*potential minor spoilers* I will use place names and boss names, without context, to describe locations for items and people. If you view that as a spoiler, consider leaving.
Picking a Knight for your background class gives you an easier time starting out if you want to focus on melee. The Cleric can be a potent choice for someone new who wants to use magic while learning the game.
Most classes start without a shield. If you have 10 Strength, the Silver Eagle Kite Shield sold by Maughlin the Armorer in Majula has great stats for such an early shield and costs enough souls to give Maughlin new armor when you return to Majula later. Otherwise the Crimson Parma is a decent free shield inside an Iron Chest just outside of Majula as you head toward Heide's Tower of Flame(no need to fight enemies). Once you reach the ballista trap room in the Forest of Fallen Giants you can get the Blue Wood Shield, which has the same requirement but better stats.
A free Chime for casting miracles can be found in Majula, alongside a Morning Star. As you exit Things Betwixt keep an eye cast down off the side of the cliff in front of you as you head left and look for a platform to jump down toward.
Near the previously mentioned Chime is a set of Binoculars, which can be used alongside a spellcasting tool to aim spells in first person(equip in the opposite hand).
A free Catalyst for sorcery and hexes can be found in the Forest of Fallen Giants. When you meet Pate and walk into the trapped area indicated, either through the front gate or by climbing over the wall to flank the enemies, look for a spot with 3 Hollow Infantry at the bottom of some stairs. Press X(or A) along the wall here to open a secret passage to claim the Catalyst.
For Dex-focused characters, a free Shortbow can be found in Majula, but requires Lenigrast's Key to open his workshop(which is found in the Forest of Fallen Giants with Melentia the Hag, costs 1,000 souls).
For Str-focused characters a free Light Crossbow can be found in the Forest of Fallen Giants near the ballista trap room.
For elemental weapons that scale with Intelligence or Faith you have two choices: first the Heide Knight Sword has lightning damage and drops from the Heide Knight resting against a tree early in the Forest of Fallen Giants, second is the Fire Longsword which can be found past the Crimson Tower bonfire in the Forest of Fallen Giants, drop down the platforms to ground level, fighting through all the Hollow Infantry swarms, and look for a tunnel with bits of fire inside, a fire lizard will try to burn you but you can time it to reach a door on the left of the tunnel and the sword is inside.
Do NOT consume the souls you get from bosses. They can be traded for unique weapons or spells with two different NPCs later in the game. The basic souls laying around as treasure can be consumed whenever you wish; though it might be best to save them for when you're just shy of a level up, or short on a purchase you wish to make.
Do NOT attack wooden chests as they will break. This reduces the item to Rubbish and you'll have lost your prize forever. Instead simply roll away at a slight diagonal as you open the chest to avoid any traps inside(putting some points in Adaptability can help by giving you more time to respond).
Talking to merchants you meet repeatedly usually makes them move to someplace adjacent to or in Majula. It can also give them infinite stock on basic items, such as Lifegems from Melentia.
Doing business with merchants tends to either increase their available stock, or grant you specific rewards when Talking with them afterward.
"I'd rather betray the world than let the world betray me." -Cao Cao
Consider purchasing the Traveling Merchant Hat from Melentia to increase your Item Discovery Rate(especially since most classes don't start with headgear, aside from their pre-class hood).
Before leaving Majula, be sure to attack the stone on the well to receive an Estus Flask Shard. Take this to the Emerald Herald to get an additional charge for your Estus Flask.
Everyone should head to Heide Tower of Flame early on for two key items. Firstly, one of the initial Old Stone Knights, the second, is a non-respawning enemy that drops Sublime Bone Dust. Burn this the bonfire back in Majula, it only works in Majula, to add +1 to the efficacy of your Flask. Secondly, head toward the large cathedral on the left side of the level, lowering the drawbridge, to claim the Ring of Binding. This ring halves your HP loss as you hollow from repeated deaths.
An early 100% physical reduction shield can be found past the Pursuer at the end of the Forest of Fallen Giants. Instead of inspecting the nest, look for some broken stones that drop down into a hole. Here you will find the Drangleic set, aside from the helmet. the shield requires 16 Strength.
Stat Softcaps and Basics
Vigor, Endurance, and Vitality reach peak efficiency at 20, and begin giving diminishing returns past that point. Vigor stays stable from 20 to 50 then really dives. Endurance is steady past 20. Vitality has multiple caps, where 20 to 30 is still okay. Past that it really dives.
Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, and Faith as damage stats(comes from scaling on weapons or spellcasting tools) also have diminishing returns but peak at 40 before they dive.
Adaptability as a stat is hard to understand, as it affects many things in a subtle manner. It mostly relates to movement and defense. For basic characters increasing this to 15 or so should make your character feel a lot more capable in general. It also interacts with Endurance to add innate Poise to your character. Basically you get innate Poise up to the value of whichever stat is lower between Endurance and Adaptability. Thus keeping them equal, say at 20 each, maximizes your return.
Attunement is seriously buffed. Aside from granting new spell slots, it increases casting speed and grants additional charges for all of your equipped spells as you level it up. The generally important soft caps occur at 20 and 40.
Class Primers, Maximizing Your Effectiveness Early
Miracle Users - Head to Heide Flame Tower early and beat the Dragonrider to access Licia for many miracles(she'll move closer to Majula after you talk to her enough), also consider killing the Dragonslayer at the cathedral and joining the Blue Sentinels for a few more miracles(and access to Boltstones you can use much later in the game to make lightning-focused gear). Consider using your white soapstones to help people will the bosses here to acquire all the miracles you wish
Sorcery Users - A free copy of Great Soul Arrow sits in the ballista trap room in the Forest of Fallen Giants. Head to Heide Flame Tower and beat the Dragonrider to access the tower going below the water and toward No-man's Wharf, near the end of that area you'll meet Carhillion sitting on a side dock who will sell you many spells
Heavy Armor Users - purchase the Silver Eagle Kite Shield from Maughlin the Armorer to get access to the Elite Knight Armor, spending a total of 16,000 souls with him will then unlock the Alva Armor(which is lighter than the Elite Knight at the cost of some defense, while keeping all the Poise)
"I'd rather betray the world than let the world betray me." -Cao Cao
:: PSN: c0rstenwgf ::
"Never argue with an idiot. They will just bring you down to their level, and beat you with experience."
Excellent post, nice job.
request Sticky of this topic, atleast until v 2.0 is written
"You gotta protect the one you wanna protect" Crocodile One Piece
Friend Code 3625-8252-9624 PS4 looks great
Dune doin his thing since Demon's Souls :)
when u realize the night is young and you're not
Thanks TC, the info is very useful without giving out too much spoilers so we can enjoy the game.
This is very helpful, thanks a lot TC.