Skyrim Character Building » Discussions

Event Build: The Keeper of the Dead

Tags: #Character Build Elementalist  #Character Build Enchanter  #Character Build Battlemage  #Race:Breton  #Rank:Event Legendary  #Hall of Fame Build  #Event:Crossworlds  #ShinJin Build  #Lozhar Build 
  • Member
    February 14, 2015

    Optional: Music for the Vibe

    Too slow? Try the same thing, now with techno (you philistine, you)!

    Death. It’s really not that complicated: you follow the river through the nine gates to finally join with an immeasurable sea of radiant stars. It’s beautiful—I’ve seen it. But some don’t want to see… even when it’s their time. Some souls fear that ninth gate and struggle, crawl, and claw their way back through. That journey changes them. They become dark, feeding off the living in order to stay ‘alive’. Even worse, there are people who take advantage of these twisted souls, people who enslave the souls of the dead in order to gain greater power in life. That’s where I come in.

    I am the Keeper of the Dead—I send the dead back into death when they slip through the gates; I destroy the necromancers who helped them fight their way back in.

    I am the Keeper of the Dead—I protect the living; I shine the Keeper’s Lanthorn and wield the Seven Lights contained therein. I banish. I vanquish.

    I am the Keeper of the Dead—if I repeat this phrase enough I might be able to forget… forget that just a few months ago I was nothing more than a 2nd level librarian’s assistant… and forget that I’m scared.



    In the beginning was Anu and Padomay. Their magics (the magic of Order, and the magic of Chaos) filled the great void, and as the void was filled, Anu's love and an appreciation for their creations grew. But Padomay became jealous of Anu’s love for their works, and as Anu's love increased, so also did the destruction and violence of Padomay's magic. The effects were devastating.

    Anu salvaged what he could, and to protect their creations, bound both himself and his brother in a final attempt to restore balance and order. The two magics remain--Ordered and Chaotic--but though Chaotic magic was severely weakened, it has ever striven to overthrow the tenuous balance.

    The Keepers of the Dead have maintained that balance throughout Nirn’s history. The magic imbued in the their bloodline, one of Anu’s last gifts, permits access to the Keeper’s Lanthorn: seven lights (or spells) comprised of both Ordered and Chaotic magic. Their blood protects them from the corruption and spiritual decay that inevitably follows the practice of Chaotic magic… necromancy in particular.

    There is a Keeper for every land in Nirn, and Tamriel’s Keeper has traditionally been the busiest: zombies and draugr, vampires, dremora, daedric gods, and evil spirits all seek resurrection and a path back to life through the nine gates of death. The last Keeper of the Dead has gone missing and is presumed dead after an assassination attempt in Cyrodiil by Chaos magicians. Her father before her sacrificed himself to protect Tamriel from a powerful necro-liche.

    And then there is you: born without a father, abandoned by your mother at the age of five without any explanation, and hidden from the world in the pursuit of your duties as an assistant in the Imperial Library, you’ve remained blissfully unaware of the Keepers and their duties… that is, until it is suddenly revealed that the next in the Keeper’s bloodline is you!

    The Basics


    • Breton—from both a roleplay and mechanics stance, this really is your best choice: the Keeper’s skills in Conjuration, her attunement to the undead and necromancers, and natural resistance to magic make Bretons the perfect fit for a hunter of rogue magicians, necromancers, and undead.
    • Altmer—you can’t argue that the mechanics of Altmer make it a tempting choice for those who don’t feel the need to follow roleplay quite as closely. +50 to Magicka, the Highborn ability, and a boost to Destruction are all quite nice for a character that conjures guardians and slings Destruction runes regularly.


    • Start with Mage—you pass it when you leave Helgen, so why not?
    • RITUAL—this is one of the seven lights of the Keeper’s Lanthorn (more on this in the Roleplay section), so you’ll need to pick this one up fairly early on.


    • 4 magicka/1 health/0 stamina—the Keeper is a mage first, and warrior 2nd.
    • 3 magicka/2 health if you feel like you’ll be working the sword more regularly… just remember, those runes can eat up magicka quickly.


    In choosing skills for this build, Lozhar and I wanted to perk ones that fit the idea of a Keeper of the Dead, but we felt this particular Keeper should be somewhat inexperienced and vulnerable. For this reason we don’t fully perk a lot of the schools, and minimize or limit spell cost reductions. It has made for some action-packed gameplay that never gets old… we both played this build to completion twice!


    There are a million things in Skyrim that want to kill you, so an ability to heal yourself efficiently and effectively is nice. Now add to this increased damage-dealing to the undead with offensive spells, and Restoration becomes pretty important to the Keeper of the Dead.


