I'm not sure what to say about the Arena faction. It doesn't have any normal quests, although there is one side quest for the Gray Prince (the current Arena Grand Champion). The Arena is open from 9 AM to 9 PM each day. The exceptions to this are your match against the Grand Champion and any matches you fight as the Grand Champion. Those can be done at any time of the day or night.
The least risky way of participating in the Arena is to bet on matches. Talk to Hundolin (the fellow next to the chest - it has 500 golds in it if larceny is your thing) and place your bet. 25, 50 or 100 golds on either the Yellow or Blue team with double that back if you win. The odds start at 50/50 with both opponents being equal. However, each opponent gets random equipment ranging from none to the really good stuff and that's where the equality ends and luck comes in. Your Luck attribute does have some effect on the fight, but not on your team's equipment. Each point of Luck over 50 adds one hit point to your gladiator. So however you can boost your Luck is all to the good. It may not help much if your gladiator ends up with bare fists against an Elven Claymore, but if the load-outs are fairly equal it can let your guy stand long enough to get in the last shot. The Lucky Old Lady statue in Bravil will give you a 10-point Luck boost that lasts for quite a while. Otherwise, potions, items, spells and the like are all fair game.
If you choose to participate by being a combatant, the whole point of the exercise is to get in there and fight for your life using almost any means necessary. Each match that you win nets you one point of Fame, but except for your fight against the Gray Prince there isn't any loot to be had other than the golds that you get for winning.
So here are the rules:
- you fight for the Blue team and you have to finish all bets with Hundolin before you can get a match.
- you have to wear a standard Arena raiment. It's a full suit of either light or heavy armor, minus the helmet and shield. It's already enchanted (2 points to Personality and 5 points to Athletics) , so you can't add anything to it. The helmet and shield are up to you. If you try to swap out the Arena Raiment for something else during the match, you'll be disqualified and have to do it over again. If you try to swap out armor twice, you're out of the Arena.
- any weapon (or none) is OK. Blades, Blunts, Hand-to-Hand, Bows, Spells, Items, Potions or any combination of the above are all legal. Except for a couple of matches where your opponent has an enchanted weapon, everyone else uses standard gear, usually of the highest quality available at your level. Because you can use magic and/or poisoned weapons, that gives you the edge in equipment if you choose wisely.
- no looting the bodies. Your opponent's gear is strictly off-limits except for your match with the Gray Prince where you are required to collect his gear. You can keep his sword and shield and he'll usually have a few golds on him, but you'll need to turn over his Raiment.
Talk to Owyn (the Blademaster) to join. He'll give you a hard time initially, but warms up to you after a while. You'll have to choose either a Light or Heavy Raiment. The choice is yours (regardless of Owyn's comment about figuring you for a heavy armor type), so take whichever suits your skills. There are five suits of each in the cabinet next to Owyn. You can take one if you happen to leave yours behind or want to try something different. They won't repair themselves, though. If your raiment gets too badly damaged you'll either need to take it to a smith or swap it out for a new one. On the bright side, it's a cheap repair job. Once you're suited up and ready to go, tell Owyn that you're "Ready for a Match" and he'll give you your briefing and send you on your way.
