Before anyone gets the wrong impression: I love this game. I have to restrict myself because once I start I can’t stop playing it. I even got to grips with the level up system and have managed to learn to play to accommodate it but still hate it. I must confess that I owe a great deal to the fantastic folk who maintain and contribute to the UESPWiki. Without them I would’ve never had the knowledge I needed to play the game to satisfaction. It’s a resource more insightful than the Arcane Library itself and also a wonderful example of what can be done with a wiki.
The leveling system in Oblivion is genius and fucked at the same time. Below are the rules.
- There are twenty one skills and seven of them are major skills.
- A character has eight attributes.
- Each attribute except for luck governs three skills.
- Every time you use a skill you gain experience for that skill.
- You gain experience for major skills more quickly.
- There are also some other experience modifiers but it’s complicated enough already.
- The game shows your progress towards getting a skill point and we should all thank The Nine that it does.
- Once the bar fills up you get a skill point and once you have ten major skill points you level up.
- The game also shows your progress towards a new level up.
- Once you level up you get to assign a positive modifier to three of your attributes.
- The modifier for luck is always +1
- The modifier for all other attributes is determined by the total of skill points gained in all three skills governed by that attribute.
- The modifier for all other attributes ranges from +2 to +5.
- You get the +5 modifier if the total number of skill points for an attribute is equal or greater than ten.
And that’s basically it. However, gaining a level in Oblivion is not always a happy event because the whole damn world levels up with you. That’s right: almost every treasure, NPC and enemy will level up with you every time you gain a level. This tends to fuck with your mind. Only if you are prepared and sure to get good attribute modifiers must you level otherwise you risk underleveling and getting fucked in the behind by a mud crab.
Fucked by a Mud Crab
Underleveling happens when you level up too quickly and unfortunately this happens all to easily. When you are picking a character it is natural to select a class (or create a custom one) with the skills that you use most often as your seven major skills. This seems the right thing to do and, looking at the predefined classes, recommended but it will also set you well on the way to underleveling. If you selected all the appropriate classes and play the game focusing on your character you will find that, making good use of your major skills, levels come pretty quickly.
This should be a good thing but unfortunately chances are also likely that you will get small bonus modifiers when you level up. Maybe +3 but usually +2. This is not good because enemies will grow stronger too and if you’re not careful they will grow stronger more quickly than you. At this point your only remedy is to turn down the difficulty slider (more on that later) but if you have to do this every time you level up you will quickly find it at the lowest setting. Unable to turn it down even more when the next level comes it’s highly likely that you’ll be trampled by a deer.
Besides getting fucked by a Mud Crab it is also very easy to fuck yourself in the ass by sheer stupidity. Remember that you need ten skill points for all three skills governed by an attribute? Let’s just say you’ve got two of the three attributes covered and you are working on those last two skill points to cover the +5 bonus for the last one. Acrobatics is one of your major skills and you can see that it near to gain a skill point but you don’t want to yet because you’ve already have the ten points to cover your speed attribute.
Suddenly, you fall of a rock and fuck shit, your acrobatics skill has increased. Blam! “You should rest and reflect on what you learned…” (that means I can level up). God #@$ ^%$&! Not only have I wasted a skill point for my speed attribute. I also accidentally levelled and now have fucked myself because I don’t have enough skill points to cover my third attribute (the game stops counting when you have ten major skill points).
Controlling the Fuckage
For me, controlling the fuckage basically means one thing: keeping meticulous notes where my skill levels are at when I gain a level. This provides an essential reference point during the next session of questing and training because I can now always find out how many skill points I gained since my last level up. Even though the game lets you know when you gained a skill point it is easy to miss these messages during the heat of battle. It is also useful to have an idea about which attributes you want to improve on your next level up so you can make wise decisions about which skills to use (e.g. don’t go picking locks but use an open spell when you are trying to improve your willpower).
When you try to accurately train your character you’ll have to pull off some seriously strange shit with your character. Your mage will be walking around wearing heavy armour, sucking rhino ass because she’s so slow and her spells are so ineffective. Your Orc will look like a daisy because he’s wearing light armour in order to upgrade his speed. Your thief will be the grand champion of the Arena because you wanted to upgrade his or her fighting skills and the Arena is a controlled way to do it which pays off pretty well too. (Note to self: remember that your initial choice of armour is not final; you can grab a different piece of certified Arena armour from the back cabinet next to Owyn).
The Final Stretch
When you are near to a level up it is time to think about your attribute modifiers. I keep another set of notes for this and just write down the skills and their increases grouped by the attributes. All these notes make me look more like an accountant than a gamer but that’s the price to pay for decent leveling in Oblivion. I also keep track of the total number of points per attribute to make it easier to see on what skills to work during play. It’s also wise to start thinking about which skills are easily trained by yourself and for which ones you may need to buy training in order to avoid wasting too much skill points of other skills trying to get it up by yourself.
Most offensive skills are pretty hard to train without training other skills too. Fighting usually means wearing armour so your light or heavy armour skill will go up. Blocking is also pretty common during a fight. You might opt to not wear armour or block but then there is a good chance that you will have to rely on restoration magic and/or potions which means that either your restoration, alchemy (if you make potions) or mercantile (if you buy potions) skill will go up too.
It is not all bad though because most skills are pretty easy to train without risking wasting skill points on other skills. All the magic skills except for destruction are easy because you can just repeatedly cast a cheap spell on yourself. Security and speechcraft are pretty easy too. Mercantile is a little bit harder because you need merchandise or money to work with. Armourer is pretty hard to train too because you can’t always easily damage your armour or weapon in a controlled environment.
Because of the skill juggling game that Oblivion wants you to play we have to find a good way to train our skills in a controlled way. Luckily this pretty easy to do thanks to an unexpected combination of conjuration magic and the difficulty slider. I have put aside my scruples about using the difficulty slider because I figured I would have to turn it down eventually. But instead of turning it down each level I now turn it a little bit up each time I level up and keep it there during questing. When I’m near a level up and need to train some specific combat skills I turn it full up or down to suit my training.
It is essential to become an apprentice in conjuration as soon as possible so you can conjure up weak creatures for training. The only problem is just that the creatures are so weak that you are likely to kick their ass in just a few blows. This forces you to conjure up another one and this can lead to rapid skill increases in conjuration. The trick here is to use the difficulty slider to your maximum advantage. If you are training an offensive skill just put the slider high and use a weak weapon. If you are training a defensive skill like heavy or light armour or block then put the slider low.
Training defensive skills is ideal in this way but training offensive is still risky. You may not always want to block or wear armour to avoid wasting skill points but with a high slider position this can be dangerous and might force you to use restoration magic. The Lord birth sign can help with this because it offers a pretty good health regeneration spell that does not influence your restoration magic.
I can heartily recommend the secret chamber behind the necromancer’s sign below Benirus Manor in Anvil as a controlled fighting environment. You can lock it up so your conjured creatures have nowhere to go and once Lorgrens corpse disappears it’s actually quite cosy in there. Continue reading “leveling”