The skill system in Bannerlord can at first seem excessively detailed and overwhelmingly complex. This guide aims to break the fundamentals down and present them in a way that can be clearly understood before you commit to choosing particular skills.
The first thing you need to consider is your chosen playstyle. Although there are no specific classes in Bannerlord, you have 6 main attributes to invest in. In a broad sense, these range from investments in your combat capabilities, tactics, trade, crafting, social standing, leadership ability, and governance of your faction. The skills that you choose during character creation will provide you with an advantage related to your specific investments, increasing the base stat and your ability to improve it with increased speed. However, you will be able to enhance any aspect of these attributes as you perform specific actions in game. For example, the more you use Polearms, the greater your skill will increase with them. As you craft more, your skill in smithing will increase. As you trade, your skill in negotiating prices will develop, and so on. In essence, there are three main categories which you can invest in, both during character creation and as you play. These are:
Focus Points relate to your ability to increase proficiency in specific abilities. There are 6 main attributes, each with 3 abilities associated with it. Each ability allows for 5 focus points to be invested in it. For example, in the attribute category of 'Vigor', the 3 abilities associated with it are One-Handed combat proficiency, Two-Handed combat proficiency, and Polearm combat proficiency. As you invest in each ability according to your playstyle, you will notice increased effectiveness when using that specific weapon type. The same is true for the 'Social' attribute, with the abilities of Charm, Leadership, and Trade allowing you to enhance your proficiency in gaining the trust of others in negotiation, inspiring others to join you, and identifying defective goods while bargaining the best prices, respectively.
Skill Level determines your progress in levelling specific abilities. As you perform an action associated with a particular ability, you will earn XP toward its Skill Level. There are limits to Skill Levels for specific skills which are determined by the amount of Focus Points that you have invested in a particular ability. For example, if you invest 1 Focus Point in One-Handed weapons, your learning cap for that skill will increase by a specific percentage. This is calculated based on the amount of Attribute Points that you have invested in the attribute associated with the skill (for One-Handed weapons, this would be Vigor.) and the Skill Focus (increased by 30% with each Focus Point invested). The total cap to your learning limit is displayed when you hover over the perk tree for that particular skill.
In addition to Skill Level caps, there is also a Learning Rate associated with each skill. This is calculated by your base learning rate, by the amount of Attribute Points invested in the attribute associated with a specific skill, and by the amount of Focus Points invested in that skill. The total Learning Rate for each skill is displayed below its perk tree, and you can hover over the Learning Rate to see how it is calculated based on your current stats.
Attribute Points are the main category from which all other skills branch out. You gain 1 Attribute Point for every 3 levels. These points can be invested in 6 attribute categories, as shown in the table below. Investing in an attribute point allows you to to increase both the learning limit and the learning rate of all three skills within its category. For example, if you invest an Attribute Point in Endurance, the learning limit and the learning rate will be increased for Riding, Athletics, and Smithing. As the learning limit increases with each investment, more perks in all three categories will become available to you.
In addition to the three main skill categories, there is an additional layer of complexity associated with developing your character in the form of Perks. Each skill has its own set of perks which enhance the effectiveness of that particular skill. For example, investing in the Riding skill will allow you to select a perk which increases the hit points of your horse by 6%. Investing in Engineering will allow you to select a perk which increases the speed of building castles and walls by 30%. In some cases, accessible perks in one skill specialisation will be available in another. For example, the Extra HP perk (+3% hit points) can be acquired early on from the One-Handed, Two-Handed, and Polearm skill tree. This ensures that you can remain sturdy on the battlefield regardless of your melee weapon choice. When you reach a required level for a new perk, the perks available at that level become mutually exclusive. For example, choosing the perk 'Extra HP' (hit points increased by 3) excludes you from choosing 'Edge Replacement 1' (one-handed damage increase by 4%).
Defining Background Skills
When you create a new character in Bannerlord, you are given the opportunity to choose a unique history for your character. The choices shape your background story, but also the skills that you start off with. It is important that you choose these carefully in accordance with a predetermined playstyle, as investing in particular skills will allow you to increase their level more quickly as you use them. The choices for your background include the following:
You were born into a family of...
- A Baron's Retainers:
+10 Skill Level and 1 Focus Point to Riding and Polearm. 1 Attribute Point to Social.
- Urban merchants:
+10 Skill Level and 1 Focus Point to Trade and Charm. 1 Attribute Point to Intelligence.
+10 Skill Level and 1 Focus Point to Polearm and Crossbow. 1 Attribute Point to Endurance.
- Urban blacksmith:
+10 Skill Level and 1 Focus Point to Smithing and Two-Handed weapons. 1 Attribute Point to Vigor.
+10 Skill Level and 1 Focus Point to Scouting and Vigor. 1 Attribute Point to Cunning.
+10 Skill Level and 1 Focus Point to Roguery and Crossbow. 1 Attribute Point to Control.
As a child, you were noted for...
- Your leadership skills:
+10 Skill Level and 1 Focus Point to Leadership and Tactics. 1 Attribute Point to Cunning.
- Your brawn:
+10 Skill Level and 1 Focus Point to Two-Handed weapons and Throwing. 1 Attribute Point to Vigor.
- Your attention to detail:
+10 Skill Level and 1 Focus Point to Athletics and One-Handed weapons. 1 Attribute Point to Control.
- Your aptitude for numbers:
+10 Skill Level and 1 Focus Point to Engineering and Trade. 1 Attribute Point to Intelligence.
