Contest build: The Shieldmaiden


It’s  been long time since I’ve played Skyrim, even longer since i’ve publicly posted a build. But here I am nonetheless. Having been refreshing my knowledge of The Elder Scrolls Lore (religions too) I noticed an announcement about this contest. Religion has always been a big part of Tamriel citizens’ lives, and an even bigger cause for conflict and strife. I’ve seen many members deciding to try their hands at some niche and obscure deities. Perhaps to prove that the most widely-known, somewhat ‘vanilla’ Divines can inspire something interesting too I opted for Mara. Though it is not for me but for others to decide if I succeeded in this endeavor.

There is a mechanic in Skyrim meant for strategic use, namely shield bashing.  Designed to suport and add variety to melee combat.  This time i wanted to explore the possibilities of using it as main means of damage. And as it turns out, it is possible to be effective in combat using only your shield as your weapon. What's important, is that the amount of damage you do with your shield depends on it's armor rating. Targe of the Blooded is an exception, as it has a unique scripted effect similiar to bleeding damage offered by axes.



Mara, the Mother Goddess is a Divine primarily featured in the Imperial pantheon, whose sphere of influence are love, compassion, family, loyalty and agriculture. Priests of Mara serving in temples dedicated to this Aedra are traditionally the ones who administer marriage to engaged couples. Moreover, gifting an amulet of Mara to a person of one’s choosing while wearing one yourself is the most widespread way of engagement in Tamriel.

Over the two hundred years after Tribunal’s collapse, some of the temples dedicated to the Almsivi were abandoned and fell into disrepair, many became places of worship for Reclamations, while at the same time others were converted to temples of Divines, as the influence of the Imperial Cult grew.

The Shieldmaiden was born in Silgrad Tower in northern Morrowind, close to Skyrim border. Her mother was a Priestess of Mara, her father a caravan guard. Both parents loved each other dearly, and were very happy to see their family grow thanking Mara for the blessing of their daugter.

 As years went by, the girl became an apprentice at the local temple of Mara, her mother became her teacher. At the same time, her father, a strong warrior in his own right made sure that Nord values and traditions were upheld and cultivated. When the Shieldmaiden reached her teenage years, the Great War erupted. Some of the priests at the temple left south towards Cyrodiil to serve as healers to soldiers wounded in battle. The Shieldmaiden’s mother went away with the priests, and her father enlisted into the Imperial Legion. This was the last time she has seen them.

More time had passed, and the Shieldmaiden heard about the rising Stormcloak rebellion, and knew that her father’s will would be to defend their ancestral homeland of Skyrim and the freedom of religion. Following her mother’s footsteps she crossed the border through the tall and steep Velothi mountains, but ended up cought by the Imperial ambush and taken by carriage to Helgen.



Feet: Yellow monk boots, later college boots

Head: Diadem of the Savant

  •  (Reduce Spell Cost 5%)

Ring: Bond of Matrimony

  •  (Fortify Restoration 10%)

Neck: Amulet of Mara

  •  (Fortify Restoration 10%)

Body: Hooded or hoodless monk robes, then progress into higher-level robes of restoration

  •  (Fortify Restoration & Magicka Regeneration)

Shield: Highest armor rating shield you can find, then switch to Targe of the Blooded

  •  (Additional Bleeding Damage)

Hands: (optional) Gloves of the Pugilist, worn before you obtain Mage Armor perk in Alteration tree.

  •  (Fortify Unarmed Damage)

After you take the perk, disenchant them.

Whilst enchanting is not a perked skill, any effects of fortified magicka regen and boosting of unarmed damage should help. When you get your hands on enough filled grand soul gems it’s no a bad option to apply those effects on your circlet, gloves, and shoes slots. Pick up and wear gear with useful enchantments found in random loot, as long as it’s not armor. We’re going for an outfit that looks scholarly, priestly, or healer-y.



Race: Female Nord 

Attributes: 2 Health/1 Magicka/0 Stamina

Standing Stone: Atronach

Skills: Block, Restoration, Alteration

Dragon Shouts: Slow Time, Unrelenting Force, Dragonrend




This build uses only three skills: Block, Restoration and Alteration.

With Alteration you’ll be prepared for battle thanks to it’s protective uses. „Flesh” spells will be the only ones you’ll need to succeed.

