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One of my favorite elements of any mainline Elder Scrolls game is hunting down all available Daedric artifacts. Most of these artifacts are weapons, and you can use them to good effect in one way or another. If you’re lucky, you can get one of them early in your playthrough and effectively punch up at stronger enemies.
Of all the Daedric artifacts in Skyrim, one of my favorites is Dawnbreaker. Aside from having a cool name, looking totally badass, and reminding me of Riku’s signature keyblade from Kingdom Hearts (Riku being my favorite character from that series), Dawnbreaker is an interesting Daedric artifact with a potent ability, given the setting.
Skyrim can be a rough place, and the more tools you have for dealing with everything Skyrim throws at you, the better. Now, what of Dawnbreaker? How effective a tool is it exactly, and is it worth seeking out? I’m glad you asked.
Join me as we delve into everything there is to know about one of Skyrim’s brightest pointy objects, the Dawnbreaker.
What Is Dawnbreaker?
Dawnbreaker is a one-handed sword and one of the many Daedric artifacts you can find in Skyrim. It is the holy weapon of the Daedric Prince of Life and Lady of Infinite Energies, Meridia. She is one of the few Daedric Princes that seem to be benevolent. The blade sports a fiery glow, and the crossguard emanates with Meridia’s light.
How Do I Obtain Dawnbreaker?
To obtain Dawnbreaker, you must first find Meridia’s beacon. To do so, you must first reach level 12, after which Meridia’s beacon will spawn inside a random boss chest around Skyrim. After obtaining Meridia’s beacon, the disembodied voice of Meridia will reach out to you, declaring her intentions to make you her new champion. She will instruct you to bring the beacon to her shrine atop Mount Kilkreath.
Meridia will command you to dispose of the necromancer and his undead minions presently defiling her temple beneath Mount Kilkreath. Upon defeating the necromancer, Malkoran, Meridia will reach out to you again, urging you to take Dawnbreaker from its resting place in the temple’s pedestal.
After one final conversation with Meridia, the Daedric Prince will tell you to wield Dawnbreaker in her name and purge the world of evil. Dawnbreaker is officially yours.
Thanks to an exploit, it is possible to obtain two copies of Dawnbreaker instead of one. To make this happen, you’ll need Unrelenting Force or a spell with a lot of AOE, like a rune spell or storm scroll. Before taking Dawnbreaker from its pedestal, use your spell/scroll/Shout of choice on the pedestal. It may take a couple of tries, but eventually, Dawnbreaker should go flying from the pedestal.
Find Dawnbreaker on the ground and pick it up. Go back to the pedestal, and you’ll notice Dawnbreaker is still there. Retrieve the “True” Dawnbreaker from the pedestal to complete The Break of Dawn quest and return to Skyrim.
Meridia may be a Daedric Prince, but she’s no match for the power of exploits. You now have two Daedric artifacts for the price of one.
What Does Dawnbreaker Do?
Dawnbreaker starts with a base damage value of 12 per hit. Speed and Reach are both 1, and it’s worth 740 gold (Though even with max Barter, it isn’t worth selling). As an enchanted weapon, it has 5000 charges at max and uses 16 every time its special effect activates.
Dawnbreaker has a base-level fire damage enchantment, dealing 10 points of fire damage per strike. But the high point of Dawnbreaker is its special ability: Meridia’s Retribution.
Meridia despises the undead, and Dawnbreaker’s special ability reflects this. While fighting undead opponents, Meridia’s Retribution will activate. If you slay an undead foe within 10 seconds, there’s a chance that Dawnbreaker will emit a fiery explosion.
The explosion will either turn nearby undead to ash or cause them to flee if still alive. Meridia’s Retribution is identical to the Master Restoration spell Bane of the Undead. But unlike Bane of the Undead, there’s no massive Magicka cost. Or any.
From Silverdrift Lair to Yngol Barrow, Skyrim is chock-full of tombs and crypts infested with draugr. That makes Dawnbreaker exceedingly effective in those scenarios.
What Undead Does Meridia’s Retribution Work On?
Meridia’s Retribution works on all undead foes in Skyrim. That includes:
- Corrupted Shades
- Dragon Priests
- Vampire Lords
- The Reaper
And you. That’s right; Meridia plays no favorites when it comes to undead. If you happen to be a vampire and wield Dawnbreaker, the explosion from Meridia’s Beacon will hurt you. As a result, you may humorously kill yourself if your health is low.
Any undead companions will also fall victim to Meridia’s Retribution (Though apparently, Serana is immune to this effect), so necromancer sword users may want to give Dawnbreaker a pass.
How Can I Strengthen Dawnbreaker
There are two primary means of powering up Dawnbreaker: perks and Smithing.
As Dawnbreaker is a one-handed sword, you can scale up its damage with One-handed perks like Armsman and Bladesman. If you have taken advantage of the Double Dawnbreaker exploit, Dawnbreaker also benefits from Dual Flurry.
Given the fire damage effect of Dawnbreaker, it benefits from Destruction perks like Augmented Flames and Intense Flames. If you have both ranks of Augmented Flames, Dawnbreaker’s fire damage will go from 10 per hit to 15.
You can improve Dawnbreaker’s quality at a grindstone with an ebony ingot, provided you have the Arcane Blacksmith perk. Despite using ebony ingots to improve Dawnbreaker, it is not an ebony weapon. As such, you don’t need the Ebony Smithing perk to improve it.
Ahzidal is a Dragon Priest mask players can find on Solstheim in the Dragonborn DLC. You’ll need to take it off the face of its present owner, Ahzidal, residing in Kolbjorn Barrow. One of the special effects of the Ahzidal mask, Ahzidal’s Rage, boosts fire damage by 25%. Provided you have both ranks of the Augmented Flames perk, Dawnbreaker will deal 17 points of fire damage while wearing Ahzidal.
