"Listen - the ash poet speaks...
Things fall apart; the Empire cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of submission is drowned." - from a prophetic dream of the Nerevarine
"Neither Hound nor Guar, nor Seed nor Harrow,
But Dragon-born and far-star-marked,..." - The Lost Prophecy
The Ash Poet:
The Ash Poet is a build based on an alternative headcanon. Ever play the Great House Dagoth mod from Morrowind? It's the basis of this build, and forms this alternative history of the Nerevarine and Morrowind.
Dagoth Nerevar (the Nerevarine after completing the GHD questline as a loyal member of the House, insert your favorite Nerevarine character here) and Dagoth Ur together liberated Morrowind from the Empire in the 3rd Era and restored worship of the Reclamations and ancestors, taking their places as the heads of the new Temple. They protected Lorkhan's heart from destruction when Red Mountain erupted, becoming trapped in the Heart chamber and greatly weakened for years. They were believed dead- until now.
Your character was created using Lorkhan's tools, the Heart of Lorkhan, and the blood and flesh of Dagoth Nerevar. Boethia, Azura, and Mephala gave you the power of the Thu'um to save the world from Alduin and make Skyrim a new home for the Dunmer (a return to an ancient elven homeland). You approach this first as a stealthy agent, but as you grow you become something transcedant, a master of mind magic, speechcraft, and dreams, all through the power of the Song of the Sixth House.
Suggested start: Drowning off the coast with no memory of your past. The idea is that you were sent by sea from Morrowind but were shipwrecked. You could also start as a member of the Dunmer Temple sent as an agent to Skyrim, but not knowing your true origins or your gift of the Voice yet.
After a bit of time passes in your game, or after your encounter your first dragons, you start having nightmares. You eventually understand them to be prophetic dreams from Dagoth Nerevar guiding you to become the Dragonborn, or as she/he calls you the Ash Poet, using the power of the Voice to save your people.
Endgame, use the Become High King mod to take over Skyrim after winning them over by saving the world from Alduin.
You may need to assassinate your way to the top. To become a thane in each hold except Whiterun, an existing thane must be removed to open a position, as the Jarls often say "there is room in my court for a new Thane" that implies that usually there isn't room. So - you need to make some.
Race: Dunmer, required for RP of the build.
Class: Ash Poet: (a.k.a. the Piper) You specialize in making everyone dance to your tune, your voice the sweetest ever to grace Tamriel. The Voice, Illusion, Conjuration, and fire magic all have a place in your arsenal, but the Battle Bard class from Ordinator's Speech tree lets you pull off your signature gambit, the Song, using Irresistible Dance.
The Song - First, summon aid with Conjuration or turn some of a group against the others with illusion spells. Then, wreathed in the fires of Red Mountain (cast Fire Cloak for protection), you pull out the Dancer's Pipe. Your music (Irresistible Dance) bewitches your enemies while ignoring your allies, forcing them to dance helplessly as they are slaughtered. If any remain, resurrect their former allies to continue the fight.
The Unexpected Guest - (Ghostwalk + Desperate Summon, both from Apocalypse Spells) Both of these are Novice spells, but can be cleverly combined with great effect. Find a safe spot not too far from your targets but out of line-of-sight. Cast Ghostwalk and sneak as quickly as possible over to your enemies. Before Ghostwalk's time runs out, cast Desperate Summon. This will summon a random powerful Daedra that is hostile to everyone including you. But, casting the spell will break Ghostwalk, teleporting you instantly to safety back where you started. Hide while the summon wreaks havok on your enemies!
Standing Stone: The Ritual for the shock and awe of reanimating a battlefield to continue the fight. The Serpent would make a good secondary choice.
Speech - Your Voice is the gift of the gods. You excel in song, the Thu'um, subterfuge, and in inspiring others to follow you. You are also adept at the art of disguise (Mod- Master of Disguise, ability to succeed in a disguise is based on factors including speech and illusion skill.) This also helps you amass wealth to fund your long-term goals. Perk this heavily. Ordinator Battle Bard tree first to get Irresistible Dance.
Sneak - Key to any Agent's skills. Heavily perked.
Illusion - Great House Dagoth traditionally communicates in dreams and visions, and can use dream sendings to manipulate the minds of others. Mind control is paramount here, especially fury and fear. See Ordinator in suggested mods section - includes several ways to increase the level caps on illusion spells. Ideally you are a manipulator, and everything you do is behind the scenes. Again, perk this heavily. This is your major damage dealer alongside Conjuration, and you deliberately do not focus on direct attacks.
Conjuration - The Dancer's Pipe is said to make even the dead dance, so you will focus mostly on undead and fire summons. Necromancy in combat is also a must - it's just so much fun! Your summons/reanimations are your major damage dealer.
Destruction - A Dunmer literally forged in the fires of Red Mountain, you cast fire spells almost without effort. However, all other elements elude you. Poison or disease magic is also allowed, if they are in this school in whatever spell mods you are using. Lightly perked. Fire cloak is a must here, giving you some protection while performing in battle.
