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Character Build: The Spirit Savant

Tags: #Character Build Necromancer  #Character Build Mage  #Character Build Summoner  #Race:Breton  #Rank:Recognized  #SDGundamX 
  • Member
    June 12, 2016

    For as long back as you can remember, you’ve been able to hear the voices of the dead.  They whisper through your mind like echoes carried down from the mountains by the wind.  Trapped in this world and unable to move on to the next, the spirits come to you for help.  Some seek penance for the evils they committed in life.  Others seek revenge for their wrongful demise.  Regardless, you have made it your life’s work to help these poor souls transition to the afterlife.  And in their gratitude, the spirits imbue you with both knowledge and power.  They come to your aid when your life is threatened, manifesting themselves as ghostly weapons and armor, temporarily possessing nearby corpses, or even taking on corporeal form to fight on your behalf.  Additionally, they constantly whisper to you the secret locations of long lost treasures. 

    And so it is, on the advice of a wandering spirit, you have come to the lands of Skyrim to lay the dead to rest and seek your fortunes…

    ~Build Basics~

    Race: Any, but Breton is recommended for their high Conjuration skill as well as their racial abilities (+25% magic resist, and 50% magic absorption once per day).

    Stats: 2 Magicka / 1 Health (Stamina is left unchanged)

    Standing StoneMage Stone when starting out, Lord Stone for better armor and magic resistance and the Ritual Stone (stored in the Aetherial Crown) for enhanced ability to call on the spirits for aid.

    Essential Shouts:

    • Marked for Death – Your spirit companions rip apart an opponent’s armor, dealing slight damage to your enemy's health.
    • Drain Vitality – Your spirit companions weigh down your opponent’s soul, preventing the regeneration of health, magicka, and stamina.
    • Slow Time – The spirits possess you, giving you superhuman reflexes.
    • Become Ethereal – Temporarily step into the spirit plane to avoid physical attacks.
    • Dragon Aspect – The spirits rush to protect you, coalescing as visible armor around you and summoning a warrior from Sovengarde to defend you if you come close to death.
    • Bend Will – Your spirit companions temporarily possess an opponent and force it to fight for you.
    • Call of Valor – Call on the spirits of Sovengarde’s most hallowed heroes to aid you in combat.
    • Soul Tear – Your spirit companions attack an opponent’s very soul, causing tremendous physical pain, and possessing your enemy's corpse should it die.

    Major Skills: Conjuration, Restoration, Alteration

    Minor Skills: Enchanting, Alchemy, Speech

    ~Skills Breakdown~

    Conjuration: This skill simulates our connection to the world of the dead.  It allows us to summon spirit weapons (i.e. bound weapons) as well as help from spirit companions.  At first you will only be able to summon weaker spirits to aid you, and most will require a dead body as a host.  Eventually, with the conjuring spells from the Dawnguard expansion, you’ll be able to call upon powerful free-floating spirits to protect you. 

    Restoration: This skill represents your ability to command and combat hostile spirits of the dead.  Additionally it simulates your growing ability to use your connection to the spirit world to improve your healing rate and magical regeneration.


    Alteration: This skill simulates the use of your companion spirits for defensive purposes.  Flesh spells mimic spirit armor while spells like Detect Life and Detect Undead are roleplayed as the spirits revealing to you the locations of nearby enemies.  Note that we will not be taking the Mage Armor perks, as they will become superfluous once we obtain Dragonhide.  This has the side-benefit of allowing us to equip a greater variety of magical equipment such as helmets, armored boots, and bracers.

    Enchanting: Self-enchanting equipment represents the Spirit Savant’s ever-increasing ability to imbue ordinary objects with power from the spiritual plane.  We will be using enchanting to increase our combat effectiveness with our Bound Weapons (i.e. Fortify One-handed and Fortify Marksman enchantments) and reduce the cost of key spell schools, particularly dual-cast Alteration spells. 

    Alchemy: Spirit Savants can temporarily increase their connection to the spirit world by imbibing a variety of hand-brewed potions.  Alternatively, they can utilize poisons to weaken enemies to the powers of their companion spirits.


    Speechcraft: As Spirit Savants spend a lot of their time talking with ghosts, they get very good at making conversation!  Additionally, the spirits provide Spirit Savants with the knowledge of the right things to say to persuade merchants to either part with or buy goods at reasonable prices.  The key perk here is Merchant, which is especially useful for exchanging excess crafted items with a trainer for skills training.

    Note that we will not initially be taking any direct combat perks—our combat damage will come entirely from the spirit world either directly (i.e. from summoning spirits or bound weapons) or indirectly (i.e. from equipment enchanted with the spirits of the dead).


