The way of the fist : Playing hand-to-hand in Skyrim

The current site poll on 'things we miss in Skyrim' included 'hand-to-hand as a skill' as one of the options. Although it is trailing in the poll, a few people have mentioned it on the thread.

I'm certainly puzzled by the severe downgrading of unarmed combat in Skyrim. I made a pugilist 'bruiser' character in Fallout and Fallout: New Vegas and had an absolute blast. With the introduction of finishing moves into Skyrim it would have been similarly awesome to make a similar character in this game.

So, is it possible to play as an unarmed monk character?

The good news is that it is not only possible to create a viable hand-to-hand character, it can actually be an immensely powerful and fun option. Here is a 'Let's Play' video from a guy who starts out with an unarmed Khajiit character and causes havoc just with his fists!

What are the options open to the dedicated unarmed devotee?

  1. Taking Khajiit as a race to take advantage of their 'claw' attack. According to UESP this means a Khajiit actually deals 18 more damage than most other races.
  2. Put perks into the Heavy Armour perk tree and grab the 'Fists of Steel' perk to boost unarmed attacks when using heavy gauntlets. Additionally, the use of the best available Heavy Armour to resist the damage dealing of enemies!
  3. Find the Gloves of the Pugilist, and then disenchant them at an Enchanting Station. This will allow other pieces of clothing or armour to be enchanted with a Fortify Unarmed Attack.

Anything else that anyone wants to suggest?

OK, to finish off this blog post, here is another fun YouTube video, this time we see an unarmed character take down an Elder Dragon solely with the use of his fists.

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Comment by matt campbell on August 28, 2013 at 9:16pm

I made my first unarmed character a week or so ago and I must say, ITS FUCKING AWESOME! My unarmed damage is now around 110 and I have had no need to even pick up a weapon other than to sell it. Sure there are weapons with much higher damage ratings but come on, who doesn't wanna fuck up a dragon or some frost trolls with your barehands?!  My Khajiit wears all light armor, with the exception of his daedric gauntlets. Hes currently a level 36 and I have had no problems out of any hostiles I've encountered. OK thats a half truth, dragon priests take a bit of effort to kill but with the right power attacks and timing even they will fall!

At first I focused mainly on smithing, enchanting and heavy armor to build up his damage. Once you get the fist of steel perk, get the armor rating perk to 5/5 and you'll be stunned at the difference. Smith yourself some daedric gauntlets and take that shit to the workbench. With smithing at 100 my gauntlets have an armor rating of 76 (i think) after improving, plus the fortify unarmed enchantment. My enchanting is only at 70 and the enchantment is good for 9 damage with a black soul gem, so I'm anxious to see what kind of damage I can get once i get it to 100.

So I say yes, even though they have drastically dumbed it down, you can still make a badass unarmed character.

PS- This can also be done with Argonians. They have 5 less extra unarmed damage than the Khajiit but 10 still aint bad! And on an unrelated note, I've heard/read about an Argonian power attack that uses their tail in a sideswipe but I aint been able to do it. Anyone know about that?

Comment by Warlocksg on February 12, 2013 at 10:17pm

Based on the research I have done on Unarmed in Skyrim, I will be posting a build real soon (think today) on a viable monk build for skyrim. Whilst the Monk class of oblivion was no doubt a cloth wearer, skyim has made it such that you need to include heavy armor for the fists of steel perk, leaving a vigilant of stendarr like dress code to make the monk viable in battle i suppose.

anyways, more information in my build, so stay tuned :D

Comment by RuneRed on December 18, 2011 at 12:48pm

I, too, had made a khajiit unarmed fighter.  I use a bow to attack from distance, and when the enemy closes, I fight unarmed.   He is one of my secondary characters, and generally just hunts game, but of course he runs into the occassional hostile.  Currently his level is in the low teens, and he wears a mixture of light and heavy armor.  I have not yet gotten the fists of the pugilists, nor the heavy armor perk, but both are on my list.   I play him on master level and he has never been defeated (I play dead=dead until 15th lv (after that I enact some penalty), so I know this for a certainty).   Leveling doesn't concern me that much (although I do give myself a bit of a sigh of relief when I hit my 15th lv. milestone),  but his secondary skills (sneak, heavy armor, light armor, et. al) seems to keep his leveling at a moderate pace.   I haven't fought a dragon yet though, was gonna wait until I had some buffs (since I'm on master, and penalize myself for dying, I've got to be a bit catious).  Fighting a dragon up close and personal doesn't concern me that much, I've done it with a few melee toons, and I've had little problem - I try to avoid their jaws and stay on their flank.

Comment by Mason on December 18, 2011 at 5:44am

Someone needs to test if destructions cloak elemental damage works with fists, it definitely adds damage to weapons. They also need to try stacking elemental fury with a cloak spell active.

Comment by Dan Green on December 18, 2011 at 4:47am

A couple weeks back I made a Khajiit monk character resembling one of my all time favorite characters I played in Morrowind.  I thought about going Heavy Armor but monks don't don a lot of armor so I threw that idea out the window.  I only played him to level 16 and went back to my main and kind of forgot about him.  I mostly concentrated on Alteration, Illusion, Restoration, Alchemy, Sneak, Enchanting and Pickpocketing.  I would use Oak/Stoneflesh, sneak up on somebody and beat on that person with my fists and heal a lot.  I never really messed with Illusion before but I found it necessary to use it in tough situations.  I rocked the monk robes the entire time.. it was baller.

Comment by Cameron Swarbrick on December 18, 2011 at 3:13am
So I've been 'researching' for you all by playing as a Khajiit with only claws for close combat. My findings are as follows.

This is immensely powerful at lower levels. Khajiit claws do 15 damage on top of regular unarmed damage, while an iron sword starts off at around7/8 damage.I'm level 12 now and I still one-shot wolves and most bandits (sneak attacks often take care of higher-level enemies easily and take advantage of a Khajiit's heightened Sneak).

No blocking is not a real problem. The best tactic in a straight fight is to constantly circle, doing power attacks to activate those truly brutal unarmed finishers.

You do level up a bit slower if you just run in, but I gained three levels in Bleak Falls Barrow by consistently using sneak attacks and occasionally pulling out a bow to wear down the toughest enemies.

My character apparently continually falls prey to the disease Rockjoint, which causes you to be 25% less effective with melee weapons. Not a problem for me :)

Anywho, I'm off to do more "research".
Comment by Paul on December 17, 2011 at 5:33am

I don't think anyone is suggesting that H2H is more powerful than a decent bow or sword, nor should it be really. And of course the lack of skill and perk upgrades is something that can only be barely compensated for, if at all

But the thread is about whether its possible to create an unarmed character that can survive - albeit with some difficulty and drawback - in Skyrim. And in fact it is....

Just think how awesome it could have been if Bethesda had taken the trouble to give H2H some attention....

Comment by Jay on December 17, 2011 at 4:50am

Mr. Norris, my daedric bow does 220 damage per arrow hit, which is far more than any fist-blow.  Even yours. 

Comment by Chuck Norris on December 16, 2011 at 11:25pm
@ All doubting Hand to Hand combat

Hand to hand combat is a viable option for any situation and furthermore I will come round house you in the face if you think otherwise..

C. Norris

P.s. Go by a Total Gymn to increase hands to hand proficiency.
Comment by Dreema on December 16, 2011 at 10:40pm

Someone is wrong on the internet!  I's a game.  Enjoy it.

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