Restoration is crucial towards keeping yourself and your followers alive. I didn’t use turn undead spells as they aren’t necessary and don’t facilitate the roleplay and lore of this build. Make sure you learn Healing Hands spell ass soon as possible.

Block is the foundation of this build. It will be the primary source for both your defense AND offense. Take all perks in this tree. As I found out when playtesting this build, prioritizing utility perks, such as Quick Reflexes or Deadly Bash is much more cost-effective than straight up maxing out Shield Wall first.

  • This perk loadout will allow for quite a few synergies to take place. Alteration's Stability perk will help extend the slow motion effect of Quick Reflexes via Slow Time shout (more on that in "Gameplay").
  • Atronach perk will stack with Atronach Stone, and Magic Resistance perk's effect will be compounded by Block skill's Elemental Protection.
  • In addition to that, Recovery from Restoration tree along with robes of Restoration will more than make up for slower Magicka regeneration coming from Atronach Stone. 



Live soberly and peacefully. Honor your parents, and preserve the peace and security of home and family.

- "Ten Commands: Nine Divines"

In spirit of Mara’s sphere of influence over family, you’ll want to get married and adopt a child.

Visit the temple in Riften often to pray at the altar of love, and give to beggars and others who need your help.

Having heard of the cruelties brought by war and strife throughout her life, the Shieldmaiden vowed to never raise a weapon against another. So she’ll use her right hand for healing magic or punching.

Remember to eat homecooked food at your house with your child, spouse, pet, follower and housecarl every now and then.

The Shieldmaiden will tend to wounded soldiers encountered in military camps, just as her mother did. 



This build was designed to fulfill the role of a tank, so your task is to absorb most of incoming damage as well as heal your followers, while they act as your dps.

As we’re at the topic of followers, you’ll want to have both a regular follower and a pet, to build your collective DPS, as your own won’t be very high.

Going into battle, you’ll want to Dual Cast Ebonyflesh when approaching enemies, then bash their heads in using your shield. When you run out of stamina, use a healing spell to replenish it. When you run out of both stamina and magicka throw some punches into the mix.

Keep your followers’ health in mind. Use Healing Hands on them whenever needed.

Go for mages and archers first. Having no ranged combat capabilities yourself, closing the distance should be your priority.

Against larger groups of enemies, try to keep as many of them as you can stunned, allowing your followers to dish out damage freely.

When facing dragons, keep them pinned down with Dragonrend, then damage them and interrupt their attacks using your shield.

When facing strong opponents who come in small groups, like giants and trolls, knock them to the ground using Unrelenting Force, then wail on them with your shield when they’re vulnerable.

  • Extended Slow Time: If you use the Slow Time shout when the slow motion from block skill’s perk Quick Reflexes is still active, the shout’s effect will last significantly longer. Moreover, it will be further extended by alteration skill’s perk Stability.
  • Food: Vegetable Soup boosts your Stamina and Health regeneration. Homecooked Meal has similiar effects, with the addition of boosting Magicka regeneration.

Both are especially useful when facing enemies who use Frost magic, which damages Stamina. Such enemies are very common in Skyrim.



I found Jenassa a really good option. When uniterrupted she can dish out a lot of damage by shooting her bow in quick succession. It worked well as long as I kept enemy aggro on myself.

Farkas is a good alternative, having maxed out two-handed skill. Especially if you give him a giant’s club. Same goes for Mjoll the Lioness.

Another roleplay- friendly choice is Erandur, the Dunmer priest of Mara found in Dawnstar (as part of Waking Nightmare quest).

I also had Meeko with me at all times, to accumulate even more dps. It doesn’t have to be him, but keeping a pet in addition to your regular follower helps significantly.



