Greetings fellow Forge connoisseurs and thank you for checking out my very first build for the Skyforge. Coming up with the build recipe was simple, cram all my favourite skills from Skyrim in a blender and observe the mushy contents. The result was a very exciting build that was familiar to me yet fresh and full of gameplay potential. After some subtle seasoning with the ‘Vokrii – Minimalistic Perks of Skyrim’ by Enai the build really started to come together, but if all those nasty additives aren’t for you I consider the build to be very vanilla-friendly so if there is demand for it I am happy to add on my vanilla recipe for good measure. Food analogies aside I present to you my ‘Soul-Shaper’ build… Bon appetite.
I have always enjoyed playing hybrid characters who utilise unlikely skill combinations and this build is no different. The Soul-Shaper is, in many respects, the quintessential warrior but he maintains a crucial edge in battle through the use of various magical abilities. He favours Heavy Armour to protect himself while wielding practical Two-Handed weapons like Battle-axes and War-hammers to crush and hack his way through his foes. His steely resolve is bolstered by Alteration spells that not only enhance his durability but can also prepare him for all encounters with extra magic resistance and the ability to paralyse his foes with pure fear.
Conjuration and Enchanting are the most important utilities that the Soul-Shaper possesses. He is obsessed with attaining powerful enchanted artefacts and in imbuing his own equipment with magical properties to protect or empower him in battle. In order to pursue his quest for power he requires souls and his knowledge of Conjuration is how he achieves this. The ability to command the recently deceased to aid him in battle and trap the souls of creatures, Men or Mer who cross his path makes him a highly dangerous individual. He is also skilled in Alchemical practices that allow him to restore his vitals in combat and enhance his abilities where necessary.
As a harvester and ‘Shaper’ of souls he embraces the title of Dragonborn and his new-found ability to absorb the esscence of ancient dragons. He will use several shouts and powers that aid him in battle and fit nicely into his combat style.
I kept this rather open-ended due to the character being either an Orc or Nord so you can invent your own reasons for some of his actions but The Soul-Shaper is, at heart, a scholar who has been shaped and twisted by the horrors of The Great War. He no longer cares about the squabbling of nobles and doesn’t entertain the notion of involving himself in more petty conflicts. He prefers to look at the bigger picture rather than argue semantics; this is best exemplified by his use of Necromancy. Considered to be evil and abhorrent by many the act of Necromancy is certainly a questionable practice but the Soul-Shaper views it as a tool to be used. He harnessed the power to reanimate the undead during the Great War after being exposed to so much death and destruction and thought of no more fitting way to punish the Aldmeri Dominion than to use their own soldiers against them.
Unable to practice his art in public he lives a solitary life on the road, not caring much for the troubles of others and often avoiding the major cities, he tends to trade mainly with caravans or the factions he affiliates with. His main pursuit is to achieve a greater understanding of the magical world and the The Dragon Crisis provides an excellent opportunity to do this. Once he learns of his Dragonborn abilities it will become a priority for him to explore the ancient Nordic barrows and learn everything he can about Dragons, the Dragon Cult and their ancient language. He will also take any opportunity to explore lost worlds and fascinating locations such as Dwemer ruins.
He avoids personal attachments to people and sees them primarily as a means to an end but he isn’t callous and unfeeling, he wont actively seek to break the laws of Skyrim or intentionally cause harm to innocents. The Soul Shaper will seek out and keep as many artefacts and items of magical power that he finds, even if he doesn’t personally use them. Being the gatekeeper to such precious and important items ensures they are used purely for study and the advancement of knowledge. He will also be an avid book collector, aiming to build his collection and spend most evenings in his Arch Mage quarters reading and studying. I also play with 'Survival Mode' and because there is no health regeneration food such as vegetable soup or venison stew become invaluable, hence the Soul-Shaper's first passion is cooking and that led him to explore the practice of Alchemy. The 'Magical College of Winterhold' mod adds a whole wall dedicated to growing plants and other ingredients, the Soul-Shaper happily tends his garden and grows most of his own ingredients for food and potions.
