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Character Build: The Grendel

Tags: #Character Build Rogue  #Character Build Vampire  #Character Build Villain  #Race:Argonian  #Rank:Recognized  #No Crafting 
  • VDW
    June 11, 2015

    So times were pleasant for the people there
    until finally one, a fiend out of hell,
    began to work his evil in the world.
    Grendel was the name of this grim demon
    haunting the marches, marauding round the heath
    and the desolate fens; he had dwelt for a time
    in misery among the banished monsters,
    Cain's clan, whom the creator had outlawed
    and condemned as outcasts. Beowulf, (99-107)

    The villain of Beowulf, the cast-out, hate from old times; Grendel. In creating this build, my aim was to create a monster. Grendel in Beowulf is repugnant, a creature that breaks the rules of even the violent Spear-Dane society. If any Elder Scrolls game could find a place for Grendel, it had to be Skyrim.

    In keeping with his monstrous disposition, Grendel needed to be alienated from most of the population. I originally built him as an Orc, but there are too many Orsimer in the base game, so I was seeing others of my kind on a regular basis--sometimes even in cities! Grendel is a more unique monster than that, so I redesigned him as an Argonian. There are few of the natives of Black Marsh in Skyrim, especially in places where Grendel is likely to be, so this race choice made him more unique.

    In the tale, Grendel is possessed of enormous strength, but also has the ability to come and go into the mead hall unseen by the Danes and Geats. The original epic poem speaks to this ability, as Grendel appears from nowhere and kills thirty men, and then disappears back into the wilderness.


    Primary Skills: Two-Handed, Sneak, Light Armor

    Secondary Skills: Block

    Attributes: 0:1:1 M:H:S

    Stone: Warrior, then Lady. I used Warrior until I was comfortable with Two-Handed, then switched to the lady to represent Grendel's trollish regeneration.

    Shouts: Elemental Fury, Become Ethereal, Throw Voice, Dismay. Of these, I nearly always had Elemental Fury equipped. Grendel moves fast, and counts on his ability to kill quickly to keep him from a drawn out fight. His healing is limited to the powerful Histskin, and Namira's Blessing coupled with the Lady Stone, with the less-than-optimal Vampiric Drain, and the chancy prospect of looted potions or food for back up.

    Gear: Fur Armor (Kilt only Variant), Forsworn Gauntlets, Movarth's Boots, Ring of Namira, Brother Verulus' Amulet of Arkay, The Longhammer

    Possible variations include using Predator's Grace or any Hide/Forsworn Boots with a good enchant as well as the Old Gods Armor set from No One Escapes from Cidhna Mine. Be sure to leave his hands uncovered with gauntlet choices, Grendel loves the feel of blood on his hands. The key is to keep the look rough and unrefined, the monster does not wear intricately made armor. Helms are optional, but should follow the same rule--Grendel famously hates loud noises and the close confines of a helmet can be loud indeed. I didn't use head gear at all, letting me display the rack of massive horns I chose during creation. Fearsome!

    All were endangered; young and old
    were hunted down by that dark death-shadow
    who lurked and swooped in the long nights
    on the misty moors; nobody knows
    where these reavers from hell roam on their errands. Beowulf, (159-163)

    Quests: A Taste of Death, Dragonborn, Chief of Thirsk Hall, Dark Brotherhood, The Black Star, The Cursed Tribe, Dawnguard, The Skull of Corruption, The Companions (optional)

    Grendel is a monster who kills and eats men. As a result, this build fits the Ring of Namira like few others I've tried. A Taste of Death should be completed as soon as possible. Other quests can be completed at leisure, but be aware that Grendel kills and does not pay the wergild the Spear- and Sword-Danes require, so your bounty may make some quests more difficult to complete. There is no crafting in this build, save for improving his armor and weapon, so quest rewards in the form of items are essential. Grendel does not create; he destroys.

    Level 32 Perks


    Gameplay: The defining quest of Grendel is unmarked: Slay those mead swilling, merry making, revelers in Jorrvaskr! Drawing inspiration from the epic poem Beowulf, I set Grendel's goals high. Accomplishing this goal can be difficult, as most of the Circle is marked as Essential. However, most of the non-essential people can be killed, allowing a thinning of their numbers. Use Sneak to time their patterns, and pick them off one by one. I took my time with this, starting with the maid Tilma the Haggard while the rest of the group watches a fistfight. Pick off Athis, Njada, Ria, Brill and Torvar over the next few weeks. After that, leave for Solstheim for a time. Let them think they're safe.

    A tailor made quest for Grendel can be found on Solstheim, in the form of The Chief of Thirsk Hall. Join with the monsters, and slay the heroes!

