Daggerfall:Beginner's Guide

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What kind of character should I start with?[edit]

To begin, do not select any of Bethesda's preset classes. They are extremely difficult to play with, and do not connect well with many of Daggerfall's core gameplay mechanics. After choosing your race, scroll down to the bottom of the "Class Selection" dialogue and choose "Custom." This will open the Classmaker system.

Attributes[edit]

On the left side of the screen, you will find Daggerfall's eight attributes, all beginning at 50. You can click on any attribute and use the "up" and "down" pointers near the zero counter to alter the attribute. Much of the difficulty new Daggerfall players experience comes from poor character design. In Daggerfall, you must have one or more definite combat strengths to overcome the many dangers before you. Therefore, a new character should set two attributes at 75 to begin:

  • Strength, and
  • Speed

Agility is currently under testing, and does not appear to be nearly as useful as expected. Increasing Strength will increase your combat odds sufficiently that you can leave Agility alone.

Intelligence should be kept at least above 50, as you will be using spells frequently. Your character will be configured with a magicka supply of (3*INT), so you may feel motivated to increase that intelligence attribute as you level up.

After some testing, I have found no use for Willpower. Its stated purpose is to help resist enemy spells, but a recent character of mine who reached 100 willpower never once resisted a spell in its lifespan. In some cases that could have simply been some unknown glitch, but at best willpower is unreliable.

The character you will be creating won't have a great need for additional Endurance. This can help you regenerate health more quickly when resting and gain more health points each level, but neither of those will be great priorities for you.

Personality can often be dropped to 10 with few, if any, repercussions. Its effect on conversation appears to be minimal, and conversation can't kill you in any case.

Luck is said to alter every game mechanic in a small way. My personal finding is that it alters the quality of looted weapons and armor, which can be a very valuable advantage to have. Nevertheless, keep it at 50 to begin with, and increase it in future iterations if you choose.

Skills[edit]

Most of the middle of the screen is taken by twelve empty slots, divided into Primary, Major, and Minor Skills. Clicking on those slots will allow you to choose your character's skills, thus determining how you will survive. For this first character, choose the following as primary skills:

  • Long Blade OR Blunt Weapon
  • Destruction
  • Stealth

For major skills:

  • Restoration
  • Running
  • Another weapon skill (Long Blade, Blunt Weapon, Short Blade, Archery, Axe)

For minor skills:

  • Thaumaturgy
  • Alteration
  • Dodging
  • Mercantile
  • Illusion
  • Mysticism

Here we will see some of the other skills, and why you should not choose them for your first character:

  • Giantish/Nymph/Daedric/Dragonish/Spriggan/Orcish/Centaurian/Impish: These skills, when successful, pacify the type of enemy they correspond to. Pacified enemies will remain in the dungeon and stay in your way, and the skill check is not easy to achieve.
  • Swimming: You will gain a spell soon that will make you swim perfectly and breathe underwater.
  • Climbing: You will gain a spell soon that will allow you to walk in the air. The first dungeon does not require the use of climbing to escape.
  • Lockpicking: You will gain a spell soon that will pick doors for you. Lockpicking is a very unfair mechanic in Daggerfall, in that you are allowed to only attempt each lock once while you are in the zone. Most locks in Daggerfall have a difficulty exceeding skill 60, and many exceed skill 80.
  • Jumping: This is marginally useful to get around obstacles in towns, but it will not help you survive. Levitate will do the corresponding work.
  • Streetwise/Etiquette: Can help in conversation with peasants, and occasionally when the character is arrested for a crime. Neither of those can kill you.
  • Backstabbing/Critical Strike: These can be useful skills, but for your tutorial character, they will not be necessary for your survival.
  • Hand-to-Hand: Your first character will want to destroy enemies in a single hit, where possible. Hand-to-hand is a good weapon skill, but will not achieve that result.
  • Medical: This skill regenerates health more quickly when resting. You will soon gain a spell that regenerates your health.
  • Pickpocket: Pickpocketing peasants will never get you anything useful. This skill's only practical use is in shoplifting, and the skill must be extraordinarily high to succeed.

Never create a character who relies entirely on magic for combat. Every enemy in Daggerfall has high magic resistance, and it is quite easy to spill your entire magicka supply on a single enemy who resists repeatedly.