    Spirit Savants generally do not carry weapons, relying on their summoned swords or bow for combat.  They can wear any armor or clothing they desire.  Magical robes are recommended for their spell cost reduction and magical regeneration properties.  The Necromancer’s Amulet is extremely useful early on, providing a +50 point magicka increase as well as a whopping 25% conjuration spell reduction, and can be obtained as early as level one by completing the quest "Blood on the Ice."  The lowered health and stamina regeneration rates it confers are negligible for our character, especially once we have perked Regeneration and Respite in the Restoration tree.  On higher difficulty settings, until you have Dragonhide it is a good idea to wear a helmet, gauntlets or bracers, and armored boots in order to take advantage of the game’s hidden armor bonus (+25 per armor piece worn).  While this may seem like very little protection, it will at least prevent you from being one-hit killed by all but the strongest of Skyrim’s enemies.  Suggested end-game gear/enchanttments are as follows:

    • HeadAetherial Crown (with Ritual Stone) and the Jagged Crown enchanted with Fortify Alteration & Fortify Marksman 
    • Necklace: Enchanted with Fortify One-handed & Fortify Marksman
    • Body: Enchanted with Fortify Restoration & Fortify Conjuration
    • Hands: Enchanted with Fortify One-Handed & Fortify Marksman
    • Ring: Enchanted with Fortify One-Handed & Fortify Marksman
    • Feet: Enchanted with Fortify One-Handed & Resist Frost


    Spirit Savants utilize alchemy to bring themselves more in alignment with the world of the dead and thereby increase their connection to their guardian spirits.  They can also brew powerful poisons which weaken enemies so that they are more susceptible to the haunting of angry spirits. 

    Special Note about Ravage Poisons (thanks to blog member James for finding and posting this information): Ravage Poisons are different from other poisons for two reasons.  First, unlike most other poisons, they are not affected by difficulty setting.  This means if the tooltip says it does 30 points of damage that’s how much it does even on Legendary difficulty.  Second, the Ravage Magicka and Ravage Stamina potions are bugged in a similar way to the Marked for Death shout in that they will constantly drain the enemy’s magicka/stamina for the amount stated EVERY SECOND for 10 seconds.  These two facts make Ravage poisons incredibly useful if you’re planning on playing on the harder difficulties (i.e. Master or higher).

    Drain StrengthRavage Stamina & Slow 
    Ingredients: Deathbell + Salt Pile + Thistle Branch
    Your companion spirits weigh down an opponent, leaving him without the ability to run or power-attack.  Useful against strong melee opponents like Bandit Chiefs wielding two-handers, as it allows you to outmaneuver them and avoid "kill cam" deaths even when you are in melee range.

    Soul SpoilRavage Magicka & Ravage Stamina & Lingering Damage Health 
    Ingredients: Scathecrow + Orange Dartwing + Thistle Branch
    Enables your companion spirits to slowly invade an opponents very soul, leeching the magicka, stamina, and health from your enemy over time.  


    Infuse Bound WeaponFortify Marksman & Fortify One-handed
    Ingredients: Canis Root + Juniper Berries + Hanging Moss
    Allows the spirits to infuse your bound weapons, temporarily overcharging them with power.  Note that Bound Sword is affected by both the Fortify Marksman and Fortify One-handed effects and can be swung remarkably quickly, making this potion useful in situations when you need a sudden power burst to win the day.

    Conjoin SpiritsFortify Conjuration & Fortify Health & Restore Health 
    Ingredients: Blue Mountain Flower + Bone Meal + Wheat
    Temporarily join your spirit with that of your spirit companions, boosting your health and allowing friendly spirits to take corporeal form in the mortal world for longer periods of time.  


    Spirit AnchorFortify Alteration & Restore Magicka 
    Ingredients: Grass Pod + River Betty + Frost Salts
    Temporarily boost your companion spirits’ connection to the world of the living, allowing spirits conjured for defensive purposes to remain in your service longer.  Useful for extending the duration of either flesh spells or dragon shouts such as Slow Time.

    ~Special Moves~

    Mass PossessionAetherial Crown + Ritual Stone
    Summon an unlimited number of companion sprits to possess nearby corpses and fight by your side for a limited amount of time (storing the Ritual Stone in the Aetherial Crown allows you unlimited uses of its power simply by unequipping and re-equpping the crown).  Note: Because this move can quickly become game-breaking when used on the corpses of high-powered NPCs such as bosses, I recommend limiting yourself to resurrecting the same corpse no more than three times in a row and roleplaying the corpse as "disintegrating" after the third time.

    AvatarSlow Time (all three words) + Infuse Bound Weapon Potion + Bound Sword
    Warrior spirits possess you, blessing you inhuman speed and reflexes while also overcharging your Bound Sword and turning it into a supernatural weapon capable of cleaving even the most armored of opponents in two. Note: Because of this special move’s incredible damage-dealing capability, I recommend treating it as a Major Power and limiting its use to once per 24 hour cycle.

