Skyrim Character Building » Discussions

Character Build: The Dullahan

Tags: #Character Build Summoner  #Character Build Battlemage  #Character Build Villain  #Rank:Bloodworks  #Race:Altmer 
  • July 18, 2017

    While this build can be played without Dragonborn DLC by substituting the Cultist Mask for any other face-obscuring helmet or even an Execution Hood, the Soul Cairn is an inseparable part of the character design, and too much equipment would have to be replaced.

    When playing some of the more famous tanky builds on the site, I felt a disconnect with the situations I threw my impervious juggernaut into.  The psychological impact of an inhuman, unstoppable suit of armor cleaving through enemies one by one was never explored.  With that in mind, I set to creating something that played on this aspect of terror, while also possessing weaknesses to keep the playthrough a worthy challenge.  Thus, I present

    In a time before empires and apologist pantheons, darker powers were worshiped and daedra walked amongst mortals.  Strange and legendary creatures unknown to the modern era have faded into obscurity.  But none are quite as horrifying as the seeming embodiment of death itself...  A persistent myth across all cultures, death takes many forms.

    The most famous of all aspects of death in the Nordic and Breton provinces is the Dullahan, a headless rider that comes in the night to claim the souls of mortal men.  Carrying its own severed head under one arm and wielding a human spine as a whip, this fearsome phantom is surrounded by the cold chill of death.  In the pursuit of its target, it is known to cleave through any who stand in its way, though most flee in terror at its approach.  In its hunger for souls, however, none who look upon it are likely to live, as it saps the very life from their bodies with each blow.  Even those who manage to gain some distance have told tales of its laughing head being flung at them...  Worse still, accounts from the survivors of its attacks tell of neverending legions of the damned joining in the assault...

    None can be certain of the origin of this elusive phantom.  Some believe it is an ancient fertility daedra worshiped in Nordic and Breton communities, whose hunger for sacrifices never abated after its worship was outlawed by Imperial decree.  Others believe it is an eternal punishment bestowed upon a mortal who had committed heinous crimes, worthy of beheading.  Synod mages believe it is an otherwordly entity created by an ancient group of necromancers who seemingly vanished from the mortal realm.  What all can agree on, however, is that almost nothing will stop it once it has begun its journey to harvest a soul.  But while its physical and magical might is nigh unstoppable, its fatal flaw and only fear is magical flame...

    Suggested Race: Altmer Vampire Lord.  50 free points of magicka means 50 more points you can put into health.  Highborn will ensure enough magicka even during the toughest battles.  And best of all, male Altmer are the tallest characters in Skyrim, which will let you tower over lesser mortals.  Still not quite as impressive as a Boneyard Keeper, but it's as close as we can get without console commands.  With its weakness to sunlight and fire, vampirism suits the role-play of the character very well.  The bonus to Illusion helps the skill to affect higher level enemies throughout the Dullahan's progression.
    Attributes: Magicka 300/Health 440/Stamina 100.  In the early levels, magicka has a much higher bang for its buck than health.  When playing on higher difficulties, however, you will not want to entirely neglect health, as a simple Flames spell will kill you almost instantly.
    Standing Stone: The Apprentice.  For a less challenging (but less rewarding) experience, use the Lord Stone to mitigate the inherent magical weaknesses of the character when something like Harkon is just too aggravating.
    Skills: Illusion, Conjuration, Destruction, Enchanting, Smithing, Heavy Armor, Two-handed
    Shouts: Summon Durnehviir, Soul Tear, Dragonrend
    Suggested Followers: Eola, Serana
    Essential Quests: Main Quest (to Dragonrend), Dawnguard (Volkihar side), Dragonborn (visit Temple of Miraak), The Taste of Death, Blood on the Ice, The Black Star, Rings of Blood Magic, Soul Cairn Horse Quest, Black Book: The Winds of Change

    As a creature of unnatural origins and might, the Dullahan is both empowered and crippled by its strong connection to magicka.  From very early into the playthrough, the Ring of the Erudite and a decent magicka pool ensure there will never be a long delay until the next spell can be cast in combat.  The Apprentice Stone's bonus to magicka regeneration is only made that much more effective by the ring, ensuring that magicka will even be available when caught in the daylight by a dragon or Dawnguard attack right after fast traveling.  You will never have to switch to your Two-handed for more than a few seconds before more spellcasting will be available.

