Guide to Gear

This is a guide to the mechanisms of how gear works in ESO. It will focus mainly on a PvE perspective on gear, though much of the information will be applicable to PvP as well

This guide will cover topics like:

  • What each weapon type and armor weight is useful for
  • How gear bonuses apply on your backbar weapon
  • How set bonuses work
  • How set collections work
  • What traits and enchants will do for your gear
  • How your gear degrades over time, and how to fix it
  • How to modify your gear

This guide will go into much greater detail than most people will actually need to play the game at almost any level, but for the sake of comprehensiveness these details are included

This is not a build guide. It is not intended to show exactly what gear you should use on a particular build, but rather how gear works in the first place

Table of Contents

Gear Slots

First we’ll take a look at what gear slots are available on our character in the first place

You can see from this diagram, viewable on the Inventory menu (I key), that we have:

  • 7 armor slots: Head, Shoulders, Chest, Hands, Waist, Legs, Feet
  • 3 jewelry slots: Necklace and two Rings
  • 2 weapon slots on frontbar, and 2 on backbar

Since only one weapon bar (see below) is active at a time, this means we have 12 gear slots active at any given time, and 14 total with our two weapon bars

You can also see a slot for a poison next to each weapon bar, and a slot for a cosmetic disguise (used only in certain quests) next to the jewelry slots

Weapon Bars

We can slot weapons on two different “bars”: the frontbar and the backbar. These two bars have separate weapon slots, as well as entirely separate skill slots, allowing you to slot 10 skills plus 2 ultimates in total. You can swap between your bars with the backtick/tilde key (`/~). Your backbar unlocks at level 15; until then you will have just one bar

Having two weapon bars gives you the opportunity to equip two different kinds of weapons, though you can also use two of the same. Most builds at least prescribe different traits and enchantments on each bar, if not different weapons entirely. This allows greater diversity of skills, stats, buffs, and effects that will allow you to put out more damage or healing or buffs

At the very least, you do need to equip separate weapons on your two bars. If you equip a weapon on only one bar, you will be unarmed if you switch to your other bar

Note: The Oakensoul mythic item overturns the weapon bar system a bit by preventing bar swapping, in return for lots of buffs. With this mythic, you can slot a weapon on just the one bar you’re using, and you’re good to go

Active Bonuses

Note that only the stats and bonuses on the weapon you’re actively holding have any effect. Your stats and bonuses may change when you swap bars. These effects will change based on the new weapon you’re holding:

  • The weapons’ own stats, traits, and enchantments listed on their tooltips
  • Passive bonuses from the weapons’ skill lines
    • For instance, if you have dual daggers equipped on your frontbar and an inferno staff on your backbar, you will only have your active weapon’s skill line passives active at a given time, not both skill lines simultaneously
  • If your weapons are from different sets, those set bonuses may disappear when you swap weapons

But effects with timers will keep on ticking

  • Skills with timers will continue ticking, including damage ticks, healing ticks, buffs, and debuffs
  • Weapon enchantment effects will remain until their own timers run out
  • Set bonuses that have timers attached to them will keep ticking (but set bonuses that just state an effect with no timer will deactivate if you’re no longer wearing enough set pieces)

Fun fact: If you’ve read a few build guides, you may have noticed that the Infused trait (which enhances an item’s enchantment) is almost universally used on most builds’ backbar weapons, and this is exactly the reason. Other backbar traits would be inactive when we’re on our frontbar, but since the backbar’s enchantment effect keeps ticking, enhancing the enchantment with Infused does make a difference on the frontbar

Most builds load higher stats onto their frontbars and spend the majority of their time on the frontbar, using the backbar just for longer timer effects. That way they can just quickly refresh their timers and return right back to their higher-stat frontbars


It’s also possible to equip a poison on each weapon bar. Poisons can provide an additional useful effect but will disable enchantments on the respective weapons. Enchantments are normally more powerful than poisons in PvE play, so poisons are almost never used in optimized PvE builds of any kind. (Because of this, further discussion of poisons will be outside the scope of this guide)

Gear Types

Gear comes in three categories: armor, weapons, and jewelry. Let’s take an in-depth look at the mechanisms of each type


As mentioned above, we have 7 slots on our character to equip armor on: head, shoulders, chest, hands, waist, legs, and feet

Armor Weights

Armor will be in one of three weights: light, medium, or heavy. These weights each have different skill lines associated with them, which provide different passive bonuses for wearing more pieces of the associated armor weight. Make sure to invest skill points in these skill lines to take advantage of them

Differently weighted armor also has different defensive Armor stat bonuses that reduce incoming damage. These bonuses are added directly to both your Physical Resistance and your Spell Resistance stats. You’ll be able to see this value reflected on your Character screen (C key). Normally though, you should choose armor based on passives rather than this stat bonus

  • Light armor passives most notably provide magicka recovery and offensive stat bonuses (specifically penetration and critical chance). This makes light armor ideal for healers and damage dealers. Light armor has the smallest armor bonus
  • Medium armor passives provide stamina recovery and different offensive stat bonuses (critical damage, and weapon and spell damage). It also provides bonuses to movement speed and stealth. Medium armor is ideal for damage dealers as well as any activity requiring stealth. Medium armor has a larger armor bonus
  • Heavy armor passives provide defensive stat bonuses (max health, health recovery, extra armor, and incoming healing). These make heavy armor ideal for tanks. Heavy armor has the largest armor bonus