    • the Necromage perk makes your spells against the undead even more powerful
    • Close Wounds heals you quickly and almost completely. Combine it with the Respite perk and you completely refill your stamina at the same time… hello unlimited sprinting!


    We limited ourselves to rune spells almost exclusively. Combined with Illusion’s Aspect of Terror perk, fire runes give you the most bang for the buck, but we still augmented the frost and shock branches to provide versatility for Skyrim’s diverse range of threats.

    A few fire runes make sword work pretty simple


    In the early game we found the bound sword immensely helpful: (a) it gives you decent damage early on, and (b) it levels up your Conjuration very quickly. Also, for the first time ever, I relied on Soul Trap entirely for gathering souls rather than an enchanted weapon or the Soul Stealer perk. Between Bound Sword and Soul Trap, you’ll be an expert conjurer in no time.


    We perked this mainly for the additional 'oomph' that Aspect of Terror has on fire spells. The most used spell for me in this school was Muffle (which I used while traveling abroad, not so much to keep me silent, but rather as a means of leveling me quickly).

    Lozhar, on the other hand, used Fury spells to devastating effect--softening up or eliminating threats before they even had a chance to engage... Illusion: making people say, “What the heck just happened?” since Daggerfall!


    Of course the defensive perks in this tree are crucial for a superficially armored character. We perked just about anything that would protect us or reduce spell costs, but the Expert perk is a game-changer. The major take-away:

    • Paralysis, when applied after three words of Marked for Death, turns the meanest, ugliest, baddest of the bad guys into fully stompable sword/dog fodder. It’s the perfect answer for that Deathlord leading a mob of draugr… mark it, drop it, deal with the riffraff, then mop up a severely weakened Deathlord when nap-time is over

    Nap-time only makes them weaker


    My money maker. For roleplay purposes, I enchanted daggers with a Turn Dead effect: it not only brings in a decent amount of coin, but ostensibly floods Skyrim with weaponry that protects its people from the undead. If during the mid or late game, however, you come across the Banish effect, that not only serves the same RP purpose, but will also bring in more gold than just about any other enchant I've come across in vanilla Skyrim.

    • Quick Tip: Lozhar grabbed the Black Star and would use it to recharge his weapons (whether they needed it or not) to get his enchanting leveled up fairly quickly

    Gear (with end game enchantments)

    Head: Silver Sapphire Circlet (Fortify Destruction + Fortify Magicka Regeneration)

    Body: College or Temple Priest  Robes (Fortify Alteration + Fortify Magicka Regeneration)

    Feet: Glass Boots (Fortify One-handed + Fortify Stamina)

    Hands: Glass Gauntlets (Fortify One-handed + Fortify Magicka)

    Ring: Silver Ruby Ring (Fortify Restoration + Fortify Magicka Regeneration)

    Necklace: Silver Sapphire Necklace (Resist Magic + Resist Magic [disenchant the Shield of Solitude])

    Weapon: Silver Sword

    • The perfect weapon for dealing with the undead: they deal extra damage to undead, and they just look so... cool! There is some leeway here regarding enchantments, but we definitely suggest Fire as one of them. The other, however, is up to you
      • I started with Fire + Absorb Health, but soon found the combo to be a bit OP for my tastes... switched it up to Fire + Absorb Magicka... just right!
      • Lozhar opted for Fiery Soul Trap and Paralysis... always a fearsome combo, but with just enough unpredictability to keep things interesting

    Level 25 Perk Spread

    Level 50 Perk Spread

    Follower--The Crooked Canine

    I wasn't thinking. I was just... lonely. Though it exceeded the limits of my abilities, I decided to create a permanent guardian. A familiar. Just something for me to speak to--if I just took my time and was very careful, I should be able to do it.

    Halfway through my spell, however, Chaos magic started blending in with the Ordered magic, and before I knew it I lost control. The spell was controlling ME. I was uttering runes that I didn't recognize. Powerful runes... too powerful... runes that would consume me when the spell was finished, leaving me a pile of ash. I closed my eyes against the brilliance building up in my little room and waited for the words (and my life) to end.

    The words did come to an end, but nothing happened. I slowly opened my eyes only to find another set of eyes staring intently back at me. It was a dog. No guardian familiar, but a very plain, very ordinary, very REAL dog! Overcome with happiness I wrapped my arms around her and said, "Who are you, and where did you come from, girl?" And then my very plain, very ordinary dog sat down and said, "I am the Crooked Canine, and I came from Before. Let's go to the kitchen... and then for a walk!"

