Skyrim: Detailed Breakdown of the Elf, Human, and Outcast Races

Updated on March 17, 2018
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A "gamer" since way before the term was coined, I have been playing video games in one form or another since the 1980's.

Understanding the Differences Between the Various Races of Skyrim and Why it Matters

One of the best and sometimes most challenging aspects of playing the Elder Scrolls games is the selection of your main character, and Skyrim is no exception.

This article details the different skill sets and overall moral outlook of each of the various races in Skyrim.

Dark Elf
Dark Elf | Source

Skyrim Elf Races

The Elf races of Skyrim are known for their mental prowess in battle. Some of the oldest races in Skyrim, they are followed by folklore wherever they go.

The Dark Elf Race of Skyrim

Compilation of Skyrim  Dark Elf faces
Compilation of Skyrim Dark Elf faces | Source

The Dark Elf is great for stealth mages, as perks in Destruction, Illusion, and Sneak are the cornerstone skills for a character that throws fireballs while hidden in the shadows.

The racial power of Ancestor’s Wrath covers your body in a cloak of flames for 60 seconds for free once a day, a medium level spell that can save your butt when you get caught.

Resistance to fire is probably the most advantageous of the resistance abilities, as many enemies (and dragons) in the game use fire as main attacks.

Take the race of Dark Elf if you want to look cool, but you don’t really want anyone to see you.

Dark Elf Skills and Abilities

 
 
Skill Perks:
+10 Destruction, +5 Alteration, +5 Illusion, +5 Sneak, +5 Light Armor, +5 Alchemy
Spells:
Flames, Sparks, Healing
Power:
Ancestor’s Wrath
Permanent Ability:
50% Fire Resistance

Video of Skyrim Dark Elf Mage in Action

The High Elf Race of Skyrim

Compilation of Skyrim High Elf faces
Compilation of Skyrim High Elf faces | Source

The High Elf class is what any offensive mage needs to take. If you want to skip the sneaking around and rely on your powerful spells to take down your enemies, take this class before all others.

The natural +50 to Magicka that comes with the racial ability Highborn Magicka is a huge advantage early in the game, as well as later when you are required to have large amounts of Magicka for powerful Destruction and Conjuration spells.

The power of Highborn also adds 25% to your Magicka regeneration, which can make a huge difference in long battles when you find yourself drinking all your potions away.

This is the first race you should choose if you want to spit high powered fireballs or strong Daedra lords at your enemies.

High Elf Skills and Abilities

 
 
Skill Perks:
+10 Illusion, +5 Alteration, +5 Conjuration, +5 Destruction, +5 Restoration, +5 Enchanting
Spells:
Flames, Fury, Healing
Power:
Highborn
Permanent Ability:
Highborn Magicka

Video of Skyrim High Elf Mage in Action

The Wood Elf Race of Skyrim

Compilation of Skyrim Wood Elf faces
Compilation of Skyrim Wood Elf faces | Source

Different than the Dark Elf and the High Elf, the Wood Elf is more suited for thievery and sneaking.

Instead of relying heavily on magic, the Wood Elf uses archery and stealth to make deadly, long-range attacks your enemy only notices after it is too late.

The Command Animal power can be very good while wandering around the wilderness since wild animals are very large in numbers and can be used to your advantage.

The 50% Disease and Poison Resistance is a step up from the Redguard ability, and it can be useful when coming face-to-face with vampires and other plagued animals in your travels.

This is the number one race for stealth archers and those who want to take to the darker side of Skyrim through thievery.

Wood Elf Skills and Abilities

 
 
Skill Perks:
+10 Archery, +5 Sneak, +5 Lockpicking, +5 Pickpocket, +5 Alteration, +5 Light Armor, +5 Alchemy
Spells:
Flames, Healing
Power:
Command Animal
Permanent Ability:
50% Disease and Poison Resistance

Video of Skyrim Wood Elf Thief in Action

Which is your favorite Skyrim Elf race?

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Skyrim Human Races

The Human races in Skyrim are well known and diverse. While some races are proficient in magic, others are skilled in close-quarters combat.

The Breton Race of Skyrim

Compilation of Skyrim Breton Race faces
Compilation of Skyrim Breton Race faces | Source

Bretons are ideal for players who want to play mage-type characters but are not sure what subfields they would like to go into.

The Conjure Familiar spell can be very advantageous early in the game when you go up against enemies stronger than you.

Both the permanent abilities and powers of the race related to spell type defenses, give Bretons a foot up against other mages.

Use this class if you want to play a mage, especially if you want to start with conjuration early in your journey.

Breton Skills and Abilities

 
 
Skill Perks:
+10 Conjuration, +5 Alchemy, +5 Alteration, +5 Speech, +5 Restoration, +5 Illusion
Spells:
Flames, Healing, Conjure Familiar
Power:
Dragonskin
Permanent Ability:
25% Magic Resistance

Video of Female Skyrim Breton in Action

The Imperial Race of Skyrim

Compilation of Skyrim Imperial faces
Compilation of Skyrim Imperial faces | Source

Imperials are known for their ferocity and stamina in battle, so choose this class if you like to run into battle like a warlord hellbent on destruction.

Not only do you get a slight upgrade of gold in chests all over the game (Imperial Luck), you also have the ability to calm people nearby for 60 seconds once a day (Voice of the Emperor).

Use this class if you would like to be a hardy warrior with an emphasis in crowd control and healing spells.

