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"The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim": Three Simple Character Builds

Vaguesan is an English teacher who loves to play the "Elder Scrolls" series and share his strategies with others.

Follow this guide for some great character builds to start your adventure right.

Follow this guide for some great character builds to start your adventure right.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Overview

Launched on Nov 11th, 2011, The Elders Scrolls V: Skyrim was the long-awaited follow-up to Oblivion, and possibly the most exciting installment to date of the legendary Elder Scrolls series.

Skyrim, in a nutshell, is an open-world RPG set in a rich fantasy world on the continent of Tamriel. The player assumes the role of a prisoner who is on their way to be executed. When a dragon attacks, the commotion allows him or her to escape. It is up to the player character, who is as it turns out the last Dragonborn (a powerful warrior anointed by the gods), to hunt down and destroy the returning dragons.

Beyond the main questline, players can enjoy numerous side quests, dungeons, loot, and fully realized cities and wilderness as well as the thrill of hunting down dragons to learn dragon shouts which will allow the player to slow time, teleport and even breath fire. All told the game has hundreds of hours of gameplay and almost endless replayability, without even considering the mods and DLCs.

Character Development Star Map

Character Development Star Map

Skyrim's Character Development System

The skill, stat, and leveling system of all prior Elder Scrolls games have been largely untouched. However, this time around, Bethesda has decided to take it a new direction. Gone are the days of the bizarre and atmosphere-breaking leveling system found in Oblivion, where players would often avoid leveling their main skills in order to keep monsters from leveling up with the player. Instead, Skyrim features a more intuitive leveling of both the player character and the monsters and NPCs found in the world.

One major simplification of the system is that all the core stats of the main character have been condensed down to three from the eight stat categories found in Oblivion and previous Elder Scrolls games. The three main stats governing your character will be health, stamina, and Magicka.

Characters will also be able to specialize more by selecting perks represented in the world by various star signs. These perks function similarly to those found in Fallout games which allow players to make a wide variety of characters by selecting different perks. This too simplifies leveling while adding a lot more depth to character development and allowing for a huge variety of character builds. A player who wishes to play an archetypal warrior may want to select skills that give his weapons more devastating attacks as well as increasing his ability to block during combat, while a mage-like character might want to invest in perks that give greater Magicka and offensive power. Thieves or Assassins might go for traits that improve their bow and sneak skills and become more of a Sniper.

The skills too have been cut down to just 18. Some of the magical skills found in Oblivion and Morrowind will be lumped together into similar schools to cut down on confusion.

Gone too is the ugly and atmosphere-breaking character information scroll. Instead, as depicted from these screen capture above, the player will look to the stars to determine his or her character's path to power.

A Word on Character Development and Builds

As mentioned above, Bethesda has scrapped the class system from previous Elder Scrolls games. This makes a specific build guide for characters very difficult. The leveling system was specifically designed to allow more fluid, natural play. Accordingly, my character builds are also designed to be taken as a rough outlines of possible routes the player can take as they level. They are also intended to provide some role-playing flavor.

1. The Artificer (Warrior, Treasure Hunter, and Smith)

  • Race: Breton (Great armor skill plus 25% to magic)
  • Standing Stone: The Steed (for hauling all of your artifacts around), The warrior (for leveling), The Atronach

This character is built around the fleshed out and fun smithing and item enchanting skill trees in Skyrim. The Artificer is always on the lookout for Ancient artifacts, unique crafting materials, and strange magics to supercharge his or her armor and weapons. This class focuses mainly on melee combat, with a little bit of alteration, restoration, and conjuration thrown in as utility skills.

Through magic and expert craftsmanship, the Artificer becomes an unstoppable dragon tanking warrior.


  • Magicka: This stat can be largely skipped. If you want to cast more spells, select this stat every now and then in order to cast more Magicka intensive spells. Alternatively, you can rely on your enchanting skill to add more Magicka to your armor.
  • Health: This should be leveled the most as an upfront melee character.
  • Stamina: It's almost as important as health. You'll need a lot for long, drawn-out battles and sprinting.


