Armor is a type of apparel that is worn on the body to reduce damage from attacks. Armor comes in two varieties, corresponding to the two different skills governing armor usage: Heavy Armor and Light Armor. In addition, there are shields which provide an additional passive increase to armor rating (active blocking is governed by the Block skill).
Armor comes in several pieces which can be equipped independently of each other, these pieces are:
- Armor: covers your legs, chest and shoulders
- Boots: covers your feet and ankles
- Gauntlets: covers your hands up to your elbow
- Helmet: covers your head
- Shield: protect and block attacks
Armor appears in several different materials and styles, which determine the quality of the armor. Higher quality armor provides better protection (but is generally heavier). Which quality armor you will find is generally determined based on your character's level.
The following table describes the base level at which an armor type begins to show up randomly for the player. Lower level armor will also randomly appear, but so will higher level armors in certain situations: potentially up to at least 12 levels "early". Enchanted versions of each armor type will begin to appear one level later; see Generic Magic Apparel for more information. See Leveled Lists for details on how these lists are used to determine the probabilities of individual items appearing. Although Dragonscale, Dragonplate, and Daedric armors can all be found in random loot, once your level is high enough, the chances of finding any of these armor types is 20 times less than finding other armor types.
Most armor from the list below can be created at Forges, by using the Smithing skill. The ability to make armor is not dependent upon your character's level, but is instead dependent upon which Smithing perks you have unlocked. All standard armor can also be tempered at Workbenches, if you have the necessary auxiliary item. Tempering is twice as effective if you have unlocked the perk necessary to forge that armor. Tempering an enchanted version of the armor (whether custom-enchanted, or generic) is similar to tempering the base version--it requires the same auxiliary item, and is twice as effective if you have unlocked the forging perk--but also requires the Arcane Blacksmith perk to be unlocked.
Jewelry, (specifically, amulets/necklaces and rings), can be created at any blacksmith's forge from ingots and jewels, but these are not counted as protective armor (the two exceptions to this are noted in the section above); similarly, circlets/crowns--like common clothing--are not attributed with any armor/protection value. (Note: The Aetherial Crown, which is a unique, quest-related, crafted item (added by the Dawnguard DLC), unlike other jewelry items, is eligible for improvement by ordinary smithing, but still only ever bears an armor rating of 0.)
Additionally, there are several other wearable armor sets/pieces that are made available as loot/specialty gear or as unique/quest items; generally, these can all be improved by smithing and possibly fortified with enchantments (if not enchanted already), though they cannot be forged as player-created items. (See also: Magic Items and Artifacts)
|Level||Light Armor||Perk to Forge||Item for Tempering|
|1||Fur||Cannot be forged||Leather||9||46|
|Hide||No perk required||Leather||9||40|
|Studded||No perk required||Iron Ingot||10^^||43^^|
|8||Leather||No perk required||Leather||12||52|
|11||ChitinDB||Elven Smithing||Chitin Plate||8||62.5|
|12||Elven||Elven Smithing||Refined Moonstone||7||58|
|19||Scaled||Advanced Armors||Corundum Ingot||12||64|
|27||Elven Gilded||Elven Smithing||Quicksilver Ingot||7||64|
|36||Glass||Glass Smithing||Refined Malachite||13||76|
|46||Dragonscale||Dragon Armor||Dragon Scales||20||82|
|Level||Heavy Armor||Perk to Forge||Item for Tempering|
|1||Iron||No perk required||Iron Ingot||46||60|
|Ancient Nord||None to forge, Daedric Smithing to temper.‡‡||Iron Ingot||41||60|
|Banded Iron||No perk required||Corundum Ingot||51||63|
|BonemoldDB^||Steel Smithing||Bone Meal||49 (No Pauldrons)||73 (No Pauldrons)|
|51 (Pauldrons)||74 (Pauldrons)|
|70 (Improved)||79 (Improved)|
|6||Steel||Steel Smithing||Steel Ingot||52||72|
|11||ChitinDB||Elven Smithing||Chitin Plate||51||87|
|12||Dwarven||Dwarven Smithing||Dwarven Metal Ingot||75||78|
|18||Steel Plate||Advanced Armors||Corundum Ingot||59||87|
|NordicDB||Advanced Armors||Quicksilver Ingot||56||93|
|25||Orcish||Orcish Smithing||Orichalcum Ingot||57||90|
|32||Ebony||Ebony Smithing||Ebony Ingot||62||96|
|40||Dragonplate||Dragon Armor||Dragon Scales or Dragon Bone†||64||102|
|48||Daedric||Daedric Smithing‡||Ebony Ingot||81||108|
For all of the armor listed on this site, the provided armor ratings are the base armor ratings. The actual protection your character will receive from the armor is dependent upon your skill in that armor type and any relevant perks that you have unlocked. The rating can also be improved by using smithing to change the armor's quality to "Fine", "Superior", "Exquisite", "Flawless", "Epic", or "Legendary".
The armor rating only reduces physical damage, not magical damage. Each point of armor rating reduces damage by 0.12%.
- Item Armor rating = CEILING[ (base armor rating + item quality) × (1 + 0.4 × (skill + skill effect)/100) ] × (1 + unison perk† ) × (1 + Matching Set) × (1 + armor perk‡)
- Shield rating = CEILING[ (base shield rating + item quality) × (1 + 0.4 × (skill + skill effect)/100) ] × (1 + unison perk† ) × (1 + Matching Set)
- Displayed armor rating = SUM(item armor rating) + shield rating + armor effects
- Base damage reduction of 3% per piece worn = Hidden armor rating of 25 per piece worn, including shields
- Damage reduction percentage = displayed armor rating × 0.12 + 3.00 × amount of pieces worn
Clothing and robes do not benefit from the hidden armor rating bonus.
