Oblivion - Min/Max Tips

Another Oblivion thread - how to build a character in game to avoid “gimping” yourself as you level and how to make a strong min/max character, within the game engine. No mods needed and only a modicum of cheesy tactics suggested :).

Game Mechanics. Level goes up when you gain 10 points in any combination of major skills. Each level adds health equal to 10% of your Endurance stat, and gives you the chance to raise up to 3 stats to a max of +5 each (you get +1 to a stat for raising the skills associated with that stat by 2). Your level controls the levels of your opposition: every level you gain, they gain. However, the enemies are designed to level at what I would consider a moderate to hardcore min/max pace: I estimate they gain almost all of their 10 skill points in combat skills and get roughly +3 to +4 in 3 stats, per level. Unless you can match that pace, you will fall behind the enemies and get your hat handed to you at higher levels.

Some skills are easy to raise (which makes their associated stats easy to raise) and some are hard to raise. Also some skills will go up unavoidably as you do the common activies in the game, so you can get uncontrolled skill gains which can level you too fast. In creating a character, avoid selecting major skills which will go up automatically. Also, there is very little difference in major vs minor skills. Both have the same cap (100) and although majors raise a little faster, the difference is not that large. You can have a very viable character who relies mostly or entirely on minor skills rather than majors.

There are two basic ways to build a character. My preferred way is to select 2 or 3 “primary combat” skills as major skills, and then fill out your 7 major picks with 4 or 5 “garbage” skills which you dont plan to use. The primary combat skills should be the skills you plan on using to fight with: as you gain skill in them you will level, but you will get stronger and should keep pace with the enemy. Any combination of weapon, armor and useful magic can work. Just make sure your garbage skills are ones that you will not use and that will not go up automatically.

Method 2 is to fill out your entire 7 picks with garbage skills and rely on minor skills to fight with. This is the most hardcore method: raise your minor combat skills insanely high early against easy opposition, and then raise your garbage skills to level in a controlled fashion. I prefer option 1 as more natural and less gamey.

Raising Stats & Skills: The key concept is to decide which stats you need, and then raise the skills which will give you 10 skillups (+5 to the stat) each level. You should have at most one skill per stat as a major skill (you need a couple of skills as minors that you can spam skillups on without levelling). Try to spread out your skillups amongst the skills based on 3 different stats so you get the full +5x3 per level.

Strength - controls damage with close combat weapons, and every point of STR gives you 5 pounds of carrying capacity. Based on Blade, Blunt and Hand to Hand skills. These 3 skills only raise when you damage an opponent with that type of weapon (swinging at air doesnt give skillups). These skills require a lot of fighting to raise, which makes raising STR a chore. If you want to be a melee brute and raise STR, you will need to alternate weapon types as you fight, or purchase training (usually available at the Fighters Guild).

Endurance - controls fatigue and health per level. Based on Armorer, Heavy Armor and Block skills. Armorer goes up automatically as you repair gear, Heavy Armor goes up when you get hit while wearing heavy armor and Block goes up when you block. If you do a lot of melee fighting your endurance stats will go up fast.

Willpower - controls magicka regen rate. Very important for casters. Based on Destruction, Restoration and Alteration skills. Destruction goes up only when you damage an opponent and is hard to raise. The other two go up when you cast a buff type spell (any cheap Fortify Attribute is good for Restoration, and a cheap shield spell like Protect is good for Alteration). You can chain cast spells for easy skillups. Restoration goes up quite a bit more slowly than Alteration. Overall this stat is medium difficulty to raise.

Intellect - controls total magicka points (your magicka pool is INTx2, plus any birthsigns, racial bonuses or items you carry - you never get more magicka from levelling). One of the only ways to add to your magicka pool is to raise INT which makes it crucial for casters. Based on Mysticism, Alchemy and Conjuration skills. Alchemy raises when you make potions, which is easy but somewhat tedious (lots of ingredient gathering and inventory management is required). The other two raise when you cast, and like Alteration raise swiftly with chain casting. A good cheap spell for Mysticism is Minor Life Detection, and for Conjuration, Bound Dagger. Once you get to the Arcane University, its worthwhile to make a custom short duration summon spell to use to spam skillups for Conjuration. Intellect is one of the easiest stats in the game to raise: just spam a lot of cheap Mysticism and Conjuration spells.

Agility - affects fatigue and whether you get knocked back in combat. Also affects damage done with bows. Based on Sneak, Security (lockpick) and Marksmanship skills. Security goes up when you pick locks - this is largely based on player skill and raises at a decent but not fast rate if you pick a lot of locks. Marksmanship goes up when you hit a target with arrows, havent really tested how easy or- hard this is to raise. Sneak goes up when you successfully move and stay hidden around someone who could detect you. Standing still while sneaking won’t give skillups unless the target keeps moving in and out of sneak-detection range. One way to raise sneak is to sneak into a sleeping persons house and sneak around whilst they sleep - you can get solid sneak skillups with a modest amount of time.