  • Smithing: Unlock the right-hand side all the way up to dragon armor. You will be able to make any of the heavy armor or weapons in the game. While dragon armor is at the top of the tree, it is actually not the best. Daedric armor has the highest defense but Dragon armor materials are far easier to come by.
  • Heavy Armor: Juggernaut (5). Other points are up to you. Fists of steel and Cushioned are almost useless but must be picked as prerequisites for Conditioning (Heavy armor becomes weightless and does not slow you down). Tower of Strength (negates staggering) and Reflect Blows are worth getting and the prerequisites are quite good as well.
  • One-Handed: Armsman (5). Try to get all of the central perks with Paralyzing strike being your final perk. Extra points can go into a weapon style of your choice. I chose swords.
  • Block: Shield Wall (5). Deflect Arrows and Elemental Protection (reduces elemental damage by 50% while blocking. The bashing side of the tree may be worthwhile if you want to vary your combat abilities more.
  • Enchanting: Enchanter (5). All other perks on the left and middle of this tree should be gotten in order to unlock Extra Effect (2 enchantments on a single item). Soul Squeezer and Soul Siphon can be skipped.

2. The Swordmaster (Light Melee Assassin and Skirmisher)

  • Race: Argonian, Khajiit, Nord
  • Standing Stone: Thief, The Lady, The Lord

A Swordmaster excels at dual-wielding swords in such a way that his attacks become a blur. He or she relies on speed to close with enemies and dispatch them with a flurry of blows. The Swordmaster uses light armor to remain mobile and augments his or her lack of blocking and defense with Alchemy, Restoration, and Alteration skills.


  • Magicka: Avoid leveling this. Get enough so that you can cast a few healing and alteration spells to help with survival. A good amount to shoot for would be 200~250.
  • Health: As always, this is one of the most important stats in-game. Make sure to get this pumped up high early on. I recommend that the first five levels of health should be selected. After that alternate between health and stamina. Try to get gear that further ups this stat.
  • Stamina: This is very important for extended fights. You'll want a high amount so that you can continue spamming your dual wield power attack. The attack itself has some of the best DPS in the game, but consumes a huge amount of stamina. Alchemy and your stealth skills can help deal with stamina problems. Drink a stamina potion or two, or initiate attacks by backstabbing dangerous enemies in order to hurry encounters along.


  • One-Handed: With this tree, be sure to go up the right side of the perk tree. You want to grab all of the dual-wielding perks. Be sure to also grab the sword specialty perk that gives you a 10% increase per point to sword criticals. Some of the central perks of the one-handed tree are worth getting as well. Especially the sprinting critical perk, as well as the highest requirement perk which stuns enemies.
  • Light Armor: Attempt to get all of the perks in this tree. Light armor is a good option because speed and mobility are much more important than raw defensive power. Heavy armor will slow you down without a heavy investment in perks.
  • Alteration: Because light armor offers less defense, alteration spells that block damage are essential. Early on you can focus on other areas, but mid-game, you should invest points here.
  • Restoration: Every character ends up using restoration, but some of the perks in this tree can prove to be very helpful. Consider getting the perks that heal stamina and health at the same time as well as perks that increase the effectiveness of healing spells. You won't need to make much of an investment here to reap the rewards.
  • Sneak: Sneak perks can really up your effectiveness. All characters make use of sneak, but investing points will yield huge damage multipliers (up to 15x with daggers, and even 30x after completing a certain questline).

Add other skill trees to taste. Alchemy is always helpful. Without block, this character tends to take a beating, so having extra health pots and potions to speed up combat really help.

3. The Pugilist (Unarmed Combat Specialist)

  • Races: All, but the best choice is Kahjiit for their racial bonus to unarmed combat
  • Standing Stones: Warrior, Lord, Lady

The Pugilist is probably one of the more interesting characters that can be played in Skyrim. Using their fists rather than weapons, the Pugilist never backs down from a good barroom brawl. When adventuring, the Pugilist loves to get up close and personal with his or her foes. A mailed fist is just as good as a mace after all, right?

Pugilists come in two varieties. The Shielded Pugilist and The Pure Pugilist.


  • Magicka: This is not important, although leveling it up every now and then may be nice if you would like to augment your defense or offense with spells.
  • Health: Again, as many level-ups as you can afford should go here.
  • Stamina: After getting a decent amount of health, consider leveling this up to at least 200-ish by the time you're in your 20s. Stamina is very important for using your shield to block, bash and knock over enemies, as well as using your fists for prolonged periods of power attacks.


