I started an Orc character last week in Skyrim and decided to make him a two-handed weapon bruiser. Just doing Bleak-Falls, wearing full Imperial armor, I needed lots of potions... My attack speed was so slow that while doing a standard attack with a Greatsword, I'd get hit one or two times before I even swing.

I have since switched to a sword and shield tank build, I still think it would be fun to play a two-handed weapon specialist. So to make this build viable (meaning to me: not requiring 10,000 potions while fighting mudcrabs ;-) ), do I need to supplement with Alteration pre-combat buffs? Do I need to level/wait it out til I have more health? Do I need to play differently?


15 Answers 15


Two-handed weapons have greater range than one-handed weapons, you have to take advantage of that: going backwards while swinging is a good way to minimize hits received, bash the enemy by blocking and attacking if they are in your face, then hit them while they stagger.

Blocking is less effective without a shield, so bashing should be your preferred mode of defense. Might want to enchant your weapon with drain stamina so you can always keep on swinging and bashing.

Overall, I feel two-handed weapons are less effective than one-handed weapons, because they offer less versatility and your DPS doesn't benefit as much from smithing. You're also missing out on shield enchants and blocking effectiveness, as well as the ability to cast with your left hand.


A major advantage of the One-handed build to the Two-handed build is that the Block skill tree has perks that only affects you if you are using a one-handed build (Elemental Protection, Deflect Arrows, Shield Charge). Also, some strong unique weapons like the Dawnbreaker and Dragonbane are one-handed only.

Also, from Two-handed rebalance mod description:

Two-handed weapons scale very badly with Enchanting and Smithing bonuses. Enchants and weapon tempering apply the same fixed bonuses to any weapon, regardless of their attack speed. This means that a faster weapon will benefit much more from said skills, because it can apply the damage bonus more often. With 100 Smithing, 100 Weapon Skill, as well as Armsman/Barbarian Perks, a one-handed Daedric sword will slightly outdamage a two-handed Daedric Greatsword. That is not even taking damage enchantments into account, which would widen the gap even more in favor of one-handed weapons. (Keep in mind, I'm only talking about a single one-handed weapon here, not dual wield!)

In the end, two-handed weapons are unwieldy because of their low attack speed. They slow the user down while he's attacking, practically negating their range advantage, they use a lot of stamina to execute power attacks because of their weight, and nevertheless they WILL be outdamaged by a single one-handed weapon eventually.


If playing on the PC, I recommend these mods to somehow make Two-handed builds comparable to One-handed builds:

Mod description:

Adds a perk that gives the player +30% attack speed with two handed weapons (split up into two ranks with 15% increase each). This will increase the average damage output, allow two-handed weapons to benefit from smithing/enchanting much better and also help with defending yourself, because you can go back to blocking, bashing or evading much earlier, and won't be stuck in an attack animation, which can be quite frustrating. Overall damage will still be lower than that of dual wield, as it should, but higher than sword and board. Your attack speed with a Greatsword will be at about 0.9, so it'll be a little bit slower than a one handed sword.

The new "Defensive Stance" Perk (at 40 2H skill) allows you to block 30% more damage while holding a two-handed sword. Blocking enchants, on necklaces and such, don't work for two-handed weapons, so this Perk will provide you with a better defensive option, to compensate for the lower damage compared to dual wield. Defensive Stance will stack with Shield Wall from the Blocking Tree. Of course, Shields will still be much better for defense because of their option to be enchanted, and perks like Elemental Protection.

These new perks will make two-handed a good, balanced option if you don't want to go full on offensive mode with dual wield, but don't like hiding behind a shield either. The inherent drawbacks of two-handed weapons are still there: You'll slow down to a crawl while attacking, and you don't have the flexibility to quickly switch out your offhand. (Consider that someone who goes sword/board can still just pick the dual-wield perks and switch out the shield for another weapon or even a spell at any time. If you go down the two-handed route, you're commiting to that playstyle.)

In the end, I think this mod will buff two-handed weapons pretty well, without making them overpowered.


