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I'm playing as a Khajiit and I'm trying to figure out if there is any way of improving my claw attacks or my unarmed combat. If there isn't, there should be a certain point in the game where a weapon becomes of greater utility than unarmed combat, no? I'm asking because I was really surprised about how strong my claw attack was when I unequipped my dagger (still at the beginning of the game).

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Good question! I'm playing as a Khajiit as well. Currently in the early game, using some Ancient Nord sword. –  Mart Nov 15 '11 at 11:39
    
I know this is an old question, but if you have the PC version, I'd put money on a bet that modders will make a scaled claw attack mod. –  Snailer Dec 4 '11 at 3:09
    
So dual flurry effects unarmed but what of dual savagery? If dual savegery does apply doesn't that dramatically increase damage output by 50%. Also can't you increase the amount of the enchantment via potion to increase enchanting skill then create or is there a cap on unarmed fortification. Last can anyone here verify that there is a so called "snap neck" animation critical for unarmed during sneaking I've heard talk but nothing more. –  New guy Dec 19 '11 at 8:24
    
can you backstab with those claws? –  Maslow Nov 16 '12 at 12:07
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7 Answers 7

I chose Khajiit for the +15 damage claw attack among other things and was a bit disappointed they didn't at least scale it with your level. It really is a letdown .-. Despite this, I found another way.

I started off by upgrading my Heavy Armor tree. I put a point in Juggernaut then added another in Well Fitted. Upon next level up I went straight for the Fists of Steel perk. Now, I continue to max out everything that increases Armor Rating. Let me tell you this.. it's like having a 2-handed weapon in the form of your fist. I punch giants, trolls, dragons etc. to death with ease. It is true that you can improve weapons with Blacksmithing, but you can also improve armor. Meaning.. the stronger your armor rating on your Gauntlets.. the stronger your Unarmed Attacks will be. I got sick and tired of how inconvienient it was having to carry all those weapons around and decided this is what I was going to do. There is no better feeling in this game than the mass triumph punching a dragon in the face to death yields!

Also, as far as the unarmed damage enchantments go.. I suggest the +15 Heavy Armor Rating enchant if you want some balance of defense and power. Otherwise, stick to the +10 Unarmed Damage enchant :]

Note: I'm not at all saying this way of combat is better than any other. I'm saying that it is just as viable and can be an extremely fun/rewarding experience.

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+10 unarmed damage can be obtained by directly wearing or disenchanting the Gloves of the Pugilist. –  DrFish Dec 19 '11 at 8:44
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Only the base armor rating of your heavy gauntlets matters for Fists of Steel, no amount of extra perks, fortify heavy armor or skill points will increase the bonus damage. –  kotekzot Mar 27 '12 at 19:39
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While the usefulness of the claw attack does fade over the course of the game, you can substantially extend its lifespan by picking up the Fists of Steel ability in the Heavy Armor skill tree. In addition to being a viable attack in the early and middle game, the Khajiit claws are always extremely powerful in unarmed brawls, which are part of a number of quests and optional objectives.

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Loving the idea of this, but getting to sneak in heavy armour isn't going to be fun in the early game. –  theorise Nov 15 '11 at 12:03
    
@theorise I'm not sure if this works, but the steed stone will make your armor weightless (while wearing it) this may, in turn, make heavy armor have no penalty for sneaking –  z ' Nov 17 '11 at 14:37
    
@yx yes that is true. I was tempted to try this, but I see no reason to use fists over weapons now, solely due to enchantments and smithing, which synergise perfectly with heavy armour. Khajit's synergise with stealth, which is useless in early levels of heavy armour, or until you get the steed stone. Fists of Steel actually seems utterly useless in this tree, except for the quest objectives that involve fist fights. At least the Khajit perk is useful early game. –  theorise Nov 18 '11 at 11:01
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You can get enchanted items that improve unarmed damage by themselves. In my game, I found early brawler gloves (light armor) that give +10 Unarmed damage and I finished the game with them with only doing unarmed damage.

Still, that enchant is very uncommon since I only ever found one in the whole game somehow. If I had more, I'd have broken it and enchanted some jewelry with it for another boost. You can only put that effect on gloves, rings and necklaces though and you need 80 in enchant and 5 perks to remake the 10 bonus damage gloves.

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@vincent The 'Gloves of the Pugilist' can be found on an unarmed bandit in the Ratway in Riften. They are light armor gloves with 'Fortify Unarmed Damage 10 pts' enchantment. –  Arkive Nov 15 '11 at 15:14
    
@Arkive Damn, just tabbed out to write that... :) –  Holger Nov 19 '11 at 23:37
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First, go to the Ratway in Riften and kill Gian the Fist for his Gloves of the Pugilist (he can be found in the room with the alchemy table and the bear traps all over the floor). These are a guaranteed drop and can be disenchanted for the Fortify Unarmed Damage effect.

You'll want to add this effect to your ring, gloves, and neck item. If you have the Extra Effect perk, pairing Fortify Unarmed Damage with Regenerate Stamina allows you to chain together far more power attacks than bladed or blunt players can.

There are three perks which are pretty much must-haves if you're going to go hand-to-hand:

  • Fists of Steel, which increases unarmed damage when wearing heavy armor gauntlets by their armor rating.
  • Juggurnaut, which increases the armor rating of heavy armor. This is a prerequisite for Fists of steel and increases the bonus it grants by increasing your gauntlets' armor.
  • Dual Flurry, which increases the speed of Dual Wielding attacks. While unarmed attacks don't count as one-handed, they are affected by dual-wielding perks.

Daedric Gauntlets have the highest base armor rating at 18 and, depending on your Smithing, can be significantly increased. Just ensure that you improve your gauntlets as much as you can before enchanting them unless you have the Arcane Blacksmith perk!

