This build is the result of a longtime desire to build a spellsword in Skyrim who didn’t use the trademark skills of Destruction or Conjuration. Instead, this build combines Restoration and Illusion which is an unlikely match made in heaven. The weakness of Illusion magic is that until late game it is useless against undead enemies who seem to make up half of Skyrim’s population. Restoration, however, is beastly at decimating the undead and only suffers from an inability to damage living enemies which Illusion covers perfectly. Thus, between these schools, the spellsword is equipped to handle any enemy he may encounter. Add in Dawnbreaker, one of the best-looking swords in the game, and a strong moral sense of good and the result is a beautiful mix of a spellsword and a paladin/crusader capable of bring justice to all evil doers in Skyrim, both living and undead.
“Tamriel, Dawn’s Beauty in the language of the Aldmeris. But amongst the beauty, evil lurks in the shadows… evil you will cleansing with Divine light.”
“It’s a pretty cold night tonight. Think you will be able to hold up with that Mer blood? Skyrim isn’t quite as mild as ol’ High Rock.” You look over Mjoll and chuckle. You’ve learned she only makes those jokes with her friends and after all the adventures the two of you have seen, you two are definitely that. “Don’t forget that Mer blood is mixed with Nedic blood and they inhabited Skyrim long before you Nords.” you respond. She grins and you continue smoking you pipe while Mjoll strokes the fire and looks out into the Skyrim night sky. “Hard to believe that before we joined forces in Riften I’d given up adventuring. It’s good to be back out in the wilds of Skyrim. You know, you have never told me much about your life before coming to Riften outside of learning you were Dragonborn.” Mjoll says fairly casually, but you can sense she is driving at something. “You never asked me.” Mjoll shifts her weight on the log where she is sitting, before answering, “Well, most people with you magical and blade skills end up sell swords or body guards for the rich and do quite well for themselves. Instead, you are sitting around a campfire in the middle of nowhere after another bandit chief and like always you probably won’t even collect the bounty. I’ve always wondered why.” You sit quietly for a minute staring into the fire and puffing on your pipe before responding.
“Believe it or not, I was actually a Vigilant of Stendarr a long time ago.”
“So that’s why you are so talented at Restoration magic.”
“That and my skills with a blade were taught to me by my father as training to join the Vigilants. He was a second generation Vigilant and one of the most renowned Restoration mages in the entire guild.”
“But what about your skill at Illusion magic? That’s not something the Vigilants use.”
“That I learned from my mother. She was a priestess of Mara and would use Illusion magic to help calm frantic people who came to her in need. It was frowned on by the other priest but no one ever banned her from doing it since she only used it to help people and would always tell them when she used it on them. She taught me the basics of using Illusion magic to calm people and with some study I have expanded that into what I know today, which as you have seen, serves me well.”
“So if your father and grandfather were both Vigilants, why aren’t you still with the order?”
“I got tired of watching the Vigilants turn a blind eye to evil when it wasn’t done by daedra or the undead.”
“What do you mean?”
