"We orcs are not all barbarians you know. You have your rock-brained males but the females can be wise and educated. And unlike those snooty Altmer, we don't lay back and let natural magickal "talent" do all the work. We study, we build, and we delve deeper than any mere fireball-tossing wizard. We raise undead armies, and forge legends."
This happy necromancer is modeled on Sharn Gra'Muzgob from Morrowind, an Orc mage that you meet early in the main quest. I played my character as her granddaughter and namesake, come to Skyrim to study necromancy at the College and to study the ancient Dwemer, Nords, and Elves. You are a scholar and researcher, approaching magic as a craft. You forge weapons and armor, enchant artifacts, and build your own minions.
Gameplay revolves around tinkering and necromancy outside battle. In battle, use heavy armor and alternate between two-handed weapons (favoring bound battleaxe), and a one-handed weapon with a staff to circumvent your limitations with magic.
Conjuration- Ordinator perks, take everything in the Bone Collector branch except the last one for controlling a minion (which isn't as useful as it sounds, since you have limited actual control of the minion it's a waste of the perk).
Enchanting- Ordinator, go up the staff tree first, as well as scrolls.
Heavy armor, minor smithing, minor block, just the basic one or two perks in one and/or two-handed weapons.
(See Spellsword mod below for explanation of the custom enchantments.)
Battlecry: guantlets with bound Battleaxe enchantment. I used an orcish set as a nod to my heritage.
Technical note- When invoking Battlecry, always cast using a weapon in your *left hand*, leaving your right free to receive the bound weapon. It's two-handed, but the game seems to need the right hand free to equip it in particular. Otherwise the axe may be invisible and/or buggy. The problem resolves after the spell ends of course, but can be annoying.
Crown of Souls: circlet with conjure dire wolf familiar (Can substitute any ghostly summon here, and any jewelry slot, but found this one great relatively early in the game.)
Variety of circlets and rings with summons and a few direct damage enchantments. Runes are also a good choice as they can't be activated by your allies/minions. As an enchanter you're not bound to any school, and don't have to be able to even cast a spell to use it as an enchantment. Get creative!
Witch's Athame: Wicked-looking dagger with any enchantment you like, with the biggest soul you can manage. This will be the weapon you use to invoke your "Spellsword" spell enchantments from other items, so will be the battery providing the charge. Paralysis is a great choice, or a damage over time spell. I picked the Orcish dagger for culture and looks.
Necromancer's Amulet: obtained from Blood on the Ice.
Offensive staves (avoid AOE)
Conjuration robes -> Archmage's robes
Anything that decreases spell costs. Enchantment and staff casting costs are calculated from the magic cost of a spell, so decreasing that conserves charges.
Because this is a necromancy build, it needed some help to be viable, but the combination of these mods produced a very different gameplay experience that was both fun and challenging.
Character Creation Overhaul: Gives different races different starting stats, and lets you pick your class. This was key to giving me very limited Magicka reserves as an Orc. (Similar mods could accomplish the same thing, such as Disparity.)
Choice of mods: Any that make heavy armor interfere with spell casting. I use Skyrim Unleveled which includes this feature, but it's available in other mods and overhauls as well. This made the duality of prepping enchantments and minions ahead of time as a mage, then smashing heads more directly in combat more stark, providing a lot of interest to the build.
Spellsword: Allows you to bring back Morrowind style enchanting. You can enchant any spell you know onto any piece of equipment, then cast the spell with any enchanted weapon. With custom setup you can design the spells to use only enchantment charge, not your personal magic. (Select 0 magic cost, plus weapon charge and some stamina costs in the MCM.)
Warning- some modded weapons wouldn't accept Spellsword spell enchantments, so save before you spend a soul gem enchanting one with the spellslot, in case you can't actually apply the spell you planned.
