It’s difficult to say what the best Skyrim perks are because all of them correspond to different playstyles. For example, if your weapon of choice is elemental magic, then you likely don’t need to spend valuable skill points on the best Archery perk. However, there are some perks in the Elder Scrolls Skyrim that are leagues ahead of the rest - perks that every aspiring Dragonborn should have in their back pocket. Most of them are quite inconspicuous; it’s easy to pump skill points into damage buffs and fancy flourishes, but what about barrel rolls that enable you to sneak past Draugr Deathlords undetected, or investing capabilities that could make you the entrepreneurial champion of Tamriel? Here’s a list of the best perks in Skyrim for any situation.
Master Trader can be found at the very top of the Speech skill tree. You’ll need 100 Speech to unlock it, but Speech is a skill that increases naturally as you progress through the game anyway.
Master Trader is the next skill you’ll unlock after getting the Fence ability, which allows you to treat every merchant in Skyrim as a purveyor of stolen goods. A previous skill in the Speech tree called Investor gives you the option to invest 500 gold in a merchant’s business, which permanently increases the amount of coin they keep on hand. Obviously this allows you to sell more items to them, which makes your underground dungeon odysseys a lot more lucrative in the long run.
However, Master Trader automatically gives every single merchant in the entire game an extra 1,000 gold - permanently. Because they’re also fences and potentially a person you invested in already, you’ll be able to flog all your valuables to them. If you’ve had your eye on Lakeview Manor on the outskirts of Falkreath for a while, getting Master Trader is the best way to get rich quick. Also, it’s great for the economy.
Extra Pockets is a perk found in the Pickpocket skill tree. Luckily, you only need 50 Pickpocket to unlock it. Because you can increase your Pickpocket ability by wearing enchanted gear - Thieves’ Guild Armor, perhaps, or a Ring of Major Deft Hands - you can successfully rob unsuspecting citizens pretty easily, even when your Pickpocket skill is low. Also, the first 30 levels or so are a breeze to get through, as you’ll get enough experience to level up almost every time you rob somebody’s favourite ring. Just hang around the rick folk in Solitude, steal a few rubies and garnets, and you’ll have reached level 50 before you know it.
Extra Pockets increases your carry weight by 100 points, which is massively important if you’re planning on pulling off some worthwhile dungeon hauls. What’s the point in plundering the depths of the most dangerous places in the continent if you’re over-encumbered before you’ve even collected 50k in items? The Steed Stone also gives you an extra 100 points, so combining the two before hitting Labyrinthian for the most ambitious heist in the history of Skyrim can really allow you to maximize your yield. There’s nothing worse than having to drop an item just because another one’s worth an extra 100 coins. With Extra Pockets, you can just leave the dungeon with both!
To unlock Unbreakable, you’ll need 100 Lockpicking. To be honest, Unbreakable is so powerful that unlocking it essentially makes every other Lockpicking perk redundant. With Unbreakable activated, your lockpicks will never break. This takes a lot of the fun out of Lockpicking, but as you start to take on more difficult dungeons, you’ll find solace in the fact that even Master chests can be cracked with a single lockpick. However, the most valuable thing about Unbreakable is that it makes an ordinary lockpick as good as the Skeleton Key, which means you can return Nocturnal’s prized possession to the Twilight Sepulcher and finish the Thieves’ Guild questline without sacrificing one of the most powerful items in the game. A good Guildmaster can just make their own Skeleton Key.
I’ve avoided combat perks on purpose so far because they don’t have as much overall utility as the more general ones. However, Assassin’s Blade can be used by anyone, provided that they have 50 Sneak.
The perks before this one in the Sneak skill tree apply damage bonuses to bows and one-handed weapons when you instigate combat from a hidden position. This is all well and good, but Assassin’s Blade increases damage output for daggers, to the extent that dual-daggers will do a whopping fifteen times normal damage while sneaking. Even if your one-handed stats aren’t particularly impressive, a charged attack from behind with two enchanted daggers could kill a dragon in a single hit.
Obviously this works best if you’re running a one-handed build, but whether you fight with a bow and arrow or frost and firebolts, acquiring this perk and keeping a couple of daggers in your inventory is invaluable to any aspiring explorer.
Like Assassin’s Blade, Silent Roll requires 50 Sneak to unlock. This is a fantastic area traversal perk, as it allows you to quickly close short distances by performing a barrel roll. It’s essentially a sneaking sprint, as you can cover ground quickly without alerting nearby enemies.
It might seem like a minor affordance at first, but having access to Silent Roll means having the option to avoid combat throughout the majority of your dungeon-delving endeavours. You can keep your potions for bosses near the end while still checking every single chest on the way, and all the while you’ll be levelling up your Sneak. The higher it gets, the harder you’ll be to detect, and between Silent Roll and Assassin’s Blade, you’ll basically be unstoppable; sometimes subterfuge is a combat style of its own.
Arcane Blacksmith is a Smithing perk you can unlock at level 60. It’s one of the most important perks in the entire game, especially when you combine it with the Enchanting perk Extra Effect, which you can get once your Enchanting reaches level 100. It allows you to upgrade magical weapons and armour, while Extra Effect allows you to place two enchantments on the same item. By using the two in conjunction with one another, you can smith yourself some armor, put two enchantments on it, and upgrade it until it’s exquisite. As a result, you’ll have an incredibly powerful set, both in terms of defense rating and ability buffs. While all of the perks on this list are helpful to just about any Dragonborn, this combination is what really makes your character a force to be reckoned with.
There are plenty of other fantastic perks in Skyrim. The Illusion perk Quiet Casting allows you to cast spells silently, whereas Soul Siphon recharges your enchanted weapons by 5% maximum power for every deathblow you land. However, while these perks are powerful, the best perks in Skyrim are the ones on this list. Whether you’re an arcane assassin or an artful archer, every single one of these skills will prove invaluable on your adventures across the Land of the Nords.