Skyrim character creation: the best races, abilities, stats and how to use them

There’s a lot more to the Skyrim character creation builder than meets the eye, which is why it’s important to break down what character creation actually constitutes. It’s easy to choose a character type in the Elder Scrolls Skyrim based on aesthetic alone - maybe you think the reptilian Argonians are the most interesting, or perhaps the feline Khajiit will pique your curiosity. However, there’s a lot more to it than this, which is why you need to know what exactly you’re getting into when you create your first Skyrim character.

Understand the hidden stats with each race

Skyrim character creation - Argonian

First of all, every race has its own unique range of stats. Wood Elves start off with a natural propensity for ranged combat, so their base Archery stat is higher than that of a Nord’s. However, Dark Elves are more attuned to the art of Destruction magic, which is why that’s one of their inherently boosted stats. 

This doesn’t matter much in the long run, as you can always just choose to level up something else - just because Destruction is initially boosted doesn’t mean you need to refrain from using swords and shields. However, it does make a difference early on. If you’ve got that initial boost, you should try to use it. There’s no point avoiding Destruction in to start with if you’re a High Elf, as your gravitation toward it will result in a far easier task at the beginning of the game. Here’s a full breakdown of the starting stat buffs for every race in Skyrim:

  • Argonian: +10 Lockpicking, +5 Sneak, Light Armour, Pickpocket, Restoration, Alteration
  • Breton: +10 Conjuration, +5 Speech, Alchemy, Illusion, Restoration, Alteration
  • Dark Elf: +10 Destruction, +5 Sneak, Alchemy, Light Armour, Illusion, Alteration
  • High Elf: +10 Illusion, +5 Destruction, Conjuration, Alteration, Restoration, Enchanting
  • Imperial: +10 Restoration, +5 Enchanting, Heavy Armour, One-Handed, Block, Destruction
  • Khajiit: +10 Sneak, +5 Lockpicking, Archery, Pickpocket, One-Handed, Alchemy
  • Nord: +10 Two-Handed, +5 Smithing, Block, Light Armour, One-Handed, Speech
  • Orc: +10 Heavy Armour, +5 Smithing, One-Handed, Block, Enchanting, Two-Handed
  • Redguard: +10 One-Handed, +5 Archery, Block, Smithing, Destruction, Alteration
  • Wood Elf: +10 Archery, +5 Sneak, Alchemy, Lockpicking, Pickpocket, Light Armour

Each race has a unique ability so choose wisely

Skyrim character creation

Each race also has its own unique ability. These abilities are magical and are displayed in the same category as shouts. You can only use your ability once per day, but they’re all incredibly powerful and can really get you out of a tight spot if you’re clever with them. This is probably the most important factor in choosing a race in Skyrim, as these abilities are essential on higher difficulties. Here’s a list of every race and their corresponding ability:

Argonian: Histskin
Regenerates health 10 times faster for 60 seconds.

Breton: Dragonskin 
Absorbs 50% of magicka from all incoming spells for 60 seconds.

Dark Elf: Ancestor's Wrath 
Surrounds the character in fire for 60 seconds.

High Elf: Highborn
Regenerates 25% of the character's maximum magicka per second 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 used multiple times per day).

Nord: Battle Cry 
Nearby enemies are Frightened for 30 seconds.

Orc: Berserker Rage 
Take half damage and do double physical damage for 60 seconds.

Redguard: Adrenaline Rush 
Regenerates stamina 10 times faster for 60 seconds.

Wood Elf: Command Animal 
Makes all surrounding animals your allies for 60 seconds.

Races have unique strengths and resistances to consider

Skyrim character creation - Dark Elf

On top of unique abilities, every character also has their own innate strengths and resistances too. Picking something to suit your playstyle can make a big difference. These abilities are as follows:

  • Argonian: 50% Resistance to Disease, Waterbreathing
  • Breton: 25% Resistance to Magic
  • Dark Elf: 50% Resistance to Fire Damage
  • High Elf: +50 Magicka
  • Imperial: Find more gold than usual
  • Khajiit: +15 Base Unarmed Damage
  • Nord: 50% Resistance to Frost Damage
  • Orc: None
  • Redguard: 50% Resistance to Poison
  • Wood Elf: 50% Resistance to both Poison and Disease

Once you’ve chosen your race based on the above factors - stat buffs, abilities, and resistances - you’re ready to go through customization. This is pretty standard as far as designing your character’s appearance in an RPG goes, but for the sake of convenience, it’s best to choose a preset and work from there instead of working from scratch. If you want to go really in-depth, you can change everything from cheekbone depth to eyebrow width anyway, but you might as well start with a basic build.

Once you’ve finished up with customization, the last thing to do is pick a hairstyle and hair colour. Once you’ve done this, click confirm and you’ll get a prompt asking if you’re happy with your character. All you need to do now is change your name from the standardized “Prisoner” to whatever you want. Once you’ve confirmed your name, you can officially start Skyrim. First point of order: proceed to the executioner’s block to be punished for a crime you didn’t commit.

How to change your character appearance later down the line

If you’re not content with your character’s appearance, you can change all of this once you get to the Thieves’ Guild in Riften… for a small fee, that is. This was added as part of the Dawnguard DLC, so if you want to change your eye colour and war paint, you’ll need to install that first. Also, it isn’t cheap by any means. The person who offers this curious service, Galathil, sets up shop in the Ragged Flagon, the underground Thieves’ Guild den in Riften where nothing comes for free. To change your appearance, you’ll need to have 1,000 gold ready to drop. Also, you can’t change your race, just how you look. 

That’s all there is to it. Some races are more attuned to certain stats than others, every race has its own unique ability, and each character type comes with their own innate strengths and resistances. Once you’ve taken all of this into account and chosen your Dragonborn, all you need to do is customize their appearance, choose a name, and escape a dragon attack in Helgen. Next thing you know, you’ll be wandering the wilds of Skyrim, fulfilling your destiny to destroy the Alduin, the World-Eater.