The Altmer Rebel
Disclaimer: Like all of my builds, I recommend using the Unofficial Skyrim Patch, as the build is designed around the fixes of this patch.
Additionally, I attempt to make all of my builds viable for Legendary difficulty, so if parts of the build feel overpowered to your taste, feel free to omit as you see fit.
: Altmer (grants +50 Magicka)
: Alchemy, Alteration, Archery, Conjuration, Enchanting, Sneak
: 2 Magicka
: 2 Health
: 1 Stamina
: Archmage's Robes (+50 Magicka, +15 pts to all Magic Skills, +100 Magicka Regen); Headpiece, Gloves, Necklace, and Ring all with Fortify Archery enchantments; Boots with the Muffle enchantment. (all clothes, no armor)
: Slow Time, Marked for Death
: Start with Mage, then transition to Atronach.
: College of Winterhold, Empire
: Neutral Good
The Altmer Rebel was born in the city of Firsthold, on the Island of Auridon in the Summerset Isles. Born to a pair of highly ranked Thalmor officers, the Altmer Rebel was indoctrinated into the xenophobic beliefs of the Aldmeri Dominion from birth, and was given the best resources available to learn the arcane arts. She excelled in defensive Alteration magic in school, and learned from her mother how to enchant much of her clothing, which included muffling her movements by enchanting her pair of boots. As a child, she would spend a lot of time traversing the city of Firsthold, with its high stone walls and large size perfectly ideal for practicing stealth tactics. She was eventually taught how to use a bow by her father, but found physical bows too unwieldy and clunky for her liking. Like most things in her childhood, whenever the Altmer Rebel wanted something, she would learn as much as she could about how to acquire or achieve it, and work at it until it was hers. So, she learned to conjure her own bow. Weightless, powerful, and taking up no space whatsoever- the perfect marriage of practical and deadly.
Her family, being high ranked Thalmor officers, were forced to move to Eldenroot, Valenwood during the Great War. Though she felt firm in her beliefs of high elf superiority, her time in Valenwood would introduce the Altmer Rebel to a culture she had never experienced before. It was in Valenwood where the Altmer Rebel would further practice her stealth tactics and her archery, often hunting in the nearby woods with the native Bosmer. The Bosmer also taught her the value of animal ingredients in potion making, which peaked her interest in the art of Alchemy. In the year 4E 174, when the Altmer Rebel was the elvish equivalent of a human teenager on the cusp of adulthood, her mother and father were called to defend the Imperial City during the Battle of the Red Ring. In place of their return was a letter informing her of their demise, as the Empire had conquered the White-Gold tower and taken back the Imperial City. Betrayed and orphaned, the Altmer Rebel fled Eldenroot, leaving her old life behind and vowing to take revenge on the Thalmor and the Empire.
Free to choose her own path in life for the first time, the Altmer Rebel first fled East, into the last Aldmeri state of Elsweyr. Spending over a decade in and around Torval and Senchal, she learned of the Khajiiti customs, including their ties to the moons. Through their stories, she learns of the Void Nights, and how the Khajiit joined the Dominion. To her, it seemed obvious that the Void Nights were nothing more than a grand Altmeri illusion used to trick the Khajiit into joining the Dominion- while she admired the cleverness of her own race, she started to feel sympathy for the Khajiit with their much shorter lifespans and proneness to trouble and misfortune, and their relative lack of magical understanding. Though she initially found them to be dirty and deceitful folk, she learned much about stealth and alchemy from them, and soon left Elsweyr with a newfound respect for their culture. She would leave Senchal as a young adult high elf and travel by boat to Black Marsh, having heard of the unique ingredients in the Argonian native lands.
In Black Marsh, the Altmer Rebel learned much more about Alteration magic, a skill she had not honed in much since her youth. She learned of the enslavement of the Argonians by the Dunmer, their unified force against the Daedra during the Oblivion crisis, and the subsequent invasions of Argonians into Morrowind. Curious and filled with newfound respect for such a resilient people, she traveled north to Morrowind and learned of the rife misfortune surrounding the Dunmer- the dilapidated state of Mournhold and the abandoned island of Vvardenfell, with the residual smoke of Red Mountain serving as a dark reminder of the fleeting control this once proud people held over their lives and their destinies. She learned of the Nerevarine prophecy, and learned for the first time of the many achievements of emperor Uriel Septim VII. She started to wonder if the Aldmeri dominion would ever rule so effectively as the empire did under the Septim dynasty. Maybe for the high elves
, she thought, but what of our dark elf bretheren, who continue to suffer and are vulnerable to Argonian invasion at any moment? What of the Khajiit who serve us now, blindly, as the Argonians served the Dunmer?
