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Skyrim vs. Oblivion: A Character Creation Comparison

Updated on December 10, 2011

This article will compare the major differences between character creation in "Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion" and "Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim," two amazing role-playing games developed by Bethesda Game Studios.

Oblivion Character Menu
Oblivion Character Menu | Source

Character Appearance

The races in Oblivion and Skyrim all have the same general qualities, but Skyrim is more graphically pleasing to the eye, and its character features appear considerably more realistic.

When a player first creates their in-game persona, they are given a character creation screen in order to shape the look of the being that will be representing them throughout the game. The character creation screen for "Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion" and "Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim," have some distinct differences.

The Skyrim character creation screen has a few new & fun options to choose from when creating the look of a character, such as: weight (muscles), tattoos, dirt, war paint, scars, beards, feathers and horns. Oblivion did have a beard tone selector, but it wasn't an actual beard, only the ability to change a small patch of skin color around the chin and upper lip.

Skyrim doesn't offer a player the ability to refine the characters facial features to the extent that one could in Oblivion. For example, in Oblivion one could actually fine-tune a character's nose byway of selecting the nostril width, nostril height, nose bridge length, nose sellion width, nose tilt direction, nose height, nose width, etc. In Skyrim one is not offered the ability to fine-tune these details, but a player is able to select from a variety of pre-made nose shapes, nose heights and nose lengths.

Skyrim offers more eye color variations and styles than Oblivion does. Oblivion has only three eye colors for most races (no variations of these colors or styles), and only one or two eye colors for select races; while Skyrim has a variety of eye color variations and styles for most races.

Skyrim Skill Bonus vs. Oblivion Skill Bonus

Oblivion (Major Skill Bonus)
Skyrim (Major Skill Bonus)
Altmer (High Elf)
Destruction, Illusion, Mysticism
Athletics, Security
Bosmer (Wood Elf)
Marksman, Alchemy, Sneak
Conjuration, Restoration, Mysticism
Dunmer (Dark Elf)
Blade, Destruction
Mercantile, Speechcraft
Acrobatics, Hand-to-Hand
Blade, Blunt, Heavy Armor
Orsimer (Orc)
Armorer, Block, Blunt, Heavy Armor
Heavy Armor
Athletics, Blade, Blunt

Racial Skill Bonuses

In both Skyrim and Oblivion, initial skill bonuses are affected by race. However, the skill bonuses in Skyrim are much more balanced than the skill bonuses in Oblivion.

Skyrim has only one major (ten point) skill bonus for each race. Whereas Oblivion sometimes had several major skill bonus’s for one race, while another race may have had only one (please see the chart to the right for more details).

Male vs. Female

In Oblivion, a player receives different primary attributes, depending on whether or not they play a male or a female. The female sex of each race is usually more magical and speedy, while the male sex of each race is usually stronger and has more endurance. This can be seen by comparing the starting statistics of males and females of each race in Oblivion.

Skyrim does not have a large set of starting attributes that each race or sex is categorized under. However, Skyrim does have a small set of hidden statistics that each race and sex is categorized under; these are: run speed, jump height, and base melee damage.

These values are based almost entirely on a characters height, as determined by sex and race. Therefore, the taller a character is, the faster they will run, the higher they will jump, and the higher base melee damage they will have. This means that the Breton female, Khajiit female, and Bosmer male will initially be fairly slow, and have a lower base melee damage. While Altmer males and females will initially be fairly fast, and will begin with a higher base melee damage. A character's sex also affects other aspects of Skyrim, such as how a player is treated, or greeted by NPC's.

Skyrim Perk Menu
Skyrim Perk Menu | Source

Attributes vs. Perks

Oblivion has a system that includes a variety of Attributes, including both primary attributes, and derived attributes. Oblivions primary attributes include the following: Strength, Intelligence, Willpower, Agility, Speed, Endurance, Personality, and Luck. Oblivions derived attributes are: Health, Magicka, and Fatigue. These initial attributes are given to players based on their choice of race and sex. While playing the game, players are able to choose which of the primary attributes to designate points to when they receive more experience, which essentially allows the player to build their character however they wish from this point on; allowing a players choices to affect his/her attributes.

Skyrim has only three main attributes which include: Health, Magicka, and Stamina. The skills that a player increases don't have any effect on these attributes. However, a player may choose to increase these attributes with the experience they earn while playing the game. Rather than attributes being the main element of increased power, Skyrim employs Perks. Perks are bonus abilities added to the following skills: Alteration, Conjuration, Destruction, Enchanting, Illusion, Restoration, Archery, Block, Heavy Armor, One-handed, Smithing, Two-handed, Alchemy, Light Armor, Lockpicking, Pickpocket, Sneak, and Speech. These bonus abilities are often very useful, and fun to choose; they also allow players to truly customize the exact strengths and weaknesses of their character.

Planned Character Classes vs. Natural Character Classes

Oblivion has about twenty-one character classes to choose from, and also provides the ability to build a custom character class. Custom character classes are created by first choosing a name for your custom class. Next a player must choose a specialization: combat, mage, or rogue. Then a player will choose two governing attributes from these: Strength, Intelligence, Willpower, Agility, Speed, Endurance, or Personality. Finally, a player will choose seven skills that they want to focus on primarily. The compilation of these choices, create the custom character class.

