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Event Build: The Totem Paths

  • Member
    July 29, 2015

    Event Build:

    The Totem Paths

    When I woke up this morning I was in bondage

    I found myself in the company of two bears and a mouse. The mouse was squirming, praying, pleading his gods to save him. His gods left him to die. The bears were silent and brave, for they knew they had pleased our lords and ladies. They knew the Hawk would carry them up to Sovngarde and that the whale would test their faith before they would join the serpent and the other beasts in feast.

    When it was my turn to join the halls, the gods sent me a sign but this sign was not carried by a mere messager. I saw lord Alduin today. Like the great king of old returned from Atmora his battleaxe blazing in the eternal glow of the northern lights, had Alduin returned from his slumber, bathing the world in the fires of his redemption.

    It is time for me to walk the paths, the gods have elected me their champion and I will not decieve them.

    When I woke up this morning I was reborn a pilgrim.


    Inspired by my father's decision to walk the Camino (an old christian pilgrimage) from Rocamadour to Santiago di Compostella, and the fact that I couldn't do it with him because of College. I decided to make and play through a build representing a pilgrimage in Skyrim. And the Deities event poked it's head around at just the right moment.

    Before I get to which gods I decided to worship, I shall explain the concept. This build will represent the pilgrimage of a devote Pilgrim character following different paths that represent the deities he reveres.

    Each path consists out of a single build with only two main skills, these are coincidently the only skills that will be perked. Once both skills have attained the maximum level of 100 the pilgrim will retire to a sacred place and present his power to the gods. If the offer is accepted he will go onto the next path after legendarising his main skills. He hereby regains all the spent perks but will lose most of his progress in said skills. I chose to use this somewhat unliked mechanic to represent the steps of this journey as well as to represent how a pilgrimage (or any long journey) can allow someone to leave his burdens behind and continue to live as if rejuvenated.

    Well now that basic concept of this work is explained (the rambling) is over let's get to the build.


    "Every now and then you can stumble across the broken stone totems in the farther reaches of Skyrim." -Torhal Bjorik in The Dragon War

    Ask any inhabitant of Skyrim about a nearby ruin and most will tell you that it is one among many, that the blasted things cover the whole land and that depending on the region they have mostly been associated with rogue mages, bandits and the undead. For most of Skyrim's inhabitants these ruins are the stuff of nightmares. However when you ask a small elite of scholars, monks and other intellectuals you will hear a different story: one about the might of the Atmorans. A story about destroyed cities and 501 spirits of vengeance. Of thu'ums, tongues, and dragons.

    These ruins were once built as mighty cities and temples. All in honor of the totems and their associated divinities: The Dragon, the Serpent, the Bear, the Wolf, the Hawk, the Whale, the Owl, the Moth and the Fox. Or as most know them in modern days: Alduin, Shor, Stuhn, Mara, Kyne, Tsun, Jhunal, Dibella and Orkey. These were the gods the nords revered in  ancient times, before Alessia and before the Empire. An age of glory where the nords ruled the north and either revered or warred against dragons thu'um against tongue, tails against blade.

    However just as history has shown far too often: to all good things must come an end. And so it did with the nordic domination. Over the years they fought each other, then several rising empires and eventually they were absorbed by one. The nordic gods were absorbed into the Alessian cult of the eight and slowly the old temple became ruins.

    The cult itself survived though small in numbers there are still a few devoted followers of the totems. The most interesting aspect of this faith to me is the fact that unlike the other modern religions of Tamriel, there is no need to serve the totems neither is there any use in pleading for their help or praying, as they will not respond. As is the custom in Nord culture, followers of this faith will have to prove themselves to their gods before these bestow their blessings and boons upon the nordic people.


    Race: Nord preferably, any race can be explained but I played as a nord and some of the totems have taken this into account. You can choose any gender you want as well.

    Attributes: 1/1/1 The problem with following this many paths with both magic and combat skills is that depending on the followed path you will need more or less stamina or magicka, which is why I have chosen for this formula.

