Since the transition from Daggerfall to Morrowind, the Elder Scrolls series has constantly changed how class, attribute, and skill systems work for your characters. And no game in the series has made more changes than Skyrim.
Numerous skills in previous entries in the series are gone entirely, as is the attribute system. Instead, Bethesda introduced a new skill system, with each skill having a moderately expansive skill tree. With this new system also came the implementation of Legendary skills.
There are some pros and cons to Legendary skills, and they add a new layer to how you may want to handle your perk spread in both the early and late game. If you make the wrong choice for a Legendary Skill, you might screw yourself and your character.
Allow me to walk you through everything you need to know about Legendary skills.
What Are Legendary Skills?
A Legendary skill is a skill that reaches level 100. After achieving the skill cap, you have the option to make the skill Legendary by resetting it to the base level of 15 (Legendary skills ignore all racial bonuses).
What Are the Pros of Legendary Skills?
No More Level Cap
There are a lot of benefits of making skills Legendary, the first of which being that the system effectively eliminates the level cap. In the base version of Skyrim, the level cap was 81. But with Legendary skills, there is essentially no level cap anymore. Thanks to the infinite amount of times you can level up, it’s possible to obtain every perk in the game. Doing so requires achieving level 252 (Which takes a lot of grinding).
Quickly Level Up in the Early Game
The Legendary skills system also allows you to fast-track your character at the beginning of the game and help players rectify mistakes they’ve made in their perk spreads. By focusing on leveling skills that are easiest to max and making them Legendary, you can level up faster than you usually could. I’ll be delving into it in one of the following sections, but it’s possible to be level 20 within 6 hours of starting Skyrim.
Maybe you were on the fence about wanting to use Two, or One-Handed weapons are your instruments of mayhem. Unable to choose between the two, you invested heavily into both perk trees. But now you’ve decided on just One-Handed, but you lack the perk points to commit to the skill.
In the late game, leveling up by using your skills gets slower and slower. Skill books that you can still read and benefit from will be few. But thanks to Legendary skills, none of that matters at all. You can level a few choice skills and get all the perk points you need. All it takes is a little grinding.
Legendary skills are not perfect, however.
What Are the Cons Of Legendary Skills?
Overleveling is a Bad Thing
Remember how I said you could reach level 20 within six hours by maxing out a particular skill? While I still encourage players to do this, since enemies sub-level 20 are pretty pitiful, and I encourage players to take on a challenge, I do not recommend going overboard with over leveling.
Spoiler alert, none of the best skills in the game to make Legendary are combat skills, so you need to remember that. Sure, you can grind the same non-combat skills over and over until you’re level 50, but you’d be screwing yourself. You won’t have the combat skills to deal with level 50 enemies or the gold needed to buy weapons, armor, spells necessary to survive.
But most importantly, I discourage excessive over-leveling because, to me, it partially ruins the game. Progression is always a big thing in games like this, with an early game, mid-game, and late-game. Jumping straight to the late-game is no fun at all.
You Lose All Your Perks for That Skill
Another thing to remember about Legendary skills is that you lose all the perks in that skill’s perk tree. For some skills, the cons outweigh the pros.
Skill books also do not reset when you make a skill Legendary. There are numerous skills in Skyrim that are an absolute pain to level up, and these books ease the burden significantly. Unless you’re a masochist or something, you don’t want to make Pickpocket a Legendary skill. Just don’t.
Also, keep in mind Skyrim’s skill trainer limitation of only being able to purchase level-ups from a trainer five times per level. We aren’t in Morrowind anymore.
5 Trainer Skill Levels Per Level Up is Impossible Early Game
Since you can only level up five times per level via trainers, you ideally want to do that at every level. Five trainer skill levels for a level 15 skill will cost around 1000 gold. However, this snowballs quickly and eventually will reach 10,000+ gold per five trainer skill levels. You can’t afford to use trainers in the early game if you rapidly level up, and that’s a massive waste of a valuable resource.
With the pros and cons out of the way, let’s talk about which skill you should definitely make Legendary and which ones you should consider making Legendary. I’ll be focusing on efficiency and accessibility here for the newer players of Skyrim.
The Best Legendary Skills in Skyrim
If you want to make skills Legendary to spam level up, you ideally want to choose skills with easily accessed and infinitely renewable resources. You will eventually reach a point where you have enough Alchemy or Smithing materials to make those skills Legendary and get back to level 100 (This is very far off, however). But this is very far off and will likely be a one-time thing.
That eliminates everything except for the Schools of Magic: Illusion, Destruction, Restoration, Conjuration, and Alternation. Even in the early game, your low magicka pool doesn’t matter since you can wait for an hour to recharge it completely. So which magic skill or skills take the cake?
Destruction is definitely out. It’s funny because it’s the one magic skill you actively use in combat (Heavily), yet it remains painfully slow to level up. If you want to see 100 Destruction this year, get acquainted with Faralda. Alternation and Restoration are out, too, as they are both very slow to level up. Alternation becomes bearable at later levels, I suppose, but eh. It’s not worth it, in my opinion.
