Before getting into the meat of what constitutes Efficient Leveling, let me identify who this guide is NOT written for:
- This guide is NOT written for the new player who has never played the game. The new player should take the time to explore and enjoy every part of the story, including all the side quests and unessential zones. The developers have made a deep, immersive, beautiful game that should be fully experienced at least once.
- This guide is NOT written for hardcore PvPers who care only about what they can accomplish in Cyrodiil. The PvPer should concentrate on grinding, which is the absolute fastest way of leveling and advancing.
So who IS this guide written for? It is written for players who have experienced the story line and side quests at least once. Additionally, it is for players that recognize the basic fact that you have to complete the main storyline to get access to the Silver and Gold areas and to acquire all the potential skyshards and skill points.
I have personally used this basic system to advance four characters into the Cadwell’s Silver area and one of them to complete Cadwell’s Gold. For the first three characters I used my Championship Points, but for the latest character I deliberately avoided using Championship Points, to prove that it can be done by anyone, even new players who have just recently joined the game.
BEFORE YOU START
Before even starting your character, determine whether it will be a magicka or stamina based character. This will determine the armor sets you will want to make.
If magic based, make yourself a 5-piece set of Seducer armor at level 4, then fill out the rest of your armor/weapons with pieces from the Magnus set. The 5-piece Seducer bonus will reduce the cost of your magic spells by 8%, allowing you to cast more spells with your magicka pool, while the other bonuses increase magicka and magicka regeneration.
If you are running a stamina based build, get a 5-piece Hunding’s Rage set at level 4, then fill out the rest of your armor and weapons with Night’s Silence or Night Mother. This gives you increased weapon critical and weapon damage ratings, while increasing your pool of stamina and your stamina recovery.
Regardless of whether you will be running a magicka or stamina build, you might consider using Dual Wield (DW) for your weapon. For stamina builds the choice is obvious, but for magicka not so obvious. The reasons to use DW for magicka builds is that it increases your spell damage and it gives you another piece of equipment for your crafted sets. For example, with a Destruction Staff, you can run a 5-piece Seducer set and then can get 3 pieces of Magnus, two from armor and one for the staff. However, with DW, you get the Magnus 4-piece bonus unlocked, giving you an additional boost to spell damage.
You should improve your new equipment to the green level. You should also make glyphs for this equipment. Set your armor up with magicka or stamina boosts and use something like poison or disease on your weapon(s), one of each is using DW. Alternatively, you can enchant your wapons with a leech magicka or leech stamina glyph, which will help with resources. You should also make some basic level 5 food to boost your health, magicka, or stamina.
Finally, you should go to the stables and start your riding lessons. You don’t need a horse to start the lessons, but it will cost 250 gold per lesson. Most people do lessons in carrying capacity or speed first. Speed is very useful if you plan on doing PvP with this toon, but carrying capacity means that you can adventure for a longer period of time before you have to empty your bags. Note that you don’t get the bonus unless you have a mount equipped.
THE WAILING PRISON
While most people skip the Wailing Prison after the first time, my advice is to grind the mobs in the main area until you reach level 4 and can no longer gain experience there. The reason for doing this is that it gives you a chance to get a good start on opening up various weapon and armor skill trees by using the different weapons and armor you loot. You will also gain some skill in your various class trees and, once you get to the starter city, you can jump into your new level 4 armor and start adventuring right away, without any need to return to the bank after earning a level.
THE STARTER CITY
Once you get to your starter city, there are several things you need to do before you can go off on your adventures. First, head to the bank and get your new level 4 armor and weapons equipped.
Next, go to the Fighter’s Guild and get the skill line started. Don’t do any of the FG quests, just get the first one in your quest log to open up the skill tree. Do the same with the Mage’s Guild and the Undaunted Guild skill trees. By opening the skill trees you can advance the skill line and use skills as you go. Remember, Fighter’s Guild is advanced by killing undead and daedra, Mage’s Guild is advanced by reading lorebooks, and the Undaunted Guild is advanced by completing dungeons and doing pledges, which you can start doing at level 45.
In each starter city the storyline tries to send you to one of the starter islands/zones (Stros M’Kai, Betnikh, Knarthi’s Roost, Bal Foyen, and Bleakrock Isle). Ignore these quest lines as they are unessential to the main storyline and will make your leveling less efficient. Yes, there are skyshards and dungeons to be had and we will go back and get them later, but for now we can’t waste the experience gains.
