Leave the tavern, whereupon you'll discover that the thugs who occupied the tavern earlier are waiting for you outside. Hatred of Witchers tends to come paired with the lack of sense to avoid provoking them. And so it is in this case, as well. A fight ensues regardless of what action you pick in response to them, but if you use the Axii Sign you can earn some extra experience and take one of them out of the fight. Wisely, they choose fisticuffs as their weapons, so smack them around.
|For using the Axii Sign on the Thug||25 XP|
|For beating up the Thugs||350 XP|
Note: The experience rewards you'll get from quests will vary depending on your level and the difficulty setting. You'll get 10% less experience on Blood and Broken Bones and 20% less experience on Death March. You'll also get less experience from quests if your level is too much higher than the suggested level for that quest; if your level is six levels higher or more than the suggested level of the quest, don't expect to get much out of it.
It's finally time to start exploring - the Nilfgaardians can wait, they're not going anywhere any time soon. Might as well start with the town, where one would expect to receive plenty of work, and then move on to exploring the wilderness, focusing on points of interest as you go. Whenever possible your area of exploration will be centered around a nearby Signpost (which also double as a fast-travel locations), but when that's not concise enough, geographic features (a battlefield, a swamp, a village) or simple directional bias (the north-eastern corner of the map) will be used.
Anywho, first things first, head down the road from the tavern to the east a bit. There are a few containers near the stables worth looting, but as a general rule every box, crate, and sack won't be pointed out (unless they have something particularly noteworthy inside, of course). Eventually you'll find your old pal the Merchant. You remember him? He was almost eaten by a Griffin. Seems he salvaged some of his stock, but wagon repairs take time and are expensive, so he's eager to sell off what goods he has while he waits. While it's nice to catch up with him, he doesn't really sell much of interest... unless you installed the Temerian Armor DLC, in which case, he'll have a full set of that gear in his inventory. It's the best armor you'll immediately have access to, and if you've got the coin, it's worth buying... even if you will have to wait to wear it.
Turn around and follow the road west, looting houses and grabbing herbs as it pleases you. It's a good way to score some food, components, and perhaps a few Crowns. Posted on a tree to the south of the road you'll find the notice "Wanted: honeycombs. Will pay top coin. Large quantities welcome. Tomira, the herbalist." Good to know.
Continue west until the road forks. At the fork you'll find the Notice Board, that staple of Witcher games which bestows quests upon wandering Witchers. Of course, Witchers are supposed to be a dying breed, so one wonders why peasants still post. Even better, just looking at the Notice Board (even without taking any of the notices) will update your map with a variety of "Undiscovered Locations". These range from Monster Nests, Guarded Treasures, Bandit Camps, and other optional places worth exploring to score loot and experience. The notices worth grabbing are "Contract: Devil by the Well" which starts a quest of the same name, and "Brother Missing" which starts "Missing in Action" . If you save and reload your game, new notices will appear, but since none of them start new quests, there's not much point in bothering.
From the Notice Board head south to find a very angry Dwarven blacksmith cursing as he works at his forge. Talk to the poor guy and, as one would expect, he's rather snippy. Keep cool and he'll tell you that somebody set his hut on fire, an act of arson he feels was brought on by tensions that arose when the Nilfgaardians came. Offer to help him for a price and he'll agree to give you whatever he as left to find the cause of his misfortune. This begins the quest "Twisted Firestarter" .
First, note the Grindstone to the north-east. Using it is free, and will sharpen your weapons, giving you the "Enhanced Weapons" boon for 15 minutes. Score. Head behind the blacksmith's house and search to the south-east using your Witcher Senses to spot some evidence on the ground. Investigate and Geralt will deduce the arsonist's actions. Further south-east Geralt will find footprints, which seem to belong to a large man. Follow them or less east to a tree, where Geralt will detect the smell of piss and vodka, a common combination. Keep following the tracks east to reach a road, then north-east until they terminate near a boat. As drunk as our arsonist was, he was at least wise enough to try and cover his trail. Loot a chest to the north and pass under the bridge to find where the tracks continue, north of the bridge. Signs of a struggle are noted - apparently your arsonist was attacked by Drowners and lost his boots in the scuffle. The trail continues to the west and onto the road that runs through White Orchard. Follow the wounded arsonist's trail to a house just south of the tavern.
