The fundamentals of developing a character in ESO

IselinIselin Vancouver, BCMember LegendaryPosts: 9,896
edited October 2016 in Elder Scrolls Online
I keep seeing a lot of comments from new or returning players that make it sound like they're struggling with character development so I decided to write this post with some basic info that should help. I should also say right off the bat that there are many viable builds that deviate heavily from what I'm writing below but you should leave those until later when you're more familiar with the game. Learn how to walk before you start running.

1. Stamina, Magicka or Health and how much of it.


ESO has a hybrid class/open skill system with heavy emphasis on the open. Picking a race and class is not even the most important choice you'll be making. All characters are more defined by which one of the three basic resource attributes you emphasize. It's that choice that will determine what type of armor you'll wear and what weapons you'll be using.

Stamina is the choice you make if you want to use 2HD weapons or dual wield or use a bow. The damage that the abilities in those skill lines do is determined by your total Stamina pool and Weapon power. Those are the key stats you'll want on your gear to do more damage.

Magicka and spell power do the same for the staves: both the destruction and healing ones. Those are you key stats for both magcka based DPS as well as healing,

Health is the resource of mitigation and tanks. Just be aware that if you chose to emphasize that, it'll be at the expense of your damage output. It's actually tough to try to build a tank in the early levels while you're mostly solo questing. Also, tanks in the normal version of dungeons are really not 100% needed. Tough veteran dungeons and trials yes - tanks are very much needed there but that comes much, much later. If you're still determined on building for tanking right from level 1 just be aware that your time to kill stuff will be very slow compared to others.

If you read guides with an emphasis on end-game you'll see recommendations to put all your points into either stamina or magicka and nothing in health (unless you're building a tank where you'll want to have roughly an even split between health and you chosen damage stat - I won't even get into the details that tanks can also be magicka or stamina variants since that's a more advanced discussion.) However I think that's the wrong advice for character leveling especially for new players. I recommend that you do a 4:1 magicka or stamina to health ratio to give you a little bit of extra health. But in any case putting points into all 3 is almost always a very bad choice.

2. What armor to wear and about that jewelry.


Light armor is for magicka builds, medium is for stamina and heavy is for tanking - it's that simple. Aside from champion points which come after level 50, it's the passives in the armor skill lines that increase your chosen stat pool, increase its regeneration and give you bonuses to the type of damage or healing you're trying to emphasize.

Armor also determines your physical damage mitigation to a large extent from hardly none to quite a bit, but light armor actually gives you slightly better spell damage mitigation than heavy.

Most of the bonuses you get from the armor passives is on a per piece basis. Most of the time you'll want to have 7/7 pieces of the same type to maximize those bonuses. There are special cases and special situations where you'll want to go lower than 7/7 (PVP, some tank builds, etc.) but as a newish player trying to figure things out you should always be aiming for 7/7. 

Jewelry also typically comes in 3 flavors: one for magicka, stamina or health.

Something else that has always been in the game but has been emphasized tremendously with the latest One Tamriel update is weapon, armor and jewelry sets that give you special bonuses depending on how many pieces of the set you've equipped. They drop everywhere now and you get them as quest rewards. They are specific to each zone or each 4-man dungeon with each zone and 4-ma dungeon having 3 sets: a light one for magicka, medium for stamina and heavy for tanking. It'll be tough for you to play the game and not get full 5 piece sets useful to you.

And also note that with the new system where you're always bolstered to CP160 if you're under that, the level of your gear relative to your true level has an impact on the bolstering formula - you generally want to be using gear that isn't more than 5 levels below yours. Don't sweat it too much as you'll get lots of replacements. Just be aware of that.

3. The right weapon


If you're interested in stamina-based DPS, 2HD, dual wielding and bows are your three choices. For magicka DPS it's just the destruction staves (although I'll mention here that there are some advantages to dual wielding swords for magicka DPS due to a DW passive but that's end-game min/maxing - don't sweat that either while leveling) and for healing it's the restoration staff. 1-HD + shield is purely a tanking choice and there's very little in that skill line that will increase your damage.

A note about weapon and spell power: passives and gear stats that increase your weapon power will only ever increase the damage of the stamina-based weapons and their abilities - never either type of staff: you want spell power to increase that.

The reason you'll want to stick to those choices instead of mixing and matching (even though you can) is very simple: they derive their damage from opposite pools (magicka or stamina) and the bigger that pool the better the damage. If you pick one of each type you'll either be doing poor damage with one, or worse, with both if you decide to split your stat allocations. Experiment if you want but at least you'll know why your bow abilities suck when used on a magicka build and the same for a staff used with a stamina build. 