Now, open up your browser and point it to http://www.uesp.net/wiki/Online:Quests
Click the link for your starter city and you will see a group of Story Quests. Other than the quest that sends you to the starter island, these are the quests you need to complete to advance the story and get to the next zone. This website is going to be your best friend for the next week or so as you get leveled up and advanced into Cadwell’s Silver.
HOW EFFICIENT LEVELING WORKS
Ok, here’s where we get into the guts of the efficient leveling system. As indicated above, we are going to only be doing the Story Quests and will ignore almost everything else. The reason for doing this is that we want the quest levels to increase faster than your character’s level because you get more experience for killing mobs when you are several levels lower than if you are the same or higher level.
At first you are going to be above the quest and mob levels, but you will quickly advance the story until you are lower than your fights. There are a couple of things you can and should do while you are doing the story quests, but first I want to list out the things you most definitely should NOT do:
- Do NOT pick up or do side quests, except as noted below.
- Do NOT grind. It is ok to kill a lot of mobs, but don’t concentrate on that. Concentrate on finishing the quests and advancing the storyline.
- Do NOT do any of the Harbourage quests. We will save those for later when they will give us much more experience.
- Do NOT do any of the Fighter’s, Mage’s, or Undaunted Guild quests. Just get the first quest in your quest log to open the skill tree. We will do these quest lines later when they give much more experience.
- Do NOT do any PvP yet. We will get to it later under circumstances that will have you one of the more powerful players in Cyrodiil!
Lest we be all negative, following are some things you can and should do:
- DO the DDBs (Dungeons, Dolmens, and Bosses) in each zone. You should be able to easily solo most Dolmens and Public bosses, even a level or two below the rated level. If you have problems, wait a level or two, then come back and do them later. Other than the experience for kills, you get the same experience for completing the DDBs.
- DO get and complete the quests you find in dungeons. This includes both the quests for public dungeons, as well as the random “turn-in” quests you find in solo dungeons.
- DO grab any treasure chests and discoveries you come across. You don’t need to go out of your way for discoveries, but there is no need to avoid them.
- DO grab all the skyshards and lorebooks.
You should soon find yourself fighting mobs and completing quests several levels above your own level. Try to keep your level about 3-4 levels below the content you are doing. If you find yourself 7 or more levels below, you might want to go grind or do some side quests to get a little closer. I’ve found that when 7 or more levels below, the mobs are dodging a lot of your attacks, so they become much more difficult.
In addition to getting more experience points this way, you are also training yourself and fine-tuning your build for maximum performance. If you are used to killing world bosses 5 levels higher than your level, you will be mentally prepared for some of the more difficult end-game content, as well as 1vX fights in Cyrodiil or the Imperial City.
REACHING LEVEL 10
When you reach level 10, it is time to take a break and go to Cyrodiil. Unless you are in a guild that calls a particular server home (and even if you are), you should make the Non-Vet Blackwater server your home server. The server is rarely pop-locked, so you can probably get in right away.
Upon arrival in Cyrodiil, do the intro quest, which teaches you all about seige equipment, then ride around and grab the easy skyshards near the two home keeps. Don’t do any questing other than the intro quest and don’t do any PvPing.
Once you’ve done this, you should have gotten rank 2 in the Alliance War skill lines. Spend a skill point on Rapid Maneuvers and put it on your bar. Rapids is going to be one of your best friends. It increases all movement speed by 40% for about 20 seconds, which means you can go about as far in 20 seconds as you could otherwise in 30. It may sound like a small deal, but as you’ve probably learned by now, many of the quests involve running back and forth between two areas. This will help you get through them more quickly.
When you get a chance, morph it to Retreating Maneuvers. This morph clears two negative effects (e.g., slowed, on fire, etc.) and prevents additional negative effects. It is a great way to power past mobs you don’t want to take the time to deal with or to get out of a tough situation with too many mobs.
By the way, Rapids increases not only your speed, but that of all allies in the area. This includes NPCs, so you know all those quests where you have to follow some slow NPC, such as the first Harbourage quest where you have to follow The Prophet around? Rapids, baby, Rapids!
You should be able to get quite a bit of mileage out of your crafted and improved armor and weapons, especially if you’ve applied good glyphs to them. As you start to fight mobs further and further above your equipment level however, you will find that your attacks are less and less effective. Eventually, the game will make it obvious that you need to upgrade your equipment.
Another equipment plan is to line up various dropped sets along the way. This is particularly useful for sets that include jewelry. This can allow you to run a full 5-piece dropped set plus a full 5-piece crafted set, or any other combination that helps you maximize your abilities.
