In past The Elder Scrolls games, character creation was where the player decided their class, which would shape their character's strengths and weaknesses for the whole of the gaming experience ahead. With Skyrim, the class system has been removed, and character creation determines very little about the capabilities of a character. The only aspects which the player will choose are race, gender, appearance, and name.
The process is thus centered almost entirely on the aesthetic aspect of character creation, which has been greatly improved over past games. Players can now edit facial features in much greater detail, and add decorations like war paint, facial hair, battle scars, wrinkles, and dirt coverage.
Notably absent are birthsigns. Instead, Skyrim has added Standing Stones, which are monoliths found throughout Skyrim that functionally replace both birthsigns and Doomstones. They can be activated at any time once the player discovers them, and confer various bonuses, such as increasing experience gained for certain skill types, or buffing stats. Only one can be active at once (unless one uses the Aetherial Crown). The Warrior, Mage, and Thief Standing Stones, which boost experience gained for skills associated with each archetype, can be found on the way to the first objective after the game's intro mission.
After choosing one of the ten racial options, the following aspects can be customized:
- Sex, skin tone, and weight. Weight just affects how bulky the character model looks.
- An underlying complexion for the face; whether to add dirt and in what color and density; war paint, and its color; and battle scars.
- Facial structure (nose, eyes, ears, jawline, mouth, cheekbones, etc.)
- Skin tone for different parts of the face (nose, forehead, laugh lines, etc.), making them darker, lighter, and different colors.
- Hair, facial hair, and its color
Of note to many players is that the character creation screen is brighter than most areas of the game, which may result in some features looking darker in the actual game than intended. This can be (slightly) alleviated by pausing the game, before naming the Prisoner, and looking through the smokescreen of the start menu.
- Main article: Races (Skyrim)
The first thing that must be chosen is the Dragonborn's race. Each race starts with special bonuses to different Skills. Additionally, each race has special abilities. The racial abilities can either be passive characteristics, such as Waterbreathing, or Greater Powers that can be used once per day, such as Command Animal.
- +10 Two-Handed, +5 Smithing, +5 Block, +5 One-Handed, +5 Light Armor, +5 Speech.
- Battle Cry: Nearby enemies flee for 30 seconds.
- 50% Frost Resistance.
- +10 Restoration, +5 Destruction, +5 Enchanting, +5 Heavy Armor, +5 Block, +5 One Handed.
- Voice of the Emperor: Calms nearby people for 60 seconds.
- Imperial Luck: 100% chance of 2-10 extra gold in all chests that normally contain gold, as well as to the corpses of various gold-dropping enemies.
- +10 One Handed, +5 Destruction, +5 Alteration, +5 Smithing, +5 Block, +5 Archery.
- Adrenaline Rush : Stamina regenerates 10x faster for 60 seconds.
- 50% Poison Resistance.
- +10 Conjuration, +5 Alchemy, +5 Illusion, +5 Restoration, +5 Alteration, +5 Speech.
- Dragonskin: Absorb 50% of Magicka from enemy spells for 60 seconds.
- 25% Magicka Resistance.
- Begin game with Conjure Familiar.
- +10 Lockpicking, +5 Restoration, +5 Alteration, +5 Light Armor, +5 Sneak, +5 Pickpocket.
- Histskin : Recover health 10x faster for 60 seconds.
- 50% Disease Resistance.
- Can breathe underwater.
- +10 Sneak, +5 One Handed, +5 Archery, +5 Alchemy +5 Pickpocket, +5 Lockpicking.
- Night Eye: Improved Night Vision for 60 seconds.
- Unarmed attacks deal 15 more damage.
Dark Elf (Dunmer):
- +10 Destruction, +5 Alchemy, +5 Illusion, +5 Alteration, +5 Light Armor, +5 Sneak.
- Ancestor's Wrath : Enemies that get too close to you take 8 Fire damage per second. This lasts for 60 seconds.
- Resist Fire: 50% Resistance to Fire attacks.
- Begin game with Sparks.
High Elf (Altmer):
- +10 Illusion, +5 Conjuration, +5 Destruction, +5 Alteration, +5 Enchanting +5 Restoration.
- Highborn: Regenerate Magicka quicker for 60 seconds.
- +50 Magicka.
- Begin game with Fury.
Wood Elf (Bosmer):
- +10 Archery, +5 Alchemy, +5 Light Armor, +5 Sneak, +5 Lockpicking, +5 Pickpocket.
- Command Animal: Make nearby animals your allies for 60 seconds.
- 50% Poison and Disease Resistance.
- +10 Heavy Armor, +5 Smithing, +5 Enchanting, +5 Two Handed, +5 One Handed, +5 Block.
- Berserker Rage: Deal double damage and take half damage for 60 seconds.
- Are allowed to enter Orc mining camps and strongholds without first becoming Blood-kin.
