There are two types of leveling in Skyrim: character leveling and skill leveling.
Each time your character level increases, you are provided the opportunity to make key choices about your abilities. This means you may choose to increase either Health, Magicka or Stamina by 10 points, and you are also given one new perk point to invest in one of 18 different skills (listed below). Each time you increase any skill's level, you make progress towards gaining a character level. This increases the general effectiveness of that skill, while a minimum skill level is required for most perks to become obtainable.
Leveling your character is not the same as it was in Oblivion - instead, it is based on an experience system related to skills.
As you use a skill, you automatically gain a small amount of experience in that skill (which we will call "Skill XP"), eventually causing that skill to level up. Skill level-ups can also be acquired instantly from training or by reading skill books. Every time you level up a skill, you also gain experience toward a character level-up (which we will call "Character XP", or simply "XP"). Furthermore, increasing the levels of your skills is the only way you are able to increase your character XP. However, leveling up low-level skills offers only a low amount of character XP toward your next level, while leveling up high-level skills offers more. The required amount of character XP needed to gain a character level-up increases as your character level increases.
Unlike in Morrowind and Oblivion, you are not penalized with a lack of attribute bonuses at the time of 'leveling-up' because there are no attributes nor major/minor skills, so accidentally gaining levels before distributing 'points' (skill perks) will have no negative effect. Most content is still leveled (primarily enemy gear), and some players may choose their perks and attribute increases unwisely, so it is still possible to create a character too weak to keep up. However, if you have installed the Dragonborn Add-on, you can expend Dragon souls to reset perks. See the Leveling Decisions section below for details.
The amount of skill XP you receive from using a skill in a specific way is constant. However, as you increase in skill level, the amount of skill XP required for the next skill level up increases. This is why blocking a few attacks from an ice wolf may level up your Block skill at the beginning of the game when your skill level is low, but when your Block skill is higher later in the game, it will take a lot more attacks to level it up. In this instance, your Block skill would level up faster if you blocked an attack from a giant. Keep in mind that some skills are much easier to level up than others. For instance, you may quickly level the Smithing skill to 100 by crafting nothing but jewelry; it will take a very long time, however, to level One-handed to 100 solely by attacking skeevers with a specific one-handed weapon. Further, successfully using your skill yields more skill XP than unsuccessfully using it. For example, successfully picking a lock gives you more Lockpicking XP than does breaking your lockpick in the attempt.
Some skills will only increase when there is an active component associated with them:
- Sneak will only increase if you are within range of and are avoiding detection by an entity that would otherwise be aware of your presence, or escaping from one that has detected you. You do not need to move for the skill to increase, though completing actions that are more difficult will increase the skill faster, such as moving and, more notably, completing sneak attacks.
- Conjuration derived from Raise Zombie or similar spells will only increase if the minion engages in combat, while Conjuring Bound weapons only garners skill XP if you are in combat.
- Restoration will only increase if it is replenishing lost life (with a few exceptions) and will level up faster when in combat.
- Alteration derived from Detect Life will only increase if you are actually detecting life forms with the spell. The more life forms you detect, the faster your skill will go up.
- Destruction from runes will only increase if the runes are triggered. Other Destruction spells require a valid target, either a creature or an NPC.
- Pickpocketing increases proportionally to the total value of lifted goods, assuming you are not caught.
- Lockpicking will gain a small increase for every broken pick, and a substantial increase that varies based on lock level versus skill and perk level for every successfully-picked lock. However, if you successfully pick a lock that you have picked before, there is no XP reward.
- Smithing, Alchemy, and Enchanting give skill increases based on the results of the crafting.
Note: Over-training will still grant you level ups even if the progress bar is stuck at 100% (for example: If you start training Illusion from level 1 to Illusion level 44 you will be level 6 once you choose to level up).
Level and Skill XP Formulae
Level XP is the experience points put towards raising your character's level. Skill XP is the experience points put towards raising your level in a particular skill.
The formula for character leveling is as follows:
- Character XP gained = Skill level acquired * fXPPerSkillRank
Skyrim Game Setting variable: fXPPerSkillRank (default =1)
Example: Training Alchemy from 20 to 21 gives 21 Character XP points
- XP required to level up your character = (Current level + 3) * 25
Or if using the Skyrim Creation Kit Game Setting values:
(fXPLevelUpBase)+(Current Char. Level * fXPLevelUpMult)
Where the default values for Skyrim vanilla (1.9.32.X) are fXPLevelUpBase = 75 and fXPLevelUpMult = 25.