I just ran a new Imperial through Bleak Falls Barrow with a two hander on Adept difficulty (the middlest difficulty). I got there at level two and found no challenge at all - however I've played the dungeon over twenty times and know exactly what to expect.

My "build" was, one point into twohanders and one levelup on health. My visible armor rating was 70, and I had a (Fine) Iron Greatsword.

Instead of just answering "what's a good two-hander build for level 2?", I'll provide many tips for "I'm having trouble with combat in bleak falls barrow as a two hander user, what can I do better?"

There is a wolf on the road to bleak falls barrow. If that wolf bites you, you are highly likely to contract rockjoint, which causes you to do 25% less damage with melee weapons. Check your "Active Effects" under the Magic menu. If you are diseased, go to WhiteRun to cure the disease at a shrine for free, or buy a potion of cure disease from the shop in Riverwood (~250 gold).

You have a healing spell, but the tutorial doesn't do a good job of telling you about it. You should be using this spell outside of combat to heal to full. You can put the spell on both hands and heal to full in combat, before resuming attack. I didn't need to heal during combat in my run.

Swinging a twohander is slow. Your movement is also slow while you're swinging. This means you can't adjust your range once your swing starts. While twohanders have more range than one handers, you might not be experienced enough to use that range. Instead - close hard with the enemy before swinging - you shouldn't tolerate missing. When enemies die in 3-4 swings, you don't want to take 5-6 swings due to missing.

Power attacking requires stamina and more time. Just use normal attacks and not power attacks. Then you can ignore stamina. Well, that's effective but not very fun. A more advanced technique is to weave normal attacks with power attacks. Start a normal attack. During the normal attack animation, start a power attack. In about the same amount of time as a power attack, you'll do a normal attack AND a power attack.

Wear all four armor pieces (head, hands, feet, chest). You get 100 hidden armor points for filling all four slots with items that require armor skill.

Upgrade all of your armor and your weapon. Even if your blacksmith skill isn't leveled - do the upgrades. If you don't know how to upgrade gear, take the tutorial in the first town, or at the smith's in Whiterun. The gear you use should always be upgraded.

Save the game every few fights. There are some number of "boss" encounters which may require as many as 8 swings of a two hander. It is a sad thing to have to restart the dungeon because a "boss" surprised you and your game isn't saved.


As long as you've stuck with a two hand weapon from the start of the game, you should already be fairly levelled to take on Bleak Falls. I started a new playthrough as an Orc last week and smash everything in my way. The trick with Bleak Falls is to not let the Draugr rise from the crypt, as soon as you hear the bones creak, run to the crypt and destroy them with a power attack. I used an iron warhammer for everything apart from the Frostbite spider (bow) and didnr die once. Decent heavy armour and a follower (I got Fendel sic as soon as I got to Riverwood) help a lot.


At higher levels, two handed attacks can be completely devastating, as you said you were using, a greatsword is likely the best of the two handed weapons due to swing speed, so my advise is to never use battle axes and warhammers, they do little more damage and are much slower. I do agree that overall, one handed weapons are slightly more effective. To answer your question, for some reason two handed weapons are very difficult to use at low levels, but perks and skill later on will make it much more deadly.


I recently (read 3 months ago) made my first non mage; he was an axe using nord with almost no forethought in to perks.

By level 10 i was wondering what the hell i'd been doing with my life! I found dual wielding insanely much easier then a mage and quite possibly more fun. Sure you use a few potions of larger boss but you can just tank up on armor and power attack your way through just about every one else.

My main suggestion is to put a few hours and levels into it before you give up. Going two hands is a big adjustment, you will need to get used to the slower swing speed and the additional range, but its well worth it for the damage and the chance to stagger your foe.

  • 1
    Totally agree with this, after my interest petering out with a few other character builds, I tried a two hander, it was hard at first but once you start leveling up and get some perks in, it becomes really really fun.
    – BigStuuu
    Commented Aug 3, 2012 at 9:17

I think the key, as others have mentioned, is distance. You have to start your swing way early, compared to one-handed. I just did Bleak Falls with a new Breton, using conjured Battleaxe. Admittedly, it's overkill (especially given the "mystic" perk), but the draugr overlord went down in two hits, him having done nothing at all other than get out of his coffin and stagger a bit.