Due to the lack of specializations or birthsigns, the starting differences in skill values for each race are only relevant early in the game. Players wishing to specialize in a given skill can quickly make up for a disadvantaged score through consistent use, especially if aided by Standing Stone experience bonuses. That said, for players who want to choose an appropriate race for RP or leveling efficiency purposes, there are clear ways to categorize each race according to play style.
Each race starts with bonuses to six skills, including one bonus of +10, which represents the race's most significant skill. These bonuses allow the races to be sorted by proficiency into the three primary play-styles, Warrior, Mage and Thief:
- 6 skills (pure build)
- 5 skills (major build)
- Bosmer characters receive bonuses to five of the six Thief skills (all skills except Speech). However, their most significant skill, Archery, falls under the Warrior play-style.
- Orsimer characters receive bonuses to five of the six Warrior skills (all skills except Archery), with a +10 bonus to Heavy Armor. They also have a +5 bonus to Enchanting, a Mage skill.
- 4 skills (minor build)
- Argonian characters receive bonuses to four Thief skills (all skills except Speech and Alchemy), with a +10 bonus to Lockpicking. They also have +5 bonuses to two Mage skills, Restoration and Alteration.
- Breton characters receive bonuses to four Mage skills (all skills except Destruction and Enchanting), with a +10 bonus to Conjuration. They also have +5 bonuses to two Thief skills, Speech and Alchemy.
- Khajiit characters receive bonuses to four Thief skills (all skills except Light Armor and Speech), with a +10 bonus to Sneak. They also have +5 bonuses to two Warrior skills, One-Handed and Archery.
- Nord characters receive bonuses to four Warrior skills (all skills except Heavy Armor and Archery), with a +10 bonus to Two-Handed. They also have +5 bonuses to two Thief skills, Light Armor and Speech.
- Redguard characters receive bonuses to four Warrior skills (all skills except Heavy Armor and Two-Handed), with a +10 bonus to One-Handed. They also have +5 bonuses to two Mage skills, Destruction and Alteration.
- 3 skills (mixed build)
- Dunmer characters receive bonuses to three Thief skills (Light Armor, Sneak and Alchemy) and three Mage skills (Illusion, Destruction and Alteration). Their +10 bonus is to Destruction, a Mage skill.
- Imperial characters receive bonuses to three Warrior skills (Heavy Armor, Block and One-Handed) and three Mage skills (Destruction, Restoration and Enchanting). Their +10 bonus is to Restoration, a Mage skill.
Another important factor is racial bonuses, which are permanent, and may be a significant deciding factor in a player's race/class decision. Most racial bonuses have general utility to any character type, but some are clearly geared toward one playstyle more than others. These can be used to augment a chosen playstyle, or cover weaknesses when the need arises for skills the player rarely uses.
- Redguard: Adrenaline Rush recovers Stamina, which is necessary for power attacks and sprinting. It is therefore greatly advantageous for Warriors, but less important to Thieves and Mages, unless they engage in melee combat regularly. It is also helpful to classes with low Stamina when they need to sprint to cover.
- Breton: Dragonskin helps them recover Magicka when fighting enemy mages, which is helpful to Mages. It can also help compensate for classes with low Magicka if they wish to fight magic with magic.
- Khajiit: Nightvision allows them to see in the dark without using torches or spells which would reveal them, which is helpful to Thieves.
- High Elf: they have naturally higher Magicka, and Highborn lets them regenerate Magicka quickly, reinforcing their role as dedicated Mages.
- Orc: Berserker Rage's damage bonus doesn't apply to spells, making it best for Warriors and Thieves who use conventional weapons. Low-Health builds can benefit from the damage reduction.
- Some races have special advantages in quests due to the circumstances of the quest:
- During Diplomatic Immunity, the player can disguise themselves by wearing Hooded Thalmor Robes. Dunmer and Bosmer can avoid detection at a distance, while Altmer can walk around freely and speak to the guards (not on PS3). Other races can only avoid being discovered by keeping their distance, save for the Khajiit and the Argonians, who are instantly noticed due to their bestial appearance.
- Orcs can freely enter the Orc Strongholds, while players of other races must complete some sort of quest to earn favor from the Orcs and thus be allowed entry.
- The dialogue of many NPCs also changes depending on the player's race. While no quest or NPC interaction is cut off to the player regardless of race, playing as a Nord will cause other Nords to be friendlier to the player than if they chose a race like Altmer, whom the Nords have bitter resentment with due to their battling each other throughout the ages.
This section contains bugs related to Character Creation (Skyrim). Before adding a bug to this list, consider the following:
- One loading screen falsely claims Bretons have a 50% resistance to magic; they only have 25%.
- On occasion the option to have a milky 'blind' eye will, when first selected, clip through the character's face for a few moments. This won't impact gameplay.
- On , using the console command 'showracemenu' will bring up the race menu in the middle of the game. This will reset the character's skin tone, and changing their race or presets will cause the character to go back to having their hands bound just like at the beginning of the game in Helgen. This can be fixed by sprinting.
- It is said that Khajits have a 15 extra melee points when unarmored on their hands. However, they only have a 12 point increase.