The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

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Starting Out

  • The game will tell you that it's safer to travel by roads. This is a lie - you will probably get attacked by more bandits travelling by road than you would by just beelining through the wilderness.
  • BUT, when you're starting the game, it's a good idea to do a circuit of the roads around the Imperial City. You'll run into some good intro quests to get you started with some decent items and rewards.
  • After completing the first main quest task upon leaving the intro dungeon, you will be directed to the city of Kvatch. You may or may not want to do this right away. Entering Kvatch will trigger a global event that causes hell-portals to open up all over the map. Since the enemies are scaled, they won't be insurmountable, just a growing nuisance. Avoiding Kvatch will forestall this indefinitely.
  • In the village of Weye (just W of the Imperial City), Aelwin will ask you to get some slaughterfish scales for him. Your compass will point you to the fish (in succession), and they‘re a little difficult but not impossible (the hardest part is learning to fight while swimming). The reward is a water-breathing ring, ridiculously handy at this stage.
  • In the village of Aleswell (N of the Imperial City), everyone is invisible. Speak to the innkeeper to get the quest, head to the nearby fort, find and speak to the wizard (he may be inside or outside), raise his disposition to 70+ (through bribes), get the scroll and the ring, return to town, equip the ring and cast the scroll. Speak to the innkeeper again for your reward: a permanent room in the inn with a container in which to store things. Much easier than saving up thousands of gold for a house.
  • Speak to the count of Leyawiin; he’ll ask you to work with an Orcish knight and eventually get rid of some Black Bandits. If you complete all the tasks, you get ownership of the White Stallion Inn, a cheap place to rest and store things until you can afford a house.
  • Find the Shrine of Azura (NNW of Cheydinhal) with an offering of glow dust. You’ll need to purchase the dust from an alchemist at low levels (since Will-o-Wisps don’t appear til later), but it should be fairly cheap. Azura’s quest will net you a soul gem that doesn’t disappear once you use the soul inside, and that can hold the highest level of souls.
  • Speak to Jensine in the Imperial City Market District about Thoronir (you may have to ask some of the other shopkeepers about Rumours to unlock the topic). She’ll ask you to investigate him, and the quest is fairly straightforward, with an easy two-person fight at the end. You get a good resistance ring out of it (levelled, of course).
  • Once you've reached level 10, find the Shrine of Nocturnal. Completing the quest will net you an unbreakable lockpick which pretty much breaks the game as far as money/equipment is concerned.
  • At first, disease will be a constant in most dungeons so be prepared. Bring potions or learn the spell. It can really destroy you if you're not ready.
  • Always keep a silver or magical weapon on you. Some monsters (like ghosts) will be immune to normal weapons, so you’ll need a silver or magically enchanted weapon to hurt them. Keep in mind that if you have a magic weapon with no charge, it will still bypass their damage resistance. Eventually, Daedric weapons will also do the trick, but you won’t run into those until level 18+.
  • Make sure you have some method of restoring attributes, primarily Strength, Intelligence, Endurance and Speed. All of those will often get drained or damaged by enemies, and they can severely impact your combat skills, depending on what class you are. You can accomplish this via potions or spells, but constantly trudging back to the altar in town will soon become annoying.
  • If you back away as your enemy swings at you, he’ll miss and stumble. This will provide a better opportunity for you to attack than if you’d stood still and taken the blow, or even blocked it with your shield.
  • Your attacks will do less damage if your weapons are not at full health. Be sure to repair on the fly as much as possible. A general rule of thumb is to check your gear after every second or third fight (unless you’re killing rats, or sneak-killing enemies in one hit).


Leveling

  • The way the default leveling system works is this - the more you use your major skills, the faster you level up. The problem is that monsters scale up with your level, and so while you might not be racking up great modifiers, they will be. This will make them much harder to kill. Ideally, you'll be racking up one or two +4 or +5 bonuses every time you level, but this can be highly unrealistic.
  • The easiest way to counter this (and the only way on consoles) is by making a custom class. After selecting your race, birthsign, and major attributes like usual, select skills that you'll barely use as your major skills and the handiest skills and ones you intend to use most often as minor skills. To level up you will have to use those major skills often in a really tedious fashion like bludgeoning summoned skeletons to death.
  • Read this for a detailed approach.