“Most citizens of Tamriel believe the Vigilants seek to make Tamriel a better place by hunting all manners of evil but this isn’t truly the case. In my last mission with the Vigilants we were sent to investigate a village that had been attacked and the rumor was it had been daedra worshippers and their minions. When we arrived it was clear the attack had been by a group of local bandits and not daedra. The leader of the survivors said he knew where the bandit’s camp was and begged us to bring justice to these bandits because they threatened to come back unless the survivors paid them, but the survivors had nothing left. Their cries fell on deaf ears because our captain ordered we returned to Vigilant headquarters immediately since there were no undead or daedra involvement. Seeing the look of dismay on the survivors’ faces upon hearing we would not help was more than I could take so I stepped forward and challenged the captain saying that we had to help these people. He looked at me sternly and replied that the Vigilants are daedra and undead hunters, not bandit hunters and repeated the order to head back to headquarters. I looked at the rest of the Vigilants and they all shook their heads and started to mount their horses to leave. That’s when I saw the true flaw of the Vigilants. Their main goal wasn’t to keep the people of Tamriel safe; it was to destroy that which they believed heretical. And while those goals can overlap, they often do not as I was witnessing. I looked at the captain and said that I wasn’t going back to the headquarters; I was going after the bandits with anyone who would come with me. He shook his head, mounted his horse and left with all the other Vigilants. Not one of them stayed to help. I healed as many of the survivors as I could and then headed for the bandit camp along with a couple of their strongest men. We surprised the bandits while they were drunk and quickly brought them to justice. Once it was done, I considered going back to the Vigilants but decided that, unlike the Vigilants, I couldn’t ignore evil just because it wasn’t done by daedra or undead. So I struck out on my own hunting all evil doers. Living, daedra or undead, it makes no difference to me. When I heard dragons were being seen in Skyrim I came here to face this threat. After learning I was Dragonborn I ventured to Riften and came across an adventurer trying to reform the corrupt city and knew someone that crazy would make a great partner because we will probably both get ourselves killed in our crazy quest to rid Skyrim of evil and corruption.”
Mjoll, who has been listening intently so far, laughs at this last comment and replies, “We do make a crazy team.” The two of you sit quietly for some time listening to the fire and the other sounds of the night. After finishing your pipe, you get up, “I’m going to hit the hay. Need my rest if I am going to take on that bandit camp tomorrow and keep you out of trouble at the same time.” Mjoll quickly shoots back, “I better get some rest as well so I can keep you from being overrun with bandits. Sometimes I wonder how you even survived this long without me.” You chuckle, even with her sass, it’s good knowing Mjoll has your back.
Race: Breton – In addition to feeling like the perfect race from a lore/traditional skills standpoint, the 25% magicka resistance is extremely helpful.
Morality: Good – The Crusader seeks to rid Skyrim of all evil. While he is kind toward the citizens of Skyrim and will frequently aid them in many ways, the Crusader is relentless toward evil-doers and brings justice to them with a relentless conviction that can sometimes be borderline brutal.
Standing Stone: Mage Stone >>> Lord Stone (Early game the Mage Stone helps Restoration and Illusion level equally with One Handed and Light armor and late game the Lord Stone helps tank in light armor with extra armor rating and magic resistance.)
Attributes: 2:3 Magicka:Health – This gives the build a nice Magicka pool but focuses more on health since the Crusader is not primarily a caster. Stamina is unnecessary thanks to the Respite perk.
Blessings: All blessings from the Nine Divines. As part of roleplaying, I prayed at every shrine of the Divines I encountered. This seemed fitting for a former Vigilant and the son of a priestess.
-This is the Crusader’s main offensive skill and boost the power of Dawnbreaker wielded in his right hand.
Restoration – Wielding this holy magic you restore your life force and that of those you lead while also purging Skyrim of the undead by the sun’s cleansing light.
-This school of magic makes the build an absolute tank in battle thanks to healing spells. The Crusader also makes strong use of the sun fire spells introduced by the Dawnguard DLC to destroy the undead.
Light Armor – When you left the Vigilants you abandoned your robes knowing they wouldn’t be enough to protect you from the evils you will face.
-This was chosen over heavy armor because I wanted this builds ability to tank to come from Restoration healing spells and not armor. Light armor provides a nice balance of protection and mobility but requires healing spells to tank.
Illusion – You have learned to manipulate the minds of the weak to drive them mad by their own guilt, but even in the minds of the strong you can inflict terror.
-This skill allows the build to dominate living evil doers using frenzy and fear spells. However, since Illusion can become one of the most overpowered skills in Skyrim when unchecked, the build has a few limitations to make sure this character supplements his combat with illusion without becoming a master illusionist.
