Choosing a race is one of the players’ first decisions when starting a new character in Elder Scrolls Online. The decision is a big one, as it can only be changed by purchasing a token to change it with microtransactions.
It determines what builds your character will work best for, what alliance you play, and what questline you will first have access to. So, if you’re jumping into the MMO for the first time or want to start a new character, here is everything you need to know about the races in Elder Scrolls Online before you start.
Key Info Up Front
Races: Altmer, Argonian, Bosmer, Breton, Dunmer, Imperial, Khajiit, Nord, and Redguard.
Possible Alliances: Aldmeri Dominion, Daggerfall Covenant, and Ebonheart Pact
Starting Regions: Khenarthi’s Roost, Bleackrock Isle, and Stros M’kai
Each race in ESO has a unique spread of customization options, belongs to a particular faction in the Three Alliances War at the center of ESO‘s main questline, and has a skill tree with four passive abilities that make the race play better in specific builds.
Any race can be any class, and they all can work for any build in the game, but players who want to make sure they are as strong as they can be will want to pick the suitable class and build for their race. Players can also purchase packs to both unlock the Imperial race but also to allow them to play as any race in any of the three alliances.
The races also each have a unique place in the world of Tamriel. Elder Scrolls fans who are engaged in the setting’s lore and world-building will likely want to take into account the culture, history, and actions of the race they play as.
Your character’s race will also change some interactions throughout the game, as characters will act differently toward you depending on their opinion of your race. The differences aren’t as big as they are in some of the mainline games throughout the series, but they should still be considered.
Alliance: Aldmeri Dominion
The Altmer, also known as High Elves, are a very proud people. This has led to them taking an isolationist approach to geopolitical conflicts while also tending to view themselves as more distinguished and influential than the other races.
They even think lowly of the other races that make up the Aldmeri Dominion with them, often calling them savages and claiming they have a lack of culture and sophistication. Their air of superiority comes from being the closest descendants to the divines that created the mortal realm of Nirn, granting them a natural proficiency with magic.
That proficiency with magic has allowed the Altmer to make their home province of the Summerset Isles as idyllic as any other in Tamriel. The Isles are ruled by a royal family that rules through the historic Scrolls of Praxis that form the foundation of their government.
Their culture is also filled with an appreciation of art and higher culture, emphasizing impressions, decorum, and countless social rules. These include notes on things like how to host guests, using the correct utensils for meals, and allowing the most high-ranking members of a meal to eat the most food. At the time of Elder Scrolls Online, the Altmer was an extremely secluded race that was slow to allow outsiders into their province. The Altmer is also the subject of the Summerset expansion.
Notable Altmer in ESO
Queen Ayrenn – The leader of the Aldmeri Dominion and the Queen of the Altmer.
Mannimarco – The first necromancer and the right-hand lieutenant of Molag Bal during ESO‘s main questline.
Vanus Galerion – A powerful mage responsible for founding the historic Mages Guild and ruling the secretive Psijic Order.
Altmer Passive Abilities
Highborn – This ability increases the experience you gain toward leveling up the Destruction Staff skill line by 15% and your general experience gain by 1%. This makes the race proficient with Destruction Staves more quickly than other races, while they can still use any weapon in the game and any other race.
Spell Recharge – This ability restores the lower of your Magicka or Stamina by 200/400/640 whenever you use an ability from your class once every six seconds while also reducing damage taken by 1%/2%/5% while using those abilities. This ability makes the Aldmer very good for builds focused on using class abilities like spell casters.
Syrabane’s Boon – This ability increases your maximum Magicka by 600/1200/2000.
Elemental Talent – This ability increases your Spell Damage by 86/172/258.
Alliance: Ebonheart Pact
The Argonians are the iconic lizardfolk from the Elder Scrolls. The race is native to the impenetrable province of Black Marsh. Black Marsh is renowned for being an ever-shifting swamp that the Argonians claim is a sentient region known as the Hist that gave birth to the species.
The volatile nature of the Black Marshes makes it nearly impossible for any non-Argonian races to survive there for long, especially when considering the range of dangerous beasts and plant life that can be found there. However, living in that environment has led to Argonians becoming skilled with weapons and healing magic.
Across Tamriel, Agronians are thought to be sly and relatively peaceful, although they prefer to keep to themselves and other Argonians. However, the Hist at the center of their origins and culture can control and change their emotions. It is believed that the Hist can even call Argonians from across Tamriel back to Black Marsh to defend it if it feels necessary.
Argonian Passive Abilities
Amphibian – This ability increases the swimming speed of Argonians by 50% rather than allowing them to breathe underwater as they can in other games in the series. It also increases their experience gain in the Restoration Staff skill line by 15%, making them a strong race for healing builds.
