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 Imperial and Dark Elf, 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 characters of their own race, so it might be a factor to choose the Imperial or Dark Elf races just to "fit in".
- Beast races (Argonian and Khajiit) cannot wear shoes 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 choosing your appearance, you can use the scrollbar (on PC) or the right thumbstick (Xbox) to rotate 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, all races have slight differences in their ability scores, with the exception of the Wood Elf.
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.
Character class is arguably the most important part of choosing or creating a character. 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. For the most well-rounded long-term character, it may be best to design your own.
Due to the way leveling works, you don't necessarily want to choose your favoured skills as your majors. There are four things to pick for a class: name, specialization, attributes, and skills. Major skills start out with a higher score than Minor skills, however both can be increased at the same speed, unlike those affected by your favoured attributes. The name can 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.
Skills and attributes are improved 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 level up. 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 every skill, 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
Specialization improves skills, so choose whatever you have the most skills in. In the case of 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. Attributes that are chosen will always gain a small bonus.
The Mage, The Shadow, The Tower, and The Warrior are balanced birthsigns for a first-time player. Attribute boosts or Ritual healing can be helpful. Don't be deceived by the 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 players may want to 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 should always carry some Restore Magicka potions, but the huge bonuses can make them 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 rare in medium armor, 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 arguably the most useful weapon skill. There are more long blades than any other combat-based weapon. The majority of powerful magic weapons are long blades. While axes inflict more damage at higher levels, they are rare and significantly heavier.
Block, athletics, and armorer should be considered as minor skills. Block is useful to have as another line of defense; athletics allows your character to move faster; and armorer for situations where equipment breaks in the middle of a dungeon.
Alteration is arguably the most useful magic school to have, as it provides movement-based spells (e.g. levitation, water walking), powerful shield spells, and other useful augmentation spells (e.g. 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.
Destruction might seem like a valid choice at the start of the game, but at higher levels it doesn't compare to weapon damage. 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, but all of the really powerful summoned creatures cost a lot of magicka. Just leave it in miscellaneous.
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 useful for pickpocketing, critical damage, and escaping situations with low health or high loot.
Short blades are fast and deal relatively high damage compared to their weight. It's a toss up with long blade for melee weapon of choice.
Marksman is useful for dispatching enemies from a distance.
Light armor is good for low-strength characters. It provides two of the best artifacts in the game (Boots of the Apostle and Cuirass of the Savior's Hide) and some of the best looking glass armor.
Alteration provides opening and doesn't require lockpicks. Leave Security in the minor skills.
The following are examples of a "jack of all trades" character.
High Elf male
- Birthsign: Atronach
- Majors: Block, Heavy Armor, Long Blade, Speechcraft, Mercantile
- Minors: Alchemy, Alteration, Conjuration, Mysticism, Athletics
- Attributes: Personality and Luck
This build is an adept speaker and trader, and allows decent fighting in the early stage of the game. High Elves can also become skilled at using magic to fortify combat skills.
Dark Elf male
- Birthsign: Lady (health and disposition)
- Majors: Light Armor, Sneak, Alteration, Long Blade, Marksman
- Minors: Armorer, Block, Athletics, Acrobatics, Mercantile
- Specialization and Attributes: Stealth, Agiity and Intelligence
This build is a good hunter and self sufficient. Armorer or Acrobatics can be swapped for Speechcraft.