Benefits of Dawnbreaker
Low-level Dragonborn will likely find themselves heading into dungeons and taking everything not nailed down. But the resident draugr aren’t inclined to sit idly by and watch you take their stuff.
Some higher-level draugr, like the draugr death overlord, can kick your keister if you’re not careful. And vampires? I’m not ashamed to admit that my first encounter with a vampire resulted in a one-way ticket to the Shadow Realm. For me.
Dawnbreaker is an effective means of punching up at higher-leveled undead opponents. I wouldn’t say it’s a complete equalizer, but it comes close.
Downsides of Dawnbreaker
While it looks cool and has a nifty effect, Dawnbreaker has significant downsides. For starters, not being an ebony weapon starts out as a pro but eventually warps into a con. Not being an ebony weapon means you can improve Dawnbreaker 20 Smithing levels sooner than ebony weapons.
But it also means it doesn’t benefit from Ebony Smithing. As a result, you will be able to scale standard ebony weapon damage far higher than you can Dawnbreaker’s.
Unless you engage in some Fortify Smithing shenanigans, you can’t improve Dawnbreaker much at a grindstone. Without Fortify Smithing, Flawless is the highest weapon quality Dawnbreaker can go. That’s two whole ranks beneath the best weapon quality of Legendary.
Dawnbreaker’s fire damage suffers from a similar con. Dealing 17 points of fire damage per hit is okay for the early-midgame. But by taking advantage of Fortify Enchant, you’ll be able to create weapons that deal way more than 17 points of elemental damage per strike. As a result, Dawnbreaker isn’t a Daedric artifact you’ll be taking into the endgame.
Being able to screw with the undead is fun, but eventually, you’ll dispose of the undead easily with any means of combat. And while Dawnbreaker only has a weight of 10, it slowly becomes dead weight. A weapon with a steadily decreasing level of power that’s only at max effectiveness against the undead isn’t something you’ll want to lug around.
Finally, Meridia’s Retribution is fun but suffers from a similar unintended downside as Fallout’s Bloody Mess perk.
Contrary to what watching Michael Bay films may lead you to believe, explosions aren’t always the best thing since sliced bread. While non-undead living creatures suffer no damage from the explosive effect of Meridia’s Retribution, the same doesn’t apply to non-living objects in the game world.
Meridia’s Retribution sends items flying. A lot. If you’re a high-level player, you’ll likely have no need to loot pretty much anything except maybe alchemical ingredients. So you guys are okay.
But low-level players probably want as much loot as possible, and Meridia’s Retribution makes that a problem for any item not in a container. This side effect of Meridia’s Retribution is most annoying if it sends a quest item flying.
With low-level players benefitting the most from Dawnbreaker, this side effect does, unfortunately, brings down its value.
Is Dawnbreaker Worth Using against Non-Undead?
You’re free to use Dawnbreaker against any enemy you come across. But since you need to be at least level 12 before you can even obtain it, it’s highly doubtful you don’t have something better to use. Even with its low-level fire damage enchantment, Dawnbreaker will get outmatched against non-undead very quickly.
Question: Is Dawnbreaker the most Useful Daedric Artifact Weapon in Skyrim?
Answer: I would say that Dawnbreaker is the most useful Daedric artifact weapon early on, but it becomes one of the “worst” later in the game. The Mace of Molag Bal maintains soul-trapping utility even if its’ damage starts to fall off, and the Sanguine Rose’s ability to summon a Dremora never gets old. Even Wabbajack is at least always fun to use, if not always effective at killing people.
Question: Does Dawnbreaker Play a Role in any Quest Besides Break of Dawn?
Answer: No. The Break of Dawn is the only quest that involves Dawnbreaker.
Question: I can’t Find Meridia’s Beacon to Start Break of Dawn and Obtain Dawnbreaker! What can I Do?
Answer: Meridia’s Beacon spawns at a completely random location and can be hard to find. With Dawnbreaker having limited time to function as your main weapon, it’s a good idea to get it sooner rather than later.
If you can’t find Meridia’s Beacon, go to Mount Kilkreath and speak with Meridia. She will mark Meridia’s Beacon on your map.
Dawnbreaker Skyrim Guide: Conclusion
I almost always roleplay as a goodie-two-shoes in RPGs, and with Dawnbreaker’s sole purpose being purging the world of the undead, it’s the perfect sword for me. With Meridia being one of the few benevolent Daedric Princes, she’s one of the only ones I can effectively roleplay as a follower of.
Even if it’s past the point of peak effectiveness, I love using it during Dawnguard, as a sword effective against vampires fits right at home in a faction dedicated to killing vampires. Move aside, Blade. There’s a new Daywalker in town.
That said, Dawnbreaker is far from a Spear of Bitter Mercy. I feel like Bethesda missed the mark with Daedric artifacts in Skyrim (At least the weapons and armor).
With how players are able to scale weapon damage or armor cap in Skyrim, regular equipment eventually far outclasses all Daedric artifact requirements. There’s a reason I use my custom Mace of Molag Bonk instead of the official Mace of Molag Bal.
In past Elder Scrolls titles, Daedric artifacts are powerful when you get them and remain powerful throughout the game. Or, at the very least, they last far longer than the ones in Skyrim.
When Bethesda gets around to releasing Elder Scrolls 6 in 2037, I hope they improve the Daedric artifact lineup and give them more staying power. Aside from Azura’s Star, not too many Daedric artifacts make repeat appearances in the series. But seeing as how Dawnbreaker is one of the coolest-looking weapons to ever exist in Elder Scrolls, I wouldn’t mind seeing it return.