Character creation is actually a selection of important starting stats. You can see all the details here.[mountandblade.wikia.com]
Use this to determine generally the direction you would like your charcter to go. Its important to note that you can only be a nobleman or noblewoman if your father was a noble.
The game revolves around combat and war and the best place to start is probably the Vaegir city of Reyvadin. Here, you have access to the Tundra Bandits and Sea Raiders along the coast near Rivacheg.
Renown is important and the fastest way to gain renown is to solo these bandit parties, especially when they outnumber you greatly.
The fastest way to do this is with a horse and lance. Most other starts are difficult at the very beginning. Tundra Bandits actually drop Light Lances as loot so you can acquire one without making a hefty purchase.
Once you have a lance, Sea Raiders use the best gear bandits can drop. Byrnies and Mail Shirts will keep you relatively well defended. Nordic Helmets are quite potent, and the Fighting Axe is by far my favorite one handed weapon.
You probably will want to start small with Sea Raiders as their thrown weapons can one shot you in the head and their archers, although slow shooters, do a fair amount of damage.
Nordic Shields, while not as good as a Huscarl's Round Shield, have similar health and coverage, and lack only resistance. These are also conveniently dropped by Sea Raiders.
As you level up your proficiencies, power strike, draw, and throw, become less and less necessary to score a one hit kill. I don't recommend going above 12 Strength as that gives you enough to use any weapon (minus the very high power draw requirement bows) and armor. Agility is a bit more important, 5 in the weapon master, athletics, and riding, make you much more capable on the battlefield and later on. Charisma is important to have a large army, and if you have plans to rule Calradia, then you should probably get this to 27 (for the 9 leadership + 1 from the related book). Intelligence covers more skills than you can take, however Trainer is one of the most important. Having every hero in your party with a high Trainer skill can make your weak armies into mid-tier fighters literally overnight. Your heroes should cover the rest of the Intelligence skills that you require.
The loot from Sea Raiders can mostly equip your character. It also sells for more than any other bandit loot which is essential for building up a stockpile of denars before you begin warfare.
Earlier I mentioned Renown is important. If you want to rule Calradia, or help your faction of choice dominate it, you need an army. You cant have a large army without Leadership and Renown. Every 25 renown allots one extra soldier while every 1 Leadership allows for 5 (8 if you count the Charisma required), along with a percentage increase in morale and reduction in wages which gets quite important when your troops are promoted and your army size increases.
Again, you'll want to fight Sea Raiders on your own until your renown is high as the only way to keep soldiers you hire other than in your party is to garrison them in a city or castle, which you cannot own without conquering one and starting your own faction (and consequently, a war) or being awarded one by a King (usually after conquering one).
Fighting on the battlefield is dominated by cavalry, archers, and heavy infantry. Vaegirs have the best archers, but they're slow on the map, terrible in a melee, and not very effective against shielded foes.
Its for these reasons that Nordic Archers and Rhodok Crossbowmen are the better choice. Nord Archers handle themselves quite well in melee and Rhodok Crossbowmen are better than most mid-tier infantry. Both ranged units can last very long in a siege without running out of ammunition, and the Rhodoks have the added advantage of killing in only one or two shots.
Nordic Archers may not be as good, but they're probably one of the most cost effective units in the game and very easy to train.
Nord Huscarls are hands down, the best infantry in the game. However, some swear by the Rhodoks as their infantry can stop a cavalry charge. While this is mostly true, the absolute best way to stop a cavalry charge is to force them to climb up a hill. Huscarls also have a very high chance of having a throwing weapon, capable of killing any soldier in a single hit.
On an open field, the lances wielded by Swadian Knights are unmatched (although Sarranids and Khergits are good in their own rights), and man for man, a group of Knights will make quick work of any similarly sized group of infantry, including Rhodoks. This is important to note as fighting the Sarranids happens almost exclusively on open desert, and their powerful archers and cavalry can quickly overpower an unprepared army (even on easier difficulties).
I don't recommend acquiring Khergits as they are terrible in siege warfare nor do I recommend mercenaries for they are very expensive and typically are much less powerful for the denars you must spend for upkeep (with the exception of the extremely hard to acquire Sword Sisters).
If all you want to do is rule the open fields, answering to no one and being a free-brother like those deserter scum then by all means hire the Khergits. Their horse archers will literally run circles around the enemy.
If you do get to the point of having a massive army, Vaegirs are the cheapest and their highest tier units, while not as powerful as other factions, are very good if you outnumber the enemy.
