This page details an overview for the basics of skills in Skyrim, including crafting skills, spell skills, trainers, and skill books.
Skills and Classes in Skyrim
There are no limits to what skills a character can learn, no gameplay reason (as opposed to roleplaying reasons) for trying to build around a specific “class” and focus on certain skills while neglecting others. They all play a role in Skyrim, and while some are better than others for specific situations, they all level you up. Characters in The Elder Scrolls games can - and always have been able to - do everything. You can become the leader of every guild in the game, and there’s no gameplay reason why you shouldn’t. Even if you don’t care to cast any spells, you should still level up spell skills for the overall improvement that it will yield in terms of combat effectiveness. A basic healing spell will always be useful, for example.
Ultimately, you don’t need to feel obliged to specialize in a specific type of skill. The aim of this guide is to help you make a powerful character which will serve you well in most combat scenarios. To do that, you’ll need to invest in most skills the game has to offer.
The Basics of Skills
Skills in Skyrim serve several purposes. First, increasing your Skill Levels contributes to experience in your overall character level, which in turn allows you to invest more points in Perks and Attributes. The more you use a skill, the more its skill level will increase. We’ll cover how best to level each skill on their relevant pages, links to which can be found in the table below.
Second, a skills’ Skill Level determines what perks you can buy in that skill, and how effective you become at using the skill. For example, a character with a higher One Handed skill will do more damage with One Handed weapons even without any perks spent.
|Alchemy||An alchemist can create magical potions and deadly poisons|
|Alteration||The School of Alteration involves the manipulation of the physical world and its natural properties|
|Archery||An Archer is trained in the use of bows and arrows. The greater the skill, the more deadly the shot|
|Block||The art of blocking an enemy’s blows with a shield or weapon, reducing damage and stagger from attacks|
|Conjuration||The School of Conjuration governs raising the dead and summoning creatures from Oblivion|
|Destruction||The School of Destruction involves harnessing the energies of fire, frost, and shock|
|Enchanting||The more powerful the enchanter, the stronger the magic they can bind to weapons and armor|
|Heavy Armor||Those trained to use Heavy Armor make more effective use of Iron, Steel, Dwarven, Orcish, Ebony, and Daedric armors|
|Illusion||The School of Illusion involves manipulating the minds of the enemy|
|Light Armor||Those trained to use Light Armor make more effective use of Hide, Leather, Elven, and Glass armors|
|Lockpicking||The art of Lockpicking is used to open locked doors and containers faster and with fewer broken lockpicks|
|One-Handed||The art of using one-handed weapons such as daggers swords, maces, and war axes|
|Pickpocket||The stealthy art of picking an unsuspecting target’s pockets|
|Restoration||The School of Restoration involves control over life forces|
|Smithing||The art of creating and improving weapons and armor from raw materials|
|Sneak||Sneaking is the art of moving unseen and unheard. Highly skilled sneaks can hide in plain sight|
|Speech||The skill of persuasion can be used to get better prices from merchants, and persuade others to do as you ask|
|Two-Handed||The art of combat using two-handed weapons such as greatswords, battle axes, and warhammers|
The above pages cover what each skill does, how to level them, and which perks we recommend that you focus on in the skill tree. If a specific skill isn’t mentioned under the “Recommended Perks” header for each skill page, this is because the perks for that skill aren’t considered worth mentioning in the context of this guide, but you can still have a look for yourself if you want to diverge from our advice. However, just because a skill isn’t worth investing perk points into, doesn’t mean that the skill itself is useless. Restoration is a good example of a skill that can be useful without necessarily having to invest any perk points into its tree.
A term that will be used frequently when talking about individual skills is “crafting skills”. These are essential to making your character as effective as possible, both in terms of defensive and offensive capabilities. The three crafting skills are Alchemy, Enchanting, and Smithing. You’ll need to invest in each of these to make the most powerful gear in the game.
On their own, each crafting skill is useful enough. Smithing will allow you to make whatever weapons and armor you prefer, Enchanting will allow you to enhance the powers of the gear with enchantments, and Alchemy gives you the ability to brew potions and poisons which can be used to get you out of a sticky situation, or to inflict some additional damage outside of your own weapons and spells. Things get more interesting when you combine all three because you can use Alchemy to create potions of Fortify Smithing and Fortify Enchanting, allowing you to create better weapons and armor, and stronger enchantments for them.
