Skyrim: Best Builds For Imperials
- Basic Information About Imperials
- Sun Dragon Paladin
- Dawnguard Acolyte
- Luck Paladin
Adventuring in Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim is an experience best had with a perfect blend of world immersion and engaging combat, both of which require having a fleshed-out character that can provide both. Of all the choices you make in the lands of Skyrim, the most important is how you answer the question Hadvar asks at the very beginning: "Who are you?"
From the race menu, your first choice will be the race you wish to play. For the Imperial race, you'll be able to start with a well-balanced build capable of balancing magic and melee combat. It's an excellent starting choice for new and returning players, and its versatility is one of the best overall.
Basic Information About Imperials
With excellent restorative abilities and a stat spread that primarily leans toward defense and longevity, the natural progression of the Imperial suggests a paladin-esque path where you may specialize in dealing damage while resisting and restoring the damage you take.
As a result, it's an excellent starting class for new players who may struggle to come to grips with the combat system and a strong choice for experienced players who are challenging higher difficulties and need a race that can restore the immense damage those difficult enemies may dish out. From the start, there is no other race so skilled at raw survivability straight out of the gate.
Default Skill Boosts
The Imperial starts with these two special abilities:
- Passive/Racial Ability: Imperial Luck – Find a little extra gold wherever you find it
- Active/Racial Power: Voice of the Emperor – Calms people nearby for 60 seconds (1/day)
When it comes to special abilities, the racial ability of the Imperial is perhaps one of the most lackluster – if not the most lackluster – race ability available. As Imperial Luck does not scale with level as you progress, the small bonus at the start of anywhere between two and ten gold becomes quickly useless.
The bonus at the start can be nice, but with no usability beyond level 30 or so, it's on par with the useless Waterbreathing ability of the Argonians. However, when it comes to their racial power, Voice of the Emperor is definitely one of the best powers available to any race. Practically a free Pacify spell, their racial power allows retreats for emergency healing or re-trying a failed sneak attempt.
It is important to note that Imperials do not, despite having a +10 in Restoration at the start, have any healing spells to start. You will need to find or purchase one yourself to make use of their skill.
An easy way to obtain them initially is to purchase them from Farengar, the Court Wizard, in Whiterun.
Imperials are a race of men from the central region of Cyrodiil who have immense pride in the Empire and its rich history. They're known for being fiercely loyal, prideful, and disciplined. With great respect for laws, structure, and wealth, you can expect an Imperial to follow one of these paths:
- A soldier
- A diplomat
- A businessman
Granted, one shoe cannot fit the feet of an army. Nevertheless, one should keep in mind the values of most Imperials. Uphold your oaths, even those made in the name of violence, and stick to your moral compass.
As always, Imperious – Races of Skyrim and Wintersun are both excellent mods to add to any playthrough where race is the first concern and building block of your character. The first introduces original stat spreads and abilities for each race to further diversify them from one another, and the second expands on religion for a whole new system that allows worship of deities and boons you earn through their favor (with some deities specific to certain races).
With the Imperial also being so concerned with laws and the perception of the people around them, Skyrim Reputation is also a very strong recommendation as it adds a tracker for all the good, neutral, and "evil" choices you've made throughout your gameplay and a variety of other important roleplaying decisions.
You'll be able to keep tabs on how your Imperial is doing morally while also enjoying the immersive addition of NPCs who react differently toward you based on the choices you've made.
Sun Dragon Paladin
The Sun Dragon Paladin is a truly unique build that takes inspiration from the Imperial connection to Akatosh and makes good use of their natural restorative talents.
It capitalizes on incredibly high resistance, efficient healing, and decent damage dealing. Using shouts effectively finishes out this draconic build and will add the finishing touches to a character already gifted with dragon's blood.
For the stat spread here, you'll want 50/40/10 (Health/Magicka/Stamina) for a few reasons. First, you'll want enough health to avoid being one-shot by enemies early in the game, and in case certain things break through your resistances.
Magicka needs to be high enough to keep churning out endless Restoration and negating any damage you take. A small investment in Stamina is necessary to keep power attacking and carrying equipment, but your weapon and the Respite perk will keep your Stamina quickly regenerating.
For your perks, you'll need the following:
Take the center tree to Savage Strike and then all of Bone Breaker.
Take the center tree up until Adept, then take Respite, Regeneration to Necromage, and both levels of Recovery. If you have the extra perk point, Avoid Death is always a handy backup option for extreme cases.
Climb the main branch up to Master Alteration and then invest in Atronarch and Stability.
Take the right branch of Heavy Armor up to Tower of Strength.
Complete the left side of the perk tree up to Dragon Armor and then grab Arcane Smithing.
Complete the main branch of Enchanting all the way to Extra Effect.
When it comes to Standing Stones, starting with the Lovers' Stone for basic bonuses in all skill growth is a must from the start. However, once your Lover's Stone has done its duty, you should switch to the dependable Lord Stone for a combination of higher armor rating and magic resistance.
