Can you finish Skyrim using only the power of healing and the strength of your fists? Yes. Yes, you can. While you may not have the destructive power of a battle mage or the deadly prowess of an assassin, exploring the world of Skyrim as an unarmed paladin tank can be just as fun. What’s not to love about beating a dragon to death with your bare hands or trawling through undead dungeons with your favourite companion with the almost invulnerable toughness of maxed out restoration and heavy armour.
Unarmed Healer: Build Summary
While the lizardfolk of Black Marsh don’t get as much of a boost to their unarmed attacks as the Khajit, they do still pack a punch.
Khajit = 22 base unarmed damage.
Argonian = 10 base unarmed damage.
Other races = 4 base unarmed damage.
Because our character is going to be a hybrid healer/brawler, unarmed damage isn’t our only consideration. Argonians have the Histskin ability which regenerates health at ten times normal speed once a day which is invaluable in early game combat and also helps when levelling the Heavy Armour Skill. They also have +5 starting skill bonuses to both Restoration and Alteration which are cornerstone skill trees in this build. The fact that they can breathe underwater is a fun bonus.
Magicka 1 | Health 1 | Stamina 0
- You want to really tank up your Health as you’ll use Equilibrium to give yourself more Magicka when needed and your main power is to be nearly invulnerable with Heavy Armour and Restoration perks. You can also use Restoration to increase stamina when you heal and won’t need lots of carry weight because you’ll be making use of followers a lot for helping to carry your gear.
- I started off with a ratio of Magicka 1| Health 2 | Stamina 0, but because of all the heavy armour we don’t need as much health and I was finding I needed more Magicka for Restoration and Alteration spells.
- Heavy armour – for tanking and unarmed power from gauntlets (using Fists Of Steel Perk).
- Smithing – to get awesome heavy armour for protection.
- Enchanting – to add unarmed damage buff to your gauntlets and ring.
- Restoration – for healing yourself and teammates.
- Alteration – for boosting yourself, Equilibrium and Transmute.
- Speech – to get Merchant perk so you can sell your blacksmithed stuff more widely.
- Lockpicking – because Argonians have a starting bonus to give you a headstart and it’s just useful for any character to have.
So You Wanna Be A Brawler – Unarmed Combat in Skyrim
You’ll read a lot of different opinions on the viability of unarmed combat in Skyrim. Some of it is misinformed. Unfortunately, the dedicated Unarmed skill tree present in Oblivion wasn’t included in this game. If you do want to play a pure unarmed combat character, you’ll do fine in the early game but once you get above level 20 or 30 you’re going to struggle. This is because. without mods, or exploits (such as the enchanting/alchemy loop) the maximum damage you can get from an unarmed strike is 66 for a Khajit and 54 for an Argonian. The explanation of this damage output is below.
Maximum Unarmed Damage in Skyrim
- Base Damage = 22 (Khajit) or 10 (Argonian).
- Heavy Armour – Fists of Steel Perk = 18 with Daedric Gauntlets (Smithing upgrades and enchantments do NOT raise this any higher, as regardless of the in game text, Fists of Steel only adds the base armour rating of gauntlets to unarmed damage.
- Fortify Unarmed Enchantments = 26 (You can only enchant gauntlets and rings with Fortify Unarmed and the highest level you can reach without the enchanting/alchemy loop is 13 on each).
- TOTAL = 66 (Khajit) or 54 (Argonian) per unarmed strike
Note: The One-Handed perk Dual Flurry can make your unarmed attacks faster if you’re holding a One-Handed weapon in one hand. This would increase your DPS. But the overall damage output would still be a lot lower than other weapons or magic with levelled skill trees and perks. To create a viable build we’re mixing unarmed combat with the NPC Restoration buffs of a support healer type character, so I chose to keep my non-punching hand free for spell casting.
Skyrim Unarmed Healer Build Walkthrough
- At the point in the intro where you enter the Keep, pick either Ralof or Hadvar and obtain some Imperial Armour ASAP.
- Take as many blows as possible while casting Healing on your way out of the Keep to level up Restoration and Heavy Armour.
- Head straight to the Guardian Stones and activate the Warrior Stone to help you level up heavy armour.
- Right near the warrior stone is Embershard Mine. Go in here and let the two bandits in the first room beat you up. Use Healing when needed as well as healing and magicka potions from the Keep and histskin power to stay alive while you level Heavy Armour and Restoration.
- Pick health on first two levels and the first perk in the Heavy Armour and Restoration trees. This will help you stay alive while these guys beat you.
- Keep levelling Heavy Armour in this way until you get it to level 30 and unlock the Fists Of Steel perk and then continue on to Riverwood. (Righteously beat the bandits to death first).
- Take on your first follower: I chose Faendal to complement my tank style.
- Head to Whiterun and take a carriage ride to dawnstar to loot the hidden chest. Get as much stuff with enchantment as possible. Get all the filled soul gems you can find.
- Use the technique from this video to restock the chest and obtain more enchanted gear and soul gems:
- Keep going through the reset cycle and collecting enchanted items, lockpicks, money, precious stones/ gems, filled soul gems (and possibly empty soul gems to fill later), plain clothes/armour/weapons/jewelry for enchanting and ingots/ores for when you level smithing.
- Head to the the White Hall in Dawnstar (or anywhere with an Arcan Enchanter) and Disenchant everything to level up Enchantment.
- When leveling up Enchantment, first disenchant everything. This should give you a couple of level ups. Then spend these perks on the Enchanter perk before you enchant anything, this way the things you enchant will level you up faster/ be more valuable and useful.
- Make enchanted items to level up enchanting. You can then repeat the hidden chest loop as much as you want. But be mindful of your character leveling up too much before we’ve levelled your unarmed power.
- Go to a blacksmith and buy smithing supplies, sell back your unwanted enchanted items to keep your gold high and level Speech. Smith yourself the best quality full set of Heavy Armour that you can.
- Get a carriage ride to Riften and get the Gloves of the Pugilist from the Ratway.
- Head back to Whiterun and visit the Cloud District (do you get there often?) to disenchant the Gloves of The Pugilist and obtain some mage armour Alteration spells and better Restoration spells off the Court Wizard. Enchant yourself some unarmed boosted Gauntlets and a ring.
- Go on an adventure for awhile if you want. Get a better follower. Uthgerd from the Bannered Mare in Whiterun is a good pick. Follow her into battle in any dungeon you choose while healing her and casting Oakflesh or Stoneflesh on yourself. Punch people when you want/need to.
- Collect all the iron, silver and gold ore that you can.
- Anytime you’re in town, bu all the iron, silver and gold ore you can.
- Go to Halted Stream Camp and obtain the Transmute spell book.
- Go to Dragomsreach and enchant yourself a set of Alteration boosting clothes/robes/tunic, ring and necklace.
- Level up Alteration by spamming Magelight.
- When you can get, it unlock novice, apprentice and adept Alteration perks.
- Transmute all your iron and silver ore into gold. Smelt this into ingots and use to make rings and necklaces to level up smithing.
- Enchant these and then sell to a blacksmith for more iron, silver and gold. Rinse and repeat.
- In this way, level up alteration, enchanting and smithing more.
- Make yourself a decent set of Heavy Armour with whatever configuration of enchantments for Fortify Unarmed, Fortify Alteration and Fortify Restoration, Fortify Smithing and any other enchantments best suits your play style.
- Roam Skyrim with your favourite follower healing, buffing and punching your way to gold and glory!