Example: 100 XP is required to advance from level 1 to level 2, and 1300 XP is required to advance from level 49 to 50. This is consistent across all levels. (70→71 follows the same formula as 3→4)
This formula can be extended to find the Character XP needed for multiple levels:
- XP required to go from level 1 to level N = 12.5 * N2 + 62.5 * N - 75
Given a Character XP total, the corresponding Character Level is given by:
FLOOR(-2.5 + SQRT(8 * XP + 1225) / 10)
The skill XP needed for the next skill level is almost proportional to the square of the skill level:[verification needed — see]
Skill Improve Mult * skill level1.95 + Skill Improve Offset
Using a skill grants skill XP according to[verification needed — additional verification needed]
Skill Use Mult * (base XP * skill specific multipliers) + Skill Use Offset
The Skill Improve Mult, Skill Improve Offset, Skill Use Mult and Skill Use Offset variables can be found under Actor Values for each skill independently. The 1.95 Power variable can be found in the Game Settings variables under fSkillUseCurve and applies globally to all of the skills. Additionally, the base XP granted by specific actions is different for each skill and uses additional multipliers stored in the Game Settings variables. The XP granted by using a skill probably makes use of the console command AdvSkill. This console command requires 2 additional arguments, the skill to which the granted XP should apply and the amount of given XP. The amount of given XP is then multiplied by the Skill Use Multiplier of the selected skill and the result is then added to the Skill Use Offset of the selected skill. For example if the game wants to award 50 XP to the Lockpicking skill, it might use this command:
player.AdvSkill Lockpicking 50 This results in: 45*(50)+10=2260 XP.
As an example, if you want to level Alchemy from level 15 to level 20, use the values in the table below for Alchemy to calculate the required XP using a recursive formula (Details not given):
U(n)=1.6(n^1.95)+65+U(n-1) with U(1)=66.6, U(15)=2799.309895 Yields as a result => 2960.454979 XP
This means that you would need to create 264 potions with a base value of 14 gold to increase your Alchemy skill level from 15 to 20. This is because each created potion gives the following amount of experience: 0.75 * (14+1) = 11.25 experience, resulting in 2960.454979 XP / 11.25 XP per potion = 263.1515537 potions, rounded up to 264. Note that each skill uses its own variables and requires a different recursive formula.
The Skill XP variables are given in the following table, the required XP from lvl 15 to 100 might not be 100% accurate (decimals): [verification needed — this table needs to verified by additional people]
|Skill||Skill Use Mult||Skill Use Offset||Skill Improve Mult||Skill Improve Offset||Total Skill XP needed for 15 -> 100||Sources of XP/Notes|
"Base Magicka" refers to the base cost of the spell. "Raw damage" refers to the damage before armor is taken into account.
You are notified when you are eligible to level up. When you accept the new level—which updates to the highest level you have currently earned—your character is fully healed, regaining any Health, Magicka, and Stamina that was depleted. You can choose whether to do this immediately, or whether to use the level-up strategically to take maximum advantage of the healing bonuses. In addition, you can level up anywhere; unlike in Oblivion or Morrowind, sleeping is not necessary. Note that when you do choose to level, you will be raised to the highest level earned through skill progression; so if you have progressed four levels since you last chose to level up, you will gain all four of those levels the next time you open the skills tab.
When leveling up, you are able to make two permanent character changes:
- One attribute (Health, Magicka, Stamina) can be increased by 10 points. This choice is prompted for upon going to the perk and skill screen and leveling; if you gained 4 levels you will be prompted to make 4 choices in succession.
- One perk point will be awarded per character level gained. Perk points do NOT need to be used when leveling and may be saved for a later time. This allows you to either utilize perk choices for immediate benefit in skills for which you meet the minimum requirements, or to upgrade other paths once those requirements are met.
It should be emphasized that the attribute choice is permanent barring use of the developer console on the PC version of the game. Perks can be reset by reaching 100 in the appropriate skill and making it legendary. Since skill advancement contributes to the earning of perks as general choices, it is possible to utilize a gain in unrelated skills to progress through other perk paths should that be desirable.
