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There seems to be 3 general categories of gear in Skyrim: Heavy Armor, Light Armor, and Clothing. These seem to (roughly) correspond with the three class archetypes of warrior, thief, and mage.

In Elder Scrolls games, finishing quests to get rare artifacts is generally a good way to get uber-powerful equipment. Another very effective way is to enchant armor and weapons yourself, and as a bonus you generally don't need to leave town for more than a few materials. In Skyrim, crafting your own now seems to be a very viable option.

What is the most powerful (by AR or damage) user-crafted gear, and how would one obtain it? I assume crafting skill bonuses would be required for smithing and enchanting; how would you attain these bonuses?

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Due to a glitch, apparently, there is no actual limit to the damage you can add to a weapon. There was something regarding a potion that added +#% to Enchanting or Smithing or something and then using those to craft some gloves that added +#% to Alchemy. You could, with enough patience, get damage for a weapon in the high hundreds. I don't recall how exactly you did that, but the point is that, arguably, there is no limit, at least until this glitch is fixed. –  Ragnar Nov 21 '11 at 15:57
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How is AR or damage subjective? –  David B Nov 21 '11 at 16:19
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@DavidB Numbers are hard, I guess. –  Hyppy Nov 21 '11 at 16:42
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Those effects either increase AR or damage, or they don't. Still a matter of biggest number, not a matter of opinion. –  David B Nov 21 '11 at 18:50

9 Answers 9

up vote 14 down vote accepted

Basically, one can get armor/weapons up to:

  • Full Daedric Armor: 2125 Armor
  • Daedric Bow: 562 Damage
  • Daedric Dagger: 171 Damage
  • Daedric Two Handed Sword: 605 Damage
  • Daedric One Handed Sword: 518 Damage

Perks you need (33 perks):

  • Heavy Armor (Juggernaut 5, Well Fitted, Tower Of Strength, Matching Set)
  • 5 Weapon Perks (base, damage raising) of your choice
  • Smithing (Steel, Dwarven, Orcish, Ebony, Daedric)
  • Enchanting (5 X Enchanter, Insighful, Corpus, Extra Effect)
  • Alchemy (5 X Alchemy, Physician, Benefactor)

Instructions:

  1. Get max perks and 100 in each skill.
  2. Enchant fortify alchemy helm, ring, gloves + necklace. The buff should be +25 on each for + 100 total.
  3. Put on the gear and make 4 fortify enchant potions (+ 27ish?)
  4. Use those potions to make better fortify alchemy gear. Note: you have to be quick because you only have 30 seconds per potion.
  5. Use that gear to make better fortify enchanting potions.
  6. Keep repeating 4 - 5 until you can make fortify alchemy + 29 on each piece (116 total)
  7. Use 4 +32 enchanting pots to create fortify smithing rings, neck, gloves and chest.
  8. Make some fortify smithing potions (+130% with your alchemy gear)
  9. Craft daedric armor, shield and weapon.
  10. Put on your smithing gear, drink the potion (130 + 116 = +246% to smithing), then improve your weapons.
  11. Make about 10 enchanting potions (+32)
  12. Enchant a ring gloves and neck with fortify heavy armor and fortify one handed. (I believe the number was 29 for armor 47% for weapon? Not in front of computer).
  13. Enchant health / heavy armor to chest.
  14. Enchant one handed / stamina to boots.
  15. Enchant helm with whatever you want.

Source

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I'd just like to point out, 2125 armor is overkill as the max armor cap is around 567 –  z ' Dec 16 '11 at 1:09
    
Is it still true as of 1.9 / Legendary ? –  Nigralbus Apr 2 '13 at 10:03
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@Nigralbus: Yes, you can go even higher if you are a vampire. You can check my guide if you're still interested in this: elderscrolls.wikia.com/wiki/Thread:298229 I always didn't like being a vampire, but since that trick with a perk ("more impact on vampires") I chose to stay as one. You could also create the weapons and then cure from vampirism, the items will have the same power as before. Note: Of course you need "Dawnguard" for this. :) –  TrudleR Mar 29 at 8:50

The most powerful (rating) crafted armor is at the top of the Smithing perk tree: Dragonscale for Light, Daedric for heavy.

Smithing skill doesn't change the rating when you freshly create the armor. Skill only comes into play when upgrading it. Get skill as high as you can when upgrading. See Fabian's answer.

Enchanting skill and perks affect the magnitude of enchantment you can place on the armor. I haven't seen any enchantments that increase armor rating.

