Videogaming: Beginning Play in Elder Scrolls Online

A guide to getting started in the best MMO there is.

Rodney Orpheus
14 min readOct 1, 2019



Elder Scrolls Online is a huge game with a lot of player choice. That is one of the things that makes it such as great game, but it also means that it’s easy to feel completely confused before you have even finished character creation. So this guide is not meant as a complete guide to levelling up, or to be a list of builds, or anything like that. This guide is designed to help you make your first character and get going in the game as easily and successfully as possible. If you’re looking for more advanced tips for ESO, also see these articles:

But if you’re new to the game, read on here!


  1. Creating Your Character
  2. Character Roles
  3. Skills
  4. Gear
  5. Gameplay Tips

Creating Your Character

Server Choice

There are two ESO “megaservers” for each platform:

  1. PC (Windows/Mac): NA or EU
  2. PlayStation: NA or EU
  3. Xbox: NA or EU

Windows and Mac users share the same megaserver so they can play together, but there is no cross-platform play with consoles, unfortunately.

Those NA and EU names should be self-explanatory. Pick whichever one is closest to you, unless you want to join a specific player guild that only plays on one of them. My guild Hidden Tradition plays solely on the PC EU megaserver, so if you want to team up with us, pick EU. (I’m @rodney418 in-game, so if you are on the PC EU server shoot me a message and say hello.)


ESO is based on a system of three Alliances:

  • Daggerfall Covenant
  • Aldmeri Dominion
  • Ebonheart Pact

The Alliance you pick when creating a character can effectively never be changed again, so it’s important to pick your Alliance wisely. If you are already a member of a gaming guild and want to be able to team up with the rest of your crew for large-scale PvP, or if you normally like to play as a duo with your best friend or your significant other, then I advise that you pick the same Alliance for your starting characters. If you don’t, there will be some zones of the game where you won’t be able to team with your friends.

Most people in the Hidden Tradition Guild are part of the Daggerfall Covenant, so if you want to guarantee that you can team up with the rest of our crew for adventuring in the PvPvE zones, pick that Alliance!


If you only have the base edition of ESO, you have a choice of three races from each Alliance:

Daggerfall Covenant Races

  • Breton: Best for lightly armored magicka-based characters. If you want to play a mage or healer of any sort, Breton is a great choice.
  • Redguard: Good for any kind of physical warrior characters —if you like swords, daggers, or bows, Redguard does them all really well. A great choice for a classic Fighter/Ranger/Assassin type.
  • Orc: Great for tanking or any heavy armor warrior. They also have surprisingly good mobility, which can be really handy. Also a must if you like crafting — they get a bonus for that.

Aldmeri Dominion Races

  • Khajiit: Walking cat people who make excellent stealthy thieves and assassins. Generally good all-rounders, so if you like to be flexible this is a great choice.
  • High Elf / Altmer: Good for magicka-based characters of all types, especially if you want to do damage with your spells.
  • Wood Elf / Bosmer: Good for archery and melee damage.

Ebonheart Pact Races

  • Argonian: Lizard people that make great healers, and are quite decent all-round magicka-based characters in general.
  • Nord: Basically Vikings. Good for doing Viking-y sort of things i.e. drinking and hitting things with big weapons. Make good tanks and melee fighters.
  • Dark Elf / Dunmer: Great if you want to do lots of damage, either with spells or weapons.

Those are the race choices that come free with the basic game. You can also choose the Imperial race if you have unlocked the Imperial Edition Upgrade.

  • Imperial: Great for any kind of melee oriented character, especially good for tanking.

Races are normally locked to their own home Alliance, except for the Imperial race, who can choose any Alliance during character creation. However you can upgrade to the All Races, All Alliances Bundle in the ESO Crown Store which allows you to play “foreign” races — so for example if you want to be in Daggerfall Covenant but you also want to play an elf or a talking cat, spend some money on this bundle and knock yourself out. It’s a very worthwhile purchase if you like having lots of characters, but still want to play in the same Alliance as your friends.


