The first five skills you gain upon character creation are fisticuffs, defence, perception, scholarship and constitution. Other skills are acquired upon entry to the Academy.
You gain the basic set of five skills as soon as you create a character on Avalon. They can be developed as fully as you wish throughout your Avalon lifetime.
Fisticuffs is a skill used during a fight to determine how effective you are at hand to hand combat. It is used when evaluating your chance of striking, and the accuracy of your blow. Fisticuffs are often used to settle minor arguments with the two protag onists rolling down their sleeves and commencing an honourable fist fight. Usually the winner is the first person to knock the other unconscious - you are much less likely to slay somebody using Fisticuffs than with Swordplay.
Scholarship is the skill of linguistics, writing, and general academic pursuits. It includes abilities to extend herbalism and poison lore, control your mind, and eventually even imposing your will on others. Since Scholarship is one of your basic skills, you would be better advised to advance in your specialist guild skills before learning the scholastic ways.
Defence is a skill used during a fight to determine your agility, and ability to dodge an incoming blow. It can be roughly translated as your speed of reaction in a combat situation. It is used against both Fisticuffs and Swordplay. Defence is improved by getting yourself into fights and many young players enjoy battling with wolves and young goblins to improve their defence before engaging some of the more potent of enemies.
Constitution is your ability to resist and defend against most forms of magical attack. Many of the guilds use enchantment as their prime means of attack and you will need to develop good constitution in order to withstand their offensives. Each time you develop constitution, you will become slightly more resistant to attack, and magical spells will do just that little bit less damage against you.
Perception deals with your ability to see things which happen very quickly, or which are hidden. It comes into play when you attempt to see hidden people or items, or when trying to follow somebody. In short, it determines how aware you are of your changing surroundings. It is an aid to almost every guild-specific ability.