Long, long ago, on a website ever so far away, there was one character build which used a mere two skills, a single shout, and a paragraph-length role-play guideline. As minimal as that might seem, it was a fully playable build complete by level 25, and I personally enjoyed the build greatly, being the minimalism fetishist I am. As a firm believer of being able to do more with less, I wish to build a character who perks a mere 2 skills, a single shout, and yet is a blast to play. Fear not, those who need a skill-packed build, for this build offers easy methods to expand our skill expertise. I present...
Race: Altmer Vampire. Starting with an extra 50 Magicka is a godsend, as are the racial ability and faster running speed. It also fits a self-indulging megalomaniac quite well. Breton or Bosmer can work too.
Archetype: Acrobat, Necromancer
Perked Skills : Conjuration, Archery. As a wise man in Central Asia once said, two is enough.
Shout(yes, singular): Tiid Klo Ul, Slow time
Arsenal: Bound Bow, Fists and Raise Spells
Apparel: Bloody Trousers*, Jester's Boots, Ulfric’s Bracers, Amulet of Talos, Rings of Blood Magic, Circlet of Eminent Archery/Conjuration or Aetherial Crown (Ritual/Shadow/Serpent)
*These trousers are found on the Volkihar Undercroft Feral Vampire, and turn into snazzy blue pants when worn by male characters. The color also complements the Bound Bow.
Having lost his dear mother to illness and his father to booze, the young Altmer who would be known as The Night Usher had a childhood of poverty, suffering and abuse. Working himself to sleep every day, he tried his honest best to earn his meals, only to lose them to his drunkard father and his habits. However, his greatest frustration was not physical abuse or fatigue, but the looks of pity, disgust and disdain he got all the time. All was looking grim for him, until his father kicked the bucket and he was adopted by a noble who once knew his father. Grabbing the opportunity by the throat, the Night Usher swore never to be looked down on again. He used every resource given to him to their full extent: he learnt magic from the noble's vast library, learnt martial arts from the guards, earned the favor of the townsfolk and had the hooligans secretly by his side. His reputation skyrocketed, and his foster family considered him one of them. All was looking up for the young Altmer.
But all that changed when he discovered the Noble's family heirloom: an unholy artifact which granted profane powers at the cost of the user's humanity. Under the cover of night, unbeknownst to his foster family, the Night Usher summoned the artifact's powers, but so great was its power that it turned him berserk. When he finally regained his conciousness, all that remained were the burning ruins of the mansion, and the corpses of its tenants strewn all around. Drunk with power, he left to test his newfound powers and to exert his self-ordained kingship.
However, unknown to him, the sole survivor of his powers, his adoptive brother, gathered powerful allies to slay him. With great vengeance, he stormed the Night Usher's base and dispelled the artifact's magics. He would have successfully enacted his revenge, if not for the Night Usher's guile and tact. With countless traps and his own band of hooligans, the Night Usher barely managed to flee with his life. To avoid the attention the slaughter would reel in, he decided to escape north. Stripped of his unholy artifact, armed with nothing but wit, luck, relentless resolve and his thirst for power, the Night Usher knew could start his legacy anew in the frigid land of Skyrim, a land ripe for him to plunder. New lives to take, new minds to bend, new magics to control, and so much authority to offend.
The Night Usher is a nimble acrobat who (ab)uses the Slow Time shout and Steady Hand perk for an extended Slow Time duration, allowing him to weave among enemies while simultaneously making pin cushions out of them. However, even after relevant perks, there is a brief period of vulnerability between shout cooldowns, which the Night Usher compensates with necromantic minions.
This build relies greatly on the Extended Slow Time glitch. To do this, you require rank 2 of Steady Hand, a bow and the first word of Slow Time.
- Optional: consume any potion of Alteration to extend the duration further
- Nock an arrow and zoom in, slowing time temporarily
- Press the ‘sheath’ key, cancelling the shot
- As the arrow is withdrawn and the slowed time begins to fade, hit the shout button to activate the first word of Slow Time
Combat usually starts off with some Bound Bow potshots. Once foes close the distance, activate the extended Slow Time shout and continue assault and evasion. Once the duration is over, if opposition remains, raise a zombie (either dispel the bow and raise as per normal, or use the Ritual/Vampire Servant power for hands-free casting) and allow it to divert attention from you. By the time the zombie is dead, either your foes are also dead, or you have Slow Time off cooldown. Of course, for simpler battles or ranged duels, regular archery might suffice. However, on the rare occasion that you're out of Magicka and any means of replenishing it, don't hesitate to swap rings to the Ring of the Beast and pummel foes to their demise. In fact, it's perfectly viable to enter Slow Time and use Advanced Unarmed combat (Here's an example for how it works) as a means of offense. Don't hesitate to use the Serpent Stone for fights where only one enemy poses great threat, or the Shadow stone to disengage from an overwhelming situation.
Vampirism provides an interesting aspect to roleplay around while keeping gameplay in mind. With the latest version of Dawnguard installed, Stage 3 Vampirism only experiences 75% stunted stat regeneration under sunlight. I used this as a constant motivation to feed when I had the opportunity to let me regenerate the much-needed magicka for casting Bound Bow. I found myself frequently stopping by small settlements to feed and restock, thus staying in touch with society (I avoided using Vampire Seduction on just any lowlife bandit). On the other hand, avoiding cities for too long would grant Embrace of Shadows, which represents the Night Usher’s feral hunting instincts coming into effect.
