Skyrim Special Edition

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Simon Magus

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SimonMagus616

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Arena is a difficulty overhaul designed to enhance Skyrim’s original Encounter Zones rather than replace them.

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Arena - An Encounter Zone Overhaul

Arena is a difficulty overhaul designed to enhance Skyrim’s original Encounter Zones rather than replace them. It is designed to further the sense of progression in the game by tiering dungeons according to enemy type. This encourages the players to make judgments about the difficulty of an encounter based on experience and intuition, rather than consulting a complex chart on a mod page. This approach allows Arena to provide players with a more robust sense of progression while retaining the freedom and independence of an open world game.

Okay, so what does this mod do?

Encounter Zones are unfortunately a bit technical, so to explain what Arena does, we need to explain how the game populates its dungeons. 

What is an Encounter Zone?

An Encounter Zone is essentially a set of rules that allow the game to determine what enemies it will populate a dungeon with. The Encounter Zone that controls Bleak Falls Barrow, for instance, has range of 6 to 20. When you enter a dungeon for the first time, the game will dynamically set the level of the dungeon as close as it can to your level, within the range provided by the Encounter Zone. This means that if you enter Bleak Falls Barrow at level 2, the dungeon will be set to level 6. If you enter Bleak Falls Barrow at level 15, it will be set to level 15. And if you enter Bleak Falls Barrow at level 35, the dungeon will be set to 20. Once the game determines what level the dungeon is, it can begin populating the dungeon with enemies. This is controlled by the Leveled Actor Multiplier.

What is a Leveled Actor Multiplier? 

The Leveled Actor Multiplier is a second set of rules that determine how the game will populate a dungeon. There are actually four different Leveled Actor Multipliers: one for “easy” enemies, one for “normal” enemies, one for “hard enemies,” and one for “very hard” enemies. Without these four multipliers, dungeons would be filled with the same type of enemy. In our earlier example, we said that if you entered Bleak Falls Barrow at level 2, the dungeon would be set to level 6. When you walk into the dungeon, even though it’s level 6, almost every enemy would be level a 1 Draugr. This is because most spawns are flagged as “easy” enemies. A few enemies would be level 6 Restless Draugr, because these spawns are flagged as "hard" enemies. The boss, on the other hand, will be a level 7 Draugr Overlord, because he is flagged as a “very hard” enemy, and thus will be higher level than the rest of the dungeon. The Leveled Actor Multiplier is what populates the dungeon with enemies of different levels, providing the player with a more varied experience. In addition, some Leveled Actor Multipliers follow specific rules. For instance, the "easy" multiplier takes any enemy up to or below its chosen enemy, and the "very hard" multiplier will always pick the next enemy up from "hard," even if it has to go higher than the multiplier would normally allow. 

What is a Leveled List?

As its name suggests, a Leveled List is a list of entries broken down by level. Leveled Lists are used for many things through the game. In this context, they are lists of enemies. The Leveled List for a Draugr spawn might include a Draugr at level 1, a Restless Draugr at level 6, a Draugr Wight at level 13, a Draugr Scourge at level 21, and so on and so forth. The important thing to understand here is that the Leveled List stops with the Draugr Deathlord at level 40. The game decides which enemies to pull from the Leveled List based on the rules set in the Encounter Zone and the Leveled Actor Multipliers. Changing those will change what enemies the game spawns, but it will not add new enemies to the game. This means that each enemy type has a natural ceiling for how high it can scale, and that ceiling is determined by the enemies in the game’s Leveled Lists. You can use a different mod to add new enemies to the Leveled List, but an Encounter Zone mod by itself cannot do this. This point is misunderstood by many--including authors of popular Encounter Zone mods--but it is critical to understanding what an Encounter Zone mod actually does.

Okay, so what does this mod actually do? 

Now that you understand how Encounter Zones, Leveled Actor Multipliers, and Leveled Lists work, I can explain what I’ve done in Arena. This first thing I’ve done is increased the Leveled Actor Multipliers. You’ll see higher level enemies earlier. In Vanilla, these levels were extremely low (easy enemies were set at ⅓ of the dungeon level!), and combined with low ceilings on Encounter Zones, it meant that you were still encountering a lot of level 1 Draugr at level 40 and above. In Arena, these levels are higher. Easy and normal enemies will be closer to your level. Hard and Very Hard enemies will be higher than your level. This will introduce an extra level of difficulty to the game. The Leveled Actor Multipliers in Arena look like this:

0.75x: Easy
1.00x: Normal
1.25x: Hard
1.50x: Very Hard


The second thing that I’ve done is tweaked the Encounter Zones of every area in the game. I’ve removed the maximum limit on all Encounter Zones, and I’ve set the minimum level based on a series of easy-to-understand rules that largely rely on enemy type. In general, minimum encounter zone levels look like this:

Level 05: Bandits 
Level 10: Draugr, Animals, Spriggans
Level 15: Mages, Forsworn
Level 20: Falmer, Dwarves
Level 25: Vampires, Giants, Dragon Lairs 
Level 30: Dragon Priest Dungeons, Daedra 


There are a few other modifiers I apply. In general, I add -5 for being a part of a major guild for faction quest, or for being a part of the main quest (so Saarthal starts at level 10 and then gets decreased by 5 because it’s the first quest of the College of Winterhold, leaving it at level 5).

I also add +5 for being on Solstheim (so Kolbjorn Barrow has a base of 30, and then a +5 modifier for being on Solstheim), and I generally don’t apply the -5 for being a part of Dragonborn's main quest. This means that encounters on Solstheim generally start at a higher level than encounters in Skyrim.

The result of these Encounter Zones is that the player is able to combine the freedom of an open world game with the progression you experience in a leveled one. If you’re level 8, you can walk into any Bandit dungeon and know that with good play and a few potions, you’ll be able to complete it. However, if you stumble into a Vampire den, you may want to turn around. However, once you’re closer to level 25, you’ll be able to return and complete the dungeon--in fact, by level 25, you’ll largely be equipped to tackle any encounter in the game.

Compatibility 

Arena only touches Encounter Zones and the Leveled Actor Multipliers, nothing else. It’s compatible with any other mod. If you have a mod that adds new, higher level enemies to the Leveled Lists, Arena will distribute them. Be careful when combining mods like that, as you might make the game more difficult than you intended.

Encounter Zones Unlocked is compatible. Arena does not replicate its features. 

My Other Mods

Aetherius - A Race Overhaul
Mundus - A Standing Stone Overhaul
Mysticism - A Magic Overhaul
Adamant - A Perk Overhaul
Arena - An Encounter Zone Overhaul
Blade and Blunt - A Combat Overhaul
Scion - A Vampire Overhaul
Manbeast - A Werewolf Overhaul