Here, I have an ideal position. My Rhodok Crossbowmen are able to shoot over my Nord Huscarls. When the enemy finally gets close, an additional volley from my Huscarls ensures a quick victory.
Trade is long and boring and the profits can easily be matched (or be greater) by fighting and selling. Bandit parties can spawn as large as 60 strong when your army is a comparable size. Farming them for money as well as to train your troops to their highest tier can be vital. An army of 70 Nord Huscarls and Rhodok Sharpshooters can defend a city from 300 or more making them well worth the money.
Since siege warfare is exclusive to infantry and archers, knights are an expensive investment and only perform to their cost in open battles. You can take on entire factions without ever having to fight in the open.
Productive Enterprises can be purchased by talking to the Guild Master in a city. These are important to counterbalance the high wages of good soldiers. Its important that you only acquire these enterprises in cities that you dont expect to lose any relation with the lord (i.e. war, duels, or eloping with their daughters, and failing quests).
The brewery and ironworks are typically the best as they make up for their price in the least amount of time. This can vary greatly between cities but, as a general rule, a brewery is always productive and profitable.
Other enterprises can be sought after, but can be risky as they are quite expensive.
The most cost effective army is a balanced mix of Nord Huscarls and Rhodok Sharpshooters in numbers slightly lower than your enemy. The most cost efficient army is Vaegir infantry with Nord archers in larger numbers than your enemy. Cavalry is never efficient to their cost unless you never plan on fighting in villages or towns. Their effectiveness in the open, while quite good, is not up to par with a well placed line of Huscarls. This cannot always be achieved, but arranging your Huscarls into a box formation (several lines deep on all sides) will effectively make any direct charges a moot attack (forming 1 line is terrible against cavalry, the more lines of infantry, the more outnumbered enemy cavalry will be when they smash into your troops, this is important, because one on one heavy cavalry is better than infantry after a charge).
The only exceptions to this are Khergit horse archers. They perform to their costs while out in the open (and almost laughably fail in sieges). Their performance can vary, however, against the AI it should perform well.
Here I have a large number of breweries actually making me a profit on a medium sized army of Nord Huscarls and Rhodok Sharpshooters. Typically you wouldn't be able to have this many Productive Enterprises due to war (unless your faction was winning all of them) and you may want to seek out more profitable enterprises for larger armies.
Game of Thrones
While you could play the Clash of Kings mod. The overarching point of the game (other than roleplaying) is to become the ruler of Calradia. This means you need to recruit lords into your service, acquire the loyalties of many of them, and raise an army powerful enough to win.
You can bolster your lord count by using heroes. Heroes are important if you plan on having a large army. You absolutely require a doctor (Wound Treatment, Surgery, First Aid) and scout (Spotting, Pathfinding) while an engineer (Engineering) helps during sieges. Trainer and Tactics helps while your army count is low while Leadership is something you yourself should invest at least 6 points in if not more (The Life on Alixenus the Great helps [this is a book you can purchase from the book merchant]).
Heroes of noble birth are essential for providing you with more lords to win your war on multiple fronts. Appointing non-noble heroes will make every other nobleman hate you for it and is very damning to your controversy.
They can also be sent on missions to increase your right to rule. Right to rule is a measure, between 0 and 99, of how good your claim to the throne is. Each hero can only be sent on this type of mission once, and another hero will always object, possibly causing them to no longer go on their own mission. This can be avoided by making the objecting hero your temporary minister.
Each hero also has ties to certain cities. They can be sent on missions to each city to determine how the controlling faction of the city is faring. Here you can learn about internal strife a kingdom faces. Typically, larger kingdoms have a much lower unity and lords can easily be indicted for treason, giving you the opportunity to snatch them up for your own side before this happens, and possibly their lands with him.
Every faction has a marshall that leads the factions army, but thats not to say you cant appoint a marshall, have him lead your other lords somewhere, and take a few with you to (via asking them while your relationship is favorable) conquer other places.
Backing a claimant to a throne essentially makes you marshall of their kingdom while they mope about and do absolutely nothing. While it does have the added benefit of requiring no right to rule (their claims are legitimate), you pretty much manage the kingdom as if you were king but actually aren't. It also makes acquiring the enemy faction's lords a bit easier and more important (as once you finish reclaiming their throne you wouldn't want a kingdom with only a handful of lords to protect it).