For my Breton Magicka Templar I ran three different dropped sets at different levels:
Warlock Set at levels 16-22. Warlock is great for this level because you can get a magicka flood when you get low in magicka, as you will be so often at this level. It includes a necklace and two rings, so you only need two more pieces to get the 5-piece effect. That lets you run a full 5-piece Seducer on the armor. If using Dual Wield you can then make your weapons from Torug’s Pact to get the Spell Damage bonus. This is really powerful at this level and you’ll be able to use this setup until the next dropped set hits.
Syrabane Set at level 30-34. Syrabane is almost as good as Warlock, except it has no necklace and thus will ruin your ability to run 5-piece Syrabane, 5-piece Seducer, and anything else of value. However, the Syrabane 5 -piece bonus isn’t that great, so I recommend going 4-piece Syrabane, 5-piece Seducer, and 2-piece Torug’s Pact.
Adroitness Set at level 40-43. Adroitness has only a necklace for jewelry, so it is even harder to put together multiple 5-piece sets. However, you can continue to wear the Syrabane rings and get their 2-piece bonus, then you can run the full 5-piece Adroitness set and a 5-piece Seducer, using Dual Wield.
For stamina based builds, the choices aren’t as good, but still pretty decent:
Fiord’s Set at levels 15-23. This is the first set with rings, but the 5-piece bonus is a bit underwhelming. Still, it can combine with Rapids to really move you around the map quickly, so is worth thinking about using. You will want to pair this with a 5-piece Hunding’s Rage set for more weapon damage.
Viper’s Sting at levels 21-28. This set has a necklace, so pairs well with Fiord’s. The 5-piece bonus is pretty nice, so this set is worthwhile, especially for a Dual Wield builds using a pair of Viper’s daggers. If not combined with Fiords or with Hunding’s Rage, as usual.
Werewolf Set at levels 29-35. This is another set with rings, so pairs well with Viper’s or allows you to use 5-piece Hunding’s Rage.
A final note about these dropped sets. They bind on use, so are locked to your account. If possible, hold onto the pieces for use with another character.
In addition to equipment, you will want to use food to improve your base attributes. Although purple tri-stat food is available at low levels, you will probably be better off just using a dual-stat blue food that increase health, plus either magicka or stamina, depending on your build. Don’t worry about having the latest food, as long as you’re not more than 10 or 15 levels above your food, you should be ok.
Another good food choice is the new blue food recipes found in the Orsinium expansion. These provide a nice health bonus plus regeneration for stamina, magicka, or health. The best part of this food is that it is level 1 and battle levels to your level, so you can carry a single stack of this food from the very start to boost your stats at any level, rather than having to swap to new food every 5 or 10 levels. Note that when you get a new level, you have to eat the food again to get the benefit of the increase health and regeneration.
Potions are nice to carry around and, for the most part, you can get by with the single-stat potions you get from mob drops. Since you will be running against mobs above your level, you should be getting drops before you need them, giving you a nice stack for use once you reach the appropriate level.
Once you reach level 15 you can equip a second weapon and enable bar swapping. If you are following a specific build, such as one of Deltia’s excellent Leveling Builds, follow the bar suggestions for that build. Otherwise, my suggestion is to setup your front bar as your Combat bar, with everything you need to survive and deal damage. Then, setup the back bar as your Travel bar, with Rapids slotted, as well as any other skills you want to level.
Whenever you aren’t running through an area full of mobs, you’ll want to be on your Travel bar. This will allow you to get experience on the Travel weapon and any skills on the Travel bar whenever you get discoveries or turn in quests. It is important to remember to swap bars before turning in a quest!
This method allows you to get the benefits of leveling skills without reducing the effectiveness of your Combat bar. You will be fighting really tough enemies, especially when you get to fighting mobs 5-7 levels above your own, so you need every slot on your Combat bar to be all about surviving and winning those battles.
Note that you can also use the travel bar in combat, if you want. For my magicka templar, I had my resto staff and resto staff healing spells on the Travel bar and would swap to it in combat as needed.
THE END OF THE STORY LINE
Continue doing the main story quests and advancing. You can easily burn through the 5th zone and advance to Coldharbour by level 37 or 38. However, the mobs in Coldharbour start at level 45, so you’ll want to do some more leveling until about 39 or 40 before tackling them. You might find the world bosses in Coldharbour to be too tough at this low level (I did), so skip them until later.
