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Character Build: The Soul Reaver

Tags: #Race:Nord  #Character Build Barbarian  #Character Build Warrior  #Character Build Enchanter  #Rank:Recognized  #Berserker 
  • Member
    January 24, 2013

    "There are many paths to greatness, and some roads are more traveled than others. I prefer to carve my own; through the flesh of my enemies, using their entrails as my guide." - Kiera Xanos, The Soul Reaver

    The Soul Reaver is a two-handed powerhouse of flame and fury. Leaving no man standing, she hails from the Reach, decapitating and impaling any and all who stand in her way. A beautiful and a tempestuous vixen, she bows to no one. Her one passion, her one flaming desire, is to steal the souls of men (both literally and figurative) in her pursuit of the legendary artifact, the Soul Reaper.

    The Soul Reaver

    The path of the Soul Reaver is one fraught with conflict and destruction. A Nord born in the Reach, growing up with the disdain and disavowment of her neighbors, the Forsworn, our hero's young life was one of struggle and suffering. When her family was slain by a Forsworn raiding party, she was cast out into the wilds, only to be found by an aged and ailing man in the foggy and craggy peaks of the Southern Reach.

    The ancient one tempered her anger and fury, redirecting it into something purposeful - focusing her power towards her life's last line; vengeance.

    Later, while hunting a pack of Forsworn who had traveled to the Rift for expanded banditry and chaos, she was captured by the Empire at Darkwater Crossing - because hey, all Nords look like, right?

    And thus we begin, the Saga of the Soul Reaver.

    The Soul Reaver

    Class: Barbarian

    Race: Nord

    Stones: The Atronach / Lord

    Major Skills: Two-Handed, Light Armor, Enchanting

    Minor Skills: Block, Speech, Smithing

    Armor: Savior's Hide, Forsworn Boots/Gauntlets/Headress

    Weapon: Greatswords

    Ability Increases: Health & Stamina 3:1

    RACE: Nord for flavor and roleplaying. On Master, Battle Cry is a lifesaver early on while your toughening up. As per Skyrim, however, any race will do. Orcs being a close second, and Breton of course because of their passive Magic Resist. That said, Breton comes with an extra spell, and I detest muddying up my Magic inventory with crap I'll never use. 

    Stones: Toss up between Lord and Atronach. The Lord's flat +resist and +armor is classy, solid, and always useful. The Atronach gives you an awesome buffer against ALL types of effects (poison, disease, magic, etc.) but for this build comes with a redundant boost to magicka.

    I went Atronach until about 15, than switched to Lord.

    Skills and Perks 

    At 50

    Major Skills

    • Two Handed: Barbarian 5/5, Champion's Stance, 1/1, Great Critical Charge 1/1, Devastating Blow 1/1, Sweep (OMG AWESOME) 1/1, Warmaster 1/1. 
      • Two handed is the master of damage and battle management, being able to keep foes at bay, while dishing out extreme hurt. 
      • NOTE: The weapon specific perks are useless, and will be more than made up for by spending 3 perks in destruction to augment the enchantments of your weapon of Choice.
    • Light Armor: Entire Tree (Except Matching Set) 
      • The beauty and synergy of light armor with Two-handed is the built in stamina reduction, the movement speed, and of course, the thematic approach to armor.
    • Enchanting:   5/5 enchant, 1/1 Insightful Enchanter,  1/1 Corpus Enchanter, 1/1 Extra Effect, 1/1 Fire Enchanter (Optional, Soul Squeezer 1/1, Soul Siphon 1/1)
      • This is necessary to both collect souls and craft the Soul Reaver's legendary artifact weapon

    Minor Skills:

    • Block: Quick Reflexes, 5/5 of shield wall 1/1 Power Bash/Deadly Bash/ Disarming Bash, 1/1 Shield Charge
      •  ESSENTIAL, I didn't put it in major skills because frankly, there are not that many perks involved. However, deadly bash is crucial to effective Two-handed fighting. It's what makes the difference between success and throwing your console/PC out the window. Period.
    • Speech: 1/5 Haggling, 1/1 Allure (She's a beautiful tempting vixen!) 1/1 bribe, 1/1 Persuasion, 1/1 Intimidation
      • Speech skills are superfluous, but add to the immersion. Plus, a little better money isn't going to hurt training deficits.
    • Smithing: Steel Smithing 1/1, Arcane Enchanter 1/1 - nothing else.
      • You need to get Smithing as high as you can to upgrade your weapons and armor. The extra perks are irrelevant since they won't help crafting Nord Hero Weapons or fur/hide/forsworn types armors. 