    General notes:

    • In theory you should be able to play these paths in any order you want to however I played through them in the specific order I will be giving for the main reason that it should be easier to from a gameplay peerspective (also I am playing them in said order).
    • The enchanting and smithing skills will be minor skills throughout the whole build for the simple reasons that ending up in a high level setting with low level skills is hard enough, let's at least try to have some decent gear as soon as possible after the meditation.
    • As of right now, I am still in the process of playtesting this mega project. The paths themselves are pretty much finished (I migh change a few détails of the latter ones if I find anything gamebreaking during the last phases of my testing) so I just went on ahead and posted them for the event. I hope you like it.

    Owl Huntress by Jastorama

    The Paths:

    The Wolfmother's Wrath

    Some adventurers and warriors will laugh at the sight of wolves. These creatures, common predators in the north, are indeed often understated.

    When the ancient Atmorans first encountered wolves they were humbled by the extreme efficiency of the species. While they didn't think a lone wolf would pose nearly any threat to a well armed man, a pack would cut through villages, killing and eating any nord they would find. For in numbers these intelligent animals outmatched any warrior and any weapon.

    And not only were these creatures capable of organizing themselves into packs, just like men would, they would take care of each and every member of the clan. A characteristic that a lot of humans would fall short off. A sparsity that had often lead them to defeat.

    Mankind was amazed by the solidarity of the packs and the protection and strength their members would offer each other. And so they decided to strife for these ideals: Solidarity and Loyalty. And over time the image of a wolf slowly shifted to the personnification of these ideals: Lady Mara, the Wolfmother.

    To this day the nords have used the wolfmother totem to represent: Solidarity, loyalty, tenacity, mutual trust and respect. Some even claim the nordic marriage ceremonies and courtship rituals are inspired by the wolf. Hence the connection between the Alessian Mara and marriage.

    In order to channel the wolf totem's power one must take up a shield and yield a dagger. The shield represents the wolf's tenacity and will to protect it's friends and loved ones while the dagger represents it's fangs and claws which it uses to hunt and protect.


    Major skills: Block and One-handed


    Block: Shield wall x/5, deflect arrows, elemental protection, power bash, quick reflexes.

    One Handed: Armsman x/5, Bladesman  x/3, Fighting stance, Savage strike or Critical charge


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    From left to right: wolf Helmet, mantled fur kilt, wolf gauntlets, wolf boots, nordic shield, nordic carved dagger

    Mask: Rahgot, the orichalcum mask of rage.


    The wolf totem can be played in two different ways: an aggressive stance and a defensive stance. The choice of stance depends on the one-handed perk. 

    If you opt for the savage strike perk you will have chosen the defensive stance. This represents the wolf skulking around it's prey tiring it slowly before taking it down. For this stance you will want to get up close and personal an turn around your foe, blocking all his incoming hits and use any occasion you get to strike, Watch out though a power attack with your dagger will probably not stagger them.

    If you opt for the Critical charge perk, you will have chosen the aggressive stance. This stance represents the raging beast charging at it's prey and trapping it's neck between his jaws. You will charge in with your dagger and if possible chain a few critical charges. Combine them with a couple of shield bashes and follow up with a set of swift strikes from your dagger.

    I highly recommand using the dismay shout as well as the battlecry power, especially when using followers (highly recommanded for this path) to set up traps by leading your foes into chokepoints held by your companions or into traps. This is very useful against mages which are a real pain when you don't have the elemental protection perk.


    Howl of the Wolf: Dismay or Battlecry

    A bone chilling howl terrifies your opponents and allows you to have some breathing space, or you can listen to your inner hunter and use it to lead your enemies into traps.


    The Wolf's rage: Rahgot + Howl of the Wolf

    You put on the mask of Rahgot and you begin to feel a primitive rage that pushes you to rip out people's throats. Beware the wolfmother's wrath.



    Recommended quests:

    Dragon rising: You owe the man that saved you, return the favor by helping him protect his family.

    The Companions questline until you finish the vengeance mission

    The book of love (optional): It seems somewhat logical to do this. However the wolf is not some message boy for a bunch of stupid priests that can't understand the true essence of Mara.

    Get Meeko or another dog, because logic.

