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Event Build: The Desert Runner

Tags: #Character Build Dual-Wield  #Character Build Archer  #Character Build Thief  #Event:Artifacts  #Event:Mythic 
  • Member
    February 29, 2016

    Greetings dear reader, this is my entry for the 'Character Building Event : Artifacts'. I must say, first I didn't create this build especially for this event but after I developed it quite a bit, I thought it matched the criteria for this event quite good. So without any further ado I proudly present to you... 


    ‘I am a child of the desert. I was born in the Alik’r and grew up as a member of the Ash’abah tribe but I left my community when the last wizard, my teacher, died.

    There is a legend of the Ash’abah that says that the great Alik’r sometimes takes a child as its pupil. In the great Alik’r I found my teacher and took a new name as my own: Desert Runner.

    The sands have taught me much, how to survive in the blazing heat of the midday Sun, how to gather water when there is no rain at all and… how to find treasures in ancient Dwemer ruins.

    For about 5 years I lived in Sentinel when I heard about an island covered in ashes that has legendary and magical artifacts buried in age-old ruins.

    Now I’m on the journey to the far north and as I’m passing through Skyrim I have the chance to explore its ancient Dwemer ruins and see what treasures its’ long gone masters left behind.’

    -Rah’ysa, Desert Runner




    Race: Redguard. From a lore and roleplay perspective there is no other choice possible. In addition 6 out of 7 skills are boosted by the Redguard skill boosts.

    Stone: Start with the Thief Stone to level lockpicking faster until spells are used more heavily. At around Level 17-18 I switched to the Mage Stone to boost these skills faster. Later the Lord Stone will be useful to augment armor and magic resistance especially for the high-level dungeons.

    Stat spread: 1 / 2 / 3. This character needs quite a lot of stamina for dual-wielded power attacks and bow shots. Every now and then add a point to Magicka to be able to cast the needed spells later in the game.

    Major skills: One-Handed, Archery, Lockpicking

    Minor Skills: Light Armor, Destruction, Alteration, Smithing

    Essential DLC: Dragonborn, Dawnguard

    Spells: Ash Rune (Expert Alteration), Whirlwind Cloak (Adept Destruction), Fire Rune (Apprentice Destruction)

    Worshipped deities: Arkay, Kynareth





    • Slow Time: Hag's End, Korvanjund, Labyrinthian
    • Cyclone: Benkongerike, White Ridge Barrow, Kolbjorn Barrow


    • Alik’r Hood
    • Morag Tong Armor
    • Blackguard Gloves
    • Blackguard Boots
    • Optional mods: Face mask, Side pouch


    • Two Scimitars (Steel Smithing)
    • Soulrender and Bloodscythe
    • Dwarven Black Bow Of Fate (Dwarven Smithing)



    • Amulet of Arkay / Amulet of Kynareth
    • Ring Of Wielding


    Perk placement Level 52



    The Build


    The Desert Runner is an artifact hunter from the Alik’r desert, specialized in Dwemer Artifacts. When she heard about the ancient treasures in Solstheim, she decided to go on an expedition to this island.

    The Desert Runner uses two scimitars, the curved swords popular amongst the inhabitants of the Alik’r desert. For ranged damage and scouting purposes she uses a bow. Together with her light chest armor, gauntlets and boots, she uses Alteration spells to boost her defenses.

    In addition the Desert Runner uses a repertoire of spells called ‘desert magic’. She is able to create magical runes on the ground to control the sand and devour her unwary enemies as well as unleash powerful windstorms. As she is a member of the Ash’abah she has no problems dealing with the undead, as opposed to other Redguard tribes. She doesn’t use Conjuration or Illusion magic as it is forbidden in Redguard society. She occasionally wears a cloth over her mouth and nose to protect her from sand and dust.

    The Desert Runner has two very unique artifacts in her possession which make her adventures into dungeons and Dwemer ruins a lot easier. Let’s take a closer look at those:


    ‘Solstheim may be covered in ashes but it doesn’t feel that different from my home, the Alik’r sands’