Mixing and matching is common. Many players set up most of their armor as a single weight, but may use one or two pieces of a different weight to diversify passive bonuses. Mixing weights also takes advantage of the passives in the Undaunted skill line, which rewards using multiple different weights

In sum, damage dealers typically wear light or medium armor, or a mix; healers typically wear mostly light armor; and tanks typically wear mostly heavy armor

Unlocking and Leveling Skill Lines

Remember that to unlock an armor skill line, you need to equip three pieces of the respective armor weight. Don’t make the mistake of just putting just one or two on a new character and assuming the skill line is active and leveling

Once you’ve unlocked the skill line, you only need one piece to continue leveling it, but wearing more pieces of that weight will level the skill line faster


Your weapons are at the core of your build and your role, determining some of the skills you’re able to cast, and providing various benefits to your damage, your healing output, your damage mitigation, and other bonuses

Weapons provide an intrinsic “Damage” bonus, which is applied directly to both your Weapon Damage and your Spell Damage stats to increase your damage output. This value will be reflected on your Character screen (C key)

A number of different weapon types are available. Each weapon type is associated with a particular weapon skill line that provides bonuses for using that type of weapon

List of Weapons

One-handed weapons

  • There are four types of one-handed weapons: daggers, swords, axes, and maces
    • Shields also fall partially into this category, in that they’re equipped in weapon slots, though in most other ways they work like armor, having Armor stats and armor-based traits and enchantments
  • These weapons take up only one of your two weapon slots on a bar, so you’ll want to equip something else in your other slot: either a second one-handed weapon or a shield. There is no skill line for just a single one-handed weapon, so you’ll miss out on many bonuses by not using a second item

Even though shields are equipped as weapons and don’t have an armor weight, they function in many ways as armor. For instance, they provide an armor stat bonus rather than a weapon damage bonus

Two-handed weapons

  • There are eight types of two-handed weapons: greatswords, battle axes, mauls, inferno staves, lightning staves, ice staves, restoration staves, and bows
  • However, note that most references to “two handed” in the game and online guides are referring specifically to the Two Handed skill line (see below)
  • These weapons take up both of your weapon slots on a bar

Weapon Types and Skill Lines

You can examine the passives of each weapon skill line to see what each type of weapon is useful for

1. Dual Wield

Equipping two one-handed weapons (daggers, swords, axes, and maces) allows you to use Dual Wield skills and bonuses

  • Dual wielding is well suited for damage dealers. It has several skills popularly used on DPS builds, and it provides a number of passives with bonuses that increase damage. Dual wield daggers provide the highest raw damage of any weapon in a very optimized group, though for most people in most groups, other weapons can also be just as powerful, if not better
  • Dual Wielding is for melee combat. Its skills mostly have a rather short range, and light and heavy attacks will have a range of 7 meters
  • The four weapon types are distinguished by the Twin Blade and Blunt passive, which provides a different bonus for each type. There is no other difference, other than cosmetic. Daggers and maces are the most popular types for PvE
  • Dual Wield setups will have a penalty applied to the offhand weapon’s Damage stat, to mitigate the advantage from using two weapons. You’ll get the full bonus from your main hand weapon, but only about one third of your offhand weapon’s bonus will actually apply to your stats

2. Two Handed

Equipping one of the metal two handed weapons (greatswords, battle axes, and mauls) allows you to use the Two Handed skill line

  • Two Handed is also best suited for damage dealers, providing damage-related skills and passives similarly to Dual Wield. Two Handed weapons are often used as backbar weapons, though a frontbar two hander can be a perfectly viable option as well
  • Just like Dual Wielding, Two Handed is for melee combat, with short range skills and 7-meter light and heavy attacks
  • Similarly to Dual Wield, the three weapon types are distinguished only by the Heavy Weapons passive, which provides a different bonus for each type. Greatswords and mauls are most popular for PvE

3. Bow

  • Bows are also best suited for damage dealers, with damage-focused skills and passives
  • Naturally, Bows are suitable for ranged combat, with long-range skills and 28-meter light and heavy attacks. However, they can also be used in melee range

4. Destruction Staff

Inferno staves (i.e. fire staves), lightning staves, and ice staves fall into this category

  • Destruction Staves are a bit of a mixed bag, providing some variety of passive buffs and skill effects depending on which staff type you’re using
    • In addition to providing different damage types (flame, lightning, or frost), Destruction Staves differ in the Tri Focus and Ancient Knowledge passives, as well as modifying several skills, specifically Wall of Elements, Destructive Clench, and Impulse
  • Using a Destruction Staff backbar on support roles as well as DPS is popular both due to certain staff types’ effects and because Wall of Elements, as a ground DoT, will assist in maintaining the enemy-weakening enchantments that supports typically use. Without a ground DoT, these enchantments will proc much less frequently (see below)
  • Different Destruction Staves work better for different tasks, primarily due to Ancient Knowledge and Wall of Elements:
    • Inferno staves are best suited for dealing damage
      • We’ll get extra damage out of Wall of Elements, and Ancient Knowledge will provide extra damage from certain damage types. Inferno staves are very popular as a backbar weapon; however, they will often do well on the frontbar as well
    • Lightning staves are also well suited for dealing damage, as well as for group support on a healer
      • For damage dealers, Ancient Knowledge will provide extra damage to direct damage and channels. Lightning staves will often do well as a frontbar weapon, where they can buff your spammable (which will normally deal direct damage) and any high-damage channels like Templars’ Radiant Destruction and Arcanists’ Fatecarver. Lightning staves can be reasonably strong on the backbar, but Inferno staves are usually a better backbar option for DPS
      • For healers, lightning staves provide the off-balance debuff to enemies via the Wall of Elements skill. Healers very commonly run a lightning staff on their backbars
    • Ice staves provide less damage utility, instead providing damage mitigation and some group utility useful for tanks and healers. They also have special synergy with warden DPS
      • Ice staff passives are primarily oriented toward damage mitigation, allowing tanks to take less damage from enemies. Ice staves also provide an armor debuff on enemies, as well as damage shields for your group, via the Wall of Elements skill. They also uniquely have a taunt skill via Destructive Clench, which adds a taunt feature when used with an ice staff
      • Ice staves’ armor shred and damage shields make them strong choices for healers as well, though healers use lightning staves a little more commonly since tanks usually use ice staves to provide these benefits already
      • While ice staves don’t provide much for most DPS builds, wardens are able to make special use of them due to their Piercing Cold passive, which causes them to do lots of extra damage when using an ice staff
  • Like Bows, Destruction Staves can be used in ranged combat, with long-range skills and 28-meter light and heavy attacks. They will also perform just as well in melee range

