Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a game which exists in two distinct parts. The first part, called White Clouds, focuses on your character’s first year as a professor at the Garreg Mach Monastery Officer’s Academy. Once you choose one of the game’s titular three houses, you spend your days instructing students, sharing meals at the dining hall, doing fetch quests, and fighting tactical battles while unraveling a tale of intrigue and forgotten histories. There are many mechanisms to engage at the monastery and their sheer numbers can be overwhelming. It takes time to learn to optimize your experience – both what really needs doing and which actions do it the most effectively. I’ve found that once you learn those techniques, it’s easy to look back and wonder how much further you could be if you knew what you knew now when you first picked up the game.
That is the purpose of this guide. Whether you are just starting Three Houses and want to have guidance in how to make the most of part one or if you’re the sort of player who learns through reading, this casual stroll through the early game of Three Houses should help to illuminate the various activities at the monastery and help you to get the most out of your Fire Emblem experience.
INSTRUCTING YOUR STUDENTS
The game makes a joke about how no one actually teaches you about teaching, and really instruction is mostly straightforward. However, there are definitely some tricks to this, small optimizations you might miss or traps you can fall into if you aren’t paying attention. First, let’s talk about how instruction works. At the beginning of each week of classes (not every week will have classes), you choose a number of students to instruct based on your professor level. When you instruct a student, you can choose any of their skills to raise by a number of points based on a variety of factors. Here’s how that works:
The base experience gain for any single instruction action is four. That means if you instruct a student at full motivation in a totally neutral skill, they’ll gain 16 experience in that skill. Now there are a few different factors that can change this number. If the students has a strength in the skill, they’ll get an extra 2 XP. If it’s their weakness, they’ll actually lose 2 XP. If your player character has a higher rating in the skill than the student, they’ll get a +2 bonus for professor expertise. And finally, if you’ve spent renown at the appropriate Saint Statue (more on this in a bit), you’ll get +1 or +2 for that as well. All of this establishes your base XP for an instruction session, something in a range from 2 at the lowest to 10 at the highest.
Now there’s also a multiplier that’s applied when you instruct based on the quality of the instruction. Instruction quality is random, as best as I can tell – short of endless save-scumming there is no way to optimize your instruction session for each particular student. A good session gives the normal experience, a great session multiplies the base by 1.5, and a perfect session multiplies the base by 2. Great and perfect sessions also increase support level with the student, and your first perfect during that particular student’s instruction also restores some motivation. It’s also possible (though very rare – I’ve only had it happen once) to get a bad lesson, which reduces XP gain but gives support points. After a bad session, you can console or critique the student – choose based on their personality, because choosing the right option restores the motivation that they spent on the bad lesson.
There are in one key point I missed on instruction until later into the game that I want to focus on here. You may have noticed that some characters have a set of three stars next to one of their skills. These stars mark that skill as a budding talent, and the game does explain a bit that a budding talent can become a strength if the character practices it enough, and they’ll also learn an ability as a result. Here’s the thing: the stars on the budding talent gauge only fill up from instruction time. You cannot hand Claude an axe and expect him to just magically unlock his budding talent. Putting Hilda in a group activity for heavy armor will never increase her strength. I got Hilda’s heavy armor all the way up to level C while still having 0 stars in the budding talent because I never gave her direct instruction. This meant that I spent a significant amount of time investing into that skill without unlocking its potential to gain experience points faster. If you decide to invest in a character’s budding talent, know that you have to instruct them directly with activity points – there’s no other way to unlock that hidden potential.