Resourceful – This ability increases your character’s Maximum Magicka by 1%/2%/3% and recovers your Health, Magicka, and Stamina by 4%/8%/12% of their maximum whenever you drink a potion. This ability makes using potions indispensable to their play style, so they are a great race to choose if you’re interested in crafting potions.
Argonian Resistance – This ability increases your Maximum Health by 3%/6%/9% and your resistance to Disease and Poison by 7%/14%/21%.
Quick to Mend – This ability increases the healing you do and receive by 1%/3%/5%. This again makes them very strong for healing builds.
Alliance: Aldmeri Dominion
The Bosmer, or the Wood Elves, are native to the province of Valenwood. The race is well known for being proficient hunters and extremely skilled stealth and is considered by other races to be the only race of elves with a sense of humor.
Nature is an incredibly important part of Bosmer culture, which likely stems from their nation’s deep connection and reliance on the verdant forests of Valenwood. Their province is also frequently attacked by a group of Imperials known as the Colovians, which has led to them becoming proficient at defensive military strategy.
Bosmer attributes their deviation from the Altmer as being the work of Y’ffre the Forest God through what has become known as the Green Pact. The pact allowed them to live in Valenwood without having to warp it around their needs or preferences but also requires them to kill or injure any plant life.
This has led to the Bosmer becoming staunch carnivores. They are even known to eat their dead after battles in what is seen as an honorable transaction. They also take the skulls of powerful foes they defeat and decorate them with paints, bones, and other baubles. To avoid harming the surrounding plant life to make housing, they use long magical rituals that instead persuade the plants to form themselves into the required structures.
Notable Bosmer in ESO
Aeradan – Reigning king of the Bosmer
Bosmer Passive Abilities
Acrobat – This ability decreases all fall damage you take by 10% and increases the experience gain of your Bow skill line by 15%. This ability makes Bosmer characters robust options for ranged builds in classes like Wardens and Nightblades.
Y’ffre’s Endurance – This ability increases your Stamina recovery by 7%/15%/21%, making them proficient in builds that use Stamina rather than Magicka for most abilities.
Resist Affliction – This ability increases your maximum Stamina and resistance against Disease and Poison by 1%/2%/3%.
Stealthy – This ability increases the radius of your stealth by 1m/2m/3m and the damage you deal when attacked from stealth by 3%/6%/9%. This ability also helps you perform even better with stealth builds in classes like Wardens and Nightblades.
Alliance: Daggerfall Covenant
Bretons hail from the province of High Rock and are unique humans whose ancestors mixed their blood with that of elves hundreds of years ago. Their culture is defined by an innate appreciation for poetry and passion, making them natural diplomats. At the same time, their mixed blood also makes them naturally pick up both magic and martial weapons. Breton culture also focuses on prosperity for all.
The race’s mixed abilities also make it a strong option for nearly any class build, but it is especially so for those that focus on Magicka abilities. The Breton proficiency with Light Armor also makes it best for DPS or Healer builds rather than Tank ones that tend to rely on Heavy Armor.
Their emphasis on communal culture is thought to stem from the race’s history as enslaved people under the cruel thumbs of High Elves. This led to the mixing of elvish blood with their ancestors, and their revolt out of slavery has caused numerous bloody wars throughout their history as an independent province.
This desire for as many people to live well as possible even led to them agreeing to give part of High Rock to the Orsimer that make up part of the Daggerfall Covenant with them.
Breton Passive Abilities
Opportunist – This ability increases the experience gain of your Light Armor skill line by 15%.
Gift of Magnus – This ability increases your maximum Magicka by 600/1200/2000.
Spell Resistance – This ability increases your Spell Resistance by 660/1320/2310 and your Magicka Recovery by 33/66/100, which is doubled when you are burning, chilled, or concussed.
Magicka Mastery – This ability reduces the cost of your Magicka abilities by 2%/4%/7%.
Alliance: Ebonheart Pact
The Dunmer are also known as Dark Elves and hail from the province of Morrowind. The Dunmer are defined as a proud but grim race that tends to recognize the small influence in the face of forces like Daedric Princes. They tend to make valuable allies for their deep loyalty, although they are slow to trust newcomers or outsiders.
Their mostly desolate homeland has also led to them becoming naturals when it comes to blades, magic, and stealth tactics while also being the subject of the Morrowind expansion.
Dunmer also has a close relationship with the Daedric Princes. The race was created when a group of Altmer traveled to the province and was shaped by the teachings of the Daedric Prince Boethiah. Their appearance was then permanently changed by a curse put on them by Azura. Their close relationship with the Daedric Princes led them to widely practice a religion that many other races find dangerous or strange.