5. Restoration Staff

  • Restoration staves are the weapon of choice for healers. Restoration Staff skills are mostly focused toward healing and buffing yourself and your group, and their passives provide extra healing bonuses and magicka
  • Restoration Staff skills mostly have a long range, though you’ll mostly be casting them at your group who will normally be near you. Light and heavy attacks reach 28 meters

6. One Hand and Shield (a.k.a. “Sword and Board”)

Use a one-handed weapon (dagger, sword, axe, or mace) with a shield to use this skill line

  • One Hand and Shield is a popular choice for tanks. Its skills provide a taunt (Puncture), shielding, and a number of debuffs for enemies. Passives in this skill line provide extra damage mitigation and various bonuses to bracing and blocking
  • One Hand and Shield is designed for melee combat, with short-range skills and 7-meter light and heavy attacks. Tanking should mostly be done at close range anyway, but if you find yourself needing more range utility, you might consider an ice staff
  • Unlike for Dual Wielding, there is no distinction between the four different weapon types in this skill line; they will perform identically

In sum:

  • Damage dealers typically use some combination of Dual Wielding, Two Handed, Bows, and Destruction Staves (inferno or lightning)
  • Healers typically use a Restoration Staff and a Destruction Staff (lightning or ice)
  • Tanks usually use some combination of One Hand and Shield and Destruction Staves (specifically ice)

Unlocking and Leveling Skill Lines

Kill something with a weapon equipped to unlock the weapon’s skill line. To level the skill line, have skills from the skill line equipped while you gain XP

  • The skills must be on your active bar when you gain the XP; skills on your other bar won’t level

Technically you don’t have to have the respective weapon actually equipped to level the skill line; just having skills from that line on your bar will do the job, even with the wrong weapon


We have three slots for jewelry: a necklace slot and two identical ring slots. Jewelry is largely filler; it provides no special stat bonuses and has no skill lines providing buffs. Just use it to complete your gear sets and get extra bonuses from enchantments and traits


Item sets give you extra bonuses based on how many items you’re wearing from the set. For example, the first tooltip below shows that wearing two pieces of the Spell Power Cure set gives you a bonus to your Max Magicka, adding a third piece gives you an additional Max Magicka bonus, a fourth piece adds Weapon and Spell Damage, and a fifth piece provides the Major Courage buff to group members under a certain condition

Here you can see the set name the item comes from, and the corresponding bonuses. This character is wearing only one item from the Selene set and so only gets the Weapon and Spell damage bonus; the other bonus is greyed out and inactive
  • Set bonuses are cumulative, so you get all lower tier bonuses in addition to the bonus for the number of items you’re wearing
  • Set bonuses apply once per set. For instance, wearing four pieces of Spell Power Cure gives you the Weapon and Spell damage bonus once, not four times

Item sets are often powerful and can be a central part of your role in a group and can provide anything from extra damage or defensive stats to interesting proc effects to big buffs for your entire group. Normally the last bonus listed is by far the most powerful (lower-tier bonuses just provide simple stat bonuses), so it’s important to wear full sets rather than mixing and matching partial sets

The vast majority of sets have bonuses up to 5 pieces, so with 12 gear slots available you are able to use two of these, and also have two slots left over

However, some other sets have different numbers of bonuses: e.g. just a 1-piece bonus (e.g. mythic items from the antiquity system), or bonuses up to 2 pieces (e.g. monster helm sets collected from veteran dungeons), 3 pieces (e.g. certain PvP sets), or even higher numbers like 12 pieces (a very few craftable sets)

All types of two-handed weapons (including bows and staves) count as two items for counting set bonuses. (Otherwise dual wield builds would have a significant advantage over other builds with one extra set bonus slot.) For instance, equipping a restoration staff and three other pieces from the Spell Power Cure set shown below will be enough to give you the 5 piece bonus