As discussed on other questions, there is a 567 armor rating hardcap. Some say it's possible to hit that cap in Legendary Hide armor. If this is true, the main advantage of having Legendary Dragon or Daedric armor would then be to hit that cap with lower armor skill and fewer armor perk picks.


For weapons you want Daedric (sorry Glass users).

Smithing skill interacts with weapons the same way it does with armor. Don't need skill to make the item. Boost skill as much as possible when upgrading.

Enchanting can add damage to weapons. I don't have much experience with this, or the skill boosting opportunities involved.

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FWIW, Dragon is not the highest level heavy armor (but it's a common mistake). For example a Dragon plate Helmet is 22 armor (base) and a Daedric Helmet is 23 armor (base). –  Red_Tractor Nov 21 '11 at 16:13
    
It's not the highest level light armor, either. Guildmaster armor (from finishing the Thieves Guild questline) has better defenses than Dragonscale. It's not craftable, however. –  Raven Dreamer Nov 21 '11 at 16:24
    
Nifty, editted. Daedric beats dragonplate by 29 armor rating while weighing 17 more units. In particular, the Daedric helmet is 7 units heavier for 1 armor rating. –  David B Nov 21 '11 at 16:29
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Getting smithing above 100 with potions and enchantments has a significant effect on enhancing weapons and armor. It is still only called "legendary", but the damage and armor rating still increase above 100 smithing skill. –  Mad Scientist Nov 21 '11 at 18:19
    
@Fabian, if you can put an example in an answer, I'd upvote it. (something like: with 100 skill I upgraded and got x improvment, then used a fortify smithing buff for y points and upgrading now yielded z improvement). –  David B Nov 21 '11 at 19:01

The progression in Skyrim is not perfectly aligned by material (for example some steel items are better than some dwarven), however there is a general progression. The character classes in Skyrim are not as limited to armor type as in other games. Generally you will see more cloth items with caster enchants, but they show up on other armor types and you can craft whatever you like. Another example of this is that if you pursue high enough skill levels heavy armor will get to the point where it no longer impairs stealth and there is a spell to make it silent as well. It seems that the primary disadvantage to heavy armor is in carry weight and speed (can anyone confirm this?).

For Heavy Armor the best material is Daedric and for Light Armor it is Dragonscale.

The full Heavy Armor progression is (with very rough levels):

  • Iron (lv 1)
  • Steel (lv 6)
  • Dwarven (lv 12)
  • Steel Plate (lv 18)
  • Orcish (lv 25)
  • Ebony (lv 32)
  • Dragonplate (lv 40)
  • Daedric (lv 48)

The full Light Armor progression is (with very rough levels):

  • Hide (lv 1)
  • Leather (lv 6)
  • Elven (lv 12)
  • Scaled (lv 27)
  • Glass (lv 36)
  • Dragonscale (lv 48)

Clothing doesn't progress, rather the enchantments get more powerful as your level increases.

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As already said, for heavy armor the best material is Daedric, but pretty close and much easier to get is Dragonplate armor. The base armor looks something like this

enter image description here

With 100 Smithing you can improve it to legendary and get something like this

enter image description here

But that's not the end, you can increase your smithing skill above 100 with enchantments and potions, with 3x 24% smithing enchantments and one 20% smithing potion you can get something like this

enter image description here

So you can more than double the armor rating by getting your smithing skill above 100. And what I showed just now is not the end, you could level alchemy to 100, use some fortify alchemy enchantments and create a fortify enchantment potion. Use that one to enchant your smithing gear and you'll get an even bigger bonus. You can also then brew a much better smithing potion than the 20% store-bought one I just used.

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Just curious, that middle screen shot shows 24% improvement in the text, what's that from? –  David B Nov 22 '11 at 1:06
    
I enchanted the Dragonplate with the smithing enchantments to test this out –  Mad Scientist Nov 22 '11 at 7:12
    
Thanks for the info. I've not hit smithing 100 yet, but will. Do you have any info on what 100 skill does to armor values (and/or weapons)? Is it a linear increase like 1% improvement per point of smithing skill or something? (upvoted) –  Red_Tractor Nov 22 '11 at 15:49

My Dragonscale light armor is 218 after additional enchanting and smithing potions. I haven't been able to make any of the other armors that strong.

I tried optimizing both my alchemy skill and enchanting skill to 5/5 and make fort. smithing potions and fort. enchanting potions. Then I enchanted a set of helmet/crown, necklace, rings, and bracelet/gloves with enchanting skill and smithing skill (using fort. enchanting potion when enchanting). Once done, I went on to making a full set of dragonscale armor.

