Firstly, welcome to Oblivion! This page is intended for people who have just started playing the game, and in particular for those who haven't played any of the previous Elder Scrolls games. There is a lot of advice on this website for how to play the game, which can be overwhelming at first. This page will provide just the key, basic information to get you started.
The most important piece of advice is: Play the game! Stop reading this Wiki, and just go have fun enjoying the game. When you're starting out, don't worry about making mistakes, and don't worry about playing efficiently. The premise of this page is that at first, it is most important to spend as much time as possible playing, and as little time as possible reading. Although many links are provided to pages with more information, you do not need to read those linked pages at first.
Some players also advise finding the game difficulty setting under the Options menu, and setting it to the easiest value, because they believe that for first-time players, even the default "medium" difficulty setting can be overwhelming. This is not considered cheating, and the game does not keep track of what difficulty levels you have played at. At any point during the game, you can go back and readjust the difficulty (even in the middle of a fight if you want). Eventually, if you start to feel that the game isn't challenging any more, then you'll probably want to start increasing the difficulty a bit. However it is recommended that you wait to do this until after your first fight (with an opponent that is reasonably dangerous, as a Mud Crab is not a good sample of enemy might) outside the sewers, as this will allow you to see how difficult the majority of enemies will be if you don't have assistance.
The game starts off with a tutorial that introduces most of the key game concepts. This page provides a walkthrough of the tutorial.
You will be asked to make some choices to set up your character as you go through the tutorial. Don't worry too much about these choices: none of them are final. Even the decisions you made at first about your character's race and gender are not yet set in stone. At the very end of the tutorial (just before you leave the sewer system), you will be given a chance to go back over all your choices and change them. Still, it is a good idea to try all forms of combat before you leave (magic, blade, blunt, arrows, hand to hand and sneaking) so you know what you would like to concentrate on later.
It is strongly recommended that before ending the tutorial (i.e., right before leaving the sewer system), you save your game and don't delete that saved game. If you later decide you want to go back and play the game differently (i.e., create a new character), you can start from that saved game without having to redo the tutorial.
To fully set up your character you will need to make decisions about:
(You also get to choose a lot of options about your character's appearance, but these do not affect gameplay).
There is a page providing the details of character creation. In particular, you will find a lot of discussion of creating custom classes in order to overcome the Leveling Problem. For now, just ignore it. In order to start playing the game as quickly as possible, just use the game's default classes and choose one that sounds like the type of character you want to play, or use the class that Baurus suggests. Similarly, choose whichever gender, race, and birthsign appeals to you, without worrying about the long term implications.
If you're just starting out with Oblivion you have a lot to learn about playing the game, including whether you even really enjoy the game. To truly take advantage of custom classes requires you to understand a lot of the mechanics of game play. Using a custom class intelligently can give you a stronger character in the end, but on the other hand, using a custom class also makes it possible to end up with a really weak character. The default classes in the game are designed to work well when you are starting out, without requiring you to spend a lot of time learning about skills and attributes. The skills that you enjoy using will improve quickly, and you will get a chance to experience some of the more powerful features made available when you improve your skills (e.g., the skill perks).
On the other hand, if you are a number cruncher or hard core player that wants to dive into the complexities of Oblivion's mechanics, it can be extremely helpful to use a detailed character creation tool. Tools like OCP simulate your character's leveling so you can quickly find and avoid limiting configurations. Just remember that it is nigh impossible for a new player to really understand the complexities and subtleties of Oblivion's mechanics before ever playing, so don't get bogged down with your character creation choices at this point.
After you leave the sewers of the Imperial Prison, you are free to do anything you want.
Before you do anything, though, for entirely brand new players, you may want to be aware of the difficulty settings in the Options menu, and consider reducing it down to around a third of the length of the difficulty slider. This will prevent the game getting too frustrating too quickly while getting used to play.
If the plight of Emperor Uriel Septim appeals to you, you can continue doing the Main Quest. In that case, you will want to deliver the Amulet to Weynon Priory. There is an arrow on your compass that shows you which way to go to complete that quest (probably red, meaning your destination is on the other side of a door; otherwise, green).
You can also decide that you have no interest in the Emperor, and head off to follow your own course. If you change your mind, you can pick the quest up again; nothing will change in the meantime.
Alternatively, wander into the Imperial City and talk with the townspeople. Swim across the lake in front of you and check out the gleaming white ruins (Vilverin) there where you can find helpful armor and other loot inside its halls. Or, as soon as you leave the sewers, if you head to the right and find and enter Sideways Cave there's a good chance of finding one or two magic items even at Level 1, as well as some loot, to help get you started. Useful items can be found for free in the guild halls by joining the Fighters or Mages Guild, and in some of the places added by downloading official plug-ins.
Walk towards some of the symbols that appear on your compass and see what can be found there. In any direction that you go, you are sure to find something to do.
This Wiki provides pages describing each place you will find in the game, and walkthroughs of every quest. The Quest Timing article explains why performing some quests earlier or later within the game may be beneficial. As you read through these pages, it is important to remember that a lot of aspects of the game are selected randomly. Therefore, the quest walkthroughs and place descriptions cannot tell you exactly what you will encounter. One character might find four imps and another character might find two spriggans, a minotaur, and a rat in the exact same place. You may open a chest and find a great piece of enchanted armor; other characters might only find 5 gold. The page on Dungeons provides more information on what to expect while exploring, and how randomness affects what you encounter.