Spell Power Cure is an example of a “proc set.” In other words, its five-piece bonus activates when some condition is met (in this case, overhealing an ally). SPC’s bonus is to provide a damage bonus to allies
Deadly Strike is an example of a set with an always-on effect. It provides a constant bonus to all your DoT and channel damage without needing to be procced
Crushing Wall is an example of an arena weapon set. These are sets with just a two-piece bonus that are obtained from completing an arena. Arena weapons’ bonuses enhance a specific skill in their weapon’s skill line, in this case the Destruction Staff’s Wall of Elements skill
Engine Guardian is an example of a monster set. These sets drop from the endboss in veteran mode dungeons and have a one- and two-piece bonus, available only as head and shoulder pieces. This particular set summons a spider ally that will restore resources to you
Velothi Ur-Mage’s Amulet is an example of a mythic item, obtained from tracking leads via the antiquity system. They require only one piece to have their full effect, which is usually very powerful. As limitations, only one mythic item can be equipped at a time, and the mythic only comes as one specific item (in this case a necklace)
Pillar of Nirn is another example of a five-piece proc set. In this case, the set is procced by dealing any form of damage, and the effect is a damage effect that damages nearby enemies over time

Collecting Sets

Each set is collected from a certain location or source, e.g. a certain dungeon, a certain overland zone, the antiquity system, crafting, etc. A set will come from only one location or source, so for instance an overland or dungeon set will never also be craftable, and a dungeon set will never also be available in the overland, and so forth

Most sets drop in only one specific weight, usually fitting with what sort of task or group role the set was (at least in the developers’ vision) meant to be used for. For instance, most sets used by tanks are heavy armor sets, most healer sets are light armor, and most DPS sets are either medium or light armor

  • Some sets do come in all weights though, most notably monster sets and certain PvP-sourced sets. Craftable sets can be created in any of the three weights as well

If you’re looking for where a particular set drops, you can search for it in the Collections (U key) menu under the Set Items tab, and you’ll be able to see where the set comes from. (Note that craftable sets do not appear under this menu, since they’re not collected from the world; if your search comes up empty, it’s most likely a crafted set.) Searching for the set name online will also give lots of information about it

Note that different pieces of a set may drop from different parts of a zone or dungeon. For instance, the endboss in a dungeon or trial will typically drop only weapons and jewelry, while all other earlier bosses will drop only armor. Within an overland zone, different sources like world bosses, delve bosses, dolmens, and so forth will each drop specific pieces of each set in the zone

Perfected Gear

Arenas and most trials drop perfected gear when played in veteran mode. This gear has the added benefit of one extra line of stat bonus. For instance, Perfected Crushing Wall adds a penetration stat bonus over the regular version

  • Note that only boss enemies will drop this perfected gear. Other drops like chests will always drop regular non-perfected gear
Normal-mode non-perfected staff
Veteran-mode perfected staff. The only difference from the normal version is the extra set bonus penetration

Perfected gear will make only a very minimal difference to the effectiveness of your build; 99% of the advantage of perfected gear is just bragging rights and a sense of accomplishment. The vast majority of players have absolutely no need to farm veteran content for perfected gear; for all but the absolute sweatiest of veteran players, the normal non-perfected versions will be plenty sufficient

For arena weapons in particular, perfected gear is often of essentially zero benefit. Many of them, like Crushing Wall above, are normally run on the backbar, so the perfected set’s extra stat bonus is not even active most of the time while you’re on your frontbar. You won’t get much use out of that bonus, so you’re essentially just as well off with the normal-mode, non-perfected version

Set Collections (a.k.a. Stickerbook)

As soon as you collect and bind (see below) a piece of gear, that item will be permanently added to your Set Collections. You can access this feature in the Collections menu (U key) under the Set Items tab. For instance, binding a dagger from the Mother’s Sorrow set will add daggers to your Mother’s Sorrow collection

Now that the item is in your Collections, you can spend transmute crystals to reconstruct the item anytime you want to get another of the same item with the same set. For instance, now that the Mother’s Sorrow dagger is in your collections, you can make another Mother’s Sorrow dagger anytime at a transmute station. See below for more details on Reconstruction

  • Reconstructed gear will be created at the level of the character who made it. Reconstructing when you’re below the gear cap of CP 160 is not recommended; save your precious transmute crystals till you can get max-level gear

Note that if a set is available in multiple weights (e.g. monster sets, class sets, and certain other sets), there will be a separate entry in Collections for each weight. For instance, if you’ve collected a heavy Slimecraw helm from Banished Cells 1 dungeon, you will only be able to reconstruct a heavy helm, not a light or medium one; you’ll have to collect those separately

Note that crafted sets do not appear in the Collections menu; they don’t form a stickerbook and aren’t Reconstructable

Drop Curation

Curation is a system that helps you get set items you haven’t collected yet. Certain gear sources give curated drops, meaning they will make sure they give you a piece that isn’t in your stickerbook yet, if they’re able to. For instance, if you collect an Ansuul’s Torment dagger in Sanity’s Edge trial, the endboss that drops that dagger won’t give you another dagger when you run the trial again; you’re guaranteed an item you haven’t collected yet, until you’ve collected all the items that boss can drop

Of course, drops are always still limited to the specific pool of items that a source can actually drop. For instance, since weapons and jewelry only come from the endboss of a dungeon, side bosses will not start giving you weapons and jewelry once you’ve collected all their armor; you will simply keep getting armor you’ve already collected

Not all set item drops are subject to curation unfortunately. Notably, items in treasure chests and any item that comes in a coffer of some sort (e.g. certain quest rewards and many items bought from NPCs) will be fully random and ignore your Collections. You might get a new item you haven’t collected, but you also might not

