Skyrim, home of the Nords, can be somewhat of a harsh environment to survive in and chances are, if you play on any difficulty adept or higher.. you’ll have died. I know I have. Plenty of times. But I’m here to help you! I had started with the intention of presenting several basic and easy to play builds. But I found myself largely regurgitating the official Skyrim guide (which I use for reference with regards to skills, items etc) and so scrapped that immediately and this guide was put on hold.
Then I thought back to a day at the pub several weeks ago, where several us were discussing Skyrim (As you do in a pub) over a couple of pints. The discussion included the main weakness of warrior builds – magic and specifically powerful magic users. It is something I have encountered both on my Shield/One-handed Nord and my Whirlwind of Death Redguard (Dual-wielding). You can pretty much destroy anything in melee (Giants, dragons if they land and so on) but if decently powerful wizards get the jump on you? You’re fucked (excuse my French) unless you can close ground and have plenty of health potions.
I boldly suggested that a Breton might make for a good alternative and the idea gathered dust. Until a few days ago. Eager to get underway, I started a new game, picked me a Breton and started on my road to conquering Skyrim (sort-of). And so I present a build that I am going to dub ‘The Templar’, in reference to Templars from Dragon Age (mage hunters – warriors that can effectively counter magic in a manner of speaking). You could also call this build a ‘true tank’ build because it is primarily all about damage soaking.
- Race: Breton. Bretons are the natives of the province of High Rock and are the result of Altmer and Human interbreeding. As such, Bretons have quite a bit of magical potential. In Skyrim, their magical potential translates to magical resistance. They also have a power called ‘Dragonskin’ which can be used once a day and absorbs 50% of all incoming magicka for 60 seconds.
- Gender: It really doesn’t matter which gender you choose, though for the purposes of my experimentation I went with female. I tend to encounter more powerful enemies that are male, rather than female, putting the Agent of Dibella effect to good use (This could be random though, so like I said, it doesn’t matter too much at all).
- Statistic Focus: I opted for a 60% Health/40% Stamina ratio, though you could opt for a 30% Magicka/40% Health/30% Stamina if you want to make use of Restoration spells to increase survivability.
- Primary Skills: One-handed, Heavy Armour and Block.
- Optional Skills: Restoration (if you go with the second statistic focus) and Smithing.
- Stone Ability: I start with the Warrior Stone, which increases the rate at which your combat abilities improve. Because Bretons are somewhat inferior to Redguards, Orcs and Nords in the warrior department, I find this to be quite necessary as you’ll have a fair bit of ground to make up. Once your combat abilities are sufficient, you have a number of alternatives to switch to. I opt for the Atronach Stone (for the 50% absorb spells) if I am going into a dungeon I know is infested with magicka users, or the the Lord stone which offers resistance bonuses to both physical and magicka damage.
- Followers: Given that you are opting to be a true tank, you’ll want a follower who is capable of dishing out damage. I opt for ranged followers such as Faendal, Aela the Huntress or Marcurio.
- Essential Perks: Armsman (One handed weapons do more damage), Shield Wall (Blocking is more effective), Deflect Arrows (When blocking, arrows that hit the shield do no damage), Quick Reflexes (Time slows down if you are blocking while the enemy performs a power attack), Elemental Protection (Blocking with a shield reduces incoming fire, frost and shock damage by 50%), Block Runner (Able to move faster with shield raised), Juggernaut (Increases your armour rating), Conditioning (Heavy Armour weighs nothing and doesn’t slow you down when worn).
- Weapon: Bolar’s Oathblade (Found in Bloated Man’s Grotto), has fear and stamina damage enchantments.
- Shield: Spellbreaker (found by doing the The Only Cure quest for Daedric Prince Peryite). There aren’t many good unique shields, so an alternative would be smithing a Daedric shield with an enchantment of your choosing or the Shield of Ysgramor (Found in the final quest for the Companions).
- Accessories: Gauldur Amulet (Obtained by completing The Forbidden Legend quest line). Ring of Namira (50% stamina, can feast on slain enemies).
- Armour: Full Daedric Armour with enchantments of your choosing.
Ultimately this is not a build I could recommend to a first time player (to Skyrim or the Elder Scrolls series) and expect them to do really well. Why? Because Bretons are not natural warriors like Redguard, Orcs and Nords who all get bonuses to the core skills required to be a warrior. So you’ll be starting lower than they do in the core areas. You’ll also be behind the level curve against stronger melee opponents because you’ll be gaining more levels early on from your lower combat skills. Having said that, you’ll be more able to take Hagravens and Briarhearts on (for example) at lower levels than the races mentioned above thanks to Dragonskin and natural magicka resistance. Save your Dragonskin ability (which can only be used once per day) for when facing powerful magicka opponents that are capable of dealing a large amount of damage to you even with the Breton natural magicka resistance.
This advice more or less applies to any build, but scout your area where possible, get an idea of what opponents you will be up against and plan accordingly. As a heavy armour wearing individual, your ability to flee will be severely limited until you get the conditioning perk – so avoid battles against opponents that you can’t beat. The gear I’ve listed above is totally optional; it is something that has worked for me but really with smithing and enchanting, you can make gear that supports your play style as needed. For an easier time, choose to escape with Balof (Stormcloak) during the game tutorial. Doing this nets you Imperial Heavy Armour (including a captain’s helmet) which is superior to iron and basic steel armour.
With regards to being behind the level curve versus melee opponents, improving your smithing early on while tempting, is likely to spell doom for you because while you level up with those smith skill gains, you aren’t really getting anymore effective in combat (minus statistic bonuses), where as scaled enemies are. Ideally, you should off on the smithing until at least level 20. You can find plenty of decent enough gear that will work for your current level until then, anyway.
And there you have it, a Breton Templar build that will have you dominating in no time.
First time adventuring in Skyrim? Then also read our basic survival guide.