A character's level is a measure of their overall experience and prowess. Each named NPC has a level which never changes, while your character begins at level 1 and continually increases in level throughout the game. Increases in level result in increased Attributes, and they are achieved through increases in Skills.
How to Level Up
Each class has five Major skills, five Minor skills, and seventeen miscellaneous skills. Each time your character increases any combination of Major or Minor skills ten times, they become eligible to gain a level. Both Major/Minor skills gained by paying a Trainer to teach the skill and those gained by reading books count towards a level. Miscellaneous skills do not count toward this progress at all. You can check your count of major/minor skill increases toward a level at any time by hovering the mouse cursor over the Level line of the Stats menu.
Upon gaining the tenth increase of Major/Minor skills, and at each subsequent increase of any skill type, a message will encourage you to "rest and meditate on what you've learned". You will gain a level the next time you rest for any length of time. Using the wait command is not considered resting for this purpose. You must use a bed or other resting object, or rest outside of towns or cities.
For each level, a short explanation of the character's sudden, if not unexpected, increase in power is shown along with an illustration of adventuring gear, and the attribute multiplier list. While you rest, you will choose three of the primary attributes to increase. Usually one or more of the attributes will have multipliers next to them, meaning that those attributes will increase by more than one point if you choose them. The multiplier for each attribute is determined by the total number of times that skills governed by that attribute have increased since the last level up:
- No skill increases = no multiplier (1 point)
- 1–4 skill increases = 2×
- 5–7 skill increases = 3×
- 8–9 skill increases = 4×
- 10 or more skill increases = 5×
This includes increases of Major, Minor, and miscellaneous skills. For example, if you increased Destruction three times and Alteration two times during the past level, you would be able to increase Willpower by three points, regardless of your class. Note that Luck will never have a multiplier, since it does not govern any skills, but it can still be chosen for a one-point increase at any level up. As with leveling to 10/10, Major/Minor skills gained with books and Trainers count towards multipliers.
Beware, however: While the counts for multipliers continue to accumulate for this level up, the count of major/minor skill increases to determine eligibility for level up will roll over to the next level. In other words, if you increase major and minor skills five times after you become eligible for a level up, your progress will show as "15/10" before the level up, and then "5/10" afterwards. Those extra five increases will not affect your multipliers for the next level, however, so if you instead had ten excess major/minor increases, upon leveling up you would be immediately eligible for another level up, with no attribute multipliers. Fortunately, you would not gain the second level automatically, so you would still have a chance to increase skills and earn multipliers before resting again.
When you gain a level, in addition to increasing three primary attributes, your Health will automatically increase by 10% of your Endurance attribute. If you increased Endurance this level, the Health increase is calculated from the increased Endurance. No rounding occurs; although health is displayed as a whole number in the Stats menu, the underlying value is actually a floating-point number.
If you want to maximize your attribute bonuses at each level, you can control the skill increases that determine your available attribute bonuses. A perfectly efficient level up is one where three different attributes have exactly ten skill increases each, and the other four have zero; 30 skill increases in a level are possible if you increase 20 miscellaneous skills in addition to the 10 major/minor skills necessary to level up. Alternatively, if two different attributes have exactly ten increases while the other five have zero, and you choose Luck as your third attribute to increase, that's also a level that wastes nothing. It's not easy to eliminate waste completely, but here are some tips.
Pay attention to the major and minor skill set of your class at character creation. Efficient levels ups are much easier when a decent variety of governing attributes are represented among your major and minor skills. Even more important, however, is that all the attributes are represented among your miscellaneous skills. This way you always have the option of increasing skills for the specific attributes you want without allowing your progress counter to run away.
The moment you level up (or begin the game), plan the attribute increases you will want to take at the next level. Then plan a set of skill increases that includes exactly ten in each of those three different attributes (or two different attributes, if you would like to take one point of Luck this level), and includes exactly ten in your major/minor skills. (Or fewer, if you already have some left-over progress.) Consider the equipment and tactics this plan will dictate, and then consider whether it is compatible with what you want to do in the near future (e.g., quests, dungeon crawls, burgling, or shopping sprees).
Endurance is your special friend in the early game. Because it is the only attribute whose value affects the increase of a derived attribute at every level, investing in heavy increases to Endurance in the lower levels can pay serious Health dividends for the rest of your character's life. It's easy, too: Just put on a good ensemble of medium and/or heavy armor and let some rat or mudcrab pummel you as long as you (and the armor) can take it.
Take good notes. Unfortunately, the Stats menu does not actually show you how many specific skill increases you have achieved since your last level up, so you will have to keep track of them yourself. After each level up, write down your proficiency in each skill. Then at any point you can calculate how much it has increased since, and you won't be surprised with a 4x for Strength when you thought you had increased Long Blade ten times.
Be adaptable. Because of the wide variety of ways your character gains experience, accidental skill increases are nearly inevitable. There's no way to engage in combat without gaining experience in at least one of the offensive and defensive skills, for example. When they happen, be prepared to re-examine your plan and start aiming for a different set of attributes. It's often better to take a level up that wasn't quite according to plan than to allow a wasteful one.