Note that you must have an item actually collected into your stickerbook in order to guarantee a different drop in the future. A common mistake is picking up an item, forgetting to bind it, running the same content again, and then by chance getting the same item again. Therefore it’s good practice to always bind your gear as soon as you pick it up, except if you think you might trade it with someone

Here you can see whether or not the item is bound, and if not what will cause it to bind (equipping it, or simply picking it up). If the item was created by Reconstruction at a transmute station, this label will indicate “Reconstructed” instead

Binding Gear

When you pick up a piece of gear, you have the opportunity to bind it. Binding does two things:

  • It permanently attaches the item to your account, preventing you from ever giving it to any other player (no trading, selling, mailing, etc.)
  • It adds the item to your Set Collections so that you can reconstruct another one later

Equipping an item will automatically bind it. The game is deliberately designed so that only one person can ever equip or bind a given item. Once you equip something or add it to your Collections, no one else can do the same with that item

You can also bind an item manually by right-clicking it in your Inventory and selecting Bind

Some items in the game can be “Character Bound” and prevent transfer to even your own other characters. Gear doesn’t do this; gear will always bind to your account, and you will be able to freely transfer it between your characters

Destroying an item will also add it to your Collections; since no one else can get that item now, the game will go ahead and collect it for you. In fact, any other action that deletes the item from the game (like deconstructing or researching it) will also add it to your Collections. Once you have a set item in your inventory, there’s no way to miss out on adding it to your Collections unless you actually give it away to someone else

Here’s a full list of actions that will add an item to your Collections (and bind it if it still exists)

  • Right-clicking the item and selecting Bind
  • Equipping the item
  • Transmuting the item (Reconstructed items will also always be bound immediately)
  • Destroying the item from your inventory
  • Deconstructing the item at a crafting station
  • Selling the item to an NPC (the item will bind after you sell 12 more items to make the item roll out of the Buyback tab)
  • Researching the item
  • For gear from instanced content (e.g. dungeons), waiting two hours after picking up the item (see below)

Note that improving gear quality and enchanting gear will not bind it; you can change these attributes and still transfer the item to another player

Types of Binding

Some gear will be labeled as Bind on Pickup. These items will bind immediately when you pick them up, forcing anyone else who wants these items to do the content themselves. This includes gear that you pick up from instanced content (dungeons, trials, or arenas), any gear that comes in a box or coffer, certain NPC-sold items, and mythic pieces

Dungeons, trials, and multiplayer arenas use a special kind of Bind on Pickup that doesn’t quite fully bind the gear to you right away, indicated by a blue double-arrow. For a two-hour period, you can trade the item to other players who were in the instance with you (but no one else). Only trading directly is allowed, not mailing. Two hours after you looted the item, it will fully bind to whoever is holding it and prevent all trading

  • Note: You can only trade this gear to players who were grouped with you when you actually picked up the individual item. If someone joined for only part of the dungeon, or disconnected from the game at some point, you’ll only be able to trade them gear you picked up when they were actually present

Most other gear is Bind on Equip; you’re free to give it away, but as soon as you equip the item it will bind

Other Gear Specifications

This section will explain other aspects of your gear like Traits, Enchantments, and Quality


Here you can see the item’s trait

All dropped gear (and normally crafted gear too) has a trait providing it with a special bonus. These bonuses can have various effects from extra damage or defensive stats to extra ultimate to extra XP. Below are some examples; you can easily find a complete list of traits in the game online

Anytime you loot a piece of gear from a monster, a chest, or some other source, it will have a trait attached to it that’s determined at random out of the possible traits for that item

  • Note that jewelry only drops naturally in three basic traits: Robust, Arcane, and Healthy; to get gear in other traits, you must craft, reconstruct, or transmute an item to be such
  • Similarly, weapons and armor do not naturally drop in Nirnhoned trait

Weapons, armor, and jewelry each have a different set of traits that can appear on a piece. (For example, the Decisive trait can appear only on weapons, the Reinforced trait only on armor, and the Training trait on both weapons and armor but not jewelry)

  • Note that some trait names can appear on multiple types of gear but with different effects. In particular, the Nirnhoned trait increases weapon damage if it’s on a weapon, but increases resistances if it’s on an armor piece
  • Two special traits, Ornate and Intricate, provide special bonuses granting extra gold and extra crafting inspiration. You cannot create an item with either of these traits through crafting or the transmute station; they only drop from random drops in the wild

Trait Research

In order to craft gear in a given trait, or transmute or reconstruct gear in a certain trait, you need to research that trait. Obtain a piece of gear that already has that trait on it, and then you can use the Research tab at the corresponding crafting station to learn that trait for that item. Traits are learned individually per item, so for instance researching a light shoulder piece with Reinforced trait will only let you create Reinforced light shoulder pieces; to make any other Reinforced gear you will have to research Reinforced items of those particular types. You can only research one trait on one item at a time per crafting discipline, or up to three with the correct passives

  • A common way to acquire traited gear to research is to simply ask someone who has already researched the trait to make items for you

Research takes real time to complete, and the time will double for each trait you research on a particular item type. For instance, researching your first trait on medium helmets will take 6 hours, but your second medium helmet trait will take 12 hours and your third a full 24. The final, ninth trait will take over 2 months. For this reason, it is highly recommended to decide which traits are most useful to you and make sure you research those traits first while research times are short. Research timers will keep ticking while you’re offline from the game

