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Character Build: The Animist

Tags: #Character Build Shouts  #Character Build Unarmed  #Character Build Werewolf  #Rank:Mythic  #Hall of Fame Build 
  • Ian
    September 10, 2013

    The Animist 


    The Beast of Kyne

    The Animist knows that all things in the wild have a lifeforce. Not just the beasts and the trees, but also the rocks and the rivers. She can sense this life, she can feel it, and she can draw upon it. The Animist channels the strength of the bear into powerful blows from her fists, and the stealth of the cat as she stalks her prey. Her skin hardens to the strength of tree bark and stone, or even to that of dragon scales. She breathes water like a fish and can draw life from surrounding growth to heal her wounds, even in the deepest of places. She can call upon the wind to deflect spells and blow her enemies off their feet.


    ~ Backstory ~

    Ever since you were very young, you had a special talent for learning from your surroundings, and even had a curious way of mimicking beasts. The source of this gift was never clear. But now as you reach a certain age, your abilities quicken and your power becomes significant. The source of these talents was never clear, but you've always suspected they were gifted by powers too great for you to comprehend.

    In the Late Merethic Area, many Nords believe Kyne intervened in the Dragon War, choosing a living instrument to act as her champion. And thus, the power of the Thu'um was given to mortal men and the tide of the war turned. Alduin, his dragons, and their cults were defeated.

    But now, something is happening. Dragons are awakening, and some say Alduin has returned. And so Kyne has once again chosen an instrument.


    ~ Forward ~

    I typically enjoy druid and shaman type characters, and the idea of an "animist" who assumes the aspects of various animals and natural objects sounded like fun. I've taken this build to level 50 and beyond, and it's been an absolute blast.

    I've played many characters before, but this is the one that made me buy the Dragonborn DLC, because I didn't want her story to end.

    The Fine Print

    With rare exception, an Animist's only method of dealing damage is by unarmed combat. Because of this, you have three options:

    1. Reduce the game difficulty setting later in the game as needed.

    2. Use the Infinite Equipping exploit.

    3. Use a mod.

    Don't blame me! Blame Bethesda for forcing us unarmed-lovers to bend the rules to make ourselves viable.

    The Infinite Equipping exploit (or whatever you want to call it) can boost the power of unarmed combat. This exploit allows you to use werewolf transformations and trading with a follower to equip as many pieces of armor as you desire. And with the Fists of Steel perk, this means that you can keep equipping heavy gauntlets as a means to keep adding to your unarmed damage rating. In his Legendary Master Monk build, No Snakes Alive called it "gauntlet-stacking."

    An alternative for PC users, and perhaps a cleaner experience, is my mod Unarmed Helper. It doesn't currently have many endorsements at the Nexus (I guess I'm late to the unarmed craze), but I made it specifically for this build and it works beautifully.


    Now on to the meat ...

    ~ The Build ~

    Race: Any

    Khajiit, and to a lesser extent Argonians, have an inherent advantage because their claws offer a boost to unarmed damage. But I think any race is fine.

    I chose a Redguard. The racial power Adrenaline Rush left me little need to invest points into Stamina. And besides, I like the way they look. One of their facial tattoo options struck me as perfect for my personal taste.

    Always remember the first rule of character building: choose what you think you'll enjoy the most. Everything else is secondary.

    Note: I persistently refer to the Animist as a woman, but gender is unimportant.

    Stats: Magicka 2 Health 3 Stamina 1

    Standing Stone: The Lord

    Even though the Animist invests heavily into magic skills, she is most definitely a melee character and therefore some extra protection is good. But for more of a challenge, other stones can add some flavor and also have a certain animal characteristic to them. For example ...

    --The Serpent Stone - Aspect of the Snake to paralyze your prey.
    --The Shadow Stone - Aspect of the Chameleon to vanish in plain sight.
    --The Steed Stone - Aspect of the Horse for strength and speed.
    --The Lady Stone - Aspect of the Troll for faster regeneration.
    --and ... The Lord Stone - Aspect of the Bear for greater armor and resistance.

    Major Skills: Alteration, Restoration, Enchanting, Light Armor

    Alteration is perhaps the most important skill in this build. It's what makes the Animist an Animist, allowing her to assume the aspects of various living and inanimate things.

    Restoration seems to fit better than Alchemy for healing. Something about an Animist implies that her source of healing would be more arcane than mixing potions. And it's with the ward spells that she can call upon the wind to deflect spells.

    Enchanting is what allows the Animist to absorb some of the life force of her prey - her way to "learn" from them, and then use it to twist the nature of her armor (and therefore herself) to enhance her own abilities. This is very important in boosting unarmed damage and reducing the cost of spells. And I don't know about you, but I really love the ability to custom-name my gear.

