Hey all, I’m an old friend of Roy’s as well as a veteran of just about every game Bethesda has developed this generation. I was excited when Roy asked me to provide some Skyrim content for Kotowari while he gets over his love affair with Dark Souls. My articles will deal mostly with Skyrim strategy and character development.
For those of you who have played Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion or the Fallout series you probably feel like you’re walking on egg shells when it comes time to create a new character. How do I avoid screwing up? What race should I be? When is the best time to level up? In Skyrim you can relax a bit. It is actually really hard to permanently screw up your character. You won’t need to pick and choose which skills to use and which to avoid. You won’t need to scrutinize when to allow your character to get to the next level. Even choosing one race over another will not affect your character very much. I’ll explain how it all works and then give a couple recommendations here and there for how manage your character effectively.
The level up system
As you perform an action, its governing skill increases towards the next level. As your skills level up, your character will progress towards the next overall level.
Combat: Archery, Block, Heavy armor, One-handed weapons, Two-handed weapons, Smithing
Magic: Alteration, Conjuration, Destruction, Enchanting, Illusion, Restoration,
Stealth: Alchemy, Light Armor, Lockpicking, Pickpocket, Sneak, Speech
Let’s say you cast heal a couple times: next thing you know, your Restoration skill increases a level. You will also notice the progress bar towards your character’s overall level increases slightly. You block a few hits, skewer a Skeever on a sword, sneak by a cave bear and next thing you know you’re at level 2! It’s as simple as that.
Once your character levels, you have to go into the skills menu to allow your character to level up. You will immediately be prompted to increase an attribute by 10 points. The attributes are Health, Magic, and Stamina.
- Health is your total hit points.
- Magic is your total magica, used to cast spells.
- Stamina is used for power strikes, blocking, and sprinting. Leveling Stamina will also increase your maximum carry weight by 5.
Unless you are a hardcore warrior who refuses to use magic (even to heal) or a hardcore mage who never touches a weapon and travels light, your best bet is to keep your attributes relatively well rounded.
After you have chosen an attribute to increase, you will receive one perk point. How you choose to spend your perks points is the most important decision in the game. To break it down by numbers, there are about 250 perks and you receive 1 perk point each level. Leveling up will start to become slow at around 50, so the average player can plan on obtaining about 20% of all perks. The maximum level in the game is 81, therefore the maximum number of perks you could possibly get is 81. This is only reached by leveling all skills to 100.
At the beginning of the game, you will be leveling up very quickly without even trying. Many players make the mistake of spending their perk points as soon as they get them. Doing so is unnecessary because the game allows you to save your perk points and use them later. Saving perk points is wise because most of the game’s best perks cannot be obtained until a skill reaches a high level. I recommend limiting the spending of perk points to a few important disciplines (rather than spreading your perk points around just because you have them). Trust me, when your skills reach higher levels you’re going to wish you could accumulate the insane number of perk points you can easily obtain early in the game.
What happens as you level?
Your character will continue to progress towards the next levels even if you don’t choose to go to the skills menu and level up. At the beginning of the game when you are leveling up rapidly you may find you have leveled up 3 or 4 times. You will be forced to choose an attribute to increase for each level you’ve obtained. After increasing attributes you will be shown the number of perk points you accumulated. Unlike attributes, you do not have to spend your perk points and you can simply exit the menu.
As your level increases:
- Merchants will begin selling new weapons and armor
- New weapons and armor can be found in chests with random contents
- Certain enemies will also increase in level and become tougher
- Some of your enemies will also have access to better weapons and armor
- The amount of gold found in chests, on bodies, and in purses will increase
- Randomly appearing potions will be more potent
Choosing Your Race
There are ten races in Skyrim. Each has its own power that can be used once a day and some races also have special abilities and/or resistances. Whether your character is male or female makes no difference. Different races also begin the game with slightly higher skills in certain areas.
