The most important thing to know about gathering is that there is no limit on how many gathering skills you can learn, so learn all of them! All life skills get daily experience when you log in, whether you take advantage of it or not. If you learn Fishing on your first day but don't use it until much later, you'll still be able to train it much higher than if you picked it up later. You can only learn one production skill though, so it can be beneficial to take time to pick the one you want.
Farming is a flexible gathering skill that provides materials for cooking and tailoring. There are two different types of farming spots; one for planting and one for raising silkworms. The silkworm spots are marked on the map, and planting spots are usually nearby.
Mining, woodcutting, and fishing require you to go to resource nodes and harvest them, much like in other MMOs. Mining is useful for craftsmen and blacksmiths, woodcutting is useful for craftsmen, and fishing is useful for chefs (the fish might also have products for other professions, but I'm not sure about that).
Hunting requires you to slay PvE mobs and skin them. The specific mobs you need to hunt can be difficult to track down, since the search interface only shows you what zone the mobs can be found in. Hunting is useful for all crafting professions except craftsman.
Enchanting your stuff
Gear is only good when it's upgraded; an unenchanted silver quality sword is mediocre compared to a fully upgraded copper quality sword. Although there's no magic involved, upgrades are colloquially referred to as enchantments, due to similar mechanics in other games.
Enchantments require a character of a specific profession and skill level, a certain number of upgrade materials, and 10 Liang tradeable silver. All professions except chef produce some kind of upgrade material, which the game gives you a brief tutorial on. It only shows the blacksmith, tailor, and craftsman upgrade materials, but the herbalist and poison maker materials are made similarly.
Blacksmith, tailor, and craftsman upgrade materials are created by breaking down items. You can do this at any NPC of the appropriate type. Once you have the broken-down materials, you can combine them into a finished upgrade material at one of the crafting NPCs. Players with the appropriate profession can also do all of these things themselves.
You do not need to trade an item to a player in order for him to upgrade it. If a player has life service set, you can select him, right click on his portrait and select the life service option. The life service will ask you to pay any fees the person has set, as well as the 10L price and all of the upgrade materials (you must provide them). To set up life service yourself, open up your crafting interface and select the set service option in the lower left, then check "add sale" and input a fee if desired.
Don't pick chef
Chefs are useful; they make food and everyone needs food. Unfortunately everyone picks chef. Thus, the price of food is very low and food is plentiful. Even higher level food like Chicken Oil Vegetable can be picked up for as low as 500 wen, which is a bargain for 20 nutrition, plus-14 brawn, and two restored vigor. Only the rarest of foods fetch any sort of decent price.
Chefs support production by sharpening blacksmith weapons. Chef upgrades use blacksmith upgrade materials; chefs do not produce upgrades of any kind.
Chefs use materials gathered from hunting, fishing, and farming, so those are good gathering skills to pick up early. If you choose to be a chef, you will probably have to make most of your money through gathering professions.
Rolling the dice on weapons
Blacksmithing is very dicey. You could make a dozen weapons that are awful, with no useful effects -- followed by one incredible sword that sells for 3 Ding. Unarmed fighters do not need weapons; this makes blacksmithing a less than optimal choice for players focusing on an unarmed style. On the other hand, Tangmen who throw lots of projectiles make a good choice for blacksmith.
Smiths use mining to gather the ore needed to make weapons. They also need handles crafted by craftsmen and in some cases, skins or leathers from hunting. Some rarer weapons may need rare PvE-only drop materials, too.
Blacksmith weapons need to be either quenched by a blacksmith (including the person who made it) or sharpened by a chef. All blacksmith upgrades use blacksmith upgrade materials, so a forger can craft all of the needed things to upgrade his gear on his own. He may still need a chef to sharpen, but chefs are in abundance, so blacksmith weapons are generally easy to upgrade.
Brewing up trouble
Pound for pound, poison makers produce the best items for improving combat performance in the game. Poisons don't expire over time, and are always available and always deadly. They're more effective than a new sword and cost a fraction of the price.
Poisoners produce poison-maker mats, which are used to upgrade clothing items. These poison stones require a craftsman, as the main materials used in their construction are craftsman mats! Still, a craftsman trade partner selling at a low price can let you produce materials to sell, or you can sell gaultheria and have others make the stones instead.
Poison-making also includes its own gathering skill, which lets it gather unique herbs used in poisons and upgrade items. It also uses hunting and herbalism materials for some of its crafting.
Winners do drugs
If you have time to use herbs before combat, their benefits are second-to-none. If you're planning on ganking someone, herbs almost ensure that your target won't kill you. It is very hard to kill someone regaining 100 or more HP every 2 seconds.
Herbalist materials require tailor mats, which again means tailors are better at making the mats than an herbalist. Like poison makers, it's probably better to sell mint and have others make the upgrades. Medicine cloth is used by craftsmen to upgrade jewelry.
Herbalists gather exclusive materials just like poison-makers, but they gather different things. They also use hunting and poison-making materials to make some of the better pills.
Threads make cash
Tailors are probably the most profitable profession. This is because people hate consumables and a piece of gear is always useful to someone; there's virtually no enchantment that nobody will want. Armor is one of the milder combat advantages; it takes quite a bit of armor to supersede the advantages of a better weapon, but in return, decent armor is easier to make.
Tailors make upgrade materials used for upgrading clothes, and can also be used in the production of herbalist upgrade mats. However, tailors require the largest variety of people; poison makers, tailors, and blacksmiths can all contribute to tailor items with their respective materials and skills. This usually means that a tailor must decide which type of item she wants to make for the day, and get mats appropriate for those items.
Tailors use mostly farming materials, which they turn into cloth to make their armor. They also use craftsman materials and hunting materials. Tailors are the most dependent on others, but they also have great returns.
Gems are the center
Craftsmen produce jewelry. Of all the equipment in the game, jewelry is the least beneficial. A buff food item can produce the same effect as a piece of jewelry, and armor tends to have higher bonuses. Still, characters need to fill jewelry slots, so craftsmen are needed.
Craftsmen are needed in many different areas, since they produce hasps and handles used by the other gear crafters. Craftsman mats are also used to make poison stones for upgrading clothes. The actual craftsman upgrade mats are only used in jewelry. Craftsmen also need herbalists and their upgrade materials to put the early polish on their accessories.
Craftsmen require mostly ore from mining, but they also need cloth from tailors, and this can mean taking up farming to get the components or having to buy or trade for cloth.
Making a choice
Picking a production skill can be tough, because each skill has its own benefits and utility. Due to the nature of players, some skills are lower demand, but nothing is completely valueless. Food is still bought and sold, just like there are plenty of poor tailors who know nothing about the market. I actually know a few millionaire chefs.
Feel free to ask in the comments regarding anything you're confused about or want more information on. Until next time!
Age of Wushu is a wonderous place, full of hidden secrets, incredible vistas and fearsome martial arts. Join Patrick as he journeys through China, revealing the many secrets of this ancient land. The Ming Dynasty may be a tumultuous time, but studying The Art of Wushu will give you the techniques you need to prevail.