After using the fort. smithing potion when improving armor and weapons, the armor alone (with light armor bonus) got 508. In total I have about 1200 in armor points on the character with powerful enchantments.

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edit: I tried optimizing both my alchamy skill and enchanting skill to 5/5 and make fort.smithing potions and fort. enchanting potions. Then I enchanted a set of helmet/crown, neckles, rings, and bracet/gloves with enchanting skill and smithing skill (used fort. enchanting potion when enchanting). Done that I went on making a full set of dragonscale armor (light armor). –  Andreas Dec 18 '11 at 11:23
    
oops... pushed enter, continue: When using the fort. smithing potion when improving armor and weapons, the armor alon (with light armor bonus) got 508. In total I have about 1200 in armor points on the character with powerfull enchantings. –  Andreas Dec 18 '11 at 11:33

I can and have achieved a billion+ armor rating, due to the spamming of Restoration Potions. My Iron dagger gets 7,573 damage, my enchantments are along the lines of 60,000 health, stamina and magicka using a petty soul gem, and I can unlock any door without moving the pick a centimeter.

It does, however, totally kill the gaming experience as there is no challenge.

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I think they're looking for non-exploit methods. Anyone can get super powered armor using exploits; it's harder to play within the rules and get really good armor. –  Frank Aug 3 '12 at 15:14
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Editor's note : This answer only works for unpatched Skyrim game. Current patches do not have the Restoration Potion glitch. –  ヴァイシャリ Aug 3 '12 at 16:30

To be honest, you're all assuming we're talking vanilla Skyrim. Add in Dragonborn and the best Heavy armor becomes Stalhrim. stats as high as Daedric, weighs about same as ebony or less. Not to mention anything Frost based you add to it is 25% better because it's basically armor made from ice. It does require a quest to make/obtain though.

Not sure about Light Armor with Dragonborn, but if Dawnguard is in the mix as well, Vampire Royal Armor is your best bet for Light, although I've only seen four sets and theoretically you can only collect two of them. One from Lord Harkon, and one set found while exploring the castle for Serana's mother Valerica. Valerica and Serana's sets are not obtainable, due to them being marked as essential and therefore, unkillable.

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To be honest, at the time the question was asked (and for the most part, answered), there was nothing except vanilla. Unless you count mods. Still, useful information if you're playing with any DLC. –  Trent Hawkins Apr 2 '13 at 9:58

This Guide is for players who play with a patch bigger than 1.9!

Hello there :D

I did a lot of research from many sources and was a bit confused how less actual information I found, so I investet many hours finding the way to the strongest weapons (max. Damage).

A little taste, the strongest possible Bow without cheating (But wearing all the bow-enchanted gear):

Strongest Bow

Very important note:

I don't use any exploits here, that's cheating in my opinion. The part with the necromage has never been fixed by the developers (while a lot of other stuff has changed) and in my opinion, it's nothing false about it.

I'll give you a little step-by-step here. You'll find optional information at the end. Note that I did this with Level 74 so I'm looking to keep this guide as small in perk-wasting as possible (without any loss!). For me, I always leveled the whole perk-trees.

Feel free to share this Guide or to turn it into a video. It would be nice, if you'd name me there, but it's ok, if you don't. :)

Another note: This guide bases on the complete Skyrim edition (Dawnguard, Heartfire and Dragonborn).

**Let's start:**

Pre-condition:

  • Minimum of 22 free Perks [if the aren't already invested in the following points].
  • Restoration Level 70
  • Alchemy Level 80
  • Smithing Level 100 [At least 91, if you don't want to make a weapon out of dragonbone! But it'll be the strongest ones!]
  • Enchanting Level 80 [100 highly recommended because of the "Extra Effect" Perk!]
  • You need multiple unenchanted Helmets, Gauntlets, Necklages, Rings (random stuff, value/material is not important!)
  • As much as you have of the following ingredients [see part 6 + 10 for details]
    • Blisterwort
    • Glowing Mushroom
    • Sabre Cat Tooth
    • Spriggan Sap
    • Ancestor Moth Wing
    • Blue Butterfly Wing
    • Chaurus Hunter Antennae
    • Hagraven Claw
    • Snowberries
    • Spawn Ash

Must have-Perks:

  • Restoration: Necromage
  • Alchemy: Alchemist 5/5 + Benefactor
  • Enchanting: Enchanter 5/5 + Insightful Enchanter
  • Smithing: Daedric Smithing + Dragon Smithing (best Heavy Armor: Daedric, strongest Weapons: Dragon)

Process:

  1. Craft the weapon(s)/Armor(s) of your confidence using a "Blacksmith Forge" (Important: Crafting the weapons doesn't need a potion or some enchanted gear! At this point, this does absolutely nothing!). The best/strongest weapons are the one from the Dragonbones/Dragonscales! The best Heavy Armor is the Daedric.
  2. Become a vampire.
  3. Goto an "Enchanting Table".
  4. Enchant the following stuff with "Fortify Alchemy":
    • Helmet
    • Braces
    • Necklage
    • Ring
  5. Equip theese and goto an "Alchemy Table"
  6. Put 2 of the following items together (your choice) to craft a "Fortify Enchanting Potion":
    • Ancestor Moth Wing
    • Blue Butterfly Wing
    • Chaurus Hunter Antennae
    • Hagraven Claw
    • Snowberries
    • Spawn Ash
    • Spriggan Sap
  7. Craft the potion, go to an enchanting table, drink it and repeat this from part 4 until you have this item-stats:
    • Fortify Enchanting Potion: 38%
    • Fortify Alchemy Helmet/Gauntlets/Necklage/Ring: 31%
  8. Equip your 31% alchemy gear.
  9. Craft as many possible "Fortify Enchanting Potions"! [Look at part 6]
  10. Craft as many possible "Fortify Smithing" Potions using again 2 of the following ingredients:
    • Blisterwort
    • Glowing Mushroom
    • Sabre Cat Tooth
    • Spriggan Sap
  11. Go to the "Enchanting Table" and drink one of the "Fortify Enchanting Potions" [remember the timelimit of the potion].
  12. Enchant the following items with "Fortify Smithing":
    • Helmet
    • Braces
    • Necklage
    • Ring
  13. Grab the weapon of your confidence and search a gridstone
  14. Drink one of the "Fortify Smithing" Potions [remember the timelimit of the potion] and improve your weapon/armor! :)
  15. You now have the strongest possible weapon, but don't forget: By improving other Armor with enchants like "Fortify One-Handed", etc. you can take out a lot more Damage! But the weapon itself is now on the highest possible level! Enchant other gear with your "Fortify Enchanting Potions".

Serious tips:

Best equippment in each category:

  • Heavy Armor: Daedric
  • Light Armor: Dragonscale
  • Weapons: Dragonbone
  • Sneaking: Non-Armor clothes

Maximum possible stats for each stuff:

  • Fortify Enchanting Potion: 38%
  • Fortify Alchemy Gear: 31%
  • Fortify Smithing Gear: 31%
  • Fortify Smithing Potion: 153%

How to become a vampire?

Videos:

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eoXEf-oY1hY
  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRs-qlkhnmA

How to cure from vampirism and turn back to normality

Go to Morthal and talk to the mage called Falion. He will cure you, if you bring him a filled "Black Sould Gem" (if you have an empty one, the easiest way would be to cast a weapon, "Bound Bow" for example, and shoot a Human to death! This will capture his soul in the Soul Gem).

I'm already cured! Help! I wanna turn back into a vampire!

Easy, just go to "Castle Volkihar" and talk to "Serana", she'll help you.

Where can I find "Daedra Hearts"?

Go to Winterhold and talk to "Enthir" (he's somewhere in the college). He will sell you 2. After you bought them, wait 2 days or safe the game and restart it, to refill his stock. You can repeat this until you die.

For what's the Necromage-Perk?!

It improves the spells on undeads. Now if you turn into a vampire, you also turn into an undead, so this point also counts on you. Potions ans gear are also in the category "Spells", which improves them also. :) Nobody seems to be sure if this is a bug or if it's wanted like this by the developers. It doesn't sound to me like this was a planned feature at the beginning, but it make sense and it also gives you a reason to play as vampire. Vampires are generally underpowered in Skyrim.

Tell me everyting about crafting and improvement!

  • Workbench: Imrpove Armor
  • Grindstone: Improve Weapons
  • Tanning Rack: Turn pelts into Leather
  • Smelter: Turn ores into ingots (2 ores = 1 ingot)
  • Blacksmith Forge: Craft weapons, armor, jewellry, building materials
  • Alchemy Table: For Alchemy-Potions (hoho...srsly?)
  • Enchanting Table: Enchanting gear
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In the Dragonborn DLC, there is a Stalhrim armor variant called Deathbrand and when all armor pieces are found and fitted together it gives a 100+ armor rating plus a +60 to stamina, and some other huge benefits which I forgot, it is LIGHT ARMOR and it's around 100 armor rating higher than Daedric at basic. It's also fully upgradable.

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