  • Main Quest: The Shieldmaiden will want to fulfill her destiny, as was intended by the Divines.
  • The Companions: Having been taught about Nord values by her father, the Shieldmaiden will want to continue cultivating them in herself. She will obviously decide to get rid of Hircine’s daedric curse of lycanthropy.
  • Civil War: The Shieldmaiden came to her ancestral homeland of Skyrim to protect her peoples’ freedom of religion, threatened by the Thalmor whose will is enforced by the Imperial Legion. As such, joining the Stormcloaks is the option she’ll go for.
  • Thane of Riften: The Shieldmaiden will deliver the residents of Riften from their skooma plight. Additionally she’ll want to buy a house there, to be closer to the temple of Mara.
  • The Book of Love: This one not only allows you to act as a champion of Mara, but also grants you additional Resist Magic passive ability.
  • Waking Nightmare: Help a priest of Mara in resolving a problem troubling the residents of Dawnstar. It also allows you to get Erandur as a follower.
  • College of Winterhold: There is no reason to pursue this questline, save for the access to robes of restoration. Those however, can be obtained when you enter the college during the MQ.



Closing thoughts:

As stated in the opening section, It’s been a pretty long time since I have played Skyrim, let alone made a character build for the game. Even though I am hopeful, I’m not sure it will be up to par in comparison with other contest entries. Same goes for the subject matter, Mara might not look very fascinating in comparison with lesser-known, more exotic deities.

 But above all, thank you for your time, checking this build out, and reading through to the end.

I also want to wish luck to all who participate in this contest.


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  • Interesting, your take and Mara and my take on the goddess are very different, but I appreciate you putting out there a build that showcases one of the Divines. I also love me a shield mage, so insta-like from me. Gameplay is straight forward and potentially quite fun. I also very much like that you keep the bonds of matrimony as a gear item. One of my builds uses that too. I'm interesting to see what you come up with for build images because I had several Mara-themed builds in the works and I may have some stuff you can use if you're hurting for images. 

    • I've got some pics but they might not be enough. If you have any spares, throw'em my way.

      • Yeah, I had a look and they didn't match your build aesthetic, sorry. 

        • That's fine, I guess I've had enough of them anyway :)

  • Okay, some formatting done and pictures added. As well as spellchecking. And thank you guys for the likes, gives a boost to motivation. I hope this build will be even better in it's final form.

    I want to see your feedback guys, especially regarding presentation, layout and formatting, as well as graphics.

    Not sure if it has all the elements/sections a build should have, either.

    And throw in any critique/advice that comes to mind.

  • I can't really give any critique as I have just started and because I think it is really good

  • This slid under my radar. I know I commented on the build when it was a WiP. So here goes, time to Long-Chapper. 

    What I enjoy about the build is its economy. Sometimes, a lot less is more and you do not help me be critical by making a shield basher/mage because that is arguably in my top two favorite ways to play (Archery is number 1). Targe of the Blooded is also one of my favorite shields and I will literally delve Alftand at level 5 to get it. It is worth the pain. The presentation is very clean and nicely formatted with good use of bullets. I like this build and with minor adjustments, I would probably play it, especially given that it's a vanilla build. A good choice for a Switch playthrough, so I'm happy that you are thinking multiple platforms here and giving us console peasants some love. 

    I'm gonna throw some things at you though. I'm confused as to whether you're a support or a tank? Or both? You mention your followers doing the dps, so I'm assuming both, but at the same time, you are discussing damage with your shield and absorbing hits and then healing, so there is a bit of confusion. I'm not saying you can't be both, I think that's fine, but I just see Mara based builds as more of a support function.

    While I appreciate the brevity of the backstory and your attempt to tie it into the offical start, I don't understand how this character got into trouble. She seems like a nice person who would probably be given access to the border if she were simply a traveler. I possibly would have spun the opening so that she had already joined the Stormcloaks. That way you can keep your opening, but her being there makes more sense. 

    It's hard not to select the Atronach stone, isn't it? It's my favorite stone too, but I often mod it so I get absolutely no regen, or I really try to get me some witbane, because I dislike that it is essentially a non-penalty stone whereas in other games, it really had a penalty. You also have the shield, so IMO, that plus the atronach stone is a little overkill. Once you have Elemental protection and all your shield perks, it really isn't necessary depending on your difficulty. Another, spicier choice would've been the Apprentice stone. I know ouch, but as a support build, your magic is for your follower, not for you, so the Apprentice would be an interesting choice that would also synergize well with the extra magic regen from the Restoration perks and your robes, making you a little magicka battery. Choosing to sacrifice yourself so that you can best serve your follower. In fact, I probably would've ditched flesh spells too and opted instead for paralyze. Immobilizing enemies makes it easier for your follower to kill them. Make it all about them and supporting, not you. Or, go a different direction, forego Alteration and pick up Illusion, using Call to Arms and Rally while using fear against their opponents. Besides, if they are doing their job properly, you won't take the hits and your shield perks will be more than enough. Mara would get down with that. Or, go darker and use the Ritual Stone, which has a lore connection to a darker side of Mara. Mara's Nord Totem is also represented as a wolf, an interesting choice for the Goddess of love, compassion, family, loyalty and agriculture. Very logical to the martial Nords, but severely watered down for the Imperial Pantheon. 