    But with this benefit also comes a curse.  Magic is the Dullahan's bane, its Achilles Heel.  The Apprentice Stone's weakness to magic is further pushed to its limits with a blood-starved vampire's fully developed weakness to fire.  While physical durability rises rapidly with investment in Smithing and Heavy Armor, enemy mages will always be targets you will approach with the utmost caution.  On Master difficulty, you will be killed in a single firebolt or fireball for most of the playthrough.  Fighting dragons will be one of your biggest challenges until Enchanting reaches a sufficient level to create jewelry and shields tailored to resisting their breath attacks.  Bosses such as Potema or Harkon will not be easy, and Apocrypha is hair-pullingly frustrating if challenged too early.

    A creature of nightmare and death, the Dullahan focuses exclusively on Fear and Rout.  Its powers are only effective against the living, as they are its prey.  Dwemer automatons have neither life force nor souls to feed on.  Vampires and draugr have soul energy, but lack the fear of mortality.  Tip: Illusion will likely fall behind the other magic skills during progression, so use Muffle to catch it up from time to time.

    Between trapping souls, raising the dead, bringing Arvak out for a nice midnight stroll to the local fort full of delicious bandit souls, and summoning legions of skeletons from the Soul Cairn, this skill will see heavy usage.  Key perks are Summoner and Necromancy, which will extend the utility and cost-effectiveness of summoning minions to distract enemies immune to fear.  Conjured minions will be absolutely necessary to absorb both physical and magical damage for most of the playthrough, so keep those summons out at all times and watch those bony minions chase after the terrified mortals!  Early on, rely on reanimating your fallen victims.  After the Soul Cairn, conjured skeletal minions will replace reanimation.

    Focusing on frost damage, the Dullahan uses these underrated spells to represent the chill of the grave.  All frost spells will slow targets for a short time, preventing them from getting out of the Dullahan's reach as it cuts them down.  Frost cloaks passively sap mortal creatures of their strength for as long as they remain nearby.  With a bit of imagination, ice spike and icy spear can represent the Dullahan flinging its decapitated head at foes.  Ice Storm is the build's mainstay in ranged combat, hitting entire groups of foes with a spectral skull as cold as the grave.  Best of all, accidental friendly fire with frost magic will generally be ignored by Serana, whose Nord vampire resistances negate most of the damage.

    What character sent into the mortal realm to reap the souls of men could do without this skill?  Enchanting allows the Dullahan to empower its weapons and armor with the mortal souls of those it has reaped.  Collect all the soul gems you can get your hands on, and use the Black Star often to keep weapon charges up.  Once the Extra Effect perk is reached, the phantom's power is at its peak.  Previously deadly magicks can be negated almost entirely, leaving defeat by shock and fire as a thing of the past.  To help train this skill, be sure to soul trap enemies regularly, filling all the smaller soul gems you pick up.  You can use these to enchant weapons with banish, leveling Enchanting and providing easy gold for training other skills.

    Thanks to its representations in RPGs such as Final Fantasy, a Dullahan wouldn't feel right without a bulky suit of impenetrable armor.  With its connection to the Soul Cairn, and the real-world lore behind the Dullahan, you will find dragonbone weapons and armor to be a fitting aesthetic.  Grinding the skill to 100 is a pain (especially as this build goes up the left side of the perk tree rather than the right), but luckily Smithing can be trained to 90 by Eorlund, and he'll happily give you all your gold back in exchange for some banish weapons.  Simply reading skill books with the right Black Book bonus will get you to the necessary 100 from here, no spamming gold rings or dwarven bows required.  And the reward is well worth it!  With the listed perks and all possible endgame bonuses except Ancient Knowledge, you will end up just barely below armor cap at a total displayed rating of 558 with no shield.  

    With their impressive reach and stagger, greatswords and battle axes make short work of panicking mortals.  These weapons are used purely offensively.  With their ability to feed on mortals' stamina, the Dullahan's signature weapons allow for an endless stream of various kinds of power attacks.  Fleeing enemies can be pursued with forward/sprinting greatsword power attacks, and standing power attacks with a health-leeching battle axe are gruesomely satisfying every time they take off a head.