Making a Bit of Cash
To get started with making some money, go clear a few dungeons and sell the loot. This also has the benefit of helping with leveling up, as described below. An easy way to make money is through Alchemy. If you go around the guilds you have joined and collect the food, each of these can be made into a restore fatigue potion. These sell on average for around 6-12 gold each. Just make 100 and you have made a nice amount of gold. The food reappears in guild halls after a few days, so you have an essentially limitless supply of money. This also has the benefit of quickly leveling up your Alchemy skill, and you will be making more advanced potions in no time.
Another route for Alchemy is to start exploring the world map, and picking every plant and mushroom you see. This has the added benefit of unlocking map locations that will make it easier to get around later on.
You could also join the Fighters Guild and Mages Guild and sell the items found in the guild halls, or make money by fighting in the Arena. Doing the Arena is one of the best ways to get money early in the game, because unlike most quests, the rewards do not change as your character's level increases, meaning there is no point saving it until later. Once you are at the highest rank - the Grand Champion - you will have won 2,900 gold.
Starting thieves should be careful to have access to a Fence from the Thieves Guild before they start looting, but a few careful forays into poorly-guarded homes can be a source of money. A good way to get a lot of money at once is to save up your stolen items until you have access to fences. Put all of your stolen items in a safe chest/box/barrel. Do not extract any of the items in the presence of a guard (or anyone for that matter) as it is considered stealing, even though you are the one who placed the items in there.
Another good source of money is the Paranoia quest in Skingrad. This quest offers a large amount of gold, counting the gold that can be found in Glarthir's house.
The world of Oblivion is an absolutely massive place, filled with dungeons, camps, ruins of both man and elvenkind and many other places of interest. It is a good idea to uncover some of the map and find at least a few locations along major routes, so you can fast travel to them later and save time. One way to do this is strike out from a city's gate into the wilderness, heading for any icons on your compass that you see. Having locations uncovered near where you need to go can save a great deal of aggravation, and also allow you to save having to find where you are supposed to go, then go back to resupply and rest before actually pressing forth to your objective.
Exploring the map is also something you might find you enjoy a great deal. The world is so massive and filled with so many little spots of interest - with and without quests attached to them - that you could explore for dozens of hours of gameplay simply seeing all Cyrodiil has to offer. In addition, by picking up every plant and mushroom you see you'll be well equipped for your first forays into Alchemy, both to make yourself money and to have a wide range of potential potions and poisons to supplement your combat abilities.
Once you have sufficiently increased the major skills of your class, a message will appear on your screen suggesting that you "rest and meditate on what you have learned". An icon will also appear at the bottom of the screen. This means that you are ready to level up; all you need to do is find a bed and sleep. (It is not necessary to sleep as soon as leveling up is available. You may wait as long as you like.)
When you wake up, you will be presented with your list of Attributes and told that you can increase three of the eight values. For some of the values, you will see "+2" or "+3" next to them (up to a maximum of "+5" when you are either lucky, or have planned ahead); for the others, you will only get a +1 increase.
You probably want to choose attributes that have large increases next to them; the one exception is Personality which rarely helps you (unless you are dying to get that extra coin or two when trading items), and should be avoided even if you have a +5 next to it. If in doubt, Endurance is always a safe bet. If you're fighting face-to-face a lot, choose Strength; if you're mainly casting spells, both Intelligence and Willpower will help you(if you have chosen the Atronach Birthsign, then willpower will be entirely useless); sneakier characters will probably want to choose Agility. Speed is a good choice for new players because most characters will start on the sluggish side, and making yourself faster can make exploring more enjoyable. For now, you should avoid Luck as you will never see a +2 or +3 beside it and its benefits can be passed off as negligible as you approach later levels.
Improving Your Gameplay
Once you start to feel like you have the hang of things, you may wonder what else you could be doing. Chances are that you're not taking full advantage of all the skills and other opportunities in the game.
Some places to start browsing for additional information are:
The following tasks are your first essentials, things you should take care of as soon as possible to minimize your frustration and maximize your enjoyment.
For all characters:
- Find decent equipment to use for your first dungeon forays. Joining the Arena, even if you don't fight, gives access to a set of armor and racks of weapons you can take.
- Get a little starter money for use for essentials (via any of the methods described above).
- Find a "home base" location. If you don't have any plugins that give you a house location free, then you probably can't afford a house proper, but there are still locations with containers that are safe to use for storage and plenty of free beds.
- Get basic alchemy equipment (Mages Guilds have them lying all over): namely a Mortar and Pestle, Alembic, Retort, and Calcinator.
For Stealth-type characters:
- Join the Thieves Guild to get access to a Fence (for selling stolen goods) and easy access to cheap lockpicks.
For Mage-type characters:
- Join the Mages Guild to gain access to spell vendors and all the equipment they have laying around.
- Start to work your way towards access to the Arcane University and the spell-making equipment there.
- Buy spells to give yourself a range of damage options. You don't want to be stuck out if your foe has an immunity.
For Melee-type characters:
- Find a weapon that can damage magical beings (silver, enchanted or Daedric).
After you have played for quite some time, you may find that you're having a hard time staying alive. That is the point at which the Leveling Problem has caught up with you.
Congratulations, you've now graduated past the First Time Players page! Now is the time to start over (using that game you saved at the end of the tutorial) and implement all the tidbits you've learned about playing the game. One of the great things about Oblivion is if you start with a new character, you don't have to redo anything that you previously did. You can choose to go in a completely different direction. Or if you enjoyed some of the quests, you can redo them and you'll probably find that the quests turn out a bit differently the second time around.