This page describes various skills that can be aquired in Gothic and if you should get them or not. Note: this advice is based on how the game is balanced. If you like sneaking around the forest with a bow, by all means, aquire those skills! Note: SP = skill points.
Two-handed weapons vs. magic conundrum
If you join the old camp as a shadow, you'll have a choice in chapter 2 after Secretion of the Minecrawlers to become a guard or a fire magician. A guard can learn two-handed weapon skills, a fire magician can learn how to use runes. (up to the fourth circle) As a fire magician, you will have a chance to become a water magician (up to the fifth circle) later on.
If you join the new camp as a rogue, you can be a mercenary (similar to guard) or a water magician. (up to the fifth circle)
If you join the swamp camp as a novice, you can only become a templar. You can learn magic circles 1-4 from Baal Cadar right away once you become a novice, earlier than the other two camps. However, you won't be able to become a water magician later on so you'll never be able to enter circles 5 and 6. Learning magic circles from Baal Cadar won't prevent you from learning two-handed weapons because you're not a magician, so you can have both magic and two-handed weapons if you join the swamp camp.
If you're not a magician, you can use magic by using spell scrolls. These are one-use only and only a limited supply is available from merchants, chests etc. This means you can't go around killing the majority of enemies using magic. If you're a magician you can use two-handed weapons anyway (assuming you have enough strength), but only untrained. This means you can't use the weapon very efficiently. Not being able to strike in quick succession makes it nearly impossible to take down stronger enemies.
Almost everything before the end of the game, even trolls, can essentially be handled with one-handed weapons, provided you obtain one of the stronger one-handed weapons like Lares' axe, Raven's sword or Scar's sword. Near the end of the game, you will be forced to use either a two-handed weapon or a sixth circle rune. Becoming a sixth circle magician may well be impossible at this point if you don't have enough skill points and everything is already dead. It may also be impossible if you're not a fifth circle magician yet and you've upset Saturas, because Xardas will just keep telling you to go back to Saturas to learn the fifth circle.
As a magician, even untrained with two-handed weapons, you can beat the game with the two-handed weapon. It'll just be harder.
Trainers: Diego, Lares
Certain levels are needed to handle certain melee weapons. You start with 10 STR. Complete Horatio the Peasant for a free +5 STR increase. Drink the potion found in a chest from the blacksmith inside the castle for another +3 STR increase. Buy and wear the Ring of Power (available from the start) from Cronos in the new camp for another +5 increase.
Trainers: Diego, Lares, Wolf
Certain levels are needed to handle certain bows. Also improves your range with them. You start with 10 DEX. Wear Mordrag's ring for a +5 DEX increase. Buy and wear the Ring of Lesser Dexterity from Cronos for another +5 DEX increase. You can also find this ring in one of the side tunnels in the Old Mine.
Trainers: Cronos, Torrez, Baal Cadar (after casting sleep on one of his pupils)
Using magic drains your mana. More mana means using more magic before you need to replenish your mana with potions/food/sleep.
Trainers: Scatty in the old camp, Cord in the new camp, Gor Na Toth in the swamp camp
10 SP for level 1, 20 SP for level 2. You will have a rather hard time in the beginning without at least level 1, so get it. Level 2 is also a requirement to start learning two-handed weapons.
Trainers: Thorus in the old camp (guards only), Lee in the new camp (Mercenaries only), Cor Angor in the swamp camp (templars only)
30 SP for level 1, 40 SP for level 2. Beware: you must learn one-handed weapons level 1 and 2 first, otherwise your trainer won't even have a dialog option to learn two-handed weapons. Get it if you're not a fire or water magician.
Trainers: Cavalorn, Wolf
10 SP for level 1, 20 SP for level 2. If you plan on becoming a guard, you may want to skip this. If you beat up a guard (which you probably can't, but you can set up a little "accident"), you can get a light crossbow (50 damage/25 dexterity) right at the start of the game.
Trainer: Scorpio (if you're guard, if you're not a guard he will train anyone in chapter 4)
10 SP for level 1, 20 SP for level 2. If you're not a magician, you should probably get this to be skilled with a long range weapon.
Trainers: Fingers (keep talking to Diego or he'll ignore you), Wedge
10 SP for level 1, 20 SP for level 2. If you are using any of the get-rich-quick schemes this is not worth it. You can pick locks without training, you'll just need to buy more picklocks. But mosts chests have sufficient value to make it worth breaking a few picklocks on them. However, if you don't want to use a get-rich-quick scheme (or savescum to open chests), level 1 can be worth it to loot every single chest you find. You can buy a few hundred picklocks in the game, but their supply is finite.
Trainers: Cavalorn, Wedge
10 SP. Doesn't seem very useful in practice. Animals still spot you. Human NPCs immediately become suspicious if they spot you.
Trainers: Fingers, Wedge
10 SP for level 1, 20 SP for level 2. Also requires the sneaking skill above. Completely worthless. Any character who would be worth stealing from "can't be stolen from". (literally the message that appears on screen if you try to pickpocket Gomez) A complete waste that allows you to steal apples from diggers. Actually, even if you master pickpocketing you will still get caught on a regular basis. And while breaking a picklock just means buying more picklocks, failing to pickpocket has more severe consequences.
Trainer: Buster (new camp)
10 SP. Looks cool. Allows you to jump further and fall from greater heights. Doesn't seem terribly useful though.
1 SP each for skinning reptiles, removing claws, removing fur and removing teeth. Basically money for skill points. Not worth it if you're using any of the get-rich-quick schemes or have opted for the lockpicking skill. Also, don't get it before you can kill wolves. Scavengers, bloodflies and meatbugs don't have removable claws/fur/etc.
No skills are required for removing:
- Bugmeat from meatbugs
- Raw Meat from Juvenile Molerats and Juvenile Scavengers (1×), Scavengers and Molerats (2×) and Shadowbeasts (4×)
- Wings (2×) from bloodflies
- The Dam lurker's claws from Lurker at the Dam
Remove bloodfly stings
Remove minecrawler mandibles
Remove minecrawler plates
Trophy: Armor plate
Can be taken from: Minecrawler Warrior and Temple Minecrawler
When you're told Wolf wants to see you, go see him. It may feel like it could be a trap, but it's not.
Stuff for your ULU-MULU
Trophy: Teeth of a swampshark, Tongue of fire, Horn of a shadowbeast, Troll tusk
Can be taken from: Swampshark, Firelizard, Shadowbeast, Troll
Skill is obtained during the Search for the ULU-MULU as these are the parts needed to create an Ulu-Mulu (35/30).
Skinning animals and removing claws, fur and teeth
Trainers: Corristo and Baal Cador (circles 1-4), Saturas (circles 1-5), Xardas (circle 6)
Circles 1-6 cost 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 and 40 respectively. So circle six will cost 10+15+20+25+30+40=140 skill points total. Generally worth it, but note the caveat. Skip bow training and throw fireballs instead in this case.