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Character Build: Atmoran Totems - The Fox

Tags: #Race:Nord  #Character Build Necromancer  #Character Build Summoner  #Character Build Nightblade  #Rank:Recognized 
  • Member
    July 2, 2015

    In Skyrim, the totems of the old Atmoran gods can still be found – the symbols scratched into a stone protruding like a jagged tooth from a grassy field, or carved outside the entrance to a forgotten tomb. The symbols speak, it is said, to those who would listen.

    Some men and women are said to partake of the spirits of the stones. Even if they know nothing of the symbols or their origin, their companions mark how their strength rivals that of the bear, how their cunning is that of the fox, how their restlessness is that of the hawk. Such individuals body forth the totems in their minds and their hearts, their learning and their fighting, their being and their dying.

    This is the eighth installment in a series of nine character builds, each keyed to a particular totem. (See here for the first build, The Hawk, as well as an introduction to the project. Other builds so far include The WolfThe SnakeThe MothThe OwlThe Whale, and The Bear.) The race for each build presented in this series is assumed to be Nord, as those with the blood of the North are the most likely to bear the aspect of a totem. But just as the Dragonborn can be a member of any race, so too the call of the totems can be answered by any race of man, or beast, or even elf.

    The Fox

    The Fox “eats what it can,” according to the riddle in Volkskygge, which also notes that the Fox especially targets the Snake. If the Snake represents the frenzied, ever-changeful rush of human achievement, the Fox is its foe – clever, stealthy, and adaptable. Some have detected in the Fox totem the presence of Orkey, a dimly remembered loan-god from Atmora who was the enemy of mortals, eager to cheat them of their life-years. While appearing innocuous, those who hew to the Fox totem are unabashed opportunists, living off others whenever possible.

    It may seem strange to include an adversarial spirit among the Atmoran pantheon, but the later Nordic pantheon had room for antagonistic figures such as Herma Mora and Alduin. Orkey was not worshiped in the same way as Kyne, but he was recognized as a powerful and important god. So too the Fox occupies an ambivalent position: it has few adherents, but all observe its cunning.

    Necromancy is not unknown to the Nords. From the ancient and profane glories of the Dragon Cult to more recent practitioners such as Sorkvild the Raven (who plied his dark trade in a Dwemer ruin outside Dagon Fel in Morrowind), there has been an unbroken line of Nordic sorcerers willing to deal with the dead and acquire great power.

    Primary Skills: Conjuration, Pickpocket 

    Complementary Skills: Alteration, Sneak, Illusion, Alchemy, Enchanting 

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

    Stone: Mage, then Tower. Though often underrated, the Tower allows the Fox to pursue his opportunistic nature with ease.

    Shouts: Drain Vitality, Summon Durnehviir, Soul Tear.

    All the Shouts used by the Fox revolve around the theme of using or draining others' power – just as Orkey was said to have drained the Nords of long lifespans. Drain Vitality, used in combination with poisons, can shut down a foe's Stamina or Magicka recovery (as detailed by James here). It also provices a nice stagger effect. Summon Durnehviir is reminiscent of Orkey summoning “the ghost of Alduin Time-Eater”, in the words of Five Songs of King Wulfharth. You're summoning a dead dragon to eat down the lives of your foes (in Durnehviir's case, to teach you Soul Tear, a Shout that deals damage, traps souls, and turns the dead all in one).

    Mask: Vokun (“Shadow”). This mask eases the main magical skills of the Fox, allowing him to strengthen his defenses, slip along unseen, and raise the dead with less effort. The associated quest also grants the Flaming Familiar – a useful canine companion for those occasions when there are no dead to reanimate.

    Gear: Necromancer's Amulet, Necromancer's Robes to Conjurer's robes, Namira's Ring, Skull of Corruption, Mehrunes' Razor

    Quests: Dawnguard (Volkihar side), Namira's Quest, Vaermina's quest, Mehrunes Razor, College required for purchase of some Conjuration spells, but nothing else

    Vampirism well suits a character who lives off others. And the Volkihar are a venerable clan of Skyrim – they are the best home for a reclusive necromancer.

    A follower of the Fox will sift through the Soul Cairn with glee, uncovering lost tomes of summoning and reaping the souls of the forgotten dead.

    Several daedric quests also suit the opportunism of the Fox. Namira's Ring allows such characters to literally “eat what they can”, making full use of the slain in a ritualistic recreation of Old Knocker's plan to eat down the lives of mortals. Mehrunes Razor is a hidden ace for the character, used for sneak attacks or when a strong foe needs taking down quickly.

    The most signature artifact is the Skull of Corruption, a staff that steals away the dreams of the living and uses them to fuel its dark power. Blasts from this occult weapon are the primary means of damage available to a follower of the Fox, and are especially useful against groups of foes given the area of effect.

    Level 35 Perks

    Conjuration – Novice-Expert, Dualcasting, Necromancy, Dark Souls, Mystic Binding, Soul Stealer, Oblivion Binding

    Pickpocket – Light Fingers (2/5), Night Thief, Poisoned, Cutpurse, Misdirection

    Sneak – Stealth (1/5), Backstab, Deadly Aim, Assassin's Blade

    Alteration – Novice-Expert, Mage Armor (3/3)

    Illusion – Novice, Animage, Kindred Mage, Quiet Casting

    Alchemy – Alchemist (2/5)

    Enchanting – Enchanter (1/5)

    “In Atmora,” according to Five Songs of King Wulfharth, Orkey always tried to ruin the Nords, and even “stole their years away”. Conjuration and Pickpocket both fit that theme – and both fit the opportunism associated with the Fox totem itself.