    For roleplay purposes, Lozhar and I wanted an uncontrollable, hyper dog. The kind that always jumps up and puts its paws on your chest. One that barges ahead protectively whenever any threats appear. Which, I suppose, could have been any dog in Skyrim. BUT we also wanted a dog that was supernaturally powerful, and (as an added bonus) had the ability to talk. There could be only one... Barbas.

    Oh that dog! Having Barbas around was just like having any dog I've ever owned throughout my life... maddening and wonderful all at the same time: he's always bumping into you, often barks when you wish he wouldn't, and is frequently in the way. But oh that dog! He's the first one into the fray, packs a wallop in early and mid levels, and he's invincible. Not just essential, mind you... Barbas is invincible! Having followers usually means no AoE spells (such as runes) because even the essential ones are soon worthlessly hobbling around on the ground.

    But not Barbas! Sling those fire runes at the bandits surrounding him... he won't feel it. I can't tell you how many times I've had to reload a game because I accidentally gimped a follower with Marked for Death. Now just blast them all with MfD... Barbas is unmarkable! Simply put: Barbas was rolling Companion's Insight in vanilla Skyrim long before Bethesda got around to supplying it in the DLC.

    I'd like to thank Raidriar for reminding me to mention some rather important details when using Barbas as a follower. First of all, do not complete Clavicus Vile's quest! I stayed out of Rimerock Burrow entirely, but if you feel  a burning need to clear it out make certain you don't pick up the Rueful Axe... it's just easier that way if Barbas gets lost. And he probably will... especially if you use the 'wait' command on him--"You wait right here, okay?" *Two minutes later* "Now where did that freaking dog go?" The good news is you'll always know where he goes... back to the statue at Haemar's Shame. The bad news here is if you have the Rueful Axe, you very well may end the quest (and your adventures with Barbas). Don't touch the Rueful Axe!


    Lozhar and I approached combat in slightly different different ways:

    • For me combat typically started with the Crooked Canine running straight at enemies while I simultaneously threw out my strongest flesh spell and Candlelight (The Keeper's Lanthorn--more on this in the Roleplay section). Once the Lanthorn was in play, I'd blast the largest knot of enemies I could find with MfD, pound threats with Fire Runes till the magicka ran out, then close in with the cutlery for close quarter combat. Bosses, tougher enemies (dragons, I'm looking at you), or immoderately large mobs would get a Guardian (flame, frost, storm atronachs or dremora), but only AFTER MfD. Single or weakened enemies got Soul Trapped before they were sent through the Nine Gates. I raised dead only through the Ritual Stone, and then only in the direst of circumstances
    • Lozhar, on the other hand, would open with The Keeper's Lanthorn and Fury Spells to soften up the Crowd, while the Crooked Canine and a Guardian (Frost Atronachs against Melee groups,  Storm Atronachs against mages, and dremora against bosses/tough enemies) worked crowd control. Other times he would forgo the Guardian, and just charge in for some sword work. On rare occasions he would bust out Paralysis to take tougher enemies out of the action. Lozhar (who loves necromancy) tended to be more liberal with Ritual Stone.
    • We both handled dragons fairly similarly... Guardians! In Lozhar's words: "Stormies by air, Dremora when grounded, Wards for breath [here I opted for Become Ethereal], and Become Ethereal when closing in for the close quarter kill in order to avoid the DOOBK (Damn-OP-One-Bite-Kill)"... freaking Lozhar! xD

    It's the Nine Gates for you, my friend!


    The Keeper of the Dead is blessed with an innate ability to combat Chaos Magic by wielding the Keeper's Lanthorn, which holds a combination of Ordered and Free Magic. Lozhar and I felt the perfect application of the Lanthorn would be through the Candlelight spell: just as natural light contains seven prismatic colors, the Keeper's Lanthorn holds seven powers, gifted to them through their bloodline, which are used in their battle to maintain balance and order and keep Chaos Magic in check. The Keeper's Lanthorn provides access to the following seven powers:

