3 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Playing Elder Scrolls Online

3 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Playing Elder Scrolls Online

Maybe you’ve watched a streamer play The Elder Scrolls Online and that inspired you to acquire it. Maybe some friends have started playing and you want to play with them. Or maybe it’s a free-to-play event and you’re taking the opportunity to see what all the fuss is about.

However you got here, welcome to Tamriel! We’re happy to have you!

You’re about to embark on a journey that’s a classic Elder Scrolls experience mixed with an MMORPG. Whether you have experience with either of those things or not, taking your first steps in any game can be a bit daunting, and you may find yourself looking to more experienced players for guidance.

Well, I know there are a few things I certainly wish I knew when I started playing ESO, and when some friends of mine started playing after I did, I tried to pass these things on to them. It seems only right that I should pass those same things on to you, too, dear readers.

So whether you’ve started your journey yet or not, let me share with you some things I wish I knew when I started playing ESO.

Your Alliance Matters (in certain circumstances)

When you first create a character, you’ll notice all of the races you can choose from on the character select screen are divided into three columns. Each column represents one of the three Alliances (or factions) of Tamriel.

The character creation screen from The Elder Scrolls Online, outlining the three different factions (Daggerfall Covenant represented by a lion, the Aldmeri Dominion represented by a stylized eagle, and the Ebonheart Pact represented by a dragon) and the nine races of Tamriel below them.

The first column is that of the Daggerfall Covenant with the Bretons, Redguard, and Orcs traditionally among their number. To the left of that is the Aldmeri Dominion consisting of the High Elves (Altmer), the Wood Elves (Bosmer), and the Khajiit. Last but certainly not least in the third and final column is the Ebonheart Pact which is made up of Argonians, Dark Elves (Dunmer), and Nords.

At the very bottom of this screen, you’ll notice a diamond. This symbol represents the Imperials who can throw their hand in with any alliance they wish at character creation. However, Imperials are an add-on pack that you need to pay real-world money to unlock in the Crown Store, and I’d advise waiting for that to go on sale if playing an Imperial is of interest to you.

If you’ve played an MMO in the past like World of Warcraft or Star Wars: The Old Republic, the idea of having factions is nothing new. However, alliances function a little differently in Elder Scrolls Online.

Despite appearances, your alliance actually doesn’t matter a whole lot. You’re not barred from communicating with members of other alliances whatsoever. You can group up with players from other alliances to quest together or go after world bosses or complete dungeons or raids. You can even experience the main storylines of the other two alliances on every character you create and get achievements for doing it!

And I can hear you asking, “Okay, Thyanel, so where does your alliance matter?”

It matters in PvP and PvP only.

A screenshot from The Elder Scrolls Online, taken on the planes of Cyrodiil. A wood elf on a large cat mount sits in the foreground. In the distance, a Dark Anchor hovering over the Imperial City can be seen over the tops of trees.

One of the main forms of PvP in Elder Scrolls Online is the Alliance War in which the three factions fight it out for control of Cyrodiil. It’s an epic sort of thing that I’ll touch on in another post, but if PvP is your thing and you want to run around in Cyrodiil with your friends, make sure you’re all part of the same alliance.

There are some ways around the racial alliance lock if you want to play a particular race in an alliance that is not their default. If, say, you wanted to play an orc from the Ebonheart Pact right from character creation, you can. You just need to give some money to the Crown Store for the “Any Race, Any Alliance” perk. Additionally, if you have the aforementioned perk and realize about halfway through that you absolutely cannot stand the alliance you started out as for whatever reason, you can, again, give some money to the Crown Store for an Alliance Change Token and switch that character’s alliance that way.

But if PvP isn’t a huge concern of yours, then just play whatever you want.

Traveling Around Tamriel

No matter where you start your journey through Tamriel, you’ll notice one very important thing: the zones are huge. It takes several hours to quest from one end of a zone to the other, and one can only run for so long before you start seeing other players on incredibly cool-looking mounts and start coveting one of your very own.

Transportation, after all, does tend to make traversing huge zones a lot easier.

A screenshot from The Elder Scrolls Online, featuring a snow-covered ruin. On top of a stone sits an elf riding a large ram mount.

You don’t get your first mount until level 10 as a level-up reward on your first character. This will be a rather plain-looking horse that you can name as you like. (Yes, while all mounts have names that are pre-assigned to them, you can change the name of the mount if you’d like.)

However, like alliances, mounts in ESO function a little bit differently than they do in other games.

See, your mount needs to be leveled up, too. Once every 20 hours, you can visit the closest stable, pay 250 gold to the stable master, and distribute a point to your mount in one of three areas: Stamina, Speed, and Carrying Capacity. Your mount will even get visual upgrades the more points you put into each category. Once you’ve put 60 points into each area, congratulations! You’ve successfully leveled up your mount!

On that particular character, at least.

Unfortunately, while all the mounts you acquire are accessible across your entire ESO account, the points you distribute are on a per-character basis. Fortunately, you don’t have to go through this process for every single mount, but if you have alts? Be prepared for your mount to be right back at square one when you log in to a brand new alt for the first time.

