The best free armor sets for your Skyrim Dragonborn

Viking Spawn Shield

We love mods at PC Gamer. Earlier on today, Tom posted about the two Steam Workshop collections we've assembled for anyone who wants to quickly and easily enhance their Skyrim experience. All good stuff, but now it's time to model some armour, and showcase some of the best, most detailed sets currently available for download.

Skyrim's initial wardrobe of armors is fine - splendid, even - but after a dozen hours looting the same sets began to get monotonous. Praise Talos then, because modders are on hand to deck you out in a wider range of garments. There's an emphasis on “lore-friendly” sets; gear that's fitting with the icy setting of Skyrim and not, say, the world of an JRPG (though there's plenty of those outfits, too). We've hand-picked eight of them. No Space Marines here.

Don't be worried about any of these unbalancing your game. Most require the very best smithing perks to make, which you can only access after a solid weekend's playthrough. Their stats have also been matched to the Bethesda-crafted armors too, so they have the same credibility as Nightingale or the Blades' sets.

Some of these mods come from the Steam Workshop, while the rest are downloaded via the Skyrim Nexus. For the Steam Workshop tools, all you have to do is log in and click the "Subscribe" button. Next time you boot up Skyrim, there'll be a short wait while the launcher downloads the relevant files. Skyrim Nexus' equivalent service is the Nexus Mod Manager : a free download that links up to the website. Find the mods you want on the Nexus, download them, then install them via the client. Simple.

Warchief Armor

Our pick of the bunch is the Warchief option , a fur and metal combo with a saber cat helm. Touted by its creator as a “fusion of Orcish brutality and Nordic resilience”, this set is packed with small touches, and flexes its considerable muscle at high resolution. It's available in both light and heavy variants, with no difference in appearance between the two. Skulls, pouches and hanging teeth all feature, and the sets can only be crafted if you are in possession of some elusive materials.

Hedge Knight

If the Warchief set smells like Warcraft, then there's a very precise scent to the Hedge Knight one too: Game of Thrones. While it doesn't bear any explicit reference to George RR Martin's conniving, scheming saga ( there are shields that do, though ), it definitely looks like you could use “Winter Is Coming” as a Shout while you play. Your character will appreciate being kept nice and snug under a long cloak, but they might abhor wearing the rather unfashionable helmet. Perfect for stamping through cities on your way to a fiery meeting the Jarl.

Vagabond Armor

The Vagabond set is slightly more presentable than the armor Skyrim's kamikaze bandits don, but it still cuts a coldly threatening figure. Its gloves look more like bear claws, while coned spikes protrude out of the shin-pads. Unfortunately, this armor is currently no good for female Dragonborn, and the helmet isn't wholly compatible with Argonians and Khajiit. A shame, because it looks great.

Redguard Knight Armor

With the Redguard Armor , you can finally look as cool as the Alik'r, the Redguard soldiers who wander around Skyrim searching for traitors and Thalmor sympathisers. This is a heavier variant to the one found in the vanilla game, with a chainmail jacket and a tough helmet underneath its cloth coating. Again, detail drives this mod: hoth has outfitted the set with a belt-pouch, runed cufflinks, and a natty cloak. There's even a craftable scimitar!

Ponty's Chainmail Armor

Here's a relatively light but still trustworthy option: chainmail. There wasn't much of it at all in the unmodded release of Skyrim, but for those who prefer their armor to be made out of small metal rings rather than slabs and chunks of iron and steel, then Ponty's Chainmail Armor might be for you. It's still early days for the mod, and Ponty the creator is intending to add in female versions, as well as coifs and mittens for both genders. As with all other Workshop mods, these will be downloaded to your game automatically, so sit tight.

Viking Spawn Shield

Technically, this weighty wooden shield could never be found in Tamriel, as it actually belongs to the world of Todd McFarlane's Spawn. We include it in this list, though, because without knowing that you'd be none the wiser: it's a barrier any Stormcloak would be proud to hide behind (KIDS! This is not an example of civil war bias!). Rounded, and jagged at the edges, this shield makes cracking open heads extra satisfying. It's all a touch ironic, really, since McFarlane worked on Skyrim's EA-published rival, Kingdoms of Amalur.

Scout Armor

Bringing a bit of refinement to Skyrim's world of furs and bear heads is DoODABoOM, who has used the official Blades armor as a base for a dark brown outfit that'll make your avatar look very dapper even as s/he massacres the living contents of their 212nd cave. DoOB has even embedded a pattern on the chestpiece, adding an extra layer of prestige to your appearance, even if you have no idea what the significance is.

Horse Armors

Have you ever read from the Scroll of Frenzy in Skyrim? It sends your target into a blind teeth-gnashing rage. In their apoplectic state, the afflicted views friends as enemies, and wishes only to throttle the necks of every last soul around them. I think that spell might be based on what happens when you mention 'Horse Armor' to an Elder Scrolls aficionado. Ha ha.

Anyway, Skyrim's Horse Armors mod (user-made and free!) enables you to strap protection to your horse of choice. The unique steeds - Shadowmere and Frost - are even bestowed with their own armored liveries, which look suitably heavenly or hellish.

No doubt you'll want to show off your Dovahkiin now that they're kitted up in such trend-setting threads. If you're clueless on how to take the best screenshots, give our console tweaks guide a quick read .

What are your favourite Skyrim mods so far?