    Ancestral Worship: Help Golldir protect his family, if you succeed he may even join your pack

    Siege on the Dragon cult: Forelhost contains the mask of the wolfmother's priest (as well as some gear you will be needing for some of the other paths, don't forget to take the stormcloak gear off Valmir and keep a set of dragon priest daggers)


    While the path of the wolfmother's wrath presents a few traditional places for meditation like the four skulls hideout where a long forgotten party of warriors has been burried, it may be more interesting to find your own place: the ruined city where you vanquished an ancient evil with the aid of your pack or the tomb where your companion fell etc.

    Four skull Hideout-Jorvaskr-The wall of the five-hundred in Windhelm


    The Hawk's sorrow


    The hawk is known to be one of the more agile yet ferocious killers of nature. But is also one of the smaller ones around and is often underestimated.

    A hawk hunts in a whole different way than a wolf, instead of transforming the hunt into a challenge of vigor and numbers, the hawk makes one precise strike. If succesful it killed it's prey, if not it died.

    Devoid of fangs this creature uses both it's beak and razorsharp talons to take down it's prey as it dives down from the skies. A pilgrim on the path of the hawk will try to mimic this style of combat.

    These birds were often attracted by battlefields, not simply as mere scavengers but as hunters (of said scavengers). The more important the battle, the more hawks would come. This sparked the believe that the hawks would escort the fallen nordic warriors to the great halls of the eternal serpent, which they believed was built high in the skies: a place only accesable for those with wings.

    Kyne, protectress of the fallen and goddess of the hunt was born. Aided by the hawks, she would bring the Fallen nordic heroes to Sovngarde. However being bound to the skies she would never meet her husband Shor again and on certain days, she will lament and her tears will flood the holds of skyrim.

    To incarnate the Hawk totem a pilgrim needs to be as fierce and fast on the battlefield as the hawk in the skies. But he must also respect the dead and praise the valor of the Fallen. On the battlefield this means wielding two daggers representing the hawks talons and a bow to honor the goddess of the hunt.


    Major skills: Archery and One-handed


    Archery: Marksman x/5, Eagle eye, Steady hand 2/2, Critical shot x/3, Hunter's discipline, Ranger

    One-handed: Armsman x/5, Bladesman x/3, Fighting stance, Critical charge, Dual flurry, Dual savagery


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    From left to right: Diadem of the savant (get the one at Froki's shack), forsworn armor, Elven gauntlets and boots, 2 dragon priest daggers, the bow of the hunt and Kyne's hunting bow: a self enchanted Elven bow with shock and/or animal damage enchantments.

    Mask: Krosis, Bronze mask of Sorrow


    The hawk's combat style is simple but symbolic. Enter combat with your bow and pelt your opponent with arrows , then whenever you think it is time (before the melee), switch out to your daggers and start the Hawk's dance. Charge at your opponent, and deplete your stamina with the help of critical charges (try to chain as many of these as you can), and dual power attacks. Then once the fatigue starts to affect you, take flight to safety with the help of the Whirlwind sprint shout. The lack of stamina will leave you vulnerable while you switch back to your bow, so keep out of range. This style of combat was inspired by one of the main attributes of Kyne, the goddess of the hunt, but mostly by the hawk's prefered way of hunting: diving down from the clouds, taking their prey down with an unknown fury.

    I'm happy to say that from now on the paths will be more and more shout heavy. The whirlwind sprint shout will not be the only shout in your arsenal as it will be joined by the Slow time, the elemental fury, the kyne's peace and the Storm call shouts. While I know that means you are going to collect a lot of dragon souls, it felt appropriate that you would when following the path of kyne, she who learned men to use shouts and basicly sparked the dragon wars.




    Keen Sight: Eagle eye + Steady Hand + Slow time (Extended slow time glitch archery version)

    Blessed with great eye-sight, a pilgrim on the path of the hawk will be able to slow time while pelting his prey with arrows.


    All or Nothing: Elemental fury + Hawk's dance

    You prepare for possibly the last attack of the fight, you either finish off your enemy or he catches you in a moment of weakness and finishes you. The lack of a possibility to escape (no stamina for a sprint and with an active shout cooldown) makes this a very dangerous yet lucrative technique.