Speed - affects run/walk speed. Based on Light Armor, Athletics and Acrobatics. Light armor goes up when you get hit while wearing light armor, Athletics goes up as you run or swim and Acrobatics goes up when you jump. These skills are dirt-easy to raise - at low levels Acrobatics and Athletics will shoot up automatically.

Also, please note that if you intend to use magic, your magicka pool is a major limitation. Picking the Sign of the Mage (+50 magicka) is great for almost all builds and you want to be a heavy magic user you should also pick a magical race Breton (+50) or High Elf (+100).

The Oblivion system basically rewards mixing and matching skills to create a multi-class combo: here are a few viable packages:

Heavy Tank with magic support. (Fighter/Healer) Pick a tough race (Nord, Orc, Redguard) with Combat Focus, and then pick Heavy Armor, either Blade or Blunt and Restoration as your 3 primary major skills. Fill out your majors with skills you won’t use: Light Armor, Marksmanship, Alchemy, etc. Fight in melee a lot which will raise your HA, and weapon skills, and heal yourself for Restoration skillups. Also raise the minor skills of the other weapons, armorer, block and Alteration to ensure you get 10 total skillups for a +5 bonus for STR, END and Willpower. You will be a strong tank who can use Alteration for buffs and opening locks, and can heal yourself. This is a strong simple build.

Summoner with melee support (Mage/Fighter). Pick a magical race (Breton or High Elf) with magic focus then pick your choice of armor and melee weapon, and the Conjuration Skill as primary major skills. Fill out the majors with skills you won’t use. Buy a decent summon spells early on and rely on summoning a pet for most fighting - use your weapon to beat down a weakened and distracted enemy. You will rapidly raise Conjuration and will soon be able to summon mighty allies. Make sure to use Mysticism to get 10 skillups in Int skills per level - you want max Int ASAP. After that you can raise your combat skills, or other casting to add in. You can use Restoration to heal your pet, Alteration to shield it, etc. Or you can experiment with Destruction magic, using DOTs to help your pet kill. Also if you access the Arcane University you will be able to enchant gear to make you much stronger as a fighter. This is in the endgame a very strong build but takes a bit to get going. You will really need to join the mages guild and access the Arcane University for best effect.

Sneaky Backstabber (Fighter/Thief). Almost any race will work, and choose a Combat focus. Pick your choice of armor and Blade. Fill out your major skills with skills you don’t plan to use. Sneak around to get your sneak raising and try to get +5 agility each level. Sneak is a minor skill in this build but you will rely on it a lot. Since your sneak will start low, you won’t be able to sneak effectively for a few levels but if you are gaining 10 sneak per level you will start being a good stealther around level 4 or 5 (getting to 50 sneak is good, but 75 sneak is really the break point). Early on you play as a melee guy until you level up a few times - getting some pluses to STR and Blade skillups is good early. Once your sneak is up to the point where you can reliably sneak up on enemies, you can start using a heavy 2 handed claymore, sneaking up on people, and then power-attacking them. Often you will get one shot kills. You can supplement this with casting (Mysticism is good for life detection) and you will also be able to stand toe to toe with a lot of enemies if they survive the backstab. If you want to steal, you will also need to raise your security skill by picking locks. The key to make this build work is to balance your melee power (having a high Blade and high STR makes it much easier to get a one-shot kill with a backstab) with your sneaking.

Your level controls the levels of your opposition: every level you gain, they gain. However, the enemies are designed to level at what I would consider a moderate to hardcore min/max pace: I estimate they gain almost all of their 10 skill points in combat skills and get roughly +3 to +4 in 3 stats, per level. Unless you can match that pace, you will fall behind the enemies and get your hat handed to you at higher levels.

Just a brief aside - I think the default difficulty setting is just a tiny bit too high, and does lead to this “arms race” you’re describing. I’ve had great success just notching it down a little bit. Then I can play my character, levelling up without worrying about min-maxing, and the challenge feels just about right. People really shouldn’t be afraid of the difficulty slider.

Oblivion is a great game. The most glaring problem I find with it is that it nearly forces you to ‘game the system’ with nonesense like this, or things get too hard for you.

Oh well, at least they tightened up most of the other abusive/unbalanced/exploitive systems from Morrowind. Maybe they’ll finally get around to fixing the character development system in ES V.

That said, you did a great job putting together this info. Thanks!

Ah, the heavy two-handed claymore, the assassin’s weapon of choice.

Actually, when I was sneaking and attacking with a two-handed weapon (dai-katana), I was only getting 1x damage. Was that because my sneak was too low or what? With one handers, I still got the x6, but not while using a two-hander.

Erik J.

At 100 sneak, I was also only getting 1x on two-handed weapons. So that just doesn’t seem to work.

The original post in this thread is why I play Oblivion modded only…

Once you have access to the enchanting altar and grand soul gems, you can turn the game into “easy mode” by enchanting yourself a suit of +100 chameleon armor. Mobs will almost never agro on you and you can wail away with impunity. You can also get perpetual 6x sneak damage multipliers.

