Skyrim Character Building » Discussions

Character Build: The Sword-Singer

  • Member
    August 2, 2013

    The Sword-singers were a prominent faction of swordsmen who hailed from the ancient island nation of Yokuda. The most powerful of the Sword-singers were capable of summoning powerful “spirit blades” called Shehai to aid them in battle. These men and women were granted the title of Ansei. So great was their power, that even during the events of Skyrim, literally eras later, the Ansei are often considered the greatest swordsmen — or even the greatest warriors — to have graced Tamriel.

    Unfortunately, the Sword-singers were purged from Yokuda by Emperor Hiro in the First Era, and while some 20,000 survivors did manage to take refuge in Hammerfell by way of the island Herne, the faction seemingly died out centuries before the events of Skyrim.


    “Oh but the gods did give me other gifts, the gift of sword singing, the thrill of battle, Frandar Hunding's Book of Circles, THE WAY OF THE SWORD.”


    Many thanks to HeroicXCV for this wonderful build feature video!


    The Build

    This build was originally going to be an Ansei outright, but I ran into several problems during development that made that idea somewhat less appealing than I had originally hoped. My solution was to follow an Ansei from his early stages as a Sword-singer: still a talented warrior, but unable to form a Shehai and therefore unworthy to be called an Ansei.

    Let us us assume that when the Ra’Gada immigrated to Tamriel, a small group remained on Herne rather than continue to Tamriel proper. Let us also assume that this community has continued to survive in isolation, developing its own tiny subculture more closely related to the old Yokudan ways than any surviving Redguard communities in Hamerfell.

    If you are comfortable making these assumptions, then accompany me as we follow the path of one particular young warrior who leaves this community in the pursuit of knowledge — and ultimately, his destiny as Dragonborn.




    Part I: The Brother of the Blade

    ~ Until level 25 ~

    Race » Redguard

    Stone » The Warrior

    Attributes » 2 Health / 1 Stamina / 0 Magicka

    Major Skills » One-handed, Alchemy

    Minor Skills » Block, Light Armor

    Key Shout » Elemental Fury




    Weapon » A tempered Blades sword. It’s light, durable, fast, and easily improved with a single perk from the Smithing tree (such a trivial investment that I opted not to list it as even a minor skill). Keep it unenchanted for use with Elemental Fury.


    “To you who are not Singers, this is a wilderness trek emulating the time of Frandar Hunding - where we each wander the country side righting wrongs, defeating monsters, performing quests in the name of virtue.” 



    The first thing to do is to assemble your gear. Completing the requisite tasks will also get you started on your walkabout in Skyrim.

    The walkabout has been a Sword-singer tradition since their early days on Yokuda. The walkabout essentially consists of traversing the land seeking out honorable deeds to help you develop as both a warrior and a student of the Book of Circles (see Roleplaying Notes).

    Once you have acquired your gear, you are ready to begin your walkabout in earnest. I suggest joining the Companions so that you have a group of honorable warriors to associate with, but try to avoid climbing too high in their ranks. You are a Sword-singer first and foremost, not a Companion.


    "Quickly we used up a crystal of healing in restoring him to vitality."


    To simulate the healing crystals described above, pick up an ancient crystalline artifact of your own: the White Phial. The Yokudan knowledge of science and magic that was required to make these crystals has been forgotten with the majority of their ways, and part of the Sword-singer’s walkabout entails the quest to regain that knowledge. The White Phial is quite possibly the missing link to regain the Yokudan crystal-making techniques, so study it and model your own alchemical experiments after your findings.

    I recommend training Block with Njada Stonearm from the Companions early on. The Quick Reflexes perk is vital in simulating the Sword-singers speed and dodging ability. Likewise, Power Bash is a perfect representation of the Sword-singer’s skill in parrying. The Sword-singer as I envision him generally prefers to block with his blade rather than a shield, but having a shield on hand would not be a bad idea.

    The combat for this build is meant to be almost an art form, like fencing. It is important to keep this in mind during gameplay. Brutish hacking and slashing is beneath a Sword-singer. I made a conscious decision to forego any special moves with this build, relying instead on tactical discipline, physical skill, and timing (i.e., dodging, blocking, angles, vision, etc.). Special moves would only cheapen the importance on the requisite swordsmanship.

    Be sure to hold on to every sample of Hanging Moss you find (Solitude Catacombs are teeming with this plant), as well as every soul gem. You will need these later on, and having a stockpile assembled over the course of 30 levels of gameplay will make things much easier down the road.


    Level 25 Perk Selection



    Part II: The Ansei

    ~ Level 25 and on ~

    New Stone » The Lord

    New Skills » Conjuration, Enchanting

    Key Shouts » Slow Time, Clear Skies




    New Weapon » The fundamental difference between the Ansei and Sword-singers is that Ansei are capable of summoning a fully formed Shehai, or Spirit Blade. These legendary ethereal swords are more powerful than any physical blades. To counteract the Bound Sword’s inherent weaknesses, the Ansei draws from a specialized fountain of power: the Yokudan Crystal of Focusing (see Key Potions for details).


    “Oh I slew mightily, right and left, like a scythe through wheat. All the way to the Lord of the Tower I fought. With one blow I cut his magical armor asunder, one more took his head.”



    The combat for this portion of the build is largely similar to the previous portion. The key differences are preparation-based, stemming from the nature of the Shehai. Due to the nature of the Bound Sword, Elemental Fury is no longer effective in combat. The Ansei substitutes that with Slow Time to maintain a similar net effect, becoming a furious blur of poetry in motion. You can also use Slow Time as a sort of “extended Quick Reflexes” to simulate development with that ability.