    Light Armor seems to fit the look and style of an Animist, and so that was my personal preference. But going all into Heavy Armor would also work, especially if wearing Ancient Nord Armor or the Companion Wolf set. Sticking to Heavy Armor would also save you from having to perk both the Light and Heavy skill trees. But for me, my preferred end-game gear involved the Savior's Hide and Stormcloak Officer Boots.

    And we all know that looking good is the most important thing.

    Minor Skills: Sneak, Heavy Armor, Smithing


    --Head - Custom Enchanted Circlet, Forsworn Headdress, Konahrik Dragon Priest Mask
    --Hands - Wolf Gauntlets, Spiked Gauntlets from my mod
    --Body - Savior's Hide, Fur Armor, Forsworn Armor
    --Feet - Stormcloak Officer Boots, Forsworn Boots
    --Ring - Custom Enchanted Ring
    --Amulet - Kyne's Token, Gauldur Amulet, Custom Enchanted Amulet

    The armor selections are mainly for looks, because Enchanting is really where the power of your armor will reside, for which I mainly chose to focus on boosting unarmed damage, reducing the cost of Alteration and Restoration spells, and boosting Health. Arcane Smithing, the Light Armor perks, and Alteration Flesh Spells will also serve you well.


    Level 50 perk distribution ...

    Perk spread at Skyrim Perk Calculator

    Some of the perks depend on whether or not you use my mod. The mod includes the ability to craft Light Armor Spiked Gauntlets in the Advanced Armors category that benefit from the Fists of Steel perk. Using these or not will inform your decisions on how to perk Smithing and Heavy Armor in particular. Without the mod, there is little incentive for any Smithing perks other than Steel Smithing and Arcane Smithing.

    ~ Quests ~

    --Companions Quest Line
    --College of Winterhold Quest Line
    --Ill Met by Moonlight
    --The Break of Dawn
    --The Blessings of Nature
    --Kyne's Sacred Trials
    --The Main Quest

    ~ Shouts ~

    Dismay - You have learned to roar like a bear to inspire fear in your enemies.

    Kyne's Peace - Nearby beasts sense in you something familiar, something similar to themselves, and do not feel threatened.

    Aura Whisper - You've been hunted by wolves, and hunted them in turn. Their power to smell predator and prey becomes yours.

    Animal Allegiance - The wild beasts of Skyrim see you as kin, and will fight to the death for you.

    Unrelenting Force - Kyne, Goddess of the Storm, lends you her voice through a powerful gust.

    Slow Time - Your senses quicken. Your movements and reflexes become as fast as a sabre cat's.

    Fire/Frost Breath - Just as you learn from the bear and the cat, you have learned from the Dragon to breathe fire and ice as a weapon.

    Storm Call - Commune with the Goddess herself as she sends you a storm. People think lightning is random. But for the Beast of Kyne, it is more precise.

    Now on to the dessert ...


    ~ Gameplay ~

    Think like an animal. No bow, no weapon, no offensive spells. Just your cunning and your claws.

    Smell your prey with Detect Life or Aura Whisper. Stalk them with your sneaking abilities and kill them quietly to thin out their numbers. And if you're noticed, sow fear with a shout of Dismay, your roar.

    Harden your skin with a flesh spell. Then raise your claws and tear your prey to shreds. Move behind them with speed and grace after a Slow Time shout, then once positioned, perform a dual unarmed power attack for a quick succession of three strikes.

    When injured, draw the life force of the surrounding plants to heal yourself.

    If there are animals nearby, call them to your aid with a shout of Animal Allegiance. Or if only animals are near, simply walk among them with a shout of Kyne's Peace.

    When you feel the hunger of the beast blood, shout Slow Time and transform into a werewolf in the middle of combat. Then roar. If your prey has any sense, they'll run. Chase them down. Your sprinting power attack in beast form is the most powerful attack you have, able to cut a dragon to shreds. And after you feast on their flesh, roar again at the ecstasy of the kill.

    And when things are dire, when you're surrounded by Draugr Deathlords on the top of a mountain, shout the Storm Call, bringing the wrath of the sky down upon them.

    You are an Animist. You are the Beast of Kyne. You are the ultimate apex predator.


    ~ Special Abilities ~

    Dire Werewolf
     (Raan Maar Kaal)

    Flesh Spells + Alteration Dual Casting and/or Stability + Bestial Strength + Animal Vigor

    The Animist has grown in strength in both of her forms. And now she can compliment one with the other. She casts a long lasting spell to harden her skin, then transforms into a beast. A werewolf with skin like ebony is something even a dragon might choose to avoid.


    The Call of the Wild (Tah Ov Nir)

    Animal Allegiance + Totem of Brotherhood

    The Animist has become the Alpha of all beasts. She calls them to her aid, then transforms into a werewolf to call upon more. And they all do her bidding.



    Dragonborn (Dovah kiin)

    Dragonhide + Fire Breath

    The Animist has learned from the ancient creatures themselves. Her skin shines like dragon scales. Her lungs burn and her throat kindles. Their secrets and power are hers.



