When you first start the game, you are on a boat and must make your way to the Census Office. There you pick your name, race, gender, appearance, skills, class, attributes and star sign.
Because you can turn any character into exactly what you want them to be you might like to choose a race based solely on visual appeal. Each race's skill bonuses are notable only for the first few levels; with a little effort and careful skill advancement you can take a character that is mediocre or even weak in a certain skill and make them a master of it.
If your main goal is to fulfill the Nerevarine prophecy, your choice races are the Dark Elf and Imperial, who excel all-around in the skills you'll need to cruise through the main quest in Morrowind. However, you may find the tremendous remainder of the game plenty more fun if you choose a race that better specializes in a certain field. Notes:
- NPCs tend to act friendlier towards people of their own race, so it might be a factor to choose the widespread Imperial or Dark Elf races just to "fit in".
- Beast races (the Argonian and Khajiit) cannot wear shoes of any kind and are limited in their helmet selection. (no full helms)
- The Breton and High Elf are dedicated to magic, the Wood Elf and Khajiit are dedicated to stealth, and the Redguard, Orc, and Nord are dedicated to combat. They can excel elsewhere, but it'll take some work.
When picking your appearance you can use the scrollbar (on PC) or the right thumbstick (Xbox) to spin the head. This is especially useful when choosing a hairstyle as some are longer than they look from the front. When it comes to gender, females of all races save the Wood Elf have slight differences in their ability scores, but as a rule you should choose a gender based on personal taste.
Each race has a total of 45 skill bonus points. The weapon and skill bonuses most races have are less important than magic skills as those points can quickly be made up with use; intelligence/magicka bonuses are not nearly so easy to build up.
Note that after picking all these things, you will come to a final confirmation page where you can change them all. At that point, you can also see all the numbers that go with various racial modifiers and other choices.
The most important part is choosing or creating a class. If you feel adventurous you could try answering the personality questions; if you don't want too many choices you might like a pre-made class; however for the most well-rounded long-term character you will probably want to design your own.
Class design is more complicated than it looks. Due to the way leveling works you don't necessarily want to put your favoured skills as your majors. There are four things to pick for a class, the name, specialization, favored attributes and skills. Major skills start out with a higher score than Minor skills, however both can increase at exactly the same speed, unlike those affected by your favoured attributes. The name can, of course, be anything from Lowly Janitor to Grand Inquisitor. The Specialization is generally whatever category you choose the most skills in. Favorite attributes will start a little higher than others.
The way skills and attributes improve in the game is with use. When you use a skill you get better at it, and eventually it goes up. Improving your skills by at least 10 points (up to 30) will give you bonuses to the governing attributes when you go up a level. This means that skills you use more will go up faster, so they need not start out as high, with a few exceptions. It also means that you should have at least one skill for each attribute, and focus on improving skills for a particular attribute before leveling up. In general, you only need one type of armor (including unarmored) and weapon (including hand-to-hand), and can use other slots for more interesting things. You start with all the skills, you are just assigning bonuses. On the other hand, skills with low scores tend to fail, so it is harder to use and improve them.
For combat, weapons are better than spells, especially in the beginning. There are, however, many good spells for other purposes. Speechcraft, Mercantile and Alchemy are probably the best general skills to have. Acrobatics, Athletics and Alchemy are the easiest skills to improve, which gives nice bonuses to those attributes. You may find that Alteration, Conjuration and Mysticism have the most useful spells, although you will eventually want them all.
Specialization and Favoured Attributes
Once you have picked your skills, pick the specialization and favorite attributes. Specialization improves the skills, so pick whatever you have the most skills in. On a tie, pick the one with more minor skills. Whatever attributes you have the most skills for will go up the fastest, and whatever skills have the best attributes will be the most usable. But once you get to 100 there is no more improvement, so you could pick luck which has no skills. Whatever attributes you pick get a little bonus.
The Mage, The Shadow, The Tower and The Warrior are all nicely balanced stars for a first-time player. If this is your first time through, then an attribute boost or Ritual healing might help. Don't be deceived by the impressive Fortify boosts offered by signs like The Lady; it sounds nice in the beginning, but feels like a waste once you cap out your attributes at 100, and you can generally gain skills equal to those bonuses within a few hours of play.