During instruction time, you can assign goals to your students for them to focus on. These goals will gain experience at the end of a class week separate from the time you spend instructing the students with activity points. Essentially, goals are free XP, so you want to make the most of them! Every character starts with their own set of goals, and may over time ask you to change their goals to something based on their personal interests, but you can make their goals whatever you want them to be. Here’s how the experience payout for your goals works:
The amount of experience gained for a goal depends on the character’s strength in that goal. The base level for a neutral skill is 28 XP. Having a weakness in that skill will reduce the amount to 24, while having a strength in that skill increases the XP reward to 32. This means your students will all gain somewhere between 24-32 XP in two skills at the end of each class week. However, some character classes don’t want you to have a balance in multiple skills – instead, they ask for a much higher ranking in a single skill. This applies to classes like grapplers, swordmasters, or bishops – characters angling for these advanced classes probably want to increase one particular skill really fast rather than playing the field. Turns out, you actually can do that – it is totally possible to set a goal for one single skill. When setting a goal for a single skill, select custom goals and then choose the skill you want. When it asks for a second goal, scroll to the bottom and select “none.” Having only one skill as your goal increases the XP gain by 1.5 – now you’re looking at 36 for a weak skill, 42 for a neutral skill, and 48 for a strong skill. This is also really good for focusing on some of the more passive skills like riding, flying, or heavy armor that you can’t build just by simply equipping your character in a different way.
You may notice as your characters reach their goals, they learn a number of combat arts for the various skills that they are practicing. You may also notice that, during combat, you can never seem to find those combat arts when you want them. As it turns out, if you’ve never opened the combat art submenu from the inventory screen, you may never realize that you can only equip three combat arts to your character. I certainly missed this very important piece of information early on, and it led to me spending a long time with some rather useless arts on many of my characters. So be sure to regularly check that menu, learn about the combat arts you are picking up, and equip the three you like the most as you progress through the game.
I mentioned earlier that one way in which you can optimize your instruction times is through the influence of saint statues. So how do those work? The saint statues are unlocked in chapter five thanks to a quest you can complete during your exploration time. Once you’ve done the quest, you can speak to the artisan who stands by the statues in order to spend your renown on bonuses. Renown is earned by doing quests, so you’ll want to make sure that you complete all of the quests that are available each month in order to maximize the amount you have to spend. Why? Because these saint statues give quite substantial bonuses.
Each saint enhances the amount of experience you gain with a different set of skills. Some skills such as axe, bow, and faith, allow you to purchase for relatively little renown a bonus of +1 to the instruction experience gained for that skill. These bonuses can reach a maximum of +2. For the more passive skills like riding, heavy armor, and flying, you get the +2 unlock in one purchase. All four saint statues give additional divine pulse uses as well as buffs to experience points gained. Now what I want to emphasize about the saint statues is one particular saint, the one who grants the buff that I consider to be the most important in the game: Saint Cethleann. For the price of only 2000 renown (which you should most certainly have by the time you unlock these statues), Saint Cethleann will give a +1 bonus to the rate at which you gain class experience.
“Ian,” you might say, “you’re that excited about a +1 buff? Sounds pretty lame.” Ah, but class experience doesn’t work like skill experience. You cannot instruct it, you cannot set it as a goal, and you cannot do any activities at the monastery to increase it. Class experience only goes up in one way – when you fight on the battlefield. Each time you click “attack” against an enemy unit and the battle animations play, you gain 1 class XP towards your character’s currently equipped class. And that’s it. This means that in order to master a class that requires, say, 100 XP, you have to fight 100 battles with that character. The bonus from Saint Cethleann cuts that rate in half, and this is the only way to increase the rate at which characters master their class (at least in part one – it’s totally possible there’s a different mechanism for this late game that I haven’t reached yet). Doubling your class mastery is so valuable because mastering a class gives you one of that class’s key abilities, and the abilities you gain for mastering a class are often some of the best ones in the game. Trust me: invest in Saint Cethleann as soon as you unlock her in chapter five. It will make class progression so much faster and more satisfying.
Three Houses would appear to be all about classes – you teach at murder school, after all – but class actually refers to a specific mechanism in the game. Your class is the combat archetype which your character falls in to, it determines what abilities they can access, and the type of unit they are: infantry, armored, horseback, or flying. Everyone starts out as a commoner or noble but can take certification exams to move to more powerful classes with better abilities. There are four class levels: beginner, intermediate, advanced, and master. You won’t even be able to look at the master classes until you hit professor level C (more on professor levels in a bit), but everything else you can see the requirements for in advance to help you plan out a path for your characters.