She spends two decades of her life in Morrowind, residing in Narsis and then in Mournhold as she becomes more and more curious about the history of the Dunner. With her newfound knowledge contradicting her childhood beliefs, the Altmer Rebel begins soul searching in the land where her parents were killed- Cyrodiil.
High Elves were not particularly welcome anywhere near the Imperial City at this time, so the Altmer Rebel had to spend much of her time in hiding, living in a shack near the Reed River, just south of Cheydinhal. She would spend much of her time outdoors hunting and gathering, which simultaneously acted as an attempt to bronze her skin and look more like a Bosmer, which she figured were at least less hated than High Elves. She could sometimes walk into Cheydinhal without much protest, but most of the time she elected to cover her ears and much of her face under a cowl, walking in the shadows whenever possible. She felt what it was likesto be treated as a second class citizen for the first time. She realized the animosity between man and mer was a result of the Dominion's stubborn adherence to their beliefs of Elven superiority. Whether the Aldmeri are right or wrong
, she thought, this is no way to force people to live.
She one day visits the Imperial City under the cover of darkness, finally able to visit the city where her parents drew their last breaths. Overcome with grief and doubt over her parents' purpose, she decides that Tamriel was better governed under the Old Empire, where few lived under threat of war, slavery, or persecution. Now a youthful but weathered traveler, and a hardened archer and mage, the Altmer Rebel elects to join the Empire and serve them in the Skyrim civil war. She travels to a Bruma recruiting office under cover, before revealing herself to the Imperials as a high elf. Thought to be a spy or terrorist, the Imperial officers attempt to arrest her. Seeing no other option, she flees North across the border to Skyrim, only to be ambushed and captured. Sharing the same last name as two of the fiercest Thalmor officers the Empire had ever faced, the Empire sentences her to death, fearing that she had come to plot some form of revenge.
As she is about to be executed, she wonders if her destiny was to be nothing more than another casualty in a pointless war. She curses the Thalmor for the racial divisions they created, and forgives the Empire for her impending doom. As she counts her final seconds, Alduin attacks Helgen, giving her the opportunity to prove her value to the Empire for the first time. As she hones in her Dragonborn powers, the Altmer Rebel learns more of the Stormcloaks- another force of racial divide and cultural division in Tamriel. She becomes a bastion of the defenseless and the betrayed, and she serves the Empire loyally- first to defeat Ulfric Stormcloak and his xenophobic regime, but ultimately to reunify Skyrim with the Empire, and defeat the Aldmeri Dominion who stole her parents from her.
The Build - Skills
Primary Skills and Perks
: Conjuration (Mystic Binding, Adept Conjuration, Dual Casting), Alchemy (Poisoner, Concentrated Poison), Archery (Eagle Eye, Poweshot, Bullseye), Alteration (Mage Armor, Stability, Atronach, Dual Casting)
Secondary Skills and Perks
: Enchanting (Insightful Enchanter), Sneak (Deadly Aim).
We use Conjuration here to cast the Bound Bow- our main weapon in this playthrough. The Bound Bow is explained more in the Spells section, but at a glance it has the highest DPS of any unimproved bow in the game, and with Mystic Binding it has the largest base damage of any unimproved bow in the game. Archery and Enchanting will help us boost the damage of this bow (Alchemy will also help with Fortify Archery potions), and the Bullseye perk in Archery as well as the Concentrated Poison and Poisoner perks in Alchemy will allows us to paralyze targets and harm them with well crafted poisons. Sneak will also allow us to boost the damage of our bow through sneak attacks, and the ability to remain unseen is crucial to a build that uses no armor. Alteration is our main line of defense, as the armor spells in this school are necessary to defend us against other archers and fast melee characters. The Stability perk will also increase the paralyze duration of Bullseye and paralyze poisons, and the Atornach perk will effectively increase our resistance to magic by 30%. Overall, the build aims to play as a stealth archer type, but with Alteration replacing Light Armor and Conjuration replacing the use of real bows, which means we don't need Smithing.
