After hours of playing Mount and Blade, I’ve found a few things that might be helpful to new players.
First, Heroes make a lot of difference in battles. They also make a huge difference off the field. Take your trainer skill as high as you can, as soon as you can on all of your Heroes. This will allow you to level your regular units faster without having to fight.
Also, be prepared for a very long road ahead of you. Unless you turn on cheats (which you can do via the configuration menu when you load the game and go to the game tab and check it). For a list of commands you can go here.
Also make sure to do lots of quests for village elders, lords and ladies. In the beginning you will level fairly quickly but it will drop off the higher in level you get. Once you’re in your mid-20’s you’re looking at over a million experience points to level.
As you level, your Heroes will level alongside you and take less experience to level the higher you are. They will attempt to stay as close to your level as possible.
Make sure to go to the towns (look like large cities on the map with the biggest names when you zoom out) and look for tournaments. I don’t suggest betting on yourself, at least not at first.
The more money you bet on yourself in the tournament, the harder of a match you’ll have. If you don’t bet but once or twice you’ll have an easier time. This is a great way to get renown. Be careful though because your Heroes will compete in the tournament alongside you.
Last but not least, get yourself some land. I can’t stress this enough. Get a castle, village, or town. Once you have one, you can stay for free and pay your troops less money while in your own structure. You also make quite a bit of extra money from it.