- With the Dragonborn expansion installed, it is possible to reset your perks after you have completed the main Dragonborn questline. Doing so will consume one dragon soul, and will allow you to clear all perks from one skill tree, refunding the perk points back to you. This process can be repeated as many times as desired, provided you have the dragon souls.
Enter the skill screen by pressing Tab and selecting "Skills" (2x Up-Arrow or W-key), or alternately by hitting the ?/-key. Once on the screen, you can navigate through skills either by using the movement keys (A, D, W, S) or clicking with your mouse.
Make sure the skill to which you would like to add a perk is centered on the screen and the constellation is visible. This brings up the perk tree for that skill. Navigate to the perk you wish to add. To add the perk, click directly on the star below the text. This will bring up a pop-up screen that you can answer with "Yes" (Enter) to add the perk or "No" (Tab) to cancel.
At higher levels, leveling up happens much more slowly. Level increases in Skyrim follow a formula (detailed above in the Gaining Levels section). Prior to Patch 1.9 the maximum level was 81, since there was no way to gain any more experience once every skill reached its maximum value of 100.
With Patch 1.9, individual skills can be made "legendary", denoting them with an Imperial symbol. This will reset the skill to 15, and perk points used for that skill may be redistributed. Gaining levels in that skill will affect leveling again, thus effectively removing the level cap of 81. There is no restriction on the number of times that skills can be made legendary. This change makes it theoretically possible to obtain every single perk in the game. You can level up even after reaching level 252, so you can continue to increase magicka, health or stamina, though you will have nothing left to spend the resulting perk points on.
According to the formula, training one individual skill all the way from 15 to 100 (one mastering cycle) yields 4,930 XP. This amount of XP is enough to level from 1 to 17, or from 194 to 195. Leveling up to 252 (unlocking all perks) would take a total of 809,475 XP. This corresponds to over 164 skill mastering cycles, or mastering every skill over 9 times. The fastest approach to such a huge task would be to find the easiest skill to raise and to exclusively focus on that for leveling purposes.
Effects of Leveling
Various aspects of the game are leveled. This means that as your character increases in level, some enemies become more challenging, but also the quality of the items you find becomes better. However, the leveling system in Skyrim has been altered from that used in Oblivion, in response to criticisms of Oblivion's leveling system.
Different locations in Skyrim have different inherent difficulties. In other words, some dungeons are designed to be too difficult for low-level characters to enter. More challenging dungeons are generally located at higher elevations, meaning that early in the game, players may want to avoid mountainous regions. However, more difficult dungeons contain better rewards. In addition, some high-quality items can be randomly found even early in the game.
In addition, all leveled enemies are generated more like leveled creatures in Fallout. For example, Bandit NPCs are always a fixed level for their name (Bandits are level 1, Bandit Thugs are level 9, Bandit Highwaymen are level 14, etc). The player's level affects the range of possible bandit types generated within a bandit dungeon, and probably the frequency, but does not seem to affect the resulting stats except in a few rare cases. Lower variant bandits remain reasonably common even when more dangerous bandits are available.
Enemy types also seem to reach a plateau where they stop getting stronger. The strongest bandits (non-boss) are mid-20s. The strongest generic vampire is 54, and guards seem to stop scaling at 50. This implies that the difficulty of many areas will not increase beyond certain levels, except perhaps in frequency of difficult encounters. In other words, dungeons have a level range, where if you do not meet the level requirement, you will face the lowest range of the dungeon. For instance, if a dungeon is ranged from level 15 to 25, and you are level 10, you will face creatures in the dungeon scaled at level 15. However, at the other end of the scale, most dungeons become relatively trivial after you've played the game for a while and have leveled up enough. The highest random leveled enemies in the original game are Ancient Dragons and Dragon Priests, but even these enemies were only meant to fight players around level 50.
Infinite Sneak Leveling in Helgen
First and foremost, this exploit is conditional on siding with Hadvar and the Imperials in Helgen. You can always change sides later if you decide to take up the Civil War quest line, but for this exploit to work, this is a must. The only thing you really sacrifice is a set of Imperial heavy armor and other Imperial equipment for Stormcloak equipment. In exchange, you get more access to two-handed weapons (“Barbarian” style, light armor and two handed) and access to Alvor’s smithy and smithing materials once you reach Riverwood.