    And the above examples of the different directions you could have gone addresses the main issue I have with the build. It's really safe. Don't get me wrong, I like it, but it's very safe, both from a gameplay and rp standpoint. You also make several decisions that throw rp out the window in favor of gameplay. Atronach stone, some questionable questline choices, no explanations of how shouts fit into this build or why she's a Dovahkiin. Also, I love Jenassa, she and I go way back and yes, I cried like a baby when I lost her in a Dwemer Ruin, but, that being said, Jenassa is not a good follower for you, the woman is pretty much Ex Morag-Tong. Unless you plan on converting her, which would be interesting (she does really mellow out when you marry her and that can be a fantastic rp thing), stay the heck away. :D Erandur would've been my follower here, because he fits the rp and he sucks, lol. 

    Also, going to ask the hard questions. How did you level Block and Restoration? And how did you handle early game? I know whenever I play Shield mages and want Targe, I am doing some pretty risky shit at early levels to get that wonderful shield. Don't lie to me, joining the Companions is to get access to Miss Stonearm, am I right?  

    All in all, despite my criticism, I like this build. I love shields and you make me wanna delve into Alftand and go get me some Targe. Good luck to you. :D


    • Okay, this is quite a lot to address. Should've expected that from you, lol (nothing wrong with your style of writing mind you).

      Yes, I know this build is short, it's just my "dry" to-the-point writing style. Though it is often a hurdle difficult to jump over, I think it helps in character building sometimes, especially in keeping  the presentation concise and comprehensive.

      Also, it's as vanilla as it can get, because the only Skyrim I have is a copy for PS3 (and yes, I don't even have the DLCs).

      Well, it's a hybrid of tank and support. Because Skyrim followers' AI is as dense as it is, having some ways of my own to deal damage is necessary, especially to keep the build playable on higher difficulties (playtested on adept and up).

      Slow magicka regen is the reason why I don't play mages often in TES games, so taking Atronach was actually a bit of a challenge to me (especially in the early stages). Taking Apprentice would be decent for the start, before obtaining perks and gear that boost magicka regen. But then again, not a fan of switching standing stones willy-nilly ( I'd grab a mod for birthsigns if I could). 

      Paralisys and tampering with minds through illusion seemed a bit too morally-ambiguous or cruel for this good-natured character. As for Ritual  I didn't consider this character the necromantic type. How is it connected to Mara?

      I don't see how Atronach Stone or chosen quests throw roleplaying out the window. May I ask you to elaborate?

      As for Jenassa, she's the easiest-to-get starting follower one can get early on. As the build relies on followers rather heavily, it is pretty much necessary to get one early on. Not to mention, I'm almost certain she's the best archer follower outside of Aela and Cicero. Sure, she is a bit shady, but I don't remember her mentioning anything about Morag Tong. It can be role-played as showing her a brighter path of life. I'm not THAT big on roleplaying tho.

      As for the whole Dovahkiin and Shouts business, I did explain how every shout used fits into gameplay. And the title and abilities of a Dragonborn is supposed to be bestowed upon mortals by the Divines. If becoming a Dragonborn was written by them as the Shieldmaiden's destiny, she wouldn't deny their will, being the imperial cult priestess that she is.

      As far as the beginning of the game goes, when the PC is caught, Stormcloaks are in the middle of a military operation, so recruiting a new soldier then wouldn't make sense. If she were to be recruited by Ulfric before said military operation, re-joining them when starting Civil War questions wouldn't make sense either.

      With Civil War and Dragon Crisis going on, I'd imagine there being some kind of border check-ups if not outright closed borders. And border guards don't ask if you're nice or not. So I just assume she ran into the waiting Imperials at the same time as Stormcloaks did.