More advanced or more daring players might want to instead aim for skills that are impossible to gain during normal play. The Atronach is a prime example. This is a significant limitation for spell casters in the beginning, but the spell absorption is huge and magicka bonus makes up for it later in the game. The magicka and absorb bonuses are even more useful than they sound. Although Stunted Magicka means you cannot regain magic by resting (making the early hours of the game more difficult), you have a 50% chance of absorbing an enemy's magic attack; if successful you not only take no damage but also have a strengthened magicka pool.
An Atronach mage will need to always carry some Restore Magicka potions with them just in case, but as a rule the huge bonuses give Atronach mages the potential to be the most powerful mages in the game. It is also a good sign for fighters and other classes that can't use magic shields and resistances as easily to protect against attacks.
The choice between heavy and medium armor is mostly a personal one. Heavy armor is generally more effective, but when struck by a heavy weapon, the chance of being knocked down from the force is increased for bearers. Another thing to consider is that powerful magic items are rarer in medium armor than in any of the three armor classes, and the most powerful medium armor is not wearable in the largest city in the game. Heavy armor is generally a better choice for a warrior-based class.
Long Blade is by far the most useful weapon skill. There are more types of long blades than any other combat based weapon, and most powerful magic items are long blades. Axes may do more damage, but only at higher levels, and by that time powerful axes are incredibly rare (and heavier, too).
Out of the other combat skills (block, athletics, armorer), take all three in minor skills. Block, because it's always useful to have another line of defense; athletics, so your character can actually move faster than a scrib; and armorer just in case your equipment breaks in the middle of a dungeon.
Destruction might seem like a valid choice at the start of the game, but once you get to higher levels, it won't compare to the damage a powerful leveled weapon can do. So unless you're building a pure mage, either put it in minor or leave it out entirely (it increases quickly as well, which could lead to unbalancing level-ups). Conjuration is more useful than destruction, but all of the really powerful creatures that you'll eventually be able to summon cost a great deal of magicka, and you can find a lot of summon creature or bound weapon scrolls throughout the game. Just leave it in miscellaneous.
Alteration is quite possibly the most useful magic school to have, as it provides several movement based spells (levitation, water walking), powerful shield spells, and other useful augmentation spells (open lock, water breathing). It is also a bit harder to increase than other schools, so put it as a major skill. Restoration is another useful magic skill; restore health and fortify attribute can be the main difference between life and death when fighting a powerful daedra.
Leave the rest of the magic schools alone - the only one that could be mildly useful is Mysticism, and that's only because of soul trap, which is nearly the most common scroll in the game.
Sneak is a great skill to have - whether it be for a critical damage sneak attack, pickpocketing wealthy merchants, or merely needing to sneak out of a daedric ruin when you're low on health and high on loot, sneak is one of the most useful skills in the game. Put it in major.
Short blades are good as well: they're fast, common, and do relatively high damage compared to their weight. It's a toss up with long blade for melee weapon of choice. Also, marksman is a good skill to take as well. Always good to try to dispatch an enemy from a distance before he can hit you.
Light armor is a good choice if your strength is low. It also provides two of the best artifacts in the game(boots of the apostle, cuirass of the savior's hide) and some of the best looking armor (glass).
Leave security in the minors - alteration provides opening and so much more, and doesn't have the added price of lockpicks in it.
Here is an example of a "jack of all trades" sort of character.
High Elf male
- born under the Atronach.
- Majors: Block, Heavy Armor, Long Blade, Speechcraft, Mercantile
- Minors: Alchemy, Alteration, Conjuration, Mysticism, Athletics
- Attributes: Personality and Luck
He will be an adept speaker and trader throughout his whole career. He will be a fairly decent fighter in the early hours of the game, and thanks to the High Elves' natural tendencies he can also become skilled at using magic to fortify his combat skills.
Another good character type: Dark Elf male
- born under the lady (good for health and disposition)
- Majors: Light Armor, Sneak, Alteration, Long Blade, Marksman
- Minors: Armorer, Block, Athletics, Acrobatics, Mercantile
- Specialization and Attributes: Stealth, Agiity and Intelligence
A good hunter-type class, very self sufficient. May want to swap Armorer or acrobatics for speechcraft, if you prefer.