    In addition to stunning enemies with the bashing perks from Block, the Ansei is capable of staggering enemies with his very voice, via the Clear Skies shout (simply aim the shout at a nearby enemy, all it takes is one word). And when he does bash, he is capable of rending weapons from enemy clutches.


    “We sent him on to the king, while we six grabbed our weapons and armor of power, and as many potions, marks, and crystals and rings as we could carry.”


    The core difference outside of combat is the addition of Enchanting. I know many people find the game to be too easy when you specialize in two crafting skills, so I did try to limit the investment as far as perks go. However, with this build, Enchanting is appropriate both from a lore perspective and a practical one. Specifically, use enchantments to augment the power of your Shehai (Fortify One-handed). To further keep the Shehai on a pedestal, it is important that you only use the Crystal of Focusing (see “Key Potions” below) while wielding your Shehai. 

    As I mentioned previously, this build intentionally avoids special moves. However, consider that the Shehai is basically a constant special move in the best possible way.




    Key Potions

    Yokudan Crystal of Focusing (The Hammer)

    · Requires » Canis Root, Juniper Berries, Hanging Moss

    · Effects » Fortify One-handed 120% / Fortify Marksman 120%


    Yokudan Crystal of Vitality (The Anvil)

    · Requires » Blue Mountain Flower, Lavender, Wheat

    · Effects » Fortify Conjuration 150% / Fortify Health +120 / Restore Health +188


    Roleplaying Notes

    ~ The Way of the Sword ~

    The path of an Ansei is a path of honor and righteousness, guided by legendary Ansei Frandar Hunding’s Book of Circles. 

    • A Sword-singer must eradicate any who take advantage of the helpless or commit heinous crimes for their own selfish means.
    • A Sword-singer must never capture or manipulate a human soul.
    • A Sword-singer must not join the Thieves Guild or Dark Brotherhood. Indeed, destroying the Dark Brotherhood is essential, and as for the Thieves Guild, I suggest intentionally botching the mandatory job involving Brand-Shei, then never speaking to Brynjolf again.
    • A Sword-singer’s walkabout is a constant quest for knowledge and skill with the blade. Study the White Phial and model your creations after it, in an attempt to rediscover the methods of Yokudan crystal making.



    I’d like to thank Matt Feeney and Vazgen for all their help. Matt offered tons of wonderful insight and advice that helped shape the character, and Vazgen provided the fantastic screenshots for the write-up. Full album can be found here! And thanks again to HeroicXCV for his fantastic featurette video.

    I also want to mention that there is some truly great lore on these guys, and I highly encourage everyone to check it out via the following links: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

  • Member
    August 2, 2013
    Wow dude. This is really great. I was reading a lot about Sword Singers not too long ago and was going to try my hand at one. It was right around the time you came back and said you were going to finish your own. I'm glad I didn't try, this would have put most of my ideas to shame. And you did a really nice job of sticking to the lore. Great job +1
  • Member
    August 2, 2013

    When I saw your preview shot I was just thinking "He's going to do the bound sword + 1h/archery potion thing again" 

    Nice build though, really good integration of gameplay and lore, and I like the use of the Ancient Falmer gear!

  • August 2, 2013
    Awesome, it turned out great, Teccam! A build worthy of the Sword-Singers of old and true master of the spirit sword. I also enjoyed the quotes in between, I can tell most of them are from Makela Leki's story (not too sure about the one explaining the walkabout). Easy +1.
  • Member
    August 2, 2013

    Thanks a lot! Sorry if I stepped on your toes, I was definitely pretty vocal about wanting to do this one and it's been in the works for a while now. My other builds tend not to get anywhere near as deep as far as lore and roleplaying go, so this was a different experience and I'm interested to see how the blog reacts.

  • Member
    August 2, 2013

    Hah, it was inevitable to be sure — especially since Matt's comment about that potion was the driving force behind this build! It's a really fun potion to play with, and since the Bound Sword cannot be tempered, it makes the potion more useful rather than gamebreakingly OP.

    Thanks for the positive feedback as well. You have no idea how long it took to settle on the Ancient Falmer set. Probably went back and forth between half a dozen sets for 10 days, in cluding a bunch of PMs with Matt to help decide.

    Also, Ponty, something I thought you might like: Unless you count the Clear Skies stagger effect as an exploit, there are no other exploits in this build beyond that potion. :p

  • Member
    August 2, 2013

    They're all quotes from the Memory Stone (even the walkabout one). :p For anyone interested, you can view the complete text by clicking the first link in the Closing section of the build.

    Seriously Matt, cannot overstate how helpful you've been on this build. Hopefully one day I can return the favor, because I don't think this would have made it without your input.

    Sidenote: I stayed up way too late trying to push this out tonight. It's almost 2:00 AM here and I have to be at work at 7:30 tomorrow. Ack.... But totally worth it!

  • Member
    August 2, 2013
    Don't worry about it, like I said this is probably better than anything I could have came up with. I never really delved too deep into roleplaying and lore too much either and with already being interested in this particular lore, I'm definitely going to have to give this a try. I'm sure this will go over very well though.
  • Member
    August 2, 2013

    Clear skies spammage isn't really an exploit, just an easy staggerlock tactic I prefer not to use! It's really up to the player how much they want to noob out with that one.

    Can't really rely on it anyway since it doesn't work indoors.

  • August 2, 2013
    Happy to help, Teccam. The Sword-Singers are my favorite faction in TES, period. So I'm happy I was able to aid in its creation! :) And I'm definitely going to give this build a try, probably in the morning.