect of gameplay relies on something added by Ordinator.
Apocalypse - Magic of Skyrim:Just as crucial as Ordinator. About half of our magic arsenal is made up of the spells added by this mod.
Ultimate Combat:If you aren't using any form of combat overhaul by now then I don't know what to tell you. The nice thing about this specific one is the built in toggle for Hardcore Stealth, which you should make use of. As for the Hardcore Damage toggle and all of the other toggles, don't worry about them, as the default changes are good enough.
Better Vampires:I cannot speak on behalf of Sacrosanct as this is the only vampire overhaul I've had experience with. I suppose you could go either one, but we're really after the active effects that this mod offers.
Evil Mastermind Armor:Used as the mid-game set. The Nightingale set is a good alternative if you'd rather not add something else to your load order, but it's a small mod that I feel makes a big difference.
Skyrim Unbound:Not completely necessary, and any alternate start mod works, but given the complexity of how we start the main quest, Skyrim Unbound will give you the least trouble. However, you should use what you're most comfortable with. Any start is fine, and I actually encourage you to get creative with your start, as there aren't any rules per say. If you'd like some inspiration, make sure you read the backstory linked at the top if you haven't already.
TKDodge:If you don't already have this in your load order, I'd probably advise against it, as you need FNIS to get it to work. It will give you more flexibility in combat - literally. It's fitting to a vampiric thief as well, seeing as mobility is a cornerstone in the combat.
Warmonger Armory:I used the Shadow Warlock set for the first act of this build because I thought it was the most fitting, though it's not required, but if you don't mind downloading it, I certainly recommend it. Rather than trying to loot it off a corpse in the early game, I just consoled it in and ran with it as if my character had always been wearing it.
If you've managed to read this entire build, all I can say is thank you so much. Even if you don't have time to and just skimmed, I appreciate it. This took me an unbelievable amount of time to create, and after about 2 and a half different playtests and numerous setbacks, I honestly can't believe it's finished, so I'd love more than anything to hear what you all think. I'm not sure if I'll ever post another build of this magnitude so I suppose this could be considered my magnum opus, as I've used everything in my ability to create the best build I was capable of making. Now that this is finally finished, I'm going to use some of my free time to read the other contest submissions and leave some comments on them as well. I wish everybody the best of luck, and thank you to Curse for hosting another one of these brilliant contests, as well as the judges for pledging their time to make this contest possible. Cheers!