-Frenzy spells: these are perked in such a way that limits maximum level of effectiveness to prevent these spells from being overpowered. The result is the Frenzy spell can affect any enemy level 24 and below meaning most enemies except bosses can be frenzied at the builds final level of 40. This simulates that the Crusader can manipulate the minds of the weak to drive them mad with guilt but stronger enemies are immune to these illusions.
-Calm spells: These spells are only used on enemies you do not wish to fight or citizens you accidently hit during vampire attacks (it happens). Never attack calmed enemies as that is not honorable.
-Fear spells: These are mainly used by the Crusader on enemies too powerful to for frenzy spells. Fear spells are great because they help with crowd control without being overpowered. This simulates the fear the Crusader strikes in the hearts of evil doers.
-No Dual Casting, Master of the Mind or Quiet Casting perks: These perks contribute a lot to illusion becoming overpowered and thus, are not used in this build.
Smithing – Just as a musician preserves his instrument, you keep your armor fortified and blade sharpened as they are your instruments of justice.
-This skill helps fortify the builds light armor and weapon of choice to keep them viable endgame. While I did max this skill for experience, I only took two perks and avoided smithing potions to prevent over-improving my gear.
Speech – Bretons have always been known for their diplomacy and way with words. You use this natural persuasion to help gather information about hidden evil… evil you will destroy.
-This skill is taken exclusively for the Persuasion perk as a part of roleplaying. Persuading someone to give you information that helps you in a quest to conquer evil is very satisfying and immersive.
Head – Morokie Dragon Priest Mask (this takes the longest to acquire of all the gear so until I had this, I used an Imperial Light Helmet)
Body – Dawnguard Light Armor (with the single pauldron)
Hands – Dawnguard Gloves
Feet – Dawnguard Boots
Necklace – Gauldur Amulet
Ring – Fortify Magicka Regen ring (best you can purchase)
Weapon: Dawnbreaker – This is one of the best looking swords in the game and is the perfect weapon for the Crusader with its turn undead effect. While the Crusader does not like Meridia since she is a daedra, he is willing to wield her weapon since it is empowered with cleansing holy magic. Even if he does not like the source, the Crusader can appreciate good magic when he sees it.
Spells: Grand Healing, Vampires Bane, Circle of Protection, Frenzy, Rout, Pacify, Rally
Shouts - As Dovahkiin, you use your thuum to maneuver and control the battlefield.
Whirlwind Sprint – This is the go to shout for large battlefields where you use it to close the gap on enemy mages/archers and put distance between you and frenzied enemies.
Unrelenting Force – On small battlefields, like caves, this replaces Whirlwind Sprint and allows you to push back enemies that try and overrun you.
Become Ethereal – Used only selectively, this shout helps with Dragon and Centurion battles to avoid their breath attacks.
Dragon Aspect – Used only in boss battles, this fortifies your armor, attacks and unleashes the true power of your thuum.
Gameplay with the Crusader is fast paced and very satisfying. He keeps Dawnbreaker is his right hand and switches between off-hand spells on the fly to the type of enemy he is facing, living or undead. By the nature of the Crusader’s skills, armor and race, he is pretty balanced and isn’t particularly weak to any certain enemy, except the stronger automatons but these are not frequently encountered in his adventurers. One constant aspect of gameplay regardless of enemy is the Crusader is constantly using healing spells in combat to keep not only restore his health but also his stamina. He will switch between healing and other spells seamlessly in combat since he is often fighting in the thick of things.
