The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim beginner's guide

Leveling Up

It seems odd to have a section explaining how to level up, but the Elder Scrolls games have never been the most clear in this regard. The leveling system was always fairly obtuse and required a good bit of thought to avoid screwing yourself over near the middle or end of the game. To help draw in newer players Skyrim has fiddled with the finer points of this system, although it still works in a manner similar to older games and there are still plenty of finer points to learn.

Raising your skills in Skyrim requires that you either use the skill often or pay someone to train it up for you. Paying to raise your skills is a nice way to get a quick boost, but it’s both expensive and kind of a waste. Generally speaking, paying for skill raises should only be done if there’s a perk you’re aiming for or if you wish to gain some quick points in a skill that hasn’t been given a lot of attention previously. Improving your armor skill like this is a fairly good idea if you decide to swap what armor types or magic you’re using after the game has begun.

But most of your skill raising will come from simply using your skills repeatedly. As such it is important to repeatedly use the skills you want to train up. If you spend too much time using the ones you aren’t planning on sticking with then you will level up rapidly while your primary skills aren’t high enough to take the really good perks. In this game the new perk system is what really determines how good you are at something, not your (now absent) stats or skill levels.

The Guardian Stones are something that you will want to activate very quickly. There are three of these stones standing around in a semi-circle on the road to Riverwood from Helgen (check your map for the specific location, it’s marked by default). Each of the three stones is linked to the skills of a particular skill batch; warrior, mage and thief. When you have a stone activated all skills from that branch level up considerably faster as they’re used.

In the older Elder Scrolls games, a boon like this would actually turn out to be something of a burden due to the obtuse leveling up system. In this game though, they’re definitely something you will want to use. You may want to consider not actually assigning it to the skills that you spend most of your time using, instead assigning it to one you use a bit less. If you’re playing a fighter who uses magic occasionally then activating the mage stone will help your magic improve fast enough that it will stay effective throughout the game.


  • Bansheebot - November 10, 2011 6:28 p.m.

  • misfit119 - November 11, 2011 1:19 a.m.

    If we're being really picky it should be Nirn since Cyrodil is just a continent, not the world. But who nitpicks?
  • Person5 - November 11, 2011 2:49 a.m.

    Well Cyrodil is a country or region, Tamriel is the continent, I'm just glad I wasn't the only one who noticed that
  • deedob - November 11, 2011 4:34 a.m.

    Yeah, as those comments say, Cyrodil is not the "world". Cyrodil is the name of the imperial province. Morrowind is the name of the province ruled by the dark elves. Skyrim is the name of the province ruled by the nords, which is located just north of Cyrodil and west of Morrowind. "Tamriel" is the name of the continent where the provinces are located, one for each race (Skyrim - nord, Summerset Isle - high elves, Morrowind - dark elves, Cyrodil - imperials, Black Marsh - argonian, Elsweyr - Kahjit, and the Breton and orc province whose name i forgot and where Daggerfall is.) To the best of my knowledge, the name of the "world" itself has never been mentionned in any of the Elder Scrolls game (though i have not played Redguard, BattleSpire and the mobile version of Oblivion). But the continent is Tamriel.
  • misfit119 - November 11, 2011 8:55 a.m.

    As I mentioned above the world is Nirn. That's actually what it's supposed to say but I made a flub since I was looking at notes relating to Oblivion. The worlds name is mentioned in several books in previous games. I was trying to refer to the world since Alduin is known as "The World Eater" and just ended up typing Cyrodiil instead of Nirn.
  • GamesRadarMatthewKeast - November 11, 2011 12:37 p.m.

    All right you nerds we fixed it.
  • jax1293 - November 10, 2011 6:32 p.m.

    hes right though its tamriel cyrodill was where the imperials live in oblivion
  • theycallmegep - November 10, 2011 6:43 p.m.

    Just to let you know... "As is par for the course, the player gets to pick from a wide variety of races. However, this is more important than ever before as there are no classes, birth signs or even stats. You’re going to want to pick your class very carefully. " "...there are no classes..." "...pick your class very carefully." Just pointing it out, otherwise good stuff...I love all the skyrim content you guys have posted!
  • theycallmegep - November 10, 2011 7:16 p.m.

    wait i lied...there are tons of typos...oh well
  • misfit119 - November 11, 2011 1:17 a.m.

    Argh! Dammit all! Proofreading you fail me again. out back to commit seppuku.
  • codzprc - November 10, 2011 6:52 p.m.

    Daniel was obviously rushed on this article. The Cyrodill thing is still funny, though. Decent read.
  • D0CCON - November 10, 2011 7:04 p.m.

    I always make two characters in Elder Scrolls games, a sword and/or magic character and a stealthy character. In Oblivion, the sword/magic character was a High Elf and the stealthy character was a dark elf, so I think I'll go for a Breton battlemage and a Khajiit stealth character this time (especially since he'll be able to wear armor now!)
  • D0CCON - November 10, 2011 7:29 p.m.

    Actually, I'm not sure if I want Khajiit or Wood Elf (I was actually a wood elf, not a dark elf in Oblivion). I'd like to try something new, but Wood Elf did work pretty darn good.
  • misfit119 - November 11, 2011 1:23 a.m.

    The Wood Elves make FANTASTIC stealth characters. I'm playing one to do the guides since their bow skill makes dragon hunting much, much easier. The Khajiit are pretty awesome in this one but I think the Wood Elf is by and far the best for combat stealth.
  • jasoncarter - November 13, 2011 11:34 p.m.

    Honestly do whatever you feel is best. I like magic, and khajiits, thus khajiit mage/thief. Love it to death.
  • Ultimadrago - November 10, 2011 8:21 p.m.

    Thanks a TON Daniel! This is a good guide. I should help others a ton. I'm reading through it all myself despite Oblivion experience to get a heads-up on the improved systems and perks!
  • Kyo - November 10, 2011 8:30 p.m.

    Nice guide, though I find it hard to decide who I should believe in the end.. IGN's guide had this "Tough and hardy, they make great heavy warriors. Their famed battlecry makes them the toughest races" for Nords... You have them as one of the weakest and a light armor class.. what the hell? lol This ruined my entire plan O_O
  • misfit119 - November 11, 2011 1:21 a.m.

    Here's the thing, IGN's guide is using the old stats to describe some of the races. This is no longer a factor. Nords are no longer raging beasts full of HP due to having high Stamina. In this they're almost designed to be like Viking Berserker types, wearing light armor so they move quickly with a pair of axes and chop fools to pieces. My Nord is hell on wheels wielding two enchanted Orcish war axes and wearing a set of Scaled Light armor. Battlecry is overrated - all of the abilities are actually. The Shouts are infinitely stronger.
  • Kyo - November 11, 2011 10:33 a.m.

    Ha yea I ended up getting the guide because.. well it's beautiful(big damn book) and it pretty much backs up what this guide and you've said. Long story short I wanted heavy armor, made an orc. IGN is sad.
  • GamesRadarMatthewKeast - November 11, 2011 12:42 p.m.

    Most of the racial abilities are crap, but for instance I played as a High Elf pure mage and the magicka regen ability was huge during boss fights.

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