Notable Dunmer in ESO
Vivec – A Dunmer that ascended to Godhood and is part of the tribune that rules over Morrowind.
Sotha Sil – A Dunmer who is part of the tribune that rules over Morrowind wields god-like power.
Dunmer Passive Abilities
Ashlander – This ability increases the experience gain of your Dual Wield skill line by 15% and halves the damage you take from lava. This ability makes your character more proficient in melee builds in classes like Necromancer, Dragon Knight, Nightblade, and Templar.
Dynamic – This ability increases your maximum Magicka and Stamina by 2%/4%/6%, making them stronger in builds that rely on class abilities.
Resist Flame – This ability increases your Fire Damage resistance by 10/21/32 and your maximum Magicka by 1%/2%/3%.
Flame Talent – This ability strengthens the damage of your fire-related spells by 3%/5%/7%. This makes Dunmer the best race for Dragon Knight characters.
Imperials are unique in Elder Scrolls Online because they are only available through the Imperial Edition of the game or as a separate downloadable pack. This means that they can join any of the three alliances since they are outcasts of their home province of Cyrodiil.
In Elder Scrolls Online, playable Imperials have left their home province after discovering that their leaders have fallen to Daedra worship, a dark and dangerous act. They also have the innate ability to craft gear in the unique Imperial visual style.
The history of Imperials is characterized by war and a desire to control Tamriel through the expansion of their empire. The constant war has made them a hardy race that is no stranger to melee battle.
Imperials also have a complicated relationship with the other races of Tamriel because of their empirical ambitions, as they have frequently gone to war with most other races or have even ruled them. However, since Imperials are only available to a small portion of ESO players, they do not often appear in the game.
Imperial Passive Abilities
Diplomat – This ability increases the rate you gain gold by 1% while also increasing the experience gain of your One-Hand and Shield skill line by 15%.
Tough – This ability increases your maximum Health by 600/1200/2000. This makes Imperials great candidates for Tank builds.
Imperial Mettle – This ability increases your maximum Stamina by 600/1200/2000. This makes Imperials favor Stamina-based builds, such as a tank Necromancer.
Red Diamond – This ability has two powerful effects. Firstly, it reduces the cost of all your abilities by 1%/2%/3%. Secondly, when you deal direct damage to an enemy with your weapon, it restores 100/200/333 Health, Magicka, and Stamina, which can only happen every five seconds. This ability also strengthens Imperials as Tank builds that use class abilities but also focus on direct damage with weapons.
Alliance: Aldmeri Dominion
The Khajiit are a cat-like race that lives in the province of Elsweyr in nomadic tribes. Elsweyr is a large province defined by massive dry plains with sporadic regions of dense juggles. This has led them to become agile, fiery, and quick-witted.
Their lack of larger civilization leads to tribes having to fend for themselves in the harsh lands of the province, making them feared warriors on any battlefield that are lightning quick and proficient with any blade.
Their religion and culture revolve around their two moons, Secunda and Masser. They worship both moons for different aspects of the world and are led by their political and spiritual leader known as the Mane. They believe that they were directly born by the moons, and the position of both moons at the time of a Khajiit’s birth even determines which form it takes, from a humanoid to your average house cat.
However, their strange religious and cultural beliefs have led to most other races viewing them as shifty and untrustworthy. At the time of Elder Scrolls Online, they have been ravaged by a vicious disease known as the Knahaten Flue and have only been able to recover thanks to the help of Queen Ayrenn of the High Elves. They are also the subject of the Elsweyr expansion.
Khajiit Passive Abilities
Cutpurse – This ability increases the experience gain of your Medium Armor skill line by 15% while also increasing your pickpocketing chances by 5%.
Robustness – This ability bolsters your Health Recovery by 33/66/100 and your Magicka and Stamina Recovery by 25/50/85. The universal nature makes them work well for any class or build.
Lunar Blessings – This ability increases your Health, Magicka, and Stamina by 250/500/825.
Feline Ambush – This ability increases your Critical Damage and Critical healing by 3%/6%/10%, as well as lowers your detection radius while sneaking by 1m/2m/3m. This means that Khajiit work well as stealth-focused builds that prioritize critical damage like Nightblades.
Alliance: Ebonheart Pact
The Nords are a robust race of humans from the northern province of Skyrim. Possibly the most well-known Elder Scrolls race thanks to the release of Skyrim, Nords are defined by valuing combat and humor in equal measure. They are known to be xenophobic, well-trained warriors, alcoholics and tend to be much larger than most other human races.
The history of Nords is one filled with frequent conflict and hardships. Their province is mountainous enough to make travel difficult, as well as frequently being covered in snow and vicious winds.