    Vampirism should be contracted from a random sire, I found Broken Fang Cave to be a good location. While you incubate the disease, go and get A Taste of Death done--in the lore, Namira followers hunt vampires as ardently as Vigilants of Stendarr. It can be upgraded to Vampire Lord if you feel the need, but as of level 32 I did not.

    After getting the Ring of Namira and Vampirism, you can attempt to retrieve The Longhammer from Liar's Retreat. Fair warning: It is not easy. Prepare to grab it and flee from the powerful Falmer and Chaurus that dwell in the lower reaches.

    I wore the Amulet of Arkay Brother Verulus gives you for 'clearing' the Hall of the Dead in open mockery of the Aedra, but any amulet with a good enchant will work.

    If you can manage to square it with his nature, Grendel might acquire a full helm that obscures his features and then join the noisome Companions on false pretenses, eliminating them one by one as they rid themselves of the Beast Blood, or in Aela's case, give in completely to it. One or two might be left alive to spread the tales of the monster, Grendel. I found this the perfect chance to use a Dragon Priest mask. I recommend either the plain Wooden Mask, or Volsung, which improves Speech, something that Grendel will need if he's to infiltrate the hated Companions.

    Completing this goal also gives the monster access to the group's treasured artifacts, Wuuthrad and Ysgramor's Shield. These can be swum down the lowest trenches of the sea and discarded to rust, or left in the Soul Cairn, where no dunder-headed future would-be Companion can ever find them. I leave that decision to the player; get creative!

    The key to open combat with this character is the combination of Elemental Fury with The Longhammer. Shout cooldown bonuses can help keep Grendel in the fight, letting him use his Fury more often. Stockpile any and all healing potions you can find, tough fights will require you to use them!

    Optional Roleplay Rules: 

    1. Grendel does not barter. He can sell hides and some looted items to the wandering caravans, but no merchant will deal with him save the Khajit. I also used Libet in Arnleif's from time to time, since she is part of Eola's coven. Babette will also buy the chunks of monsters and animals Grendel doesn't eat as well as any potions he picks up and doesn't want. Another option is to choose the Dremora Merchant power from the Black Book: Untold Legends. Consorting with Oblivion creatures is something Grendel's mother approves of.

    2. Even though he is a misanthrope and a monster, his main drive is to ease his loneliness. Grendel pairs well with Eola, Ilia, or Serana, who don't mind his consumption of enemies or his rampages. He can also acquire a Riekling to follow him through becoming Chief of Thirsk Hall, though Sneak becomes harder.

    3. Grendel cannot help but eat of the dead, both human and game animals. He is greedy and insatiable. Some witnesses will report cannibalism to the guards, driving up bounty if they are left alive.

    4. Grendel worships his witch mother, and will do anything to please her. I played this as bowing to the wishes of female spellcasters, for example Ilia, Serana, etc. It can also be played as eliminating rival witches as seen in The Affairs of Hagravens.

    5. Rampage at least once a week, always at night, and always starting with a few isolated individuals using Sneak. Rip apart the farmers in Rorikstead, then decimate the mead hall. Kill all the enforcers in Karthwasten mine, then turn on the miners. Leave no corner of Skyrim in peace. 

    "If Grendel wins, it will be a gruesome day;
    he will glut himself on the Geats in the war-hall,
    swoop without fear on that flower of manhood
    as on others before. Then my face won't be there
    to be covered in death: he will carry me away
    as he goes to ground, gorged and bloodied;
    he will run gloating with my raw corpse
    and feed on it alone, in a cruel frenzy,
    fouling his moor-nest." Beowulf, (442-450)

    I hope you enjoy playing the build as much as I did, cheers!

  • Member
    June 11, 2015

    good job only complaint i have is with him not being unarmed, but that's just me, what difficulty did you play this on?

  • VDW
    June 11, 2015

    I did do some unarmed, but to keep it effective at higher levels would require some wandering in the perks or possibly an exploit. I played it on Adept, so there was some dicey moments in there. I learned to pick my targets carefully, even researching who was going to be marked as essential to maximize my rampages. As I continue to level it, I'll probably perk Block a bit. Thanks for commenting! 

  • Member
    June 11, 2015

    no sure they're exploits but I've had some success with following this Unarmed

  • VDW
    June 11, 2015

    Great thread on Unarmed! most of it was information I knew already but the section on Fortify Marksman and that last bit was new to me. I also wanted to keep Grendel as a zero crafting build, it was important to me that he be solely a breaker of things and people and not create or add anything to the game world. If you want to keep him Unarmed and use some crafting to keep it relevant, I say do it! The other method I've used to keep unarmed characters in the ballpark for damage is the werewolf transformation exploit, equipping multiple gauntlets from a follower's trade menu while using Fists of Steel to take advantage of the stacked Base AR for damage. Of course, there's always the Fortify Restoration/Alchemy/Enchant loop if you really wanted to be... Crafty. 