If you want to get into the thick of things quickly, this is the build for that. I found it to be quite a pleasant coincidence that the 2 main skills have free trainers (Faendal for Archery, Talvas Fathryon for Conjuration) and the main weapon is available at level 1 (free Bound Bow in Fort Amol Prison). The first word of Slow Time in Korvanjund is incredibly easy to get thanks to military backup, and luring the dragon from Bonestrewn Crest (North of the Atronach Stone, far south of Windhelm) into the nearby giant camps nets a free dragon soul to unlock the shout word. Half an hour into the playthough, the Night Usher becomes essentially complete. Anything after that is icing on the cake.
Stat Spread is of minimal importance, but I suggest pouring the first 5 levels into Magika, and the next 5 into Health. Then onward, develop your stats depending on what you need. Do you run out of Magicka after resurrecting foes or accidentally dispelling the Bound Bow (I've been there)? Boost your Magicka. Do you tend to sprint or use the bow's zooming/time slow feature a lot? Stamina supports that playstyle while giving more carry capacity. Are you taking too many hits? (Shouldn't be the case) Invest in Health.
Build Complete at Level 25
Archery is our offensive skill, allowing us to shoot faster and harder, while Conjuration grants us access to and upgrades for the Bound Bow, along with defensive zombie meatshields.
Perks are spent on bound weaponry, necromancy and the entire archery tree. Not all perks are created equal, however. Steady Hand 2/2 is the perk that makes or breaks this build, so rush that Level 60 in Archery. Pick up the typical archer power spikes from Power Shot and Quick Shot. Mystic Binding and Adept Conjuration ensure that our Bound Bow is effective and accessible.
The Background of this character provides a good bit of detail to roleplay about, but here are some specific pointers:
- Feed on noble townsfolk, but not on bandits or thugs. The blood of lowborn scum is not worthy of your palate.
- If anyone tries to undermine you or denounce you, make them regret it. This includes Thalmor patrols, travelers, townsfolk and even the guards.
- Make connections across Skyrim, and exploit them to their full extent.
- While you do use the Amulet of Talos and Molag Bal's rings, show no religious dedication to any deity.
- Use stealth sparingly. Terror is best savored up close.
Speaking of quests, the Night Usher would join the Volkihar vampires since he's a vampire (and to obtain the Rings of Blood Magic), and join the Imperial Legion to crush the Stormcloaks (and for Ulfric's stylish bracers). He would, however, kill any imperial patrols he comes across, for payback from Helgen. He aims to destroy both factions, neither of which he feels deserve their authority or military strength, but he would avoid crushing the Legion entirely, for he might be able to usurp all of the Empire's strength after they've taken over Skyrim. Apart from that, take up any quest which lets the Night Usher meet new people, make connections, collect artifacts of power, unlock new magic or gain knowledge. This certainly includes Lost in the Ages, a long but fulfilling quest which grants access to the Aetherial Crown, a piece of jewellery we will use on important occasions. The Dark Brotherhood questline also sates the Night Usher's thirst for blood quite well, and nets the spiffy-looking Jester Boots.
As much as I hate to admit it, gameplay can get repetitive with the limited (but highly effective) arsenal of only 2 skills. So when you max out at level 25, feel free to pick up whatever skills you want. I’ll share my attempts at expanding it in my own playthroughs.
The Shadowmancer Setup: Sneak and Illusion
Stealth-heavy twist with powerful control and maneuverability. Sneak is already used in the build to some extent, so it isn’t too unusual to drop a few perks into it. Since I played on Legendary difficulty, x3 sneak shots didn’t feel broken, though perpetual invisibility did. Illusion combos perfectly with Sneak and allows you to silently sow discord among enemies or to raise fallen foes. It also feels like something the Night Usher would do, and the high-cost spells balance the build out. Key perks would include Deadly Aim, Shadow Warrior, Quiet Casting and Master of the Mind.
The Impure King Setup: Alchemy and Restoration
A slightly support-ish twist to the build. With proper preparation, any (non-undead) foe can be crippled with the proper poisons, and against foes resistant to poison, self-buffing potions are very handy. In addition, using poisons with positive effects on zombie minions buffs them. This can be upgraded to the next level by Restoration, allowing you to directly heal zombies and yourself, keep enemy spells at bay, counter undead enemies and use Necromage to turn our party of undead into super-steroided beasts. Key Perks would include Physician, Benefactor, Poisoner, Concentrated Poison, Respite, Recovery, Avoid Death Ward Absorb and Necromage.
The Soulguzzler Setup: Enchanting and Alteration
A twist which emphasizes versatility and customization, and roleplays as a soul-searching (detect spells), soul-severing (paralysis) and soul-stealing baddie. Enchanting has perfect synergy with the Bound Bow’s soul trap effect, meaning that you’ll be harvesting souls by the dozens. Cost reduction can allow you to dispel and recast your bow multiple times in a fight, letting you raise zombies and cast Alteration spells more often. Alternatively, you could opt for increased Bow damage or stats. Alteration provides much-needed utility to a one-trick pony like the Night Usher. Detect spells keep you from getting caught off guard, while defensive perks, Flesh spells and Paralysis protect you from harm. Stability extends Slow Time as well, making your margin of vulnerability even shorter. Key perks would include Insightful Enchanter, Corpus Enchanter, Extra Effect, Magic Resistance, Stability and Atronach.
This build has been a concept I’ve been playing for a long time, but I’ve never bothered to put into organized writing. This is, after all, a build, which means you should be free to change things up as you want. Unfortunately I couldn't fit any Jojo memes in here. Hope you try the Night Usher out, and hopefully come up with your own ways to do more with less.