Equipment And Spells
For equipment, you can't go wrong with a good Dragonbone heavy armor set. Having Extra Effect will allow you to place your choice of two effects, but taking a Restoration spell cost reduction and increased One-Handed damage is recommended.
The Mace of Molag Bal is the equipped weapon due to its ability to absorb both Stamina and Magicka per swing and to fill an empty soul gem. These effects are tremendously useful to the Sun Dragon Paladin who will use this Daedric artifact to keep fueling their Magicka for Restoration spells and Stamina to keep power attacking (as well as keep the artifact out of the hands of evil individuals). On the other hand, Alteration will be used before combat and Restoration, during combat.
Spells that should be known are:
- Close Wounds
- Fast Healing
- Sun Fire
Additionally, the Dragon Aspect shout is a must for this build.
For jewelry and accessories, you'll want to focus on Magicka regeneration and Restoration spell cost reduction.
An alternative version of this class means swapping your Dragonbone heavy armor for robes and investing in the perk Mage Armor, making the need for Ebonyflesh or Dragonhide absolutely necessary.
This will also mean freeing up your investments in the Heavy Armor perk tree for you to use in another tree of your choice, should you wish it.
Before rushing headlong into battle, the Sun Dragon Paladin requires a little setting up. The use of either Dragon Hide or Ebonyflesh is a must before battle, drastically increasing your armor rating.
You'll also need to use Dragon Aspect after casting your Alteration spell, giving a total minimum armor rating bonus of +325, increased damage dealing power attacks, increased resistance to Fire and Frost spells, and decreased time between shouts.
Paired with the Lord Stone and your perks, your armor rating should negate the bulk of any damage you take.
Jumping into battle, you'll be able to swing the Mace of Molag Bal repeatedly at any enemy while consistently healing yourself with your free hand, dealing power attacks as frequently as you are able. The damage output for this build is not exceptionally high, but the damage dealt to you should also be relatively low.
In the ideal scenario, you'll be able to stand, swing, and tank all damage for a long time, if not indefinitely. Fast Healing will provide instant healing while Close Wounds will be a little more consistent over time. Use Sun Fire when you have no need of healing and are facing undead creatures.
For this build, it's recommended to invest in hothtrooper44's Immersive Armors mod (and Immersive Weapons, while you're at it) to try different Dragon Armor styles. Many of the outfits are a little less bulky than the vanilla and retextures some vanilla assets in a quite aesthetic way.
The Choice is Yours is also a tried and true mod that will benefit an Imperial build, especially for the Sun Dragon Paladin. It allows you to refuse quests you couldn't before and prevent yourself from accruing a mountain of unfinished missions and broken promises. Additionally, it can keep you from getting locked into Daedric quests you were either not ready for or unwilling to take on.
A vampire hunter graced by Stendarr himself, the Dawnguard Acolyte is an Imperial archer build with a knack for Restoration. As opposed to the more hands-on approach of other builds, this build understands the dangers of getting too close to certain enemies – especially vampires – and destroys them before they ever get near enough to strike and infect you. With a good balance of survivability and damage, it's a build that requires some setting up but is definitely worth the effort.
A good stat spread for the Dawnguard Acolyte consists of 50/30/20 (Health/Magicka/Stamina) across the board. There isn't much need for Stamina beyond what is necessary for the Steady Hand perk and occasionally sprinting to put some distance between you and a particularly friendly enemy, so it is the least concern.
Magicka is to be used for layering on Alteration spells for emergency and Restoration spells for basic utility. Health is always an incredibly important investment in its own right and so earns its spot as the primary investment.
For perks, you'll want:
Take all perks.
Take all perks in the center up to Adept, Respite, the Regeneration and Necromage branch, and both ranks of Recovery.
Take the mainline perks up to Expert, invest in the Atronarch perk, take Magic Resistance, and finish with Stability.
Take all perks.
For this build, your greatest threat will be ranged archers and mages. For this reason, your primary goal for a Standing Stone should be the dependable Atronarch Stone.
Equipment And Spells
As this is the Dawnguard Acolyte, the fitting equipment for this build is the Dawnguard heavy armor. Take the full set and, taking some time to build your enchanting on the side and some smithing to temper this equipment, eventually enchant it with decreased Restoration spell cost and increased Archery damage.
Alteration is not necessarily needed as it is primarily only used once before combat.
Your weapons should be the Auriel's Bow and a collection of Sunhallowed Elven Arrows for even more damage against the undead, making you a real killer of things without a pulse.
For spells, it's recommended to know:
- Stendarr's Aura
- Sun Fire
- Vampire's Bane
- Repel Lesser Undead
- Detect Dead
The Slow Time shout can be especially useful here too, giving you the time to fire multiple arrows at enemies when in groups or when you've been startled by a creature you didn't notice.
For accessories, enchanting with more damage for Archery is the primary concern as you won't be able to rely on Stealth damage bonuses like a Stealth Archer and instead more on raw damage stats and any bonuses for the undead.
Your fighting style as a Dawnguard Acolyte will mostly consist of boosting your armor rating with Ebony Flesh, following with Stendarr's Aura when fighting undead, and opening fire on unsuspecting enemies.