The first thing to note is that classes in ESO are a lot more fluid than in other games. You can play any class in almost any style. So your first choice should always be “play the way you want to play”. Don’t worry too much about making that super effective min-maxed character right now, there will be plenty of time for that later as you level up. For best enjoyment, just pick whatever appeals to you; no matter how different or silly it might seem on paper, you can have great fun with it in ESO.

Having said that, if getting the most powerful character around is important to you, there are some choices that are slightly more useful in certain areas than others.

There are four base classes, but they each have multiple skill lines and can use any weapon combination, allowing for huge flexibility.

  • Dragonknight: Good for tanking and damage dealing. If you want to tank, pick this and concentrate on Health and Stamina. Or use Magicka instead of Stamina if you want to get lots of high damage fire spells. Very powerful at close range, but weaker at longer range.
  • Sorcerer: Do lots of damage with long-range Lightning and Dark Magic spells. Can have demonic pets, so if you like having lots of pets around, pick this. Also make decent healers. Good all-round Magicka class.
  • Nightblade: Sneaky sneaky sneak sneak. And assassination. Best choice if you like stealing things and ganking people. Powerful at either range or melee, especially against single targets. Can use either Stamina or Magicka very effectively.
  • Templar: Your basic Paladin & Cleric type class. Can be played as a pure magick-based caster/healer or as a heavy armor front-liner. An extremely versatile class, so if you aren’t sure what way you want to go, this is a good choice.

There are also two DLC classes that can be unlocked:

  • Warden: Similar to the classic Druid/Ranger type character, but better in a lot of ways. Probably the most versatile class in the game, with skills that can summon animal companions, heal, or control enemies with frost spells.
  • Necromancer: Fun class that can do almost anything, especially if there are lots of dead bodies around to play with. Not the easiest class for a beginner, so if you are new to MMOs my advice is to try a different class first.

Character Roles

In common with many RPGs, ESO has three main character roles:

  1. Tank
  2. Healer
  3. Damage Dealer (sometimes called DPS, or Damage Per Second)

A standard 4 person Dungeon team will have 1 Tank, 1 Healer, and 2 Damage Dealers. There are usually way more people playing Damage Dealers than either Tank or Healer, so if you want to be sure of getting on to a team pick Healer or Tank role.

Weapons & Roles

Each weapon type has its own set of skills, and the weapon you use is the most important thing that defines your role, not your class. So it’s important to pick the right weapon for your role. A good basic outline:

  • Tank: Use One Hand & Shield (best for beginners) or Frost Destruction Staff (for more advanced players). Make sure to put lots of points in Health.
  • Healer: Use Restoration Staff, and put lots of points in Magicka.
  • Melee DPS: Use Two-Handed or Dual Wield, and put points into Stamina.
  • Ranged DPS: Use Bow (Stamina) or Flame/Lightning Destruction Staff (Magicka).

At level 15 you get to equip two weapons and switch between them, so you will get lots more choices when you hit that level.


ESO has three main resource attributes:

  • Health
  • Stamina
  • Magicka

If you want to play an archer or melee fighter, Stamina will be your most important attribute. Conversely if you want to play a spellcasting character you most important attribute will be Magicka. Since your damage and healing output is based on your maximum Stamina or Magicka, in general you will concentrate on only one of these two — it’s usually a bad idea to combine them, since that will lower your ability to do damage.

Health is useful to stop you dying, so it’s obviously important for tank-based characters. If you find you are dying too fast, put more points in Health. Many people advise just putting all your attribute points in either Stamina or Magicka, but I find that makes characters a bit too squishy. For safety I recommend putting a point in Health for every two points you spend on either Stamina or Magicka.


You learn a skill by equipping it and using it to earn Experience Points in its skill line. Each class has 3 different skill lines associated with it, and each weapon also has its own skill line. You can also learn other skill lines by joining the various in-game Guilds. Most skill lines have 5 “active” skills, a number of passive skills, and an Ultimate skill, all of which can be unlocked as you play.