For Coldharbour you need to rescue the Ayleid king in the west, followed by Vanus Galerion in the east. Vanus is about 2 levels higher than the king, so do the king first. Once you have rescued both, you can proceed to the next area. The Groundskeeper will recommend you rescue more FG and MG members to help, but you don’t really need them. You have enough to beat Molag Bal’s forces and finish the Main Story Line by closing the Planemeld at level 42 or 43.
THE HARBOURAGE AND MOLAG BAL
Now that you’ve finished the Story Line, it is time to kick Molag in the Bals. Go to the Harbourage and start the Harbourage quests. As mentioned previously, these will level to your level (which will seem like a cakewalk after you’ve defeated the level 50 quest at 43). That means much more experience and leveling to 45 faster. If all goes perfectly, you will make level 45 with the turn-in on the Five Companions quest, just before you need to take on Molag Bal, which unlocks at level 45. If not, do some more leveling with quests, dungeons, or mobs until you make level 45.
Now is not the time to be modest about your equipment and supplies. Make sure that you have 40+ level armor improved to green or blue, where possible, and make sure you have level 45 food. Now go take on Molag Bal. He’ll be level 50, but the fight will be easier than you’re used to! With my magicka templar, I beat him before he could spawn his adds using nothing more than what a new player to the game can get (i.e, no Championship Points used, no special bind on pickup drops, etc.).
Once MB is history, turn in the quest (remember your travel bar!) and advance into Silver at level 45!
If you are interested in PvP, this is the time to go to the non-Vet PvP server and kick ass! You will be level 45, so will be more powerful, with better armor and more advanced spells and skills than most other players. This will be a chance to gain confidence beyond what you gained getting to Silver by 45 and will be a chance to get some AP towards Alliance War rank 6 and the all important Caltrops and Barrier spells.
Otherwise, do the same thing with Silver and Gold. Plow through them like a hot knife through butter. Once you get to VR1 you start accumulating CPs, so apply them whenever you can. If you stick to the formula, you should be able to clear Cadwell’s Gold by VR3 or VR4. This keeps you within effective range of the mobs, while giving max experience for your kills.
You should also start doing the Silver Undaunted Pledges. This will gain lots of experience, will advance the Undaunted skill line, and will get Silver keys. I recommend saving your keys until VR16 before using them, even Silver keys. The keys will stack and what you get from them is leveled to your current level.
WHAT ABOUT THE GUILDS?
Good memory, let’s not forget the guilds! As mentioned earlier, you should skip them and you should continue to skip them until you get to VR1, with the exception of doing pledges once you get to level 45. As with Harbourage quests, Guild quests scale to your level, so by waiting until Vet level, you ensure you get Vet level experience and that it applies to your Championship Points leveling, as well!
The FG and MG guild lines shouldn’t take much time to complete, but may net as much as half a level in experience and up to 2 CPs. And, although you can craft better stuff than you get from guild rewards, you can even wait until end game to get VR16 leveled items and increase the challenge.
I FINISHED GOLD, NOW WHAT?
Now is the time to grind, PvP, go back and get quests you missed (the kills won’t give xp, but the quests always will), go to Orsinium, etc. Now is the time to start using Psijic Ambrosia or the XP Bonus Scrolls. Doing all this earlier would have produced fewer XP for the effect, but now you get maximum XP based on your higher level.
Best of all, you’ve completed the required content in the shortest time possible. You’ve gotten all the skill points from quest completions and should have most of the skyshards collected. Compare this to the pure PvPer or grinder who gets the levels in less time, but still doesn’t have access to the skill points and skyshards in Silver, much less Gold. They are going to have to spend just as much time as you did, but won’t get nearly the advance in levels that you gained. Doing this, then that, gets you further than doing that, then this.
And after all, a character at VR16 with all the possible skill points is the goal, right?
QUESTING WITH A PARTNER
ESO gives increased experience when you kill mobs and accomplish quests with one other player. Two is company, three is a crowd and reduces experience! Because of the increased experience from running with a partner, you will be running closer to the quest and mob levels than if you are running solo, and you will be burning through it like a blowtorch to a stick of butter.
However, you need to watch your leveling a little closer to make sure you aren’t running green quests and may need to bypass some of the DDBs until later. You also must make sure that each character is survivable on their own, because you will have to face the Lord of Schemes solo.
Tailor this guide to suit your needs. It is pretty empowering to blow through bosses that are way over your level and to finish the main quest as quickly as possible. But it doesn’t have to dictate how you play the game. This is all about your enjoyment and advancing the game and your character at your pace. Don’t forget to enjoy new content and enjoy everything there is in this amazing game!