    • Destruction: Novice. 2/2 Augmented Flames
      • The reasoning behind this is to augment the elemental damage on your weapon. Depending on your choices you can go into any of the three elements.

    SKILLS NOTE: You will have extra perks to use as you see fit - options include but are not limited to Sneak/Archery (But anything else will probably detract from the point of such an enchanting play-through)


    • The Forsworn are your Sworn enemies. Kill them on sight. Also, you probably hate elves. Kill them too. Heck, men of any race can be slain at will. 
    • As a strong Nord woman, you believe in the strength of your sex. Help all women in need. (unless they're forsworn our haughty Altmer.)
    • Always keep the Blessing of Dibella on, this is appropriate on so many levels; and the boost to speech ain't bad either. 
    • Seek out adventure and never back down from a fight. Unless of course you have no food and ran out of potions.


    The Soul Reaver's main interest is developing her one master weapon, the Soul Reaper, which is really an extension of her will. This is a Nord Hero Greatsword, Legendary Quality with a Fiery Souls Enchant and a Fire enchant.

    By the time you get to Riverwood, you should be at least level 2. One point in Steel Smithing and One Point in Barbarian (Two handed). The idea here is to give yourself an edge (i mean it) by getting a Steel Greatsword and sharpening it - in addition to buffing all your current armor.

    Equipment Focus: Equipment is up to you as the player, but for immersion and roleplay, I chose the following:

    As the Soul Reaver hates the Forsworn, using pieces of their armor is tantamount to wearing their teeth as a necklace.

    • Forsworn Headdress: Enchant as seen fit: I use Water-breathing/Destruction Reduction - for increased charges on my weapon
    • Forsworn Boots: Muffle. Nothing like muffle. Its brilliant. Helps you get in close enough to not use all your stamina in a sprint to kill the enemy. It is also useful for studying the battlefield before committing.
    • Forsworn Gauntlets: Boost TWO-HANDED
    • Saviors Hide: Looks awesome, is most appropriate for the Barbarian-esque nature of the Soul Reaver also meshes really well with the Forsworn Gear. The enchants are awesome and stack with Lord stone. 
    • Necklace: Pick a type, enchant it with Fortify Two-Handed
    • Ring: Pick a pretty luster, enchant it with Fortify Two-Handed.


    The Soul Reaver's weapon, the aptly named Soul Reaper is the focus of the entire build. Using Steel Smithing only allows you to fully upgrade the NORD HERO GREATSWORD to Legendary quality with a modest Smithing score. This weapon is appropriate on so many levels. One; you're probably a Nord  Two; You're definitely a Hero. And Three; Greatswords swing the fastest, thus allowing you to bathe your enemies in glorious flame.

    The Soul Reaper: Fiery Souls and Fire Enchantment (Yes, this picture is missing the additional Fire Enchant). Go cook yourself some souls.

    Combat and General Strategies:

    • First and Foremost: Cook Food. The buff of Venison Stew cannot be understated. It gives you unlimited Power Attacks and Deadly Bashes when timed properly.  Cooking Venison Stew is the easiest to find ingredients for, whether buying from a store or hunting the venison yourself. Catching a deer or elk may seem difficult for a strictly two-handed user, just FusRo them and run’em down. Find Salt, Leeks, and Potatoes. Enjoy. Seriously, make food.
    • Buy Potions:  Making them is silly and far too much micro management. You have so much money from making daggers of banish that it won’t be an issue. All you need is health potions, really. You may want blacksmithing or Enchanting for crafting, but really these are only needed a few times ever. As for Alchemy in general, the Soul Reaver just plows through dungeons, taking what she needs, and pursues her enemies into the darkness. She doesn't have time to stop and smell the flowers. If someone asks you you to collect herbs; make sure no one is watching, get in sneak behind them, and impale them through the back. 

