1. Use your map. Your map is your friend. There are a lot of maze-like areas with twists and turns, and if you don’t look at your map you may find yourself getting lost … a lot. All of that can be avoided if you just open you map and follow the paths. Also, if you’re a dedicated trophy hunter like me, there’s an achievement for setting foot everywhere in the game. That may seem rediculous, but if you look at the map it tells you where you haven’t been. It’s really useful.
2. Don’t bank affection. If you buy the DLC pack (which I highly recommend), there will be a Party Package where you can buy gifts for your companions to increase their affection. However, this was probably meant for players who know how to use gifts and wanted to do a speedy playthrough. There are an abundance of gifts that you can either pick up or buy in game, so getting them from your in-camp merchant is pointless. If you bank affection too fast, you might miss personal quests and romance options, as these only become available at certain points on the affection scale. For a better experience, raise their affection naturally.
3. Every character has a skill chart where you can max out a certain set of skills, such as lockpicking, herbalism, trap-making, etc. Each character will have one skill highlighted when they join your party; that’s the one you should focus on maxing out. There are 8 skills and 8 companions (more with the DLCs), and you need to max out every skill because there are side missions pertaining to each skill. For example, a dwarf in Orzammar will ask you to mix an antidote for his friend, but it requires expert herbalism. One of your companions, Morrigan, will likely have the highest herbalism skill if you build it up. Use her to mix the antidote. Every skill has a side mission and it really sucks if you can’t complete it.
4. If you’re not playing as a rogue, always have a rogue in your party. There are locked chests everywhere in the game, and if you can’t open them you’ll miss out on some great loot. Leliana and Zevran are rogues. Focus on maxing out their stealing skill to unlock chests.
5. For your main character, I highly suggest maxing out your coercion skill before anything else. This is probably the most important skill in the whole game.
6. Try to only sell your wares to Bodahn, the dwarf in your camp. Unlike other merchants in the game, he holds on to the items you sell him for days (about 3 or 4 fast travels), so if you sell something by mistake you have a chance to buy it back. He also gives you mad discounts.
7. If you get the DLC pack, there is a location called “Soldiers Peak” where a man will ask you for help. I don’t want to spoil the story, but after you beat the mission he gives you a chest to store your wares. This is incredibly helpful, as there is no other form of storage in the game. It is best to complete this DLC early on, but in order to do so you might have to turn the difficulty to casual, as the enemies you have face are powerful.
8. Don’t change your companions’ classes or fighting style! You have the option to do so, but it’s a terrible idea. Leliana, for example, is an archer who prefers long range attacks. Zevran is a duelist who prefers short range attacks. Sten prefers one-handed weapons for more powerful blows, while Alistair prefers a sword and a shield. All of your companions preferred classes put them right where they should be if you strategize.
9. Have multiple saves. There are a plethora of hard decisions to make in this game, and if you make a decision you hate, you can load a previous save and start over. This also helps if you run into a bug. I personally have 3 saves per profile.
10. Backpacks. For the love of God, buy backpacks. Every merchant has a catagory called “Other”. Always check this catagory for backpacks, which give you a permanent +10 to your on-hand storage space. You will need these. I can’t even begin to tell you how often you’ll become over encumbered without them.