Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Oblivion Mod Review - Realistic Leveling v1.13

Mod Review - Realistic Leveling (v1.13)
( http://tesnexus.com/downloads/file.php?id=13879
Requires Oblivion Script Extender.

Overall:Takes over skill and attribute leveling in an intuitive way. Many options for customizing. Uses in-game resources (Global Settings that already exist in vanilla Oblivion) to control many aspects, resulting in very little scripting load.

Why You Would Download This: To stop worrying about levelling efficiently and just get on with playing the game.

This review is separated into four parts: Introduction, Warnings, Features, and Static Oblivion Experience.


In many ways, Realistic Leveling is one of the most intuitive and least complicated levelling mods. The core of it is very simple: Skills control attribute gains. When all skills related to an attribute are at 100, that attribute reaches a cap that you decide (typically 100).
This is essentially the only author-controlled aspect that you need to worry about, and it replaces how attributes are gained in Oblivion. If you don't like how this part works, and you can't tweak it with the settings in the INI file, then this mod isn't for you.


Because Global Settings are changed, and changes to Global Settings are not permanent within any savegame, Realistic Levelling must re-set them every time a game is loaded. There are consequences to this which we will detail as we examine various features, but for the moment, probably the most important things you need to know are:
  • Do not save while your character is in motion. Athletics and Sneak increase when you are moving, and Acrobatics can increase when you jump and land. If you gain experience in these skills before Realistic Levelling changes the necessary Global Settings, you may gain more experience than you mean to, and abruptly gain skill levels.
  • Do not immediately take any action when you load a savegame. You should wait about 1-2 seconds if possible to let background scripts -- including Realistic Leveling -- finish running, for the same reason as above.
EDIT (July 14/2011): Per mod author's notes in the Comments -- "Thanks for the very informative and flattering review of my mod :-) Note that the warning about unexpected skill advances from actions on loading savegames only applies if you have changed skill advancement game settings. The default RL settings if you install with OBMM do not change any skill advancement settings, and will thus not have this problem. Only if you edit the settings manually and change the advanced skill experience settings as you describe that you risk experiencing this problem. Also, this problem will probably affect any mod that changes skill advancement settings from a *.ini config file, including progress."

You can probably use Realistic Levelling straight out of the box, but there are some features you may wish to consider:

Maximum Level
The recommendations for a character who has brought all 21 skills to 100 is a level of 65 and attributes of 100. The maximum possible level under vanilla Oblivion is closer to between 45 and 53, and mods like Martigens Monster Mod claims to have challenging monsters for characters level 40+.

Something you can do here is deliberately increase this amount to x2 or even x5 of the calculated amount. The concept of "level" in Oblivion is actually a very vague one, as a character with major skills in Security and Persuasion may have inadvertantly reached a high level (and triggered correspondingly high combat challenges in the world around them) without having increased their odds of combat survival. The use of Fast Travel will avoid unnecessary fights, but there will still be quests that require quite a lot of combat.

Conversely, once you start using Realistic Leveling and are no longer concerned with which skills level at what time, you may find that a combat-intensive style of play causes you to increase in combat ability a lot faster than the levelled creatures around you.
What you can then do is artificially increase the levelMax setting in the INI file by a factor of x2 to x5 or even more. You might have a calculated level of 10 but the resources of a level 50 character (through efficient magic or inventory cheats). Now you can also have the increased challenge by artificially assigning your character a level of 50.

With RealisticLeveling, unless you use leveling mode 4 (Sleep levelup) or 0 (don't change anything), you cannot simply use the console command "setlevel" since this mod will periodically recalculate your stats and reset your level.

If you do increase this, remember to slow your Health down to your "actual" level by the inverse factor. So, if you used approximately a x4 factor and set levelMax to about 200, you will want to consider changing fStatsHealthLevelMult from the default of 0.1 to 0.025.

Calculated Health
Realistic Leveling uses the average of your base Endurance and your current Endurance (increased by skill level gains) to calculate your Health. Try a default factor of 0.125 to simulate using current Endurance.

Skill Experience Gain

Some mods like Francesco's directly change the per-use experience. Realistic Leveling does not change individual skills, but instead makes global changes to all skills by using different Global Settings. This means it will stack as long as those mods don't change the same settings.

