All the stories of my youth, of Yngol and the Sea Ghosts, I should have believed them, she thought dully as she helplessly bobbed in the stormy water, watching it approach through half closed eyes. Semi-transparent, ethereal. The glowing form, like sea foam in the lightning's light. The eyes, a cold, blue death. Like Winter's ice. Clawed hands outstretched, reaching for her.
Stupid stories her grandda told her by the warm hearth of their seaside home, the smell of horker stew heavy. Safe from the gales of ice and storm.
"Be scared, for they are real", he had warned. And she thought it the ramblings of an old man, when she was about to set foot upon the deck of the merchant ship leaving from Danwstar, hand on the hilt of her blade, hearing the laugh of the sea birds, bidding her to the sea. To savor the salt air and the wind in her hair, restlessness personified.
A fool. She didn't listen to him. They are real...
I am real, it echoed in her mind. I was real to crew of the Harakk and its captain who is now sealed under the face of Hsariik Head. Two months is nothing to a ghost!
She had lied to her grandda, a final sin to seal her fate. A stain upon her soul. A merchant ship it was not, but the call to coin was loud enough to hide her secrets well. The hidden desire to plunder, to make coin. To do as the old Nords did in ages past. Take what was wanted from the weak, through strength and storm.
Did it know that, she thought as the spectral form drew closer?
They are real, she acknowledged, now growing very sleepy, the screaming terror-sounds of her crew growing distance as she sank slowly into the black liquid depths. Weighed down, yet light. They were already dead. It killed them, a fierce squall of ice, wind, and lightning in its wake. Spewing from both hands and mouth as it splintered ship, dashing the bodies of men hard to the water as waves crash upon the rocks. Giant armored minions with eyes of eerie soul’s light were by its side, swinging great weapons of bone and men who were normally brave were then crushed.
But it spared me. Why?
You are mine now, it whispered in her mind, the phosphorescent orbs that were its eyes dancing in the dark waters. Guiding her closer. Like a lure.
I am yours now, she replied in her mind, entranced.
You will become my vessel. We will become one in the turning wheel of Fate.
I will become your vessel. We will become one in the turning wheel of Fate.
It was beautiful. She was then surrounded by the form, entwined in it, its soul becoming her soul. Together, as one, it said, the last lullaby she heard before she closed her eyes to forever-sleep, we take our revenge on the children of Ysgramor, the children of Kyne, the children of Nirn, and pillage them of their souls, on both land... and sea.
I’ve taken a nearly year and a half long break from Skyrim character building, but decided to come out of the woodwork when I heard about this contest and its great theme. Best of luck to all who have participated, and I am blown away by the creativity and quality of the builds I’ve seen so far.
I have always been fascinated by the in-game book, Yngol and the Sea Ghosts. It tells of the death of Yngol, Ysgramor’s son, to these creatures as the Five Hundred were heading back to Skyrim to battle the Snow Elves who sacked Saarthal. In the lore, Sea Ghosts are described as creatures who mislead sailors to their doom in the Sea of Ghosts. They are also associated with storms (Ysgramor battled them in a two-month long storm to seek his revenge) and in general, bad luck, along the lines of our own sirens. It is this Skyrim lore, along with inspirations from the legend of the Flying Dutchman, a ghost ship doomed to sail forever, and the Slavic myth of the Rusalka, a malicious female entity often associated with water, that led me to attempt to recreate the Sea Ghost in Skyrim. This build utilizes numerous ancient Nordic artifacts from the game and some under-utilized summons to create a potent ghostly spellsword that uses her power over the elements and her command of the undead to wreak havoc and pillage the souls of Skyrim, all without crafting a single item. Not your normal pirate seeking fame and fortune, but a much, much darker creature, a pirate of souls. I present to you, the Sea Ghost…
I have designed this build with a Vanilla game in mind. You can easily play it without mods with only some minor changes and none of them are perk-related. That being said, I do have some recommended mods to enhance the experience.
- Standing Stone Tweaks - Available only on ps4, but really all you need is a standing stone mod that gives you no regeneration in the atronach stone. It’s a small, but lore-friendly tweak that gives the standing stones, especially the Atronach more of an Oblivion feel. I like the Atronach stone, but in Vanilla, there is really very little cost in exchange for the magicka boost and the spell absorption. I usually like correcting this. In this mod, the Atronach gives a healthy 200+ boost to magicka and 50% spell absorption, but at the cost of zero magicka regeneration.