Altmer (High Elf)
Power: Highborn (Magica regenerates 10x faster for 60 seconds)
Additional Spell: Fury
+10 Illusion, +5 Alteration, Conjuration, Destruction, Enchanting, Restoration
Resist Disease 50%
Power: Histskin (HP regens 10x faster for 60 seconds)
+10 Lockpicking, +5 Alteration, Light Armor, Pickpocket, Restoration, Sneak
Bosmer (Wood Elf)
Resist Poison 50%
Resist Disease 50%
Power: Command Animal (make an animal your ally for 60 seconds)
+10 Archery, +5 Alchemy, Light Armor, Lockpicking, Pickpocket, Sneak
Resist Magic 25%
Power: Dragonskin (Absorb 50% of magica from enemies spells for 60 seconds)
Additional Spell: Conjure Familiar (Summon a Familiar for 60 seconds)
+10 Conjuration, +5 Alchemy, Alteration, Illusion, Restoration, Speech
Dunmer (Dark Elf)
Resist Fire 50%
Power: Ancestor’s Wrath (Foes close by take 8 points of fire damage for 60 seconds)
Additional Spell: Sparks
+10 Destruction, +5 Alchemy, Alteration, Illusion, Light Armor, Sneak
Imperial Luck (find greater amounts of gold)
Power: Voice of the Emperor (Casts Calm on people nearby for 60 seconds)
+10 Restoration, +5 Block, Destruction, Enchanting, Heavy Armor, One-handed
Claw Attacks (when unarmed you can scratch things like a kitty)
Power: Night Eye (Night visions for 60 seconds multiple times a day)
+10 Sneak, +5 Alchemy, Archery, Lockpicking, Pickpocket, One-handed
Resist Frost 50%
Power: Battlecry (targets flee from you for 30 seconds)
+10 Two-handed, +5 Block, Light Armor, One-handed, Smithing, Speech
Power: Berserker Rage (you take half and deal double damage for 60 seconds)
+10 Heavy Armor, +5 Block, Enchanting, One-handed, Smithing, Two-handed
Resist Poison 50%
Power: Adrenaline Rush (Stamina regenerates 10x faster for 60 seconds)
+10 One-handed, +5 Alteration, Archery, Block, Destruction, Smithing
How do I choose?
I recommend choosing a race based on powers, abilities, and resistances as opposed to initial skill bonuses. You will barely even notice having an extra 5 or 10 skill points after the first couple hours. Low level skills will increase quickly. If you are using a skill often it will naturally level up on its own fairly quickly. Powers, abilities and resistances will be relevant the entire game, initial skill bonuses will not.
Before picking a race you should have a general idea of what your play style will be.
“Magic is lame, I want to see my enemies eyes as I hack them to bits!”
Orc and Redgaurd are the obvious choices for this. Both have great powers for melee fighting that can be used once a game day. However, melee characters have trouble dealing with enemies who aren’t willing to stand and bang. Choosing Breton could be a better choice in the long run. Bretons have a 25% magic resistance that allows a melee character to get hit by a few spells without dying while running down a spellcaster. The Bretons’ Dragonskin power can be used defensively in order to fill up your magic gauge and heal yourself. Magic resistance is somewhat hard to come by. It is relatively easy to protect yourself from arrows and melee weapons, but even the best armor won’t protect you from magical attacks.
“I wanna nuke the hell out of everything in my path with my magic!”
Altmer has an extra 50 magic to help you do this. The Highborn power let’s you regenerate magica quickly if you start running out.
“My enemies will only know I was there when they look down and see the arrow protruding from their heart”
There is nothing more traditional than playing a sneaky Khajiit with a bow. However, aside from the initial skill bonuses, Khajiit isn’t really that good unless you just NEED to have a furry tail. Any race would be suitable for this play style. If you don’t care, I recommend Breton again for the magic resistance.
“I don’t know whether I want to cast spells or hit stuff with things, I just want to kill dragons!”
If you want to be some type of warrior-mage hybrid you may be better off with the extra magica that being an Altmer provides. If you want to make sure you can defend against a dragon, Nord’s 50% Frost resistance and Dunmer’s 50% Fire resistance are great against ice and fire dragons, respectively.
“I don’t really care what race I am, just tell me which ones suck the most.”
Imperial is pretty lousy. “Oh wow, I have the ability to find slightly larger amounts of gold. That is incredibly helpful against this dragon.” Bosmer’s ability to make an animal an ally for 60 seconds is pretty useless unless you find yourself losing battles to bears. In that case you probably have much bigger problems than what race you picked. It might be kind of funny to use Command Animal on a chicken (although I’m not sure if it would work).
To conclude, race doesn’t matter all that much. It is much more important to spend your time considering which perks to choose. Choosing the best perks for your desired play-style will result in a highly focused character.
Roy: if you find this article helpful please leave some comment love for Psychic Octopus and I may be able to encourage him to write more Skyrim tips for Kotowari!