Skyrim Character Building » Discussions

Character Build: The Heretic

  • April 28, 2013

    Inspired by Dawnguards gothic atmosphere I wanted to create a hybrid character that could experience both the light and dark sides of the dlc with some deep role play.

    Although the result of a number of playthroughs the concept for this character was realised after an unusual encounter with an enemy necromancer when we both fought for control of the same corpse, challenging each other’s command over the dead…

    It was time to re-visit my all time favourite archetype; the cleric, and give it a Skyrim twist…

    The Heretic

    Records remain vague on the origin of this shadowy warrior…

    He once served the Vigilants, one of their greatest vampire hunters, commended for his prowess in battle during the early crusades. However his contempt for the undead consumed him and in his obsession he succumbed to forbidden magic, sacrificing morality to combat evil.

    Refusing to conform to the Vigils doctrine eventually led to his excommunication. He was branded a heretic and forced into exile.

    Now this forgotten priest faces the darkness commanding a strange fusion of divine and profane spellcraft in his war against the damned…


    Race: Breton

    Stone: The Lord

    Major Skills: Conjuration,  Restoration, One Handed, Alchemy.

    Minor Skills: Block, Heavy Armor, Smithing, Archery, Alteration.

    Weapons: Dawnguard Rune Axe/Enhanced Steel Crossbow

    Armor: Dawnguard Heavy Armor, Novice – Adept Robes, Vampire Royal Armor.

    Shouts:  Marked for Death, Slow Time, Soul Tear, Drain Vitality, Summon Durnehviir, Become Ethereal.


    The Build

    Possibly the most attractive feature about all clerics is their diversity. Good clerics typically favour divine spells and place emphasis on repelling and destroying the unholy whereas an evil cleric may seek to control and even raise the undead, spreading fear and chaos…

    The Heretic celebrates these two delicious alignments by choosing to fall directly in the middle; doing all the right things, in all the wrong ways.

    Of similar character to a witchhunter; the Heretic chooses to use the tools of the enemy against them. Understanding of conjuration allows him to banish or interrupt the dark rituals of vampires and necromancers and the Heretic isn’t above resurrecting his own undead or daedra if it ultimately means the demise of his foes.

    Primarily a holy warrior, close combat is conducted gracefully with axe and shield, held together nicely with the quick reflexes perk, lacking the dexterity required of a bow the Heretic favours the hard punch of a modified steel crossbow when dealing with ranged attackers or dragons.

    Bringing the full weight of the restoration school to bear, the mere presence of this character is capable of destroying lesser undead instantly while stronger variants burn with holy fire under relentless attacks. At the height of his power the Heretic can create moments of intervention during battle to overcome near impossible odds.

    Arms and Armor

    The Heretic wears robes instead of heavy armor for the chest slot, the combination of a shield, flesh spells and the lord stone quickly makes up for any lost armor rating while the regeneration granted by robes fuels the Heretics spells impressively. The result is a very nice balance of speed, defence and magical regeneration. Not only is this approach practical it greatly opens up the aesthetic of the character.

    • Novice Robes 50% Magical Regeneration
    • Apprentice Robes 75% Magical Regeneration
    • Adept Robes 100% Magical Regeneration
    • Royal Vampire Armor 125% Magical Regeneration/Defense bonus

    All the above gear looks perfect with the Dawnguard heavy set although it toggles off the vampiric resistances normally granted by the helm. Royal Vampire Armor completes the Heretics look and also brings the light armor skill into play, conferring an additional bonus to defense with some very powerful magicka regeneration.


    The Dawnguard Rune Axe

    For the Heretic only one weapon truly embodies his personality. There is a good reason the Dawnguard Rune Axe is so hard to come by, it tears through vampires like a force of nature…

    This weapon is totally unique for a number of reasons; its power escalates based on the number of undead killed and it’s the only enchanted weapon to feature an area of effect (15ft) on each hit.

    A hugely powerful side effect of the Rune Axe is that it can instantly shatter any ward in the game. Dragon priests, necromancers, dark mage’s, even Miraak, all are forced into stumbling submission under its divine power.

    It has infinite charges and does not ‘reset’ with every dawn once tempered at a forge.


    Ranged damage comes in the form of Griever, the Heretics modified steel crossbow. This weapon is primarily used to support the Heretics minions and followers during melee but also serves to deliver deadly elemental and poison attacks. Griever is enchanted with fiery soul trap, dealing 10 additional points of fire damage and can snare the souls of the fallen.


    Perk Placement Level 60

    Stat Placement: Magicka 1 / Health 2 / Stamina 1


    The Heretic is a big build, suitable for experienced players who can handle balancing multiple skills. The demand of a level 60 character is softened however due to Dawnguards generous supply of master level trainers.

    Priests make excellent party leaders and a good approach during the early levels is to recruit a follower before entering Dimhollow Crypt to collect Serana. Running two companions (plus undead) can be a lot of fun if it’s not overly abused and allows you to play the role of healer to the living (and the dead) as well as granting a little breathing space to start bringing up this characters vast skill set.

    Alchemy is the Heretics main support skill and some early effort should be placed on becoming proficient in the skill so that you can start chaining together buffing potions. Alchemy also provides the financial backing for training and you should target ingredients that provide the greatest profits to avoid overloading your inventory with useless harvests.

