Elder Scrolls Skyrim Title Image
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The 10 Best Starting Races for Beginners in Skyrim

The best way to start with Skyrim.

Getting strapped in to play Skyrim for a long haul can involve several choices that you have to make before even waking up for your new adventure. You have to pick your character’s race, design the looks, and decide on the playstyle you want to go with for that character.

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All of these are valid concerns, but the only one with mechanical implications is the race you decide to play as. Before stressing about this choice, remember that the first and most important rule is to pick what you like the most or what you consider interesting. However, if you are a beginner to Skyrim and want to select an option that will make for the easiest playthrough while you learn the ropes, then this guide is for you. Here are the 10 races in Skyrim, ranked from the worst option for beginners, to the best.

What Are the Best Beginner Races in Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim?

Here, we will count down our choices for the best beginner-friendly race picks in Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim. We’ll be going all 10 races in Skyrim, starting with Khajiit.

10. Khajiit

The Khajit race in Skyrim
Image via Elder Scrolls Wiki

Here are the Khajit race bonuses in Skyrim:

  • Claws: The Khajiit’s claws inflict an additional 12 points of damage, increasing their base unarmed combat damage by 10 points.
  • Night Eye: Khajiit have enhanced night vision that lasts 60 seconds when activated.
  • Khajiit Skill bonuses:
    • +10 Sneak
    • +5 Alchemy
    • +5 Archery
    • +5 Lockpicking
    • +5 One-handed
    • +5 Pickpocket

The native cat-people of Tamriel are natural-born thieves in Skyrim. They bring various thieving skill bonuses to the field, but their passive and active abilities are lacking. Add to that the need to understand how stealth works in the game in the first place, and the natives generally distrust them from the onset. All of that combines to make the flavourful Khajit the worst starting option for beginners.

9. Argonian

Male and Female Agonian in Skyrim
Image via Elder Scrolls Wiki

The Argonian bonuses are as follows:

  • Resist Disease: All Argonians have 50% resistance to diseases.
  • Waterbreathing: Argonians have the unique ability to breathe underwater.
  • Histskin: Argonians can invoke the power of the Hist to regenerate health at ten times the normal rate for 60 seconds, once per day.
  • Argonian Skill Bonuses:
    • +10 Lockpicking
    • +5 Alteration
    • +5 Light Armor
    • +5 Pickpocket
    • +5 Restoration
    • +5 Sneak

Like the Khajit, the lizardfolk of Tamriel faces the same problems. They get a slight advantage due to their ability to heal, which can be prized by those learning the ropes, but other than that, everything that goes for Khajit goes for Argonians. It’s not like the ability to breathe underwater will make or break your campaign.

8. Dunmer (Dark Elf)

Male and Female Dunmer, the Dark Elf in Skyrim
Image via Elder Scrolls Wiki

These are the Dunmer race bonuses in Skyrim:

  • Ancestor’s Wrath: Dunmers can engulf nearby enemies in flames, causing 8 points of fire damage per second for 60 seconds, once per day.
  • Resist Fire: All Dunmers have 50% resistance to fire.
  • Dunmer Skill Bonuses:
    • +10 Destruction
    • +5 Alchemy
    • +5 Alteration
    • +5 Illusion
    • +5 Light Armor
    • +5 Sneak

On paper, the Dunmer are one of the stronger races in Skyrim. However, viewed from an angle of a total beginner, they pose several mechanical and roleplaying challenges. Their skill bonuses are strong in the hands of a player who knows what they’re doing but not so much in the hands of a beginner. Similarly, the native populace of all factions dislikes the Dunmer, making some of the social navigation in the game a bit more complicated.

7. Bosmer (Wood Elf)

Male and Female Bosmers (or wood elves) in Skyrim
Image via Elder Scrolls Wiki

These are the Bosmer race bonuses in Skyrim:

  • Command Animal: Bosmers can make turn an animal into an ally for 60 seconds.
  • Resist Disease and Poison: Bosmers have a natural 50% resistance to both poison and disease.
  • Bosmer Skill Bonuses:
    • +10 Archery
    • +5 Alchemy
    • +5 Light Armor
    • +5 Lockpicking
    • +5 Pickpocket
    • +5 Sneak

The Bosmer are another race that should be considered a strong pick on their own merits, but when viewed from a beginner’s standpoint isn’t that optimal of a choice. They are great at sneaky archery, which is one of the strongest builds in the game, but that also requires you to know the game well enough to pull it off properly. Similarly, their Command Animal ability is a bit of a trap that can be a hindrance than a boon.

6. Orsimer (Orc)

Skyrim's Orcs are known in the game as Orsimers
Image via Elder Scrolls Wiki

Here are the Bosmers’ racial bonuses:

  • Berserker Rage: Orsimers can take half damage and do double damage for 60 seconds. This ability doesn’t work when the damage comes from spells, but it stacks with other physical damage abilities and buffs.
  • Orsimer Skill Bonuses:
    • +10 Heavy Armor
    • +5 Block
    • +5 Enchanting
    • +5 One-Handed
    • +5 Smithing
    • +5 Two-Handed

With the Orsimer, we get into the territory of race picks that are much more difficult to rate against each other. For instance, the Elder Scrolls’ Orcs are excellent tanks and, as such, are a pretty good pick for those still getting their bearings in the game, especially if you’re looking to learn about melee combat. Their natural durability and combat prowess can carry the day against most threats in the game. The matter is that there are even better options for beginners than what we would consider a “baseline good” pick.

