The main quest line of the Arena is very linear, but completely optional. It consists of ten quests that will take you to some of the most famous landmarks in the Empire, famous not only for their beauty, but for their inherent danger as well. The goal of the main quest line is to collect the eight pieces of the Staff of Chaos in order to defeat the evil Jagar Tharn, a battlemage of great power, and give the world of the Arena the peace it so desperately needs. Your guide through the quests is Ria Silmane, Tharn's ex-apprentice. She will visit you in your dreams, so it is advised to sleep often so that she has the means of reaching you.
The following text appears at the start of the game, introducing the main quest:
- For centuries different factions battled in petty wars and border conflicts, until in 2E 896 Tiber Septim crushed all those who opposed him and took control, proclaiming himself as Emperor. Still, the bitter years of war had its affect [sic] on the populace. The name Tamriel, Elvish for 'Dawn's Beauty', seldom fell from anguished lips and was soon forgotten. In a place where life and death were different sides of the same coin tossed every day, the people of the world began calling the land of their sorrow, the Arena...
- Now, 492 [sic] years after Tiber Septim took control and kept the peace, the land of the Arena has a new threat. The Emperor, Uriel Septim VII celebrates his forty-third birthday. But jealous hearts desire the throne and plot his downfall.
- It is said that hope flies on death's wings. Prepare then, for as the Elder Scrolls foretold, it will be here that your adventure begins...
- Uriel Septim IV [sic], Emperor of Tamriel, stands with Talin, leader of the Imperial Guards. They have been summoned by Jagar Tharn, Imperial Battle Mage of the Empire, on rumors of treachery... The Emperor is betrayed... And transported to a dimension of Tharn's choosing... After months of preparation Jagar Tharn, [sic] takes the throne... Ria Silmane, once Tharn's apprentice, is captured before she can warn the Elder Council of the Imperial Battle Mage's treachery... Manipulating the essence of magic, Tharn prepares to take the true Emperor's place as ruler of the known land... The Imperial Wizard wastes no time in gathering his servants... And turning them into twisted counterparts of the Emperors [sic] Guard...
- Escape From Prison: Escape from your prison cell to begin your adventure.
- Fang Lair: Find the first piece of the Staff of Chaos in this abandoned Dwarven ruin.
- Labyrinthian: Retrieve the second piece of the Staff from this giant maze of a ruin.
- Elden Grove: The Elden Grove, where the first tree is said to have come from, holds a piece of the Staff.
- The Halls of Colossus: Travel to Elsweyr, land of the Khajiit, to retrieve another piece of the Staff.
- Crystal Tower: Find the fifth piece of the Staff of Chaos in this ancient stronghold of sorcery.
- Crypt of Hearts: Recover the sixth piece of the Staff of Chaos from this graveyard.
- Murkwood: Within this dark forest lies a piece of the Staff. You must retrieve it.
- Dagoth-Ur: The final piece of the Staff is within grasp...inside a fiery volcano.
- The Imperial Palace: You thought it would end with the Staff, but no. There's still one more piece of the puzzle left to reclaim.
- In the walkthroughs, you will often see paired numbers (e.g., 32,47). These represent coordinates on the map where a quest object or other item can be found. To see your current coordinates in-game, press the F2 key. Coordinate 0,0 represents the northeast corner of the map. As you go west, the first coordinate increases; as you go south, the second coordinate increases. There are no negative coordinates.
- The mistakes in the intro slides can be fixed by installing the third-party OpeningFix and TES Arena IntroFix mods.
- "492" was not considered an error until the release of Daggerfall. The Arena Player’s Guide states: “Each Era lasts for 1000 years.” 492 years after 2E 896 would then be 3E 388. In game conversation and Codex Scientia list the Emperor’s Birthday as 30th of Frostfall. When the game starts, it is the following year on the 1st of Hearthfire 3E 389 (1st of Morning Star if started by using the "New Game" option - bug introduced in Ver 1.05), meaning Uriel Septim VII’s 43rd birthday occurred in 3E 388; 492 years after 2E 896.
- A cut slide still present in Arena's files explains that General Warhaft was originally intended to be the legal guardian of the Player. In this slide he is formally addressed as "Talin Warhaft."
- Talin Warhaft, leader of the Imperial Guards and your guardian, bids you on your seventeenth birthday to go fourth into the land, and return as a full member of the royal household. You have now traveled through the eight provinces and seen a great many things, deciding at last to turn your feet towards home. Your dreams however are interrupted by frightful images. These speak of only one thing, High Treason...