Why I Like Bretons

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I play a lot of Bretons in Skyrim. I have played other races in the Elder Scrolls games, but by far the Bretons are my favorite. In this article I’m just going to go over why I enjoy playing this particular race and some of the gameplays I’ve done with them.

Breton History

To understand who the Bretons (Skyrim specific article) are you first have to know where they come from. Unlike most races in Tamriel, Bretons (their line is dubbed “manmer”) are a mixed race composed of Aldmer and Nedic ancestry. The two races interbred before much of recorded history in the middle Merethic Era in an area known as High Rock. Both races’ history and origins are subject to conjecture, but according to most sources of lore in the games the Aldmer are supposedly the first elven (“mer”) race on Tamriel, while the Nedes were the first human (“man”) race. Also according to the historical scholars in the game, each race left their original homeland, with the Aldmer coming from Aldmeris and the Nedes from Atmora, because these lands slowly became uninhabitable in the Merethic Era.

The elves are usually regarded as having the first advanced culture. As the mer settled their way from the Summerset Isles to Skyrim, each race broke off into their own separate identities (Altmer by some accounts are now a separate race, Orcs, Chimer who eventually become the Dunmer, Ayleids, Falmer, Maormer, and Dwemer). While the Altmer and other elven races were living in cosmopolitan luxury, the Nedes and beast races were more primitive. Not that the man races (Nedes and their splinter groups the Nords and Cyro-Nords or “Imperials”) weren’t able to support or defend themselves, as the Nedes could already boast that they took their original homeland of Atmora from the mer. However, when the races first came to Tamriel, there was relative peace between both man and mer for many generations. This peace was soon shattered in the late Merethic Era for reasons lost to current game lore when the elves razed a Nordic city. Since then there have been strong tensions between man and mer races throughout all of the known continents.

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Altmer, direct descendants of the Aldmer. Vanilla Skyrim models. Image credit: UESP Wiki.

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Nords, direct descendants of the Nedes. Vanilla Skyrim models. Image credit: UESP Wiki.

 

Now that we’ve established a general history (click the links to get more in depth), we can go on to the Bretons. As the Nedes expanded throughout the land in the Merethic Era, they eventually come to an area that will later be known as High Rock. Sometime later a group of Aldmer (or Altmer depending on the source) under the name of the Direnni clan, also made their way to High Rock. With their superior culture they naturally had the advantage and made full use of this fact by pushing the Nedes into poverty, servitude, and slavery. Many injustices were done to the Nedes in High Rock, including the use of them as concubines. After a few generations, it was clear from the mixed breeding that there was a new race being born which had special abilities. Eventually, the Direnni allowed those of mixed blood to take higher positions than their Nedic relatives because they were part elven, but they were restricted from marriage to a mer to keep elven bloodlines pure.

Late in the first era the Aldmer came under attack by the Alessian Order. They had already fought against their elven masters in Cyrodiil, the Ayleids, and won. The Alessian Order fought with all their might to overthrow the elves in High Rock, however being faced with a losing battle the Order left the area. Despite the win for the Direnni Clan, the Aldmer who were previously in control were too weak to gain that power back. The Bretons, who had learned much from their elven masters, took control over the area through trade, not by fighting. By the end of the First Era, the Bretons were fully in control of High Rock (except for Orsinium which is owned by the Orcs) and had absorbed any Nordic and Imperial tribes that had set up settlements in the area.

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Breton Religion, Society, and Architecture

The Bretons started out as a Nedic civilization, worshiping the constellations of Nirn and mysterious beings called The Celestials. They kept little in the way of their Nedic roots, being more inspired by their elven ancestors due to their affinity for all things arcane. Most Bretons have adopted the new pantheon of the Divines created by the Alessian Order to combine both Elven and Nordic traditions, but all known religions of Tamriel still focus greatly on the constellations.

Their culture is best described by UESP Wiki’s article on the subject [1]:

“The Bretons’ largely agrarian and hierarchical society is feudal in nature. Most Breton cities are sprawling trade hubs, and most of the people are either middle-class peasants or destitute beggars. The jockeying for power amongst the various monarchs and powers of the Iliac Bay region is a deeply ingrained, even cherished, part of Breton culture. […] The desire to find some great opportunity for fortune and glory has made Bretons venture all over northern Tamriel. […]  They’re often considered a friendly and humorous people, though there is little love lost between many Bretons and Redguards following the vicious War of Betony.