    The Artifacts


    The Skeleton Key

    The Desert Runner’s advantage over other dungeon explorers and possible rivals is the Skeleton Key. This Daedric artifact, which allows to open any physical lock, was created by the Daedra Lord Nocturnal and was once in possession of Mercer Frey until the Desert Runner retrieved it from the rogue Guildmaster. Despite being tasked to bring the precious object back to Nocturnal, the Desert Runner uses it for her own purpose. Mostly unknown to most people, the Skeleton Key has more functions than simply an unbreakable lockpick. As seen being used by Mercer Frey in Irkngthand, the Skeleton Key can also unlock unnatural powers. Mercer Frey used the power of the Daedric artifact to cause an earthquake and make the ruins collapse on Karliah, Brynjolf and the Desert Runner. With the Skeleton Key the Desert Runner will be able to manipulate the flow of time (Slow Time shout)









    The Dwarven Black Bow of Fate

    The Desert Runner retrieved this bow on Solstheim after hunting down Dwemer gems, the ‘Kagrumez Resonance Gems’. Those gems are the key to opening the doors of the Kagrumez ruins and thus gaining the black bow after mastering traps and waves of enemies, the so called the ‘Kagrumez Trials’.

    What makes this bow unique is the enchantment. The bow has a 50% chance for each attribute to absorb 25 points of Health, Stamina, and/or Magicka. This makes the bow especially useful against mages and the more powerful Dragon Priests.  








    Starting an adventure 

    As every playthrough the Desert Runner’s story starts right after the events of Helgen. On your way to Riverwood, activate the Thief Stone to boost the lockpicking skill before joining the Thieves Guild. Head to Whiterun and complete the main quest at least until ‘The Horn of Jurgen Windcaller’. In Whiterun, pay the Hall of the Dead a visit and complete the quest of the priest but don’t hand it in. His amulet, which you are tasked to retrieve, is perfect to boost your health for the early levels. From there on, the build revolves around gathering the armor parts and weapons. The Thieves Guild’s early quests are necessary to get the standard Thieves Guild armor and the Blackguard armor parts from Solstheim. After Level 6 you can safely complete the quest ‘In My Time Of Need’. Side with Saadia and kill Kematu and his Alik’r warriors to get the Alik’r hood and two scimitars. After Level 16 it is safe to take the boat from Windhelm to Solstheim and complete quests for Glover Mallory and Neloth (located in Tel Mithryn, East Solstheim). For some quests you need a lot of gold to continue (Unearthed) so I recommend to complete quests from Delvin Mallory and Vex to get the money fast.


    Fighting is pretty straight forward when it comes to regular enemies. Start casting a flesh spell to boost your armor rating and then snipe them down with your bow from a safe distance. Switch to your rune spell and place the magical traps on the ground in the enemy’s path or switch to your dual scimitars and hit them with powerful strikes.


    ‘The ancient Dwemer ruins contain many hidden treasures… and traps. Any adventurer should tread lightly.’


    In Dwemer ruins, though, there is a different breed of enemies which can be deadly for the unwary explorer: Dwarven machines and Falmer.

    Dwarven machines are resistant to magic but from the Desert Runner's repertoire of spells, fire spells are the most effective. While bows are not as effective, dual wielded scimitars can do quite some damage.

    Falmer can be pretty annoying as they often attack in groups with at least one magic caster and one melee/range fighter. Often times they even use poisoned weapons but the Desert Runner’s Redguard blood gives her a 50% resistance to poison. Along with some ‘Resist Poison’ potions the danger of being poisoned and weakened can be reduced even more. The Dwarven Black Bow and dual-wielded scimitars are good weapons against these creatures.

    One thing I also made use of are trainers. I trained a lot in Blacksmithing (while also using a mod that makes mining advance the skill) and in Alteration. Especially the latter is hard to level fast (at least for me) so I spend some money which I gained from Thieves Guild quests.


    Special Move:


    Rising Dunes: The Desert Runner unleashes a mighty wind to pull the enemies up in the air, only to release them and let them be devoured by the sands.

    At first this move is a bit hard to pull off but once you get to know how Cyclone works and where the enemy is going to land, you can cast your Ash Rune at the right place. It is crucial to only use the first as this shout is very powerful and can kill the enemy instantly or blow him too far away.


    Requires: first word for Cyclone shout, Ash Rune








    The Desert Runner is an artifact hunter specialized in Dwemer artifacts and Skyrim offers a lot of possibilities to roleplay this profession. She will visit as many ruins as possible, retrieve their treasures, sell them or keep them for her own purpose. One of the best examples is ‘Lost To The Ages’ where the Desert Runner gets to explore Dwemer ruins and delve into Dwemer history and mystery.