  • Heavy Armor: By far, this is the most important perk for the Pugilist. Why? Well, putting aside the need for some serious defense, the heavy armor tree has a perk on the left branch that converts the defense value of your gloves into bonus unarmed damage. For most characters, this perk is wasted. But for the Pugilist, it's invaluable.
  • Block: Block is really helpful throughout the game, and becomes very powerful later on. Almost all of the blocking perks have uses, both defensive and offensive. Getting all of the perks in this tree will increase your resistance to all damage in the game, including elemental when your shield is raised. Also blocking allows you to bash opponents. Perks spent on power increases the damage that your shield dishes out. High-level investment in this tree nets you the ability to run and sprint with your shield up, disarm opponents, and even knock them off their feet. Every point is worthwhile unless you are playing the Pure Pugilist, in which case, skip this.

What Are Your Build Ideas?

I'm still playing the game myself and becoming more familiar with the gameplay mechanics. There is always something new to learn, so keep a lookout for more character builds. Check out some character development resources below, and leave some of your own build ideas in the comments section!

Character Development Resources


fgsdfhsd on June 04, 2014:


Ninjaflame on May 10, 2013:

Level 11 and can drop a dragon in 10 seconds.

Alagoria on August 16, 2012:

This is hard to play, but KICKS A** LATER!


Race: Orc-best because of his beserk, and his two handed is awesome, too.

Light Armor: Seems strange for a melee character, non-stealth, but it makes him faster, since barbarians are blitz troops. Get all of the perks from this tree; you'll need them.

Two-Handed: Used because barbarians are meant to dish a ton of damage in a small amount of time. Get the Champions Stance as soon as possible, because again, you need to deal massive damage, and that means power attacks. My advice is to focus on one weapon and forsake all others. You also definitely need the Critical Charge perk for mowing through your opponents. Also, make sure to get all the ranks in the appropriately titled Barbarian perk at the bottom.

Block:can be usefull in unavoidably long melees, but try to avoid it, since barbarians are not meant to fight for a long time; they are meant to kill the enemy and move to the next one. at least get all ranks in sheild wall.

Alteration:Can supliment your armor, but only increase if you will use it, otherwise it can take away from your major skills.

Smithing- Cover the entire left side, so you can make legendary armor. Trust me, you need all the defense you can get.

Stats- I used a 1 Health to 2 Fatigue scheme, so that I could use a lot of power attacks and still take a decent amount of damage.

Shouts- use Unrelenting force to recover and open up shots. Use fire breath to deal even more damage, and try to get Slow Time, since it helps you find even more openings and avoid most attacks. I would also suggest getting Become Ethereal as a cusion to fall back on in case you get your ass handed to you and you need to recover. Finlly, get Whirlwind Sprint and Elemental Fury, since the former lets you close the distance and Elemental Fury lets you deal even more damage in an even shorter time span.

Notes: Enhanting an also help you out; fous on either Health, Fatigue, or a little bit of Both, since you still need to use power attacks with alarming frequency and you still need to be able totake damage.

Oh, and a little note on the subject of your Pugilist character build. Get the Gloves of the Pugilist from the Ratway in Riften (be carefull, there are a lot of badass people down there, in case you didn't know already), disenchant them, get your enhanting up to a high number, and then put the Hand-To-Hand enchantment on EVERY PIECE OF ARMOR AND CLOTHING YOU OWN!!! And also improve all of your armor to its highest. And use grand/black souls for everything you ever enchant .That way, your hands will be almost as destructive as a full-power, legendary-quality Daedric Warhammer, if not MORE!

Vampire necrosas! on May 17, 2012:

My favorite build with 50 perks spent!

You use archery only from stealth one arrow per target tops!

If at all possible go in for a dagger kill and if there are 2 or more foes use some necromancy (still deciding wether to put perks in there) like kill one foe then bring him back to fight for you!

If ya go in for a dagger kill and ya get detected just calm them and try again!

