the best race for each playstyle in skyrim

Image via Bethesda

While it’s become a bit of a meme of how many different versions of Skyrim are out there, there is no denying that there is something special about coming back to this gem of a game every once in a while and rolling a new character. There are dozens, if not hundreds of variations that you could try, but some races suit some playstyles better than others. 

You could go against that as an added personal challenge, but if you’re wondering which races fit each playstyle based on their traits, then we’ve got a guide for you. Going race by race and down in alphabetical order, let us see which playstyles suit them best and how you can enhance your Elder Scrolls V builds to further leverage their bonuses.

Best playstyles for each race in Skyrim

Altmer (High Elf)

Best playstyle: Offensive Mage

These snobbish elves feel like they’re better than everyone else and always look for ways to let everyone around them know that. New Altmeri characters start with a passive +50 bonus to their Magicka and with an ability to regenerate it at a faster rate for 60 seconds, usable once per day. This already makes them a pretty obvious choice for an archmage type of character, but their starting bonuses only serve to cement that. With +10 to Illusion and +5 to Alteration, Conjuration, Destruction, Enchanting, and Restoration, they are immediately set up to succeed with anything magic-related.


Best playstyle: Explorer Thief

The lizard-folk from the Black Marsh are natural-born skulkers. Their unforgiving homeland made them stealthy, tough, resourceful, and naturally wary. Their racial abilities are geared towards exploration and lockpicking. Argonians are more resistant to disease and cold, can consume raw meat without risk of poisoning, and can breathe underwater. Their racial power is called Histskin, which allows them to recover their health at 10 times the normal rate for 60 seconds, once per day. To further emphasize this playstyle, they start with +10 in Lockpicking, and +5 in Alteration, Light Armor, Pickpocket, Restoration, and Sneak.

Bosmer (Wood Elf)

Best playstyle: Ranger

The Wood Elves are at home in the forests and wildernesses of Tamriel. Their separation from other elves has made them keep to the woodland traditions of their ancestors, and their hunter-gatherer lifestyle has therefore made them some of the best archers around. They are naturally resistant to poison and disease, and have +10 to Archery, along with +5 to Alchemy, Light Armor, Lockpicking, Pickpocket, and Sneak. To further play into the fantasy of a woodlands ranger, their racial ability is Command Animal, which lets them ally an animal for 60 seconds once per day.


Best playstyle: Battlemage

Hailing from High Rock, Bretons are the most adept mages among the human races of Tamriel. Unlike the Altmer, they also boast a nice couple of resilience bonuses, which makes them tougher than the elves, and more capable once the battle is joined. Their Dragonskin racial ability lets them absorb 50% of Magicka from enemy spells for 60 seconds, once per day. Meanwhile, their traits give them 25% resistance to magic, and +10 to Conjuration, along with +5 to Alchemy, Alteration, Illusion, Restoration, and Speech. All of these bonuses make the Bretons a more versatile type of mage.

Dunmer (Dark Elf)

Best playstyle: Magical Assassin

From the isle of Morrowind, the resented and mysterious Dark Elves find themselves at odds in Skyrim. They are mistrusted, and as such have to take on more reclusive or aggressive tactics to survive. Their traits and abilities reflect this and lend themselves to magical and stealthy builds. The Ancestor’s Wrath ability can be cast once per day and grants them 60 seconds of close proximity fiery shield. In a similar vein, they also have a natural resistance to fire. Their skill bonuses complement their preferred playstyle, granting them +10 Destruction, and +5 Alchemy, Alteration, Illusion, Light Armor, and Sneak.


Best playstyle: Paladin

The notorious Imperials from Cyrodil are perhaps the most versatile race choice in the game. They are sometimes described as ‘jacks of all trades’ which suits them rather well, as they can perform in almost every type of build. However, if we had to assign them an archetype, then the one of a Paladin suits them well — focusing on toughness and heavy armor, diplomacy, and a bit of offensive and restorative magic. They can calm nearby humanoids for 60 seconds and get out of some tough situations and are able to always earn a bit more money than others. Meanwhile, they also have +10 to Restoration, and +5 to Block, Destruction, Enchanting, Heavy Armor, and One-Handed weapons.


Best playstyle: Thief

Cat-folk from Elsweyr, the Khajit are among the most unique and favorite meme races in Elder Scrolls. Sly and sneaky, they are also renowned merchants and are able to leverage these skills as parts of their traits. Their feline blood gives them the ability to see in the dark for 60 seconds at a time, and their claws can be used as natural weapons for better unarmed combat ability. As for skills, they start with +10 Sneak, as well as +5 in Alchemy, Archery, Lockpicking, One-Handed, and Pickpocket, all of which combine to make them some of the best thieves in the game.


Best playstyle: Aggressive Warrior

One of the native races of Skyrim, the Nords are a tall and fair-skinned human race that is synonymous with the region. Their physical traits make them a force to be reckoned with on the battlefield, and the thick of melee combat suits them well. They can disrupt enemies with Battle Cry, which sends the target fleeing for 30 seconds, and are able to resist frost damage by 50%. Their skill bonuses grant them +10 to Two-Handed, and +5 to Block, Light Armor, One-Handed, Smithing, and Speech. That makes playing a Nord a fairly straightforward prospect. 

Orsimer (Orc)

Best playstyle: Warrior Tank

Orcs are among the biggest and strongest races of Tamriel, and are considered to be unparalleled smiths. Their propensity for heavy equipment and natural bloodlust makes them an excellent choice for a front-line warrior character. Their racial ability reflects that, as Berserker Rage grants them the ability to take half damage and deal double damage for 60 seconds. Their skills synergize well with this, granting them +10 Heavy Armor, and +5 Block, Enchanting, One-Handed, Smithing, and Two-Handed.


Best playstyle: Spellsword Dervish

From the deserts of Hammerfell come the Redguard, some of the best human blademasters that Tamriel has ever seen. Unlike the previous Elder Scrolls games, these Redguards have picked up on some magical skills as well, supplementing their usual one-handed weapon brilliance. This lends well to a build that uses magic to fuel lightning-strike offensive and defensive combat. Adrenaline Rush grants them Stamina regeneration at a 10 times normal rate for 60 second, while the Redguards are naturally resistant to poison. When it comes to skills, they have +10 One-Handed, and +5 Alteration, Archery, Block, Destruction, and Smithing. Skills fit for true warrior-mystics.


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