Vokrii - Minimalistic Perks of Skyrim - I primarily use this perk overhaul because it tows a fine line between making quality of life changes without detracting too far from the vanilla experience. There are perks in Vokrii that do improve the build substantially but I originally tested this build with vanilla perks and it worked well so it's not essential but desired.
Magical College of Winterhold - This mod greatly enchances the College to be more interactive and seem like an actual place of study. I spent hours growing my food and ingredients, reading books and interacting with many of the new College features. I highly recommend this mod.
Survival Mode (CC) or Other Survival Mods (Frostfall/Ineeds etc) - This is just a personal preference suggestion, I liked to spend most of my time in the wilderness so battling the elements or disease and placing emphasis on skills like Alchemy and cooking to stay alive improved my roleplay experience.
Race: Nords & Orsimer – I chose to make my Soul-Shaper a Nord because they start with a stat bonus to Two-Handed, have innate Frost Resistance and possess the Battle Cry power ability which all prove very useful, especially in the early game. An Orc could make for a more optimised Soul-Shaper because of their starting bonus to Heavy Armour, Enchanting, Two-Handed and the Beserker Rage ability.
Main Quests/Factions: The Soul-Shaper is not interested in petty politics and will reluctantly broker peace between the Empire and Stormcloaks in order to deal with the greater threat of Alduin. He will also be very sceptical of the Blades and not want to become Delphine’s dogsbody. The Soul-Shaper will embrace the title of Dragonborn, complete the main story and will start the Dragonborn questline after defeating Alduin. There are only two factions he will take an interest in: -
College of Winterhold – Naturally the Soul-Shaper wishes to expand his knowledge and mastery of Alteration and Conjuration, in particular. He will initially not appreciate being treated like an understudy and prefer to conduct his studies independently while accessing their services occasionally for spells, books and soul-gems. He will mostly tolerate the College and its’ residents to advance his own self-interest but when fate thrusts him into the limelight and his actions are rewarded by the College he will eventually see the Mages there as colleagues and fellow scholars that he wont mind aiding from time-to-time.
Dawnguard – The Soul-Shaper is initially sceptical of this band of self-righteous vigilantes but he will be curious enough to investigate the recent escalation in vampire attacks. It is also likely that the Soul-Shaper himself has encountered less than friendly vampires on his travels and suss out that the threat is more serious than people realise. He will side with the Dawnguard, regardless of his views on vampirism, because it’s clear that Harkon and his followers are deranged lunatics that present a clear threat to Skyrim and himself. The Soul Cairn will be a valuable expedition for the Soul-Shaper for obvious reasons and he will learn to use undead summon spells in desperate situations.
Stat Spread: Levels 1 to 30 (Magicka 2 / Health 1 / Stamina 0) – I recommend prioritising Magicka in the early stages as levelling your magic skills in the early game will require you to cast a lot of spells. By level 30 you should have the perks that reduce the cost of spells drastically and thus should not need to put many more points into Magicka. I would always put the odd point into Health for good measure as the Soul-Shaper will often be exposed to ranged attacks and heavy armour might not always be enough.
Stat Spread: Level 30+ (Magicka 1 / Health 1 / Stamina 1) – Now it is time to give the neglected Stamina pool a wee boost, you can get away with having little stamina in the early game but as the enemies get spongier the more important your Two-Handed power attacks become. Your Magicka pool should be large enough by now and aided by cost reduction perks/enchantments, therefore you shouldn’t need to invest as many points into Magicka. You only need enough to cast higher level spells.
The Ritual Stone: The power to raise every corpse in the character’s immediate vicinity is potentially devastating in combat, swarming your foes with the very minions they ordered to kill you is deeply satisfying and demonstrates the Soul-Shaper’s superior understanding of Necromancy.
Shouts: The Soul-Shaper will endeavour to seek knowledge of as many shouts as he can find and will use quest-related shouts like ‘Dragonrend’ when necessary but the shouts that really make this build special are as follows: -
Battle Fury – Provided your thralls don’t have enchanted weapons their attack speed is increased, making them even more dangerous in combat.
