The goal of this guide is not to be comprehensive, but to help players find some particularly interesting and useful things, even if they don’t feel like scouring every inch of the map. When you’ve finished reading it, there will be plenty left to find on your own.
The game proper begins with the little town of White Orchard, its bright bucolic fields, burned out homes and bloody battlefields. If you can believe it, it’s actually a pretty small area to explore when compared to Velen, the next place Geralt graces with his rugged presence. Nevertheless, there’s plenty to do here, and a few things you probably don’t want to miss.
Geralt of Rivia and the crystal skull
First, towards the end of the cutscene in which Geralt follows Yennifer’s trail, you’ll see the magical little crow’s skull Yennifer dropped laying in the grass by the path near Vesemir and Geralt’s camp. After you chat with Vesemir and fight the ghouls,go right over there and get it. It should be clearly visible to Geralt’s Witcher sense. You can’t come back for it later because it disappears. It isn’t clear what it’s for, but if you don’t pick it up, how will you find out?
Places of Power
Places of Power are mystical obelisks that grant Geralt’s signs increased effectiveness for a short time. They also grant a skill point the first time they’re activated. You get skill points from leveling, but considering that it would take 270 skill points to max out the skill tree, it’s a good idea to find these things and use them.
There are 6 Places of Power around White Orchard. Two are in the wilderness southwest and southeast of the abandoned village, which is south of White Orchard itself.
Then you’ll want to head to the MIll by going across the bridge past the inn and following the road north. One Place of Power is way east of the mill, one’s west across another bridge, and the last two are north of the mill: one pretty far out in the woods and the other in the graveyard, which we’ll mention again later.
You’re going to have to fight for these skill points, so come prepared. Two of the Places of Power have monster nests near them, so you’ll at least have to kill some ghouls and might want to bring some Samum or Grapeshot bombs to destroy the nests (which will net you some experience points and loot).
Another two Places of Power are guarded by wraiths, which can be a real pain. I’d recommend the Yrden sign, and watch out for their teleporting. Oh, and one’s guarded by a really big bear. Wait for it to charge, dodge to one side, move in for a few hits, roll away and repeat. Don’t be tempted into wailing on it repeatedly because it will slap you down hard. Patience is really the key to combat altogether, I’ve found.
Last but not least, there’s a quest you can find off the beaten path that will net you crafting diagrams for both a steel and a silver sword of the Viper Witcher school. I highly recommend picking these up. They’re quite a bit better than other swords in the area and, if you’ve played The Witcher 2, you can reminisce and maybe shed a tear for Geralt’s old friend and enemy, Letho.
Start out at the abandoned village south of White Orchard and follow the road east quite a way. You’ll cross a bridge (you should stop a second and raid the Smuggler’s Cache underneath), then come to a fork in the road. Take a right and you’ll come to a little bridge over a ravine. From that bridge, you’ll be able to see a tower.
You’ll have to get up there to get the first diagram and the quest. So, leave the bridge the way you came and head to the right, down the hill and into the woods in the general direction of the tower. You should find some broken brickwork that makes a handy ramp. From there all you have to do is climb to the plateau, kill all the bandits and rummage through their stuff, find the note and, voila, the quest is yours.
The quest’s called a scavenger hunt, but it isn’t much of one. Track the quest and an indicator on your minimap will lead you straight to where the other diagram is: inside the crypt at the graveyard I mentioned earlier. You’ll have to fight at least one wraith, unless you already killed it looking for the Places of Power, but other than that it’s a piece of cake.
It is possible to actually craft both these swords before you leave White Orchard. The quartermaster in the Nilfgaardian Garrison has the skill to do it, but a couple of the ingredients might give you trouble. Specifically the 2 silver ingots required for the silver sword and the emerald dust each sword requires.
I found one silver ingot in the Smuggler’s Cache I mentioned earlier, and wraithssometimes drop emerald dust. You can buy silver from the dwarven smith in White Orchard (once you do his quest) or from the quartermaster, but you need 10 of it to craft a single silver ingot. They also both sell emerald dust for the steep price of about 500 Orens. But, I assure you, with enough searching and looting, it can be done.
There are other treasures to find, little stories to uncover and sites to behold even in this relatively small starting area of The Witcher 3, I’ve only shared a few. If you’re so inclined, I recommend taking a look around.