Getting all three multipliers to be the maximum five points still need be no more complicated than two steps, one of which is done at character creation.
- At character creation: Ensure that you have at least one skill of each attribute amongst your Major and Minor skills and two skills of each attribute amongst your Miscellaneous skills. It is advisable not to rely on Armorer as one of these three skills because the supply of armor and weapons to be repaired is neither sufficient nor reliable. Ensure that three skills that govern Strength, other than Armorer (out of a total of five) are placed as needed.
- If not writing down skill gains, you can simply level 10 Major/Minor skills. Whenever leveling attributes that are represented by fewer than three Miscellaneous skills, particularly Endurance and Personality, which have only three skills each, it is necessary to ensure that you gain enough points in any Major/Minor skills governed by these attributes to be able to reach a total of ten. You can begin leveling Miscellaneous skills once you have received the message encouraging you to "rest and meditate on what you've learned". Raise Miscellaneous skills by up to four points each for a total of ten. If you are writing down every single point, and have a skill for every attribute in M/M, it is possible to reduce the total number of Miscellaneous skills required for all three maximized multipliers to 20. Either 3 M/M + 7 Miscellaneous in two attributes, and 4 M/M + 6 Miscellaneous in one. Or 4 M/M + 3 Miscellaneous in two attributes, and 2 M/M + 8 Miscellaneous in one.
Static Skills Method
Some skills are dynamic by their nature. Athletics, Acrobatics, Weapon and Armor skills are all dynamic skills which are generally out of your control. You never know when you might have to use them, so choosing dynamic skills as your Major or Minor skills will get you unwanted level points, which will cause issues when trying to make the most of your skills. You can prevent this by selecting static skills as your Major and Minor skills. Alchemy, Mercantile, Enchant and Security are static skills, and don't improve out of your control. Other skills need to be filled with unused skills, such as Destruction for a melee character, weapon and armor skills for a full mage character.
By creating a character with static skills, you won't receive the Major/Minor skills bonus and you will no longer level up by doing your regular stuff. This means you will have a lot of difficulties in the beginning. Training skills that you don't use at all might prove difficult as well. However, you will only level up when you want to level up, and you can always pay for training. This method is for hardcore players, so accumulating the necessary gold for training won't be a problem. Inexperienced players might check Making Money section.
Once you have reached 100 in all major and minor skills, you are at your character's maximum level, which varies depending on a few different factors. Major skills start out at 30 and minor skills start out at 15, which means you potentially have 775 skill increases that count towards level (making level 78 the maximum level possible without cheating). However, most characters have additional bonuses to these skills at character creation, from specialty or race. This makes those skills easier to use from the beginning, but limits the maximum level that the character can attain, which also limits the maximum amount of base health.
- There are at least two methods for going beyond this level. Going to jail can randomly lower skills, which can then be retrained for additional credit. Also, if Security and Sneak are major skills, they can be randomly raised by going to jail, which will not increase the skill above 100 but will count towards the next level.
- As an alternative to spending time in jail, if one uses a spell or potion to temporarily lower a skill, that skill can be trained at its respective skill-trainer as long as your temporary skill level is lower than their level in the skill. Though this will never get a skill over 100, it will always count towards your character's next level. This can also be done by temporarily raising the skill of the trainer.
- Once all attributes are at 100, additional levels provide nothing except an extra 10 health each time. Other than this, the only real use for going beyond your maximum is fixing inefficient leveling (such as hitting the max level without 100 luck).
- A much easier way is to equip an item that raises an attribute above 100, such as the Boots of Blinding Speed, as this will enable a character to continue using trainers to skill up shortblade, hand-to-hand, unarmored, and obtain levels from those skills (as long as they are major or minor). The governing attribute will never be reached since the actual skill remains 100, even though you are allowed to 'level it', while the attribute is, at max, 300 (re: Boots of Blinding Speed).
- The largest possible value for progress towards level increase that can be stored in a save game file is 255/10. If you save the game while at 256/10 or above, only the low byte is saved, and the remainder is lost.
- If you have an attribute that is close to 100, and you increase your skills sufficiently that the multiplier would push that attribute above 100, you will lose that multiplier. Example: if your strength is at 96, and you increase your skills sufficiently to get ×5 to strength, you will not get a multiplier on strength at level up, as 96 + 5 = 101. In at least one release version of Morrowind, an earned multiplier of 5 at 95 skill leads to the +5 to attribute option being unselectable and not displayed, even though the attribute itself is displayed on the screen (attributes unselectable by virtue of being at 100 are removed from display on the level-up screen). It is possible to get to 99 with a +4 multiplier, and then to 100 with a +1. Other release version includes similar bug when while at 95 skill and getting a multiplier of 5, the attribute multiplier on level up resets back to 1. Aforementioned procedure works around this bug too.
- This bug is fixed by version 1.8 of the Morrowind Code Patch.