The easy way to slow down skill progression is to change fSkillUseFactor, as suggested in the INI. Basically, this means you learn less per skill use.

The other way under "Advanced Settings" may actually be a more intuitive way to do it. By increasing fSkillUseExp (normally 1.5), you make increasing skills harder as you get better. Vanilla Oblivion already does this, but you can magnify the effects.
The advantage of changing this setting is that it won't take forever to get to Apprentice level when your skill starts at 5 even if you do slow down your skill gains.
By increasing this setting from 1.5 to 2.0, It takes an additional 145% skill experience to move from skill 5 to 6, but +900% experience to move from 99 to 100. Overall, to get a skill from 5 to 100 will take +736% experience.
The slowdown factors (considering moving a skill from 5 to 100) are:

XP multiplefSkillUseExp

If you remember the earlier warning about not saving the game doing anything that might get you skill experience, or starting a loaded game using a skill, here's the reason: If you have changed the skill experience rate, Realistic Levelling needs to change the Global Setting first and the game needs to refresh that data. Before it gets a chance to do that, a skill might be sitting at over 100% experience necessary to gain a level, and any skill gain will trigger a skill level up. Once that happens, Realistic Leveling no longer has the necessary information to de-level your skill.

Example: You have slowed your skill gain by a factor of 5 by using fSkillUseFactor, and at the time you saved your game, your Athletics skill was 50% to the next skill level.
When you load your game, if you look at your skills before Realistic Levelling has updated the Global Settings, it will show 250% to the next skill level. But the way Oblivion works, you will not immediately get a skill up -- the game only checks for that when you gain skill experience. Any gain in Athletics skill will cause you to get a level.
You need to wait a bit for Realistic Levelling to update your character. Once it has done that, you will see the correct reduced amount at 50% to the next skill level.

Static Oblivion Experience - Minimum Level

There is the possibility of setting your minimum possible level with the levelMin setting. This essentially works like a flat level offset, and there is an interesting possibility here for a Static Oblivion Experience.

Various mods like Sagerbliv's, Francesco's, and Martigen's use tweaked levelled lists so that weaker or less-well-equipped NPCs are not dropped from encounters when the player advances past a certain level.
Other mods like Quest Award Leveller make sure you are not penalized for doing quests too early by swapping out lower-levelled rewards for higher-level versions once you are of an appropriate level.

These are examples of trying to get a more static Oblivion experience -- That is, the world simply exists, and doesn't magically become a more dangerous or more rewarding place simply because you became more proficient. Goods of a better quality do not simply magically appear.

Also consider that by the time you are around level 10-15, depending on your resources and fighting skill, you may find you have reached a certain plateau where even NPCs that are levelled to be 10 or 20 levels higher than you do not present a significantly harder challenge unless they are given more gear (e.g., healing potions) or specific irritating abilities (e.g., spell reflection), or they happen to exploit a particular weakness you haven't covered (e.g., altmer or Apprentice birthsign Weakness to Magic).

In order to do this, you will want to set levelMin and levelMax to the same value, and at least 30 -- the minimum level that will get you the best Levelled Quest Rewards.
If you set it to about 50, you will also see the full array of creatures available in Martigen's Monster Mod.
If you do set the level to 50 or 60, change fStatsHealthLevelMult to 0.05 so that you are for practical purposes no more than level 25 or 30.

You will also probably want to use Francesco's or Martigens because they tweak the levelled lists so that you will not always encounter the strongest foes decked out in the best gear. Not every Marauder will be level 50 and in Daedric Armour, for example.
There will still be an excess of good gear, but for practical purposes limited by your ability to haul it.

You can do this at any time, but it is best if you start a new game for the initial challenge and grow into it. If you do start a new game, set levelMin to 1 until you are past the character generation stage, then exit and tweak the .ini file.

If you do this in the early game, you will probably need to amass resources doing non-violent quests first, and use Fast Travel to skip past unnecessary combat on the roads, which will be deadly to a character not properly equipped. Your Health (even at fStatsHealthLevelMult 0.05) should be adequate that you won't die from one hit by anything.
Potions and poisons will probably figure prominently in early survival until magical gear catches up.

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