    The Breath of Kyne (Lok Kest Dah)

    Storm Call + Ward

    The Animist becomes a storm unto herself. Clouds gather and charge with lightning at her command. She channels a great wind through her body to protect herself from harm.



    The Tree of Life (Laas Shul Haas)

    Circle of Protection + Grand Healing

    Even in the darkest reaches of a dungeon, the Animist can draw upon the life surrounding her, even if only from the moss clinging to the stones. She focuses it and then releases it into a burst of healing light, striking fear into the undead.



    Venomous Strike (Lun Nus Vaaz)

    Paralyze + Poison Rune

    The Animist draws upon the aspect of the spider and delivers a crippling poisonous strike. The victim falls to the ground, motionless as the venom courses through their veins.



    Stalk and Pounce (Grah Wuld Krii)

    Sneak + Slow Time

    The Animist stalks through the grass or the tunnels of a dungeon, and when her prey is near, she explodes from cover in a sprint with a Slow Time shout. Before the victim knows it, the Animist is upon them with a barrage of terribly fast strikes.


    ~ Roleplay ~

    As an instrument of Kyne, you are in preparation for the great battle to save this plane of existence, even if you don't know it yet.

    A chance encounter introduces you to the Companions and the power of the beast blood. But perhaps this wasn't simply chance. Kyne tricks Hircine into teaching you the thrill of the hunt and granting you a powerful artifact. She lures you to an unremarkable place where you happen across a special object belonging to Meridia. Consequently, the Daedra is moved to offer you a trial against the undead, which will prove vital in your quest. And yet Meridia remains unwise to Kyne's manipulations. And then one day Kyne induces a man named Froki to offer conversation and her very own sacred trials to an unexpected visitor, when he is typically not so gracious a host.

    The Hand of Kyne is busy indeed ... setting conditions to prepare the Dragonborn for the ultimate battle against the World-Eater himself. Every quest, every challenge serves to make the Animist stronger and wiser, more clever and cunning.

    As an Animist, your skills do not come from books or learned masters. You learn them from the rocks, the wind, and the beasts. Only after living in the wild for a time can you take on the skin of an oak, then a stone. Only after you witness a sabre cat stalk its prey can you begin your mastery of stealth and quickness. Only after withstanding a storm atop a great mountain can you call the wind to ward off spells or shout enemies off their feet. Only after fighting and observing spiders can you learn to paralyze your prey. Only after stalking wolves may you join them as a beast, and learn their ability to detect life with your sense of smell. And only after doing battle with a dragon can you begin to learn the secret of breathing fire.

    The Animist herself is not under Kyne's control. But she begins to suspect there is a powerful force acting on the world around her.

    And at long last, when she is ready ... when she has learned the ways of the beasts, when she can walk among them and command them, when she can harness the power of the storm from her throat and hands, she will feel a powerful pull to a place called Shadowgreen Cavern on the northern coast.

    Inside she will battle spriggans, and upon reaching the great tree at the top of the pinnacle, she will finally pull away the veil of the force behind her life. She will call Kyne to her by name with the power of the Thu'um. Three words. The first two words from the shout Aura Whisper, and the last from Kyne's Peace. Life Seek ... KYNE!

    Laas Yah ... KAAN!

    A moment later, the Animist feels the urge to shout for a Storm. Strun! It is then she feels the presence of Kyne upon her. And only then does she don the Saviour's Hide and leave the cave as a mature Animist, ready to make the climb to the top of the Throat of the World to meet another creature who was also once chosen by Kyne long ago to turn the tide against the ultimate threat.

    And upon fulfilling her destiny, she will take for herself the name of a dovah, a dragon. She chooses three words from the many she has absorbed from the ancient word walls. Animal. Spirit. Fury.



    What name will you choose?








  • Member
    September 10, 2013

    Very, very nice build!

  • Ian
    September 10, 2013


  • Member
    September 10, 2013

    Nice work!

  • Member
    September 10, 2013

    I'll be playing this for my next build. +1 like from me.

  • Member
    September 10, 2013

    Great work, especially for the first build! +1

    The roleplay behind this is very nice and gameplay seems quite varied between all the different aspects. Its a shame the vanilla game doesn't have viable unarmed combat but your mod does fix that for PC players. The multiple options it provides are all simple but effective and it really looks like a very good one. For console players the gauntlet stacking seems to be the best way and it helps that Beast Form fits the roleplay of the build. All and all great job, congrats and welcome to the site! 

  • Member
    September 10, 2013

    Very nice work here. I think you screwed up the tags though, have another look at the Archives

  • Kuz
    September 10, 2013

    This is the best shamanistic build i have ever seen. Well done

  • Ian
    September 10, 2013
  • Ian
    September 10, 2013