Ha ha, it's amazing you haven't given up. I didn't realise that the start of the game was so unhelpful, But I guess there's a lot to discover. For example you could have sold that beer, raising funds for mercs, and bought them back later in the game when you were stronger and richer
At the start you're very weak, so some of the most helpful attributes are pathfinding and spotting which mean you can outrun or see distant enemies on the map - remember these are party skills so you don't need to set them as your own attributes if you recruit companions from bars.
Once you get to grips with the combat and issuing orders in battle, the game really blossoms.
I only played the original M&B for two weeks before turning to mods. It's a bit early to talk about these but you'll definitely want to install the battle sizer mod which increased the max battle size from 150 to whatever your rig can handle, and one which allows you to continue the battle after you've been knocked unconscious.
The funny thing about M&B mods is that they actually improve the game by massive amounts.
That all depends if you get that far. You can cancel quests just by letting them expire, though your relationship with the quest giver suffers.
Be careful accepting mercenary service with Kings or Lords because you can't quit out of that for thirty days, so if they get embroiled in an unwinnable war, your troops will suffer. However if you accept vassalage, then your endeavours may be rewarded with a fief.
That's the real delight of this game - I think it's one of the purest RPGs ever created. You can play as a peasant leader, a general commanding your troops from behind the lines who never sees a splash of blood, or as a violent Viking warrior on foot in the front lines.
Not only is fighting with your troops fun, fighting battles strategically with your archers on a nearby hill, your infantry ready to charge behind your crossbow men, and your cavalry flanking the enemy and preparing to lower lances is fantastic as well, not to mention planning sieges and defending them.