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Great answer, Mac! Now I'm a full blown shadowboxer. –  The Gray Fox Jul 20 '13 at 12:54
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I wanted to combine all of the other answers into a nice formula.

Khajit Claws
Available at the start of the game.
Adds 12pts

Fortify Unarmed Damage
This enchantment can be applied to your Gauntlets and a Ring. The base is +5pts damage.
Max Enchanting seems to be able to improve on the base to 362% the base which would give 18pts damage per enchanted item.

Adds 36pts

Fists of steel

Update

"After some investigation I think I'm forced to conclude that the fists of steel perk uses the base value from gauntlets (i.e. 18 for daedric gauntlets) that's unmodified by heavy armor skill nor smithing. So in unarmed is utterly worthless" - yx

You'll want Daedric gauntlets which have a base defence of 18. However, if smithed with maximum smithing and wearing heavy armour you can get a much higher defence.

To get this number I will reference Min - Maxing Armor / Weapons using Crafting in Skyrim.

If you add up the base Daedric armour you get 144 defence. Jerich states that his unaltered armour was 160 so we can assume his heavy armour skill is very low.

Of the 144 base armour, 18 or 12.5% is from the gauntlets. Jerich states the max being:

Full Daedric Armor: 2469 Armor

12.5% of 2469 = 308.625

However, since Jerich's heavy armour level appears low we add in:

Level 100 heavy armour = +40%
Perks = +150%
Fortify Heavy Armour (Neck, Chest, Arm, Finger) = 4 * 29% = +116%

Adds ~1250 Damage
Adds 18 Damage

Total

Base Attack = 10pt
Khajit Claws = 12pts
Fortify Unarmed Damage * 2 = 36pts
Daedric Gauntlets = 18 Damage

76 damage per hit

Note: There may be mistakes in the above calculations. If you see an error please point it out so that I can correct it!

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This answer makes it incredibly clear just how meaningless the Khajit part of this whole equation is. –  LessPop_MoreFizz Dec 5 '11 at 16:48
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@lesspop very true. And also, you can easily get above the 10pts for fortify unarmed damage with some investment into alchemy and enchanting. Throw in the eventual extra effect perk and you can put both unarmed increase AND heavy armor boost on the same item. The only downside of unarmed is the lack of weapon enchants (such as absorb and soul trap), and the fact that you can't hotkey unarmed so you have to push a bunch of hot keys for 2 handed weapons and shields before you can start punching. –  z ' Dec 5 '11 at 17:20
    
@LessPop_MoreFizz I think the Khajit Claws would be useful at the start of the game. But yes, after a while Fists of Steel do most of the damage. –  Annan Dec 5 '11 at 17:26
    
@yx interesting point. I should probably update this to take into account enchanting level on Fortify Unarmed and extra effects. –  Annan Dec 5 '11 at 17:28
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After some investigation I think I'm forced to conclude that the fists of steel perk uses the base value from gauntlets (i.e. 18 for daedric gauntlets) that's unmodified by heavy armor skill nor smithing. So in unarmed is utterly worthless. –  z ' Dec 7 '11 at 0:39
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Everything depends on skill level in this game.

Your weapons are weak because your one-handed and two handed skills are low. I havent seen the enchantment that increases unarmed damage that the last poster spoke of, so they must be pretty rare (I keep an eye out for any new enchantment since I love enchanting).

I can't possibly imagine that unarmed can be better than using weapons, considering the multitude of ways to increase your weapon damage. For example, I can enchant my gloves, amulets, and rings to add a 45% bonus to my one-handed damage alone. Combine this with Master of One-Hand and a maxed out one-hand perk tree, I could be extremely brutal. I'm a wizard though, so my one-hand skill is low, but just using one +45% piece of armor and an ebony axe i can dish out some serious damage.

You can further increase 1-handed damage when you upgrade weapons with smithing -- spend skills in that tree to gain more damage on upgraded weapons also. The amount of ways to become stronger in this game are amazing!! love it.

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Hello, Cam, and welcome to the site! I've added some formatting to your answer to make it easier to read. That said, you have a pretty big digression about how awesome 1-handed weapons are, and you don't really talk about increasing unarmed damage at all! Would you care to update your answer to better reflect the actual question being asked? Otherwise, we'll have to remove your answer for being off-topic. –  Raven Dreamer Nov 17 '11 at 5:23
    
i answered the way i did because it seemed that his question was more about how to make weapons stronger than fists, rather than the other way around. im sure he'll apreciate my answer. i dont really have a digression towards one-handed, its just from what ive seen as an enchanter, the game tends to have alot more bonuses for this skill. you can delete my answer if you truely feel it is off topic. –  cam Nov 17 '11 at 5:39
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Hand to hand combat can be just as viable as bladed weapons in early, mid, and late game as long as you make the correct character build, in fact if done correctly it can be more effective due to high damage output, and the speed at which you can attack if you would like I could post an entire character build in order to better answer your question

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Welcome to the site! Although it is good to know that a hand-to-hand combat build is viable, you haven't really answered the question. Could you please provide some details on how to make such a build, and to boost hand-to-hand damage? –  Wipqozn Nov 17 '11 at 13:02
    
I would love to see your character build you mentioned. –  user14707 Nov 18 '11 at 13:00
    
I very much doubt even the best possible unarmed build could come close to an above-average anything build. At most you could get what, +15 from claws, +18 from daedric gauntlets + perk, and +14 or so x2 from enchanted gloves + a ring? Compare that to a dagger that does 230 damage per hit and deals x15 times the damage on a sneak attack (x30 with the relevant gloves). –  kotekzot Feb 14 '12 at 22:58
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