According to the Strategy Guide, 2-handed weapons aren’t entitled to a backstab bonus.

So anyone heard if two handed weapons allow you to get the sneak attack multiplier?

I highly reccomend the stealth/assasin mod. It doubles your backstab and archery sneak-attack multiplyer. In the higher levels, 6x just doesn’t cut it for a melee backstab. Also it makes being an archer actually viable, because if you are well hidden, and shoot at long range you may not be detected and get a bunch of 6x damage on arrows.

Anyone have a list of all equippable slots on your character? I think its:
Head / Helms
Chest / Curass
Hands / Gauntlets
Legs / Greaves
Feet / Boots
Neck / Necklass
Fingers / Rings x 2
Hands / Weapons
Hands / Shield

So if you are trying to maximise your self-buff slots, it would seem you can get a set of armor, 2 rings, necklace, 1h weapon and shield for a total of 9 buff slots (or 10 if weapons can have a constant buff effect on them).

Did I miss anything?

Looking at this, I am thinking I might keep my mage staff in my inventory incase I need it, but I may get the shield and 1h weapon for the buff slots.

Hmm, I cleared several dungeons out in the last few days using an Ebony Longsword (1 handed). The big one hander works great, but I don’t think I’ve tried a 2 hander. So perhaps I am wrong about the claymore. I’ll have to test that tonight :).

If that’s true, then a heavy 1 hander like the Longsword will do.

It’s true that the game has a lot of room for improvement. The 1-shot longsword “backstab” is in fact pretty cheesy. They should have a mechanic where if you do a stealth attack with a dagger, you get checked against your sneak skill and if you pass, the game performs a throat-cutting or back-stabbing animation and you get an automatic skill. That would be much more in character than sneaking up and wailing away with a huge weapon :0.

Related to this (and this is a slight spoiler about the Arena, so skip if you don’t want it spoiled) . . .

I beat the Grand Champion, and now the Blade Maiden, or whatever, is offering matches against monsters. Pretty cool. But as soon as I asked about them, she says “I see you’ve hit your peak, so the only thing you can fight now are Minotaur Lords”. I’m level 20. So I guess level 20 is considered by the game to be “maxed” according to leveled lists. I’d much rather be able to choose my opponents (as in, you can fight 1 to 3 opponents. Ok, now pick from this list of monsters).

You mean automatic kill, right? Anyway I agree with that although I would limit it to humanoids (although maybe you could do quests to learn the anatomy of certain classes of monsters). I think game makers would shy away from this becuase it would trivialize content, or so they would say.

I think it would be a great thing to do, combine it with silent deaths where you stay in stealth. If they wanted protect certain NPCs, make them of an obvious but uninstant killable race. IE: Most undead (vampires yes, zombies and skelletons no), elementals, weird monstosties, etc…

Id love to play a stalker of doom that killed people who didn’t even know they were being killed. The dark brother hood quests are mostly like this, but you should be able to do it anywhere, any time, if you make your skill checks. Also you should not be getting bounty for leaving no witnesses.

A sneak attack ignores power attack mode. So you might as well just attack normally for your sneak attack.

This sounds like the perfect work for a mod. It should be pretty easy, too. Just up the backstab multiplier for certain weapon types to a rediculously high number… assuming that’s possible.

And the game makers would probably be right. That would disproportionately reward backstabbing. Non-backstabbers usually have to work quite hard for their kills. (Even 1v1 fights are far from trivial most of the time.)

To give insta-death kill capacity to backstabbers would incent everyone to use stealth, rather than letting people find their own equally-valid ways of progressing through the game.

Yeah that is a problem, however not everyone is trying to run through a game at the maximum possible speed with minimal effort. It would be an intresting mechanic and fun to play with.

Its kind of like worrying about cheating in single player games. If people want to cheat and ruin thier game experience, why not let them? I remember diablo had some crazy save-game protection scheme to prevent that. It was pointless. People just figured out how to hack the game to get infinit potions of +1 int, or whatever.

So anyway, back to a single player RPG. It would make the game more realistic if you could garrot someone who was unaware. Sure its easy, but think about sneaking through a cave full of bandits and offing them one by one, silently. It becomes a challenge and a new ‘mini’ game. If people think its to powerful, then simply do not play a character who can do that.

My biggest issue is the massive chasm between skills getting “worked”. My guy has Merchanting (whatever) and Athletics as primaries. His weapon, armor and block skills are 100, Alteration mid 70s and Restoration mid 60s. Alchemy is at like 80+ and various other skills, like Sneak or Speechcraft, are in the 50s-60s.

Merchanting (whatever) and Athletics are at 30 and 31 respectively. I run everywhere (no horse) and I buy out all the alchemy people I ever meet, so I make like over 100 transactions when I go to town. They’re just abysmally slow compared to every other skill in the game.

Chris Woods

Mercantile. Mercantile. It’s a real word. Honest.

This from MightyMooquack.