    To delve more into the life of the Desert Runner I followed a Roleplay guide (by Jo'daro Zahir) and set myself some rules and guidelines:

    The Backpack:

    • Carry at least one torch
    • Some Health, Magicka and Stamina potions
    • ‘Cure disease’ potions
    • Various resistance potions (Magicka, Shock, Fire, Frost, Poison)
    • No poisons
    • A wood axe
    • A mining axe
    • normal clothes to wear at taverns, don't sleep in your outside gear
    • food and beverage (stews, soups, drinks...) 

    Other rules:

    • Before heading out to explore, pray at Arkay’s shrine for his blessing
    • Take your time to read through books you find in Dwemer ruins to learn about the life of the Dwemer
    • No followers unless they are a part of a quest
    • Buy a house in a city of your choice and stow your Dwemer treasures and rare weapons there.

    After the Skeleton key is in the hands of the Desert Runner she will leave the Thieves Guild and never return again. She doesn’t pray to Nocturnal and doesn’t care for the Guild and their problems. She is an explorer and needs to roam free through Skyrim and Solstheim and not be bound to a group of people. One could even say that she is an opportunist and always calculates what is in for her. While completing the various quests her behavior and mindset will become clear.


    […] The desert grips our hearts and souls, Its flame within our eyes and ears, Dust cannot die, and we are dust, Windblown, ephemeral, eternal, all.

    – A Redguard Poem


    The next section is a small update as of 28.03.2016

    Enhanced Roleplaying: Exploring...or Suriving?


    ' The Khajiit trader was right... I should've bought the damn cloak'


    Adding realism through mods

    I really enjoyed playing this character as she is not only an explorer but also a survival expert, meaning staying free of diseases, eating and drinking regularly and sleep in tents or bed rolls. Out of the box, Skyrim doesn't offer much options to really get a satisfying experience so I added some mods (links to the Nexus):

    I must say, the Frostfall mod adds a new level of difficulty as the weather and different temperatures, even water temperature have an impact on the character. Being that Rah'ysa is a Redguard, she has no experience with cold temperatures and this adds greatly to a more realistic roleplay experience. She has to wear different clothes to protect herself against the cold.


    Another mod which I really enjoy is Dwemer Goggles and Scouter. It adds Dwemer glasses that have special effects which can be activated while wearing and are craftable after completing a side quest. 

    Of course the build itself is perfectly enjoyable without any mods, I just thought I add my experience for other mod-users. Console users can ignore this section or enjoy the screenshots.


      'Rah'ysa in her Winter gear - Timber Wolf  Skin Hood and Cloak, Skaal Coat, Skaal Gloves, Skaal Boots'   


    Essential Quests:


    Here I have listed the essential quests, what level they require, what purpose they serve and what DLC they require:

    • Main Quest (at least until 'The Horn Of Jurgen Windcaller')
    • Thieves Guild (Gold, Skeleton Key)
    • In My Time Of Need (Side with Saadia, Alik’r Hood, Scimitars, Level 6+)
    • An Axe To Find (Ancient Nordic pickaxe, needed for Unearthed) DB
    • Paid In Full ( possible only after the Thieves Guild armor is obtained, Blackguard Armor parts) DB
    • Lost To The Ages (Zephyr, craft an Aetherium Staff at the end, Roleplay) DG
    • Wind and Sand (able to buy Whirlwind Cloak, RP) DB
    • From The Ashes (Ash Rune spell tome) DB
    • Civil War quest (Join the Imperials, needed to get a word for Slow Time)
    • Unfathomable Depths ( Level 14+, RP)
    • Discerning The Transmundane ( entrance to the largest Dwemer city Blackreach, lots of RP)
    • Served Cold (Morag Tong Armor, Level 25+) DB
    • The Kagrumez Gauntlets (Dwarven Black Bow Of Fate, Level 25+) DB
    • Unearthed (one Cyclone Word, Roleplay, Level 30+ recommended) DB
    • The Final Descent (Roleplay, Level 30+)
    • Deathbrand (Soulrender, Bloodscythe, Level 36+, Lvl 40 recommended) DB


       'As long as I keep the heat of the desert in my palm, the cold snow won't exhaust me'


    Final Words

    So, dear reader, thank you for keeping up this long. If you enjoyed reading this build so far and want to know a little more about the Desert Runner, down below is a small story about the character in the screenshots.

