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Character Build: The Summerset Shadow

Tags: #Character Build Thief  #Rank:Legendary  #Race:Altmer 
  • February 16, 2013

    The Summerset Shadow

    This build is the product of experimentation with a basic thief character. Focused on the concept of distraction, this thief is a master of their art, with the skill to steal anything their heart desires. No treasure is safe from the Summerset Shadow.

    The Build

    Betrayed by their former guild mates, the shadow has joined up with the thieves guild in Skyrim to thwart the shadows plans, and continue on their journey to wealth and power.

    Race: Altmer

    Stone: Thief

    Major Skills: Pickpocket, Conjuration, Illusion, Sneak

    Minor Skills: Lockpicking, Speech

    Armor: Blackguard armor set


    The Shadow is all about distraction, and it can be amazing when you get through a whole cave without your presence being noticed until someone checks their pockets or treasure chest. Using illusion and conjuration, you can control your enemies to do exactly what you want, positioning them so you can slip by without being noticed.

    I started out simple, using a bow to position my enemies where I wanted them so I could slip past them without being seen. After I got the quiet casting perk and my magicka pool grew, I took it even further. I was now summoning atronachs to cause longer distractions, and causing huge fights with fury spells to occupy large groups. Fear spells work great on the off chance you do get caught, allowing you to slip back into the shadows and continue working your way through the cave.

    By the end of this character, you will be controlling your enemies with skill and precision, making it easy to get through the cave, collect the loot, and get out.

    A quick visit to Solsteim early on and you can pick up the amazing Blackguard armor. This armor looks just like Linwe’s set, but comes with the added bonus of having stronger level enchantments than the guildmaster set. Grabbing this early gives a huge boost to your thieving skills, and lets you look the part of a shadow.

    Life of a Summerset Shadow

    This build offers so much opportunity to role play, so I thought I’d include a short section to help you understand the group.


    Summerset Shadows are Altmer thieves who make a brief appearance in Skyrim. In the short time we have to learn about them, we learn that these thieves steal from the dead and the living and that they are trying to take advantage of the thieves guild’s weakness in Skyrim.

    For whatever reason, you have been betrayed by the shadows and chosen to join up with the thieves guild to continue searching for your fortune.


    I wanted to make stealing a necessity for this character so I made it a rule that any enemies who were killed by me were off limits for looting. This made stealing the most effective form of income for this character, especially since I avoided taking any crafting skills.

    I also needed a motivation for this character to steal. I wanted to have something to spend my money on so that my stealing had a purpose. Training is a great place to start, but most of the time you can just steal back the gold you spend. Besides spells there really was nothing else to spend money on besides homes.

    Buying and upgrading every home in the game was a fun personal quest for this character, as well as a ridiculous display of wealth. The homes serve a practical purpose to, where you can store stolen goods until you are ready to fence them in each city and also give you a place to live in each hold.

    Stats- Magicka: 450 Health: 200 Stamina: 100




    Illusion is the most heavily perked tree, only skipping the master cost reduction perk as it isn’t needed. Getting quiet casting early is essential to remaining undetected and signals the start of when the build really comes alive. I avoided invisibility so that things wouldn’t get too easy, but I did use muffle early in the game. Focus on Fear and Frenzy spells to control your enemies. Frenzy works great for distracting groups of enemies, while fear is a great life saver when you are detected.

    I cannot stress enough how useful conjuration is to this build. Using a flame atronach gives a prolonged distraction, perfect for sneaking by enemies. Frost atronachs are perfect for drawing lots of enemies into a tight group to be hit by an AoE illusion spell, causing mayhem. Conjuration also brings bound weapons to the table which offer two key benefits for when fighting is unavoidable. Firstly, the weapons don’t add carry weight, leaving more space to carry loot. Secondly, the mystic binding perk makes up for not using smithing or perking any weapon skills.

    Pickpocket was a great way to make money and can be trained very quickly. I refused to loot the enemies I killed so this was the only way for me to get valuable items directly from them. The added benefit of being able to reclaim money spent on training is another huge bonus. It also unlocks the extra pockets perk which is a huge help with no points in stamina.

    Remaining unseen is obviously a high priority so I put heavy investment in the left side of the sneak tree. I also took all the perks on the right side of the tree for when fighting was unavoidable.

    I used lockpicking to get to the treasure hunter and golden touch perks. These make a huge difference, especially when you put limitations on how you can acquire your gold. For a challenge, why not limit the number of lockpicks you carry?

    Speech was the final skill and is actually very helpful. Buying and selling goods of any kind becomes a lot easier, and with the Fence perk, the gold you make starts to skyrocket.

    Image Credit:


    Let me know what you think in the comments!

  • February 16, 2013
    This was one of my favorite builds on the site, I have to like it first
  • February 16, 2013

    What do you think of the new one then Bryn?

  • February 16, 2013
    Why do you have assassin's blade, but don't mention using a dagger? Did you use the bound dagger?
  • February 16, 2013

    I used bound weapons but they weren't really a big enough part to bother mentioning. I said in the sneak section that I only had those perks for when there was no option but to fight.

  • Member
    February 16, 2013

    This is a good build with well thought out presentation. One of the few builds I read all the way through (lately). I like your perk tree pictures, much easier than navigating the perk calculator. The video is really good (and the "old summerset shadow video is also good, but not the same roleplay obviously). My only suggested additions to the build (and not because you did anything wrong, I just want to know the answers) would be the following: 

    What quests (other than the thieves guild) would you suggest with this character? 

    What particular combos worked best for distracting early on? and what did you do with drauger early game when Illusion didn't work against them? 

    Definite +1 from me, in fact I'm creating a new character as we speak to try this play through.

  • February 16, 2013
    I like the changes, only used illusion a little bit as a thief, will try this on my next Altmer (Sorry Zach! :(... I just love this build so much. I'll play your songbird later)
  • February 16, 2013

    This is awesome. +1

  • February 16, 2013

    Thanks Chris, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. I'll answer you here and edit it into the build later.

    For quests, the only ones I took were ones to help me become thane so I could buy the houses. I ignored pretty much all the quest lines and just adventured around and exploring caves. Looking back on it the bards college may be a good choice.

    Early on I mostly just used a bow to distract enemies but slowly worked my way up to using atronachs and illusion. If you use them in combonation together you can get really cool effects. Just remember, melee fighters will move towards them, while archers will move away.

    For Draugr I just focused more on my bow and conjuration. The loss of illusion isn't too big a deal since so many just stay in their sarcophagi if you stay undetected.

  • February 16, 2013
    This isn't a question for your build, but what is the point of "Quick Hands" in the lockpicking tree? It says you can unlock locks quietly... But I've never taken that perk and open locks when I'm sneaking... Nothing ever happened