Imperial Skills and Abilities

 
 
Skill Perks:
+10 Restoration, +5 Destruction, +5 Enchanting, +5 Block, +5 Heavy Armor, +5 One-Handed
Spells:
Flames, Healing
Power:
Voice of the Emperor
Permanent Ability:
Imperial Luck

Video of Skyrim Imperial in Action

The Nord Race of Skyrim

Compilation of Skyrim Nord faces
Compilation of Skyrim Nord faces | Source

Nords are the true tanks of the game. They are generally very sturdy and use heavy armor and heavy weapons to take down their opponents fiercely.

Battle Cry causes all foes to flee for 30 seconds, causing complete chaos while you chase down your prey or get ready for the next onslaught.

The 50% Frost Resistance can help against some mages, but be careful against other strong spells as your magic resistance is tied to your degree of leveling of Magicka.

Choose this race if you want to play your game as an aggressive warrior with no regard for others.

Nord Skills and Abilities

 
 
Skill Perks:
+10 Two-Handed, +5 One-Handed, +5 Block, +5 Smithing, +5 Speech, +5 Light Armor
Spells:
Flames, Healing
Power:
Battle Cry
Permanent Ability:
50% Frost Resistance

Video of Skyrim Nord Sword Mage in Action

The Redguard Race of Skyrim

Compilation of Skyrim Redguard faces
Compilation of Skyrim Redguard faces | Source

Redguards are probably the most well rounded of the races, getting perks in all three skill types. However, this can be a disadvantage for those looking to excel in one area.

The Permanent Ability of Poison Resistance can help in some cases, but often it is much less effective than other racial abilities.

Adrenaline Rush can be a great asset for long, stamina-draining battles or when running away quickly is the best option in serious encounters.

Use this class if you want a well-rounded character who will use stamina as his primary attack method.

Redguard Skills and Abilities
 
Skill Perks:
+10 One-Handed, +5 Archery, +5 Block, +5 Smithing, +5 Destruction, +5 Alteration
Spells:
Flames, Healing
Power:
Adrenaline Rush
Permanent Ability:
50% Poison Resistance

Video of Skyrim Redguard Swordmaster in Action

Which is your favorite Skyrim Human race?

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The Other Skyrim Races

While the races of Orc, Khajiit, and Argonian are generally known as outcasts in Skyrim, they have some of the most powerful abilities in the game.

The Argonian Race of Skyrim

Compilation of Skyrim Argonian Race faces
Compilation of Skyrim Argonian Race faces | Source

The reptile race of Argonian is the less offensive version of Wood Elf, lacking the initial skill perk in Archery that Wood Elves start with.

However, the Argonian has one very distinct additional ability: Underwater Breathing. This can be extremely useful in many cases both in dungeons and on the over map when you need to get to hard-to-reach places underwater.

While it is not a necessity to breathe underwater because of water breathing potions and few places to use them, Underwater Breathing can help at times when you decide to take the river as an escape route.

Argonians also have a 50% Disease Resistance, making it easier to fight vampires and creatures with diseases without contracting anything.

Argonians also have perks in Lockpicking, Pickpocket, and Sneak, giving you a head-start on thievery at the beginning of the game where money is so precious.

Argonians are slightly less effective offensively than the Wood Elf, but if you have a huge desire to swim around Skyrim instead of walking, pick this class.

Argonian Skills and Abilities

 
 
Skill Perks:
+10 Lockpicking, +5 Pickpocket, +5 Sneak, +5 Light Armor, +5 Alteration, +5 Restoration
Spells:
Flames, Healing
Power:
Histkin
Permanent Ability:
50% Disease Resistance, Underwater Breathing

Video of Skyrim Argonian Mage in Action

The Khajiit Race of Skyrim

Compilation of Skyrim Khajiit faces
Compilation of Skyrim Khajiit faces | Source

The Khajiit is a cat race that relies on stealth and thievery to make a living in Tamriel.

While this race is similar to the Wood Elf for stealth classes, they also possess the ability to use Night Eye to see in the dark and Claws, which ups damage in unarmed combat.

If you decide to drop the heavy weapons for your claws, be warned: there is no unarmed skill tree in this game, so you will not level up if you do use unarmed.

The Khajiit gets a huge bonus to Sneak and Archery to start, so if you want to walk on the wild side and be a cat, by all means.

Choose this class if you prefer to be a more offensive thief and like the idea of being a cat.

Khajiit Skills and Abilities

 
 
Skill Perks:
+10 Sneak, +5 Lockpicking, +5 Pickpocket, +5 Alchemy, +5 One-Handed, +5 Archery
Spells:
Flames, Healing
Power:
Night Eye
Permanent Ability:
Claws

Video of Skyrim Khajiit Assassin Mage in Action

The Orc Race of Skyrim

Compilation of Skyrim Orc faces
Compilation of Skyrim Orc faces | Source

Orcs are the barbarian class of Skyrim since they are proficient in Heavy Armor and have the Berserk ability, which grants a huge jump in damage reduction and melee combat.

What you get with the Orc race is the ability to take out huge groups of enemies or strong opponents with the free ability Berserk.

One extra perk of being an Orc is the access you have with the Orc towns around the map, something that you have to work for as any other clan.

If you want to take a race that has automatic access to the Orc villages in Skyrim and is also a strong berserker, take this class.

Orc Skills and Abilities

 
 
Skill Perks:
+10 Heavy Armor, +5 Smithing, +5 One-Handed, +5 Two-Handed, +5 Block, +5 Enchanting
Spells:
Flames, Healing
Power:
Berserk
Permanent Ability:
None

Video of Skyrim Orc Beserker in Action

Which is your favorite Skyrim "Outcast" race?

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Questions & Answers

    © 2016 Hal Gall

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