    Cultist Mask: Destruction/Illusion
    Neck: Two-handed/Conjuration
    Dragonplate Armor: Conjuration/Illusion
    Dragonplate Gauntlets: Two-handed/Carry Weight
    Ring: Conjuration/Destruction
    Dragonplate Boots: Resist Fire/Shock
    Dragonplate Shield: Resist Magic/Fire
    Dragonbone Greatsword: "Tullius' Spine" (Frost/Absorb Stamina)
    Dragonbone Battleaxe: "Executioner" (Absorb Health/Absorb Stamina)

    Before acquiring Extra Effect and Dragon Armor, temper and enchant whatever heavy armor you have the perks for.  The Execution Hoods from the start of the Dark Brotherhood questline are a handy way to keep your head from being visible until you can get your hands on a stockpile of Cultist Masks from Miraak's temple.
    Expert Robes of Destruction: You'll have to kill Nirya to get these at a low level, but they're incredibly useful for regenerating magicka at the start.  The cost reduction for Destruction spells certainly doesn't hurt, either.
    Necromancer Amulet: With an impressive 25% Fortify Conjuration bonus bundled with a nice +50 magicka, this necklace simply can't be beat until the Extra Effect perk is acquired.  And the penalty to health regeneration is countered by...
    Ring of Namira: Equipping this ring won't grant many benefits to a Dullahan right off the bat, but feeding on a corpse will add extra health along with some health regeneration to offset the penalties of the Necromancer Amulet.  Once you've finished feeding, you can simply switch to a better ring, which brings me to...
    Ring of the Erudite: This ring is absolutely overpowered!  It comes with a unique form of enchantment that raises the base rate of magicka regeneration by 2%.  Let me explain what this means.  In combat, you regenerate 0.99% of your magicka per second.  We'll simplify it as 1%.  This is the base rate.  If you take the Apprentice Stone, this boosts the base rate by 100%, resulting in 2% regenerated per second.  With the Ring of the Erudite, the base rate is now 3%, which means the Apprentice Stone's 100% now results in 6% regenerated per second!  I think this more than pays for the stone's downsides with a regeneration rate in combat that is now three times as fast as without the ring.  Not only this, but it comes with an extra +100 magicka for your character, which combined with the Necromancer Amulet will double an Altmer's starting magicka to a nice 300!  Since magicka regeneration is a percentage of the total magicka pool, we've just doubled our regeneration again, to twelve times as high as when we started.  That's impressive enough to ditch robes without worry!

    Combat against the living is very straightforward, and doesn't change much throughout character progression.  Depending on magicka needs, conjure a skeleton to assist you with dealing damage.  Quickly thin enemy numbers with fear spells, focusing on deadly mages before anyone else.  For enemies you intend to pursue with a weapon, hitting them with frost before fear will cause them to flee more slowly.  Use frost spells to attack the panicked masses for as long as magicka is available.  When your magicka is low, alternate between fear spells as needed, and pursuing enemies with your greatsword.  If health is too low, don't forget to feed on a corpse with the Ring of Namira, and absorb some health with your weapon if needed.

    Against powerful magic-wielding characters (in particular, dragons), take advantage of the extra resistance provided by a shield while using right-hand spells to control and conquer the situation. 

    Against the undead, you will be unable to use fear.  Rely heavily on the durability of a wrathman, and use a silver greatsword to boost damage significantly.  You can still use frost spells somewhat effectively on draugr, but Nord vampires will be a waste of magicka to try.  Keep in mind that vampires also use Destruction frequently, and be cautious with these dangerous foes.

    I suggest making a dedicated save at the start of any battle against a dragon.  Even the frost breath attacks will deal significant damage, and might not be survivable without drinking potions mid-attack.  I recommend holding off on the main questline until you are ready to rush directly for Dragonrend.  Until then, you will have to rely on bonemen and mistmen, whose damage output is quite lower than the wrathmen, and you will work very hard at hiding behind cover to avoid flyby dragon breath.  Because of the deadliness of their breath, staying back and using your best frost spell is much safer than rushing in with a greatsword and swinging away.

    Dwarven spheres were the only enemy that forced me to block during my final playtest of the build.  With their immunity to fear, attribute absorption, and frost damage, your tactics will be severely hampered against these physically imposing enemies.  Rely on Serana and a wrathman for most of your damage output, dishing out as many flanking attacks as you can safely manage.  I recommend avoiding fighting these whenever possible, only doing the most essential quests that involve delving into dwarven ruins.