That means that we have two grand prize winners.
The Illusion skill is how you make magic happen in Skyrim (No pun intended) and the best Legendary skill by a long shot. Maxing out Illusion is, in the words of Farengar, simplicity itself. There are two ways you can max out Illusion easily and quickly.
Tiptoe to 100 Illusion
After you leave Helgen Keep (Make sure you keep the Novice Hood and Novice Robes), make a beeline for Whiterun. Next, head up to Dragonsreach and purchase the Muffle spell from Farengar. Spam the Muffle spell over and over. When you run out of magicka, wait an hour to recharge it. And that’s it. Didn’t I say it was simple?
You should be able to reach 100 Illusion in 4-6 hours, depending on if you focus entirely on Muffle training or multitask and do other things like forage for Alchemy ingredients. If you focus entirely on Illusion training, you should be around level 17 when you reach 100.
If you do other things simultaneously, like explore some caves, level up Sneak, and your preferred weapons skill, you’ll be around level 20.
The sweet spot for Illusion training is when you gain access to the top-tier enchanted items that reduce Illusion spell cost and increase magicka regen. Peerless is the highest tier for premade enchanted items, providing a 25% reduction in spell costs for Magic school skills.
You can obtain a set of Master Robes of Illusion from Drevis Neloren. He’s at the College of Winterhold and is the resident Master Illusion trainer and merchant. Unlike Peerless items, these reduce spell costs by 22% and increase magicka regeneration by 150%.
Other Peerless Illusion items may be hard to obtain, but you’ll come across one eventually. Check with every blacksmith, general store trader, and clothier in Skyrim. Enchanted items you create yourself will be better, but only when you reach level 90-100 Enchanting, which is a ways off.
If you obtain a complete set of Illusion gear, it’s possible to reduce Illusion spell costs to zero with the right perks. You can do this with every School of Magic. For Illusion training, this is overkill. One set of Master Robes and one additional Illusion item is enough to do the trick.
You will be able to achieve 100 Illusion in less than an hour. I recommend having at least 200 magicka. By the time you hit 60 Illusion, you’ll be able to cast three Muffle spells before needing to recharge. Once you hit the 80s, you’ll be able to dual-cast Muffle twice. Simple, efficient, and quick. Just the way I like it.
Rally the troops to 100 Illusion
The second option for getting 100 Illusion is taking advantage of an AOE spell, specifically Rally.
I suggest going somewhere with a lot of people in a small area. The chambers for the Solitude or Riften Jarls come to mind. Once there, cast Rally repeatedly until you reach 100 Illusion.
I prefer Muffle over Rally since the people will still move around, thus reducing how quickly you gain experience depending on the time of day. Rally is also an Adept spell, so you’ll need 50 Illusion to cut the cost of casting it in half. For late-game Legendary skill grinding, the methods are pretty equal. But for the early game, Muffle is the better method.
Instead of heading to see Farengar after escaping Helgen Keep, make your way to Whiterun Stables and take a carriage to Winterhold. Pass the test to join the College, then find resident Conjuration expert Phinis Gestor. Browse his wares and pick up the Soul Trap spell.
Fast-travel back to the Guardian Stones, which you will have passed on your way to Riverwood. Head southwest and past a bandit camp, and you’ll come across a Shrine of Talos. There will be four dead worshippers and a dead Thalmor here (Who has some nice loot for early game gold).
Make Soul Trap your active spell, then cast it repeatedly on one of the dead bodies. I couldn’t tell you why you can cast Soul Trap on a person no longer with us, but you can, and it levels Conjuration fast. Much faster than actively using it in combat.
Illusion is better early on, but the methods even out in the late game. I typically don’t Legendary skill spam Conjuration much because 100 Conjuration is too fun in combat.
Skills You Can Consider Making Legendary (Once)
I only recommend considering making Speech a Legendary skill if you invested heavily into the Haggling perk and want to min/max your character. And only if that’s the case. Once you reach high levels in the best moneymaking skills like Alchemy, Smithing, and Enchanting, you will make more money than you could ever spend. As such, Haggling will be a deadweight perk.
Take Alchemy, for example. If you have 5/5 Haggling and 100 Alchemy, you will struggle to find merchants who can even afford to buy the most valuable potions you can create. 0/5 Haggling can solve this problem (And yes, you can alleviate this issue by avoiding making potions too pricey, but again, min/maxing).
If you no longer have use for a perk, why keep it? The Legendary skill system gives you the unique opportunity to reset your build. It sets Skyrim apart, as that is impossible in most other games. And it may just be me, but I find Speech level-ups while bartering to be very satisfying. It’s like how in Fallout 3 when you get the cha-ching sound whenever you discover a new location. Once you hit level 30, you never hear it again. And that makes me sad.
Be warned, however, as there are some cons to resetting Speech. While Speech is simple to level up by bartering with merchants, it’s not a fast skill to max out. All Speech skill books you’ve already read are useless, and you can only gain five levels from a trainer per level.