My first tip about classes comes in the form of a really dumb mistake I made early on: classes above beginner require you to have the appropriate rank in all of the associated skills for that class. I got confused because beginner classes only require you to have one skill trained up. The fighter, for example, can be accessed if you have a rank of D in bows, axes, or brawling. I assumed that logic continued into higher levels and that you only needed one of the two or three skills listed for a class in order to unlock it. That’s not the case. Once you rise above beginner, you need to have the appropriate rank in all of the skills for a class in order to have a 100% of passing the certification exam. Now you can try to get into a class by taking the exam with only one of the appropriate skills, but your chance of passing will be greatly reduced and the game does not let you save scum this. From the testing I’ve done it looks like it rolls your likelihood of passing for the month and if it rolls a fail, it doesn’t matter how much you restart and try again – it will always be a fail for that month.
Now for my second class tip: plan for both short term and long term growth. This may seem obvious, but hear me out. Once you unlock the ability to see master classes, it is very tempting to immediately adjust all of your characters by setting skill goals that will equip them for the master class you want them to have. That’s certainly what I did. The problem is, if you focus only on their long term career growth, you might miss out on important classes before master and have nowhere for your character to go when they are ready to advance. I had this happen with multiple characters who, because I took their focus off of their primary weapon so they could build skills with riding or a secondary weapon, couldn’t access an advanced class when they were ready because their main weapon wasn’t at level A. So while you certainly want to take time to build skills on the side for the class you want in the future, it’s equally important to make sure you are going to qualify for at least one class on the level above your current one: intermediate if you’re at beginner, advanced if you’re at intermediate.
Finally, if you have a unit who is studying both magic and a weapon skill, be aware that you lose your magic if you swap to a class which does not have magic as one of its core skills. There are eventually ways to work around this but in the early game, making a spellcaster into a martial class will cost them the ability to use any of their magic spells. This is a very easy mistake to make when switching from noble/commoner into one of the beginner classes, and it increases the challenge of raising characters for a master class that will eventually combine magic and a weapon. You essentially have to have two career paths for them, switching between their martial classes and their spellcasting classes as appropriate until late game.
Oh, and for goodness’s sake watch out for gender restrictions on class options. I don’t know how long I spent training Catherine to be a war master before I realized that she can’t be one because she’s a woman. It’s frustrating to return to this archaic feature from older Fire Emblems after Fates finally opened the full class pool to every character.
One of the most important stats in Three Houses is the player character’s professor level. This level informs a number of important features in the game: how much allowance you receive at the beginning of the month, the number of activity points and instruction points you have, how many paralogue battles you can do in one free day, and the number of adjutants you can assign during combat. Because your professor level connects to so many significant mechanisms in the game, increasing it quickly should be a serious early game priority when playing Three Houses.
There are a number of activities that give you professor XP. One of the most popular which you receive right away is eating in the dining hall. Each meal gives 200 professor XP as well as fully restoring the motivation of two of your students, but it costs an activity point to do so. Gardening can be done once a month and gives 100 professor XP without costing any activity points. Fishing doesn’t have a set value, so we’ll spend a dedicated section of the guide talking about fishing in a few moments. Starting at chapter two, you can attend choir practice with two students to increase their faith as well as netting 100 professor XP. Finally, by chapter four you can compete in tournaments to earn prizes and a whopping 300 professor XP. Both choir practice and tournaments cost activity points.
Looking at this, your best option to optimize your professor level is to use any activity points you have for tournaments as much as possible. Sign up, use the + button on your controller to skip the battle animations so that all the tournaments don’t take you an hour to watch, heal during the semis and the championship, and watch the professor XP and the gold roll in! The risk of this approach is that tournaments do nothing for the motivation of your students – you want to be able to make the most of the instruction points you’re unlocking with that high professor level, right? So how do you do that? The key is using resources other than activity points to help your students recover motivation so that you can spend your activity points on building professor XP through tournament wins.
The most obvious outlet for increasing motivation is the dining hall – for one activity point you max out two students at once while also gaining 200 professor XP. This is certainly not a bad option and there will be times where the difference between 200 and 300 professor XP won’t matter to you all that much. But to really achieve the highest professor level as quickly as possible, you’ll want to develop other techniques for maximizing motivation. Luckily there are quite a few mechanisms for this throughout the game.
