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The way to improve skills is by doing things that use the skills. To get better with an armor skill, wear that kind of armor and go get hit in combat. To get better with Athletics, swim or run around. A good trick for getting better with magic is to make practice spells. Every time you successfully cast a spell, your skill improves, regardless of the spell. So make a few spells that cost 1 to cast and may be cast anywhere, then as you travel around doing other things cast these spells. For example, I have a spell named 'Practice Conjuration' that turns undead. For this purpose, do not mix spells. Making one Practice spell that has an effect from each school does not work. Here are some example practice spells:
- Practice Alteration: Jump or Levitate, 3 for 3 seconds on self
- Practice Conjuration: Turn Undead, 66 on target
- Practice Destruction: Weakness to ?, 1 for 1 second on self
- Practice Illusion: Sanctuary, 9 for 3 seconds on self
- Practice Mysticism: Telekinesis or Detect ?, 19 for 1 second
- Practice Restoration: Fortify ?, 13 for 2 seconds on self
Incidentally, I also have a spell called Airbrakes, which is Levitate 6 on self and costs 1 to cast. When using large Jumps to travel, this is a good way to stop.
Buying and Selling items is a great way to get money and go up levels. The buying and selling price are affected by your Personality, skill in Mercantile, and how much the merchant likes you. Use Persuasion to change the amount that someone likes you. A quirk in the game is that, when a merchant is offering you really good prices they expect really good prices in return. If you need to maximize your profits when selling an item, persuade them to not like you. Just be careful not to make them dislike you so much they are unwilling to deal with you.
There are, of course, myriad ways to design your character. Both in the skills and attributes you increase, and the items you choose to use. Once you start creating your own magic items, you have a lot of freedom. In general, I have found that I like being light and fast. In the lower and mid levels it is more a matter of using the best thing you have, but at higher levels you can taylor your items to suit your tastes.
The game items that I use are the Skull Crusher, Cuirass of the Saviors Hide, Boots of Blinding Speed, and Necromancers Amulet. Skull crusher is a fairly good weapon and happens to be weightless. The Cuirass is light and offers good resistance. The amulet and boots are better items than I could make. Note that when donning cursed items like the boots, magic resistance applies. If the resistance works when the item is first equipped the negative effects are ignored.
I also have two rings and a suit of clothes that I made. I am not wearing items on hand or head, or using a shield or robe. They are all constant effect items. Note that when a constant effect item has a range of effect, the range changes every time you put the item on then stays fixed while you wear it. Exploit this when making your own items.
- Ring: Jump, 1 to 15 points on self
- Ring: Restore Health 4, Fatigue 2 on self
- Shirt: Night Eye 60 points on self
- Belt: Feather 8 on self
- Pants: Feather 1 to 23 on self
- Skirt: Levitate 2 and Water Breathing
Levitate and Jump are mutually exclusive, but are both great at certain points. Levitate is much better when you have some speed to go with it. With a strong enough Jump you can cover half the island, but that is better as a spell. Unless you have absurd speed bonuses, Jump will be faster than Levitate.