Max HP per Level[edit]

In the upper right, a small window will indicate the maximum number of health points your character can gain on each level gained. Raise it from 8 to 30, the highest value possible.

Advantages and Disadvantages[edit]

On the right side, you will see two buttons, through which you can choose your character's natural advantages and disadvantages.

  • Advantages: Choose "Expertise In -> Long Blade OR Blunt Weapon" (whichever is your primary weapon skill); and "Increased Magery -> 3x int in Spell Points."
  • Disadvantages: Choose "Critical Weakness -> Disease"; and "Critical Weakness -> Poison."

Reputations[edit]

This has little effect on you, and can be something to alter with subsequent characters.

Background[edit]

Always choose to select your own background; never use the game's "quick start" method. You will be given 12 questions that will allow you to choose additional bonuses or weaknesses.

  • If asked for your nickname, choose "Quicksilver." This will benefit your Running skill.
  • If asked concerning your weapon use, always select the weapon skill you chose as a primary skill, be it long blade or blunt weapon.
  • If asked concerning your magic use, always select Destruction or Restoration.
  • One question offers a reward from the Emperor in the form of an Ebony Dagger. This can be a valuable weapon if you chose Short Blade as a major skill, but that alone is not worth making it a major skill.
  • If asked concerning gifts, choose dai-katanas and other weapons first; armor second; and gold if none of those are available.
  • If asked concerning your frail health, do not choose "resisting magicka." You may choose "staying awake and alert," "resisting poisons," or "resisting disease." Those last two options open the door to an exploit, as detailed further herein.

Attribute Rolls[edit]

After you have chosen your face, you will be sent to an attribute selection screen. You will see the eight attributes again, from Strength to Luck, but now they will have random sums added to them. You may use the "Reroll" button near the bottom-right to alter how the sums were made. Before leaving this screen, you will want Strength and Speed above 90, likely as close to 100 as possible.

Skill Levels[edit]

On this screen, you will be able to add bonus points to each of your skill categories. In Primary, put all bonus points into Long Blade / Blunt Weapon. In Major, you may choose either Restoration or your secondary weapon skill. In Minor, anything will work, though Dodging may help you live longer.

Final Check[edit]

You will be presented a final look at your character sheet before beginning the game proper with the opening movie.

Combat Basics[edit]

Now in the game proper, press the Escape key and go to "Controls." Look for the "Mouse" tab, and click on it. Inside there will be an option for "Cursor" or "Mouse Look." Set the option to "Mouse Look." Exit from the menu, and now your mouse will perform much more like modern first-person games do. This will be valuable for your survival.

Press F6 to enter the inventory. In the top-left you will see the Weapons and Armor tab. Near the middle of the screen, you will see buttons such as "Remove," "Info," and "Equip." For now, click "Info" and then click on each of your available weapons to determine which has the highest damage potential. Change to "Equip," and use that weapon. Also equip your armor, if you have any. Take note that if you have any weapons which are not made of Iron, you will probably want to use the non-iron weapon in this first dungeon, and likely afterwards, as some enemies in this dungeon are immune to iron weapons.

In Daggerfall, the right mouse button must be held, and then the mouse itself must be moved around the screen to swing the weapon. Official documentation suggests that there are varying difficulties of weapon swinging:

  • Bottom to top: Easiest to connect, weakest
  • Horizontal: Harder to connect, stronger
  • Top left to bottom right/top right to bottom left: Still harder to connect, still stronger
  • Top to bottom: Hardest and strongest attack

This suggests that a character with low weapon skill will want to use bottom-to-top and horizontal swings only.

You may wish to enter the Control screen again and set up a WASD control scheme for movement. When you are ready, attempt to swing your weapon while moving back and forth. Then practice it while running, which is holding left shift by default. This is for a combat skill you will need.

Stutter Stepping[edit]

When you meet your first opponent, you will notice that it must first stand still before hitting you. The enemy holds a combat pose before attacking. You can step backwards about two lengths, and being thus out of range, the enemy will lose its "charge" and have to set itself up again in its combat pose before attacking again. Get some practice allowing the enemy to run up to you and then stepping back out of its combat range. With some work, you will learn how to stutter step, which is a way to kill nearly any enemy without being hit. A long hallway will allow you to run backwards in stuttering motion, hitting the enemy all the while, and then turn around when you've reached the end and kiting it once more until it's defeated.