5. Imperial

Male and Female Imperial race in Skyrim
Image via Elder Scrolls Wiki

here are the Imperial race bonuses in Skyrim:

  • Voice of the Emperor: Imperials can calm nearby enemies for 60 seconds.
  • Imperial Luck: Imperials tend to find more gold coins than other races.
  • Imperial Skill Bonuses:
    • +10 Restoration
    • +5 Block
    • +5 Destruction
    • +5 Enchanting
    • +5 Heavy Armor
    • +5 One-Handed

Imperials, for instance, play a large part in the game’s campaign, so you will be involved in the roleplaying aspect from the start. Imperials’ passives and skill bonuses are great for beginners as they will not only bring you more gold, but their active ability will also help with those accidents in which your character antagonizes the wrong people — the guards, for example.

4. Nord

Skyrim's male and female Nords
Image via Elder Scrolls Wiki

These are all the Nords’ race bonuses in Skyrim:

  • Battle Cry: Once a day, Nords can cause their enemies to flee in fear for 30 seconds.
  • Resist Cold: Nords have 50% resistance to cold.
  • Nord Skill Bonuses:
    • +10 Two-Handed
    • +5 Block
    • +5 Light Armor
    • +5 One-Handed
    • +5 Smithing
    • +5 Speech

Similarly, the Nords play a massive part in the story of Skyrim, which makes sense given that it’s their home region. They have some of the best melee combat traits in the game, and with a lot of the damage being Frost-based, their 50% resistance to it will come in handy to those who still don’t know how various enemies fight. As one of the most-picked races in the game, they are the best vanilla option for good reason.

3. Redguard

Female and Male Reguard characters
Image via Elder Scrolls Wiki

Here are the Redguard racial bonuses in Skyrim:

  • Adrenaline Rush: With this ability, Redguards can regenerate Stamina ten times faster for a minute.
  • Resist Poison: Redguards have a natural resistance to poison, reducing poison damage by 50%.
  • Redguard Skill Bonuses:
    • +10 One-Handed
    • +5 Alteration
    • +5 Archery
    • +5 Block
    • +5 Destruction
    • +5 Smithing

Everything that the Nords can do, the Redguard can do better. They make for an excellent choice for beginners who are serious about mastering melee combat, as their Stamina regeneration ability can help assuage a lot of overcommitment mistakes that they can make early on. The skill bonuses that the Redguard get are also more varied, letting the beginners try out a variety of playstyles and builds with the confidence that they have a bit of a bonus to them from their race pick.

2. Breton

Female and male Breton characters
Image via Elder Scrolls Wiki

When playing as a Breton, you have the following abilities:

  • Dragonskin: Bretons can absorb 50% of the magicka from hostile spells for 60 seconds.
  • Magic Resistance: The Bretons have 25% resistance to magic.
  • Breton Skill Bonuses:
    • +10 Conjuration
    • +5 Alchemy
    • +5 Alteration
    • +5 Illusion
    • +5 Restoration
    • +5 Speech

The Bretons represent a good two-in-one option for new players. They can dabble in combat, but their strength will lie in magic. As the game’s natural battlemages, the Bretons represent a great way to learn that part of the game while being confident in your character’s durability. They are highly resistant to spells, and with the Dragonskin active ability that saps Magicka from opponents, they can easily tank some of the tougher fights.

1. Altmer (High Elf)

Skyrim's female and male high elf known as Altmer
Image via Elder Scrolls Wiki

These are the Altmer Special Abilities in Skyrim:

  • Highborn: Once a day, the Altmer can regenerate Magicka at an accelerated rate for 60 seconds.
  • Fortify Magicka: The Altmer race starts with an additional 50 Magicka, giving them an edge in casting spells.
  • Altmer Skill Bonuses:
    • +10 Illusion
    • +5 Alteration
    • +5 Conjuration
    • +5 Destruction
    • +5 Enchanting
    • +5 Restoration

Going full archmage route has long been considered the strongest beginner option in Skyrim, and there is no better race to augment that playstyle than the Altmer. Their bonuses, passives, and abilities are second to none when it comes to magic and spellcasting. As such, picking the focused High Elf Spellcaster as your starter character is the easiest way for beginners to play Skyrim when just starting.


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Author
Miljan Truc
I have been into gaming since the days of Sega Mega Drive and Amiga. Over the years in gaming, I have raided at a high level, completed rare achievements, coached other players, and written about games since 2016. Whether it’s been clicking heads; developing cities, colonies, and empires; or commanding parties of adventurers; I’ve always prided myself on being able to understand the underlying mechanics of games. Outside of gaming, I enjoy a variety of activities and hobbies, including playing with my pup Astra, working out, as well as crafting, painting, and leatherwork.