We briefly touched on the topic of skill lines in our article about character progression and class guides, but it’s time to explain the system in more detail. Skill lines are essentially skill trees as you’d expect to see in an RPG game: as your character progresses through the game you gain skill points which are allocated to particular skills to be able to use them or improve their effectiveness.
Your character has access to many different skill lines. The 4 basic ones are defined by your choice of class and race: every class has three distinct skill lines that can’t be otherwise obtained, and every race has its own set of racial bonuses. Every other skill line can be unlocked by all classes, either by joining an NPC guild or by exploring the world. Below we’ll take a brief look into various skill lines and explain where you get them!
- Racial Skill Lines – as mentioned you gain access to a particular race’s skill line by simply choosing a race for your character. All skills here are passive ones and don’t provide any extreme bonuses, which are fairly negligible in the long run, but if you want to maximize your character’s effectiveness you might want to compare racial bonuses.
- Class Skill Lines – also mentioned above, class skill lines are obtained automatically simply by picking a class. You can take a look at full skill lines for each of the class in our guides: Nightblade, Templar, Dragonknight, Sorcerer. Every class has 3 skill lines which further define their play style.
- Weapon Skill Lines – any character can learn skills in the weapon skill line, but both active and passive abilities here are only in effect if you use a particular weapon (i.e. Bow, Sword, Destruction Staff, …). Full weapon skill trees »
- Armor Skill Lines – since every class can wear any type of armor, these skill lines are also available to all character without restrictions. You can get great benefits by spending skill points into the armor skill tree depending on whether your preference is Light, Medium or Heavy Armor. The passives will also be in effect only when you use a particular type of armor, but you can mix abilities and armor pieces from multiple categories. All armor skill lines »
- Guild Skill Lines – not to be confused with player guilds. Fighters, Mages and Undaunted are NPC guilds any character can join in the game, and they all give you access to particular set of very useful skills for both PvE and PvP. Guild skill lines »
- World Skill Lines – these are obtained in various places in Tamriel by completing certain quests. Your character starts with one World skill tree (Soul Magic), but additional ones like Vampirism and Lycanthropy (Warewolves) can be obtained further down the line. They offer very specific gameplay styles for players who choose them. View World skill lines »
- Crafting Skill Lines – available to all characters from the start, Crafting skill trees enable you to use your tradeskills more effectively. You won’t be able to level up all crafting lines so make sure you consider them carefully. See Crafting skill trees »
- Alliance War Skill Lines – by earning Alliance points in Cyrodiil (PvP zone) you can get access to abilities from the Alliance War skill tree. In the same category are Emperor skills which are extremely difficult to obtain. View Alliance War skills »
Getting Skill Points
Every time your character gains a level you will get 1 skill point to spend on a spell in one of your available skill lines. Additionally you’re introduced to Skyshards very early on in The Elder Scrolls Online: for every 3 skyshards you find you will gain 1 additional skill point. There are dozens of them scattered throughout Tamriel, giving you yet another reason to go out and explore the world.
Active and Passive Skills
In most skill lines there’s several active and several passive skills available. Active ones are spells and abilities you can drag to your action bar and use in combat, while passive skills simply give you a bonus and can’t actively be used/activated. As an example, Medium Armor skill line has a passive which increases your stamina regeneration by 2% for every piece of medium armor you have equipped. You can only have 5 active spells on your action bar at any given time (10 with weapon swap), and passive ones don’t have to be allocated to your hotbar.
Typically around Rank 12 in a particular skill line you can spend a skill point into an ultimate ability. These are very strong spells but can’t be used as often as you’d like since they require Finesse as resource (more about Finesse in our combat guide). Not all skill lines have Ultimate abilities though, but all of them are immensely helpful in various situations. You can only have one Ultimate on your hotkey bar at any given time.
Simply by using a particular spell or skill you gain experience with it and are eventually able to morph them: morphing spells basically adds another effect to the ability, and requires a skill point. Abilities have 2 different morphs and you can only choose one of them, so choose carefully!
Have any other questions about skills or skill lines? Read our article about character progression, or ask us in the comments section!
If you want to read more detailed guides on how to build the best characters check out this strategy guide. It will provide you great insight into which skill lines are best for particular playstyles and help you dominate in both PvE and PvP!