Take note that an enemy also has a moving attack pose, which you can't interrupt and is far harder to distance from. Because of this, you want to make sure the enemy has stopped moving before it begins its attack animation. Doing it this way, you can safely step away, and the enemy will not move after you until it has already missed.

Learn each enemy's attack pattern. The human Thief enemy is capable of attacking three times in a row, which can deplete most of your health if they are all successful. Many human enemies (and every human in this dungeon) can fire arrows if you distance yourself too much, so keep a short distance while using the stutter step.

Corner Combat[edit]

Daggerfall enemies have a difficult time pathing around turns. Separate yourself from the enemy across the corner of a wall, and then strike at it. On many corners, the enemy will get stuck and be unable to advance forward. You may step forward and backward, striking when possible, to destroy the enemy.

Strafing[edit]

This maneuver is useful when in a large area, typically with fewer enemies. Take a quick step back from the enemy, and before it catches up, strafe to either side, maintaining your view on the enemy with the mouse, in a circling motion. The enemy will take a few seconds to readjust to your new position, allowing you a second or two to gain a free hit.

Escaping the Dungeon[edit]

Now with combat understood, you will be ready to escape the dungeon. The UESP has a very functional walkthrough for it, which should help you navigate as much as you need.

Some of the things on the ground will be treasure piles. Center the view on them and press the Spacebar to search them. These will contain random pieces of treasure, sometimes holding armor and weapons that will be very useful. Human enemies you defeat will also carry equipment, making them particularly useful targets.

To evaluate the defensive value of new armor, you may use two methods: click the "Info" button on the inventory screen and then on the piece of armor, or equip the piece of armor and look at the nearby numerical value on your character display. The higher each armor value is, the more protected you are.

Rest with the "R" button when low on health. You can use magic if you like by pressing Backspace by default and selecting a spell, but Daggerfall's initial spells are very low-quality.

Once outside the dungeon, click the Travel Map (originally W, enter your Controls menu again to see if you reassigned it). From there, use the "I'm Here" button in the bottom left, which will highlight the region of Daggerfall. Click on Daggerfall, and then use the "Find" button. Type in "Chesterwark" or "Aldingwall." The game will find the city, and then ask you if you want to go there. Use the dialogue to travel there.

Joining the Mages Guild[edit]

Once in either Chesterwark or Aldingwall, use the "I" button to check the time. If the time is anywhere between 11:00 and 18:00, you can find the Mages Guild immediately and join it, which will open many more survival options for you. If the time is between 6:00 and 11:00, you will need to use the Loiter option to change the time (press the R button, and then choose "Loiter A While." Attempting to rest in a city will summon hostile guards.) If the time is between 18:00 and 6:00, you may not be able to enter the city yet, and may want to loiter until it's 6:00. You could also travel to some other location and come back to change the time.

Press "M" inside the city to open your map. Guild halls, such as the Mages Guild's, are blue. The Mages Guild typically has the largest guild hall in any city, so find the largest one and guide yourself through the city to it. When nearby, press the F3 button to identify the building by clicking on it. When you've found it, press the F2 or F4 button to change your clicking mode, and click on the door.

Most NPCs inside the guild can help you enroll. If you chose a magical skill for both Primary and Major skills, they will allow you to join. Afterwards, find someone in the guild with a menu option, "Make Spells." This will open a dialogue allowing you to create your own custom spells. You will want spells with the following effects:

  • Levitation
  • Recall (allows for an Anchor and to Teleport to that anchor. Anchor only lasts for one Teleport.)
  • Water Walking AND Water Breathing (use the "Add Effect" button twice on the same spell. Water Walking permits perfect swimming)
  • Heal Health (for emergencies)
  • Free Action (removes paralysis and provides immunity thereto for duration. Not necessary for High Elves.)
  • Open (unlocks doors)

Also recommended are a Regenerate Health spell, a Heal Stamina spell, and a damaging spell of some kind. Choose a Continuous Damage spell, keeping the ordinary duration, and setting its magnitude to ((1-1)+(2-2)per every 1 level). Using the options in the bottom-right of Spellmaker, choose "By Touch," and the element of your choice. You may want to make another copy of the spell in a different element. This setup will produce a spell that requires little magicka, but will quickly gain power to slay creatures at your level. Spells decrease in magicka cost as your skills increase, so you'll want to create more powerful versions of it as you increase in your Destruction spell.