During the genesis of their race, they were enslaved by a ruthless army of dragons that used them for manual labor and cruel pleasures. The Nords were eventually able to free themselves from the rule of the Dragons thanks to the power of a Dragonborn ruler that ultimately went on to found the Imperial Empire.
Notable Nords in ESO
Jorunn the Skald-King – Leads the Ebonheart Pact and is the Nordic High King.
Arch-Mage Shalidor – The current leader and Arch-Mage of the Mages Guild.
Nord Passive Abilities
Reveler – This ability increases the experience gain of your Two-Handed skill line by 15% while also adding 15 minutes to the duration of any consumed drink.
Resist Frost – This ability increases your Maximum Health by 333/666/1000 and your resistance to Cold damage by 660/1320/2310 and gives you immunity to the Chilled effect. This ability is mainly circumstantial but also makes Nords strong Tanks.
Stalwart – This ability increases your Maximum Stamina by 500/1000/1500 and builds your ultimate meter by 1/2/5 whenever you take damage every 10 seconds. This ability also makes Nords a strong race for Tanks and helps them use their Ultimate ability to stay alive longer.
Rugged – This ability boosts your resistance to Physical and Spell damage by 1320/2640/3960, again making Nords healthy options for Tank builds.
Alliance: Daggerfall Covenant
Orsimer are a race of Orcs that have taken residence in the province of Wrothgar. Historically, the Orsimer are mountain people that have struggled to have a province to call their home. This has led to them traveling across the continent, often caught in conflicts that led to them mastering the art of making armor and weapons while also knowing how to wield them with ferocity.
They are widely regarded as barbaric and lesser than most other races, but they culturally adhere to a strict code of honor. They prize strength above all else, with leaders having to fight for their position and power over others. This helps ensure that they are always ruled by the most capable, although it does focus their efforts on warfare, prowess in battle, and little else.
Notable Orsimer in ESO
King Kurog – The king of Wrothgar with a radical plan to unite all Orsimer tribes under one banner to rival the other races.
Orsimer Passive Abilities
Craftsman – This ability increases the experience gain of your Heavy Armor skill line by 15% and the Inspiration you gain from crafting by 10%. The proficiency with heavy armor makes them an excellent race for Tank builds.
Brawny – This ability increases your maximum Stamina by 600/1200/2000.
Unflinching Rage – This ability boosts your maximum Health by 300/600/1000 and heals you for 175/350/600 when you deal damage with a Weapon Ability every four seconds. This ability also makes them great for Tank builds with a strong focus on their weapon of choice.
Swift Warrior – This ability increases your sprint speed by 3%/6%/10%, your weapon damage by 86/127/258, and decreases the Stamina cost of sprinting by 4%/8%/12%. This ability makes them fantastic Tanks by helping them a position in battle and deal solid damage to hold aggro.
Alliance: Daggerfall Covenant
The last available race in Elder Scrolls Online is the Redguard, a race of humans native to the province of Hammerfell. Their origins lie in the fallen continent of Yokuda, but they migrated to Tamriel hundreds of years ago.
They are naturally cautious of Magicka and prefer to solve conflicts with what they view as honorable melee combat. Hammerfell is a desert province, and they tend to be athletic people who prize tradition, dogmatism, and a reverence for the divine.
To ensure that only worthy Redguard join their society, children have to endure a trial surviving the wastes of the Alik’r Desert to become adults. Failing the trial means certain death, an acceptable cost to ensuring that only those who can be a worthwhile contribution to their civilization are allowed in. They are also widely regarded as the most skilled and swift of warriors in all of Tamriel, thanks to their swift conquest of Hammerfell when they first arrived on the continent and the diversity of their martial abilities.
Redguard Passive Abilities
Wayfarer – This ability increases the experience gain of your One-Hand and Shield skill line by 15%.
Exhilaration – This ability increases your Stamina Recovery by 3%/6%/9% but only while in combat.
Conditioning – This ability increases your maximum Stamina by 4%/7%/10%.
Adrenaline Rush – This ability can be activated every three seconds and restores 1/2/3 Stamina when you hit an enemy with a melee attack. All of their Stamina-focused passive make them great options for Stamina-centric melee builds in classes like Necromancers, Dragon Knights, and Templars.
ESO Races Guide: FAQs
Question: What is the best race in Elder Scrolls Online?
Answer: The race that will work best for you largely depends on how you plan to build your character. They all can be any class or use any weapon, so it is really up to personal preference.
Question: Can you change your race in Elder Scrolls Online?
Answer: You can only change your race by purchasing a Race Change Token for 3000 crowns, around $25.
Question: Can you play Elder Scrolls Online alone?
Answer: Yes, the vast majority of content in the MMO can be played entirely solo, and any activities that can’t have matchmaking to help you find others to complete them with.