Fortunately, a passive is available in each crafting skill line to reduce research times; make sure to invest in these passives to lower the lengthy times on later research. These passives will also let you research three traits simultaneously on each crafting type instead of one (except for jewelry), which will also greatly accelerate your research. You can also lower research times with research scrolls available from various sources

With all relevant passives, perfectly optimized researching, and no research scrolls, it will take nearly eleven months at minimum to complete all research in the game

An item’s tooltip will show if the item is researchable; you’ll see a magnifying glass if you have not yet researched that trait on your current character. Different special icons will appear here if the item is reconstructed or transmuted

This item can be researched by the character you’re on
This item was reconstructed as Divines trait
This item was transmuted into Bloodthirsty trait


Here you can see the item’s enchantment. The basegame UI does not show the enchantment’s quality, but you can fix this with the Enchanted Quality addon

Dropped gear also comes with an enchantment. Enchantments provide an extra bonus in the form of a stat boost or a proc effect. Below are some examples; you can easily find a complete list of enchantments online

A Max Stamina enchantment for armor
A Weapon/Spell Damage enchantment for jewelry
A Magicka Recovery enchantment for jewelry
A Fiery enchantment for weapons
A Crusher enchantment for weapons

As with traits, enchantment possibilities are different for weapons, armor, and jewelry. e.g. Maximum Stamina enchantments are only available for armor, Fiery enchantments are only for weapons, and so forth

  • Armor and jewelry enchantments simply have a constant, always-on effect that gives a stat boost or similar type of bonus
  • Weapon enchantments, on the other hand, provide proc effects. These proc effects provide either a burst of damage, like the Fiery enchantment shown above (these all proc on a 4 second cooldown), or a timed buff for you or debuff for the enemy, like the Crusher enchantment shown above (these all last for 5 seconds and proc on a 10 second cooldown)
    • Weapon enchantments are procced by light and heavy attacks, as well as certain weapon skills. The area DoT skill in many weapons’ skill lines (specifically Wall of Elements, Volley, Blade Cloak, and Stampede) will in particular proc enchantments at high rates, so it is always advantageous to have one of these area DoTs slotted

Applying Your Enchantment

You can apply a new enchantment to an item by crafting a glyph at an enchanting crafting station and then applying the glyph to your item. (This will override the existing enchantment)

  • Note that you cannot enchant gear with a glyph of higher level than the item. The enchantment has to be lower or equal level to the gear
  • Also note that for armor, certain pieces will not receive the full stat value you see on a glyph’s tooltip. Head, chest, and leg pieces are considered “large” pieces and receive the full value; shoulders, hands, waist, and feet are “small” pieces and get only about 40% of the stat value
  • Additionally, one-handed weapons like daggers will have halved enchantment effects, since you can apply a second enchantment to your other weapon or shield as well

If you find yourself unable to apply an enchantment to a particular gear piece, one of these is the case:

  • The enchantment is for the wrong type of gear; e.g. you’re trying to put an armor enchantment on jewelry
  • The enchantment is too high of a level; you can only put it on an item of equal or higher level
    • You can, however, put a higher quality enchantment on a lower quality item; the restriction applies only to level
  • The item already has that enchantment on it; the game will prevent you from applying an identical one
    • (Note that the game only prevents applying an identical enchantment if you (or another player) applied the existing one yourself. As an odd distinction, you can re-apply an identical enchantment if the item dropped originally with the existing one. Be careful not to do this; it’s just a waste of your materials!)

Most set items drop with a certain set of default enchantments (though some variation exists):

  • Light armor sets usually have armor drop with Max Magicka enchants, jewelry with Magicka Recovery, and weapons with Absorb Magicka
  • Medium armor sets usually have armor with Max Stamina, jewelry with Stamina Recovery, and weapons with Absorb Stamina
  • Heavy sets usually have armor with Max Health, jewelry with Health Recovery, and weapons with Life Drain

Note also that enchantments have quality separate from the quality of the gear they’re attached to. You could for instance have a green-quality helmet with a purple-quality enchantment

  • The default UI does not show what quality an item’s enchantment is. To obtain the very useful ability to see enchantment quality, try the Enchanted Quality addon


An item’s name will be colored to show you its quality

Higher quality will increase stat values and certain other bonuses in a gear piece. There are five quality levels in ESO, each designated with a particular color in the game’s UI: Normal (white), Fine (green), Superior (blue), Epic (purple), and Legendary (gold). A special Mythic (orange) quality also exists specifically for mythic antiquity items. You can see an item’s quality by the color of its name on its tooltip

Gear will always drop in a pre-determined quality depending on what content you’re doing and where the gear is dropping from. Difficult content will often drop higher-quality gear than simpler content

You can upgrade an item’s quality at a crafting station. Below is an example of a green-quality gear piece, and the differences in effects when that same piece is upgraded to blue, purple, and gold

As you can see, improving an item’s quality increases all stats on the item, including the damage (or armor) value as well as flat stat boosts from set bonuses. The item’s trait effect is also enhanced. The enchantment has been improved in quality as well and has also been enhanced

The more-complex 5-piece bonus has some numbers increased (in this case the weapon and spell damage number) but not others (the healing value remains the same); with more complex effects it can be somewhat unpredictable what values increase, if any at all. Time durations and percentage-based bonuses usually don’t increase; flat bonus values often do


Here you can see the item’s level

Level indicates the minimum level your character has to be to equip the item; any lower and you’ll be unable to use it. Normally the gear you collect will match your character’s level, but if you’re acquiring gear from another player who’s crafting for you or selling you gear via e.g. a guild store, you’ll want to make sure to get gear of the appropriate level

Low-level gear is technically weaker, but when you’re at a low level it will adjust itself by scaling up to similar values as max-level gear. Small differences in gear level normally won’t yield tremendously different bonuses, but if you’re wearing gear that’s far below your character level, you should consider getting new gear

  • Note that gear comes in only even-numbered levels (but level 1 instead of 2: i.e. 1, 4, 6, 8, 10, etc.) and multiple-of-10 CP (CP 10, 20, 30, etc.)