    The Hawk's Sorrow: Krosis + Storm Call + Kyne's Hunting Bow

    Donning the mask of Sorrow, your emotions start to fathom the world around you and soon the blood of your enemies will be boiling inside their lifeless bodies.


    Recommended quests:

    The way of the voice: You have been summoned by the grey beards, answer their summon, and follow the teachings of kyne's priests.

    The horn of Jurgen windcaller: To prove yourself to the Grey beards you will have to locate and retrieve the horn of jurgen windcaller, a mighty warrior whose Thu'um was more feared than even the dragon's.

    A blade in the dark: A dragon is attacking the sacred grove of Kyne, destroy the beast before it burns down the forest. And don't forget to punish those who defiled it before him.

    Kyne's sacred trials: Tradition dictates you pass the hunting trials of kyne. It is time to show the goddess of the hunt what you are made of.

    (If not done during the moth path) The Blessings of nature: Help restore the gildergreen through the prayer to Kynareth (the sappling path).


    Once you completed the path of the Hawk travel to one of the following sacred places and meditate:

    The cliffs of High Hrothgrar-Kyne's Grove-The top of the cloud district (on a misty day preferably, trust me)-The eldergleam sanctuary.


    The Stormhunter

    In ancient times the atmoran people used to be excellent sailors. What choice did they have when the land they lived on was even less hospitable than the sea of ghosts?

    Their culture thrived from fishery and whalehunting. And part of this practice was taken to Skyrim when Ysgramor and his companions landed on Hsaarik Head. The Whale hunt quickly became redundant as the land of Skyrim offered far more possibilities than their old ancestral lands, and over time it grew from a necessity to a rite of passage. Similar to how the stormcloaks send certain recruits up to the serpent stone, brave nord man and woman would head out on a whale hunt, if they managed to survive both the sea itself and their prey they would get richer than they had ever dreamt they could.

    Over the years the whales had grown less common and this made the prices of whale produce climb. As a result a lot of warriors and sailors headed out to hunt down these magnificent creatures, yet only a few returned alive. The rest had been swallowed whole by the sea of ghosts. It might even have gotten it's name from these events come to think of it.

    It didn't take long for the ancient nords to associate the whale hunt with Sovngarde and soon Tsun was born. Tsun was believed to have two different bodies: the whale and the man. The whale tested the valor of the hunters in life while the man would test those who wanted entrance to Shor's halls.

    It is also believed that the whale was killed by foreign gods while protecting the halls of sovngarde. This belief combined with the apparent extinction of the whales, has led many a scholar to ask himself if the whales could have been wiped out by divine (or more likely daedric) hand.


    Major skills: Destruction and Block


    Destruction: Master destruction, augmented shock 2/2, augmented frost 2/2, disintegrate

    Block: Shield wall x/5, Deflect arrows, elemental protection, block runner, shield charge


    Thumbnail for version as of 06:49, 8 October 2012Thumbnail for version as of 06:12, 7 February 2013Thumbnail for version as of 06:12, 7 February 2013Thumbnail for version as of 06:12, 7 February 2013ArmorShieldofYsgramor

    From left to right: Blackguard Hood (interchangeable with a mage Hood), Nordic carved armor, gauntlets and boots, and the shield of ysgramor.

    Mask: Volsung, Corundum mask of the storm terror.


    The combat style of the Stormhunter path (whale totem) was meant to mimic the trials whalehunters had to pass in order to succeed: this means we will be using shock magic to represent the ocean storms, ice magic to represent the freezing températures and your shield to represent the waves crushing the ships. A special emphasis will be put on using the terrain and your enemies weaknesses to your advantage. This means prioritizing shock against mages, ice against warriors, using area of effect spells in cramped areas (looking at you blizzard and ice storm spells) but mostly the frequent use of runes and wall spells to turning the terrain in a full on hazardous sea of ice and storms. Thanks to the ability granted by this path's sacred mask you will even be capable of using the presence of water to your advantage.