That last part - stronger enchantments - will also enable you to make a set of apparel that improves your Alchemy and Smithing skills. So, within the limits of the skills, you can brew potions which allow you to enhance gear, which itself allows you to make stronger potions that you can use to make more powerful gear. This feedback loop allows you to create ultra powerful crafting gear, and potent concoctions of Fortify Smithing and Fortify Enchanting Potions. Once you have sufficiently powerful crafting gear and potions, you can craft weapons and armor that will allow you to challenge almost any foe without having to worry too much about dying. This character creation build is in large part dedicated to that end, and the crafting skills themselves influence many of the other skills, especially spells.
All spell skills (Alteration, Conjuration, Destruction, Illusion and Restoration) share certain things in common, and to avoid repeating them endlessly later on, those similarities will be discussed here.
First, the only thing your Skill Level in a specific spell school affects (aside from the usual perk requirements) is how much Magicka it’ll cost to cast spells from that school. The damage, area of effect, duration, etc., is locked by the particular spell you’re casting. This is arguably the biggest reason why magic is uninteresting and underpowered in Skyrim… but more on that later.
Almost all spells except for Master-level spells can be purchased from various Mages in Skyrim. Note, however, that they will not start selling you higher level Mage spells until you approach the level of proficiency required to get the Magicka-cost reducing perk for that level of spell. For example, vendors will not start stocking Fireball spells until you’re nearing level 50 in Destruction, and they won’t sell Incinerate until you near level 75. You won’t be able to begin Master-spell related quests until you have a score of 90 or higher in a spell skill.
How hard it is to level spell skills is directly related to your Magicka pool. If you’re following the recommendations of this guide, you’ll have no Magicka investment, so leveling each spell skill is going to be an absolute chore, right? Not necessarily. If you postpone leveling spell skills until you’re done with your crafting skills, you can just create armor that reduces the cost of spells to nothing. Or rather, several suits of armor, specifically for this purpose. Each item (helmet, armor, ring, necklace) can have up to two enchantments on it, which means two spell skills you can eliminate the Magicka cost for. Make this armor, then level up your spell skills by whatever means works best for that spell skill. Keep this in mind when reading on how to level each spell skill and let this advice preface the methods provided later - leveling up spell skills will be much, much easier if you delay until after you’ve developed the crafting skills.
Let’s be honest, some skills are just an absolute chore to level. Either they’re objectively slow (Speech, Destruction, Restoration) or utilizing that skill to level it up might just not interest you. Assuming you want those skills to be leveled, the best way to do it without grinding is by visiting Trainers. Throughout Skyrim there are characters who have achieved various degrees of expertise at some skills, and they will happily impart their knowledge to you… for a price. While it’s not necessary to use trainers, it can speed up the leveling of some skills. Just keep in mind the following:
Different trainers have different levels of skill. You can only learn as much from a trainer as that character knows. Once your skill level surpasses that of your trainer, you’ll need to find a more skilled trainer.
You can only train up five Skill Levels per Character Level. Once you’ve trained up any five Skill Levels among any number of skills, you’ll need to increase your Character Level to train again.
No trainer can increase any Skill Level above 90 (The trainers for each skill will be mentioned in the description for each skill page)
Some Master-level trainers require you to complete a quest for them before they’ll consent to train you.
Training costs money; the higher the level of the skill you’re trying to increase, the more it’ll cost.
Scattered throughout Skyrim you’ll find books of uncommon quality, which, once read, will impart the knowledge contained within to you. So, yeah, skill books. Read them and you’ll increase one specific skill (based on the book) by one point. You can tell these books apart primarily based on their value; they tend to be worth fifty gold or more. Unfortunately they’re rather limited in number (only several books per skill) and while you can expect to find one per dungeon as you explore, that still ends up being a lot of work for a relatively minor gain. That said, know that they’re out there and rejoice when you find them, but they won’t play a huge role in the leveling process.