    As soon as you exit Helgen, pick up Fear, Raise Zombie, and Reanimate Corpse.  Make the Ring of Namira your first priority.  Eola can help you get the Necromancer Amulet and Nirya's robes.  Get some silver swords and take on the Dawnguard questline up to the point where you can enter the Soul Cairn.  At this point, your lack of summons will likely require you to frequently assume Vampire Lord form to summon gargoyles.  Once you get the summoning spells from the Soul Cairn, the build really starts to come into its own.  Pursue vampire sidequests until you get the Ring of the Erudite, then start tempering and enchanting steel armor and weapons.  Once you get up to about level 10-11, pursue the Black Star before hitting level 12.  A wrathman will swiftly deal with bothersome Flames-hurling dremora mages in here, so don't worry.

    Two-handed will train disgustingly fast alongside magic skills, so rely as much as possible on magicka instead to provide a powerful base for the character, especially on higher difficulties.  I made reaching 50 in all three casting skills my goal before investing heavily in crafting or melee combat, and this worked very well on Master.

    For my own playthrough, I decided my Dullahan was created by the Ideal Masters using the corpse of the Dragonborn, beheaded at Helgen.  As a sentient magical creature with the soul of a dragon, the Dullahan possessed a free will, but could never truly free itself from serving the Ideal Masters with its consumption of black souls.  This allowed me to don an empty helmet and go into towns to do basic things like training skills and taking quests to hunt bandits and vampires.  It also allowed me to join the Stormcloaks and exact vengeance, eventually taking Tullius' spine and turning it into a weapon.  Toward the end of the game, I turned in a more nightmarish direction, murdering anyone I chose in the shadow of night and then retreating into the darkness.

    A freshly created Nordic Dullahan seeks vengeance for her death


    Regardless of how you approach the idea of an inhuman, dreaded phantom interacting with the various mortals who wish to speak to you Because Video Game, remember that you are a being whose sole purpose is reaping the souls of those meant to pass on.  You are no one's errand boy, so focus on quests that send you into necromancer lairs over requests to take a delivery across town or pick herbs.  Avoid quests that leave you without your equipment.  I plugged my ears and tried to pretend the party at the Thalmor Embassy never happened.

    Thank you for reading my first build!  I had a blast creating and playing it, and I can't wait to hear your spooky experiences with it.  I enjoyed building a heavily themed character with limitations and weaknesses, instead of an unstoppable master of all their perked skills.

    There are also mods to make truly headless characters on PC, hopefully soon to be on console version as well.  The helmet enchantments are great, but there's nothing like seeing that decapitated neck stump!

    Let me also take a moment to thank this video as well as Mason's Obsidian Sentinel for inspiration, Relycs for perk spread and headers, Teccam for feedback, and all my viewers on Twitch for the support during development and playtesting.

  • Member
    July 19, 2017

    A Dullahan build, interesting 

  • Member
    July 19, 2017

    Very impressive for a first build. Very, very impressive. I may have more feedback in the future, I gave it only a quick read-over - but for now, if I were you, I would redo the perk spread on this build. It looks very impressive, and it is, but it loses points for legibility which is bad - the key purpose of the perk spread is to convey perks taken which you can't do if it's hard to read. Don't get me wrong, it is legible, but not extremely so so if you changed the font on the perks themselves it would be better. You can keep the spooky font on the skill names.

  • July 19, 2017

    Hoh, an interesting build here Librari. There's just so much to focus on here.

    First of all, I find the character rather interesting and you've explained the whole concept in a manner that is both relatively easy to understand and gives a rather clear image of the idea behind the build. Add in the descriptions of the skills and, well just about everything that makes up the character and the build itself is extremely solid. The description of everything is appealing to me, by showing off as much of your thought process behind the build I feel like it's one that I could very easily pick up and play without ever being unsure of anything, which in my opinion is a rather good thing.

    There are a few bones I could pick with the presentation, but other than the perk spread that Soly already pointed out they're all relatively minor things that are more personal pet peeves. I can't personally stand having larger gaps in my builds so I kind of...recoil at seeing them on instinct if that makes sense. I think the main thing causing them is just that the white space around the banners/titles are so large that they kind of push everything away and in my opinion make the build seem longer and less full than it really is. But ultimitely that's a personal thing, if it's something that bugs you I could take a look and see if I could fix it up, but if it was a concious decision then all good in my books.  While we're on the topic of the presentation, would you happen to know the font that Relycs used? It's just really awesome and I wouldn't mind using it someday, but if not then fair enough, moving on.

