I guess part of this is the obsessive nerd in me trying to figure out the details of the new game, treating it like a logic puzzle or whatever. Ask me a month after Skyrim is released what I think of the game and I will probably ramble about my old XBox dying or finding some obscure game that deserves to see the light of day. Right now, though I'm sort of an equal with everyone since we're all finding out about Skyrim at about the same time.
That said, I wanna talk about skills in the Elder Scrolls series.
History of Skills in Elder Scrolls games Here's a rundown of the skills featured in every major E.S. release, before I go into projections for Skyrim.
Technically, the first Elder Scrolls game had skills, but they were hidden, and they only increased with modifications based on attribute bonuses or special artifacts or spells, or advanced when you leveled. Hopping in place to boost your jump was non-existant; you killed dudes and completed quests to boost your skills, and that was it.
The open skills system begins here, and it had a bunch of crazy skills that were not the most attractive choices. Still, there were a few interesting ideas here that were later abandoned when the game was streamlined. Leveling is also tied directly into the skills, so there's a lot of trial and error in figuring out which skills are worthwhile. Still, as far as character creation as a whole, I think Daggerfall had the biggest range of options, including stuff that would be considered the stuff of super powers or artifacts in later games, as well as game-breaking flaws.
Skills are really improved here, removing a lot of the chaff and giving you a bunch of different, interesting choices. The major and minor skills influencing leveling leaves some people taking forever to level, while others, especially mages, can manipulate the system and level by just hanging around in the inn and repeatedly casting.
Yeeeaaarrrrgggh. Sorry, that's all I'm qualified to say, although I've read that the skills changed substantially from Morrowind, altering attribute connections and what skills actually do at certain times.
The Skill Lineage
OK, here we go. I'm including Arena's basic abilities, even though they may not be listed as open for the player.
Spellcasting (including Alchemy):
| .||Destruction||Destruction ||Destruction||Destruction|
In Arena, your character class determined whether or not you could cast spells, and would also have a multiplier that was applied to your character's intelligence score that was also tied to your character's class. Starting with Daggerfall, spellcasting was no longer forbidden to players who wanted to cast and had no disadvantages preventing them from using Magicka. Thaumaturgy and Mysticism over time had their contents juggled, and in the case of the former, their effects were usually folded into other spell schools. Given that Mysticism will probably be gone as per the reports, I'm betting many of Mysticism's useful spell effects will find homes in other schools.
*Enchanting was still possible in Oblivion, but wasn't tied to a skill, instead requiring items or locations to help facilitate the creation of magical items. Now it seems that Enchanting is back as a skill for Skyrim. There's another skill that I think will be separate from Enchanting, and I'll give you my theory about that farther down.
|(Affected solely by attributes)||Etiquette||Speechcraft||Speechcraft||?|
Etiquette was useful with royalty and academics, streetwise with commoners. Mercantile seems to have a strong following, and both Speechcraft and Mercantile may still find their way into Skyrim.
*The languages reduced NPC hostility during encounters if the roll was successful. The languages available were: Centaurian, Daedric, Dragon (they're babies, but they're tough), Giant, Harpy, Impish, Nymph, and Spriggan. Depending upon what spawns, you may not even encounter the language specialty of choice, and as far as I know they didn't have much benefit as far as quests or actual communication with the NPCs; would have been cool if THAT had been the case. It's a safe bet languages won't be making their glorious return in Skyrim, but I still think it was a cool idea, if poorly supported.
Environmental Interaction (including locks and stealing old ladies' wallets)
| Khajiit climbing bonus*||Climb||Acrobatics||(Acrobatics)||?|
| Argonian swimming bonus*||Swimming||Athleticism||Athleticism||?|
| Lockpicking (by class)||Lockpicking||Security ||Security||?|
| Pickpocketing ( " " )||Pickpocketing||(Sneak)||(sneak)||?|
| Travel Time Reduction ( " " )||--||--||--||--|
*In the first game, Argonians were strong swimmers who would receive only minimal stamina drain from negotiating through watery areas, and could move relatively quickly through water. The Khajiit can vault out of pits, whether or not they're filled with water, almost instantly, reducing the danger of getting poked in the head with a skeleton's sword. These abilities can also be approximated through the Acrobat character class.
**Skyrim will have a sprint feature, which may be sort of like running, or may be all the more dramatic and, because it's based on stamina, short in duration.
Defense, Maintenance, and Avoidance
| Armor Proficiency*||--|| Light Armor|| Light Armor||?|
|.|| Medium Armor||--||?|
|.|| Heavy Armor|| Heavy Armor||?|
|.||Block|| Block ||?|
| Dodge (by class)||Dodge||Unarmored||--||?|
| Repair (by class)||--||Armorer||Armorer||Smithing*|
| Stealth ( " " )||Stealth||Sneak||Sneak||?|
In Arena, the armor you could wear was dictated by your class, and this seems to be true in Daggerfall as well, although you can set these things yourself when making a custom class, and they still aren't treated as skills in themselves.
My guess, based on a screenshot I saw, is that Smithing will be a skill, separate from Enchanting, where you can create an object from raw materials, possibly similar to Alchemy recipes. I'm betting it would also help you recover item durability.
As far as Armor, it seems like Oblivion moved in the right direction by reducing the types of Armor proficiencies, but I wonder if they might go a step further and have a single Armor proficiency (or possibly none at all). A single armor proficiency would let the character be less encumbered with heavier armor as they grew in power, allowing for a natural character progression, if you bother with armor at all.
Block in Oblivion was expanded to include all defensive stopping power, not just the use of shields, and expanded through expertise to include abilities such as disarming.
Dodge has no direct equivalent, but I'm putting it in with unarmored since it's about avoiding being hit, rather than what armor you're wearing.
Combat and Recovery
| Weapon Proficiencies||Short Blade|| Short Blade||Blade||--|
|.||Long Blade|| Long Blade||Blade||--|
|.||Blunt Weapon|| Blunt Weapon||Blunt||--|
| Hand to Hand|| Hand to Hand|| Hand to Hand||?|
| Critical Hit (class chance)|| Critical Strike||--||--||?|
|.||Backstab||(via Sneak)||(via Sneak)||?|
| .||.||.||.|| One-Handed Weapons|
Medical enhanced your ability to recover health when you sleep and to avoid disease, which would sneak up on you in the night.
Critical Strike seems to have been folded into your base chance to hit.
So far that's 8 of the 18 skills for Skyrim (7 if you don't count my Smithing guess). Given that all skills will now be available for players in Skyrim when trying to level, I wonder what they might be. The trend seems to currently be about simplifying the combat skills to be a bit more manageable than, say, Morrowind's relatively wide selection, but if you count Oblivion as a template, minus Mysticism, there are still two skills to cull. Wonder what they might be :)
Feel free to speculate, if you like, in the comments.