Bretons are said to enjoy intellectual pursuits; they often have an affinity for anything related to logic and ordered complexity. Their love of knowledge and affinity for commerce drives them into a host of careers, including trading, the military, sailing, medicine, textiles, manufacturing, writing, theology, banking, all kinds of artistry, and other scholarly pursuits. Espionage has also proven to be one of their strong suits; Breton double agents, assassins, and spies have turned the tide of wars throughout recorded history.”

Because of the Bretons’ view on power, when they took over High Rock they were a very fractured society. In the beginning there were many kingdoms. After the events of the “Warp of the West” and the success of the Imperial conquest by Tiber Septim, only the major kingdoms survived. These were the provinces of Orsinium, Daggerfall, and Wayrest. Most Bretons accepted and even profited by Imperial rule. Even during the events of Skyrim the Bretons still supported the empire.

Despite the fact that the Bretons are known to squabble with each other politically, their language, clothing, archiecture, and even their names are very consistent. They share the common language of Tamriel, based on the language created by the Ehlnofey (the et’Ada who helped create the world). Their clothing so far in the games tends to be medieval in nature, they wear the clothing styles of the land they’re inhabiting, or some mash-up in between. For the names in the games, the creators tended to use ones inspired by our Old English/Modern English with an old-world feel, Gaelic, or French, though this is not a hard rule and many names were created to sound and look similar to these real-world languages. Here is an article on Breton names from ESLore as well as an article on names from UESP.

Breton architecture is similar to our medieval architecture, however Bretons value “function over form.” Their dwellings tend to be modest, even for the wealthy. They have stone forts and towers for the military and small castles for the nobility. The middle and mercantile classes have homes and shops in the old-world characteristic thatched roofs, stone siding, and contrasting half-timbered styles, although some trade guilds are made up of all stone. The peasantry usually use whatever they can make out of mudbrick, found stone, timber, and straw. Many of their cities and towns boast walls for protection.

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Example Breton architecture from the Elder Scrolls Online. City: Stornhelm. From UESP Wiki.

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Appearance

According to the games, the Bretons look the most like their fair skinned human cousins, although they have higher, arched eyebrows, higher cheekbones, and more lithe frames like their elven descendants. Some Bretons even have slightly pointed ears.

 

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Bretons! Vanilla Skyrim models. Image from UESP Wiki.

 

In the early games they were described as being tall [2], however, their height has decreased in the newer games (starting with Morrowind). I go with the shorter height as it seems to be a consistent change. They’ve also been notably described as having dark hair in the game Arena, but in all of the following games, they have a variety of hair colors. I usually like to go red. xD

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Breton Skills and Racial Abilities

As described in the Skyrim:Races page on UESP (other games’ pages: Arena:Races, Daggerfall:Races, Battlespire:Races, Morrowind:Races, Oblivion:Races), Bretons have:

Racial Powers

Skill Bonuses

Skills and Racial Abilities with Disparity [4]

Racial Powers

  • Resist Magic 15%
  • Absorb 10% of magic from hostile spells (It’s now a constant effect, but the amount is much lower for balance)

Skill Bonuses

  • +10 Conjuration, Restoration, Alteration,
  • +5 Illusion, 5 Alchemy, 5 Speech

Disparity also allows for skills to progress at different levels, so you have major, minor, and regular skills that increase at different levels. This helps a lot with leveling.

All of the skill sets and racial bonuses make Bretons well suited for many magic-orientated classes [5] such as Pilgrims, Mages, or Sorcerers. This does not mean that I stick with these classes, but sometimes it’s fun. I actually like to create more stealthy characters. Not necessarily thieves, but ones that can incorporate stealth skills like sneaking and lockpicking in with magic and (usually) one-handed. This is where I take an already defined class and rejuggle some of the major stats to better suit my character.

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So, Why Do I Like Them?

