Guest Post: Skyrim: Picking the Perfect Perks By Psychic Octopus

First, allow me lay down the cold hard facts of perks in Skyrim.

  • There are 251 perks in Skyrim.
  • You obtain one Perk Point each time you level.
  • The max level is 81, which means you can choose a max of 81 perks.
  • The average player ends up with a character between level 50 and 60 which means they can plan on obtaining that number of perks.

How you spend your perk points will be among the most important decisions you make in Skyrim. As in most Bethesda games, some perks are amazing and others that are pretty much garbage. Many perks will only be useful to specific play styles and character setups. It is wise to save perk points until certain skills reach higher levels. Many of the best perks are only available once your skill reaches level 80 or above.

Obviously, whether a perk is useful or not is a matter of personal preference and opinion. The recommendations I make are for gamers who plan to take their character to a reasonably high level and focus on developing skills I a few specific disciplines. If you want your character to be a jack-of-all-trades and shoot a bow, cast destructive magic, block with a shield, swing an axe, and summon dudes, it will be difficult to obtain all the perks you may want.

I’ll start out with the disciplines and respective perks that, in my opinion, are not beneficial to the majority of players. My reasoning behind this isn’t so much as these perks are particularly bad, but there are other perks that are probably a better investment in the long run.

Speech

Speech perks are primarily dedicated to helping your character earn more gold. At higher levels there are also perks to help you persuade or intimidate NPCs. Making money is Skyrim is not that challenging. While at first you will get ridiculously ripped off by merchants, what you lack in price you can make up in quantity. Even the easiest of dungeons and caves will contain a completely illogical amount of treasure chests filled with gold and all sorts of sellable items. Your biggest problem will be finding merchants with enough gold to buy all your random crap. If you begin taking your Enchanting and Alchemy to higher levels, you will have more expensive items than you can sell.

The only Speech perks I would even remotely consider getting are Merchant and Investor which will allow you to sell any item to any vendor and add 500 gold to a merchant’s maximum, respectively. But there are just so many better things to spend your perk points on.

Lockpicking

Unless you are completely hopeless at the lockpicking mini-game I wouldn’t bother putting any perk points into this discipline. Instead, I recommend buying lock picks anytime you see them in a vendor’s inventory and saving the game before attempting to pick a difficult lock.

Pickpocket

For some reason, I don’t find myself picking a lot of pockets in Skyrim. Maybe it’s because there are way easier ways to make money. If you are playing a serious character I wouldn’t bother getting any of these perks.

The Extra Pockets perk is tempting (to increase carrying capacity by 100) but it involves leveling pickpocket to 50 and spending 2 additional perk points on the prerequisite perks, Light Fingers and Night Thief. If your inventory is constantly weighing you down you should consider buying or making some light gear that fortifies carrying capacity. You can slip the pieces on when you need to haul all your junk back to town. Also, make sure you deposit all those heavy dragon bones!

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With the bad perks out of the way, I’ll break down the best perks in each discipline. Keep in mind, you will need to get all the needed prerequisite perks before you can plan on obtaining most of the following.

Heavy Armor

Early in the game you’re going to want to choose which type of armor you’re going to wear, and stick with it. Obviously, if you wear Heavy Armor you shouldn’t be putting any perk points into Light Armor, and vice versa.

Perks to get
Juggernaut 1-5 [Levels 0, 20, 40, 60, 80]: Increases armor rating for Heavy Armor by 20, 40, 60, 80, and 100%. Once you have the final Juggernaut perk you will have doubled your heavy armor rating.

Well Fitted [Level 30]: +25% armor if you are wearing a matching set of heavy armor (shield doesn’t matter).

Matching Set [Level 70]: +50% armor if you are wearing a matching set of heavy armor (shield doesn’t matter).

Light Armor

For characters who don’t want to get up close and personal when you attack, there are plenty useful Light armor perks.

Perks to Get
Agile Defender 1-5 [Levels 0, 20, 40, 60, 80]: Light armor wearers will need all the defense they can get. You can increase your armor rating in the same manner as the Juggernaut perk.

