The best Skyrim builds depend largely on how you want to play the game.
Each race has several unique abilities, and it’s a bit overwhelming to step into the first time and choose the best race for the character you want to create. If you’re just getting started or what a solid base to experiment with, though, these are some of the top picks to get you going.
- Skills: Destruction, Enchantment, Conjuration
- Equipment: Anything fortified or that boosts Magicka. Mages are flexible
Altmer have a natural boost in Magicka, so there’s no point wasting that potential by choosing another build. Destruction covers your offensive bases, while Enchantment and Conjuration make your Altmer mage much more versatile.
- Weapon: Nightingale Blade
- Skills: Lockpicking, Light Armor, Sneak
Argonians get +10 in Lockpicking, which makes them a good race for thieving builds. Light Armor lets you draw greater protection from, well… light armor, but Sneak is probably the most important. A high Sneak level is essential for pulling off your other thieving activities.
- Weapon: Zephyr
- Skills: Archery, Light Armor, Sneak
Bosmer are practically built for the ranger class, since they get a +10 archery bonus right out of the gate. Rangers can wield daggers as well, but you might as well take advantage of the race boost and use bows. Zephyr fires at a faster rate than others, so it’s a solid choice for dealing high damage. Just don’t invest in Block, since bow-wielders can’t use it.
- Weapon: Varies
- Skills: Conjuration, Heavy Armor, Alteration
Bretons are naturally resistant to magic attacks and have a slight edge with conjuration magic. You can technically make them a mage as well, but heavy armor makes this build a bit more flexible. You could use a two-handed weapon and turn it into a tank necromancer, or use a one handed with a spell in the other hand.
- Weapon: Any one-handed will do
- Skills: Destruction magic, one-handed, Light Armor
Dunmers are also resistant to magic, but they get a slight boost in fire and Destruction spells. Spellsword is a common and reliable build for this group, giving it a “best of both worlds” approach. There’s no best weapon for this build, though you can’t go wrong with one of the Daedric or Dragonbone swords.
- Weapon: Two-handed
- Skills: Restoration, Heavy Armor
Imperials are an outlier group since they don’t have a particularly useful skill outside healing. Most players opt for a Paladin-type build, prioritizing heavy armor for defense and two-handed weapons for greater damage. Restoration and its healing spells make for a natural complement.
- Weapon: Unarmed (obviously)
- Skills: Heavy Armor
Khajiit get a big bonus in unarmed combat, so it’s worth just using paws and claws the whole time. Heavy Armor works for defense, obviously, but there’s another skill further in its tree that gives an even bigger boost in unarmed combat.
- Weapon: Battleaxe
- Skills: Light Armor, Two-Handed
Nords have a combat boost with two-handed weapons, and battleaxes are among Skyrim’s strongest weapons. Light Armor helps keep your Nord mobile, though if you want a tankier build, you can opt for Heavy Armor and stand your ground.
- Weapon: Dual-wield daggers
- Skills: Light Armor, Sneak
Orcs have heavy armor bonuses, but they also have the unique Berserker Rage ability that lets them deal more damage and take less for a set time in combat. Turning them into sneaky assassins is a solid way of getting the most from this ability since it gives you greater control over when fights start.
- Weapon: One-handed
- Skills: Destruction, Light Armor, Block
Redguards are an all-around class, with bonuses in one-handed weapons and Destruction magic. There are several options for a successful Redguard build, but a good starter approach is using a one-handed sword and magic dual-wield setup. Add a good shield for Block, and you’ve got a solid fighter for almost any situation.
For more help with Bethesda's most famous RPG, check out our full Skyrim guide.