This build uses some awesome gameplay mechanics and a solid lore foundation to create a truly unique experience. The Crimson Scar can function as a fairly standard assassin, but don't be fooled: She has some brilliant tricks up her sleeve, and a rare degree of versatility that allows her gameplay to be much more exhilarating. With the help of some awesome vampiric powers, alchemical skill, and dedicated training, the Crimson Scar learns to master the Thu’um to a greater degree than any other build can hope to achieve.
The Crimson Scar
The Crimson Scars were a splinter faction of the Cyrodiilic Dark Brotherhood around the time of the Oblivion crisis (featured in the Vile Lair DLC from TES IV). Led by Greywyn Blenwyth, the faction sought to make vampirism a requisite quality in Dark Brotherhood assassins.
The Dark Brotherhood, rightfully fearing that Blenwyth was planning a coup, enacted a purge upon the Cheydinhal chapter of the Brotherhood, hoping to destroy the Crimson Scars and any Brotherhood members Blenwyth was attempting to recruit. The only known survivors were Blenwyth, and a member of the Scars called Rowley Eardwulf. The Brotherhood eventually caught up to Blenwyth, leaving Eardwulf as the only remaining member of the now defunct Crimson Scars.
Or so they thought….
• Race » Imperial Vampire
• Stone » The Lord
• Attributes » All Magicka until you can cast Bound Bow, then 1 Health / 0 Magicka / 1 Stamina
• Major Skills » Alchemy, Archery, Sneak
• Minor Skills » Two-Handed, Light Armor, Restoration, Conjuration
• Key Passives » Blessing of Talos, Bardic Knowledge, various Black Books as desired
• Weapons » Bound Bow, Ebony Blade, Auriel’s Bow
Gameplay: Level 1-20
Your first priority should be picking up the Bound Bow spell (and sufficient Magicka/perks to use it effectively). For this portion of the playthrough, you will rely solely on your bow, and play a relatively conventional assassin build. I suggest training with Faendal in Riverwood early on; he can take your Archery up to 50 for free. Angi and various skill books can push that above level 60, though I recommend saving these for when your Archery is closer to level 90.
Once you max out your training with Faendal, spend your five training points on Restoration every time you level up. You will need to get to 70 ASAP, and unfortunately this is a fairly slow skill to level naturally. Once you get up to level 50, you can use dual casted Poison Runes from Dragonborn to trap your targets and avoid being overrun.
Until you are able to begin Dawnguard for the vampire gear (I would stay away until level 10 at least) the Shrouded set is a worthy substitute. The armor doesn't look quite as awful on female characters as it does on males, especially with the masked cowl. You can pick this gear up whether you wish to join the Dark Brotherhood, or destroy it (see Roleplaying Notes).
The Bound Bow is extremely effective, especially at lower levels: It’s a zero weight Daedric Bow with free Daedric Arrows! Just be careful not to summon it if there are nearby enemies and you wish to avoid being detected. I know the standard assassin can be dull, but Alchemy and Sneak level very quickly (especially with the Thief stone active) and Conjuration is also a quick leveler, so this build will reach level 20 in no time. That’s when the fun really begins.
Gameplay: Level 20+
This should go without saying, but as soon as you hit level 20, grab the Ebony Blade. Charging it with ten human souls should be a breeze for such a cold and efficient assassin. Hopefully by now you’re around 100 Alchemy and 70 Restoration as well, with all relevant perks. These are required elements to tap into the true power of the Crimson Scar.
With the above requirements met, obtain a ring of Fortify Alchemy gear. Easy options include Muiri’s Ring or even a self-made ring of Fortify Alchemy — the magnitude is irrelevant, even a self-made 8% ring (10% after Necromage) will be enough for our purposes.
Equip the ring and create a few potions of Fortify Restoration where one ingredient is a Yellow Mountain Flower and the other is not Salt Pile.
The magnitude on this potion should be at least 80%:
Amulet of Talos » (20 × (1 + 25%)) × (1 + (80% × (1 + 25%))) = 50% Fortify Shouts
Blessing of Talos » (20 × (1 + 25%)) × (1 + (80% × (1 + 25%))) = 50% Fortify Shouts
Combined » 50% + 50% = 100% Fortify Shouts
The upshot of this is that all Shouts (apart from Dragon Aspect) will have 0 cooldown time! Furthermore, Necromage boosts both the duration and magnitude of all self-affecting Shouts, by 50% and 25% respectively.
With the Ebony Blade and 100% Fortify Shouts, you add two new awesome combat styles to your assassin’s skill set. At this point, while the Crimson Scar is still capable of adhering to a classic stealthy archer play style, she is also capable of so much more. Indeed, I advise shifting to a primarily Shout-based combat style, supported more by the Ebony Blade than by your Bound Bow.
Speaking of the bow, you should also seek out Auriel’s Bow once you acquire the Ebony Blade and 100% Fortify Shouts. Finishing out the Dawnguard quest line will provide ample opportunity to test these new skills, and Auriel’s Bow grants the power of endless night, nullifying Vampire sun weaknesses and granting the Crimson Scar a predatory advantage over her prey.