The Build - Spells
The central feature of this build is the Bound Bow
. The Bound Bow
is an adept level Conjuration spell that costs about 150 Magicka to cast at Conjuration 50, 165 or so if Dual Casting with Adept Conjuration. The Altmer rebel can rely on other bows for a while, but the goal is to eventually only use this bow. The Bound Bow
does more damage than an unimproved Ebony Bow and fires about 50% faster (about the same as any of the Nord or Forsworn bows). With Mystic Binding, it is 20% stronger than an unimproved Dragonbone Bow and fires about 20% faster than one too. The downside of course is that a conjured bow cannot be improved by Smithing, so the alternative here is to enchant our gear with as much Fortify Archery as possible, and brew Fortify Archery potions. Still, in the early game, having a conjured bow is insanely powerful. For this reason, our use of Conjuration, though very central to this build, is actually limited to only two spells:
(Adept): Creates a magic bow and 100 magic arrows for 120 seconds. Sheathe it to dispel.
(Apprentice): If target dies within 60 seconds, fills a soul gem.
The arrows on the conjured bow are equivalent to Daedric Arrows. Soul trap is a very easy way to level Conjuration early, and of course is incredibly necessary to fill the soul gems we need for enchanting.
The Altmer Rebel does not wear any armor. In general, your goal is going to be to avoid any direct physical attacks as much as possible, but there are situations that will call for some level of armor defense. Being able to Dual Cast any of the armor spells in this school will help increase their duration, but not their protection. To do that, we need Mage Armor which triples the protection of armor spells so long as you're not wearing any armor
at all (sans shields). Also, just about every magical attack in the game is ranged, so in order to circumvent the dangers of other mages, you're going to want the Atronach perk to absorb your enemy's spells (along with the eponymous stone), which is especially helpful since our spells are so costly.
(Novice/Apprentice/Adept/Expert): Improves the caster's armor rating by 40/60/80/100 points for 60 seconds
(Apprentice): Nearby living creatures, but not undead, machines or daedra, can be seen through walls.
(Expert): Targets that fail to resist are paralyzed for 10 seconds.
The armor duration becomes 132 seconds with Dual Casting, and with Stability this becomes 198 seconds. Stability also applies to Paralyze, as well as Paralyze poisons you apply on your bow, so take full advantage of that- the poisons are likely going to be more useful to you, but the spell is good for an enemy that gets too close for comfort. Detect Life is not essential, but is useful for being able to get an idea of where your targets are before you come around a corner, helping you set up your sneak attacks.
Remember again that Mage Armor at all three ranks triples the armor rating of armor spells: Ebonyflesh with full Mage Armor grants 300 armor rating, which is around 55% damage reduction. You may elect to eventually obtain Master Alteration and cast Dragonhide, but it is not included in this build as you shouldn't need 80% reduction in physical damage if you're far back enough.
The Build - Gear, Shouts, Stones, and Leveling
: Archmage Robes; Headpiece, Gloves, Necklace, and Ring all with Fortify Archery enchantments; Boots with the Muffle enchantment.
: Slow Time, Marked for Death
: Mage -> Atronach.
: M -> H -> S -> M -> H and repeat.
By level 49 this will be 350 Magicka (400 with Atronach Stone or Archmage Robes, 450 with both)
, 300 Health
, 200 Stamina
The Archmage's Robes are a relatively easy way to get an extra +50 Magicka in the early game. It is recommended to do the College questline first thing to grab this Robe, especially since it'll reduce the costs of all of our spells by 15% and help us regenerate Magicka twice as fast. All of our other clothes should be used to buff the damage of our bound bow as much as possible, with our boots granting muffle to help set up sneak attacks.
The Slow Time shout is useful to us in several ways. Firstly, it is very easy for us to unlock given the factions the Altmer Rebel will be joining- you get one rank doing the College questline and another by doing the Civil War questline. Secondly, the Stability perk in Alteration applies to this shout, meaning you can slow time down by an extra 50% duration (at three ranks of Slow Time this becomes 24 seconds of time slowed to 10% of normal speed). With this shout, it is not necessary to grab the Archery perks that slow time down when you zoom in, so this shout effectively replaces those perks by being much better than them. The Marked For Death shout is another good one to have, but keep in mind you'll need to either join or murder the Dark Brotherhood to get one of the ranks. For roleplaying reasons, you should not join the Brotherhood, but the quest that sets you up to join the Brotherhood does involve killing a fairly vile woman in Riften, and it's perfectly reasonable that the early parts of this questline- enough to grab the shout- can be done without contradicting your alignment. Still, I recommend wiping them all out (which still requires you murder the aforementioned woman). That aside, Marked For Death makes dragons and other very tough enemies significantly easier to kill, even with just one or two ranks.