Skyrim doesn't have any pre-made character classes. Also, there is no way to choose a character class ahead of time (within the boundaries of the game). A player must play the game and allow their play-style, as well as chosen perks and attributes, to determine their character class.

In Oblivion I enjoyed the custom class design, but often found myself playing differently than I originally planned to play my character. Therefore, the classes in Oblivion became rather useless. Skyrim's design allows for a natural class based on how a player actually plays the game, it feels more natural and less contrived.

Birth Signs vs. Standing Stones

"Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion" has something called "Birthsigns" which are constellations that a character is born under. There are about thirteen Birthsigns to choose from in Oblivion, and each one bears with it unique powers and sometimes curses. Some Birthsigns are extremely useful while others are less than useful and sometimes even hinder a character. Birthsigns are set in the stars and cannot be changed while playing the game.

"Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim" doesn't have Birthsigns, but it does have something called "Standing Stones" which are large, magical, stones found in the wilderness. There are thirteen Standing Stones, and they grant powers to players much like Birthsigns did in Oblivion. However, a big difference between the two is that unlike Birthsigns, Standing Stones can be changed as often as a player wants to change them. They are seen more like a strategic game play tool than a static prediction from the stars.

Birth Signs vs. Standing Stones

Name of Sign/Stone
Birthsign Descriptions
Standing Stone Descriptions
The Apprentice
Fortify Magicka 100 points on Self, Weakness to Magic 100% on Self.
+100% Magicka regeneration, +100% weakness to Magicka.
The Atronach
Fortify Magicka 150 points on Self, Spell Absorption 50% on Self, Stunted Magicka on Self (prevents standard magicka regeneration).
+50 Magicka, 50% absorb spells, Magicka regenerates 50% slower.
The Lady
The Lady's Blessing confers bonuses of 10 points to your Willpower and Endurance attributes.
Regenerate Health and Stamina 25% faster.
The Lord
Being born under the Lord gives you the Blood of the North lesser power to regenerate up to 90 points of Health. However, you also gain the Trollkin curse, a permanent 25% Weakness to Fire.
50pts Damage Resistance; 25% Magic Resistance.
The Lover
Use the Lover's Kiss power once a day to Paralyze an opponent for 10 seconds at the cost of 120 points of Fatigue.
Learn all skills 15% faster.
The Mage
The Mage ability confers a permanent bonus of 50 points to your Magicka.
Learn magic skills 20% faster.
The Ritual
Those born under the Ritual use the Mara's Gift power once a day as a powerful Restore Health spell. The Blessed Word can turn the undead.
Raise all dead to fight for you once a day.
The Serpent
Gain the Serpent spell to cause a slow but potent poison on touch, while simultaneously curing yourself and dispelling magic on yourself. Casting this spell costs 100 points of Fatigue.
Paralyze 5s on target, also doing 25pts damage.
The Shadow
Use the Moonshadow power once a day to become Invisible for 60 seconds.
Become invisible for 60 seconds once a day.
The Steed
The Steed ability grants a bonus of 20 to your Speed attribute.
Players do not suffer a speed loss from wearing armor, +100 Carry Weight, Equipped armor is weightless.
The Thief
The Thief ability grants a 10-point bonus to your Agility, Speed, and Luck attributes.
Learn stealth skills 20% faster.
The Tower
With the Tower Key power, once a day open a door or container of Average lock level or less. The Tower Warden reflects five points of damage for 120 seconds once a day.
Unlock any Expert or lower level lock once per day.
The Warrior
The Warrior ability grants a bonus of 10 points to your Strength and Endurance attributes.
Learn combat skills 20% faster.


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    • videogameviking profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from California

      I hardly ever used the rune stones in Oblivion either, and I agree, I wouldn't mind seeing a few extra creation sliders added back in a future game, but overall I think they did a great job with Skyrim.

    • j-u-i-c-e profile image


      8 years ago from Waterloo, On

      Also interesting to note:

      Skyrim's character creation mechanic using presets combined with a limited number of sliders is actually a hybrid of Oblivion's system and previous ES games where all character customization was done through presets. Morrowind and previous games provided head presets, Oblivion allowed for almost total customization (but it was hard to make good-looking characters), and Skyrim takes half a step back toward presets but with a better starting base. Hopefully the next ES will re-introduce some of the sliders cut from Oblivion.

      Also, the Standing Stones seem like a hybrid of the birthsigns and rune stones from Oblivion. The rune stones had limited duration and I rarely used them, but the standing stones have unlimited duration and are very useful. It looks like they've taken the best of both mechanics and combined them.

      Interesting article. Thanks for sharing. :)

    • JohnGreasyGamer profile image

      John Roberts 

      8 years ago from South Yorkshire, England

      Very well written and laid out Hub - easy to understand and good to follow. I never knew about the height and width bonuses the game had to offer (Didn't think Bethesda would go into such detail).

      While I have to agree that Skyrim has a few more features to play around with, I don't think that changing every aspect of your character from having a bulbous or broken nose (takes hours to master) to having a set amount of teeth was important. But distinquishing features like mucky skin, scars and warpaint is a great feature.

      I'd also suggest looking at Oblivion VS Morrowind customization if you haven't already, and then see how racial passives and so forth have evolved througout the course of the games.

      Great Hub, as always! ^_^


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