There are ten different playable races in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Each one possesses its own unique racial abilities and powers. Each race starts with +10 in one skill and +5 in five other skills. However, this doesn't mean that a race is restricted to a certain play-style, as it is possible to develop any skill over time. Unlike other The Elder Scrolls games, Skyrim does not feature classes, so in character creation, the race is the only major gameplay choice that the player must make.
Tamriel is the home of all the ten main races, each occupying a different portion of the continent. The playable races are:
- Altmer (High Elf) – Summerset Isles
- Argonian – Black Marsh
- Bosmer (Wood Elf) – Valenwood
- Breton – High Rock
- Dunmer (Dark Elf) – Morrowind
- Imperial – Cyrodiil
- Khajiit – Elsweyr
- Nord – Skyrim
- Orsimer (Orc) – High Rock and Orsinium
- Redguard – Hammerfell
Starting skills by race
The following table shows the starting skill statistics for each race. The higher the number (over the base level of 15) the better. Values of 20 indicate this is a favored skill of the race. Values of 25 indicate this is a primary skill of the race. Skills can be improved to a primary group.
Every race has their own unique skill which they excel at and will start at level 25 with that particular skill. For example, Bretons start at level 25 Conjuration as they are naturally skilled at it.
|Race/Skills||Altmer (High Elf)||Argonian||Bosmer (Wood Elf)||Breton||Dunmer (Dark Elf)||Imperial||Khajiit||Nord||Orsimer (Orc)||Redguard|
Starting spells by race
The following table holds all of the basic spells for each race.
Unique race powers
|Highborn||Regenerate 25% of the character's maximum magicka per second for 60 seconds.|
|Argonian||Histskin||Regenerate health 10 times faster for 60 seconds.|
|Command Animal||Make all surrounding animals your allies for 60 seconds.|
|Breton||Dragonskin||Absorb 50% of magicka from all incoming spells for 60 seconds.|
|Ancestor's Wrath||Surrounds the character in fire for 60 seconds.|
|Imperial||Voice of the Emperor||Nearby people are Calmed for 30 seconds.|
|Khajiit||Night Eye||Improved Night Vision for 60 seconds (can be toggled multiple times per day).|
|Nord||Battle Cry||Nearby enemies are Frightened for 30 seconds.|
|Berserker Rage||Take half damage and do double physical damage for 60 seconds.|
|Redguard||Adrenaline Rush||Regenerate stamina 10 times faster for 60 seconds.|
Unique racial effects
- Altmer: +50 Magicka
- Argonian: 50% Disease Resistance, Waterbreathing
- Bosmer: 50% Disease Resistance, 50% Poison Resistance
- Breton: 25% Magic Resistance
- Dunmer: 50% Fire Resistance
- Imperial: Find more gold than usual
- Khajiit: +15 Base Unarmed Damage
- Nord: 50% Frost Resistance
- Orsimer: None
- Redguard: 50% Poison Resistance
Stats affected by character size
Without console command modification, the damage output, damage resistance, jump height, run speed, weapon reach, etc., for all races remains at a scale of 1.00, with the race specific scales being purely cosmetic only. Race specific scales can be found in the brackets when the
getscale command is used on the player or a non-playable character. This means that all stats for all races are identical, without console command modification of the saved game profile.
Using the console command
player.setscale to change the height of the character will increase the size of a character in addition to increasing their movement speed, jump height, and damage output. Because changing the player scale in the console increases and decreases melee damage accordingly, there is a misconception that taller races do more base melee damage. Without console modification, however, the default scale of all races in the console is 1.00, regardless of physical height. Therefore, all races do the same melee damage at the time of character creation. For further explanation, see the screenshot displaying the actual player scale (1.00) used in calculations and the base scale. The base scale is a purely, completely cosmetic scale in which the character's height is adjusted accordingly. Orcs and High Elves have the highest cosmetic heights in the game, in term of playable races; Orcs have a cosmetic scale of 1.045, while High Elves stand at 1.08. Dremora are even taller at 1.10, however they are not playable. This means that an Orc has a cosmetic scale of 1.045, a High Elf has a cosmetic scale of 1.08, and a Dremora has a cosmetic scale of 1.10, but all use a scale of 1.00 for every single calculation including Damage Output, Damage Resistance, Run Speed, and Jump Height.
Changes from previous games
Character creation has been dramatically changed in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Previous games had the player choose from a list of classes that would determine the starting skills for the player's character and in some cases, how the player's character would level. The player also had the option of creating a custom class, selecting each skill individually. This system had a very large impact on player effectiveness in the beginning of the game, though Oblivion's system was able to lessen that impact. A player could spend hours working out the most effective way to build a character.
In Skyrim, however, that system has been removed, meaning that though the player will still select a race, the player no longer has to select a class. Skill set specialization is still possible in Skyrim, but instead of permanently selecting this during character creation, this is now done using the skill perks earned by leveling up (both skills and player level, as perks are earned by overall level while skill level is required to select any but the most basic perks). The birthsign system has been replaced completely with Standing Stones, which can be changed at any time by visiting and activating a new stone.
The Luck attribute has also been removed and is therefore impossible to increase. Skills have been further reduced from a total of 21 to 18. There are no acrobatics/athletics or speed attributes so it is not possible to increase your jump height or your character's running speed through stats.
If a player maxes out all skills the character will reach level 81, meaning there are 80 (no perk can be chosen at level 1) possible perk points to choose from, out of over 250 possible places to spend them. Previously this was the effective level cap for the player character, however this changed with Patch 1.9 and the introduction of Legendary Skills. Legendary skills allow the player to refund all the perk points from a single maxed out skill and set its level back to 15 (the game's starting point). Skills can be made legendary multiple times, allowing the player to level their character indefinitely.
A typical player will not max out all skills to 100, and will instead reach only around level 50 or so. A character designed around 30 perk points is a reasonable build that can be reached in-game fairly quickly and is a great starting point for those who want to design the character before playing.
The Snow Elves are a race of Mer that cannot be chosen during character creation. During the events of The Elder Scrolls V: Dawnguard, two living Snow Elves are encountered, Knight-Paladin Gelebor and his brother Arch-Curate Vyrthur. They are, physically, very similar to High Elves, except for their white skin and hair.
In Skyrim, one of the races is called Elder. It cannot be chosen during character creation. It is solely composed of human characters that appear much older than most people. Arngeir, Esbern and Septimus Signus are some of the people who are part of the Elder race.