Dragon Aspect – Gives you a bonus to power attacks, armour rating, fire/frost resistance and makes your shouts stronger with faster cooldowns. Why wouldn’t you use it?
Drain Vitality – Any means to absorb Stamina or Magicka is valuable to the Soul-Shaper, even better you steal the victim’s life essence to do so.
Soul Tear – The Ritual Stone in Shout form, basically. It does 300 damage and if enemies are killed by it their soul is absorbed into any spare soul gems you have and the victim’s corpses are risen to fight for you for 60 seconds.
Powers: The Soul-Shaper will also possess powers that aid him in battle once a day, two of which are obtained through the Dragonborn DLC .
Battle Cry (Nord) – The Soul-Shaper has the ability to let out a blood-curdling cry that strikes fear into weaker enemies, especially handy when severely outnumbered.
Beserker Rage (Orc) - Endure serious punishment and deal double damage for 60 seconds, more than enough time to fell every last one of your foes.
Bones of the Earth – Ignore 80% of all physical damage for 30 seconds. This is given to the player upon cleansing the Earth Stone.
Root of Power – All spells cost 75% less for 60 seconds, this is especially handy in longer fights. This is bestowed on the player after cleansing the Tree Stone.
Skills and Perks
Two-Handed – The vast majority of the damage dished out by this build is by the Soul-Shaper’s skill with war-hammers and battle-axes. The key is to charge in and deal as much damage as possible while enemies pre-occupied with your undead minions, be as aggressive as possible and don’t stop swinging until all your enemies are sliced and diced or reduced to a mushy pulp. The perks you require should be pretty straightforward, anything that increases damage and the effectiveness of Warhammers and Battleaxes is essential but some notable mentions are as follows:-
Death or Glory - Two-Handed power attacks become stronger when health drops below 50%, the more punishment the Soul-Shaper receives the angrier and more ferocious he gets.
Warmaster - Forward power attacks have a 25% chance to paralyse targets, the blows are delivered with such force that you can knock foes to the ground before finishing them off.
Shattering Strike - Power attacks interrupt spell-casting, paralyse the caster and silence them for 5 seconds. This is invaluable against more cowardly mages who rely only on magic.
Conjuration – Hammers and axes are great but the crux of the Soul-Shaper’s arsenal comes from his ability to reanimate fallen enemies to serve a final purpose before their soul is absorbed or sent on its’ way, to fight alongside our antagonist. When there is a distinct lack of corpses available the Soul-Shaper can also draw on the powers of the Soul Cairn to call on undead summons. Eventually he will be able to reanimate or summon two allies that will take the brunt of the damage in combat and engage/distract enemies that are at distance. Putting perks into 'Mastery' is essential as is investing in perks that increase the effectiveness of undead thralls but here are some more perks that will aid you tremendously.
Rift Summoner - The Soul-Shaper can summon Bonemen from the Soul Cairn either three times as far away or at any distance meaning that the Soul-Shaper can be an archer's worst nightmare. The supposed safe distance that archers have is obliterated when a Boneman can be summoned literally inches away from them.
Blood Zombie - Summoned and raised undead absorb 10 points of Health per second from opponents in melee range, meaning they not only engage the Soul-Shaper's foes but also drain their life-force.
Necromaster - Undead raised with Dread Zombie or Dead Thrall get bonus Health, Magicka and Stamina based on their level, and you can even give them equipment and weapons to use. The Soul-Shaper may choose to give powerful items to his thralls to make them even more deadly in combat.
Twin Souls - Being able to summon or raise an additional minion means that the Soul-Shaper can be flanked by at least two minions at all times.
Alteration – The Soul-Shaper braces himself for combat by using flesh spells to bolster his defences from ranged attacks or when heavily outnumbered, he will also learn how to manipulate the physical world to seek out potential threats, paralyse targets and even augment his body to resist magic spells. He will utilise all of the flesh, hide and paralysis spells and supplement them with the detect life and dead spells to spot potential threats before they occur and plan his approach to each fight. The paranoid Soul-Shaper is never too careful and prepares for every eventuality.
