Tips and Tricks for Elder Scrolls Arena

Tips for Playing Elder Scrolls Arena

These are some of the best tips and tricks I have discovered while playing Elder Scrolls Arena!

If you have any good tips or tricks for the game please feel free to share them in the comments and I can see about adding them to the article as I do updates.

Elder Scrolls Arena: Tips for New Players

Fix your resolution

Depending on where you obtained your copy of Elder Scrolls Arena or DOSBox from, your resolution options may be set to “widescreen” mode. While this can look nice on modern monitors it is not the original aspect ratio the game was intended to be played in. Old CRT monitors were more squared with a 4:3 aspect ratio vs. today’s modern 16:9 / widescreen ratios.

If you would like to fix the aspect ratio and make the video settings more authentic you need to make the following changes in your DOSBox folder by running “DOSBox 0.74 Options.bat”.

(If something stops working after you make these changes you can always revert the settings by running the “Reset Options.bat” file in the same directory.)

dosbox config:
fullscreen=true
fullresolution=1366×768
output=opengl
aspect=true

The game runs too fast or slow!

To fix this, simply use the +/- (plus and minus) keys near backspace to speed up or slow down the game. You will get an onscreen notification when you make the change.

I personally play the game at a slightly faster speed than it originally ran because I feel like this makes the graphics seem smoother in dungeons. Additionally, as you level up you won’t die instantly in an encounter if the game speed is increased.

What is VIL in Elder Scrolls Arena?

For whatever reason Bethesda didn’t put the VIL stat in the game manual. For the sake of argument we will assume the stat is “Vitality” which was never a stat used in future Elder Scrolls games. Vitality was a restoration spell in Morrowind that was used to fortify health. In Elder Scrolls Arena this VIL stat actually increases your characters magical defense.

Elder Scrolls Arena Manual (PDF)

This game is hard!

When you first start out in Elder Scrolls Arena the game can be pretty unforgiving at lower levels.

Fortunately by the 3rd or 4th dungeon in the main story quest the game starts to get really fun! A big part of what feels like a steep learning curve, is how quickly and easily enemies can kill you at the beginning of the game. However, there are a few things you can do to combat this earlier on before you have reached a higher level.

Why is my armor rating negative?

Elder Scrolls Arena uses an old RPG armor rating system that was originally used by games like D&D (Dungeons & Dragons) where your armor rating was represented by lower numbers, dipping into negative values.

Basically the lower the number is, the more armor defense you have. So the larger the negative values become actually indicates that your armor rating is getting better and better.

Potions and Healing

Potions and healing items can be purchased from members of the mages guild. It’s a good idea to start stocking up on these early in the game if you can as it makes healing in dungeons easier since you can avoid camping at time. Camping typically causes enemies to spawn before you are healed which can result in the opposite of healing.

Potions can be purchased at the mages guild in each town.

Pro-Tip: Hitting “U” also pauses combat which is helpful if you are fighting an enemy that hits for a lot of damage. I personally recommend rebinding the “U” key (see above) to something closer to the arrow keys like zero on the number pad so you don’t need to move your hand to heal.

Get other healing items

There are other magical items in the game which can also provide healing benefits. These items include bracers, marks, crystals, etc. These magical items can be purchased at the mages guild in each town or found in dungeons.

Magical items are used in combat by pressing the “U” key. (Magical items like bracers, marks and crystals must be equipped in order for you to use them by pressing “U”.)

Strategically camp to heal

It can be hard to recover or heal by camping because enemies tend to spawn frequently in Arena when you do. In order to try and heal via the camp option I recommend being strategic about it.

First make sure you are in a cleared room and place your back to a corner so enemies can only attack you from the front. Position yourself at an angle so you can see enemies if they appear from the left or the right. Be prepared to fight several times if you are trying to reach full health. Sometimes saving as you gain health is a good idea.

Pro-Tip: Some dungeons feature beds in rooms and little raised alcoves in hallways and other rooms. For some reason raised areas tend to let you camp to full health without enemies appearing. This doesn’t always work but greatly increases your chances of avoiding random encounters.

Where to buy better gear?

In each town there are equipment shops / blacksmiths that will allow you to buy and sell gear. You can locate these shops by talking to townsfolk or by familiarizing yourself with your map which I explain below.

An equipment shop is indicated by a sign outside with a mace and sword featured on it. I recommend saving your game prior to entering so you can reload it if you accidentally make a purchase you are unhappy with.

Gear can also be found in dungeons although unless your luck attribute is high you might have better luck just buying some decent weapons and armor from shops in towns.

Camp to progress the story

The main quest in Elder Scrolls Arena revolves around finding pieces of a staff you must reassemble. Whenever you find a piece of the staff you must camp or rest at an inn to trigger a conversation that will progress the story and provide clues for where you should head next.

If you are at a loss for what you should do next check the last entry in your journal and/or try resting (camping) to see if either option triggers a cut-scene.

Wait to cure disease

Sometimes monsters in a dungeon can inflict you with disease. This can be cured by using a cure disease potion, a spell to cure disease or by talking to a priest in the temples located in each city.

While your instinct may be to cure the disease right away sometimes it makes more sense to wait while you fight more disease ridden monsters in a dungeon so you don’t immediately get re-infected. The most important time to cure yourself is right before you attempt to travel. Long travel times can mean almost certain death when you are diseased.

Your map is your best friend!

Your most valuable tool, weapon and friend in Elder Scrolls Arena is your map. Use it well and use it often!

Since the original Elder Scrolls game is essentially a dungeon crawler with open world areas added in you need to become very familiar with the use of your map. All main quest dungeons and towns are hand crafted so if you are using a guide online you can reference it against your in game map.

Features of the map include revealing a dungeons layout the more your explore, the ability to scroll around your map using the compass rose directions and feather quill and the ability to map notations on your map with the quill which becomes increasingly useful in towns.

Makes notes on your map

One important feature of the map is the ability to make custom notes using the quill.

To make a note, simply mark a spot on your map and start typing on your keyboard. I find this useful when I am in towns (especially at night) and I am trying to find an Inn. As I pass by shops, temples, guildhalls, etc I make notations on my map for when I need to come back to those places later on during the day.

Tips for reading your map

How to navigate dungeons

Stay to the right! Follow walls to map out dungeons.

Wait to cure disease

***Until you are done with a section of the dungeon or about to travel.

The little details

Have you ever noticed that you can actually see through the keyholes in doors in Elder Scrolls Arena! It’s not really a tip or trick, just something I thought was a pretty cool little attention to detail considering the age of the game and the era or graphics. So just know if you are in a dungeon and approach at the right angle you can look for movement through the keyhole before opening the door to find out if there is an angry orc lurking no the other side!

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