Dont go full smithing cause it just takes the fun out of the game, just use it to upgrade yer quested items and make those OP! create yer own light armor and enchant them and since stuff works better on undead and enchanting is counted as a spell......there ya have it vampirism!

Zhemiro on May 14, 2012:

I'm going at the moment for a magic shadow swordmaster with light armor, one handers, archery and some sneak. I'm considering to take in magic routes almost everything in illusion, conjuration for undead and astronachs.

At the moment I'm thinking wheter I need enchanting, smithing and alchemy. Knowing of the bug, that you can do ultra-high stats armour and weapons with those, I fear to spoil the game process.

At the moment I have it like that:

15 x One Handed

10 x Light Armor

3 x Sneak

11 x Illusion

8 x Conjuration

13 x Archery (don't know if I need so much of that I use bow not really much)

If to take alchemy\smithing\enchanting, I consider taking 8\3 (for elven and magical smithing)

Here it is:

Any comments are welcommed

Gus on March 18, 2012:

Made an assassin and got tired of one hitter quitters on everyone so made a


Main trees





Hvy armor



Starting put points in destro for ranged but no need really

At 44 starting to put points in

Zareni Windblade on February 26, 2012:

Race: Imperial

Main trees: Destruction, Heavy Armor, One handed

Important Secondary: Enchanting

bartonboi248 on February 12, 2012:

again anothyer build.


race: wood elf (for command animal)

rangers are friends of the wild, they kill hunters who destroy the wild and avoid killing animals unnecesarily, only killing them in self defence. they are normally masters of stealth, archery and tracking (i wish there was a skill called tracking where you could track animals, but unfortunatly tracking would merely be for roleplay)

perks: light armour- most of them -they are all useful as rangers need to be fast

one handed- armsman(3)-whilst being masters of the bow, they need to be able to defend themselves, my ranger has a dwarven sword for close combat defence.

stealth- anything that prevents detection- a true ranger will rain down on an army and kill them all before even being noticed

and of course -archery - all perks- obviously archery is the way to go (although if you want you can be a ranger who is a blades man, as long as your a wood elf you can be a ranger)rain down arrows on foes, kill the majority of a charging army before they even draw blood!

bartonboi248 on February 12, 2012:

i got a build. the supporter.

race Breton (amazing conjuration skills and alright restoration)

standing stones apprentice. (double magic is helpful

desc: get a friend and an atronach and stay out of the fight. your aim is to use restoration to heal your allies and frost atronachs make for good tanks!

perks: conjuration: anything to do with atronachs/necromancy

restoration: anything to improve the usefulness of your healing spells

alteration: mages armour, you need to stay aliveso that your companions can survive. wear mages robs and use the strongest magical armour spell that you can get.

is all i can think of for a support character, email me if you think of any more. when i have the ultimate idea of a support character i will make one.


ecosimon on January 28, 2012:

Great and informative lens on Skyrim character builds. I'm currently 40 hours into playing as a Nord with Dragon Scale armor and a self enchanted Sword Of Doom, which drains the health and stamina from my foes quickly.

Joe on January 25, 2012:

Level 40 Imperial who sneaks around in heavy armor and snipes when possible and sword and shield when up close, also like to throw some fire and conjure atronachs every once in a while you can get the perk in sneak tree that makes armor silent and lvl 70 perk in heavy armor that make heavy wiegh nothing and doesn't slow you down i play on normal and some things are a challenge which i like, i dont wanna be able to kill stuff in one hit i like a drawn out 1v1 battle where ill block hit block hit hit block hit etc. next character will be a more specialized character but not sure what yet, im thinkin mainly caster with dual daggers as a plan b

Raziel on January 03, 2012:

Build how you enjoy and what works for you!

I've made a Mage Assassin (Didn't see you or anyone else even mentioning it),84854w,m73im8,o,0,0,hwqo,0

I've made a Mage with 2H and No armor,84854w,m73im8,5b194,acbnk,0,0,0

Pure caster:,-iidn28,mdty2k,o,0,0,0,0

I've made a battle mage (1H + destro + Alteration / (light/heavy) armor)

I've made a necromancer (Conjur + Alteration +...)

The point is that with the release of skyrim TES has literally removed all and any barrier into forcing you to pick something based on your perks or pick perks based on your armor / weapon choice...