Custom Fit [Level 30]: +25% armor if you are wearing all Light Armor (shield doesn’t matter)

Matching Set [Level 70]: Additional +25% armor if wearing a matching set of light armor (shield doesn’t matter).

Fun fact: you can reach the game’s armor rating cap wearing light armor. You need to do the following:

  • Obtain all of the above perks
  • Boost your Smithing skill to a high enough level and upgrade a set of Dragonscale armor to Legendary condition.

One-Handed

One-Handed perks depend heavily on the specific weapon you use and whether or not you dual weld.

Perks to Get (no matter which weapon you use)
Armsman 1-5 [Levels 0, 20, 40, 60, 80]: Double my damage by skill level 80 you say? Yes, please!

Savage Strike [Level 50]: Power attacks do +25% damage and sometimes decapitate your enemy. That’s right: DECAPITATE. End of discussion.

One-Handed has many other badass perks you can choose from that primarily depend on your play style.

Two-Handed

Like One-Handed, Two-Handed perks depend heavily on your play style and weapon choices.

Perks to Get
Barbarian 1-5 [Levels 0, 20, 40, 60, 80]: I don’t always use a battleaxe, but when I do, I prefer to deal DOUBLE DAMAGE.

Champion’s Stance [Level 20]: Power attacks with two-handed weapons cost 25% less stamina.

Devastating Blow [Level 50]: The same as Savage Strike with the same amount of gratuitous severance of heads.

Archery

Perks to Get
Overdraw 1-5 [Levels 0, 20, 40, 60, 80]: By now, you know how I feel about double damage.

Eagle Eye [Level 30]: Allows you to hold down the block button while you have the bow drawn to zoom in on your target.

Steady Hand 1&2 [Levels 40 & 60]: Slow down time by 25% and 50% when zooming in. Perfect for those enemies who just refuse to hold still while you shoot them!

Quick Shot [Level 70]: Draw your bow 30% faster. This means you fire arrows 30% quicker and increase your cumulative damage output by the same.

Block

Perks to Get
Shield Wall 1-5 [Levels 0, 20, 40, 60, 80]: Blocking is 20, 25, 30, 35, and 40% more effective.

Elemental Protection [Level 50]: When blocking, you take 50% less fire, frost, and shock damage. This is a great way to weather dragon breath attacks.

Quick Reflexes [Level 30]: Slow down time when blocking an enemy’s power attack. This is kind of a maybe. It could be useful for players who like to block and then counter attack.

All Schools of Magic (Alteration, Conjuration, Destruction, Illusion, Restoration)

Perks to Get
Novice, Apprentice, Adept, Expert, Master [Levels 0, 25, 50,75,100]: Cast spells of that type of magic, at the respective level, for 50% less magicka.

Every school of magic has perks that will reduce the amount of magicka it costs to cast spells.

Alteration

Perks to Get
Magic Resistance 1-3 [Levels 30, 50, 70]: Blocks 10, 20, and 30% of a spell’s effects. Magic Resistance can be a difficult thing to obtain. I even dabble in Alteration on my non-magical characters just to get these perks.

Stability [Level 70]: The effects of Alteration spells last 50% longer.

Atronach [Level 100]: Absorb 30% of the magicka from spells that hit you.

Conjuration

I don’t have much game experience with Conjuration magic. To be honest, I’ve never really liked summoning things in any game (although Knights of the Round was pretty badass for its time).

Perks I think are probably good
Conjuration Dual Casting [Level 20]: Dual casting a Conjuration spell causes its effects to last longer.

Twin Souls [Level 100]: Two summons are better than one, right?

Destruction

Perks to Get
Destruction Dual Casting [Level 20]: Dual casting a Destruction spell creates more powerful effects.

Impact [Level 40]: Most destruction spells stagger an opponent when dual cast.

Deep Freeze [Level 60]: Frost spells can paralyze enemies that are at low health.

Illusion

Perks to Get
Illusion Dual Casting [Level 20]: Dual casting an Illusion spell creates more powerful effects.

Quiet Casting [Level 50]: Spells you cast are silent to others. This is good to get because it works for any spell in any school of magic.

Restoration

Perks to Get

Regeneration [Level 20]: restoration spells heal 50% more health.