    Breath of the sea: Ice form shout + Blizzard spell

    Tsun grants the pilgrim the ability to call the frozen waters of the sea of ghost for aid. This will freeze your enemies, giving you enough time to charge up one of your master spells (blizzard in particular)


    Charge of the whale: Lightning runes + Walls of frost + Shield charge

    Seeing a whale charging at your boat has always been a nightmare for ancient whalers. Who would be thrown into the freezing waters of the sea of ghosts. Show your foes what a real stormhunter is capable of.


    Terror of the skies: Volsung + Call storm shout + Charge of the Whale + Hide in water

    Donning the sacred mask of the whale attracts storms from the sea of ghosts to slaughter your foes. This technique is especially useful near water where your foes will be unable to cause you any harm while the storm takes them out.

    Recommanded quests:

    The last companions quest (I suppose you have been waiting for this one): To be admitted into Shor's meadhall Kodlak will need to be cure his lycantrophy, help him reach Tsun.

    Yngol's barrow: Ysgramor's son was never able to reach Sovngarde after he was claimed by the sea spirits, free him from his curse so that he can rejoin his father.

    Join the thieves guild: this is not only a way to make some easy cash but it will allow you to collect your hood, and also provides acces to a small seafare related quest is solitude. Do not complete all the quests though, all you have to do is unlock the misc jobs from Vex and Delvin.

    Crossing the sea of ghosts: A self respecting pilgrim of Tsun will have to cross the Sea of ghosts at least once.

    Join the mages guild: sadly a requirment for the higher level spells.

    Forgotten Legends: pass judgement on Gauldur's sons then let him rest in peace.


    An accomplished stormhunter pilgrim can meditate all along the northern coast, if you are looking for specific places I would suggest Pilgrim's trench, Hjaarik's head and either of the two lighthouses.


    The Moth's Duality

    While it may surprise some of the other races, the nords do appreciate art and beauty. they even have  a deity completely devoted to arts and beauty: Dibella, the Moth.

    There are two kinds of moths in Skyrim, the most common one is the Lunamoth. An apparently frail, yet absolutely beautiful creature that lights up the plains and woods of Skyrim once the sun sets behind the druadach mountains in the west. This moth is born a Caterpillar then transforms into it's beautiful adult form later in life. For the nords this meant that anything can be made beautiful, if a Caterpillar can become a moth then why couldn't a building become a piece of art?

    However this was not the only thing the nords observed about this creature: they quickly noticed that in opposition to it's diurnal brethren the lunamoth was all but herbivorous. Instead of drinking nectar these creatures would eat other insects and sometimes would even parasitize them. The idea of these beautiful creatures being so merciless in their killing sparked the belief that beauty always comes with strength. This translates , to this day, in Nord architectural works, and has become a rule that many nord woman live by, and something they have gotten quite a reputation for. It might even be the reason why women are respected just as much as men in nord society.

    To impersonate the Moth totem one must show the bipolar nature of natural beauty: it has to be soothing yet also terrifying. For this the school of restoration as well as the art of alchemy will be of great aid to the pilgrims.


    Major skills: Restoration and Alchemy


    Restoration: Master restoration, regeneration, respite, recovery 2/2 and avoid death.

    Alchemy: alchemist x/5, poisoner, concentrated poison.


    Guild master hoodThumbnail for version as of 14:31, 2 October 2012Thumbnail for version as of 14:31, 2 October 2012Thumbnail for version as of 14:31, 2 October 2012Thumbnail for version as of 02:26, 10 February 2013Thumbnail for version as of 02:26, 10 February 2013Dwarven black bow of fate

    From left to right: Guild master Hood (can be exchanged with an ancient nordic helmet for females, it looks quite nice), heavy/hardened falmer armor, gauntlets and boots, poison spider scroll (of any variety), mind control spider scroll and the dwarven black bow of fate.

    Mask: Hevnoraak, the iron mask of brutality.


    The art of the moth is a surprisingly brutal one: a Walker of the Moth's duality path will have to adapt himself to a duo of playstyles: The first supportive the second aggressive.

    When playing as a supportive creature of beauty I recommend using a follower (or preferably a mind control spider) and use your restoration to buff your ally, with heals and circles. Then take out your bow and start distributing poison.