Magic Resistance - This perk increases Magic Resistance by up to 30% and will greatly aid the Soul-Shaper against magical foes.
Alter Self - Choose an attribute to raise by 50 points and two resistances to increase by 25% to further bolster his durability and sustainability in combat.
Atronach- Gives the Soul-Shaper a 30% chance to absorb incoming spells, replenishing his Magicka in the process.
Enchanting – An extremely useful skill that allows our Soul-Shaper to work his craft, weaving the souls of the fallen into powerful artefacts and using them enhance his own equipment and weapons. He is fascinated with the use of souls as a power source and as a way of protecting himself from Skyrim’s dangers. He will apply a plethora of enchantments to his equipment but the most effective ones for the Soul-Shaper's combat style are those that absorb Health and Stamina from foes as they enable him to sustain himself in battle without relying too heavily on potions.
Thunderstruck - Enables weapon enchantments to be 50% stronger when delivered by a power attack. Just imagine Volendrung leeching 120 Stamina per hit, it ensures that as long as the Soul-Shaper is swinging and doing damage he can fight all day.
Extra Effect - Placing two enchantments on the same item is again a very powerful technique in the Soul-Shaper's arsenal. The Longhammer technically doesn't have an enchantment even though it swings as quickly as a Greatsword, putting two enchantments on it makes it potentially one of the best weapons in the game.
Heavy Armour – The Soul Shaper will take a lot of punishment, primarily from ranged enemies that will be tough to reach before you are able to cast spells like Paralysis or use Shouts. Heavy Armour is essential for protection against these challenges and to maintain the Soul-Shaper’s prowess in close-quarters combat. Perks in this skill are again quite straightforward but I would recommend using:-
Reap the Whirlwind - Taking an incoming hit in all Heavy Armor enrages the Soul-Shaper and increases his attack and critical damage against the attacker for 5 seconds.
Tower of Strength - Take 25% less damage from power attacks and bashes if wearing all Heavy Armor.
Face of the Mountain - One of my personal favourites, it gives the Soul-Shaper a 25% chance to shrug off a power attack and knock the attacker off his feet with sheer indomitable strength.
Alchemy – This skill ties the build together as a primary source of income to fund his adventures and to keep him alive in combat. The Soul-Shaper will focus on crafting potions that will restore/increase Health, Stamina and Magicka or buff skills like Two-Handed or Conjuration.
Benefactor - Beneficial potions you make are 25% stronger, pretty essential as this covers the majority of potions you will use.
Stimulants - Regenerate an extra 2% of your total Magicka and Stamina per second under the effects of a beneficial potion or food.
The Soul-Shaper should seek out these very useful artefacts in his travels at the earliest opportunity:-
Volendrung - Absorbs 50 Stamina per hit, ensuring the Soul-Shaper will never tire and land relentless power attacks on his foes.
Champions Cudgel - 50% chance for each element of fire, frost and shock to do 25 points of damage. A powerful enchantment and high base damage.
Steel Battleaxe of Fiery Souls - Sets the target on fire for 15 points and if the target dies within 7 seconds it fills a soul gem, almost essential for early game soul harvesting without having to constantly cast Soul Trap on targets.
Dawnguard Rune Hammer – Excellent against undead foes, bashing places a rune that causes 50 Sun damage.
The Longhammer – A powerful, light Warhammer that can be swung at eye-watering speed. High damage output is always good and can be enchanted like any other weapon for extra utility.
Ahzidal's Ring of Necromancy – Whenever a creature you have reanimated takes damage, they explode for 50 points of Frost damage and die.
Ahzidal's Armour Set - The Breastplate enchantment has a chance to paralyse enemies and wearing any four peices of the set will boost Enchanting by 10 points.
Ancient Helmet of the Unburned - Reduces fire damage by 40%
Helm of Yngol - Increases frost resistance by 30%
The Gauldur Amulet - Gives +30 points to Health, Magicka and Stamina.