If you can make it work, then it's fine!

On average each character can and should pick 3 main perk trees (2 of them being main and 3rd support) after which there can be a 4th and 5th perk trees!

So stop posting what SHOULD be and play the game! :)

ArgonionDragonRapist on December 17, 2011:

Funnest class I've made, I did a high elf mage but he raped too hard, no fun. You will have a challenging but rewarding playthrough this way if you plan the right way.

class doesn't matter, but choose a class that doesn't have any magic resistance deficiency.

As you lvl, health and stamina 3:1 ratio. Do Varmina's quest early on, +50 stamina ring and increase health regen from eating corpses. Helps a lot with dual weilding. Also recommend theives guild questline first as it gives you a bump in needed skills.

Sneak, began walking around all dungeons in sneak immediately, sneak kill whenever you can. Get 15x dagger kill perk, rest wherever you like.

Dual Wield, I prefer I battle axe and dagger for moderate speed, just do whatever you like. Only put points into maxing damage, less stamina for power attacking, increase dual power speed, and increase dual power dmg.

Archery: Increase dmg perks and zoom. This is only used for stealth, not your main offense.

Smithing: Begin leveling AS SOON AS YOU REACH RIVERWOOD. buy iron ingots and leather strips, leather whenever you can. You can hit 100 very quickly by creating iron daggers and enchating with a leach health enchantment, selling, traveling from town to town and buying more equipment.

Enchanting: Begin leveling AS SOON AS YOU CAN. to keep soul gems filled, either enchant a bow with Animus enchantment or a dagger for when you stealth kill. mace of molag ball is nice and works well too. Enchant rings with fortify sneak to make tons of cash.

Alchemy: Pain in the ass to level. I just hit 50, potions of invisibilty and fortify skill seem to work the best.

These skills are really all you need to seriously make a great character. You will have a tough time early on. If you build your character correctly, the game gets tremendously easy around level 20-25, as you can wear full dragonscale and daedric weapons. I would hold off on enchanting any flawless items you've made until you have the best enchantments you've found and you can duel enchant them ( lvl 35-40) This character is about feeling rewarded as you lvl each skill with a plan, instead of running around smashing things.

bauss on December 10, 2011:

I have lv43 argonian weapons are bows use em about 85% of the time, battleaxe, and a little bit of sword n shield. im wearing full dragonscale except for the helm i have krosis's mask one of the dragon sages or something like that. skills archery, sneak, smithing all in 100 light armor in about 70something i forgot,

Jpeezy on December 09, 2011:

Don't rule out archery as a main form of attack. I have a lvl 33 khajiit that only uses bows and I can drop a dragon with about 8 iron arrows (on normal) with the Marked for Death shout. Blacksmithing is cool and can be very profitable not to mention the dragonscale armor (light) looks pretty sick

Mayhem on December 04, 2011:

Nord, Heavy armor, One-handed weapons, Smithing, Alchemy.

I use dual War Axes for the Bleed Dot. 2shot just a bout anything including dragons on normal difficulty. 3-5 shots on Hard. The lack of ranged attack capability is annoying but if you can manage to get the dragons to land they'll never fly again ;) oh and run about a 2:1 ratio focusing on stamina and health. dual power attacks is where it's at so you need the juice(the increased weight limit is also a nice perk.)

anon on November 29, 2011:

actually it is called planet nirn

Tj on November 21, 2011:

Actually RPG nerd, Nirn is the world in which tamruel is a continent, skyrim was the first area settled by men on tamriel when they came over from another continent called atmora, cyrodill is another area usually called provinces, then u have eleswhere (spellings wrong I know), morrowind, somerset isle, high rock, hammerfell, valenwood and black marsh, most are on the mainland of tamriel with morrowind being a volcanic island and somerset another generic island, the other area (not sure if island or continent) is akavir, the dragon land where the snake people are from (and we think dragons as well) and also where the original Akiviri dragonguard are from (they later become the blades)

sky on November 21, 2011:

I think a good class for stealth would include sneak, light armor, smithing, alchemy, one-handed, archery, enchanting, and illusion. you could get your dual daggers and bow to do some insane damage if you use smithing potions to improve their quality. add some magic damage to them to do extra damage, and some poisons to seal the deal. idk what to mix for poisons but i'm thinking nirnroot and crimson nirnroot.