Skills

  • Repair: Personally, I think this is possibly one of the most critical skills in the game. Your armor and weapons will degrade at a stupendous rate, and prior to Journeyman (?) level in this skill, you won't be able to repair any magical items at all. You'll also go through repair hammers ridiculously fast. Make sure you focus on training this up ASAP.
  • Alchemy: Don't underestimate this. There are ingredients everywhere and they're easy to harvest (unlike in Morrowind). They will be a lifesaver when you're in the middle of a dungeon and you've run out of spells/potions. Keep your alchemy set with you until you get a house to store it in, then start storing ingredients and creating potions more sparingly. Potions are also a great way, in the early game, of generating income.
  • Theft: Morality doesn't function the same as Fallout. If no one sees you commit a crime, it didn't happen. So steal everything and steal often. You will need to have joined the Thieves Guild in order to sell off all your ill-gotten loot. Need money faster? Raid basements and steal all their food, make a bunch of useless potions out of them, and then sell them. You'll get rich before you know it, and get a nice alchemy boost as well. That said, don't worry about money, the game throws piles of it at you before long, and there isn't much to buy anyway. Remember: when picking someone’s pocket, they can catch you even if you don’t try to steal anything. So always make sure you’ve left sneak mode before “activating” someone to talk to them—otherwise you might accidentally get caught trying to pickpocket them.
  • Security: EASY LOCKPICKING: Instead of randomly pressing A and hoping your pick doesn't break, watch the way the tumblers fall back into place. Notice how they fall back into place at different speeds? When you see the tumbler fall back down at its fastest speed, that's your cue to go for it. For some reason, picking a tumbler just after it falls back down at the fastest speed will succeed 85-90% of the time. You should now have little trouble breaking into the hardest locks with no security skill.
  • Most tasks you need to perform in the game can be done with one of two skills, either physical or magical. Good examples of this are Marksman/Destruction, Lockpicking/Alteration, and Speechcraft/Illusion. Since you technically only need one of each of those skills, figure out which one you prefer and ignore the other. Try not to double up on them, because you want to be advancing your preferred skills as fast as possible, which you won't do if you only use them half the time.

Enchanting and Spells

  • My advice would be to acquire an invisibility spell and some sort of conjuration spell ASAP. if you end up fighting a monster that's too tough for you, turn yourself invisible and run to heal up. conjuring something to fight for you will also take some of their efforts away from killing you since there's something else attacking them.
  • You can make the game almost cheatingly easy by enchanting armor/jewelry with chameleon. If your total chameleon equals or exceeds 100%, you are completely invisible to every NPC and monster in the game (unless you talk to them and they are able to respond, such as guards and other demi-human NPCs) even to the point that you can attack them and they won't be able to attack back.
  • If spells cost an insane amount of magicka, especially if you're not a magic based character, gaining skill in that particular school of magic reduces the cost. Try to get all of your magic skills to at least level 25 at your leisure, that's when all the helpful spells are usable in most schools (summoning creatures in conjuration, all sorts of helpful alteration, etc). Try to get Illusion up to level 50 (although I wouldn't make it a major skill because it boosts personality). Illusion 50 allows you to use the extremely helpful Debilitate (3 sec paralyze), Silence, and assorted Invisibility spells.

Factions

  • If you find yourself getting pulverized in dungeons, head to the Arena in the Imperial City and join up. You'll get combat experience and gold in small, manageable doses, and the Arena counts as a faction. Do the Orc Champion's ancestry quest as soon as possible. It's easy, and you get an insanely powerful mace from it.
  • The Thieves Guild should be joined as soon as possible. Just find a poster about the Gray Fox somewhere in the Imperial City, read it, and then head to the Waterfront around 11/11:30 at night. Find the garden with the low stone wall, and between 11:30 and midnight you should trigger the entrance to the Thieves Guild. If the guy won't talk to you, bribe him until his disposition is above 60 and he should let you in.
  • If you plan on playing a magic user, speed through the recommendation quests in the outlying mage guilds. The sooner you gain access to the spell-making altar in the arcane university, the better.
  • In order to join the Dark Brotherhood and gain access to the associated quest, you have to kill an innocent (i.e. someone not already attacking you). One of the easiest consequence-free kills that qualifies is early in the main ques - When you enter the first oblivion gate in the game, a soldier will accompany you. You can kill him once you're in the gate to join the Brotherhood, without risk of getting jailed for it. He's easy to take down if you attack him while he's fighting scamps (or whatever they are, depending on your level) and tends to die pretty quickly anyway. You can also find a houseful of skooma addicts you can kill in Bravil.