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Joining the Arena
The Arena is one of the many parts of The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion that is completely optional. It’s not tied into the main questline in any way, and you can join and complete challenges at any time. Joining the Arena faction allows you to compete in a series of battles of increasing difficulty, and if you do well enough you’ll eventually reach the rank of Grand Champion. You’ll get plenty of xp and gold, fame points, and combat experience, as well as a few other perks once you reach the highest rank.
Actually joining the Arena is simple. Go to the Arena district in the Imperial City, and near the entrance use the door to your left to enter the Arena Bloodworks. You’ll find Owyn, the man in charge, in the training room. Talk to him and tell him you want to join the Arena, and he’ll make you a member of the Blue Team (albeit reluctantly). He’ll also give you your choice of a Heavy or Light Rainment that you must wear when you fight in matches. If you don’t want to bother carrying it around, though, there are duplicate rainments in the cabinets near Owyn that you can use instead.
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Fighting in Matches
There are 22 matches in the Arena questline, 3 for each of the first seven ranks and one to determine the Grand Champion. Defeat three consecutive opponents, and you’ll be raised to a new rank. To start a match, speak to Owyn between 9am and 9pm. He’ll let you know you who you’re going to face, and tell you the match is ready to begin. You can then make your way through the Red Room and out into the Arena at any time. (You can fight after 9pm, as long as you already requested the match beforehand.)
During a fight you must wear your Light or Heavy Rainment, but other than that there are no real restrictions. You can use any weapon, and wear any other equipment you like (though you have to wear a full set of armor, including a helmet). You can also use spells, potions, and anything else you have at hand. Fights are to the death, and once your opponent is down you’ll be declared the winner. Once you’ve won a match, you’ll need to find Owyn and speak to him for your reward. And don’t forget to use the Basin of Renewal after each fight—it will completely restore your health, magicka, and fatigue.
If you want to get out of a match for some reason, you can remove your armor and the fight will be ended prematurely. This is considered bad form by Owyn, though, and if you do it twice you’ll be expelled from the Arena permanently. So it’s better to just save before each match, so you can redo it if something goes wrong.
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Like most opponents in Oblivion, the foes you’ll meet in the Arena are scaled to your level. They’ll always be a couple of levels above you, so the fights can be somewhat challenging—particularly if you’re at a low level. Most of the time you’ll only face one opponent, but three of the matches are against 2 or 3 opponents. These special matches take place at the 2nd, 6th, and 7th levels (Brawler, Gladiator, and Hero). Your adversaries will be of a variety of races and classes, though fortunately you won’t need to fight many magic users.
Combat in the Arena is pretty much just like combat everywhere else in Oblivion (except that you can’t run away if things go poorly). Since you’re limited to wearing the Arena armor, choose your remaining equipment wisely. A couple enchantments on your shield and helmet can go a long way towards evening the odds, and don’t forget about rings and amulets. Be sure to pay attention to the layout of the Arena, since there are some pillars and ledges you can use to hide from or get the advantage on your opponents. And once he likes you enough, pay attention to what Owyn tells you before each match. He’ll give you valuable tips that will help you plan your strategy for the coming fight.
Liberal use of spells is one of the best overall strategies for Arena matches. Most of your opponents rely on melee weapons: only a couple have bows or magic. So if you can stay at a distance and attack them with spells, or distract them by summoning reinforcements, you’ll avoid taking much damage yourself. There is one opponent in the Hero level who’s immune to magic, though, so be sure to bring along a good melee or ranged weapon for that match.
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Being Grand Champion
The last Arena match is against Agronak gro-Malog, the current Grand Champion. To start this match, speak to Ysabel Andronicus this time instead of Owyn. You can wear any gear you choose, and it’s a pretty quick match since he’s fixed at Level 10 and is an easy fight for any but the lowest-level characters. Alternately, if you’ve completed the sidequest “Origin of the Gray Prince" he won’t even attack you; he’ll just let you kill him. Once you defeat him you’ll be named victor and given a special set of armor.
Becoming Grand Champion doesn’t mean your Arena days have to be over, though. You can now compete in matches against various creatures for additional rewards. Just speak to Ysabel, and she’ll set you up with opponents scaled to your level (you can choose to fight between 1 and 3 at a time). You can begin these matches at any time of day, though you can only do one per week. After you win each fight you’ll receive an amount of gold dependant on how many creatures you fought, your level, and how much damage you sustained. The hardest possible fight is against 3 Minotaur Lords, and is only possible for characters Level 18 or higher.
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Just So You Know...
There are two other issues you should be aware of if you’re planning to compete in the Arena. The first is that it’s possible for a few of your kills to count as murders, thus prompting a visit from the Dark Brotherhood (the assassin’s guild). If you kill an opponent who hasn’t yet turned hostile, it might count as murder. Also, the first fight when you reach Gladiator rank is against 3 Argonian prisoners, whose deaths are sometimes counted as murder. Finally, the game occasionally registers it as murder if gro-Malog refuses to fight you and lets you kill him. If you’re looking to get recruited by the Dark Brotherhood, this is an easy way to do it. If you want to avoid their visit, your best bet is to save before each match just in case your kill registers incorrectly.
And finally, gro-Malog can be found in the Bloodworks long before you face him in battle, and if you speak with him you can get an optional quest called “Origin of the Gray Prince." So if you’re aiming for 100% completion or just want to make sure you get this quest, don’t forget to talk to him sometime before the Grand Champion match. But if you’re worried about the Dark Brotherhood issue mentioned above, you might want to skip doing his quest so he’ll fight you like a regular opponent.