    When it comes to combat the block skill has been lightly perked due to the powerful quick reflexes ability and the skill to create very strong potions of blocking, resist the temptation to add more to shield wall and push for elemental resistance and the great block runner perk. The ‘Griever’ crossbow should be made early so that you can support undead minions with staggering assaults and for dealing with dragons. Very little damage (<10) separates the steel and dwarven crossbows and I much prefer the rustic look of the Enhanced Steel variant.

    When visiting the Soul Cairn be sure to pick up all three summons so that you have instant access to undead during combat. Collect around 75 soul husks and gamble them with Morven stroud until you land the Circle of Protection spell tome and any others you need. (Ebonyflesh/Circle of Protection/Dread Zombie are my picks).

    Despite the strange equipment set up this character will cap armor rating at 567 with ebony flesh and the Lord Stone. Heavy Armor will develop slightly slower at first but as your health increases expect a sudden surge as you begin to tank more efficiently. Advanced Armors will improve tempering on the Dawnguard armor and the Royal Vampire garb, at later levels it’s worth switching to Auriels Shield (a surprisingly great fit) and putting the ‘wasted’ elven smithing perk to good use.




    Vampires have a nasty habit of raising the dead around them during combat. The Heretic has learned to interrupt these rituals with his own necromancy, instantly placing the corpse under his control or destroying it entirely if he so wishes.

    By hitting enemy undead with your own reanimation spell during the summoning process you can toggle ownership of the corpse to yourself; it’s the ultimate ‘up yours’ when facing other summoners. Smarter necromancers will actually revoke you back and so a dark battle takes place as you both fight for command. ‘Revoking’ a body twice in quick succession seems to create a double negative, instantly destroying the corpse and removing it from the morbid chessboard.

    Requires: Raise Zombie - Dread Zombie



    Strengthened by divine power the Heretic stalks through the crypts of his enemy, searing undead flesh from bone, immune to the clamouring of the dead around him.

    Stendarrs Aura is interesting in that it responds to both destruction & restoration potions. A restoration potion will increase the range of the aura while a destruction potion will increase the damage.

    When used as standard Stendarrs Aura does 15 damage per second for a total of 900 damage, by using a destruction potion and the necromage perk it will do up to 30 damage per second for a total of 1800 damage. When dual cast the range of the spell is enormous and with the addition of a restoration potion it will quite literally fill an entire room with holy chaos. Lesser undead perish instantly at the mere sight of the Heretic.

    Requires: Stendarrs Aura, Become Ethereal, Restoration Dual Casting, Necromage. (optional potions)


    Dark Intervention

    In times of great duress the Heretic is capable of performing near miracles to turn the tide of battle. Resorting to a rare form of alteration known as Chronomancy, the Heretic can shift the odds rapidly in his favour by manipulating time to quickly dispatch and raise enemies as his own undead.

    Slow Times duration is already increased by 50% thanks to the stability perk. Under the influence of an alteration potion you can prolong its effect even further giving you adequate time to kill and raise your horde.

    Requires: Slow Time, Stability, Reanimate. (optional potions)



    A complete perversion of the natural order, the Heretic draws on all three of his chosen spheres of magic and sacrifices his own life to engorge his undead minions.  Although an abuse of his power this spell combination can be used when confronted with enemies the Heretic can’t handle directly.

    Requires: Equilibrium, Necromantic Healing.



    Nikolaj Poulsen - Original screenshots

    Ben C - Naming the 'Revoke' combo and on-going support

  • April 29, 2013

    Thanks Jack, I like playing renegades, or pretty much any character that's got something a little sinister going on...

    You have to play careful with the slow time/stability thing, me and Ben did a lot of playing around with it and you can chain together 3 or 4 great critical charges on the same opponent because you can aim and trigger so precisely. Very overpowered if abused and can lead to boredom if you link it too much with shout reduction...

  • Member
    April 29, 2013

    Very true. It's especially hard for us console players because we only have two hotkeys. It's a great build... too bad you had to post your build the same day as mine lol... I'll never get noticed. Great work again. 

  • Member
    April 29, 2013

    The moves of this character are quite innovative. The gothic aesthetic is also very cool, as is the armor combination. Great build, +1!

    I have but one question; do fortify destruction and restoration potions work on the Dawnguard Rune Shield as well?

  • Member
    April 29, 2013

    I agree with you there, I used a similar combo on one of my characters that used the the Grey Vampire Armor. Some armor just seems to perfectly combo together.

  • April 30, 2013

    Thanks Sean,

    The Rune Shield should respond to those two potions, it just soaks through stamina too fast for my liking, it should be a constant effect aura, that would have been very cool...

  • Member
    April 30, 2013

    What followers did you use? I know that you mentioned picking up serana at dimhollow, but doesn't that interfere with the character since he/she despises undead?

  • April 30, 2013

    Ha, Serana is the exception to every rule because she's forced on you as a follower, you can't even complete this builds basic armor requirements without involving her at some point so I wouldn't bother fighting it. She's actually well up the Heretics street RP wise, a means to an end...

    If you go down the two followers route (which I do advise because it is fun) then your other follower should be someone tanky, a Lydia maybe, or that barbarian chappie from Morthal work very well.

    Belrand and Serana also work very nicely as a tag team and have the makings of an interesting little party. Give Belrand some smithed gear and he'll survive anything...

  • Member
    April 30, 2013

    How is it possible to have 2 compagnions at once, I always thought you could only do that with with the Dark Brotherhood?

  • April 30, 2013

    Just pick a follower to go with you when you go to Dimhollow, unlock Serana and you have two...

    You don't have to take her straight home so enjoy running a threesome for a little bit. (I went and did the Gauldur legend for a change)