Ash has played "Skyrim" for several years now and enjoys writing about it and her various Dovahkiin.
The Nord Spellsword build is something I started doing around 2015 or 16, when I thought it would be fun to play a Nord who fights like a draugr. This is a pretty simple, straight-forward build, though the great thing about it is you can make it as versatile as you want!
If you've played Skyrim for more than one hour, you've probably seen a draugr that fights with a sword in one hand and frost spells in other. At higher levels, these types also conjure frost atronachs.
These Restless Draugr are the ones this build is modeled after.
When it comes to roleplay, the most obvious race you'll want for a frost-themed spellsword is a Nord. The ancient Nords fought this way, so it makes sense to have a Nord mage who might want to follow in their footsteps.
Also, Nords start out with high resistance to cold plus five extra points of the One-Handed skill. That's the perfect setup for a frost spellsword build.
Spells and Spell Trees
I know what you're thinking: virtually every enemy in Skyrim has a high resistance to frost!
This is why I said you can make the build as versatile as you want. The idea is to use frost spells whenever you can, but if an enemy is better roasted by fire, it's good to have some fire spells in your arsenal.
I would try learning all the destruction spells—yes, all of them. Lightning spells will drain other mages of mana, while fire will do great damage to almost anything, and frost is good for slowing powerful melee enemies down.
Runes are also great for crowds so you don't get overwhelmed.
Then there's Conjuration. You can have a lot of fun with this. You can conjure a one-handed weapon, that way you don't have to keep carrying a blade. Or you can conjure an army of atronachs to fight with you/ for you. Or you can keep raising draugr and dead enemies to fight for you. This is good for someone who likes playing solo and/or just likes being a badass with an army of minions.
If you have a weapon enchanted to paralyze (think Chillrend), the Conjuration fun is never-ending.
Because this build is modeled after Restless Draugr, I wouldn't recommend—for the sake of roleplay—that you use other spells beyond this unless they light your way or guide you when you're lost (Clairvoyance), just for the sake of sticking to the aesthetic as closely as possible.
But again, you can do whatever you want, be as versatile as you want. That's the nice thing about Skyrim: the ability to create endless builds using different methods.
I would also recommend learning Restoration magic. It can help in a pinch.
A lot of players will tell you to use heavy armor, if not for the cool Ancient Nord aesthetic. This is something I've always been on the fence about. I believe both heavy and light armor have their advantages -- one allows you to reflect damage while the other allows you to dodge it altogether -- but none of it is going to matter late in the game.
Because I like the Ancient Nord armor set -- and because I enjoy tanking as a warrior mage -- I tend to go with heavy armor. I feel that, ultimately, a Nord barbarian would wear heavy armor, even a mage, and I like to roleplay my spellsword Nords as barbarians.
So basically, do whatever you want because it's not going to matter in the end game, but I do love the way heavy armor looks in this game. Stalhrim, Ancient Nord, and Nordic Carved armor are some of my favorites.
If you're going to use weapons and armor as a mage, you will need to learn both smithing and enchanting. This means you will need a lot of money.
I would recommend making and selling potions. As a mage, you should be making your own potions anyway. Collect all the ingredients you can or else buy them. Then make potions, sell them, rinse and repeat. The extra money can go toward training in smithing.
Of course, you'll need a trainer.
This is where joining a couple factions comes in handy. After joining the Companions, you can receive training in smithing from Eorlund Graymane. He won't train you otherwise. If you don't join the Companions, you'll have to walk your ass all the way to Riften to find another blacksmith to train you.
You're also gonna want Athis to train you in One-Handed. If I recall correctly, he can take you a lot higher than Amren. The third One-Handed trainer is an orc that lives quite far away from the game's starting area. So again, joining the Companions is almost annoyingly convenient. (Sigh. Bethesda and their damn hand-holding.)
I like joining the Companions anyway. I like the concept—not the disappointing execution—of the Skyforge with its legendary (lol) weapons. Becoming a werewolf is also cool. I will always love it more than being a vampire—no matter what anyone says!
If you're playing a Nord warrior of any kind—even a spellsword—it makes sense to join the Companions. Just unequip any spells in your hand when training with Vilkas and don't use an enchanted weapon, either.
Contrary to what modern Nords in Skyrim say, magic wasn't frowned upon by the ancient Nords. That's why so many of them worshiped dragons, used the Thu'um (which is just magic), and a crapload of draugr are mages. When you go to Sovngarde during the main quest, you can also see mage Nords walking around Shor's Hall. So it isn't exactly wrong to roleplay this way.
The Companions and modern Nords hating magic is a result of the elves and the Great War.
Aside from the Companions, you might also want to join the College of Winterhold for reasons that are incredibly obvious—you're a mage! Joining the college gives you access to free items, magic stores, and trainers.
When you're playing a tank, usually any mage or archer follower will do.
Because my Nord characters tend to join the Companions, I usually wind up using Aela. She's good in a fight and tends to stay out of the way. She also can't die and wind up face-down in the mud with your loot on her.
Sadly, I can't think of many mage followers I actually like.
I like Illia's quest.
But once you get her as a follower, she is actually incredibly boring. She never says anything, has no unique or interesting lines, and it's easy to forget she's even there. But she is a decent mage. That's the upside.
There's also Serana.
Over the years, I have taken great pleasure in playing a Nord with white hair who happens to be a werewolf and falls in love with Serana, a Nord vampire with black hair. This build is very similar to Serana's (Conjuration, One-Handed, Frost spells) so it's amusing to play a character who is opposite to Serana and yet somehow the same.
People complain about Serana's fighting style (she constantly resurrects everything) but I don't mind because the characters I use her on tend to do it too! She makes for a good companion for this particular build, anyway.
Also, she can't die.
Anyway, that's the gist of it. Have fun fighting like a draugr!
I wanted to add that—hilariously enough—playing this build again recently made me realize that being a mage in Skyrim is pointless. I mean, I understand that it can be great fun, but the Dragonborn is already a mage by default with the shouts! (Also, the magic system just sucks.)
After the tediousness of constantly switching spells through the number pad, I decided on a recent playthrough to just use shouts as magic and the game became 10 times more fun. Especially with a mod that actually makes shouts useful.
I think that if Bethesda hadn't nerfed shouts to begin with, a lot of people would have done this. The improved shouts mod actually makes being Dragonborn so fun that there's no real reason to be a mage. It's especially great to use the fire shouts on vampires and undead (their screams as they burn—lmao).
So if you find you don't like this build—the way I did, lol—and you don't mind using mods, then try out this alternative method.
© 2019 Ash