    Oh the final nitpick I have (is that spelt right? it doesn't look like it...) is just that I kind of feel like an extra image could go above the Dragons banner to add a bit more life to the build. Uh really those are all minor things and up to you to decide on, and really don't effect my opinion on the build itself. It's still a rather excellent build, especially so for a first build so congratulations on that Librari (I do hope to see the Galdaur Build too at some point :D) and a very well deserved like from me. 


  • July 19, 2017

    Thanks for the feedback.  I'm not sure if this is the finalized perk spread after it got fixed to be more legible.  What part are you having a hard time reading?


    I could easily adjust the images to have less white space.  Add it to my to do list, I guess.


    There are a couple fonts at work here, I think.  The real eye-catcher is Gypsy Curse.  I'm not sure what font Relycs used for the skill headers, but I like it.


    You think I should add another picture?  I didn't want to overdo it, but I'm sure I could come up with something.  Right after I figure out why tables don't work and get the equipment properly displaying to the right of the picture... >_<

  • Member
    July 19, 2017

    I don't know about the others, but for me the perk spread's font makes the individual words difficult to read, which is fine if they are large enough like the skill headings, but for the perks the letters bunch up to each other making it hard to make out what it says.  More of an issue, though, is that you have red text on top of a red background.  I can barely make out what it says.

  • Member
    July 19, 2017

    I personally can read all the perks. But that's not the point. I have to actually look at the perks for a few seconds to read them and pick out each individual perk. Someone older or with worse eyes might struggle to do even that.

    Definitely adjust the images for less white space. You can refer to my tutorial if you're new to this whole image manipulation thing and/or are having trouble killing the dead space.

    I would suggest that you're OK on pictures for now; the headers do a good job breaking up the wall of text. Some of the headers I would say are too big - the skill ones labelled Illusion, Destruction, Heavy Armor & Smithing, etc., as well as the Gameplay ones labelled Draugr and Vampires, Dragons, Automatons; I would suggest are too big and give the impression that they're "major" headers rather than subheaders, and it's somewhat awkward to look at them and think that the headers have almost as much vertical space as the text itself.

    Regarding that extra picture, I personally think it's fine for now. This, as with basically everything else Deebs and I have suggested, is generally a presentation issue and it's probably fine either way.

    Use the button marked in red to have pictures aligned right - click on the picture, make sure the image picture next to the "Upload" button is depressed, then click on Align Left or Align Right. This also has interesting effects on vertical picture alignment so play with it.


  • Member
    July 23, 2017
    @DB: 4 or 5 different fonts were used for the banners and the perkspread. The one for "Gameplay", "Skills", etc is a celtic-themed font and named "Unzialish", if I'm not mistaken.
    The one for the skills and enemy-types is a diablo font. Other than "Exocet", this one is somehow hard to find (just called "Diablo"). Check this site The font for 'Dullahan' is called "Endor".
    I found most of them in the 'Gothic' tab of their related sites.
    The white space around the banners is there because I was too lazy to cut them again, when I dug up those already deteled files.

    I aggree that the perkspread isn't that easy to read. It's probably due to the decreasing resolution when uploading pictures and adding them to a discussion. I'll see what I can do about that.
  • Member
    July 24, 2017
    Regarding the "additional" picture some suggested - do you want an equipment spread for your build? If so, send me your desired background pic.
  • Member
    July 27, 2017

    Dang! Really glad to see you got this up, Lib. I remember talking to you about this idea a while back and I'm stoked that it got to see the light of day. This:

    Librari the Wizard said:


    For my own playthrough, I decided my Dullahan was created by the Ideal Masters using the corpse of the Dragonborn, beheaded at Helgen.  

    Hell yeahThe roleplay is usually my favorite part of the build and I love this so much.

    A few folks here have commented on the perk spread. As far as that goes, yeah I could maybe see reworking a few parts of it. It's legible to me, but the Two Handed section at the bottom is maybe a little tough since it's red on orange-red, but I think adding the drop shadow to the text to make it stand up off the image is a good idea.