You also lose access to the Persuasion and Intimidation perks that make their respective Speech checks easier and won’t unlock them again until 50 and 70 Speech, respectively. You can partially remedy your low Speech skill with items like the Masque of Clavicus Vile (See our quest guide for A Daedra’s Best Friend to find out how to get it), Amulet of Dibella, and Potions of Glibness.
But if you are a hardcore min/max player, I suppose you can give it a shot. If you do, select the Investor and Master Trader perks before resetting Speech and investing in every merchant you frequently use. Their gold does not reset after you reset your Speech skill.
As I mentioned in a previous section, you will have tons of Smithing materials in the late game. So much so that you can reset Smithing and hit level 100 in one go.
So long as you have all your gear loadouts for you and every follower you use already set up, I suppose there’s no reason not to reset Smithing. I would only do it once as it does take a while to buy enough materials to reach level 100.
Alchemy is the same as Smithing. So long as you go on repeated foraging runs every time alchemical plants reset in Skyrim, you will have hundreds of the stuff. I don’t remember the last time ingredients like salt pile, tundra cotton, or purple mountain flower were below 500.
Create all the potions you see yourself needing in the foreseeable future, then reset Alchemy and get it to level 100 again by spam creating power potions. One of the easiest and readily accessible ones is with blue mountain flowers and blue butterfly wings.
Also, like Smithing, I would only do this once as it simply makes more sense to spam Illusion or Conjuration grinding since magicka is infinite and raw materials are not.
I would only recommend making Block Legendary if you have no intention of using a shield when using a One-Handed weapon or staff. Block makes for one of the best skills to level early on since so much as taking one hit with your shield will level it up. Fast levels equal faster perk points.
Block is a chore to level up past 50, so I would probably stop there. You can reach the armor cap without a shield, so it’s okay not to use one.
Skills You Should Never Make Legendary
Light/Heavy Armor level up quickly in the early game but slow down considerably after hitting level 50-60. Enemies become very dangerous in the late game, and you don’t want to be walking around not at the armor rating cap. There’s no reason to make either of these skills Legendary.
As with Light and Heavy Armor, you have no reason to kill off your damage by making any of these skills Legendary. If you want to make Skyrim harder, play on a higher difficulty setting.
Getting the Destruction skill to 100 is horrible. If you’re a masochist, try doing it without getting any skill training.
Restoration is similarly awful but even more boring. At least with Destruction, you’re destroying enemies the whole time. But with Restoration, it consists of taking damage and healing it.
Alternation gets better past level 50, but I still wouldn’t bother making it Legendary for any reason.
You get a decent amount of level-ups by disenchanting items to learn their Enchantments. You can only do this one time, and then you’re out of luck.
Leveling Enchanting depends on the size of the souls you use to enchant items or charge enchanted gear. Even if you have the money to buy all the grand soul gems you need, it will take an obscene amount of time to do so.
Becoming a master thief is something you only want to do once.
Master locks are incredibly obnoxious to pick in Skyrim (Talos help you if you don’t have any Lockpicking gear). Having a low Lockpicking skill makes them worse. Pickpocket is an absolute chore to level up as well.
Question: Is there any reason to grind past level 252?
Answer: Nope. After you reach level 252 and get every possible skill, there’s no reason to grind any further except maybe for bragging rights.
Question: How many skills books are there in Skyrim?
Answer: There are only 90 skill books in Skyrim, five for each skill. For this reason, I strongly recommend you check the books online before you use them. You don’t want to use a Pickpocket book from level 15 to 16.
Question: Does grinding out Legendary skills ever get boring?
Answer: While most RPG players are used to the concept of grinding, it does get a little dull if you do it repeatedly in a short period. I usually do it once, then do other things for a while, then come back to it a few days later. But if you really want to go all out of grinding, maybe throw on a podcast to stave off the boredom.
Legendary Skills Guide: Conclusion
I must admit to being on the fence about the Legendary skills system. I do acknowledge that it has benefits, but at the same time, I find it to be a somewhat poor design implementation.
Bethesda started it with Skyrim but continued it with games like Fallout 4, and that’s their choice of artificially inflating the game time by removing limits on pretty much everything. Would it really be so bad if players were limited to the number of perks they could choose that would force them to specialize in one playstyle or be mediocre at everything?
Even the way Bethesda made quests and factions goes down this design path. Players can do basically everything in a single, extraordinarily long playthrough. You can become the Arch-Mage of the College of Winterhold and not even be good at magic. You can be a goodie-two-shoes supporter of the Imperial Legion, then join the Dark Brotherhood and assassinate the emperor.
Remember the good old days of Morrowind where factions had direct conflicts with one another, and you had to pick a side?
Skyrim is enjoyable but also makes a lot of questionable design choices. If Bethesda continues down this path, I fear they will set themselves in a rut of forever creating shallow, skin-deep video games. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.