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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        • I'm not sure there is reason to be salty, tbh.

          I never said your build was "just" about telling a story. I believe the difference in approach I mentioned earlier lies in putting different amount of emphasis on different elements of a build. You might call it imbalance, I will call it variety.

          I was avid in voicing my impressions, because providing another set of eyes to view both strong as well as weaker points through (and critique naturally resulting) is encouraged here and the reason this very community exists, it's also that through this process we're supposed to get better at what we do.

          I am saddened to hear that you don't see it going anywhere, but I still hope you as a character builder (and a member of this community at large) will get wherever it is you want to get. Cheers!

    • "Every worshipper of Mara is a pacifist" - the Maran Knights would like to have a polite but violent word with you! lol

  • I dig this build. I am a sucker for shields since they are cool as hell and I also had a go at a smiter build way back. I really appreciate the proposed aesthetic and overall character concept.

    You touch on it a bit but the no stamina investment - I assume your mention of veggie soup is your response to this? Even with respite going to work with healing spells it can get ca-razy annoying to keep popping healing spells for depleted stamina especially with only 100. I assume the mention of veggie soup is the answer! Deadly bash is actually not that bad when it comes to damage which is hilarious and awesome at the same time.

    The minimal skill investment is really cool and the whole role of a support build that can bash and distract and tank is a fun one especially being light on your feet with robes.

    As someone who had a Mara build in the works with a different approach I think this is a fun focus on her.

    • Casting restoration spells to restore stamina often wasn't that bothersome because only one point is enough to perform a bash, so I mostly used ones that are cheap on magicka. Besides, I was already throwing restoration left and right anyways, to keep followers in good shape. And it fits right into micromanagement themes of the build.

      As for soup, I treated it mostly as a 'oh crap!' panic  button when things were going downhill way too fast.

      Deadly bash make for a significant difference but even after taking this perk, fighting anything like a a mid-rage draugr or more powerful made for a long and kinda boring grind of slowly chipping health down (especially on master and legendary). Which is where followers and said micromanagement come into place.

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