4. Food buffs


If you're only going to craft one thing, provisioning should be your choice. Food can buff one of your 3 stat pools if bought from NPCs or is green quality crafted, 2 of those pools if blue crafted or all 3 if purple crafted. If you're going to be crafting your own or buying it from other players, the blue kind that buffs your health + your choice of magicka or stamina is the one most people use. The purple does buff all 3 but for a less amount than the blue food does.

Drinks work the same way but they don't buff the pools, they just buff the regeneration rate. It's why most people don't use them except in special builds that already have a ton of the relevant stat pool without adding food.

Always use food: the buffs are big.

5. Ability morphs and ultimates


The skill lines for all 4 classes start as magicka abilities and so were the morphs for the first few months of ESO. It hasn't been that way for quite a while now and all classes have several skills that morph the skill into a stamina based one using all the same stat criteria as the weapon skills I described above (stamina + weapon power for the stamina morphs.) All 4 classes have viable stamina or magicka based variants now.

The ultimate abilities were also changed around the same time to get their power from whichever of your 2 stats is larger, weapon or spell power. They can be used just as effectively by magicka or stamina variants.

6. Choice of Race


Although hardcore min/maxers will disagree, pick whatever you want. Having said that, these are typically acknowledged as the best choices for different build types:

Magicka DPS: High Elf, Breton, Dark Elf (especially this 3rd one for DK fire based magicka builds)
Stamina DPS: Redgard, Orc, Khajiit, Imperial
Tanks: Imperial, Nord, Orc
Healers: Breton, High Elves


When you come to a fork on the road, take it.
You can observe a lot by just watching.
No one goes there nowadays, it's too crowded.

-- Yogi --
Post edited by BillMurphy on

Comments

  • KyleranKyleran Paradise City, FLMember LegendaryPosts: 26,223
    Thanks much for posting this, I always felt I may not have enjoyed this much at launch as my build seemed underpowered conpared to some used by friends.

    They would breeze through situations while I struggled fiercely.

    Or I just suck.... ;)

    On hiatus from EVE Online since Dec 2016 - Screw off-grid PVE boosting changes

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  • IselinIselin Vancouver, BCMember LegendaryPosts: 9,896
    Kyleran said:
    Thanks much for posting this, I always felt I may not have enjoyed this much at launch as my build seemed underpowered conpared to some used by friends.

    They would breeze through situations while I struggled fiercely.

    Or I just suck.... ;)

    It was much more confusing at launch because ALL of the class abilities as well as ultimates used magicka and were boosted by light armor (there were no stamina class ability morphs) while the Bow, DW, 2HD and 1HD + Shield all used stamina.

    If you wanted to use those weapons and not staves you were forced into hybrid choices of stamina/magicka and armor types. That was the # 1 reason most people said "fuck it" and went all magicka.
    When you come to a fork on the road, take it.
    You can observe a lot by just watching.
    No one goes there nowadays, it's too crowded.

    -- Yogi --
  • TorvalTorval Member LegendaryPosts: 14,361
    Thanks. I learned some things and had some questions answered.

    I've been looking at Deltia's magicka nightblade and your suggestions here and in a couple other threads has helped with a more reasonable approach to building the character.
    MrMelGibson
    Avatar Artist: The Who
    Album: The Who Sell Out
    Featured Tracks: Heinz Baked Beans, Our Love Was, Hall of the Mountain King (the first and most awesome rock version)
  • ForgrimmForgrimm Somewhere in TimeMember EpicPosts: 2,528
    Torval said:
    Thanks. I learned some things and had some questions answered.

    I've been looking at Deltia's magicka nightblade and your suggestions here and in a couple other threads has helped with a more reasonable approach to building the character.
    Deltia puts together good guides. I used one of his templar guides to help build my character.
  • TorvalTorval Member LegendaryPosts: 14,361
    Forgrimm said:
    Torval said:
    Thanks. I learned some things and had some questions answered.

    I've been looking at Deltia's magicka nightblade and your suggestions here and in a couple other threads has helped with a more reasonable approach to building the character.
    Deltia puts together good guides. I used one of his templar guides to help build my character.
    I think so too. Sometimes they are pretty advanced or expect a certain understanding and can be heavily min/max focused. All those are okay and I use that site as a reference all the time. What I mean is that Iselin has some very simple practical insight that makes ramping up to those builds smoother. I think it helps me understand how the class is built and how the skills work.
    Avatar Artist: The Who
    Album: The Who Sell Out
    Featured Tracks: Heinz Baked Beans, Our Love Was, Hall of the Mountain King (the first and most awesome rock version)
  • IselinIselin Vancouver, BCMember LegendaryPosts: 9,896
    Torval said:
    Forgrimm said:
    Torval said:
    Thanks. I learned some things and had some questions answered.