    This build was really cool to play and to write up and it actually took me less time than expected because everything came nice together in the end. Though, I must have chosen the most boring artifacts in the whole game from a lore perspective, because there isn't much known about these artifacts. On the other hand the Dwarven Black Bow Of Fate is my favorite bow in the whole game ( third time I use it in a character build) and until now I have always returned the Skeleton Key and never used its helpful function. i hope you enjoyed this build as much as I did and please feel free to leave a comment.


    Rah'ysa, Desert Runner - A Dungeon Story


    For a brief second Rah’ysa took a peek from behind her cover and saw two figures. Luckily for her, their torches were still burning and illuminating what appeared to be an ancient Dwemer room. The bandits were standing in front of a large treasure chest set in stone, forcing a lockpick in the opening on top. It was just a matter of seconds until they managed to have a look at what could possibly be a valuable content.  

    'I won’t let them get away with my treasure ’, Rah’ysa thought to herself, 'I evaded all the traps from this forsaken Dwemer ruin and I won’t leave empty handed’ '.

    She took another quick look and slowly whispered the three words she had been studying for the past days, focusing on the area around the chest. Ven Gaar Nos. Wind. Unleash. Strike. As soon as she finished the last word, she suddenly felt a light wind behind her back. The pleasant breeze got stronger by the second and suddenly a powerful wind made its way towards the stone chest. Before they even knew what was happening, both figures let out screams of surprising as they were grabbed by the wind and thrown into the air only to fall down on the stone ground. With a swift move, Rah’ysa grabbed her bow from her back, readied an arrow and waited for any of the bandits to recover and stand up. Both were unconscious and laid motionless a few feet away from the treasure chest. Rah’ysa made her way down from her hiding spot and walked towards the chest while fastening her bow to her back. Looking at the bandits, she reached out her hands and generated a greyish light in her palms. With a swift movement she unleashed the energy and created a runic symbol on the stone ground.

    'Now let’s take a look at what treasures the Dwemer left for me ’, she told herself in a whispering voice as if the Dwemer could still hear her. From the side pocket of her belt, she grabbed a small item wrapped in grey cloth, barely bigger than her own hand. As she unwrapped what appeared to be a rusty old key with an odd round-shaped handle, Rah’ysa whispered almost unnoticeable 'Nocturnal… please forgive me ’and with a precise movement she inserted the tool into the small opening of the Dwemer box.

    Almost instantly she heard the relieving clicking noise from the lock. Carefully she wrapped up the tool in the cloth and stowed it back into her side pouch. Cautiously she pulled up the lid of the stone chest and as soon as the chest was fully opened a cloud of dust emitted. Immediately Rah’ysa pulled her cowl up over her mouth and nose to protect herself from inhaling the age-old dust. After the cloud disappeared, a pile of colorful, shining stones became visible, reflecting the dancing light of the burning torches. Prudently she packed a handful of gems into a little leather bag and then fastened the full bag onto her belt. Under the gems slowly appeared a pulsating orange light. Quickly Rah’ysa reached towards the glowing and as her fingers met a thin piece of metal, she grabbed and pulled the strange object towards her.

    'What do we have here?’ she asked herself slightly amazed at the sight of the beautifully carved piece of black metal, carefully analyzing the string attached from one end to the other.  'This can’t be… ’ She whispered in disbelief 'the legendary Dwemer black bow?’ Despite being made out of metal, possibly Ebony, the bow felt nearly as light as her own wooden bow.  

    'I might keep this bow for myself’, she thought ‘I can almost feel the magical power running through the metal '.



    *DISCLAIMER: All screenshots of the character are taken and edited by me. Every other piece of art was gathered through Google. All credits go to their respectful owners* 

    Thank you for reading my work and as always, every comment is appreciated.

  • Member
    February 29, 2016

    Nice job and presentation.

  • February 29, 2016

    Another master piece David. 

  • Member
    February 29, 2016

    Awesome work, David. +1

  • Member
    February 29, 2016

    Awesome work David, as always

  • February 29, 2016

    Awesome build, man! It's always great to see you come back every now and again. There's so many great things about the build, too. The armor combo, the presentation, the art, the sort of vagabond treasure hunter vibe the build has. It's all pretty darn awesome. +1

  • Member
    February 29, 2016

    Very nice work, +1 from me.

  • Member
    March 1, 2016

    Thank you, John. I appreciate it :)

  • Member
    March 1, 2016

    Thanks Curse, I am really honored. BTW I added the snow flakes on the first picture by following your tutorial from the Arts forum :)

  • Member
    March 1, 2016

    Thank you Mortiferous, I appreciate it.