- Awesome Artifacts (available in all platforms) - A mod that overhauls many of the artifacts of the game in a lore-friendly way. Or Morrowloot ultimate as this also delevels the world.
- Spectral warhound follower - More for the fun of it and to lend to the undead, spectral vibe of the Sea Ghost. He’s a pretty potent follower, so crank up the difficulty.
- Smilodon – a combat overhaul available on all platforms. You can choose to add the realistic damage patch if you desire.
- Northern Steel – Expanded - This is a great mod that unlocks all standard enchantments for Ancient Nord weapons, because Ancient Nords didn’t just enchant things with frost. In addition, it rebalances Ancient Nord and Nord Hero armor and weapons to be a little bit more viable and offers missing tempering recipes.
- Sea of Ghosts by Thirteen Oranges – Available on Steam workshop, xbox1 and ps4, it’s a quest mod that expands the area along the Sea of Ghosts. The ps4 version is missing SeaStone Manor, the player home, but it is still a wonderfully atmospheric mod to have.
The rest is up to you. Like I said, mods are not crucial for this playthrough. Others I can name include the Dreamweaver; ports of call, Rustic Weathers and Lighting, Castle Volkihar Rebuilt, Whitewind Cabin, and cosmetic mods.
Class: Spellsword + necromancer/summoner
Crafting & Grinding: Absolutely none will be needed, I’d much rather play!
Training: Minor training in Conjuration, Destruction, and Heavy Armor
Race: Nord, though you can make a wonderful case for Altmer, knife-ears and all. Nords have 50% frost resistance, which allowed me to roleplay an undead without falling into the vampirism trap, boosts to Heavy Armor and One-handed and Battle Cry. Altmer have a +50 magicka bonus, boosts to all of the magic skills to be used, Highborn fixes a lot of the regeneration issues you will have in the game if you decide to play without magicka regeneration, and many of these ancient creatures of myth, frankly, have pointed ears. I played as a Nord, based on the backstory I had written, which portrays The Sea Ghost as a merger of the entity with a once-living Nord into something more sinister. I then used mods to make her look basically like a fleshed-out draugr.
Dragonborn: Yes. The Sea Ghost knew the vessel would be selected for the task, that is why she was spared.
Shrine Blessing: Talos
Stats: All health if you are playing with an altered Atronach stone, 1:2 Magicka:Health if you are playing Vanilla.
Standing Stone: Atronach + Ritual stored in the Aetherial Crown. If you want to go ahead and play with the advanced Atronach in order to achieve zero magicka regeneration, then go for it. Likewise, if you play on PC and have the unofficial patches installed, you can give yourself zero magicka regeneration if you give yourself both forms of Witbane via console commands.
Black Books and Powers: Agent of Dibella, Lover’s Insight, Secret of Arcana, Seeker of Sorcery. I only picked up the Black Books that were associated with the Dragon priests the Sea Ghost was targetting. We are going for both boosts to damage against men and whatever cost reduction you obtain that does not involve enchanting gear.
Conjuration: One of my main motivations for this build was to utilize the relatively under-used summons from the Soul Cairn, specifically the Wrathman, therefore, this was the only skill that was maxed out. It is an Expert level spell and the summons boasts the highest amount of health for a summons in the game at 800. Conjure Wrathman also benefits from the Necromancy branch of the Conjuration tree. The summons, along with Serana (when I was forced to use her as a follower), or the spectral hound, were the Sea Ghost’s first line of defense, allowing her time to prepare the victims for her elemental storms. I encourage you to obtain the Wrathman as soon as you are able, though until then, reanimating corpses with Raise Zombie, Reanimate Corpse, and Revenant is perfectly fine. I also perked the Bound Weapons branch (to add power and soul-stealing abilities to the bound sword) and the Conjuration cost reduction branch.