- You way with people:
+10 Skill Level and 1 Focus Point to Charm and Leadership. 1 Attribute Point to Social.
- Your skill with horses:
+10 Skill Level and 1 Focus Point to Riding and Medicine. 1 Attribute Point to Endurance.
Growing up, you spent most of your time...
- At the town watch's training ground:
+10 Skill Level and 1 Focus Point to Crossbow and Tactics. 1 Attribute Point to Control.
- With the alley gangs:
+10 Skill Level and 1 Focus Point to Roguery and One-Handed weapons. 1 Attribute Point to Cunning.
- At docks and building sites:
+10 Skill Level and 1 Focus Point to Athletics and Smithing. 1 Attribute Point to Vigor.
- In the markets and caravanserais:
+10 Skill Level and 1 Focus Point to Trade and Charm. 1 Attribute Point to Social.
- With your tutor:
+10 Skill Level and 1 Focus Point to Engineering and Leadership. 1 Attribute Point to Intelligence.
- Caring for horses:
+10 Skill Level and 1 Focus Point to Riding and Steward. 1 Attribute Point to Endurance.
As a youngster growing up in Calradia, war was never too far away. You...
- Stood guard with the garrisons:
+10 Skill Level and 1 Focus Point to Crossbow and Engineering. 1 Attribute Point to Intelligence.
- Rode with the scouts:
+10 Skill Level and 1 Focus Point to Riding and Bow. 1 Attribute Point to Endurance.
- Trained with the infantry:
+10 Skill Level and 1 Focus Point to Polearm and One-Handed weapons. 1 Attribute Point to Vigor.
- Joined the skirmishers:
+10 Skill Level and 1 Focus Point to Throwing and Bow. 1 Attribute Point to Control.
Before you set out for a life of adventure, your biggest achievement was...
- You defeated an enemy in battle:
+10 Skill Level and 1 Focus Point to One-Handed weapons and Two-Handed weapons. 1 Attribute Point to Vigor. +1 to Valor and +20 Renown.
- You led a caravan:
+10 Skill Level and 1 Focus Point to Tactics and Leadership. 1 Attribute Point to Cunning. +1 to Calculating and +10 Renown.
- You invested some money in a workshop:
+10 Skill Level and 1 Focus Point to Trade and Smithing. 1 Attribute Point to Intelligence. +1 to Calculating and +10 Renown.
- You survived a siege:
+10 Skill Level and 1 Focus Point to Bow and Crossbow. 1 Attribute Point to Control. +5 Renown.
- You had a famous escapade:
+10 Skill Level and 1 Focus Point to Athletics and Roguery. 1 Attribute Point to Endurance. +1 to Valor and +5 Renown.
- You treated people well:
+10 Skill Level and 1 Focus Point to Charm and Steward. 1 Attribute Point to Social. +1 to Mercy, Generosity and Honour. +5 Renown.
Like many families in Calradia, your life was upended by war. Your home was ravaged by the passage of army after army. Eventually, you sold your property and set off with your father, mother, brother, and your two younger siblings to a town you'd heard was safer. But you did not make it. Along the way, the inn at which you were staying was attacked by raiders. Your parents were slain and your two youngest siblings seized, but you and your brother survived because...
- You subdued a raider:
+10 Skill Level and 1 Focus Point to One-Handed weapons and Athletics. 1 Attribute Point to Vigor.
- You drove them off with arrows:
+10 Skill Level and 1 Focus Point to Bow and Tactics. 1 Attribute Point to Control.
- You rode off on a fast horse:
+10 Skill Level and 1 Focus Point to Riding and Scouting. 1 Attribute Point to Endurance.
- You tricked the raiders:
+10 Skill Level and 1 Focus Point to Roguery and Tactics. 1 Attribute Point to Cunning.
- You organised the travelers to break out:
+10 Skill Level and 1 Focus Point to Leadership and Charm. 1 Attribute Point to Social.
The attributes and skills that you choose to invest in will vary depending on your playstyle, but it is a good idea to maintain a balance rather than invest excessively into a favoured perk. You should invest at least some points into the combat method of your choice, whether it be one-handed weapons, two-handed weapons, polearms, bows, crossbows, or throwing. You will need to have at least some level of competency to begin with, and the more Focus Points that you have invested into a particular skill, the faster you will improve that skill as you use it. As you level the skill, more perks will become available which are focused on improving your skill with particular weapons rather than combat as a whole, so it is important to consider carefully your choice of weapon.
In addition to combat, social skills are extremely important to develop. You will need to invest in Charm and Leadership if you want to be persuasive to others and effective in managing not only your clan, but also your own settlements eventually. In addition to the increased rate of learning that comes with investing in attributes and their associated skills, the perks associated with each of these skills are particularly useful. For example, the Leadership skill provides access to perks which boost troop morale, lower the cost of their upkeep, and improve the effectiveness of garrisons. Charm perks combine well with Leadership perks, providing bonuses to loyalty and security in your towns, while also improving the chances of success when negotiating with others.
If you know that combat isn't going to be your thing, and you would rather lead forces from the back of the line, you can reasonably skip investing in combat to focus on other attributes. However, you should be careful when wandering back streets in settlements; you may be ambushed if you're unwelcome. Ultimately, the attributes, skills and perks that you choose will be entirely your own. There is a great deal of variation in Bannerlord which allows for complex character development. But you should keep in mind that once you have chosen your initial background skills, these will influence your playthrough permanently. Improving skills in Bannerlord can be a long and tedious process, so it is a good idea to seriously consider all of the skills and their benefits before investing in them.