Yes, That Extra 2.5% HP DOES Matter: The Mechanics of Daggerfall Leveling
Whether you're a long-time Elder Scrolls player submitting to the min-maxing compulsion developed from playing Morrowind, or are just flat-out intimidated by Daggerfall's old-school nature, Bright Hub's guide to Daggerfall leveling and the Daggerfall level cap will help you munchkin like the pros.
The Daggerfall Level Cap: Daggerfall Leveling for Dummies
For players familiar with the more recent Elder Scrolls titles, Daggerfall's leveling mechanics can be a bit confusing. While Daggerfall was the first to utilize the use-based skill and level development that is a staple of the franchise, there exist two key differences between Daggerfall's leveling system and that of later titles. First, level-ups occur per 15 skill gains, as opposed to the ten skill gains that became the series standard in later titles. Secondly, not all of a character's class skills contribute to leveling, so while a character has a total of 12 Primary, Major, and Minor skills, only the highest two Major skills and the highest Minor skill are counted. Though seemingly minor at first glance, these two differences mean that the Daggerfall level cap is much lower than that of Morrowind and Oblivion.
Three Factors of the Daggerfall Level Cap
When looking at a Daggerfall character sheet to determine said character's maximum level, there are three factors to consider when trying to calculate their level cap:
Randomness: Daggerfall will randomly roll for your abilities, as was custom for the old-school tabletop games that inspired the franchise. While the rolls themselves fall within a general range, said range is large enough that a character's maximum level could be one level higher or lower than another character's maximum level.
Starting Skill Levels: Since Daggerfall only counts the two highest Major skills and the one highest Minor skill when calculating character level, a character with a lower average skill level in these skill categories will have more room to develop their skills, and thus a greater chance for a higher level cap. Daggerfall gives you six skill points for each skill category to place as you see fit, and dumping those points into one skill per catagory can lower a character's maximum level.
Skill Cap: Unlike more recent Elder Scrolls titles, in which skills can be raised to a maximum of 100 points, Daggerfall caps skill development to 95 points
Calculating the Daggerfall Level Cap
To see how the calculating process for Daggerfall's level cap works, take two newly-created characters, a Spellsword and a Mage. The Spellsword starts with scores of 37, 31, 30, 29, 21, and 22 for his leveling skills, while the Mage starts with 35, 31, 29, 22, 22, and 16. The Spellsword's skills add to 170, while the Mage's total at 155 - low enough for an additional level versus the Spellsword. Since skills normally cap at 95, that leaves a total of 570 maximum skill points for a character's level skills. Subtract the two values from that, and this totals to 400 for the Spellsword, 415 for the Mage.
In Daggerfall, new characters only have to gain two skill points in order to gain their second character level, so subtract the two points from the totals: 398 and 413 are the result. Divide these each by 15, and the result are 26 and 27, rounded to the lowest whole level. Add two to these results to take into account the character's initial and freebie level, and the Spellsword's level cap is 28, while the Mage's level cap is 29.
All images are from The Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall.
All information is from the author's own experience.