For the future, when creating more powerful versions of your spells, always increase the "per level" value, and never the base value. "Per level" allows you to gain exponential spellpower as you level with no increase in magicka cost.

To create a spell with a reduced magicka cost, look for the "Duration" option (or Magnitude if there is no duration), and increase the counter from "every 1 level" to "every 2 levels." Further increasing this counter will provide no additional reduction in magicka cost. Some players greatly reduce the duration of spells such as Levitate to not interfere with their normal playing style.

Once you have created the spells you need, be sure to erase Daggerfall's three initial spells: Shock, Camouflage, and Slowfall. Open your spellbook with Backspace during normal gameplay, choose the spell you want to remove, and look near the bottom for the "Delete" option.

Quests and Dungeons[edit]

To advance in rank in the guild and gain more privileges, you will need to do quests to improve your standing. Find an NPC with the menu option, "Get Quest." Some of the Mages Guild quests revolve around traveling to cities and will be simple, but others will require you to go into dungeons. Here are some suggestions for the new player regarding dungeons:

  • Before leaving town, go to any general store and buy a wagon. Find a store or ask a peasant where to find one, and then click on one of the shelves inside. A wagon should cost less than 300 gold. This will allow you to store up to 750 kilograms apart from your own character, accessible out of dungeons and at the dungeon exit.
  • Cast your Recall spell either at the exit of the dungeon or at the Mages Guild. Either approach has its advantages, but you want to make sure you can Recall yourself out if you get lost.
  • Clear out a safe space near the start of the dungeon where you can rest. Begin to expand that space so you can rest whenever it's needed. Use the Regenerate spell to heal when not in immediate danger.
  • To defeat enemies with your Continuous Damage spell, get close to one and open your spellbook using Backspace. Double-click on the spell, and a message should tell you to choose your target. Use Spacebar on the enemy while close. If the spell is resisted, the message "Save vs spell made." will appear. If it is successful, the message "You see a (enemy)." will appear. Once success occurs, run away from the enemy, and try to watch it. The enemy has a chance to break the Continuous Damage once per tick (Daggerfall's internal measure of time), at which point you'll need to recast it; there is no message for when the spell is broken. If the enemy doesn't break the spell, you'll see it either bleeding (for living) or discharging some bone particles (for undead) every few seconds. The damage per round and the duration of the spell will increase as you gain levels, allowing for a rapidly increasing damage potential, supposing the enemy doesn't break it through magic resist.
  • To save magicka, you may want to try attacking a locked dungeon door rather than using your Open spell, which is most useful within towns. Bashing a normal door sufficiently will unlock and open it. If the door says it is a magically held lock, the Open spell is your only option.
  • Some dungeons require the use of unique objects to proceed. One is the red brick wall, which can be a teleporter if walked through or manipulated, or could be useless. Another is the small floating skull, which can teleport you to another section of the dungeon. Another is an inconspicuous torch which can remove obstructing cages and bookcases from your way. Another to watch for are levers and wheels, which tend to remove gates and walls. How to use these can be learned, and they will resolve all similar puzzles in the same fashion in other dungeons. Thankfully, the majority of quest locations will not require the use of any of these.
  • Press "M" to open your dungeon map. Click on any segment of the map to make it blink. This can be useful when you want to return to a particular section and not get lost. Right-click on a segment to make it disappear, allowing you to see below it.
  • If your quest leads you to find an ingredient such as Orc's Blood or Snake Venom, this will be found on the floor in the dungeon and will have no other distinguishing feature when you find it. You'll need to click on it, same as a treasure pile, and it will enter your inventory. Quest objects have a green background on their item tile.
  • If you open your character sheet (F5) and find your attributes lower than normal, press the "I" key in normal gameplay. This will provide you with the time and inform you whether you are diseased. Diseases can be cured at any temple in civilization, which should not be confused with shrines. A diseased character will die if untreated in time.
  • Successfully completing the quest and returning to the quest giver within the time limit will grant you +5 reputation with the Mages Guild. Failing the quest in any way will grant you -3 reputation. Reaching too low a reputation with the guild will remove your standing with them.

Moving On[edit]

As you increase in spell skill, you may want to create a damaging spell that affects all enemies in a short radius around you. While in the Spellmaker, change the targeting method for your new spell from "By Touch" to "Area around Caster." You may also create a spell to target "Area At Range," but you can kill yourself with it. "Single target at range" appears to be ineffective.