Your mount is capable of sprinting, too, using the same keybind you use to sprint on foot. They’ll have their own tiny stamina bar just below your own. Maxing out your mount’s speed makes it particularly zippy, even more so once you’re sprinting.

But say you want to travel between zones quickly or just quickly move around the zone you’re currently in to hit up whatever the major group event is for that zone. What do you do then?

Well, while you’re roaming around, you’ll want to look around for this icon:

The symbol for the wayshrines in the Elder Scrolls Online

This icon indicates the location of a mode of fast travel around all of Tamriel called wayshrines, and they’re your ticket to get where you need to go anywhere on Nirn or even in realms beyond.

Some wayshrines are available to you by default, but you need to explore around the zones you visit to find all the others. Looking at the zone guide on your map will tell you just how many wayshrines there are in the area, and you’ll want to find them all. Doing so nets you some experience points and allows you to travel to that wayshrine as many times as you like.

You can fast travel to any unlocked wayshrine from anywhere in the world. However, I highly recommend finding your closest wayshrine before you do so, especially when you’re first starting out. Traveling from one wayshrine to another costs you absolutely nothing. Traveling to a wayshrine from some random point in the world will cost you gold, and that cost will increase depending on how many times you do that in succession.

When you’re just starting out in the game, that is the quickest way to become broke.

Trust me. I learned that hard way.

However, if you need some gold, might I suggest…

Do Your Crafting Writs

A screenshot from The Elder Scrolls Online, showcasing a wood elf in a green coat engaging in one of the many crafting professions the game has to offer. This one is provisioning, represented by the character holding a large bowl and stirring a spoon through it's contents.

The early levels can be fairly punishing as far as personal gold goes. You’ve got gear to keep repaired, mounts to train, and not a whole lot of gold from quests or selling random things to do it all with.

In other games, the solution’s simple. Gather materials. Play the Auction House or Market Board or whatever your MMO has for such things.

Unfortunately, that’s not really a strategy that works well in ESO as this game doesn’t really have a universal auction house. There are traders you can speak to, but those traders are controlled by an assortment of trading guilds. As a result, each trader has a completely different stock from the others as that varies depending on the guild that controls it, and only members of the guild that controls a particular trader can sell their wares through that particular trader.

(You can always join one of the trading guilds, of course, if that’s of interest to you. Unlike some other MMOs, you can be part of five guilds at once, so you can be part of a trading guild and a raiding guild at the same time as an example.)

There is, however, a slightly easier method to make money in ESO: crafting writs.

Upon hitting level 6, there will be NPCs you can speak to (usually found in the Fighters and Mages Guild halls) that can “certify” you in a specific crafting skill. This is just a short little quest that teaches you how to look for materials for that particular craft, how to craft an item, and, in the cases of some crafting skills, how to deconstruct the item and get back some materials used to make the item.

A screenshot from The Elder Scrolls Online, showcasing a wood elf in a green coat engaging in one of the many crafting professions the game has to offer. This one is enchanting. The wood elf is standing in front of a table with an open book. Behind it is a series of crystals glowing purple. The wood elf is also holding an open book.

What are these crafting skills? Well, if you’re starting with the Standard Edition of ESO, there are six major crafting professions you can be certified in. These are Alchemy (potions and poisons), Blacksmithing (for all your metal armor and weapon needs), Clothier (creating cloth and leather gear), Enchanting (magically creating glyphs that can be applied to your equipment and weapons to give them more oomph), Provisioning (for food and drink buffs!), and Woodworking (making bows, staves, and shields).

You may also notice a Jewelcrafting station. Jewelcrafting is relatively new to ESO, coming into existence when Summerset dropped back in 2018. As a result, the NPC you need to talk to for certification is in Summerset just outside of Alinor. To find him, though, you’ll need the Summerset expansion, but even without talking to him, you should still be able to level up Jewelcrafting just by breaking down and researching traits off of the pieces of jewelry you gain throughout your leveling journey.

Once you’re certified in each of these crafting skills, you can pick up your writs from various crafting boards, make whatever is asked of you, and then hand them over for some sweet, sweet gold. There are other rewards, as well, such as experience, materials, or even surveys which will send you out to other parts of Tamriel where you will find harvestable nodes for that particular profession.

(Seriously, you can find so many more resources from surveys than you can any other way. Do not ignore the surveys, guys! They are worth the time!)

Do not be as I was when I first started playing and completely ignore crafting. I regret it to this day.

A screenshot from The Elder Scrolls Online, showcasing a wood elf in a green coat engaging in one of the many crafting professions the game has to offer. This one is jewelcrafting. The wood elf holds a simple metal pendant in one hand and an awl in the other. A variety of tools are scattered on the table in front of them.


And those are the top three things I wish I knew when I started playing ESO! It’s a lot of information, I know, but I still wish I had found something like that written down back in the day. I can only hope it helps some of you, too.

What’s something you wish you knew when you first started playing Elder Scrolls Online?

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