Destruction: As I was roleplaying an entity that was ghostly and undead, I prohibited myself from using any fire-related spells, limiting myself to only frost, shock, and the Dragonborn dlc’s Whirlwind Cloak. Obtaining the cloak spells, adept level, proved to be a gamechanger, especially in conjunction with Shouts. By the end of the playtest, I was favoring Whirlwind Cloak + either Lightning Bolt or Freeze, depending on the enemy (frost for fire-based creatures and humanoids, shock for mages and anything immune to frost).
Shouts: Frost Breath, Ice form, Soul Tear, Storm Call (two words), Become Ethereal, Unrelenting Force, Cyclone, and Whirlwind Sprint. It’s a relatively small shout repertoire, but an extremely strong one. After initially using Ice form and other easier to obtain shouts that fit the theme of the build, three shouts ended up standing out. Become Ethereal was used to recreate the Sea Ghost’s spectral form and create special tactics, at least for me (I know, finally!), that is the essence of this build. Storm Call was used to create a storm setting outdoors and lay waste to large groups of enemies. Finally, Soul Tear was used to focus on single powerful boss confrontations. I’d focus on obtaining Become Ethereal first, the first two words are relatively easy to obtain. Then obtain one word of Storm Call, which makes obtaining the last word of Become Ethereal, located in Lost Valley Redoubt, much easier to do. If you pursue the Main Quest through meeting Paarthurnax, I recommend meditation on Feim, as it will grant you 25% health regeneration while in your natural, spectral state.
Restoration & Illusion: Minor magic skills, mostly taken for roleplaying purposes, to offset the lack of magicka regeneration, and supplement the non-crafting nature of the build. The sole purpose of perking Illusion was to cast Clairvoyance. In Yngol’s Barrow, you are guided by these tiny little orbs of light green light that I believe, are related to the Sea Ghosts. I roleplayed Clairvoyance as her way to navigate the world in a similar fashion, especially since I played with a limited HUD and compass. The Sea Ghost is fed by the souls of her victims and her spectral energy, so the only way she could cure herself was through found potions and restoration spells. Perking Recovery finally enabled the Sea Ghost to regenerate magicka.
Heavy Armor: This was a very hard skill to level up, because the Sea Ghost was not getting hit. Unfortunately, because of the relatively low AR of Ancient Nord Armor and Master difficulty, it really hurt to be hit, so I ended up investing in some Heavy Armor training with Isran at Fort. Dawnguard. The right side of the tree was perked, though I avoided maxing out the tree and the left side of the tree to roleplay being physically slower like a draugr ghost would possibly be.
One-handed: Perked primarily to give the Sea Ghost’s weapons some much needed damage boost due to not being able to invest in smithing perks. Blades and early on, axes, were used in conjunction with destruction magic and reanimations to give the Sea Ghost the maximum amount of damage for least amount of investment.
Again, because of the non-crafting nature of the build, special attention had to be paid to what artifacts would best serve The Sea Ghost as she fulfills her mission to pillage the souls of Skyrim. I will list them in the order they were obtained.
Ancient Nord Armor: Seige on the Dragon Cult. Acquired by killing the first dragon cultist at Forelhost, then leave. Let go once I acquired Ahzidal's gear.
Necromancer’s Amulet: Blood on the Ice. This granted the Sea Ghost with the Gift of the Black Worm from Awesome Artifacts which boosts magicka by 50pts, reduces Conjuration costs by 25%, reanimation spells and risen undead are more powerful, and it makes spells against the undead 10% stronger. Of course, all this comes at the cost of a 75% reduction in health and stamina regeneration, which I roleplayed as her being essentially undead.
Staff of Jyrik Gauldurson: Under Saarthal. With the unofficial patches install, this staff becomes extremely useful for a build that has stunted magicka regen. Its shock damage was primarily utilized early on against dragons.
Gauldur Amulet: Under Saarthal and later Lost Legends. The magicka portion of the amulet. With both the staff and the amulet portion, I was able to offset my lack of magicka regeneration very quickly. Awesome Artifacts grants each portion of the amulet a small boost in regeneration to the stat of the amulet fragment. It was later supplanted by Morokei and perks in Recovery.
Helm of Yngol: Yngol Barrow. Grants 30% resistance to frost, which nearly put the Sea Ghost at the resistance cap for one element. Frost-based dragons were pretty much a joke after this.
