The good thing about the gameplay of Skyrim is that possibilities are almost endless. You can get all skills to level 100, but that takes too much time without using cheats. Therefore, the point of a character build is to be as efficient in your playthroughs as possible in a short amount of time. However, for those who seek a bit more challenge, they turn to the way of using only fists.
The unarmed brawler build is something that can put fun back into playing Skyrim, or just keep it fresh for those who have not tried it out yet. While some may scoff at its apparent lack of precision since it’s all about bludgeoning your enemies with your fists.
Advantages of Unarmed Combat
First of all, unarmed attacks have the fastest animations in the game, so you know that you’re dishing it out as fast as you possibly can in Skyrim. It also means that you get to stun and stagger enemies more often, increasing your effectiveness in battle.
Unarmed is also pretty strong early in the game as you can get access to heavy armor at the start of the game. Soon enough, you can kill almost anything with two or three hits. This does depend on your difficulty setting, but unarmed is quite powerful once you get Fists of Steel.
Whenever you get into a bar brawl or take a quest that requires “convincing” someone, you’ll be strong enough to hit them with a shot or two to make them go down.
Lastly, it’s automatic bragging rights as you’re able to tell other people that you slay dragons with your fists in Skyrim quite literally.
Khajiit is the most ideal due to the +15 bonus damage to unarmed attacks with their claws. Orc can be an alternative choice due to their racial bonus to heavy armor. Berserker Rage also helps during tough battles as it lets you do double damage for 60 seconds. You also get a good chunk of health to work with when using Orc, so it’s a nice bonus. Most players would go for Khajiit though due to their speed and offensive capabilities.
The most important skills to have in this build are heavy armor and smithing. With those two, you can basically become badass in a good amount of time. It does take quite some grinding at the start since you take more damage.
Once you have a set of heavy armor, start fighting as much as you can without getting yourself killed. Soon, you’ll get it to level 30 and you can then acquire Fists of Steel, a perk that uses the armor rating of your gauntlets for additional attack damage. You can then work towards getting other Heavy Armor perks that are useful, like Matching Set.
You must then level up your Smithing and get the Arcane Smithing perk to let you enhance magic items. You can then aim for Daedric Smithing so you can make your own set of Daedric Armor. Always upgrade your armor for defense and damage from your gauntlets.
You should be disenchanting and enchanting items a lot to level the skill up. Much of your abilities will be multiplied several fold with enchanted items, so you’ll want to maximize your enchanting skill once you get your daedric armor. You can drink a potion of enchanting and wear items that boost it to get the highest bonuses possible. If you aren’t able to level it up enough, find a trainer. The money spent on a trainer could be worth it since you’ll be obtaining awesome equipment as a result.
You’ll be aiming for Daedric Armor, but you can only get a full set by having Daedric Smithing. In the meantime, you can wear what you can find out there. Once you get Matching Set, you’ll have to wear a whole set of armor whenever possible to maximize the armor rating. From then on, you can just find as many fights as you can to level up.
Perhaps the most important item you’ll ever obtain is the Gloves of the Pugilist, worn by Gian the Fist in the Ratway underneath Riften. Those gloves add +10 to unarmed attacks, but you’ll need to disenchant them since they’re only light armor. You should then enchant that property into your own heavy gauntlets for it to stack with Fists of Steel. Once you get to that point, few enemies will be able to stand against your blows.
You have to keep different kinds of enemies in mind. You’ll be able to take on most melee enemies, but take note whenever you take too much damage after getting hit by a really powerful one. As for ranged and magic users, you need to close the distance or at least disrupt them long enough to take care of whatever is bugging you at the moment before you can address them. This is where shouts come in.
Unrelenting Force is still your bread and butter, letting you knock back and stun enemies when they’re being too disruptive. Other shouts may help you gain an advantage in combat as well, but this one is still the best crowd control in the game. If you have to close a good deal of distance at once, then Whirlwind Sprint is the way to go. Since powerful mages can potentially blow you away with magic, you have to get to them fast and take them out before they do damage.
Once you’re at a high enough level though, you can wear whatever you please according to your preferences. There are so many items to wear in the game that it would be sad to not try them on whenever you have the chance.
You can take either the Warrior or Atronach stone, with the former giving the obvious attack bonus and the latter giving magic resistance to help you against those pesky mages.
This is definitely one of the more interesting builds you can do in Skyrim. If you feel that the game is still entertaining to play, but you want to do something different, then this could fit the bill for you.
This is perhaps the best and most well known video guide to the unarmed build in Skyrim.