One-handed - Primarily use a mace, these were often wielded by Dreamers of the Sixth House and leave a mangled body that sends a message to others. Daggers are also useful as a light, convenient weapon you can carry a few of with different enchantments. Dual-wield a dagger in your left hand and mace in your right to become a living terror, swinging the mace unnaturally quickly (calculated from the speed of the left-hand weapon). Take basic perks and dual-wielding.
Blade of Woe would work well, or Valdr's Lucky Dagger for use with Elemental Fury. Fighting in close quarters should be avoided except for sneak attacks. If you get stuck in an open fight, your goal is to deal as much damage as quickly as possible then get out, or to simply escape. Become Ethereal will be your panic button when your back is to the wall.
Light Armor - This build is definitely high-risk, so light armor gives you a better chance of actually surviving if caught in a stand-up fight. It also fits the aesthetic of the classic silver-tongued rogue we're going for in this build. Minimal perks needed here, but be sure to take the one that reduces the weight of light armor, as that will improve your sneaking while wearing it.
Pickpocket - Optional, but works well to let you get into the sneaky part of the build and has several subterfuge mechanics in Ordinator.
You begin a well-meaning Bard, traveling from town to town to perform and earn some money, and maybe find a healer who can help you recover your presumed lost memory. You may spend some time with the Thieves honing your agent skills, with your profession as a cover when you travel for jobs.
When your dreams intensify you at first are afraid, but they eventually convince/bewitch you into following the path laid before you (the main quest). You see the suffering of your people and are moved to take up the challenge to help them. Encountering word walls is a spiritual experience for you, in them you hear snatches if the Song of the Sixth House (recommend reading: Poison Song in-game book, explains this motif, though the book is obviously written by an anti-Dagoth narrator).
At some point you have to prove yourself as the Ash Poet by destroying your rival Dragonborn, Miraak. This sends you to Solstheim to pick up the Ash spells and other Morrowind goodies.
Great House Dagoth also partakes in cannibalistic rituals, eating corprus flesh. In Skyrim this translates into your feasting on your fallen enemies with the Ring of Namira, taking their power into yourself.
It is important to note that the Great House Dagoth does not see themselves as evil. Your role is to be the savior of the Dunmer from oppression by their ancient enemies the Nords.
Realm of Lorkhan - this mod simulates your being created by magic rather than born. You can set up custom starting equipment and spells this way as well. After entering the world, role-play of the drowning start is still suggested.
Ordinator - Used for improvements to Illusion, especially the dream skill branch, which fits perfectly with Great House Dagoth's lore of communication and mind control through dream sendings. Also adds lots of functionality to the Speech tree, including buffs to Shouts. Required for Irresistible Dance as well.
Thunderchild - Primarily to reduce shout cooldowns and increase the variety of Shouts.
Randomized Word Walls - Lets you access a variety of words without them being tied to specific dungeons and questlines, so your role-play can guide those decisions without weakening your Voice's arsenal.
Immersive speechcraft - Lets you convince people to do things for you, trade with you, give gifts (or bribes) to get on their good side, and even trick them for easier stealth kills or pickpocketing. All of this relies on speech skill checks. How better to accomplish a subtle assassination than luring a target down a dark alley first? Some of this is duplicated by Ordinator speech and illusion perks, so you may want to try things out without it first. My favorite part is the simple ability to ask for help if you're being attacked, something sorely lacking in the base game.
Lost Grimoire - Adds destruction spells that are designed to go with a stealth playstyle.
Apocalypse Spells - Adds a variety of illusion spells especially in the area of mind-control, and more interesting stealth spells than invisibility. Note that mind-controlled people won't set off runes, but they will once released. I recommend checking out the Shadeling for Hire series on YouTube for ideas of what you can do with the new arsenal. I particularly love using fury with shared trauma, so that one enemy will kill both another enemy and themselves at the same time.
Become High King - for the endgame of taking over Skyrim
Become a Bard
Master of Disguise - Adds a disguise system. This gives additional utility to speech, illusion and stealth, and opens a totally different approach to infiltration missions, perfect for an agent.
Illusion is awesome with Apocalypse spells- my test character at level 25 dual-cast pale shadow on a dragon, and it actually worked. And the illusion is even persisting after it killed the dragon. I have hardly ever seen anything so awesome in my Skyrim playthroughs than a ghost dragon circling the sky, still guarding the word wall it guarded in life. So I highly recommend Apocalypse Spells and either Ordinator for the Illusion perks that make it much more powerful when you feed on dreams.
I need help with the gameplay, but could use all kinds of feedback.
I want Speech to be the cornerstone of this build.
So, at first I was thinking of a bard or agent build with no magic whatsoever. Because your power is the Voice and music, all typical magic is simply closed to you. This would rely on the battle Bard class introduced in Ordinator, the "immersive speechcraft" mod to allow you to convince people to help you, and as many Shouts as possible to augment a light armored build. Using Master of Disguise heavily to infiltrate behind enemy lines would also be a key part of the build- there's no rush like walking carefully through a necromancer's lair in borrowed robes, trying to keep out of the light, holding your breath when someone walks past you too close.
However, the magic potential of Ash Magic mods or illusion with Ordinator, or a disease or curse build could make for a great pairing with the Great House Dagoth background. A twist on the Hexblade build on this site could also work really well, as Blight and weakening magic are trademarks of House Dagoth. So I'm not sure what the best direction is here.