Although it’s said that Imperials have more well-rounded skills in terms of choosing different classes and for different play styles, I like to think that if used properly the Breton skills can also be suitable for this. Their affinity for the arcane obviously makes them great Mages, but Illusion, Alchemy, and Speech can highly benefit a Thief. Restoration, Alchemy, and their ability to resist and absorb magicka will aid a Mercenary, a Witchhunter, or a Knight. Speech, Illusion, Restoration, and Alteration can profit Bards, Monks, and Pilgrims. Speech, Alchemy, and Illusion can assist Nightblades, Assassins, and Agents. Bretons may not have strong starting skills in these classes’ major areas, but the sheer amount of useful magical abilities this race has – even if used in just a passing way and not actively engaging a hostile with spells (i.e. using Alchemy for making healing and stamina potions, using Restoration for only healing spells, using the absorb and resist magic to allow them to tank against other magic users) – the bonuses will immensely support any style of character.

The other reason why I like Bretons is that they’re so individual within their own race. Their whole society is based on a person being unique and they’re widely known to be adventurous to the point of taking absurd risks. It may seem trivial, but with the type of characters I usually like playing, these traits really suit and appeal to me. Besides, how can you have a savior of the world and not have them take foolish risks? I’m not saying other races aren’t individual or don’t appeal to me. All the races have their advantages and disadvantages and all can be molded into any type of character you want. I’ve also played multiple other races, including Redguards, Imperials, Nords, and Dunmer. But ever since I got into the Elder Scrolls games with Morrowind, I’ve loved how quirky the Bretons were. I found my perfect race for the games.

Here is a post I did outlining some of my favorite Dragonborns I’ve made for Skyrim. Most of them are Bretons so far.

My second favorite race would be the Dunmer. I’ll write more on them at a later time! Hope you enjoyed the article. What are your favorite races, or a race you play often in these games?

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[1] From the UESP Breton article: “During character creation in TES: Arena, choosing the Breton race elicits the following: “Thy race is descended from the ancient Druids of Galen, quick witted and strong in the mystical arts. Thy folks are crafty and intelligent, a learned people who use their gifts to guide others to enlightenment…” There has been no mention of the Druids of Galen since.”
[2]] According to the games Arena and Daggerfall, the Bretons are considered “tall” (along with the High Elves (Altmer in later games), the Dark Elves (Dunmer), and Nords). This is no longer the case, as starting with Morrowind and continuing with the more recent games the Bretons’ height as a whole comes in shorter than most other races. With an ingame measurement of 1.0 for males and .95 for females, all races but the Khajiit (who share the same height values) and the male Bosmer (who are only .98 while their female counterparts are 1.0) are taller. I go with them being shorter as I personally believe the establishment of the lore wasn’t finalized until Morrowind due to the incredible amount of changes and the whole “Warp of the West” incident.
[3] In Morrowind and Oblivion, Bretons boasted a +5 to Mysticism, which is no longer a school of magic, and a +10 to Restoration. Speech as a skill for the Bretons is new to Skyrim. Strength, Endurance, and other attributes (which are not in Skyrim’s vanilla character creation but added to the race itself) have been slightly adjusted within each separate game.
[4] I use Disparity a lot in my games. It allows me greater customization when choosing a path outside of one that would be typical for the race. See here how I use it to create my characters.
[5] There are no classes in Skyrim’s character creation for the base game and therefore no major or minor skills. All skills increase at the same rate. The classes I refer to are from the mod Disparity, which takes their skill sets from Morrowind and adjusts them for the Skyrim engine since some minor gameplay mechanics have been changed. Most notably is the fact there is no Mysticism school of magic (the spells have been moved to other schools), Hand-to-Hand is no longer a play style (unless you have mods or are a Khajiit), Pickpocket has returned from Daggerfall, weapon skills are divided into styles (one-handed, two-handed) and then into the specific type of weapon (and some weapons are gone, like Spears), Athletics and Acrobatics are related to the specific race and not an actual leveling skill, and some skills were renamed.

This article contains material and references from the UESP Wiki. It’s licensed under the Creative Commons by-sa license. All sources are referenced with links to give credit to the respective authors on the wiki or to authors from their own websites. All game content is owned by Bethesda Studios and/or ZenimaxOnline and is used under the Fair Use law. I’m just a big fan girl. 🙂

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