Head inside and Geralt will comment that he'll be able to spot the arsonist by the wounds he bears. Search the eastern room to find Napp, who is obviously drunk and injured. Talk to him and he'll confirm that blacksmith's suspicions: a combination of racism and hatred of the Nilfgaardians led the arsonist to torch the business of a suspected collaborator. Knowing that he's in trouble, however, he'll offer to give you some loot to let him go. If you accept, the blacksmith will be upset you couldn't find the arsonist, but he'll still offer his services to you... which is really the point of all this.
|For talking to the arsonist||25 XP|
|For letting the arsonist go||25 XP / 20 Crowns|
|For telling the blacksmith about your failure||50 XP|
Alternatively, you can attempt to apprehend him. Doing so will provoke him to attempt to fist fight you. You can indulge him and pummel him into submission, or you can use the Axii Sign to subdue him and get him to come along peacefully. In the former case, you'll appear back near the blacksmith, in the latter case, you'll have to escort Napp to him. Either way, the outcome is the same, Willis calls some Nilfgaardian soldiers over, who decide Napp's arson constituted sabotage, and set out to hang him. Once they're gone, Willis decides the Nilfgaardians aren't so bad after all, and will offer to work his forge for you.
|For using the Axii Sign on Napp||25 XP|
|For bringing Napp back to Willis||50 XP / 20 Crowns|
One way or another, you have a blacksmith at your disposal, which allows you to repair our gear, craft new items, break down old items for components, and of course, peruse his wares. Dismantling hides, tools, and inferior weapons is a good idea, as it's a fine way to score components at little cost. You also are able to turn more refined components into more generic ones (Ingots into Ore, fore example), but at this point in time, there's little need to do so. Consider dismantling all your Junk, while leaving Crafting Components and Alchemy Ingredients alone.
Of particular interest in his inventory are the Saddlebags, which will increase your maximum inventory weight by 30, a boost of 50%. They cost nearly 200 Crowns, however. Also, you might have - or nearly have - the components required to upgrade your armor to the Warrior's Leather Jacket, depending on how diligently you looted the houses in White Orchard. He also sells a variety of diagrams, most of which can be found (and will be removed from his inventory as you find them) by just exploring, so you might as well just save your money until you've plundered more treasure.
Speaking of money, however.... all of this costs money, and right now the best way to earn money is by selling the herbs you pick. They're plentiful, they grow everywhere, and each one is worth a coin. Killing animals works, too, especially if you use the Igni Sign to save wear and tear on your weaponry. Or... you could start exploring. That's an option, too. There's nothing stopping you from hunting game, killing monsters, and picking herbs while you explore, either. In fact, it's recommended! Yeah... let's do that.
A Note on Crafting
The crafting system in The Witcher 3 is pretty simple. As you explore you'll find diagrams, formula, manuscript pages... even the odd book. All of these teach you new items you can craft... with some provisos. Some of these can be purchased from merchants. Usually merchants sell the same type of diagrams/formula as the items the sell-blacksmiths sell armor and weapons, herbalists sell potion/bomb/oil/decoction recipes, for example. The plans merchants sell are static, but the ones you find in the wilderness are not, so you can't always count on having a specific potion, oil, or diagram... unless you're really thorough about completing events and side-quests.
In addition to plans, you'll need materials to craft items. Ore, leather, monster bits, herbs, alcohol, etc. Most of this stuff is pretty common, and again, if you search thoroughly, and break down items that have uncommon components (gem dust, rare metals, etc) you'll have more than enough... at least, later on, when you actually need it. Simple enough. But there's more. Only Armorers can craft armor, and Blacksmiths can craft weapons. There are also three grades of craftsman: Amateur, Journeyman, and Master. There's only one master craftsman of each type in the game, and you have to complete quests to get them to work for you. Complete "Of Swords and Dumplings" to gain the services of the master blacksmith (weapons), finishing "Master Armorer" will allow the master armorer to craft for you, and satisfying the demands of the master alchemist during "Practicum in Advanced Alchemy" will allow you to buy many of the best rune, glyph, potion, oil, and decoction plans from him.
Some of the best armor and weapon plans in the game aren't random, however, and are the subject of special quests - these are the "Witcher School" quests. There are three Witcher School gear sets (in the vanilla game, at least) and are well worth getting, as they tend to be quite a bit stronger than most other armors and weapons in the game. Of course, that's a long way off, and you'll be told how to reach these characters and craft these items when you're a high enough level.