This means that as soon as you start playing you will have 4 skill lines available to you — 3 from your class and 1 from your weapon. In general try to keep at least one skill from each skill line in your skill bar while you are starting to level up. That way you will level up each of the skill lines and unlock new skills for each one. It’s better to be a generalist at the start — don’t specialise in just one or two skill lines too early on.

Guild Skills

As soon as you can, join the main in-game Guilds, which are:

  • Fighters Guild: Important for Stamina-based characters
  • Mages Guild: Important for Magicka-based characters
  • Undaunted: Important for team play (especially dungeons)

You will find representatives from all of these Guilds in every Alliance starting town in Tamriel. If you are playing in Daggerfall Covenant, you will find these Guilds in the city of Daggerfall — the Mages Guild and Fighters Guild have their own buildings in the centre of town, and the Undaunted can be found drinking at the back of the Rosy Lion Inn. No matter what class or role you want to play, I strongly advise you to join all three of these as soon as you can, since they all have great quests and very useful skill lines that you can learn.

You can also unlock skill lines from the Thieves Guild and the Dark Brotherhood (the Assassins Guild) if you have the Guilds & Glory DLC megapack— well worth it if you like playing sneaky characters.



You can mix and match armor freely in ESO, but for best results follow these general rules to begin with:

  • Magicka spellcaster: wear mainly Light armor
  • Stamina fighter: wear mainly Medium armor
  • Tank: wear mainly Heavy armor

If you are mainly wearing Light or Medium armor and find yourself too squishy, consider wearing one or two pieces of Heavy armor on your chest and legs. That will increase your resistance to damage considerably.

Gear also comes in Sets, and you get extra bonuses for wearing multiple pieces from the same set. You can get special Dungeon Sets in each dungeon, or Overland Sets by questing in the open world. Gear sets can also be crafted.

Overland Sets drop according to the following rules:

  • Delve bosses drop waist and feet
  • World bosses drop head, chest, legs and weapons
  • Public dungeon bosses drop shoulders, hands and weapons (in zones without public dungeons these drop from the other sources)
  • Dark Anchors, dragons, and chests drop rings and necklaces (in zones without Dark Anchors these drop in trials and arenas)

Good Starting Sets

If you are starting out it can be hard to get decent gear, so here are some recommendations for gear sets that are relatively easy to get hold of, but very powerful — and don’t require you to own any DLC. Note that Overland gear can also be bought at Guild Trader stalls, so if you are missing some pieces it’s worth shopping around.

Some sets are marked with an asterisk: these are particularly useful in PvP areas, so if you want to play in Battlegrounds or Alliance War, look out for those sets.


  • Beekeeper’s Gear: drops in the Greenshade Overland Zone*
  • Plague Doctor: drops in the Deshaan Overland Zone*
  • Ebon Armory: drops in the Crypt of Hearts dungeon
  • Duneripper’s Scales: drops in the Volenfell dungeon*
  • Leeching Plate: drops in the Imperial City Prison dungeon
  • Battalion Defender: drops in Cyrodiil from Rewards of the Worthy Boxes


  • Withered Hand: drops in the Alikr Desert Overland Zone
  • Prayer Shawl: drops in the Spindleclutch dungeon
  • Light Speaker: drops in the Elden Hollow dungeon*
  • Sanctuary: drops in the Banished Cells dungeon
  • The Worm’s Raiment: drops in the Vaults of Madness dungeon
  • Spell Power Cure: drops in the White-Gold Tower dungeon

Magicka Damage

  • Mother’s Sorrow: drops in the Deshaan Overland Zone*
  • Withered Hand: drops in the Alikr Desert Overland Zone
  • Spinner’s Garments: drops in the Malabal Tor Overland Zone*
  • Treasure Hunter: drops in the Volenfell dungeon*
  • Scathing Mage: drops in the Imperial City Prison dungeon

