Are you tired of being just 1 point of powerdraw away from using that shiny Ruby runed bow? Are you cursing the gods because you are too weak for plate armor when you're the ruler of Pendor and at level 50? Well then, spit no more your venomous bile, because this is the guide that will help you plan your skill upgrades and show you how to avoid ineffective upgrading when you need one more level and/or the stats to equip an item.
Step 1: Determine your strength threshold
Strength is the be-all and end-all indicator of what equipment your character can use and is most often the stat to which people fail to assign enough points to equip some extra nice equipment. From bows, to crossbow, armor and huge honking halberds, the level of your strength will dictate how much access to the equipment pool of POP you can attain.
Note that, for bows, even though the minimum powerdraw is covered, there is a significant bonus to accuracy if you have +3 to the power draw requirements. That is the benefit of powerdraw.
Also, be aware that certain prefixes will have an effect on both the quality and ability of equipment and what stats are required to use them. These are the one which modify:
“Heavy” prefix - +1 to strength requirement.
“Strong”: +1 to powerdraw requirements
“Masterwork”: +3 (?) to powerdraw requirements
“Stubborn”: +1 to riding requirements
“Spirited”: +1 to riding requirements
“Champion”: +2 (seems to be inconsistent) to riding requirements
At strength 9 (the bare minimum level) you have access to chain mail and its equivalent; a huge improvement over the non-strength-required armor. It also allows for power draw 3 which the D'Shar bow, the best bow for mounted use requires. Laughably, at power throw 3 you are able to use all throwing weapons bar special modifiers, so take that into account. Note that, with one more point you unlock the light crossbow and hunting crossbows, the heaviest crossbows that you can use on horseback. The maiden crossbow has a slightly higher accuracy and speed, but will not be found in markets.
At 15 strength, all melee weapons are unlocked. This category includes halberds, lances and 2-handed war hammers. These provide, for non-combat orientated characters seeking a good weapon to cleave the skulls of heavily armored knights an excellent range of weaponry. Also, at power draw 5, the composite bow is unlocked. The composite bow is the best common bow in terms of firepower but cannot be used on horseback. The heavy crossbow, is my personal preferred crossbow. It does very high damage without the huge drop in speed from the siege crossbow, which is also unlocked at this level.
All plate armor is unlocked at this point. As well as the siege crossbow for those not interested in using bows. The Noldor bow is also unlocked, a great bow if you can get your hands on one!
The penultimate threshold, this level of physical prowess allows you to use the legendary runed bow at powerdraw 7. Powerdraw 7 is an absolute must for archer characters if they wish to reach the peak of their potential. Some of the high level plate harness is also unlocked but their stats do not differ too much from regular armor.
This is it. Beyond this level, there is no material incentive to get any stronger. At strength 30 the demon skin and Noldor armor is unlocked. The very best in defense and weight ratios, they are nonetheless incredibly difficult to obtain, often requiring well over a 100k to buy or incredible luck to loot. Also skills cap out at level 10 so even if you add more points above 10, you won’t benefit from doing so.
Step 2: Determine your Agility Threshold[
For The main equipment affected by agility is horses and shields. Though they are not as crucial to equipment as strength, agility points are point for point much better than strength. That extra 1% speed will save you from that blow that could take off more than the 1hp that strength gives. The real use for agility in regards to equipment is on horseback, hence the priority on riding.
Every character should start with at least 1 riding in order to ride that a sumpter or saddle horse. Even though it's useless in combat, it does provide a speed boost on the overhead map and your character will be thankful for a horse to ride on instead of having to hoof it for miles.
At riding 2, access to the Gold Mane Courser is unlocked. It is the fastest courser with the exception of the much rarer Noldor horses. You can stop here, if you are not looking to crash hundreds of pounds of horse into your foes. Also, hunters are quite good for those looking for a fast horse able to trample the rabble. They won’t do much good against an armored knight on a warhorse, however.
At Riding 5, warhorses are unlocked. They are less heavily armored than chargers but still fast. These are the most balanced horses all around. Noldor dark horses and gold leafs are also unlocked, and are great for people lucky enough to loot them.
This unlocks the best and heaviest class of horses. In order of light to heavy, they are the Crimson Steel, the Ironbred and Netherworld Charger. The Noldor spirit horses are also unlocked at this level. These are hands down the best horse for a speed, charge and defense combination. A charge by a Noldor spirit horse hits an enemy so hard and fast that, with the exception of the heaviest defense line, it will simply cleave right through an infantry line.
Only level 3 matters because that unlocks the Noldor shields which are on par with the Ornate knight’s shield. Although there are significant performance differences amongst top-tier shields, the other shields are perfectly adequate for most battles, provided they don't last too long. (Even then, you can equip one from a dead enemy on the field.)
Step 3: Determine your Stats/Skills distribution
Once you have decided on what level of equipment you wish to equip, the big puzzler comes when you decide where and how to allocate your skill points. Naturally, you'll be tempted to dump many points into strength and agility but with the use of the Elixir of Akron you can gain at least 2 points each in strength and agility and allocate the rest of it to Intel and Charisma. (Generally, it is good to level up to 18~21 strength and 15~18 agility before using an elixir.)
Charisma based character
Being a CHA based character is not very good. That is the only stat that affects leadership skill, because it is a personal skill. Charisma is only really important for leadership, which is very useful for recruiting and maintaining a large army. On the other hand, with books and achievements, you can gain around a 3 boost to leadership and stop roughly at around 21 charisma. Since prisoner management is useful but exponentially becomes weaker I recommend capping it at around 5, max. As for persuasion, the opportunities to use persuasion are fairly low and you can get around the need for it by having high honor, and good party management, although it is good for persuading lords to join your side and for keeping companions from leaving your party when disgruntled.
The charisma-based characters tend to be fairly good at gaining lots of cash. Simply being a mercenary with high persuasion and leadership means that one can indefinitely sustain a very large army. Trade and prisoner management also help in buying equipment and in selling your loot for really good prices.
Thus, in order of importance;
4: Trade (Leslie has this at 5)
Intel characters are far more flexible than Charisma based ones, thanks to the huge pool of skills that benefit from it and the extra point of skill gained, which can be put into your stats. If you have any doubts or need an extra skill point, this is the place to put your point. However, all intel skills are party skills which means that, inevitably, there's always someone who can do it for you. Nonetheless, the limited number of skill points means that it is always a good idea to invest some points into intelligence, especially considering how party skills work. The best way to utilize an intel character is to read as many books on party skills, then top up that value to multiples of 2 in order to get a bonus to your other party members.
Since they are all party skills, they are all equally important and their relevance determined by your individual style of play. (Let somebody else do it and send them into a little corner every time you enter a battle.)