Note: The highest gear level is CP 160, known as the “gear cap.” Most people begin proper gear farming and putting their builds together when they reach CP 160, since they will no longer have to replace their gear as they level up further

Outleveling Gear

As you outlevel your gear, the upscaling on your gear will reduce. Here’s a comparison of the sort of reduction in bonuses that you get from leveling up just a little bit. On the left is the tooltip for a level 4 character wearing level 4 gear, and on the right is that same character wearing level 1 gear. These differences might look a little substantial but will really hardly be noticeable in actual combat. Outleveling gear will impact the Armor or Damage bonus of the gear and its set bonuses

Level 4 item worn by level 4 character
Level 1 item worn by level 4 character

As a more extreme example, below is the tooltip for a max-level CP 160 item worn by a CP 160 character. Next to it is a level 50 and level 1 item worn by the same character. You can see that the lower level items have dropped in power quite a bit more since the character has reached a much higher level

CP 160 item worn by CP 160 character
Level 50 item worn by CP 160 character
Level 1 item worn by CP 160 character

Acquiring properly leveled gear every few levels is usually not practical, so most people tend to swap out their gear about two or three times between level 1 and level 50, and once or twice again between level 50 and CP 160

As another comparison, here is the tooltip for a level 4 character wearing a level 4 item, and a CP 160 character wearing the same item. The level 4 character gets more or less the same bonuses as the max-level gear shown above, but the CP 160 character gets massively reduced bonuses

Level 4 item worn by level 4 character
Level 4 item worn by CP 160 character


Here you can see the item’s style

Style is the cosmetic appearance of your gear. Each non-craftable set has a particular style associated with it, and all gear you find from that set will be in that style. There are well over 100 different styles available in the game

For crafted gear, you can choose what style to craft in, out of the styles you’ve collected through motifs. Motifs are found from many varying sources throughout the world, and finding and consuming a motif will let you craft in that style. Most motifs are only for a specific type of gear (e.g. shoulder pieces in the Ancestral Orc style), but some of the most common styles’ motifs (like styles for playable races like Breton and Dark Elf) will teach you styles for all gear pieces at once

Remember that you can also change your appearance at an Outfit Station (or a Dye Station, which functions identically). Regardless of your gear’s own styles, you’ll be able to change each piece to appear as any style you’ve collected as a motif, as well as apply different colors to these items

Note that consuming a motif will only let you craft in that style on the specific character you used the motif on. However, all of your characters will be able to use that style at the Outfit Station

An Outfit Station is available in WtU’s guild hall, but you can also use ones out in the world; many cities have them available

Note About Item Names

Item names are typically a somewhat formulaic name showing what type of gear piece it is, as well as what set the item belongs to, if any. For instance, Spell Power Cure Breeches are a breeches piece belonging to the Spell Power Cure set

A relatively small number of gear items have a unique flavor-based name that does not indicate its set or item piece. These are often dropped by quests or found in dungeons. For instance, Ratsplatter drops from a quest and is a mace in the Armor of the Trainee set

Modifying Your Gear

Some attributes of gear are changeable and upgradable, and some aren’t. It’s possible to modify a gear piece’s quality, enchantment, and trait

But it is not possible to modify the level, set, or style of a piece of gear; it will have the same level and style forever. If you want gear of a different level or set, you’ll have to go find, craft, or reconstruct it. (But style-wise, note that you can modify your appearance through the Outfit Station for the same effect as a different gear style)

Quality Improvement

You can upgrade, or improve, the quality of your gear at a crafting station. Use the Improvement tab to spend special improvement materials to upgrade your gear’s quality. Materials for higher qualities like purple and gold are much rarer and will be more difficult or more expensive to obtain. You will also need more of them to perform an upgrade than the lower quality materials

If you have insufficient improvement materials available, the crafting station will show that the upgrade may not succeed, with only a certain percentage chance of success. If by chance the upgrade does fail, the item will be destroyed, which is a big waste. Don’t take the risk! Always make sure you have enough upgrade materials to guarantee 100% chance of success

Don’t improve if you don’t have enough mats for 100% chance of success
  • You can increase your chances of successful upgrades by getting a passive in the respective crafting skill line (always the bottommost passive, with “Expertise” in its name). In practical terms, this means you get to use much fewer materials to improve your gear without risking destroying it. Getting these passives is highly recommended before doing substantial quality upgrades

Remember that upgrades are incremental. You can’t upgrade straight from white quality to gold; you’ll need all the materials to upgrade first to green, then blue, then purple, and only then gold

Quality upgrades are not always worth your mats! Green and blue upgrades are usually cheap enough not to break your bank, but don’t be too liberal with expensive gold-quality upgrades. Many upgrades will provide fairly minimal benefit in most situations anyway, so the more expensive higher upgrades can generally be forgone. You absolutely do not need to upgrade all of your gear to gold quality to perform well; save your mats and gold! In general, it’s especially not advisable to gold out gear unless you’re very confident you’ll be using it for a long time