  • Member
    June 12, 2015





    This is amazing!  I have to admit, I usually don't go for builds based on monsters, but you completely sold this.  Of course I'm a sucker for Beowulfiana, so I had a soft spot for this going in, but man, you exceeded expectations I didn't even know I had!  

    Love, love, love the gameplay notes here.  Using one of the female "witches" as a follower, and portraying it as though they're some representation of Grendel's mother... incredible idea, and one that I can really see working well in-game.  You're taking the legend of this monster and fitting it in *seamlessly* into Skyrim, not slavishly forcing RP decisions.  Of *course* this barbaric monster would travel in the company of some sneaky witch-woman!  That suggestion of an in-game relationship is key for making this RP viable, I think - it allows the character the justification for pursuing the more 'civilized' quests. The barter restrictions and cannibalism are also integrated perfectly, of course.

    I was sure you would have gone werewolf here, but you're right to go with vampirism instead, I think: the benefits to Sneak are nice, and lycanthropy would of course require doing the Companions, which clashes for obvious reasons.  

    And I *never* would have thought of Argonian for this - but again, I think it's a really good choice.  We are nowhere given a clear description of Grendel in the poem, but a scaly swamp-dweller fits excellently with what we do know!  I'm assuming you put him up to max weight in character creation?  

    Two Handed is one of my favorite skills, and the Longhammer is a great, crude-looking weapon for this brute.  Question - you mentioned doing the Cursed Tribe - did you use Volendrung?  That would be a great fit too!

    Also, what did you use The Black Star for, if anything?  And Block - no perks, so did you just use it occasionally? (no perks makes perfect sense, btw; Grendel wasn't exactly a thoughtful fighter!)

    There's just so much that is good about this, from the choices to the descriptions ("Grendel does not create; he destroys") to the quotes (who is the translator, btw?).

    I'm just.... *wipes tear*... it's a little dusty in here all of a sudden!  :P  Great, fantastic, wonderful job here.  I never play other peoples' builds, but this one has me sorely tempted!  

    Edit: Also, no crafting!  Only 3 perked skills!  Not a lvl 60 build!  

    Editedit: This is the ideal opponent for my Swordthane :D

  • VDW
    June 12, 2015

    Thanks Paul! I'll say that I had the idea for this build ages ago, but seeing the Swordthane really made it coalesce. I had to ask myself what the anti-Swordthane would use to be able to wipe out scads of that type of fighter. Seamus Heaney did the translation I used, which is very stylized, and one of my favorites.

    I did use Volendrung for a bit, but after the velocity and terror of using the Longhammer at full speed under Elemental Fury, it felt really clunky. Volendrung is absolutely amazing in Sneak Killcams though! As far as the Black Star, I saw completing it as a chance to turn a rival Daedra's artifact against her by corrupting it while at the same time making a priest non-essential and therefore, edible. I used it to charge up Volendrung a few times, using the Fiery Soul Trap Battleaxe from Ironbind (another chance to disillusion a would-be hero) to fill it. The Skull of Corruption could be rationalized nearly the same way, if one wanted to give such a weapon to a witch follower.

    As to Block, I used it mostly against charging beasts and to bash Dragons using a breath weapon. Perks there would be pretty much to get Quick Reflexes, which fits with Grendel killing thirty Spear-Danes in moments.

    Thanks again for the kind comments Paul, your builds are a big reason why I joined the site. I did up his weight all the way, making him as beefy as possible. I was going to try to get some screenshots since they really enhance the inspiration factor of the build, but I felt leaving the face/head look to the individual to decide was prudent. Who am I to say what a player might or might not find to be monstrous? And the Grendel is monstrous. 

  • Member
    June 12, 2015

    Oh, my wife mentioned this (yes, I read your build to her - it's that good! :P) - you could perhaps highlight the Thirsk Hall part a bit more.  You did mention the Reikling follower in there, but for some reason I spaced & didn't make the connection.  Of course, there's the whole Uderfrykte thing from Bloodmoon too!

  • Tom
    June 12, 2015

    I freaking love the artwork.

  • VDW
    June 12, 2015

    Great notes! I've done a few edits as recommended and cleaned up a few things that were bothering me. The Uderfrykte is definitely a Grendel reference, especially considering the Uderfrykte Matron in Oblivion. It also provides the space I spent most of my time as the Listener. The ultimate replacement for Grendel's Mother is, of course, the Night Mother. I didn't really play it up in the build, but Mother's orders can keep a player in a Grendel frame of mind.