Undead enemies are the specialty of the Crusader. Thanks to the sun spells added by the Dawnguard DLC, undead enemies are fought using a classic battlemage set up, sword in the main hand and offensive sun spell in the offhand, switching to healing when necessary. Against undead warriors, the best tactic is to soften them up with a couple cast of Vampire’s bane before performing a Critical Charge with Dawnbreaker, which usually staggers them allowing for quick follow strikes which usually finishes them off. Undead archers are mostly handled using Vampire’s Bane since they are typically not that strong. However, for the tougher ones, use Whirlwind Sprint to close the gap once they were softened up some. Undead mages/conjurers are definitely the toughest enemy to face since they often summon frost atronachs and in ruins these can block doors and halls making it impossible to get to the undead enemy you are trying to fight. The best tactic for these is to either use the Whirlwind Sprint shout to navigate past the frost atronach so the Crusader can engage the undead mage. Sometimes this requires a tactical retreat to a larger area where he can sprint past the atronach. Against large groups, the best tactic is not to hang back but charge into the thick of it and attack the weakest enemies with Dawnbreaker. Killing a weak enemy can proc an explosion which can kill the weaker undead and turn any still standing. This is very powerful as it allows the Crusader to run down these undead enemies individually.
Living enemies are where the Crusader makes use of his illusion talents and his tactics depend more on the on the size of the battlefield than the type of enemy. In cramped or small areas, he will use Fear spells to scatter enemies so he can run them down one at a time and avoid being overrun. On large battlefields, he will use Frenzy spells to make the weaker enemies fight among themselves while he either focuses on the boss or a different group entirely. One key to using Frenzy in open combat is using the Whirlwind Sprint shout to create distance between you and frenzied enemies. Mages and archers actually make the best targets to frenzy since there is there is usually another enemy between them and the Crusader they will start attacking instead.
These are the enemies that can give the Crusader the most trouble as they are not affected by any of his spells. Therefore, his approach is to use tank using healing spells and the Become Ethereal shout helps you avoid attacks and navigate groups. This shout is especially vital to avoiding Centurions steam breath attack. Performing a Great Critical Charge while Ethereal is a great way to attack centurions and with some patience is very effective.
Dragons are pretty straightforward to fight. The Crusader keeps a healing spell in the offhand and uses either Become Ethereal or Whirlwind Sprint to avoid dragon’s breath until they land. At which point, he charges in with Dawnbreaker and power attacks constantly thanks to the Respite perk. Not the most elegant approach but very effective.
Main Questline – Aldruin the World-Eater, the greatest evil of our time, must be stopped and it falls to you to protect not just Skyrim, but all of Tamriel
College of Winterhold – You search out the college to enhance your skills as a mage but upon discovering the Eye of Magnus you must race the clock to protect Skyrim from this unknown evil
Dawnguard – Harkon must be stopped before he can block out the sun cursing all of Tamriel
The Forbidden Legend – You have heard whispers of this great evil thought to be vanquished. Beneath Sarthaal, you discover the truth and must now extinguish this ancient evil once and for all.
Destroy the Dark Brotherhood – Protect the citizens of Skyrim by eliminating this hidden terror
The Break of Dawn – Unlike a typical Vigilant, you are willing to align yourself with the “good” daedra Merida when the two of you have a common cause. You will not spread her religion of even regard her as a deity, but you will wield her blade to purge Skyrim of evil.
Blood on the Ice – No woman should fear the night, so you set out to find this mysterious killer
Dragonborn – Miraak enslaves the minds of Solstheim’s people. The only way to free them is to defeat Miraak, Dragonborn verse Dragonborn.
As seen in the backstory, I used of Mjoll the Lioness as a follower throughout my playthrough. While this is by no means necessary, I found it added a lot to the build and Mjoll is very fitting as a follower with her enjoyable commentary and morally good nature. Using Rally and Heal Other spells on Mjoll during combat added a nice teamwork element that felt very immersive and appropriate for a Crusader type character. I gave her a Dawnguard War Hammer and put her in Nordic Carved armor or Steel Plate armor with no helmet to achieve best look.
Closing Notes & Thoughts
This is one of my old builds so I wanted to put it up here for everyone to enjoy. It's a very fun build to play and I really like how it turned out. During my playthrough I took close to two hundred screenshots and it was tough narrowing it down to the ones I included in the build so I hope everyone really enjoys them. As always, please let me know if you see anything that needs editing or you have suggestions. Now go forth and rid Tamriel of all the is evil and vile!