  • This adds nothing to the question.
    – kotekzot
    Commented Sep 17, 2012 at 19:20

I don't understand why it's difficult for you to play with a two handed warrior that early in the game. I absolutley roll thru enemies like it's a piece of cake by taking the obvious perks when they come up. I am going with Heavy Armor though, strictly because of the looks you can get. I am not taking all of the high end perks though, like reflective blows. I don't care for the backwards strike in 2 handed weapons either, I am not wasting perks on the axe, sword, and hammer specs either because it's not worth the perks and I like variety (not having to decide if I want to use the randomly found orc battleaxe over an elven greatsword, for example).

Obviously you want a defensive shout, I often go back and forth between the unrelenting force (if a huge drop-off presents itself) and ice form (if I am in a tight spot) for fun and variety. I am still early into the game so I haven't bothered with the DLC stuff just yet and therefore don't have more variety with shouts. Mages "somewhat" pose an issue here and there, until I find a spot to hide behind, and they're foolish enough to close the gap between myself and "Lucy" (the name of my orc battle axe with ice/stamina damage on it so far). Then it's absoultely no problem, one power shot either kills them or drops them to a knee.

I have sunk all of my starting points into health so far, and I am currently around level 10 with 210 health and 110 stamina (which is fixing to change when I do the Rahgot quest line and get his mask to net me an additional 70 STA and improve my heavy armor rating at the same time). I've only spent perk points on Barbarian, Power Stance, Juggernaut, Steel Smithing, & Novice Restoration so far. I'll eventually start sinking points into Enchanting to give me some magic resistance bonuses when I need them down the stretch for certain quest lines.

Ultimately, this build is simple, it's easy, it's a meat and potatoes type of character build, requires very little thinking and decision making when it comes to combat. It's, "tank and spank, when weakened, defensive shout, drop back, dual cast quick heal/healing, return to fray, tank and spank, rinse and repeat". I carry around a companion and use them as a "pack mule" more than anything. Once I am satisfied with my enchanting/smithing, I'll more than likely switch it up combat wise and use a shield and one handed weapon to give me more defense and variety against tougher opponents. Getting the Spellbreaker shield is awesome. Paired with the block tree (magic resistance perk or whatever it's called) makes a mage virtually lunch meat on the go.


Two-handed weapon builds are totally viable, since you choose the right perks. You also should act according the role you're playing, what means focusing on devastating attacks instead of magic. And don't rely on blocking because block with weapons it's pretty much useless.


I use the two-handed axe Wuuthrad, and that is one HEAVY hitter when you level up your two-handed skill. Given my character is level 30 with 285+ armor rating and both my two handed and heavy armor skills are almost 100, the only weakness I find with two-handed weapons is that they aren't that versatile when fighting dragon priests or frost dragons. I don't even have any perks other than the two listed above and I cope with everything. Just make sure you build on to those perks early to get a head start on higher level areas, as you can easily out damage almost every opponent and one hit everything.

  • And build loads of health and stamina balanced early
    – Logan G.
    Commented Dec 29, 2012 at 23:22

I just finished the game (Companion's Questline + Civil War + Main Questline + A ton of Sidequests and a load of Dragon hunting) with a level 37 Two-Hand Specialist. I avoided all magic/enchanting/alchemy and focused on hitting things with my two handed weapons. I was at 100 around level 33, with 80 in heavy armor and 50 in block by level 37. I also trained Smithing up to 100 so I could make Dragonbone armor.

With an armor rating just a couple tics south of 700, I didn't have much to fear from stand-up fights. I use block bashing to stun enemies or cancel their attacks, and then retaliate with a power attack.

Early on, my build stumbled against mages. The lighting spells still give me pause, but I got around the issue by using the Become Ethereal shout. As soon as a mage started sniping me, I shouted. Once I was invulnerable, I sprinted to their location and timed a power attack right as I was coming out of the effect. Instant mage brain stew on the blade of my Greatsword.