After securing yourself a place in the Mages Guild, you may want to find what else Daggerfall has to offer. A letter from Lady Brisienna will likely arrive soon. It isn't a requirement to complete the main quest, but it provides a background for the game's situation, and prevents a heavy faction loss with Brisienna (though that impacts little).

You may want to find a Fighters Guild, a Knightly Order, or a Temple you consider worth joining. The stats provided in this tutorial will allow you to join the Fighters Guild, and you also qualify for a Knightly Order if you chose Long Blade and Archery as your weapon skills. You may also work for an invitation to the Thieves Guild or the Dark Brotherhood. For more variety, talk to any peasant within a city and ask for work using the buttons in the top left corner. You can use this to learn of merchants and innkeepers in that city who have some urgent need at hand, usually for a monetary reward. You could also search out noble quests, although these are harder to find. There are other sources of quests available in the world, but I won't detail them here.

As you gain levels, you'll receive unsolicited letters from people in far-off regions who will help you start the main quest. You can accept these quests or delay them indefinitely. When speaking to any NPC in the main quest, always accept the quest they offer, or you will never be given a second chance to do it; this will effectively break the main quest for that character forever.

Exploits[edit]

Some new players will require the use of Daggerfall's many exploits to succeed. While there are players who can succeed without them, new players in particular may want to begin leaning on them until they can comprehend Daggerfall's many intricacies.

  • While in Classmaker, set every attribute as high as you can, and then press the "U" key. This will empty the cursor value, allowing you to make every skill as high as possible.
  • Cast any spell, and then press "U" while in normal gameplay with a magical item in the inventory that casts a targetable spell. When the message appears to choose a target, press the "E" button. The game will confuse the magical item for your last spell, and replenish the magicka you would have used for it. You may fill your magicka supply indefinitely using this.
  • If you go into a shop and loiter until after it closes, you will be free to take anything from its shelves with no danger of being caught. Bookstores seem to still sell their goods after closing hours.
  • Travel to a place within the Daggerfall region called the Rusty Ogre Lodge. Go into the tavern and head upstairs to the common bedroom. You'll find several small dressers which contain unusually powerful equipment. Take everything until you're fully equipped with the best armor. This cache will replenish if you travel elsewhere and return.
  • Choosing a character with "Critical Weakness to Disease," then selecting a background option to suffer a further weakness to disease, will make the character immune to disease, as the value underflows. The same is true of poison.
  • While outdoors in any location, open the travel map and select your own current location. Choose to travel there "Cautiously." You will arrive on the outskirts of the location, and your health and stamina will be returned to full. Magicka is also restored for any character who can regenerate it naturally.
  • Create a character with the Classmaker advantage "Spell Absorption in General" and "Increased Magery -> 3x Int." Once in the Mages Guild, create a damaging spell that targets an area at range. Then when you meet a hostile, cast it at your feet. Generally, this method has a 100% spell absorption rate for you, allowing you to regain the magicka spent in casting it and damage the enemy. Your character can then nuke the floor continually while running anywhere for unlimited killing power. On some rare occasions some character of mine has absorbed zero of its own spells, so be cautious when trying this in any new dungeon or setting you enter.
  • Increasing your spell skill for any of the six magical schools above 100 will reduce the magicka cost for any related spell to 5. Using Spellmaker, you can create a damage (Destruction) or shield (Alteration) spell that increases by 100 every level, and the magicka cost should remain at 5. For a level 10 character, this would provide a 1000-damage shield or a 1000-damage attack spell, effectively removing any challenge whatsoever. Further ideas are a Disintegration (chance 100) spell; Spell Reflection (chance 100) spell; regeneration (duration and magnitude 100) spell; levitation, water walking, and water breathing all at 100 duration; identification (chance 100); and so on, each in varying spell schools.
  • As High Elves are naturally immune to paralysis, a character may attach "Critical Weakness to Paralysis" in Classmaker and suffer no consequence. Nords may do the same with "Critical Weakness to Frost," though they only have a resistance to it.
  • In Classmaker, a non-spellcaster may attach "Inability to Regen Spellpoints," "Dark-Powered Magicka," and "Light-Powered Magicka" at the same time, drastically reducing skill gain difficulty.