Attack Types
There are 3 basic attacks you can do, each depends on how you are moving when you start your attack. (Not necessarily how you are moving when you finish it.)
This is the default attack. To Chop, all you need to do is start your attack while standing still, or you can run forwards and strafe left or right at the same time (a diagonal movement). You will raise your weapon and do a downward stroke at your opponent. Most weapons seem to deliver the most damage with this attack. The only weapons that do not work very well with a chop are Spear class weapons.
To perform a Slash, start your attack while moving to the left or right. You will swing your weapon sideways (right to left) instead of downwards. This is a good attack to use in close combat, as you will be more likely to dodge your opponent's attacks while moving to the side. Most weapons are good for slashing, the notable exceptions again being Spears. A few, mostly Long Blades, are best used with this attack.
To perform a Thrust, start your attack while moving forwards or backwards. You will attack straight ahead with your weapon. This attack is good for keeping your distance from opponents, especially since you can start it while moving backwards, and always keep yourself out of range of their attacks. Most weapons do not do as much damage when Thrusting, but Spears are ideal for it. Most Short Blades also receive a slight advantage with this attack.
In addition to the three melee attacks, there are also ranged weapons. For these you will either need a bow and arrows, a crossbow and bolts, or a supply of throwing weapons. For bows and crossbows, you must equip both the weapon and the ammunition in order to use them. Bows and crossbows are 2-handed weapons, so you cannot hold a shield or a light while using them. Throwing weapons are not restricted in this manner.
There are five basic classes of melee weapons, as well as Hand-to-hand combat and Marksmanship.
These come in one-handed and two-handed varieties. They are best as Chopping weapons, though fairly effective for Slashing as well. They are by far the most damaging of weapons, but they are also quite heavy, and generally slower in attack speed, and with a narrower range of attack than most other weapons.
Blunt weapons come in a wide variety; from maces and clubs to warhammers to staves, they can be used for a variety of different fighting styles. For damage, warhammers are the best you can get outside of axes, and have the advantage of range as well. Maces and clubs are not nearly as strong as their two-handed cousins, but give you the advantage of faster speed and the ability to use a shield. Staves are mostly useful for their ability to hold powerful enchantments, though they are also faster and have a wider range than any other two-handed weapons. Blunt weapons typically have narrow damage ranges. For example, while a Longsword might have a damage range of 2-20, a blunt alternative will have a range of 8-12. In this way, "charge time" is far less necessary with blunt weapons.
Long blades are good versatile weapons, able to Chop, Slash, and in most cases Thrust with almost equal facility. Long blades are also the most numerous weapon-type in the game, and there are more Artifact-class long blades than any other weapon type. They are generally faster in attack speed than axes or blunt weapons, though like axes, they are limited in their range of attack. They come in both one-handed and two-handed varieties. One-handed blades are slightly less damaging and slightly faster, and allow the use of a shield. If you use a two-handed blade you will be unable to block, even if you have a shield equipped in your inventory.
Short blades are by far the fastest weapons available, though they suffer for damage. However, being able to get in twice as many attacks in the same time period may make up for it. They are all one-handed, and their light weight is perfect for those who want to be able to carry a lot of loot, or just stay fast on their feet. They are mostly equally effective at Chopping and Slashing, and slightly better for Thrusts.
Spears are great for those who like a different style of combat, as they are generally best used with Thrust attacks, and not very effective for Chops and Slashes, in contrast with all the other weapon types. They have the widest range available, allowing you to keep your distance. They are all two-handed, so you can't use a shield, but if you keep far enough away from your opponents, you shouldn't need one. Spears are also generally lighter than most two-handed weapons (with the exception of staves, over which spears have the clear advantage of higher damage). Unfortunately, spears lack the variety of options of the other weapon classes, as there are far fewer quality spears available. It's also harder to find training in the skill - only 2 people in the entire game offer spear-training.
One other option for melee combat is to not use weapons at all. This is a much more difficult path to play, because attacks with the fists deal damage to the opponent's Fatigue instead of their Health, until they become exhausted and fall over, at which point you start dealing actual damage. If you manage to get good at fisticuffs, it has the advantage that an exhausted opponent is much less likely to hit you with their attacks.
This skill is useful in a few quests in the Expansions where you're expected to disable an opponent without killing them, so you will want at least a few levels so that you can land a blow to knock out your target if your supply of fatigue-draining magic is insufficient.
Marksman weapons come in three varieties, Bow and Arrows, Crossbow and Bolts, and Throwing Weapons. Bows, Crossbows, and Throwing Weapons are placed into your main weapon slot, while Arrows and Bolts get their own Ammunition slot (where they will stay even when switching to another weapon). Unenchanted Ammunition that hits an enemy will randomly be added to their inventory where it can later be reclaimed, but be warned that enemies might equip it and fire it right back at you (especially if you are using a Throwing Weapon against an unarmed opponent). The chance of this happening is determined by the game setting
fProjectileThrownStoreChance (25% by default). Ammunition that misses is lost forever.