    Soul Curse: Drain Vitality (all three words) + Soul Spoil Poison
    Your companion spirits doom a single enemy target, draining it both physically and psychically of the ability to fight.  This special move will completely drain any target of its stamina and magicka for 30 seconds. Especially useful against dragons, as they will be unable to use their breath weapon for 30 seconds.  Note: Because of this special move’s incredible crippling capability, I recommend treating it as a Major Power and limiting its use to once per 24 hour cycle.

    Immortal Wall: Dual-cast Dragonhide + Spirit Anchor Potion + Shalidor’s Insights: Alteration 
    Your companion spirits form a nearly impenetrable wall around you, protecting you from physical harm.  With the Stability perk in the Alteration tree and a Spirit Surge potion created with a full set of enchanted Alchemy gear and all relevant Alchemy perks, you can keep Dragonhide active for upwards of 3 minutes at a time per cast. Adding a scroll of Shalidor’s Insights will boost the time to over 5 minutes.

    ~Roleplaying a Spirit Savant~

    This build gives you a lot of latitude in terms of roleplay.  Personally, I played mine as a “good guy” who genuinely wanted to help the spirits of Skyrim find their eternal rest.  There are lots of great quests in Skyrim that allow you to do just this, such as “The Ghost of Old Hroldan” (for a complete list, see Vargr’s excellent build, The Medium). You could play the opposite as well—someone who abuses his or her abilities to communicate with the dead for financial gain and increased personal power.  And of course there are many possibilities between these two extremes.  

    Regardless of your roleplay style, one nice thing about this build is that it allows you utilize your meta-knowledge of the game (such as information obtained from wikis) and roleplay it as the spirits providing your character with the information. 

    For example, if you want to start using the Bound Bow from level 1, then by all means roleplay it that the spirits have mentioned to you that a free tome for the spell is sitting in a bucket in Fort Amol, just waiting for you to come pick it up!


    ~Suggested Gameplay Guide~

    One of my pet peeves with character builds is when they aren’t fun to play until you’ve maxed out all relevant skills or obtained a lot of hard to gather gear.  The Spirit Savant is designed to be fun to play right from get-go and grows in power at a steady rate so that you shouldn’t feel the need to grind any skills (though there’s nothing stopping you from grinding if you get impatient).  The following guide roughly follows my own playthrough when playtesting the character.  By no means do you need to follow it.  I present it here merely to give you one idea of how to go about building the character.

    Novice Spirit Savant (Levels 1-10)

    After escaping Helgen, grab the Mage Stone then head to Riverwood and Whiterun to sell your loot.  Your priority should be picking up the Raise Zombie, Bound Sword, Turn Lesser Undead and Oakflesh spells from the local vendors.  Obtaining the Necromancer’s Amulet from the quest “Blood on the Ice” will greatly increase your early capabilities.  Combat at this stage is fairly simple: try to make sure your flesh spell is already active before entering combat.  Summon a bound sword in one hand and keep a healing spell in the other.  Kill the weakest enemy first, then raise that enemy as a zombie to help you in further combat.  Your skills should level VERY quickly thanks to the Mage Stone.  If Restoration is not levelling fast enough, you can “practice” it by casting Turn Lesser Undead on your own zombies outside of combat for skill gains.  Don’t worry too much about crafting yet.  It’s enough for now to pick up any alchemy ingredients you pass and disenchant any magical items you come across that you don’t intend to immediately use. 

    Apprentice Spirit Savant (Levels 10- 20)

    If you haven’t already, this is a good time to start the Dawnguard story line.  The initial quest will take you conveniently near the Lord Stone, so now is also a good time to switch standing stones for better armor and magic resistance. Your priority at this stage in the game should be on reaching the Soul Cairn in order to obtain the Conjure Boneman, Mistman, and Wrathman spells.  These spells will be crucial as you will increasingly find yourself in combat situations with no nearby corpses to raise.  Don’t forget to pick up Arvak too! No Spirit Savant would be caught dead without a trusty ghost steed by his side. 

    Combat at this stage becomes a bit more varied, as by now you should have perked Adept Conjuration and have easy access to the Bound Bow.  This allows you a choice between fighting in melee or at range.  On higher difficulty settings, given that you will be pretty squishy, you will probably find yourself relying a lot on your summons and bow for most fights against living opponents.  However, judicious use of the Marked for Death shout (i.e. use only one word of the shout and don’t stack it multiple times) or Infuse Bound Weapon potions (see the "Alchemy" section above) can help keep melee a viable alternative in most combat situations without being too overpowered.  Regardless of at what range you choose to fight, remember to make use of your newly acquired Dawnguard spells when facing hostile spirits or other undead creatures!