    The Soul Reaver’s combat strategy is straightforward and brutal. The key is closing distance as quick as you can via Unrelenting Force, Whirlwind Sprint, or Become Ethereal, eliminating major targets in a highly prioritized strategic order. 

    • Two-Handed Technique: This will vary slightly depending on your weapon of choice. However, keep in mind that the power of the two-handed weapon is its range. You want to keep your enemies in your swinging arc, while also keep just beyond their reach, dancing in the elusive kill zone. Overhand power attacks are for single enemies (up on your direction while holding attack). Side Swiping is for multiple foes (left/right on direction while holding attack). Finally, the war-master knockdown is difficult to execute, and must be used generally against a rushing foe (back on direction while holding attack) or else you will miss, wasting precious stamina reserve.
    • Usage of Block and Deadly Bash: Quick Reflexes is key in these situations. I used to think blocking with a two-handed weapon really won’t mitigate damage much, but thanks to Ashi, we now know that weapons block nearly just as effectively as shields. Keep in mind though; you cannot block a power attack. The power attack will break your block and stagger you, leaving you dead. On Master Difficulty, these kinds of mistakes lead to failure. Quick Reflexes is awesome, because it slows time down, and lets you sideswipe power attack quicker than they can hit, or allow you to Deadly Bash, followed by the ol’ one two swipe. Finally, Shield Charge can be used with a two-handed weapon by sprinting at tapping block to activate it.

    NOTE: If you are down to one enemy, let's say it’s a Boss Level Mob (I.e. Dragon Priest, Overlord, Chieftain, etc.) and you cannot seem to get an attack off without it dropping you. Deadly Bash it to Death. Seriously, if you ate your dinner of Venison Stew or Vegetable Soup, you can spam Deadly Bash all day long and they will die. There is nothing at all they can do about it.

    Target Acquisition Example:  Casters #1 Archers #2 Easy Bandits #3, with the Boss Level Mob finally at #4 keeping in mind the relative position and distance of players on the field.

    A typical encounter will proceed like so:

    You sneak into the room with weapon drawn, so as not to alert the denzions to your presence. You know that large weapons such as Greatswords and the like are noisy and are likely to attract attention, so you only get one chance.

    After getting a general impression of the room’s habits, you find the nearest shadow and approach your weakest target keeping them - and all - out of your (and hopefully their) line of sight.
    A clumsy [Insert Enemy Type Here] walks in front of you and takes a well timed slash to the face. He’s down. The room is suddenly and violently alerted to your presence, and you are no longer unseen.

    Immediately, you line up two or three targets, ideally focused on a caster, and Fus Ro them. Not  Fus Ro Dah. You just want to stun them, not sending them flying and messing up all the neatly organized clutter. Follow your shout with a quick sprint and execute a Great Critical Charge on your intended victim. If you don’t miss, he’s dead - or about to be. Finish him off with a pommel bash, a quick one two swipe, and a power attack if he’s still groaning. But really, if he was a caster, he was dead back at the charge.

    Turn around - you never want your back to an enemy. Keep them in the 130* swinging arc of the Greatsword and swipe with a power attack while directing your motion to the left. This will spread the pain on up to three targets in front of you. Rinse and repeat as long as you can.

    Sooner or later, someone will break that line and charge at you with a vengeance. This is when you pommel bash the fool in his face, followed by a power attack. By now, there is nobody left. Pull out a torch, and light up the loot.

    Elf "Jenassa" Impaled

    Dragon Shouts:

    Dragon Shouts blend nicely with the Soul Reaver, giving her both utility and power, and providing alternate means of dispatching foes. Stay away from the elemental "mage-like" powers and stick with the ones that will help in a pinch.

    • Useful Shouts: Unrelenting Force, Elemental Fury, Become Ethereal, Dismay, Whirlwind Sprint, Dragonrend, Slow Time

    Combat Combos:

    Reaver’s Rush:  FusRo + Sprint + Great Critical Charge - The Soul Reaver shouts with fury, calling forth her wrath and anger and channeling it into her pursuit. While running towards the enemy give a burst of Unrelenting Shout followed by charging into battle.


    Shout of the SirenBattle Cry + Elemental Fury + Chase Them Down and Sweep Them Up  - Screaming at the top of her lungs, enraged by the pains of her past, the Soul Reaver intimidates her lesser foes and proceeds to smite her enemies. 