Corpse Preparation: Perhaps the most key mod to this build. Mid-game you have to rely on your minions more in combat because of the mod's Soul Corruption mechanic sapping your strength, forcing you to stay back and rely on staves. The build gets much more powerful later (for me around level 30) once you have Soul Corruption under control, allowing you to switch back to more melee style in battle. You could play with only Ordinator, but the feeling of exploring multiple methods of necromancy and carefully crafting your minions really makes this build work. I also highly recommend the single-key-press minion controls of this mod, extremely convenient. If you want only one necromancy mod, use this one and skip the Ordinator tree.
Ordinator: for the bone collector Conjuration tree, enchanting staff and scroll perks, and smithing dwemer turrets. (The turrets are nice on dragons, and fit the role-play.) I recommend using the console to add the "bury/retrieve" spell that is somehow missing from the trees for your skeletons so you can be more discreet with them. It's a ritual-style spell, so it doesn't let you just whistle them up in combat, but it does get them out of your way in town.
Bone Collector keeps things rolling while slogging through the more labor-intensive early parts of Corpse Preparation, then the mods flip usefulness as the Ordinator minions aren't as strong as the higher-skill revenants you more carefully craft in Corpse Preparation.
Optional- Move It Dammit! : Helps with minions blocking your path.
Optional- Handcart: This made gathering heavy corpses and lugging around materials less annoying. You can tell your minions to pull it, so you can bring your altar and necromancy supplies with you on the road and don't have to haul bodies back "home" to work on them- just find a quiet hidden spot in the area where you find a body, like an empty bandit cave. (Make sure you install the "no merchants" version unless you like random nudists in your game! The mod is otherwise amazing.) I recommend limiting its use for balance as there doesn't appear to be any limit to the cart's capacity. Only using it to transport bones and your altars and necromancy supplies would probably be a good solution.
Optional- Any mod that adds scroll creation such as Spell Research or "ancient spells and necromancy and scribing desks" to enhance enchanting.
Optional- Spell Research adds significantly to the treasure-hunting scholar role-play. It lets you "study" spells and learn to create others like them even if you're unable to cast them. It also lets you learn magic effects from studying items you find while adventuring, which fits this character perfectly.
Not Recommended- Truly Undead: You may come across this if searching necromancy mods, but I found it problematic and a bit buggy, especially with this build. NPCs have no idea what to do when vampires, for example, just keep resurrecting. The resurrection effects are also loud and dramatic, knocking over all the items in the area. They tend to occur on your own minions when you destroy them as well (without bringing them back). The adjustment of resurrection chances didn't work correctly for me, and since it's script-heavy it's hard to remove from an existing game, which is why I felt I should include a warning just in case.
Role-play and Quests: Being a scholar gives you tons of motivation to explore. If you decide to follow the main quest, your character can really geek out on the chance to study the Thu'um and dragons, both subjects that were entirely closed to you until now. I was definitely planning a treatise on the Voice as I unlocked Shouts and making careful note of the lore. The Tomb of Jurgen Windcaller is an archeologist's dream! I always carried ink, quills, and paper for notes and roleplayed taking rubbings of the carvings in tombs.
The College of Winterhold is an obvious and fun place to start, but from there go explore and have fun! This build is interested in everything.
Morality-wise, I didn't play her as evil just because she's a necromancer. She's a basically good person, but focused on learning and doesn't see why the locals have to be so superstitious. She does take protecting herself and her work seriously though, considering the risks of being hunted that come with necromancy in various provinces, so if someone threatens to expose her she has to stop them. For instance, a researcher for the Synod met during the Mages' College questline- he can't be allowed to blab about the Eye to his colleagues. Overall, she's basically a good person, but she's a pragmatist, not a martyr. This makes for some interesting decisions. On the other hand during Blood on the Ice she's disgusted by the laziness of the Butcher- in a land full of free bodies on battlefields and legally killable bandits, he has to make the public image of necromancy even worse by murdering civilians!
Companions: Either none or mages only. Your fellow apprentices work well. Lucien is the perfect modded companion for this build, as a fellow scholar.