After making your way to the keep with Hadvar and escorting him to the torture room, the Imperial Torturer will stay behind after this area is cleared of hostile Stormcloak enemies, assuming he survives, which he normally does even without any intervention. There are two iron daggers in this area. You will need at least one of these for this exploit as well due to it being the lowest possible sneak attack damage from a silent dagger sneak attack.
After Hadvar and the Torturer’s Assistant (if he survives) leave the room and head further down, The Torturer will generally take up a position facing one of the cages with his back to the room. After picking up one or both daggers enter sneak mode and take up a position in the shadow of the column behind the Torturer. Once you are “Hidden” strike him with a normal sneak attack from behind with a single dagger. He has more than enough health to soak this attack and regenerates health very quickly. This should net you roughly one skill level per strike up to about level 25 in Sneak.
From about skill level 25 to 50 it starts taking at least a couple strikes and it takes progressively more strikes at higher skill levels, but the attack is silent and you should generally remain hidden. You can level Sneak like this indefinitely, and making it Legendary allows you to reach any desired level before even leaving Helgen and formally starting the game. Note that there are diminishing returns to this, but after leveling Sneak to 100 the first time you can reach level 17. After making it Legendary 6 times you can reach level 47, and level 51 is possible on the seventh round.
This was done with starting Sneak and One Handed both at 15. Races with higher starting levels in either or both of these two skills might change these numbers. The disadvantages are that grinding Sneak can get boring and tedious. The advantages and pay off is this is a much faster way to level, and starting at a high level means not having to wait to get specific leveled quest rewards. It is also fairly easy to “break” the game this way. You are almost forced to rely on a perked out Sneak for almost any combat or hostile encounter without a follower as backup.
While it is more difficult to successfully sneak with a follower in tow, the advantages of having a follower as back up in combat more than outweighs the loss of a sneak advantage if you want to go toe to toe, so it is strongly recommended you head straight to Riverwood to recruit either Faendal or Sven as a follower when you leave Helgen. It is also strongly suggested to consider putting all level increases toward Health to maintain and sustain your character’s survivability in fights, at least until you get your defensive skills built up as well.
Note: Do NOT perk out either Sneak or One Handed until AFTER you have reached your desired level, as any perks that increase damage output might kill the Torturer on a successful sneak attack.
Train using a skill trainer and then pickpocket your gold back.
Without any pickpocket perks, this only works up to skill level 30 or so. The highest you can go with this "exploit" is level 76. Even with a full complement of Pickpocket perks (Light Fingers 5/5: +100% chance to pickpocket, Night Thief: +25% chance to pickpocket if NPC is asleep, Cut Purse: +50% chance to steal gold), 100 Pickpocket, and Thieves Guild armor (+15% pickpocket), and the NPC sleeping, it is usually impossible (0% chance) to pickpocket back the nearly 4k in gold it costs to train skill level 77. There are a couple of ways to get around this limitation:
- You can use the Unrelenting Force shout to knock down the trainer, and then pickpocket them while they are getting back up (even though the menu still displays 0% chance, you cannot fail). However, you should save your game first as sometimes (though not often) this method will cause NPCs to attack you.
- You can put a Paralysis poison in the NPC's inventory and then steal the gold, and they won't attack you.
Keep in mind that only 5 skill points may be trained at a trainer per level across all skills. At higher levels, 5 skill increases will earn only a small portion of the experience needed to level. The remaining skill increases you need to level must still be earned normally. Thus, the spending of 7 perk points in Pickpocket to maximize this method has a fairly poor return when compared to doing a dungeon crawl or two (at higher levels) for the 25,000+ gold you need for 5 training points. However, if you are focused on getting Pickpocket to 100, this method will get you there every few levels, and then if you make Pickpocket legendary, you will get back the perk points and can start to retrain Pickpocket. You should be able to train Pickpocket to 51 using a skill trainer, while pickpocketing your gold back to increase Pickpocket even faster. Be warned that starting this process at lower levels can leave you in great difficulty in combat, if you have not trained any combat skills.
Notably, there are 5 trainers (3 expert: Archery, Block, One-handed, 2 master: Heavy Armor, Two-handed) in the Companions headquarters (Jorrvaskr) in Whiterun who are eligible to become your follower after you complete the Companions quest line. Faendal in Riverwood may also be recruited as your follower if you complete his quest in his favor, and he is a common Archery trainer.