vaguesan (author) from Osaka, Japan on November 21, 2011:

It seems bosmer snipers and assassins are the bees knees. I'll make sure to add them to the list next.

videogameviking from California on November 21, 2011:

Great article and links!

whisky doctor on November 20, 2011:

hello :D

i choose a wood elf too, archer as main weapon, and dual daggers as secondary, light armor and smithing, and of course full sneak perk tree, the damage that the double attack of daggers can do while sneakin its absurd xD i can 1-hit dragons when they are sleepin in their nests, or whatever those are, if not, a lvl 3 mark of death shout and 3 or 4 arrows and they are done, even ancients dragons, im playing in normal btw.

Roland on November 14, 2011:

I have a wood elf level 6 after completing my first quest, golden horn. first perk each in light armor and one handed, 3 in sneak, less sound, better sneak, and back stab, my only spell so far is heal. I am dual wielding imperial sword and steel dagger both fine.

Josh on November 13, 2011:

I am currently playing an orc main skills are 2 handed heavy armor smithing and restoration for the healing powers, more like a berserker paladin. It is very strong using warhammers I can one hit just about everything I've ran into so far

Co Cor on November 13, 2011:

@RPG_NErd: The person who wrote the article is correct. Tamriel is a continent in which skyrim is the nothern-most part of.

Fear_City on November 11, 2011:

I'm using one handed, sneak, archery & destruction for lightning.

cpanda on November 10, 2011:

Hand to Hand is no longer a skill. You can still punch people but it won't level anything up. You can take a perk in the Heavy Armor tree that you're gauntlets effect the amount of damage you're hand to hand attacks cause though.

Batterang on November 10, 2011:

What hand to hand lvl up? Anyone know?

cpanda on November 10, 2011:

I'm gonna make a mage assassin. A focus on Alteration Illusion and Restoration magics mixed with the Sneak tree. Throw in Enchanting and a little bit of Smithing and One Handed I think that well be awesome.

RPG_NErd on November 08, 2011:

"Skyrim in a nutshell, is an open world RPG set in rich fantasy world of Cyrodiil on the continent of Tamriel. "

Skyrim, in fact, takes place in the fantasy world of Skyrim. Oblivion took place in Cyrodiil.

Hyped up on RPGs on October 31, 2011:

Sweet. Quick question though: could I specialize in say shield / sword and frost skill?

What is the sweet spot number of skill trees to focus on?

I suppose there is the danger of being a jack of all trades, master of none, but thought I'd ask you Elder Scroll pros.

Tullyman on October 31, 2011:

Great article. Only 10 days to go guys. Get ready to bring the pain

Malds Menzon from Manila, Philippines on October 30, 2011:

Yes, this needs to come out now lol. I need to start buying upgrades for my PC so that I can play this at full settings.

Can I just mention that I LOVE dragons and the whole lore behind them in this game will be so interesting.

gamesinlove from Las Vegas, NV on October 30, 2011:

Sooo anxious to get my hands on this game! It seems so lovely.

Awesome article. Made me even more excited!

CZCZCZ from Oregon on October 22, 2011:

I am looking forward to this installment of the Elder Scroll series, Skyrim should be an excellent game with hundreds of hours of game play between the main quest and sub plots as well as the mods that are sure to come. Looking forward to the 11th.

vaguesan (author) from Osaka, Japan on August 01, 2011:

Spartan, Maybe there will be a lock-picking shout! Just have to defeat the legendary lock-picking dragon. lol

I think my first build will be some sort of heavily armored spell caster. Slow and bad at weaponry and sneaking, but hard to kill especially when he starts throwing fireballs left and right.

Christopher Rago from Riverside, NJ on August 01, 2011:

Awesome hub. Skyrim will be an instant classic. I personally wish I could import my character from Oblivion, but starting fresh is something I also want to do. A character that can lock pick, deal a some very magical/powerful "shouts", and can bring the pain as well is a character I will be shooting for in Skyrim. So basically I need a really tough, shouting, lock picker lol. Up and Awesome btw.