Ghostblade: Ansilvund Ruins. The Sea Ghost’s primary weapon for the first half of her mission in Skyrim. While it does limited damage, it boasts very small weight, which increases its swing speed significantly and its enchantment (3 points extra damage that ignores armor) doesn’t need to be recharged. This was a boon, as the Sea Ghost was saving soul gems for a very special purpose.
Pale Blade: The Pale Lady. A supplementary weapon that enjoys some added benefits in Awesome Artifacts, including frost damage, stamina damage, and a weak fear enchantment. Found at Frostemere Crypt during the mentioned quest. Eventually put on display.
Vokun: A Scroll for Anska. A dragon priest mask that grants its wearer 20% reduction in Conjuration, Alteration, and Illusion. Used early on until Conjuration was leveled to manage spell costs.
Eduj & Okin: Silenced Tongues. A set of Ancient Nord weapons that do frost damage to Health and Stamina. Eduj was used more, especially when the Sea Ghost was implimenting The Ice Storm.
Aetherial Crown: Lost to the Ages. Used to store the Ritual Standing Stone and be able to utilize it as a repeatable power, because who fights fair, right? Especially favored during the Soul Storm.
The Relics of Ahzidal: Unearthed. The Sea Ghost did not utilize all of the relics, but several were key in her development as a build. First obtained were Ahzidal’s Boots of Waterwalking, which gave her the spectral ability to walk on water. Bandit chasing you? No problem, walk on water. It rendered her untouchable by most enemies if a body of water was nearby and at the same time, she was still able to engage in combat. I loved using this during gameplay because why not continue on our theme of unfair fighting? The next two items of importance were Ahzidal’s ring of Necromancy and Ring of Arcana. I used the Ring of Necromancy until taking Dark Souls rendered the ring’s special perk ineffective (Something about how the raised corpses are labeled, renders you having one or other), then I switched to the Ring of Arcana for Freeze, which is a cheap spell for the amount of damage it does. The Gauntlets of Warding were equipped but not really used during the playtest, though I could definitely see it helping the Sea Ghost replenish her magicka. The Armor of Retribution was useful for its paralyzing perk.
Morokei: The Staff of Magnus. Once obtained, this became the Sea Ghost’s means of magicka regeneration, as it is the equivalent of taking an Elixir of Lasting Potency that is never consumed. The boost to shout cool downs (fixed from the Unofficial Patches) was also welcomed.
Staff of Magnus: The Staff of Magnus. This staff, with its magicka and health drain and decent range, eventually supplanting The Staff of Jyrik Gauldurson.
Dukaan: White Ridge Barrow. This dragon priest mask was useful in creating the Sea Ghost’s “Ice Storms”, a strategy she used against humanoid and creature enemies susceptible to stamina drain and frost damage (Large forsworn camps, manned ships, bandit camps). It grants a 50% resistance to frost and a 25% boost to all magical things frost-related, including spells, shouts, and frost enchantments for weapons.
Zahkriisos: The Final Descent. This mask was used to help the Sea Ghost create her “Lightning Storms”, as it has a similar enchantment to Dukaan, only the benefits apply to shock magicks.
Surplus equipment was stored when not in use. In addition, because a part of the Sea Ghost's spectral mechanics included the liberal use of Fast Travel, I would often simply equip the items she needed for a specific mission, leaving the rest behind, or stored inside that trusty spectral warhound follower. So, actually, though I list a lot of equipment, it's actually far more manageable and really by the end, she just had her gear and a handful of spells, keeping the Sea Ghost's inventory nice and relatively clutter free.
Walk on water, let them be afraid… you are the Sea Ghost and all fear the stormy sea.
Four combinations were especially fun in giving the Sea Ghost some extra panache in combat. All of them revolve around using Whirlwind Cloak and other magical effects in different combinations. Whirlwind Cloak flings enemies within melee damage away from the player.
Ice Storm: Dukaan + Whirlwind Cloak + Freeze + Frost Breath. I used this, again in places where the stamina draining properties of frost magic would be of greatest benefit.
Lightning Storm: Zahkriisos + Whirlwind Cloak + Lightning Bolt + Storm Call. Unleash the fury of the Sea Ghost! This is one you do not do with followers around, but I did it anyway because she’s the Sea Ghost, she doesn’t give a damn about collateral damage. One extra soul to harvest.
