In Elder Scrolls Online, you advance your character by using different abilities, granted to you through different skill lines. In order to increase your progression in a skill line, you must use those skills. There are three types of skills: Passive Skills, Active Skills, and Ultimate Skills.
Passive Skills provide a bonus all the time. Some require certain items to be equipped or Active Skills to be slotted, but otherwise you don't need to think about them. They generally have a number of upgrades available, which can be acquired by increasing your level in the relevant skill line. In most cases, this is achieved by using the Active Skills within the same skill line. In other cases, such as crafting skills, this can be achieved via crafting items or research. Each upgrade costs an additional skill point. Some Passive Skills do not require an investment of skill points, but are instead provided free as a result of certain situations. For example, each race gets one free passive which increases their experience gain with a given skill. The first level of each of the Crafting quality skills is free. There are free Passive Skills associated with becoming a Werewolf or Vampire, as well as some provided by the keeps and resources owned by your Alliance if you take part in the Alliance War. All current Emperors also receive some free Passive Skills.
Active Skills are the ones you'll be using most in the game. You can have up to five slotted in your Action Bar, by default bound to the 1-5 keys. At character level 15, when you acquire Weapon Swapping, you gain an additional 5 slots for your alternate weapon. Like Passive Skills, they become available once a certain level in the skill line is reached. However, they cannot be upgraded, but rather improve through use. They have 4 Ranks, after which they may be Morphed into a new version. You will have two Morph options, which add different effects to the skill. Morphing a skill costs an additional skill point. Once a skill is Morphed, it can increase in Rank 4 more times, but may not be Morphed again (so you can't get both Morph bonuses for any skill). Using your Active Skills will increase your overall level in the skill line, making new skills become available as you progress.
Ultimate Skills are similar to Active Skills, but instead of using Stamina or Magicka as most Active Skills do, these use a third resource called Ultimate. Ultimate builds over time as you fight, and (with one exception) completely depletes when you perform an Ultimate Skill. No skill line has more than one Ultimate Skill, if it has one at all. Like Active Skills, they become available after a certain level in the skill line, raise in Ranks, and can be Morphed into new skills after Rank IV. You may only have one Ultimate Skill slotted at a time (two if you have Weapon Swapping after reaching level 15). By default it is bound to the 'R' key.
Each of the game's classes has three skill lines associated with it, which are immediately available to your character and are specific to your class:
There are six weapon skill lines, each linked to a specific type of weapon. These lines are:
Any class can advance in any of the Weapon skill lines, while using the appropriate weapon.
There are three armor skill lines:
Any class can advance in any of the Armor skill lines, while wearing the appropriate armor type.
Each race has its own skill line. Your overall character level determines the abilities you may choose from your racial skills. See:
Not all of the skill lines are visible at the beginning of the game. You must discover other skill lines around the world, by completing certain quests, or finding certain items. The four World skill lines are:
- Legerdemain - obtained by breaking the law
- Lycanthropy - obtained by becoming a werewolf
- Soul Magic - obtained by progress through the main quest
- Vampirism - obtained by becoming a vampire
The Guild skill lines include lines for NPC guilds:
Alliance War skill lines are the Player vs Player lines. These include siege weapons and other PvP abilities. Currently there are three Alliance War skill lines in the game:
Crafting skill lines are each related to a profession and help boost the products you create in the related profession. These include:
- Alchemy - which allows you to craft custom potions
- Blacksmithing - allows you to craft custom melee weapons and heavy armor
- Clothing - allows you to craft custom light and medium armor
- Enchanting - allows you to craft custom enchantments to apply to your gear
- Provisioning - allows you to craft custom food and beverages
- Woodworking - allows you to craft custom bows, staves, and shields
Earning Skill Points
There are several methods of earning skill points, listed below, up to a current total of 394 points (as of patch 3.3.5):
- Leveling your character, up to level 50 (64 Skill Points)
- Completing quests in the main quest (11 Skill Points)
- Completing quest chains in the Dominion, Covenant, Pact, and Coldharbour main storylines (49 Skill Points)
- Completing the Imperial City storyline (1 Skill Point)
- Completing the Reforging Orsinium storyline (3 Skill Points)
- Reading the Folium Discognitum (Optional quest reward from Mages Guild quest chain) (2 Skill Points)
- Completing the primary quest chain of the Thieves Guild storyline (6 Skill Points)
- Completing the primary quest chain of the Dark Brotherhood storyline (8 Skill Points)
- Completing the Divine Power, Morag Tong, and House Telvanni quest chains on Vvardenfell (3 Skill Points)
- Playing or skipping Broken Bonds (1 Skill Point, only available to new Morrowind characters)
- Completing the primary quest chain of the Clockwork City storyline (8 Skill Points)
- Absorbing skyshards (113 Skill Points, 135 including all DLCs and Chapters)
- Ranking up in the Alliance War (50 Skill Points)
- Completing group challenges in public dungeons (16 Skill Points, 20 including Orsinium and Vvardenfell)
- Completing group dungeons (24 Skill Points, one for each completed dungeon storyline quest in the base game)
- Completing the Imperial City dungeon storyline quests (2 Skill Points)
- Completing Orsinium Maelstrom Arena (1 Skill Point)
- Completing the Shadows of the Hist dungeon storyline quests (2 Skill Points)
- Completing the Horns of the Reach dungeon storyline quests (2 Skill Points)
- Completing the Dragon Bones dungeon storyline quests (2 Skill Points)
- As of patch 2.1.6 there are a total of 517 abilities, ultimates, morphs, and passives to spend skill points on for any given character, in the base game. This assumes one Racial skill group, three Class skill groups (for one class), and all possible Weapon, Armor, World (including both Lycanthropy and Vampire), Guild, Alliance War, and Crafting skill groups.
- Thieves Guild DLC adds 11 more options to spend skill points on.
- Dark Brotherhood DLC adds another 11 options.
- Based on the above gap, assuming filling everything else, just one weapon and one armor skill line, you should still have points for up to two crafting skill lines.
- Despite the name, Riding Skill is not technically considered to be a skill.