Endgame: Embracing the Night
With all of the above taken care of, you will by now realize that the Crimson Scar can be a very potent powerhouse of a build, transcending the traditional rules that restrict common assassins. As such, I propose a special challenge to anyone who plays the build to level 30+. Here are the rules:
• Turn your difficulty up to Master.
• Turn your brightness all the way down (see Roleplaying Notes).
• Stop sneaking altogether.
• Swap out The Lord for The Lady.
Use Shouts and the Ebony Blade to fortify yourself. These will work no matter the situation, so Sneak becomes superfluous. Combine the Ebony Blade’s endless Absorb Health with potions of Fortify Health Regen and the Drain Vitality Shout to become a veritable fountain of health. Auriel’s Bow will remove the Sun’s stunting effects no matter when or where you fight. And with proper Shouting discipline, you can largely avoid taking damage altogether. Close Wounds or custom Restore Health potions are always available in a pinch, but trust me, you won’t find yourself needing them often.
One unique gameplay rule I liked to implement for this character was an attempt to really simulate the darkness of night, and the corresponding power of the vampiric night vision. To do this, simply turn down the brightness in your game settings menu. This will force you to use night vision, as about 90% of the gameplay will take place in the dark once you acquire Auriel’s Bow.
I recommend playing as a stage four vampire the whole time. The Crimson Scars did not hide their vampiric nature; rather, they reveled in its power and potential. Don’t forget to use the Ring of Namira to feast on your human targets: The Crimson Scars were notorious for leaving nasty neck lacerations on their victims as a sort of twisted calling card.
You have another decision to make: You may wish to destroy the Skyrim chapter of the Dark Brotherhood, as vengeance for their purge of your brothers and sisters so long ago. Or, you may wish to infiltrate the Brotherhood and attempt to convert their members to turn on the Brotherhood and join the Scars. You may even wish to take the high road and find a balance: Offer to lead the Dark Brotherhood, and to transfer your vampirism to any of its members who desire the Gift.
Use the Voice to launch a foe (or several) away from you, then close the distance in the blink of an eye, slicing them to pieces before they can recover.
• Requires » Unrelenting Force, Whirlwind Sprint.
Use the Voice to summon aid from a bevy of skilled spectral allies to fight together on your behalf, rending the life from even the most powerful foes.
• Requires » Call Dragon, Summon Durnehviir, Call of Valor.
Unleash a triumvirate of elemental power upon your enemies. Start by roasting them, follow that up with a freezing blast, and finish with lightning.
• Requires » Fire Breath, Ice Form, Storm Call.
Bombard your opponent with damage over time effects, crippling him slowly as you observe with immunity.
• Requires » Marked for Death, Drain Vitality, Storm Call, Become Ethereal.
Yeah, I knew it was a lot of text, but I was also concerned that the true power and versatility of the build would be missed if I didn't go in-depth. But yeah, a lot of people get turned off by lengthy builds. I just lopped off about as much as I feel I could spare. Also did a bit of rearranging. Tried to highlight some of the main draws early on to pique interest. Does it look better now?
Yea guy. You cleaned it right up. I also forgot to mention how nice your perk display picture is, the text is really complimented from the background.
If this works, that's insane...
+1 for audacity, creativity, and ridiculous badassery
I assure you, it does work, and it is extremely awesome! I found that the playstyle begins as a fairly conventional stealth assassin, but by the endgame, the stealth approach really becomes unnecessary. I still used it at times purely for character integrity, but like I said, for larger dungeons, I mostly just dash through, chaining together nasty shout combos, and leeching health with the Ebony Blade as needed.
Fair question. I did consider it, but really it's not necessary. Between the vampiric invisibility power (at stage 4) and super powerful invisibility potions, the stealth aspect of Illusion is redundant. As for the Calm/Fear/Frenzy side, it just didn't seem necessary. Imperials have a very powerful racial Calm ability which can be used in special circumstances, but otherwise, those just add unneeded clutter to the build. They detract from the style I was going for (that is, an initially stealthy/tactful approach, followed by a relentless torrent of shouting and slashing). Also, Illusion is just absurdly overpowered, especially with a Necromage Vampire build. If you want to incorporate it in your own playthrough, it will work well. It just didn't fit in with my vision.
Much better than my rendition! +1
Thanks much! I didn't know you'd already done a Crimson Scar. I'd love to see it, is it on the blog? And more importantly, does this mean you've done a build that wasn't an Argonian? :p
If you've never tried playing with 100% Fortify Shouts before, you're in for a real treat. It's vastly more satisfying than any other play style I've ever used, and I like to think I've done just about everything.
Just for the general record, I was originally thinking making this an unarmored build. If anyone is interested in how that would've been set up: drop Light Armor, add Alteration. Use either the new Red Robes (via Hearthfire), Nazir's Redguard Clothes, or the Wedding Dress, Aetherial Crown (with Atronach). Also Shrouded Hand Wraps and custom Muffle shoes. Pick up 3/3 Mage Armor, Stability, and the Atronach perk. With Necromage, that's 100% Spell Absorption and 437 AR. I decided against that route because (a) it just seemed overpowered, and (b) the red/black Vampire Armor seemed a lot more appropriate for the build.
I just started a new play test of this build, and I think I might give that unarmored version a try to see how it plays. But either way, the 100% Fortify Shouts is badass. Has to be seen to be fully appreciated.