    • The Sleeper (Paralysis)--a powerful light that briefly lulls away the senses of all who hear it. If threats get the jump on you, or there are too many, or you just want some space, this is a nice one to have... especially late-game.
    • The Walker (Marked for Death)--use of this power places the target squarely on the path to death. They can resist all they want, but that journey starts the second enemies see The Walker... whether they know it or not.
    • The Finder (Aura Whisper)--Keepers are naturally in tune with the forces of life and death around them. With this power the presence of life and the undead are not only felt, but seen. Half of any battle is knowing exactly where the trouble lies.
    • The Turner (Turn Undead spells/ Circle of Protection)--when the undead come out in hordes, this power helps them remember why they fear the keeper. Lozhar and I kept trading up for the next highest version, and I eventually stuck with Circle of protection to catch a break from the little guys while I dealt with Scourges and Deathlords.
    • The Binder (Soul Trap)--binds a soul directly to death's final gate by trapping its will to resist the call of the gates. Only powerful necromancers can counter the effects of The Binder.
    • The Mourner (Become Ethereal)--Keepers are able to visit the realms of death while their bodies remain partially tied to Nirn. By directing your attention towards life while under the effects of The Mourner your body temporarily becomes ethereally impervious to attack on Nirn.
    • The Waker (Ritual Stone)--the last resort. As partial practitioners of Chaos magic, Keepers have the power to pull souls back to life. It is viewed as an abomination by all good people, and the Keeper of the Dead falls back on this only when things are at their most bleak... but when you do, wow! A potential army of undead protectors is nothing to laugh at.

    Deathlord giving you some trouble?


    He'll soon come 'round to your way of thinking!

     Closing Notes

    For those who are interested in the source material, here are a few interesting points:

    • Free Magic (chaos magic) and Charter Magic (ordered magic): free magic is the chaotic magic that ruled the world at its beginning. Due to its unpredictable and destructive nature, a group of powerful magicians and like-minded Free Magic creatures worked together to bind free magic to The Charter (Ordered Magic). This weakened free magic and gave Charter magicians power to stand against practitioners of free magic and malignant free magic creatures.
    • Abhorsen: the title given to what Lozhar and I have called The Keeper of the Dead for this build. Their bloodline provides them with special powers, protecting them from the spiritual corrosion that accompanies the practice of free magic. The title of Abhorsen is passed down from generation to generation.
    • The bells of the Abhorsen: the Abhorsen is given power to use the necromantic bells--seven powerful bells created at the birth of The Charter (if you take a close look at the Abhorsen inspired art, you can see the Abhorsen wielding the bells). Their power comes from seven powerful Free Magic creatures who willingly allowed themselves to be bound to the bells. Multiple sets have been created throughout time, and they are the weapons of choice for necromancers and free magic practitioners as well.
    • The Disreputable Dog: you really have to read Lirael to fully appreciate just how closely the Disreputable Dog is to Barbas... the major differences being (a) she's female, (b) she probably doesn't have a New Jersey sounding dialect, and (c) she comes with a pretty interesting twist that I'll not spoil for you.

    Thanks, as always, goes out to all who have provided some great builds for this event; for all who will yet provide great builds for this event; for all who have contributed to the Crossworlds discussions; and to Noodles and Albino for giving us a chance to bring other universes to Skyrim... it's been a lot of fun!

    By The Way:

    We're builders, so if you like what you see, check out our other stuff:



  • Member
    February 14, 2015

    Another great build, here, Shin. I'm surprised how well that gear set comes together; I wouldn't have expected it. And the editing on that Roleplay pic is freaking fantastic!

  • Member
    February 14, 2015
    Maybe because I am weird and selfish, but I never play builds from other people. This build makes me want to make this character and probably the first one to do so. Has a pure mage feel with the skill choices with everything I like. Really awesome build and presentation. I am in love with alteration spellsword types (this has some light armor for a cool aesthetic) and this is too cool. Well done.
  • Member
    February 14, 2015
    Definately going to try this's, I've been wanting to use runes heavily for awhile. Is it feasible to use Two Handed instead of One Handed?, just a personal preference.
  • Member
    February 14, 2015
    I love this! I love those captions beneath the pictures...especially that death lord troubles one. With the pictures, they could sell the build alone!
    And I never knew barbad was invincible! Gotta love that dog.
    But the best thing've made those robes appealing to me! Great job and a +1!
  • Member
    February 14, 2015

    Nice! That first picture reminds me of Arya and Needle from GoT! Man you love putting links to all your builds. 

  • Member
    February 14, 2015

    OH MY LORD YES. This is now officially my favorite build on the site (sorry Lore-Keeper). I go absolutely batshit crazy about ANYTHING Abhorsen related. Everything about this build is absolutely perfect. 

    My only question is why did you not go with Telvanni Robes or Dunmer Clothes? Part of Lirael's whole look is the red tunic thing, if I am not mistake. Just a little nitpick :P

  • Member
    February 14, 2015

    Nicely done! +1

  • Member
    February 14, 2015

    Wow, you actually made an Abhorsen build that uses the bells from the book, as well as the disreputable dog. This looks very nice, as well as fun to play.It works quite well in Skyrim as their is no shortage of necromancers and undead waiting for you to send them back.

  • Member
    February 14, 2015
    A www no matter how hard I try my builds don't turn out this epic awesome build +2