The Mage Stone should be taken early to help level Enchanting, Alteration, and Conjuration. After that, the Atronach Stone is your best friend. The extra +50 Magicka is incredibly helpful since we cast incredibly expensive spells, but we don't cast them often enough that the sacrifice of Magicka Regen is an issue (and is effectively cancelled out with the Archmage Robes). There really is no good alternative here. Atronach Stone + Atronach Perk equals out to 80% spell absorption, which is effectively a long-run resistance to all magic of 80%. Nothing to sneeze at. The Lord Stone might be a consideration if you're having trouble with the low armor rating of the build, but keep in mind +50 armor rating is not very much at all (about 9% damage resistance), the sacrifice of Magicka is not worth it in my opinion, and in the long run 50% absorption is much better than 25% resistance.
Finally, the path I've laid out for leveling is there to effectively grant you enough Magicka to Dual Cast Ebonyflesh (with Expert Alteration) if you wear the Archmage Robes or take the Atronach Stone. If you take both, you may want to invest slightly less into Magicka towards the later levels, in which case you can dump it into Health if you're having trouble surviving, or Stamina if you're having trouble firing your bow. We don't put too much into Stamina here since you should be able to brew enough Stamina potions to keep your Stamina topped off for bow firing. Health is a bigger issue since you don't want to be caught off guard by physical damage- especially arrows, and especially before you've cast your armor spells. The path I've laid out isn't too hard to follow, but if you get lost, remember to level Magicka
at any level ending in 2, 5, 7, or 0; Health
at any level ending in 3, 6, 8, or 1; and Stamina
at any level ending in 4 or 9. Or just level at your own discretion.
: Neutral Good
Daedric Prince Quests to Complete
: Azura, Hermaeus Mora.
: The Empire, The College of Winterhold.
: Do not become either.
The Altmer Rebel is a bastion of the defenseless. By whatever means necessary, she will attempt to destroy what she views as corrupt, divisive, or downright evil. As such, she should do very few Daedric quests. Hermaeus Mora's quest can be done to support the inquisitive and studious nature of the Altmer Rebel, but it should be done in such a way that the elves killed in the quest for their blood are either corrupt or already dead. Consider killing some Thalmor for the high elf blood. Try not to actively kill any Orcs or Dunmer, even if they attack first- again, try to find ones that are already dead. Azura's quest should be done by keeping the star from becoming The Black Star, so side with the priestess. Azura's Star will be very useful for enchanting as well.
Do the entire College questline, and side with the Empire in the civil war, completing that as well. Ulfric must die. The Dark Brotherhood should be killed- remember to initiate this quest it is necessary to kill Grelod in Riften. Conveniently enough, Grelod runs an orphanage and is a vile and corrupt person. Being an orphan herself, The Altmer Rebel will kill her as soon as she meets her, regardless if the quest to kill her has been started. Just remember to kill Astrid immediately after being kidnapped. The Thieves Guild is also fairly dishonorable and cruel- The Altmer Rebel may be into stealth tactics, but she is no thief, and as such she will find no reason to join them. The Companions questline is pretty much up to you. I would argue that doing the questline up to the point of becoming a Werewolf makes sense since the Altmer Rebel may enjoy investing time in Nordic culture, but she also likely views Lycanthropy as a threat to her strengths. She may believe in freedom and equal treatment, but she also holds some inner conflict here as she still sees high elves as being at least biologically superior. In summary, she sees high elves as being superior in ways that do not necessitate treating
others as inferior.
You should station yourself in Solitude after you finish your studies with the college. It is there that you will best be able to serve the Empire. Overall, spend your time fighting for the weak and the betrayed, killing anyone who violates the inherent rights of others through deadly poisons and a well placed arrow. Oh, and kill literally every Stormcloak and Thalmor you meet.