    When playing the aggressive stance, or if you prefer the brutality hidden behind anything one can find in Skyrim. It is  best to forget about followers and mind control and to take your bow at the start of combat, initiate by incapicitating your foes with your poisons then head in armed with whatever variants you prefer of the Poison spider scrolls.

    It is absolutely recommended to use both paths in conjunction. After all if nords are to be believed beauty and brutality often come hand in hand.



    PS: As said before the build hasn't been entirely playtested yet (nine minibuilds in less than two months tends to be too much for me) And as such only the playtested paths will be posted here. I will update them as I go along though.

    If you wish to have a sneak peak on the paths that are being/going to be playtested and posted, I would suggest having a look at the changelog and the WiP Thread (until it's deletion).

  • Member
    July 29, 2015

    Hey what happened to the Storm one? Good job by the way. I like that first picture a lot, too.

  • Member
    July 29, 2015

    Speaking of pictures, I think this build could use a bit more of them. It isn't as colorful as some of your other builds.

  • Member
    July 29, 2015

    It's being playtested right now. So I have decided to wait a bit first before posting it here.

    Once I'm certain the playstyle and the mechanics are playable and allow you to survive your second meditation I will post it.

  • Member
    July 29, 2015

    It is isn't it? I wanted to go for a sober aproach because of the planned length but yeah it looks quite boring right now so I'll have to remedy to that.

  • Member
    July 30, 2015
    Nice build! The paths thing is cool, and it's nice that you've separated them from Paul England's build series (which was based on the same totems). I'm curious about the lore though: why is Mara the Wolf and Dibella the Moth? They seem like strange matches to me. +1
  • Member
    July 30, 2015

    Thanks, I have to say that Paul has helped me along the way and his series has definitively given me some inspiration. I'll have to remember to credit him once everything is finished.

    As to the lore, well let's just say that it is quite open to interpretation as there isn't a lot of preprocessed lore to rely upon. I started by looking at the nordic murals that can be found in places like the halls of stories: There were 9 totems, 6 of them depicted as male and 3 as female. So if the continuity was to be respected Mara, Dibella and Kyne could only be the Wolf, Hawk and Moth (not specifically in that order). I then looked at the way people in our world would interprete them (taking in consideration our  history etc) then looked if I could find something relatable in the TES universe.

    The wolf is known in roman legends as the legendary mother of Romulus and Remus, which linked it to Mara. But Mara is also known as the nords as a protectress of familial bonds, so how would that fit in? Wolves hunt in packs, nature's closest thing to what we call families, it is what gives them their strength. Nords respect strength more than anything so it would be an important part of their cult, hence Mara seemed to be the most logical choice to me.

    The moth was a tad more difficult to get around as in Lore moths are more commonly associated with Julianos, which some say is Jhunal for the nords (I think we may be talking of two different entities actually but that's another story). However Dibella is, among other attributes, the goddess of art: the practice of creating beauty out of raw materials. This fitted perfectly with the Moths lifecycle. So I decided to go with Dibella for the moth.

    I hope this answers your question?

  • Member
    July 31, 2015


    I've never read a build like this before. It combines the nature and religion together strongly influencing the RP of this build each provided with a well-put, detailed explanation. I do hope you continue this. I like what I read on here so far. I look forward to the finished result. Take your time putting this together as once its finished, this will be by far, the largest CB. It may seem overwhelming but if you plan accordingly, you'll finish this in a stable, comfortable manner. ( You must have alot of time on your hands to be able to pull this off ) Kudos! 

  • Member
    July 31, 2015

    Just out of curiosity, I have to ask this question.

    What kind of stance must you take to fight dragons?

    As we all know, learning shouts take dragon souls, and dragon souls can only be obtained through killing dragons. Based on what I've read on here so far, I can imagine a fight against these annoying antagonistic lizards, being Extremely Difficult.

    I also see you have a dragon priest mask representing each role so far. Dragon priests are not any easier.

    What is the strategy for overcoming both of these minions?


  • Member
    July 31, 2015
    Ah, interesting points! I wasn't questioning you or anything, I just wanted to know the reasonings, so I hope I didn't come off snappy or anything. The Mara one does make sense when thought of the link between marriage, family and wolf packs, and the Dibella moth life cycle thing is a really cool explanation!