  • In general, weapon quality improvements do provide somewhat significant stat bonuses. For a DPS, this will give you more damage and can be worth the mats. Healers and tanks, however, will get less useful benefit from these stat bonuses and may consider leaving their weapons at purple or even blue quality
  • Jewelry and especially armor upgrades provide minimal bonuses in general. All but the very most advanced of players will do just fine leaving their jewelry and armor at purple or blue quality

Improving an item’s quality will not necessarily also upgrade its enchantment. The enchantment will only upgrade if the item dropped with that enchantment originally on it. But if you (or another player) put that enchantment on yourself, the enchantment is fully separate forever, and you can only upgrade it by applying a new enchantment to the gear

Enchantment Swapping

To change an enchantment, simply create a new enchantment at an enchanting station, and apply that enchantment to your item. (See above for more information)

  • Consider being a little liberal with the quality of your new enchantment. Improving the item will not improve the enchantment, so if you’re planning to improve your gear later, you may want to apply an enchantment of that higher quality from the beginning. Unlike with level, it is possible to put a higher quality enchantment on a lower quality item

Trait Transmutation

To change the trait on an item, you will need to spend transmute crystals at a transmute station. First you must have the desired trait researched for the particular type of piece you want to re-trait. Then you can either transmute your item to change its trait or reconstruct an entirely new item with the desired trait

  • Reconstruction costs 25 to 75 transmute crystals, depending on how many items you’ve collected in the particular set’s stickerbook; collecting more pieces of a set will lower the cost
  • Transmutation costs a flat 50 transmute crystals

Transmute Stations are available for use in WtU’s guild hall. If you’d like, you can also transmute out in the world; the world’s one public transmute station is located in the Brass Fortress in Clockwork City

If you’ve collected many pieces of a set, it is usually cheaper to reconstruct rather than transmuting

However, note that reconning will create your new item in whatever quality it would usually drop in from the world. If it’s a gold-quality item that you’re wanting to re-trait, you likely won’t get gold quality from reconstruction. If you’re concerned about expensive upgrade materials, you might consider transmuting rather than reconstructing, even if the crystal cost is higher. Consider whether your gold or your transmute crystals are more valuable to you

Note that transmuted or reconstructed gear is bound immediately; it can’t be given it to another player


Deconstruction is an excellent way to get rid of gear you don’t need. Unlike Destroying it or selling it to an NPC merchant, you’ll actually get back something of value

You can deconstruct an item at a crafting table. When you do this, you’ll receive back some of the materials that make up that item, potentially including the base material (e.g. metal ingots, wood, cloth), trait and enchantment materials, style materials, and most notably improvement materials. For instance, a blue quality item has a chance to give you blue improvement materials (e.g. Turpen or Dwarven Oil), and a gold quality item has a chance to give you gold quality materials (e.g. Rosin or Tempering Alloy). Since higher quality improvement materials can be worth a good price, it is often especially worth it to deconstruct any gold and purple quality items you loot but have no need for

The amount of each material you get from deconstruction is subject to randomness and will always be much less than the materials needed to craft a corresponding item. However, you can increase your chances of getting materials using passives in the respective crafting skill lines, and the Meticulous Disassembly champion point passive (in the green/Craft tree). Make sure to invest in these passives

Note that mythic antiquity pieces cannot be deconstructed, whether collected directly from the scrying leads or reconstructed at a transmute station

Gear Durability and Degradation

Over time, two durability effects will happen to your gear: your armor will eventually break, and your weapon enchantment will run out of charge

Armor Durability

Durability meter

Firstly, your armor will lose durability as you gain XP and also every time you die. You can see your armor’s durability meter below the armor and level labels on the tooltip

Losing durability has no effect until it actually runs out. When an armor piece’s durability hits zero, it will “break” and lose all its effect. Its armor value will drop to zero, and its trait and enchantment will stop functioning. There are two ways to repair your armor

  • Visit an NPC merchant, go to the Repair tab, and pay a gold fee to repair your gear
  • Right-click the item in your inventory, and spend an Equipment Repair Kit to restore the item to its fully functioning state. Repair Kits can be bought from NPC merchants or guild stores

If you can find a good price, buying Repair Kits from guild stores is normally the cheapest option for repairing

When an armor piece has broken, you’ll see a red helmet symbol next to your quickslot, and the item’s tooltip will have the relevant effects greyed out

The armor value, enchantment, and trait have deactivated on this broken armor piece
Enchantment charge meter

Weapon Enchantment Charge

Secondly, the enchantment on your weapon will slowly run out, expending charge every time the enchantment procs. As with armor, you can see your weapon enchantment’s charge meter on its tooltip, below its damage and level numbers

When the charge meter hits zero, the enchantment stops working. To recharge your weapon enchantment, you will need a soul gem. Right-click the weapon in your inventory and click Recharge to spend a soul gem and recharge the enchantment

  • Note that only weapon enchantments can run out; armor and jewelry enchantments are always-on and don’t proc or expend charge

When a weapon enchantment has run out, you’ll see a red weapon symbol next to your quickslot, and the item’s tooltip will have the enchantment effect greyed out

This staff’s enchantment has run out

Consider using the Auto Recharge addon to automate both repairing gear and recharging weapons. As long as you have soul gems and repair kits in your inventory, the addon will do the work of performing your repairs as soon as an item’s durability runs out

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