Soul Storm: Ritual Stone (Aetherial Crown) + Whirlwind Cloak + Mystic Sword (bound sword with mystic binding and soul stealer) + Soul Tear + Conjure Wrathman. You are a collector of souls, the wrath of the sea, scattering lost souls before you mercilessly collect them.
The Eye of the Storm: Elixir of Regeneration + Whirlwind Cloak + Become Ethereal with Meditation on Feim. Being in corporal form is not the Sea Ghost’s natural state. She merged with a hapless mortal in order to fulfill her soul-harvesting mission, so therefore, when she is weak, she will revert to her spectral form in order to regenerate energy lost through combat.
The Sea Ghost’s mission is very simple, collect, pillage and pirate the souls of Skyrim, robbing bodies of their life force, being a terrible scourge, both in land and at sea. I saw her overall mission in two large sections. The first half of her adventure centered on her obtaining her endgame items and I started this early, acquiring several items while still in single digit levels. I treated this portion of her gameplay like a mad race to get these items, even using fast travel, which is something I never do in Skyrim. The justification? She is a ghost, and I saw the fast travel mechanic as a way to roleplay her traveling in her spectral form.
In addition, while I was playing the Sea Ghost, I was paying attention to amass in enough coin to harvest soul gems, of all types, but especially black soul gems. Questlines to complete during this phase are the Main quest through the Horn of Jurgen Windcaller, the College of Winterhold, Unearthed, Lost to the Ages, Lost Legends, and any of the quests that relate to the gear she needs to obtain. Her ultimate goals are the Thieves Guild and the Dark Brotherhood, and you can start them, but I would not do more than petty jobs for the Thieves Guild and Bound until Death for the Dark Brotherhood. Nope, no Companions, but she will defile the tombs of Ysgramor and Yngol!
The second phase for the Sea Ghost involves a weapon switch. The Ghostblade is abandoned in favor of a bound sword with soul-stealing capabilities. And then she roamed, completing the Dark Brotherhood and the Thieves Guild, partly for the money, but also for the opportunity to wreak havoc in the high seas again. Both questlines offer the Sea Ghost opportunities to gut a ship or a pirate cove of their mortal crew, plundering not just riches, not just gold and jewels, but their very souls. Ships and pirate coves for the Sea Ghost to target include…
- The Katariah (Dark Brotherhood, Hail Sithis!)
- East Empire Company & Brinewater Grotto (Thieves Guild, Scoundrel’s Folly)
- Dainty Sload (Thieves Guild, Solitude Quest)
- Wreck of the Pride of Tel Vos
- Red Wave (Thieves Guild, then Dark Brotherhood contract)
- Hela’s Folly (Dark Brotherhood contract)
- Wreck of the Winter War
- Wreck of the Ice Runner & Broken Oar Grotto (Light’s Out)
- Japhet’s Folly (Rise in the East)
While the Sea Ghost embarks in her soul plunder of Skyrim, several options are available to store her other-worldly booty, but it must fulfill only one requirement.
It must be by her beloved Sea of Ghosts.
Several options are available to you. Proudspire Manor, though pricy is the only actual purely vanilla offering, and when I say Vanilla, I mean no dlcs at all. If you have Hearthfire, Windstad manor is a great location, secluded and bleak. The Dawnguard Questline give you the option of living in Castle Volkihar whether you side with the Dawnguard or not. I sided with the Dawnguard to avoid Volkihar being populated when the Sea Ghost moved in, though you could argue that the Ring of the Erudite is a great choice for this build and I’d agree with you, but I chose roleplay in this instance and the Sea Ghost is alone, save her Wrathmen and her spectral dog. Installing The Sea of Ghosts by Thirteen Oranges gives you Seastone Manor to purchase. I personally opted for the Isolated Whitewind cabin, which has a view of the Sea of Ghosts. If you have another modded house that fits her sole requirement, then use that, by all means.
And there you have it! My first Skyrim build in a very long, long time. I hope all of you enjoy it, I know, I'm behind the times, I think, and I sincerely look forward to perhaps building more in the future. Good luck to everyone in the contest and a hats off to the people who literally forced me to get off of my fat old keester and do this contest. You know who you are. Another shout to the amazing mod team and crew at Skyforge for hosting this great contest.