If you throw/fire a ranged weapon directly into an incoming spell, the two attacks will cancel each other out. This also works with spells against spells.
- These are the most commonly found Marksman weapons. Bows can be found in many places, or you can instantly get yourself the best option weightlessly with the use of a Bound Longbow spell. Arrows are so common you should almost never run out, no matter how bad a shot you are. Arrows in Morrowind take a long time to be pulled down by gravity, so aiming above the target is necessary only for more distant targets.
- Crossbows are far less common - only two varieties are found in the main game (Bloodmoon adds a third). They have a longer reload time between shots than the other Marksman weapons, but have the unique advantage of having the same minimum and maximum damage (on Crossbows themselves, anyways; Bolts still have a small range of damage). This makes them ideal for rapid firing in close quarters, though they can be used for medium-to-long range attacks as well (but be warned that gravity will bring down a Bolt that wasn't fully drawn back sooner, making rapid-fire long-ranged combat less than ideal for Crossbows).
- One disadvantage of crossbows is the relative rarity of their ammunition. You will be mostly dependent on the vendors for your supply, since Bolts are rarely found in great supply in the wild. Luckily, there are vendors that sell an unending supply of bolts.
 Throwing Weapons
- Throwing Weapons are another option for ranged attacking. Since they don't require a Bow to use, you can travel lighter and still hold an item in your other hand. However, they suffer from the same problem as crossbows, in that it can be hard to find a steady supply of quality throwing weapons (indeed, all restocking purchasable Throwing Weapons aren't especially good). For the sake of determining damage, they are treated as both the Bow and the Arrow, essentially dealing double the damage listed on the weapon itself. For most Throwing Weapons, this is not enough to overcome the power added by, say, a Daedric Long Bow, but many of the Throwing Weapons added by the Tribunal expansion can hit for hundreds of damage with sufficient Strength.
- It also deserves mentioning that Thrown Weapons move much more slowly than Arrows or Bolts, and succumb to gravity sooner. Somewhat comically, the Boots of Blinding Speed can give the player enough speed to outrun a weapon they have just thrown.
 Chance to Hit
Combat in Morrowind is relatively straight-forward. Your chance to hit can be generalized as
(Attacker's Hit Rate - Defender's Evasion)%.
 Hit Rate
In essence, your Hit Rate is equal to your Weapon Skill, increased by 1% for every 5 points of Agility or 10 points of Luck you have. This is then multiplied by somewhere between .75 to 1.25, depending on how much Fatigue you have left. Finally, your hit chance is increased by a flat amount from Fortify Attack effects (such as from the Warrior Birthsign).
- Your Hit Rate is increased by the magnitude of Blindness you have rather than decreased.
- This bug is fixed by the Morrowind Code Patch.
((Agility / 5) + (Luck / 10)) * (0.75 + 0.5 * Current Fatigue / Maximum Fatigue) + Sanctuary Magnitude
Evasion works exactly the same as Hit Rate, only the defender's Weapon Skill isn't used and evasion is increased by Sanctuary instead of Fortify Attack.
Blocking is a simple matter of having a shield equipped. Your chance to block is based on your Block skill, along with your Agility and Luck. You cannot block without a shield, so if you're using a 2-handed weapon or want to carry a light instead, you will not be able to block attacks. Blocking will not protect you from spells.
The Damage a player deals can be described as
(Weapon Damage * Strength Modifier * Condition Modifier * Critical Hit Modifier) / Armor Reduction.
 Weapon Damage
Generally speaking, you can figure out a weapon's damage by looking at the weapon's description. Each attack type for a given weapon will have its own damage range - unlike some other RPGs, the Weapon Damage isn't chosen randomly from this range, but rather this range is to describe how damage will be if the attack button is pressed quickly or if you let the weapon be pulled back all the way before releasing.
Bows and Crossbows have this damage further increased by the projectile they shoot. How this works is fairly simple - the Arrow/Bolt's damage is added to the Bow/Crossbow's. See the Marksman page for a listing of all projectile strengths.
Throwing Weapons are treated oddly, in that they are considered both weapon and projectile. Simply put, take the Weapon Damage and double it when using a Throwing Weapon.
Note that the damage of any Cast on Strike Enchantments are not affected by how far the weapon is pulled back - they really do deal damage randomly within the range listed.
 Strength Modifier
(0.5 + Strength / 100)
At 0 Strength, you deal only 50% of your expected damage. This increases by 1% for each point of Strength you have, up to 150% at 100 Strength. If you Fortify your Strength to 150, you will deal twice the expected damage.
 Condition Modifier
Current Condition / Maximum Condition
Condition is a simple ratio - if your weapon has 50% Condition left (say, 400/800), you will deal 50% as much damage as you would have with a weapon in perfect Condition.
 Critical Hit Multiplier
This is equal to 1 for regular attacks, 4 for melee Critical Hits, or 1.5 for ranged Critical Hits.