    I've been looking at Deltia's magicka nightblade and your suggestions here and in a couple other threads has helped with a more reasonable approach to building the character.
    Deltia puts together good guides. I used one of his templar guides to help build my character.
    I think so too. Sometimes they are pretty advanced or expect a certain understanding and can be heavily min/max focused. All those are okay and I use that site as a reference all the time. What I mean is that Iselin has some very simple practical insight that makes ramping up to those builds smoother. I think it helps me understand how the class is built and how the skills work.
    Me three. I've been a big fan of Deltia's site for a long time. He's done a lot for the ESO community.

    ESO should hire him to do optional build template guides in the game in a way similar to how The Secret World did it. I found those build guides in TSW very useful getting me started until I became familiar with their system.
    When you come to a fork on the road, take it.
    You can observe a lot by just watching.
    No one goes there nowadays, it's too crowded.

    -- Yogi --
  • NomadMorlockNomadMorlock N/A, VAMember UncommonPosts: 806
    Thanks for posting this Iselin.  I would however include Bosmer/Wood Elf for stamina builds.
  • IselinIselin Vancouver, BCMember LegendaryPosts: 9,896
    Thanks for posting this Iselin.  I would however include Bosmer/Wood Elf for stamina builds.
    I used to like Bosmers but whenever I make a stamina DPS build these days I just go for Redguard. They have IMO the best combination of passives for that build and I like their dark skin look to boot. Bosmer, OTOH, are possibly uglier than Argonians :)
    When you come to a fork on the road, take it.
    You can observe a lot by just watching.
    No one goes there nowadays, it's too crowded.

    -- Yogi --
  • NomadMorlockNomadMorlock N/A, VAMember UncommonPosts: 806
    edited November 2016
    Iselin said:
    Thanks for posting this Iselin.  I would however include Bosmer/Wood Elf for stamina builds.
    I used to like Bosmers but whenever I make a stamina DPS build these days I just go for Redguard. They have IMO the best combination of passives for that build and I like their dark skin look to boot. Bosmer, OTOH, are possibly uglier than Argonians :)
    Lol. I managed a almost completely human appearance for my Bosmer which helps. The 10% additional damage from stealth, 21% bonus to stamina regen, 6% bonus to the Stamina pool, and increased stealth radius of 3 meters however do put them in the top Stamina DPS races however, particularly for Nightblade. 
    Post edited by NomadMorlock on
  • flizzerflizzer Manchester, NHMember RarePosts: 2,255
    edited November 2016
    I think Im doing it wrong, although suspected even before reading this guide. I'm a magicka sorcerer in heavy armour an after a couple skills find my magicka depleted.  So frustrating.  Okay, get out of that heavy armour immediately and make sure most pts are in magicka!

    Thanks for the guide!

    This thread should be highlighted somehow. 


    *The thing is, from playing many MMOs over the years I knew even intuitively light armor and magicka/sorcer types, but the game claimed you can build your character your way with armour and weapons but not really.  
    Post edited by flizzer on
  • NomadMorlockNomadMorlock N/A, VAMember UncommonPosts: 806
    flizzer said:
    I think Im doing it wrong, although suspected even before reading this guide. I'm a magicka sorcerer in heavy armour an after a couple skills find my magicka depleted.  So frustrating.  Okay, get out of that heavy armour immediately and make sure most pts are in magicka!

    Thanks for the guide!

    This thread should be highlighted somehow. 


    *The thing is, from playing many MMOs over the years I knew even intuitively light armor and magicka/sorcer types, but the game claimed you can build your character your way with armour and weapons but not really.  
    You actually can in the long run, but it's not necessarily the best thing to do when starting. I have a sorcerer friend who wears 5 light and 2 heavy armor for solo play and swaps to 5 heavy and 2 light to tank dungeons. Lots of creative ways when your character is more advanced and has tons of passives to offset what you lose in Magicka regen from the light armor. 
  • IselinIselin Vancouver, BCMember LegendaryPosts: 9,896
    edited November 2016
    flizzer said:
    I think Im doing it wrong, although suspected even before reading this guide. I'm a magicka sorcerer in heavy armour an after a couple skills find my magicka depleted.  So frustrating.  Okay, get out of that heavy armour immediately and make sure most pts are in magicka!

    Thanks for the guide!

    This thread should be highlighted somehow. 


    *The thing is, from playing many MMOs over the years I knew even intuitively light armor and magicka/sorcer types, but the game claimed you can build your character your way with armour and weapons but not really.  
    Technically you can build it any way you want but not optimally. Much later on when you have a lot of champion points and if you very, very carefully pick the right set of heavy armor you can mix in some heavy pieces with light and still have good magicka regen.

    But if you try that at low levels it'll be frustrating because your fights will take much longer.

    Sorcerers in light armor are by far the most efficient magicka class. The first skill in the storm calling skills, Mage's Fury, can be morphed into a version that actually gives you back more magicka than it costs if you use it as as the killing blow. It's a lackluster skill except as an execute when the mob is <20% health and then it does double the damage so you'll be using it a lot as the killing blow and getting the magicka cost right back.