For NPCs the skill coefficient is 1.5 instead of 0.4.
Your durability against physical attacks (i.e. the amount of raw damage you can sustain) is proportional to 100/(100 − damage reduction percentage). This results in hyperbolic growth in your physical durability, up to the cap of 80% damage reduction giving a ×5 multiplier to your physical durability. Thus, the more armor rating you have, the more each additional point of armor rating is worth. The graph displayed shows the multiplier to your physical durability relative to no armor based on the displayed armor rating, assuming you are wearing all four pieces of armor (+12% hidden damage reduction) and have no other effects.
Armor Rating Example
- Dragonscale Armor
- Dragonscale Boots
- Dragonscale Gauntlets
- Dragonscale Helmet
- Dragonscale Shield
- 100 Light Armor Skill
- 100 Smithing Skill
- 5/5 Agile Defender
- Custom Fit
- Matching Set
Dragonscale Armor rating
- CEILING [ (41 + 20) * (1 + 0.4 * (100/100)) ] * 1.25 * 1.25 * 2
- = 86 * 1.25 * 1.25 * 2
- = 268.75
Dragonscale Helmet rating
- CEILING [ (17 + 10) * (1 + 0.4 * (100/100)) ] * 1.25 * 1.25 * 2
- = 118.75
Dragonscale Boots rating & Dragonscale Gauntlets rating
- CEILING [ (12 + 10) * (1 + 0.4 * (100/100)) ] * 1.25 * 1.25 * 2
- = 96.87
Dragonscale Shield rating
- CEILING [ (29 + 10) * (1 + 0.4 * (100/100)) ] * 1.25 * 1.25
- = 85.93
Displayed armor rating
- 268.75 + 118.75 + 96.87 + 96.87 + 85.93
- = 667.17
Physical damage reduction is capped at 80%. This occurs at 542 displayed armor rating when wearing all four pieces of armor and a shield, 567 without a shield, or 667 when not wearing any armor or shield at all. Armor skills and perks do not modify shields, but without a shield, if you have 100 armor skill (Light or Heavy) and all relevant armor perks, and all are allowed to apply to what you're wearing (i.e. you're wearing a matched set of all light or all heavy armor), you will multiply your displayed armor rating by 4.375. This requires a tempered armor rating of about 130 (567 / (1.4 * 1.25 * 1.25 * 2)). Because you can temper 4 pieces of armor, but the chestpiece receives double benefit, you can increase your tempered armor rating by roughly 1 every 2 points of Smithing with the appropriate perk, or 3 every 10 without. At 100 smithing and with the appropriate perk, you will add 50 points of tempering to your armor: 10 each to the helmet, gloves, and boots, and 20 to the chestpiece. That means you need 80 base from the suit itself, which is only achievable for light armor users without a shield with Dragonscale Armor and requires at least a Steel Plate set for Heavy Armor. With a shield, you not only reduce the needed displayed armor rating from 567 to 542, but assuming you have the appropriate perk, you will also temper the shield for 10 points of armor, meaning you only need 72 from the suit itself, and that's assuming a shield with 0 base rating, which does not exist. For a light armor user with a shield, glass armor will suffice with any shield - a tempered hide shield (the least protective shield in the game) at 100 skill still has an armor rating of 22 (since no perk applies to tempering it), meaning your armor only needs to provide 69 itself. Unfortunately, even elven armor with the gilded chestpiece, or scaled armor, will not suffice with any shield short of perk-tempered dragonplate - anything less will lead to you being at 540 at most, just shy. For a heavy armor user, even basic tempered steel armor will suffice, paired with any shield (since, again, a tempered hide shield will be enough).
With Fortify Smithing enchanted apparel and Fortify Smithing potions you can boost Smithing even further, which can potentially allow any material to reach the cap, without needing any further benefits (such as the Notched Pickaxe); with maxed out enchanting and alchemy and the appropriate perks, using fortify enchanting potions to make better fortify alchemy apparel to make better fortify enchanting potions, to provide the best available smithing bonuses, you will add 134 total tempering to any suit even without a perk, which is above the 130 rating mentioned above. This means you could temper a theoretical 0-rating suit high enough to hit the cap, which doesn't exist, and you don't need a shield to get there. With a tempering perk, you will nearly double this, adding 259 to any suit you make; this is practically sufficient to drop any non-chest piece from any suit, and even with the loss of two armor perks (for wearing a full suit and wearing a matched set), you will still hit the cap, allowing you to walk around without a helmet, if you like - just remember, you will also lose any other armor perks you have that trigger off of having a piece in all 4 wearable slots.
Shields, spells, and the Lord Stone can reduce the base armor required to hit the cap even further, but these require more management.
- Clothes such as robes and other apparel do not count as armor, and as such do not benefit from the hidden armor rating bonus.
- Custom Fit, Well Fitted, and Matching Set perks are applied to shields if the four pieces of worn armor (armor, helmet, gloves, boots) match appropriately. The shield does not have to be of the same set, or even the same type (light or heavy).
- Shields do not benefit from either Agile Defender or Juggernaut, and do not advance the light or heavy armor skills when struck.
- Armor rating/damage reduction does not affect the speed at which the skill is trained.
- If you drop a piece of armor or clothing in front of an NPC, generally in a city or town, they may run up to you and ask you if you are throwing it away.
- Guards may comment on what kind of armor you're wearing, depending on what faction they belong to and what you're wearing at the time.
† Scaled Horn Armor cannot be tempered or forged, because it was completely left out of the appropriate list.
‡ Fur Boots and Fur Gauntlets count as Stormcloak/guard equipment, and therefore do not give the Matching Set bonus if worn with other fur equipment.