- Pit Dog Matches
(50 golds each; 100 golds for the promotion match)
- Wood Elf with a longsword, helmet and shield
- Argonian with a bow
- Imperial with a sword, helmet and shield
- Brawler Matches (100 golds each; 150 for the promotion match)
- Nord with an Axe
- Two Wood Elves; one with a bow and one with a Claymore
- Khajiit with an Axe
- Bloodletter Matches (150 golds each; 200 golds for the promotion match)
- Redguard with a mace
- Breton with a shortsword, heavy armor and some sort of fortification spells/potions
- ?? (forgot - need to go do it again)
- Myrmidon Matches (200 golds each; 250 for the promotion match)
- Wood Elf with an enchanted dagger (small Frost damage bonus)
- High Elf with light armor and longsword
- Orc with heavy armor and Axe
- Warrior Matches (250 golds each; 300 for the promotion match)
- Nord with a sword (a few levels higher than you)
- ?? with a sword and decent selection of offensive spells
- Orc with a Warhammer (slow on the swing, but hurts like crazy when it hits - stay back and run in for quick strikes when she misses)
- Gladiator Matches (300 golds each; 350 for the promotion match)
- Three Argonians, only one has a weapon (easy match unless they manage to surround you) but all have good Hand-to-Hand skill and are one or two levels higher than you
- Khajiit with ??? (has healing of some sort)
- Breton with a longsword
- Hero Matches
(350 golds each; 500 golds for the promotion match)
- ex-Blade with Akaviri Longsword and shield (several levels above you)
- ??? Mage with ??? and enchanted shield (magic resitance and assorted fire damage spells)
- a three-way match: (the female Nord from the Bloodworks; seven levels up on you), a mage (two levels up on you) and an archer (even with you, but high-quality bow and arrows); on the bright side, you get Porkchop the Boar to help you (he's not leveled, but he might keep one or two of them occupied for a couple of seconds). I'd recommend taking out the Mage and Archer first since they have ranged attacks. But the Nord's going to be waling on you while you do it.
- Champion Match (1000 golds, plus whatever weapon, shield and gold the Gray Prince has)
- talk to Ysabel Andronicus (the Battle Matron) to set up the match; pick a name for yourself (it doesn't have any effect aside from what the announcer says, what you see in Rumors and in comments from NPCs) and tell her when you're "Ready for a Match"
- the Gray Prince's armor is pretty heavily enchanted, he's highly skilled with his weapons and has the attributes to make those skills hurt you (bad), but you can wear whatever you want for this match, so it should pretty much even out. There are two ways to do this match: the easy way and the hard way.
- Easy Way: complete gro-Malag's side quest (Origin of the Gray Prince) before this match and tell him that his father was a Vampire. When you face him, he'll charge out of the other gate and then stop, sheathe his sword and ask you to kill him - no fuss, no muss, collect the loot and you're done. This may or may not attract the attention of the Dark Brotherhood, though.
- Hard Way: fight him honestly (or lie about his father). He's one tough cookie. If you're not beefing your offense and defense with good equipment, magic, high skills, or all of the above, he may very well chew you up and spit you out again.
- your reward is your own Raiment and a weekly match that will pit you against various and sundry leveled critters for which you'll be paid based upon how difficult the fight is.
- Level 5 or less: a Boar, a Boar and a Wolf, or two Wolves and a Goblin Skirmisher
- Level 6 - 8: a Goblin Berserker, two Trolls, or two Goblin Berserkers and a Troll
- Level 9 - 11: a Mountain Lion, two Mountain Lions, or two Mountain Lions and a Spriggan
- Level 12 - 14: a Bear (extra hit points), two Minotaurs, or a Bear and two Minotaurs
- Level 15 - 17: an Ogre, two Ogres, or two Ogres and a Land Dreugh
- Level 18 and up: one, two or three Minotaur Lords
- oh, and lest we forget, as the new Arena Grand Champion you get your very own Adoring Fan. He promises to do lots of stuff for you, but about all he really does is follow you around (he does break out a torch after dark). You can kill him, but he respawns outside the Arena. There is (or used to be) a thread at the Elder Scrolls forums on the creative ways other players have found to torture the Fanboy for fun and profit. My way around the problem has been to run like hell whenever I leave the Arena so that he never has the chance to initiate his dialog. But you do have the option of telling him to "beat it, kid." He'll hang around the Arena district from then on and won't pester you unless you're in need of someone to "worship the ground you walk on".
Aside from the ego-thing about being Grand Champion, the Arena lets me work on some of my weaker combat skills and try out different tactics in a known environment. It's also a good fallback in case you need to add a couple of Fame points quickly.