If you perform an attack without being seen, the game might tell you that you dealt Critical Damage (this is generally called by players a "Sneak Attack" or "Critical Hit"). This is a simple multiplier, but remember that damage dealt by Cast on Strike enchantments is not multiplied.
It is easier to perform multiple Sneak Attacks on a target if you can somehow remove it from combat between attacks (it performs fewer Sneak Checks and is less likely to run away). A Calm effect can help nicely with this, though be warned that you can rack up a new bounty for Assault with each attack if a Guard is in sight (even if the target originally initiated combat).
- Note that due to a glitch in the combat system, if you manage to hit an opponent with a ranged spell while remaining undetected, your first physical attack following the spell may be considered a sneak attack.
 Armor Reduction
(1 + Target's Armor Rating / Damage). This number cannot be higher than 4 (i.e. damage cannot be reduced to less than 25% of the original amount).
Armor affects damage in a more complicated way than the other factors, since how much damage a particular Armor Rating prevents depends on the amount of incoming damage.
Here is a quick list of things to remember regarding Armor:
- The reduction occurs only after all the multipliers are applied to the damage.
- Armor is subject to diminishing returns; each point of Armor Rating prevents less damage than the previous point did.
- Greater incoming damage means a smaller percentage of that damage will be prevented (e.g. an Armor Rating of 10 will reduce 10 incoming damage by 50%, but it will reduce 20 incoming damage by only 33%).
- An Armor Rating more than three times higher than the amount of incoming damage is wasted.
- The ToggleCombatStats Console Code displays only damage before Armor Rating is taken into account, not the final damage.
(Hand-to-Hand Skill / 2) * Critical Hit Modifier Fatigue Damage or
(Hand-to-Hand Skill * 0.075 * Critical Hit Modifier) / Armor Reduction Health Damage
Hand-to-Hand uses its own damage formula, which does not take Strength (or Condition, obviously) into account. The above formulas describe the damage dealt by a fully-drawn back punch, with Health Damage being dealt only against targets that have collapsed from a lack of Fatigue.
 Stagger/Knock Down
One potential side-effect of damage is staggering or even knocking down opponents. Higher damage (and lower opponent Agility) will increase the chance of these effects, which means that slower, harder-hitting two-handed weapons are generally more likely to keep an opponent off its toes. Note that Hand-to-Hand attacks have an unusually high stagger rate and will knock an opponent down automatically once they run out of Fatigue.
Armor is used to reduce damage from physical attacks. The strength of armor is known as Armor Rating, or AR. The AR for each piece of armor is
BaseAR * ( ArmorSkill / 30 ). The AR for each unarmored slot, including shield, is
Unarmored Skill * Unarmored Skill * 0.0065. Equipment slots filled with Clothing (anything without a listed Armor Rating) are treated as Unarmored.
Total AR is
Chest * 0.3 + (Shield + Head + Legs + Feet + Right Shoulder + Left Shoulder) * 0.1 + (Right Hand + Left Hand) * 0.05. In other words, your Cuirass makes up 30% of your total armor rating, while your Shield, Helm, Greaves, Boots, and individual Pauldrons make up 10% each and each Gauntlet/Bracer accounts for 5% each.
If going completely unarmored, you need to know about the Unarmored Bug.
 Useful Spells
Other than the obvious attack spells, there are several tactical spell effects which can be very helpful in combat.
- Blind – A good preliminary spell to use from a distance, particularly against archers or spellcasters, as it will keep them occupied until you can get in range.
- Burden – Generally only useful in very large doses against opponents who are wearing heavy armor, as most opponents are not carrying nearly enough to become encumbered otherwise.
- Calm – A sneaky way to stop opponents from fighting in order to gain a second chance at a sneak attack. Unlike most offensive spells, Calm is not resisted by creatures with magic resistance.
- Command - A good way to get a few additional allies in a battle, if only for a little while. Also gives the non-Commanded creatures an additional target to attack instead of you.
- Damage Attribute - Can cripple your opponents. Damaging your opponents' agility will have him falling over every time you hit him and struggling to block. Damaging your opponents' strength will reduce the damage he deals and can lower his encumbrance enough that he cannot move.
- Demoralize – An enemy that's running away is an enemy that isn't attacking you. However, this can cause problems if they happen to run into town and start fights with the locals. Just hope the guards take them out for you.
- Frenzy – A good way to initiate combat with a non-hostile target without being accused of a crime.
- Levitate – A favorite of archers or spellcasters, as it gives you a perfect vantage point to attack your enemies from out of reach. Enemies without ranged attacks will most likely flee if you attack them while levitating.
- Paralyze – Makes your opponents completely helpless. What more could you want? Be aware that some enemies, most notably vampires, are immune to paralysis.
- Silence – Invaluable against spellcasters, though you may want to use Paralyze instead. It costs the same and is equally effective in most cases.
- Turn Undead – See Demoralize above. This is somewhat more useful, as undead are much less likely to be found near towns where they can cause trouble by running.
- Water Walking – A good trick mostly for avoiding combat, as water-bound enemies can't attack you on the surface, and normally land-based enemies move very slowly in the water.