    Conjuration makes most use of necromancy perks, but the bound weapon perks have great utility, and bound weapons themselves are another means by which the Fox makes use of the spirits of others. The Soul Cairn spells are also obviously necromantic. No summons used by the character are keyed to the atromancy perks, so none are taken. Since this is a sneaky character, the Master-level thrall spells (and Twin Souls) aren't taken: few things are as annoying as trying to sneak with permanent followers in tow, and one meat-shield is plenty for a clever follower of the Fox.

    Pickpocket is most useful in non-combat situations, but reverse-pickpocketing a poison of paralysis or stealing a foe's weapon can be a good way to open a fight. (Perfect Touch is a bit silly, but can be taken for those who don't mind the prospect of somehow stealing an entire suit of armor from a foe...) This skill can also fund the career of a deceptive character. It may be worth joining the Thieves' Guild just to fence pickpocketed goods, but I chose instead simply to use what I stole and toss the things I didn't need. Note that not all base perks are needed here; enchanted items and potions will give enough of a boost to the skill.

    Alteration allows a follower of the Fox to sniff out threats (whether living or dead), and Detect Dead points the way to corpses ripe for reanimation. The flesh spells bolster his meager defenses.

    The fox is a stealthy and wary creature. Perks in Sneak allow the character to get close to his foes for a backstab, or to work his magic before any blades are drawn.

    Enchanting gives a student of the Fox the opportunity to put captured souls to use. This skill is mostly used to fuel the Skull of Corruption, as well as any other enchanted daggers or blades that may be acquired. Some trinkets may be infused with Fortify Alteration, Conjuration, or Pickpocket enchantments. To ease life during the day as a vampire, I also made some items that fortify Magicka and Stamina regeneration.

    Illusion offers Muffle (and eventually Invisibility), two spells that greatly enhance a stealthy approach. Quiet Casting is easily attainable and helps a necromancer working up his magic while hidden.

    One Handed and Restoration need no perk investment, though both will increase as the character uses bound weapons and heals occasionally. They make decent candidates for investment at higher levels. 

    Gameplay notes: A typical opening to a fight might include a backstab followed by raising the slain foe, or alternatively using a Soul Cairn summon. In some cases, reverse-pickpocketing a poison may be an option – as will stealing a foe's weapon before the fight truly begins. Equip a Bound Sword in the right hand and the Skull of Corruption in the left; blast away at archers or tight groups of foes, and hack at those who get too close. When a strong foe seems close to death, use Soul Tear to claim him for your side.

    Sometimes the Fox can be too clever for its own good. When approaching a foe in stealth, you have many tricks - backstab and hope for an instant kill; steal his weapon; slip him a poison – but sometimes you'll get caught and have to scramble. That itself is part of the fun in playing a follower of the Fox: the frantic summoning of foul undead from the Soul Cairn, blasting away with the Skull of Corruption, or using that 3-second paralysis poison to buy a little time to cast from that scroll you stole a couple dungeons ago. It has been said that the fox knows many tricks; the hedgehog one good one. Playing a successful follower of this totem requires planning – but it also requires and rewards improvisation. 

    The Atmoran Totem builds:

    The Hawk

    The Wolf

    The Snake

    The Moth

    The Owl

    The Whale

    The Bear

    ...and more to come.

    Ning is experiencing issues that affect the like counter. Here's how many likes this build had prior to being affected. 

    -Curse Never Dying

  • July 2, 2015

    I don't like it as much as the other Totem builds(has nothing to do with the build itself, just my preference) but it is still of the same quality as the others. Waiting for the next

  • Member
    July 2, 2015

    Hell. yes. This is the totem I've been waiting for. I promised myself I'd play them to 'completion' in order but my Gods I have to fire this one up, you totally nailed the 'clever fox' feel. Brb, losing a week of my life.

  • July 2, 2015

    Very, very interesting take on the Fox. Way to think outside the box!

    Good job!

  • July 3, 2015

    Wow, Paul, your little series of builds is quickly producing a lot of quality stuff, eh?

    All in all, the Fox's "personality" is one that I like the most, as a sneaky mage, since it's an archtype I like better. But the darkness and soul sucking is really badass, and nice use of some underrated mechanics (Skull and Drain Vitality).

  • Member
    July 3, 2015

    Definitively love this one Paul. It has a great vibe and reading this sparked a nice idea for my own fox path.

    I somehow managed to miss some of your other totem builds, I'll definitively have to catch up on those.

  • Member
    July 3, 2015

    Thanks everyone!  

    This was an interesting one.  I never play vampires, so that aspect took a bit of getting used to.  I didn't mention this in the build, but I never really used VL form with this guy.  There were one or two tough fights where it came out (and it was helpful), but I didn't spend too much time there.  

    Currently hard at work on the Dragon totem playtest - last one!  Should have that posted soon.  After that, I'll just be playing checkers for awhile. :P

  • Member
    July 6, 2015
    Quick note: The perk spread includes Twin Souls but your skill description says Master and Twin Souls are unperked.
  • Member
    July 6, 2015

    Ah, thanks; fixed!  That also should bring it down to a lvl 35 build, which is a more satisfying number for some reason.  

    That must have been a holdover from my earlier planning that missed my eye when I posted it.  As to the level discrepancy, I tend to play these builds a bit higher than where they end up when I post them.  When I go to post it up, I ask myself what is required for the core experience of the build, and cut back a few levels (usually to some nice round number).  I *think* this is the first time I've messed up during that process.  Thanks again!

  • July 16, 2015

    Not to pressure you or anything, but will the Dragon totem build be coming out soon? My hands are rubbing with anticipation!