For general utility, however, you should use the Detect Dead spell to highlight enemies hiding in dungeons and Repel Lesser Undead to send smaller enemies running before you shoot them in the back, saving you from instances where you're overwhelmed with enemies and take unnecessary damage.
Sun Fire and Vampire's Bane are optional spells to be used when you're uncomfortable with firing arrows in close quarters with undead enemies or when you're feeling bored from the usual cast-and-shoot approach. The Slow Time shout, as mentioned above, is also to be used when you need extra time to fire arrows or cast spells.
There are few mods so appropriate for this build than FranklyHD's Dawnguard Armor and Weapons – which adds higher quality, cleaner textures to the vanilla armors for crisper details and shaders and a series of immersive and alternative weapons to wield – and Glorious Fort Dawnguard – which overhauls the entirety of the interior and exterior of the fort for a more awe-inspiring and immersive experience.
Additionally, for those wanting a dark adventure after the completion of the Dawnguard DLC, the extremely well-known Vigilant mod and its associated parts cannot be recommended highly enough.
Offering hours of extended gameplay worthy of a DLC and complete with new areas, voiced actors, and much more, the Vigilant mod remains one of the greatest quest expansions on the Nexus.
Taking a turn away from the strong, heavenly zealotry of the previous two builds is the suave and manipulative Luck Paladin. This build, operating on pure chance, is not for those prone to streaks of bad luck.
However, the rewards can be rich and plentiful for those feeling like a bit of gambling. With the ability to ruin or make someone's day instantly, the Luck Paladin makes stories you can carry outside the game – good and bad.
For the Luck Paladin, the name of the game is not to necessarily hit hard but more so to hit often and likewise get hit. As such, using a 50/40/10 (Health/Magicka/Stamina) stat spread is recommended.
Only the bare minimum of Stamina is needed to keep swinging and carry your supplies. Otherwise, your Magicka will be used for Illusion spells and Health to keep you alive long enough to activate your chance abilities.
For your perks, you'll want to invest in the following:
Follow the middle to Savage Strike, take Bladesman, and follow the right branch up to Dual Savagery.
Invest in all, especially Reflect Blows, which can reflect damage back at your enemies.
Follow the main line up to Extra Effect.
Learn the main line up to Expert Illusion.
Take all perks.
Take up to Adept Restoration.
Take up to Atronarch.
For your Standing Stone, select the Lovers' Stone until you're comfortable with your perk levels, and then use the Atronarch Stone.
Equipment And Spells
As is necessary for any luck-based build, you'll want a combination of the Masque of Clavius Vile for the Speech bonus and Magicka regeneration, Ahzidal's Armor of Retribution for the chance to paralyze your enemies, and Ahzidal's Gauntlets of Warding for the extra Magicka absorption.
The boots should be left up to you, though choosing boots like any of the Thieves Guild pairs or the Blackguard's Boots for Pickpocketing chance boost would be in line with the hodgepodge of chance effects that make this strange build.
For weapons, you'll want to first have an Illusion spell equipped before causing any mischief and cast them on an unsuspecting victim. Afterward, you'll be able to use a deadly combination of chance weapons.
The key ingredient is the weapon Windshear which has a moderate chance of causing your enemy to stagger with every strike, and the weapon in your other hand is up to you. Your options include the following:
- Mehrunes' Razor – Has a two percent chance to instantly kill the target but does not scale with your sword perks for damage
- Chillrend – Has a two percent chance to paralyze your enemy and scales with your sword perks for damage
Based on whether you wish to chance instantly killing them with small damage or paralyzing them with decent damage, you'll have plenty of opportunities to get hits in with the higher stagger chance, your armor's innate chance for paralyzing, and your increased attack speed.
For spells, you will only need the following:
- Close Wounds
As for enchanted equipment, you'll want effects that increase your One-Handed and Speech.
This strange build has a fairly straightforward approach: hit and get hit as many times as possible to trigger your chance abilities.
To do this, cast a spell like Ebonyflesh (or lower) before approaching an enemy, and then cast an Illusion spell like Pacify or Frenzy to get close to your targets and cause the most chaos.
Once in position, strike with both your weapons quickly to trigger their effects, staggering as frequently as possible to keep them from attacking you. Should you find yourself in a position where you need to retreat, using Unrelenting Force for crowd control or Whirlwind Sprint for a quick escape are both viable options.
In case of healing, cast Cure Wounds as needed.
For the Speech traits, you should have no trouble persuading individuals in shops or taverns to give big discounts, allowing you the opportunity to save and make money – selling items for higher prices to merchants – and later spend that money on upgrading your gear.
For a clever build such as the Luck Paladin, a useful mod like Rich Skyrim Merchants can come in handy as this build will often find itself causing shops to run completely out of coin even with full Speech privileges.
Through its customizable options, merchants in Skyrim can have anywhere from two to ten times the amount of coin on them.
Additionally, for those choosing this build because they need chaos, the Instant/Immersive Heart Attack mod is known for its unbelievably incredible and immersive experience and a large dose of (unplayable) nonsense that might scare even Clavicus Vile.
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