    Adept Spirit Savant (Levels 20-30)

    By now you should be at Expert Conjuration and have nearly all the Conjuration spells related to calling on the undead for aid in combat.  If you’re looking to add even more variety to your summons, you should complete Arniel’s questline at the College of Winterhold.  This is also about the time you probably want to start getting more serious about your crafting.  It is highly recommended that you befriend Revyn Sadri in Windhelm and trade your crafted goods with him in return for Speech training until you can obtain the Merchant perk.  This will allow you to trade crafted items for training in either the College of Winterhold (with any of the spell trainers) or with Arcadia in Whiterun for Alchemy training.  Completing the Jarl of Falkreath’s quest and building Lakeview Manor is also recommended for this stage of the game, as the garden and greenhouse will provide easy access to the alchemy ingredients you will need to quickly grow your Alchemy skill.  You’ll probably kill a few dragons during your travels.  It may be a good idea to save up the dragon souls for the next stage of your adventure.

    Expert Spirit Savant (Levels 30-40)

    If you haven’t already, now is a good time to visit Solstheim and begin the Dragonborn add-on questline to expand your arsenal of shouts.  The Bend Will shout is an excellent addition, allowing your spirit companions to temporarily “possess” an enemy and turn it against its comrades.  The Dragon Aspect shout supplements your flesh spells and Alteration spell resistance nicely, as well as providing a lovely visualization of the ghostly armor that we have been role-playing all along.  Combat at this stage becomes even more varied, as your Alchemy skill comes into its own and enables you to mix potions and poisons into your usual combat routines along with the newly learned shouts.

    Master Spirit Savant (Levels 40-50)

    At this point in the game, several of your skills should be at or very near maximum, so you should be focused on capping anything that has not reached 100 yet.  In particular, you want to finish perking Enchanting so that you can craft your endgame gear, as well as a set of Fortify Alchemy clothes for brewing extra-powerful poisons and potions.  Continue to round out your ever-growing list of Dragon Shouts by learning all three words of Slow TimeDrain Vitality, and Soul Tear (if you haven’t already) and incorporating these shouts into your combat routine.  Feel free to use an enhanced Shrine of Talos (i.e. quaff a potion of Restoration before activating the shrine) so that you can use your shouts more often in combat.

    Legendary Spirit Savant (Levels 50+)

    Congratulations! If you’ve stuck with the build for this long, now is the time to unleash the full power of the Spirit Savant! By this point in the game you should have achieved near constant 80% damage resist thanks to dual-cast Dragonhide spells (with the duration increased even further with self-brewed Fortify Alteration potions), and 85% magic resist through some combination of racial abilities, Alteration perks, quest rewards, enchanting, and the Lord Stone

    Now is the time to crank the difficulty up to Legendary, then use the Black Book of Waking Dreams (the one you obtain from defeating Miraak) to reset your Enchanting, Alchemy (make sure you craft a surplus of potions first), and Speech skills.  If you reassign these perk points to Archery and One-handed, you’ll find Legendary difficulty to be eminently playable yet still surprisingly challenging at times. 

    Good luck with your continued adventures across the lands of Skyrim! 



    Thanks to Vargr for publishing his The Medium build, which was the kick I needed to finally get around to posting this one even though I actually wrote it up over six months ago.

    Special thanks to Ajani for encouraging me to post this build when I waffled about it.



  • June 12, 2016
    Is this your first build? Whether it is or not I am very impressed.
  • Member
    June 12, 2016
    Same here
  • Member
    June 12, 2016

    Very nice build.

  • Member
    June 13, 2016

    Thanks!  Yes, it's my first posted build.  But to be fair I've been a blog member for years and played at least half of the Legendary-ranked builds on here, so I'm pretty familiar with how good builds are presented.  

  • Member
    June 13, 2016

    Thanks for giving me the nudge to post it.

  • June 13, 2016

    Very well-presented build. You write well and you're very easy to follow. Understood what you wanted out of your character very quickly and you've give me a strong set of blue-prints on how to recreate this character. Congratulations on your first posted build. 

    And you have given me a great idea. Thanks. 

  • Member
    June 13, 2016

    I can tell, the build is presented well and you display a knowledge of game mechanics that is normally only seen from seasoned builders. Nicely done. 

  • Member
    June 13, 2016

    Great first build ! Like others have said, it's very well presented. Keep it up, you're a great character builder !

  • June 14, 2016

    Bloody hell! This looks amazing! If this is your first build, mate...Damn! You´ve left me in awe. Pictures, skill icons and special moves icons lend very well to the vibe of this character, the presentation is top notch and I recently found myself really in love with Necromancer/Summoner builds! Well done!

    My only problem here is using two crafting skills, but hey, that´s only me. Don´t let it stop you!