Garreg Mach Monastery is covered in lost items. Seriously, these things are everywhere, and returning them to someone in your part automatically restores 50 motivation – that’s half their bar right there. If you happen to have two lost items for one person, then that character is good to go! You should also note that support conversations with the player character fully restore motivation, so always check your supports when preparing for a free day. If you have a support conversation unlocked with a character for Byleth, there will be a specific point on the map that activates the conversation with them. Use that map point to trigger the conversation so you can restore their motivation for free, without spending activity points or money.
If you don’t have lost items and you don’t have support conversations, that’s where gifts come in. Gifts are items you can purchase from the southern and eastern merchants starting in chapter six, though you can find gifts lying around earlier than that. When you give someone a gift, they’ll get 25 or 50 motivation back based on how much they like the gift. You can get a pretty decent idea of someone’s gift preferences by looking at their notes page when you check their stats in the menu. Some of them are certainly tricky to figure out, though. Gifts are the expensive route to restoring motivation – sometimes a single gift can cost 1000 gold – but if you’re optimizing professor XP by fighting in tournaments as I suggested, you’re getting that money back plus some.
While tournaments are the best way to increase professor XP via activity points, there’s one other activity that one should not neglect in the journey towards the ultimate professor level: fishing.
When I first started Three Houses I expected fishing to be a silly minigame that I would start ignoring pretty quickly into my playthrough. And for a bit, I did dismiss it due to the small amount of professor XP it appeared to grant. Then the merchant shops opened up and I started to do some math. Each month, you can purchase 40 individual uses of bait from the eastern merchant. When you fish, you tend to gain professor XP somewhere between 10-30 points based on the rarity of the fish you capture. So even if you only get the bare minimum amount of XP every catch, that’s still 400 professor XP per month just for taking the time to fish – more than any other activity in the game. More likely you’ll be catching some fish with a greater rarity, so your actual XP gain will land on average in the 600-800 range. Getting this much professor experience without having to burn any activity points makes fishing perhaps the best method of raising your professor level.
There are a few other factors that come into play and help to make this happen. There are regularly special fishing events which will help you to maximize the amount of experience you get when fishing. These include days where rare fish bite more often or, my personal favorite, the “fistfuls of fish” event. When you check the calendar at the beginning of the month, if you see this, make sure that all of your bait is saved for that free day. During fistfuls of fish, you catch multiple fish per use of bait, significantly increasing the amount of XP you get when fishing. During one fistful of fish event I legitimately gained almost 2000 professor XP from all the fish I caught with my 40 bait. One month, there’s a fishing tournament where you’ll be given 50 bait for free in order to compete. Be sure to use all that bait before ending the tournament. You as the player absolutely have control of when that tournament ends based on showing a particular fish to a certain character, so be sure to maximize your experience during the tournament by using every piece of free bait you get – it’ll all be gone when the tournament ends.
As far as practical tips about fishing are concerned, the mechanisms are relatively simple. You press A at the same time that the moving ring aligns with the colored ring in the fishing meter over and over again until the fish’s stamina bar is reduced to zero. Getting straight “excellent” combos increases the quality/rarity of the fish you receive, so it does have an indirect effect on the amount of professor XP that you receive. Now you might think that when you throw the line into the water, your goal is to hit A the moment that a fish bites the line. But in reality, you can wait for up to three fish to test the line before you finally hit the button and start to catch. I personally use this technique to wait for a rare or glimmering fish instead of a common fish (look for a red or gold symbol instead of blue). Just note that regardless of the color of the third fish, you’ll have to catch it or you lose the bait on the line.
And that finally brings us to the end of all the tricks I’ve learned during my early hours in Fire Emblem. Naturally you can enjoy the game in whatever fashion you wish, but these techniques can help you to optimize the amount of experience that you gain and give you mechanical advantages on the battlefield. My hope is that some of these were new information for you, but if you’ve got some tricks up your sleeve that I didn’t share here, feel free to include them in the comments below! Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy your time in the world of Fire Emblem: Three Houses.