Skills and Classes
There are no limits to what skills a character can learn, no gameplay reason (as opposed to roleplaying reasons) to try 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, 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 yeild. Long story short, don’t specialize around some “class”, character preference, or other archetype. This guide’s goal is power, and whatever skills best facilitate that are the one’s that’ll be pursued.
Skills in Skyrim serve several purposes; first, increasing your Skill Levels gets you experience towards leveling up your Character Level, which in turn gets you perks and allows you to increase your attributes. All this stuff is covered earlier, but for the sake of redundancy, the more you use a skill, the more its Skill Level increases (the best way to level each skill will be elaborated while discussing each skill). Secondly, a skills’ Skill Level determins what perks you can buy in that skill, and how effective using that skill is. For example, a character with a higher One Handed skill will do more damage with One Handed weapons even without any perks spent.
In the following pages all the skills will be covered; what they do, how to level them, and most importantly of all, which perks in each skill tree are worthwhile (if any) and why. If a specific perk isn’t mentioned under a skill’s “Perk Picks” headers, it’s not an oversight, it’s because that perk isn’t considered to be worth mentioning. And also keep in mind that just because a skill isn’t worth investing perks into doesn’t mean the skill itself isn’t useful… Restoration is a prime example of a skill that can be relied upon without necessarily having to spend any perks in it.
A term that’ll be used frequently when talking about the individual skills is “crafting skills”… because it’s what turns your character into juggernaut of untouchable badassery. Given that it’s a concept that’ll be mentioned a bit, it’s best to just get it out of the way here, rathern than explain it repeatedly later on. The three “Crafting Skills” are Alchemy, Enchanting, and Smithing, and they all work together to make ridiculously powerful gear.
On their own, they’re useful enough - Smithing will let you make whatever arms and armor best suit you, Enchanting will allow you to enchant that gear, and Alchemy gives you the ability to brew potions and poisons to help you out, as needed. When they’re all combined, however, that’s when things get interesting. You can use Alchemy to create potions of Fortify Smithing and Fortify Enchanting, which allows you to create better arms and armor, and strong enchantments.
The latter part - stronger enchantments - will also enable you to make a set of apparel that improves your Alchemy and Smithing skills. See the feedback loop? Granted, it’s not unlimited, but you can make potions that allow you to make gear that allow you to make stronger potions that allow you to make stronger gear… and on and on until you create an extremely powerful set of “Crafting Clothes” with which you can create ultra powerful concoctions Fortify Smithing and Fortify Enchanting Potions. With these potions and clothes in hand, you can make the aforementioned arms and armor that will basically break the game and let you challenge whatever foes you wish, on whatever difficulty.
This character creation build is in large part dedicated to this end, and the crafting skill themselves affect many of the skills (especially spell skills). Speaking of which…
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 spell skill affects (aside from the usual perk requirements) is how much Magicka it’ll cost to cast spells of that spell school. Damage, area of effect, duration, etc., is locked by the particular spell you’re casting. Which is 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. Also note that you can’t begin Master-spell related quests until you have a score of 90 or higher in a spell skill.
How hard it is to level spells skills is directly related to your Magicka pool. If you’re following this guide’s advice, 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 have your crafting skill taken care of.
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, how, then do you go about achieving this without doing the tedious work of grinding it? 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 sure speed up the leveling of some skills. Just keep in mind some pointers about trainers:
- 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 skill trainer.
- Training cost money; the higher the level of the skill you're trying to increase, the more it'll cost.
Note: You can steal money paid to trainers back from them… but given the kinds of money involved, if you plan to do this you should attempt to steal the money back after every level you train. Even so, good luck getting back the thousands of gold higher level training costs.
- 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.
- Some Master-level trainers require you to complete a quest for them before they'll consent to train you.
- No trainer can increase any skill's Skill Level above 90.
Scattered throughout Skyrim you’ll find books of uncommon quality, which, once read, will impart the enlightment 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 basically expect to find one per dungeon you explore, that still ends up being a lot of work for a very 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.