Other Kings in Calradia won't want you to have a legitimate claim to the throne of Emperor and will probably do a whole lot to make sure you end up like this guy.
A Clash of Kings
Okay, after mentioning the mod I must say that its amazing and you should definitely give it a try. The world is so massive (all of Westeros below the wall and the western part of Essos) and everything is pulled straight from the lore and if you're a fan of the series you should definitely give the mod a try.
You need a decent computer though.
I can't even fit the whole Westerlands (from Lannisport to Kings Landing) in one screenshot.
I've written a guide specifically for the A Clash of Kings Mod! Check it out by clicking on my name on the right sidebar and looking up my guides.
Westeros is Big
Everyone gets to start out in the Stormlands. This is the poorest region of Westeros so you probably dont want to stick around for too long.
There's also a few very prominent things you should know. Horses move slower when damaged. They also have much less health. Spears also can do massive bonus damage to horses effectively one-shotting them. While this means cavalry is a lot more balanced and realistic, it also prevents you from being a god on horseback and murdering droves of soldiers on your own. While it certainly hasnt eliminated the possibility (I can still pull it off), its definitely a lot harder.
One thing you'll first notice is character creation tells you what stats you get. Note that power draw can get quite high from these base stats so its now completely viable to do a bow commander type guy while putting very few points into strength.
Like in the base game, ACoK requires about 12 strength (sometimes more) to use the best armor and weapons. There are a lot of different ways to recruit soldiers, different options are available when fighting, temporary camps like in With Fire and Sword and much much more. You should do some independent research on the Floris mod if youre curious about what exactly has changed.
As far as troop trees go, there is no definitive info I can give at the moment because the only way to see them is to own the unit and I certainly haven't collected them all. However if you base it on the books, then the Tyroshi should have the best crossbowmen. The Iron Islands should have good shock infantry, and the Reach should have good archers. I'll try and figure out what exactly is the best as I test out unit comps. Currently I am running with nothing but Northmen because I like them and they should be hardy troops with lots of health, although it doesn't seem that way at the moment.
So after a few (too many) hours of play I have determined that the most efficient infantry are the Riverlands Serjeants. Since their Serjeants do not upgrade into knights, this unit is buffed to compensate. This makes them easy to level as well as easy to gather. Reach crossbowmen are very effective much like the Rhodoks in the base game. They can function nearly as well as the Riverlands Serjeants in a melee, and are well armored.
Vale infantry is slightly better than the Riverlanders because they are better equipped. However, their stats are slightly lower only making the difference small. They also upgrade into Knights, which the Riverlands lacks. Vale knights are arguably the best knights in the game. The Reach has similarly equipped knights, but the Vale gets the advantage by their use of blunt weapons which is more effective against other knights (but less effective against standard enemies). Vale archers also use blunt weapons, making them ridiculously effective in a melee. This comes at the disadvantage of being completely helpless with no shield and a short reach and lackluster armor. However, when defending a castle, they are probably one of the best defenders you can hope to have. As long as they survive, their melee prowess is on par with most higher tier infantry.
As far as shock infantry goes (as opposed to heavy infantry with shields) the Three Sisters posess a very deadly unit. I cant quite remember the name, but if you ever get the chance to fight one, they have a unique face mask and a very large 2 handed mace that can knock you out in one hit on harder difficulties. The Iron Islands also posess some good shock infantry.
One thing I noticed about units not to get are Northerners and Westerlanders. Northerners are just bad. They're under-equipped with poor armor and hard to recruit because of the North's massive size. Avoid the North for recruiting. Westerlanders are also terrible. Their longbows take forever to fire, and do not even kill in 2 hits. Their infantry starts with infantry that posess shields, but in no way are they heavy infantry as they have no stats to back up this equipment and die immediately. Their infantry then ends with pikemen who also die immediately because they lack a shield and this makes them completely useless in close quarters. Their only saving grace are their knights which perform reasonably well but in no way does this make up for their ineffective infantry (alright it actually can, but you might as well use Vale troops or Reach troops).
There's a ton of stuff included in this mod and again, you should give it a try. Ill try to update this guide with a good way to start off. For now I can leave you with the fact that there are forest bandits in the Stormlands who do not have shields and drop lances to help you while on horseback. Also there are larger packs of wildlings north of Winterfell to farm off of if you cannot decide which king to support.
Check the comments for more tidbits of info. I've posted a lot of things there helping individual users. Feel free to ask a question of your own as well.