There are several trainers who also sell merchandise - there are many at the College of Winterhold, for instance. Once you have access to an enchanting table, it is fairly inexpensive to enchant an iron dagger with a petty soul gem and a spell like Banish, yet these sell for a lot of money. Simply make several items like these, ask the trainer to train you as normal, and then ask what they have for sale and get your gold back by selling them the enchanted daggers. You may need to have the Merchant perk in Speech; most trainers will not normally buy weapons. At higher levels of skill training, this can also help you to train Speech.
- This exploit has been removed by version 126.96.36.199.8 of the Official Skyrim Patch.
- Activate an empty book shelf to access the book shelf menu.
- Find the Oghma Infinium in your inventory, and open it.
- Choose any path (The Path of Might to level Combat skills, The Path of Shadow to level Stealth skills, or The Path of Magic to level Magic skills).
- Store the Oghma Infinium on the bookshelf.
- Leave the book shelf menu.
- Activate the Oghma Infinium on the book shelf.
- Select (Do Not Read).
- Take the book off the shelf
Repeat the above until you are satisfied with the amount of levels you have gained.
In the course of this quest, when you activate the focal points with the Tuning Gloves, you may be given a potent magicka recovery bonus (paradoxically from what should have been a Drain Magicka effect) for two hours that lets you cast and recover instantly. This can be used to cast expensive spells over and over to gain levels, if given the appropriate circumstances.
100% Magicka Reduction
After getting your Enchanting skill level to 100 (or close to it, and using a potion of Fortify Enchanting), you can create apparel with 25% cost reduction bonuses for any school of magic. As such, with four items of apparel (head, chest, ring, neck) enchanted thusly, you can gain 100% cost reduction, making casting any spell in that school entirely free. The following methods are high cost, high XP spells for quickly leveling magical skills this way:
- For increasing Alteration, use Telekinesis to carry an object in front of you while you walk, or repeatedly cast Waterbreathing while standing in water at least knee-deep. Casting Detect Life in a crowded city will continuously level Alteration, limited in this circumstance only by your patience.
- For increasing Illusion, Muffle is great at all levels, while Fear spells are better at higher levels.
- For increasing Conjuration, enter combat with anything and repeatedly cast the highest cost Conjure spell you can. You can also use Soul Trap spell on a dead body continously to quickly advance in Conjuration.
- For increasing Restoration, casting Equilibrium (to drain health) in one hand and any healing spell in your other hand will level it rapidly. Once obtained, repeatedly casting Circle of Protection is an even faster method.
- For increasing Destruction, just repeatedly blast away at things with your most magicka-expensive spell in that school.
Fortify Restoration, Alchemy and Smithing Boosting Enchantments
If you put an Alchemy boosting enchantment on a ring, necklace, gloves, and helmet, craft a Fortify Restoration potion, consume it, then unequip and re-equip the gear, this will cause the enchantments to temporarily be effectively better than they were, allowing you to create a stronger potion, which increases the effect even more. After repeating this a number of times, your potions can be boosted to a ridiculous level. If you craft a Fortify Enchanting potion which boosts your enchantment skill by around 40,000% or more, you can enchant an item to boost alchemy by a ridiculous amount as well. This will allow you to craft potions that increase the skill considerably, even at level 15. This will allow you to boost alchemy from 15 to 100 in a matter of seconds, making it very easy to obtain additional levels. A boost of the smithing skill can be achieved the same way: After crafting the Fortify Enchanting potion, put a smithing enchantement on a piece of gear. Improving a piece of armor or weapon will also boost smithing from 15 to 100 if you have 4-5 pieces of the tempering material.
If you complete enough of the College of Winterhold quests you gain increased magicka regen while standing in the campus. Equipping Invisibility on both hands with NO PERKS in Illusion you will find that you can indefinitely cast the spells over and over and can level up the skill forever. As you can make the skill legendary as many times as you want, each time you hit level 100 simply make it legendary and start over again. Through this you can level up fairly quickly without any risk, bounties, or costs.
Gaining Skill XP
- For tips on how to train skills effectively, please refer to the respective section of the individual Skill page.
- See the Free Skill Boosts page for details on free boosts to certain skills.
Achievements related to leveling are: