Ash has played "Skyrim" for several years now and enjoys writing about it and her various Dovahkiin.
As long as I've been playing Skyrim, one of my favorite builds ever has always been the shield maiden. A shield maiden is basically a sword and board build, except she's a woman and her style and character are based in Viking mythology and culture.
This is the perfect build for Skyrim, the fantasy land that takes its cues from Norse mythology. (Once again, Skyrim is not "medieval." All fantasy fiction with swords and dragons isn't automatically medieval!)
Table of Contents
- Role play
Obviously, the number one choice here is a Nord, for purposes of role play.
That isn't to say that any race can't pull off the sword and board build. It's the simplest build out there. All you have to do is put points into block and one-handed. It's simple and fun and you can't help but feel all courageous when you're heroically holding your shield up against snarling beasts! Also, shield-bashing dragons in the face is so fun.
I have played sword and board as a Nord woman and also as a khajiit woman.
Khajiit are given specific racial bonuses that make them good thieves, but that doesn't mean you have to adhere to the lore's stereotypes! In fact, it can be pretty fun to make a character who goes against what's expected of their race, i.e., a mage orc or a high elf who hates magic.
As I've said on other articles, I love playing a female khajiit because it tickles me to death that the Dovahkiin—this mighty god incarnate—is a cute little cat.
Obviously, you won't put points into magic at all. You don't need it. You're a shield maiden!
As for health and stamina, I like to alternate between the two early-on in the game. You only really need around 200 stamina for power moves and the like. The rest can safely go to health, making you a pretty unstoppable tank.
Light armor all the way.
While it's tempting to play in heavy armor because you're a tank build, light armor is actually more beneficial in the long run. You get nice stamina bonuses on the light armor tree, which allows your stamina to regenerate fast—so more sweet power moves!
A sword and board warrior probably has the best finishing moves in the game, in my opinion. Having a good amount of stamina means getting to see them more often.
There is no specific light armor I would recommend for this build given that the base game light armors you have access to are pretty close to the Viking aesthetic we're going for.
Obviously a sword and shield.
A shield maiden fights with a sword—not a mace or an axe. She fights with a blade. This is because shield maidens are a Viking concept. Honor is aspired to (but not always upheld). Someone aspiring to be honorable would fight with a weapon that gives enemies a clean death—rather than torturing them.
My shield maidens are usually hardened mercenaries who join the Companions—who are also mercenaries. She wants to have honor but knows damn well she'll do anything to survive. So she'll fight with a noble sword but also occasionally turn into a werewolf and eat the guards. As far as the Companions go, she fits right in.
For this build, I would also recommend getting acquainted with a bow. A shield maiden not only excels with a blade—she is a combat archer! A good in-game example of this would be Aela, who can easily switch between a bow and a shield + dagger when the need calls.
It's important to have a well-rounded warrior because you won't always be able to reach your target. Since a shield maiden is not a mage and avoids the use of magic, being able to whip out a bow and shoot down a dragon that won't land can come in pretty handy.
Also, archery is just so fun!
For a shield, I would recommend Ysgramor's shield, which you can get at the end of the Companion's questline. But you will want to get Spellbreaker later, as it's good for deflecting magic. Spellbreaker can be found near Markarth after receiving the quest "The Only Cure" at level 12.
Dawnbreaker is probably the best sword since it directly harms dragur—the most common enemy in Skyrim. It also has a neat fire effect. You get it from returning Meridia's beacon out near Solitude. A good starting sword, however, is the one you can get at the Sky Forge after joining the Companions (and then improve it through smithing).
As for a bow, I would recommend Zephyr or Auriel's Bow, which both come with the Dawnguard DLC pack. Zephyr has good range, from what I recall. Auriel's Bow is just neat in that you can block out the sun, and if you're a vampire or a werewolf, that's pretty awesome.
If you're at all familiar with my articles, you probably knew I was going to say Aela.
She's the perfect follower and spouse for a shield maiden who joins the Companions. She's a support archer, which is ideal for a tank build, as it's easier to take (and avoid) a few arrows than a full blast of magic from a mage follower. And best of all—she's freaking Essential! Meaning she can't die.
But really, any archer will do since all the enemies will be focused on you. Sadly, there aren't a lot of archer followers in this game for some reason. I find that odd when Skyrim seems specifically tailored for the Dragonborn to be a warrior of some kind: the most thought and energy went into the warrior class. And yet almost all the mercenaries for hire are tanks?
I guess they assumed a warrior build wouldn't need a follower. I mean, a warrior tank build can usually handle their own in a fight and carry their own gear.
The point of a follower isn't always for support, though. Sometimes just having a character there making funny comments makes the game 10 times better (something Bethesda apparently realized given the great companions in Fallout 4).
When playing a tank, my followers are generally:
- Faendal from Riverwood. He's a decent basic archer and can even train you at low levels. Screwing over Sven to get him is also hilarious.
- Once I reach Whiterun, I pay for Jenassa. Mostly because she tends to stay back a bit more and doesn't rush ahead of me into battle like Lydia.
- If you aren't against using mods, I tend to go pick up Inigo after I've played for a while and leveled up. He is a sword and board + archer build -- in fact, he's the exact kind of build this article is focused on. But he can be tailored to be a good support archer.
- Then once I've finished the Companion's questline, Aela becomes a long-term follower and my spouse, for reasons I have outlined in depth here.
When I'm playing sword and board, the Companions are the only faction I join.
A shield maiden is not a mage and avoids the use of magic, so she wouldn't join the college of Winterhold.
A shield maiden tries—tries!—to be honorable, so she wouldn't join the Dark Brotherhood or the Thieves Guild.
She might join the Blades depending your role play (screw the Blades) or the bard's college.
But really, the Companions are where it's at for a shield maiden. Everything you need is conveniently placed right there. You can learn smithing, receive training in various fighting techniques, and the Companions will give you cool starting gear (Sky Forge steel, wolf armor) and followers very early in the game.
It bothers me a little, how much hand-holding Bethesda does. But you can't deny that it's highly beneficial for a warrior build to join this faction.
Also, I'm one of the few players who likes being a werewolf, even without mods. I suppose I just like the role play aspect of it and the fact that other characters can comment on it.
As far as role playing goes, there are a few things I always do as a shield maiden werewolf.
First, I don't have my warriors bother with alchemy. Instead, they use cooking as an alternative and buy what potions they can already mixed.
They always try to do the honorable thing but sometimes do the bad thing. Letting Erandur—a priest—live is honorable to them, but they will beat up an old lady in the market if the Companions tell them to.
And that's it. Pretty basic stuff, but still probably one of the most fun builds in the game. With a nice drinking mod, you can fully embrace being a loud, brave, jolly Viking warrior!
© 2019 Ash
Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on March 15, 2019:
Hello, Ash Gray, is this story based on your Viking culture? I do not realize that a woman can play such a role, or it is the fiction of the imagination? Why, because my readings in History does not point out such a role among the notorious Vikings when they go a-plundering!
This is not to say that I hate your culture. In warfare, you had to survive, and come out alife. It is common among all nations. Thanks for sharing such a culture painted with the best of intentions.