Stamina Damage

  • Spriggan’s Thorns: drops in the Bangkorai Overland Zone*
  • Strength of the Automaton: drops in the Darkshade Caverns dungeon*
  • Toothrow: drops in the Wayrest Sewers dungeon*
  • Leviathan: drops in the Crypts of Hearts dungeon*
  • Hircine’s Veneer: drops in the Selene’s Web dungeon
  • Battlefield Acrobat: drops in Cyrodiil from Rewards of the Worthy Boxes*

Gameplay Tips

This section contains some general tips for new players that can save you some time and confusion…


In general, levels in ESO are a lot less important than in other MMOs. Regardless of what level your character is, you always fight as if you are level 50 (Battle Levelling). This means that even if you are a complete newbie with a very low-level character, you can still be a valuable member of a team who are all much higher level than you are. So don’t be afraid to group up with your more experienced friends. I often play with teams composed of max level characters adventuring alongside level 10 or lower characters — and everything in between!

It also means that you can’t ever “out-level” an area. You can do any quests anywhere in the world, in any order, and they will always be the same level as you.


These small blue shining stones are scattered all over Tamriel overland zones, and you can also find one in every Delve (mini-dungeon). Sometimes they are very well hidden, so you might need to look carefully. Clicking on 3 of these Skyshards will give you a free skill point, so it’s definitely worth hunting them down.

Mundus Stones

You will find these scattered about across the land. Clicking on a Mundus Stone will give a significant bonus to one of your traits, like increasing your health or stamina. Once you find one with a bonus you like, keep it on — it will last forever until you change it.


There’s a bank in every major town. There are three vaults:

  • Personal Bank
  • Guild Bank (if you are a member of a player Guild)
  • Guild Store (if you are a member of a player Guild)

When you pick up crafting materials, put them in your Personal Bank. When you go to craft you can access them instantly — you don’t need to carry them around in your inventory.

The Guild Bank and Guild Store are very useful if you want to share gear with your Guildmates. If your Guild has designed a special tabard, you can also purchse this in the Guild Store.


If you haven’t already got a mount from a game pack or unlock, you will get a free horse at level 10. Once you have a mount, visit a stable every day and train your riding skills. You can only do this once every 20 hours, so do it first thing every time you log on. I recommend you concentrate on levelling the speed first, it makes a huge difference when you are getting around.


You can respec your character at any time by going to a Temple of the Divines, which you can find in the main Alliance capital cities (there’s one in Wayrest for example). For a relatively small amount of gold you can change your attributes or change your skills, or just change the morphs of your skills. So if you make some wrong choices while levelling up you aren’t stuck with them.

Circular Votan’s Minimap


You can customise ESO with Addons. The best way to do this is to download the Minion application. Once you have Minion running, you can choose from literally hundreds of Addons and install them with one click. The best ones I have found are:

  • Map Pins: Puts all of the destinations you haven’t yet discovered on to your map, so you know where to go to find them. It does take away some of the fun of exploration, so decide which is more important to you :-)
  • Votan’s Minimap: The problem with a minimap, and also with Addons that put a lot of combat text on the screen etc. is that they pull your eye away from the real action going on in the environment onscreen. So I understand the design decision that ESO made to not have one in the game. Having said that, some people really need a minimap so they can orient themselves, so for them, this is a great solution. There’s also a extra Addon for this called Circular Votan’s Minimap, which makes it circular instead of square, and which is quite lovely. Be warned that adding a Minimap might slow your graphics down a bit, so don’t use it if you are on a slow machine.
  • Dustman: You can set this to organise all the junk in your inventory and sell it all automatically for you when you visit a merchant — a huge time saver. Does require a bit of setting up at first, but really handy once you have it all working.

Note that most of these will not work unless you have various other Addon libraries installed as well — so before installing an Addon with Minion click on it to get a detailed description of which other Addon libraries it needs, and then install those as well.

And that should be more than enough to get you going for now! Don’t forget my other guides too, as you progress you will find them useful:



Rodney Orpheus

I write about music, tech, and, games. All the cool stuff the kids are doing these days.