      When it comes to early game, I got Jenassa as fast as I could, then went to get Gloves of the Pugilist. I got Targe when the Main Quest led me to it, which coincided with getting Mage Armor perk and disenchanting the Gloves. So the items kind of balanced each other out.

      I levelled block and restoration naturally. Both went up at a decent pace, between bashing enemies and healing my follower.

      I joined Companions mainly to get Farkas, him being the most formidable  two-handed fighter in Skyrim. Tbh, I never ever used those non-quest-giving Companions in my life.

      But above all, thank you for reading through the build and giving such a thoughtful reply, I really appreciate it, a lot.

      • I don't understand why you think I'm criticizing the lenght of your build, I actually complimented it. I think you need to reread what I wrote. And frankly, I think you've answered a lot of your own questions about my criticism from the rp front with this exact quote. 

        "As for Jenassa, she's the easiest-to-get starting follower one can get early on. As the build relies on followers rather heavily, it is pretty much necessary to get one early on. Not to mention, I'm almost certain she's the best archer follower outside of Aela and Cicero. Sure, she is a bit shady, but I don't remember her mentioning anything about Morag Tong. It can be role-played as showing her a brighter path of life. I'm not THAT big on roleplaying tho."

        Do you understand what you're saying here? You're not thinking roleplaying and it shows in your build. Many of your choices, Jenassa being the most defined example, revolve around what are the most effective gameplay choices for your build and I get that. Of course we want to make effective gameplay choices, but they are not necessarily good choices for rp within the context of the build competition theme and you're going to be judged on that as well. In that regard, I think my answers on how to improve this build from an rp perspective are quite clear.  I have at least given you some options. Here is a lore discussion about Mara and the Ritual stone. 

        Mara and the Ritual Stone

        The thing is that yes, you are explaining all your rationales about your build to me and it is certainly helpful, but perhaps think on it this way. Would you even need to explain it to me if it were actually in the build? Builds are about the communication of your vision for a playthrough. Yes, there can be too much detail, but there can also be too little. It's about striking a balance. I mean, I absolutely hated that the GoT thrones creators spent half their time explaining Season 8 to me, what their intentions were. Whenever an interview with them came on, I was like then why didn't you put this in the damn show? 

        You are over thinking the concept of Illusion, or perhaps stuck on a single perception of Illusion. Is it a bad thing to instill courage upon your followers if it wins the battle? Support, can come in multiple forms, both body and mind and it seems to me that Mara is quite concerned with our mental health. She encourages marriage, love, both of which are concepts that contribute to mental health.

        Like I said, these are just thoughts, take what you want from them.  

        Tamriel Vault - Mara and the Ritual Stone
        Elder Scrolls and Fallout community: character builds, lore, discussions and more. What is the connection between Mara and the Ritual?  Is there some…
        • "Yes, there can be too much detail, but there can also be too little. It's about striking a balance. I mean, I absolutely hated that the GoT thrones creators spent half their time explaining Season 8 to me, what their intentions were. Whenever an interview with them came on, I was like then why didn't you put this in the damn show?" - pretty sure this is a criticism of the length of this build. Which is fine, I get it.

          As for rping and Jenassa, pretty sure I get where you're coming from, but to me it was clear from her dialogue that even if she used to be some kind of assassin, she abandoned her ways to become a simple mercenary. And I haven't heard from her any dialogue mentioning her being a member of Morag Tong, Dark Brotherhood, Thieves Guild or any other shady organization. I admit, I don't have encyclopedic knowledge of ALL of her possible dialogue lines. But maybe I'm just uninformed. I saw her as a simple mercenary, this is how she presents herself, and I don't see anything morally ambiguous about a worshipper of Mara hiring a simple mercenary.

          And believe me, I do think about roleplaying when building a character. If I didn't I'd choose Cicero over Jenassa in a heartbeat. After all, his skills are higher making him a more useful follower.

          When it comes to the Ritual stone, the discussion (a rather fascinating one) is hanging on conjecture derived purely from naming of two spells (or powers if you want to get technical) that aren't even in the game at hand.

          Again, I truly am immensely thankful for your insight, and your time.

          And I am aware our visions might not be fully compatible. So in spirit of mutual respect sometimes we just have to agree to disagree.

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