Aside from Become Ethereal, the Marked For Death and Elemental Fury shouts were central to my build. I also liked to use Storm Call against any Dragon Priests I fought outside. Krosis slaughtered my first character (a ranger with heavily enchanted weapons), but my Conan rip-off called down a bunch of lightning and slaughtered the jerk with impunity.

I had a lot more fun with my Conan style warrior build (I did get stealth and bows up to around 50 each, just to help take some annoying mages out at range) than I did with my battle mage or archer.

I was playing on the default difficulty though, so I can't testify to how effective my build would be on other settings.

Also, I did a lot of role playing with this character, including avoiding fast travel as much as possible (I did use carts to warp to the general area). From horseback, the two-handed weapon strikes seem to gain a lot of extra weight. I started hunting Giants, Bears, and Sabercats early and with little danger. All the extra sword strikes from traveling everywhere by foot or horse really pumped my weapon skills up in a hurry. Most of my leveling came from just swinging a heavy slab of metal through flesh and bone, which kept my damage output ahead of the enemey's health gains.


Two handed blocking isn't useless. The power bash block is great for stun-locking enemies, which completely removes any penalty for using slow moving, two handed power attacks. This works on Dragon Priests as well, or at least ones you can get close enough to. Drink some resist fire/ice/shock potions, use the Become Ethereal Shout, or just put on the proper Dragon Priest Mask then sprint or Whirlwind Sprint into close range and power attack. Follow up with a block-bash to stun the enemy/knock them out of their attack and repeat. If you built your character properly, most things will be dead before you run out of stamina.

I'm barely level 38, using Dragon Bone armor, and sporting a 738 armor rating and there have been a couple of fights in the Dragonborn expansion that I had to repeat because I thought I was over-powered enough not to rely on the stunlock and destroy strategy. The only adjustment is that I treat any powerful enemy like a dragon now, which means I blast it with a Marked for Death shout before I start attacking.

I am using a Necklace of Holding and Ring of Striking for some fights though, so my stated damage with a Deadric Greatsword is usually north of 160.


I started a female nord ("agent of dibella" usage). Got a Steel GreatSword and nothing but Fur or more or less that kind of armour in me. Got into Bleak Falls Barrow... my recomendation? Use the heaviness to your advantage... make a good barbarian... See how every barbarian is depicted swinging a biiiig sword like it's gonna carve through the wall? Well... first (or only) enemy, do that... then just swing, firt perk should go to light armour so you can take a few more hits, but that's that... use that blow to either kill or seriously wound an enemy. The perk trees I use are: Light Armour 1st. Two-Handed 2nd, Smithing 3rd and Enchanting mostly... later on you can add protective encantations to your armour and my favourite encantation for weapons is that one which not only burns but soul traps enemies... You should use a little blocking to absorve some (little) damage, it'll give you time to either bash or power attack an enemy... I'd rather bash, time it properly and you avoid the damage you'd take while making a power attack.

Hope it Helps... if it don't... well then... see you in Sovngarde

  • oh... with enchanting and blacksmith potions I got about +450 armour... so kinda nothing kills my girl.
    – Dave
    Commented Feb 12, 2013 at 5:32

Well after playing with mages and rogue type characters i started a heavy armoured two hander. Surviving ability was great compared to others. while giants were killing my mage with one hit, my warrior was able to take 3-4 for hits. this is more than enough for me to kill them anyway. a well calculated first hit with power attack staggers almost any enemy. rest is reaping them from sideways while they tried to stand up. two handers are really fun.


I know it's old but this is the first question that pops up on google so it's still relevant to others that may be searching for this. Some people seem to be confusing 'viable' with 'most efficient'. Sure you can get more damage by dual wielding and spamming enchanting, but that doesn't make two handed unviable, just a little bit harder.

If you're into role playing a barbarian style character two handed is fun and extremely viable, once you hit 70 two handed and get the sweep perk you can become a god against groups because you can stagger all apponents sighing range, and apply all enchantments on your great sword to them at the same time. Absorb health and stamina on a great sword and no group will ever hurt you again.

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