Recovery 1&2 [Levels 30 & 60]: Magicka regenerates 25 and 50% faster. This effect happens regardless of whether you are casting Restoration spells or not. Great for all mages.

Respite [Level 40]: Restorations spells restore stamina as well as health. Obviously, this perk is only good for characters that find themselves depleting stamina often.

Sneak

Sneak perks depend on your play style. Obviously, if you’re the kind of person who rarely sneaks around you won’t need to bother. Yet, many quests require you to practice some degree of stealth.

Perks to Get
Stealth 1-5 [Levels 0, 20, 40, 60, 80]: You are 20, 25, 30, 35, and 40% harder to detect when sneaking.

The following perks depend heavily on the type of weapon you use:

Backstab [Level 30]: Sneak attacks with one-handed weapons do 6X damage.
Deadly Aim [Level 40]: Sneak attacks with bows do 3X damage.
Assassin’s Blade [Level 50]: Sneak attacks with daggers now do 15X damage.

Muffled Movement [Level 30]: Noise from armor is reduced by 50%. Good for sneaking
in heavy armor.

Silence [Level 70]: Walking and running does not affect detection. This is a must have for all sneaky characters.

Alchemy

With a high alchemy skill you can create multi-effect potions and devastating poisons. However, the best reason to take Alchemy to a high level (and obtain the right perks) is to create potions that can help you temporarily boost your Smithing and Enchanting skills.

Perks to Get (for perfect fortification potions)
Alchemist 1-5 [Levels 0, 20, 40, 60, 80]: Potions and poisons you make are 20, 40, 60, 80, and 100% stronger.

Benefactor [Level 30]: Potions you mix, with beneficial effects, are 25% stronger.

Enchanting

Here it is! The fastest way to take you character from pushover to overpowered. Enchanting your gear and weapons allows you to enhance your weapons and armor to a very high degree. With max level enchanting, and the right perks, you can do any of  the following:

  • Enchant 4 pieces with +25% Fortify (any school of magic) to cast spells for free
  • Enchant 4 pieces with +29% Fortify Alchemy or Smithing to make the strongest possible potions and armor upgrades.
  • Enchant 4 pieces with +47% Fortify One-Handed, Two-Handed, or Archery (Marksman) to deal massive amounts of damage.
  • Enchant 3 pieces with +28% Resist Magic to hit the max reduction cap.
  • Enchant any weapon with +36% Fire, Shock, or Frost damage and obliterate anything and everything.

Perks to Get
I usually end up getting all of the Enchanting perks except for Soul Squeezer and Soul Siphon.

At the very least you’ll want:
Enchanter 1-5 [Levels 0, 20, 40, 60, 80]: New enchantments are 20, 40, 60, 80, and 100% stronger.

Insightful Enchanter [Level 50]: Skill enchantments are 25% stronger.

Extra Effect [Level 100]: You can put 2 enchantments on 1 item. This is hands down the most GAME BREAKING perk in the entire game! You may find yourself having to increase the difficulty after getting this one.

Smithing

The path you take in the Smithing tree depends on whether you want to craft Light or Heavy armor. Both will meet at the Dragon Armor perk, allowing you to create light or heavy dragon armor.

Perks to Get
Arcane Blacksmith [Level 60]: You can improve magical (enchanted) armor and weapons.

Dragon Armor [Level 100]: You can forge Dragon armor and improve it twice as much. You will need this perk in order to upgrade dragon armor to Legendary condition.

So there you have it, the most beneficial perks in each discipline. The next step I would suggest is to take a good long look at the skills menu and plan out the perks and prerequisites you’re going to want.  Then it’s simply a matter of executing your build and unlocking your god-like character.

Roy: As someone obsessed with creating focused builds in games, I really appreciate a clear outline of key perks to aim for in Skyrim.  Thanks to Psychic Octopus for his insight!

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One Response to Guest Post: Skyrim: Picking the Perfect Perks By Psychic Octopus

  1. Ryan says:

    I really appreciate this I was having trouble trying to decide where to put my perks and I will recommend this if be of my friends has the same dilemma.

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