    Ghost Chant: Become Ethereal + Great Critical Charge + Deadly Bash The Soul Reaver communes with her lost family, searching for guidance in her time of need all whilst being impervious to pain or exhaustion while she meditates on her situation in the heat of battle. Once the situation is surmised, she leaps into the fray, choosing her prime target and deftly smacking him in the face. The immunities of Ethereal Charge allow you to close the distance with really nasty foes painlessly before stunlocking them into damnation. 

    Level the Playing Field: Full Unrelenting Force Shout + Great Critical Charge - This maneuver is useful for launching people off of balconies, ledges, bridges, etc. Anytime an archer or caster is shooting you out of range you want to bring them down. Keep in mind objects such as walls or bridges will stop the force effect of a shout, rendering it useless and wasted. Aim accordingly. 

    Dragon Fights:
    Nothing we can do about it; Dragons are pansies. They’ll just flutter their wings around and keep strafing you in mid air and out of range of your death dealing badassery. The solution here is simply pull out a bow - whatever kind you've got really, it’s not that important - and make show like you’re trying to hit it, all whilst running from cover to cover trying to make it land. Once it’s grounded - via it’s own volition or you’ve pecked away at it and it’s crashed - execute the Dragonkill Combo: Dragonrend + Great Critical Charge + Deadly Bash + Swipe + Deadly Bash + Swipe + Deadly Bash + Power Attack.  If you time it right, you will lock it down and it won’t be able to attack you. 

    Quests: Freeform. 

    Suggested: The Main Quest, Companions, No One Escapes Cidhna Mine (Flavor) 


    This build was designed to be played on Master Difficulty from the very start of the game. While at times this can be frustrating for some, the aim is to provide a direct approach to victory, using tactics and guile to get up close and personal. Disclaimer: This does not have to be played on Master to be enjoyed - in fact, on anything less than Master, it may seem overpowered - and what's wrong with that?

    While this build can be played by any race or any sex, in the spirit of role-playing it is designed for the Nord Female in mind. Like Olfina Gray-Mane in Whiterun always says, "There's nothing a man can do that I can't do better, whether it's serving drinks or slaying trolls."



  • January 24, 2013

    This is a very nice first build. The only thing I think is needed is a little more focus on combat. Other than that +1

  • Member
    January 24, 2013

    Hey thanks! Ya, I'm going to add some stuff, just ran out of time. I'll be back with an in-depth look at how to survive.

  • January 24, 2013

    Just a tip for the future, make sure you have included everything you can think of before posting. First impressions are important in making a really good character. You shouldn't feel rushed typing this up. Do it in a word processor so that you can save and work on it over time. Again I really like what you've done here.

  • Member
    January 25, 2013

    Well, I added the combat section. I hope that's sufficient and not too much wall of text. Thanks everyone for taking a look!

  • Member
    January 25, 2013

    My aim was to make a viable two-handed berserker with flair and panache for Master Difficulty. To this end, I feel I have succeeded. If anyone has any comments or constructive criticism feel free to post them. I'd be happy to field any questions and entertain any thoughts that the community at large may have. 

  • Member
    February 1, 2013

    UPDATED: Perk Spread has been updated to include "Shield Charge". After some research by Ashi, it has tentatively confirmed that "Shield Charge" does work with two-handed weapons, making this a great addition to the Soul Reaver build. 

    Additionally, upon testing there is apparently little difference between blocking with a shield and blocking with a weapon.

    At level 45 and this build absolutely SHREDS everyone. No one is safe. 

  • Member
    February 4, 2013

    Fear the Purge...Looks like the Soul Reaver needs some love or it's in the trash. 

  • Member
    March 10, 2013

    Greatswords are faster than a battleaxe, weapon speed is based on weight of weapon.

    In fact, he will see a greater difference by using a greatsword is that he will see a BIGGER contrast between his blade and an axe, as the weight difference is larger than the difference between a sword and a war axe

  • March 10, 2013

    Incorrect. Greatswords and battleaxes have the same speed (0.7), with the exception of Ancient Nord Greatsword and Honed Ancient Nord Sword, which have a speed of 0.75.

    Weight of melee weapons only really determines stamina cost during power attacks.