    The other bread and butter nuke, Crystal Shards from the Dark Magic line, has a morph (Crystal Fragments) that gives it a 35% chance to become an instant cast after you cast anything, even itself, costs 1/2 the magicka and does 20% more damage.

    Once you get the hang of using those two as a magicka sorc in light armor you'll just never run out of magicka.
    Post edited by Iselin on
    When you come to a fork on the road, take it.
    You can observe a lot by just watching.
    No one goes there nowadays, it's too crowded.

    -- Yogi --
  • DreadToothDreadTooth Member UncommonPosts: 150

    I've been considering getting into ESO (a bit late, I know). I just downloaded it on the Xbox One, apparently it's free now? I dunno, it used to cost $100 on Xbox... Anyways!

    I enjoy playing group support characters, preferably the two that typically have the least amount of people playing them despite being the most necessary or needed. Tanks and Healers.

    I don't mind slow soloing, and I like to start the full build from the very beginning.

    Any suggestions? It has to be full tank or full healing, if the game doesn't use either in the higher levels then I am not interested and will thank you for that info and delete ESO (LOL).

    Currently Playing:

    Fallout 4 (Xbox One)

    Puzzle Pirates (PC)
    Dreadtooth on Emerald Ocean

    "Dying's the easy way out. You won't catch me dying. They'll have to kill me before I die!"

  • IselinIselin Vancouver, BCMember LegendaryPosts: 9,896

    I've been considering getting into ESO (a bit late, I know). I just downloaded it on the Xbox One, apparently it's free now? I dunno, it used to cost $100 on Xbox... Anyways!

    I enjoy playing group support characters, preferably the two that typically have the least amount of people playing them despite being the most necessary or needed. Tanks and Healers.

    I don't mind slow soloing, and I like to start the full build from the very beginning.

    Any suggestions? It has to be full tank or full healing, if the game doesn't use either in the higher levels then I am not interested and will thank you for that info and delete ESO (LOL).

    I'm not the best guy to ask about traditional tanks but yeah, ESO IS a trinity game and tanks are needed for tough content and make not-so-tough dungeon runs that much easier. For tank build ideas take a look at Deltia's site.

    Healers are needed in even the easiest group content and some classes (especially Templars) are more suited to it than others. Healing in ESO is magicka-based so any magicka based character with a tweak or two can double as a dungeon healer. They're much easier to level because the same resource that makes them good healers also makes them good magicka DPS.

    You'll also find that the ESO open-ended skill system lets people make all kinds of non-traditional but very good tank builds. Dragonknights are the traditional tank class and their class abilities give them a leg-up for tanking, especially early in the game. But in high end content you'll run into Templars, Sorcerers and Nightblades tanking very effectively.
    When you come to a fork on the road, take it.
    You can observe a lot by just watching.
    No one goes there nowadays, it's too crowded.

    -- Yogi --
  • DAS1337DAS1337 Member UncommonPosts: 2,569
    edited March 22
    It's also worth noting, for beginners..  Have at least 1 armor piece of every type equipped.  IE, if you're a tank.. 5 heavy, 1 light, 1 medium.  This is so as you level up, you will continue to gain skill in the other armor lines.  You know, in case you want to switch builds later.  Secondly, early on, you may have an extra slot or two on your ability bar that you don't use yet.  Spend a few skill points on abilities from class or weapon lines that you aren't using, or may consider using in the future.  Even if you aren't actively using that skill, you can still gain experience for that specific line as you gain experience from quests and grinding mobs if the ability is equipped on your bar.  You can manually determine which skill lines get experience by adjusting your bar before you turn in quests.  By the time you reach the end of the story content, all of your class and weapon skill line abilities should be unlocked. 
    Post edited by DAS1337 on
  • IselinIselin Vancouver, BCMember LegendaryPosts: 9,896
    DAS1337 said:
    You can manually determine which skill lines get experience by adjusting your bar before you turn in quests.  By the time you reach the end of the story content, all of your class and weapon skill line abilities should be unlocked. 
    I've been using a skill-bar preset add-on called Swaps to do that for a couple of years. I just swap to a skillbar with the skill lines I'm training before turning quests in.

    It's particularly useful for builds when you're only interested in using a skill higher up the unlock system and have no use for anything lower down while fighting.

    This lets you use what you actually want to use without giving up a couple of slots just for leveling a line.

    As to armor training, I don't really bother with the 5-1-1 thing since I use alts for those other builds. Besides, you can have a 100% untrained armor line, start training it post-50 and get it maxed in a day or 2 because you get so much more XP after 50 that leveling lines based on earning XP becomes rather trivial.
    When you come to a fork on the road, take it.
    You can observe a lot by just watching.
    No one goes there nowadays, it's too crowded.

    -- Yogi --
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