Base is the lack of any mods, it is the stock scripts.vol that came with the game.
Three armor types are available:
- Light - Fast and light with very little protection. Only class able to use the laser rifle.
- Medium - A little closer to light than heavy, makes compromises between armor and speed.
- Heavy - Bulky, slow, and tough to destroy. Only class able to use the mortar. Functionally it is actually a small mech.
There are eight weapons available:
- Blaster - A weapon that feeds off the player's energy cell, widely considered useless.
- Plasma gun - Fires a slow-moving but highly destructive charge, good at medium range on slow or stationary targets.
- Chaingun - Fires bullets at high-speed with very low accuracy. Excellent for tearing up enemies at close range, particularly players in heavy armor. Also very efficient, for its size, in the demolition role (destroying generators, turrets etc).
- Disc launcher - Also known as the spinfusor or Stormhammer, the primary weapon for any class at any range. One of the greatest accomplishments for a Tribes player is an "airdisk" or an "MA" (midair), in which the projectile of the spinfusor hits another player in midair.
- Grenade launcher - A medium-range weapon that fires timed grenades, widely used by all classes to eliminate enemies that have sunk into valleys.
- Laser rifle - Basically, a sniper rifle with a shot visible from anywhere in the vicinity. It can only be equipped by players in light armor with energy packs. The amount of damage dealt to the target is proportional to the amount of energy discharged from the energy cell.
- ELF (Electron flux) gun - Although it doesn't do much damage, the ELF drains the energy supply of whatever gets in its path. Perfect for stopping enemies that are jetting away. Doesn't require ammo, as it draws energy from the energy cell.
- Mortar - A purring green mortar shell lobber. Slow, but destroys people and things very quickly at large distances (with excellent precision if a teammate paints the target with the targeting laser). It can only be equipped by players in heavy armor.
A very important aspect of Tribes is the ability to wear "packs", which alter the abilities of the player. Only one can be worn at a time, so it is important to know what advantage the player will need in order to succeed. Packs can be dropped and recovered by other players on the field.
- Energy pack - The most common and most useful pack, increases the amount of energy and the rate of recharge of the player's energy cell. This mainly allows players to jet for longer periods of time and possibly use a sniper rifle.
- Repair pack - The second most common and most unique pack. When used, it repairs any item or player in range (or the wearer if nothing is in range). Essential pack for any team-based match (which is a large majority).
- Ammo pack - Increases the amount of ammo a player can hold. When dropped the player keeps the maximum allowed for their class, while the pack retains the remainder. Sometimes used by grunts to deliver ammo to teammates across the map.
- Shield pack - When activated, generates a shield that renders the player invulnerable until no energy is available. The shield slowly drains energy over time, but attacks drain it faster.
- Jammer pack - A rarely used pack, makes all teammates within 20 meters (including the wearer) invisible to enemy radar, as well as to turrets so long as the player is not within range of external sensors. (Motion Sensors and, in most cases, enemy players) Unpopular because radar is seldom checked during the game, and because turret invisibility is negated by the presence of an enemy (or less commonly, by monitoring a camera through the PDA).
- Deployable inventory station - Popularly called an "invo", allows players to change weapons and packs at a remote location. It doesn't allow armor changes and has limited energy, so it must be replaced occasionally in large matches.
- Deployable ammo station - Like the invo, resupplies players at remote locations, but only offers ammunition. Has an unlimited energy supply.
- Remote turret - A small plasma turret, automatically fires potent plasma bursts at enemies within range.
- Deployable camera - A camera that can be accessed from a Command Station.
- Deployable sensor jammer - A small sensor that jams radar within a given radius.
- Targeting laser - Used by grunt players to paint targets for teammates. Players using the grenade launcher or the mortar can see small triangles indicating the trajectory and direction required to hit a target precisely. Although a novel feature, it is rarely used in a standard match. It was also made practically obsolete when crosshair modifications were released that included trajectory markers pre-built into the HUD. With these modifications, players had no need for the targeting laser.
- Grenades - Timed short-range charges, do not require a grenade launcher.
- Mines - Charges that explode when touched by enemies (and sometimes friends). Controversial use of mines plagued the Tribes community. Some players changed the texture of the mine, taking advantage of the flexible architecture, to make it more visible and provide an advantage. Many players used a bug in the game to launch mines directly upward, catching them, and planting them in midair. This made flag-capturing extremely difficult without appropriate precautionary measures (sending in decoys, mortaring the base, etc).
- Repair kit - Can be used at any time during play to restore a small percentage of health. Also can be dropped and given to another player.
- Targeting beacons - Act like a targeting laser, providing a target for players with long-range projectiles. They are destroyed fairly easily.
Tribes was one of the first games with team-oriented vehicles. They normally are not the focus of the game (unlike the sequel), but just a convenient feature. It is possible to use the vehicles in kamikaze fashion often to great effect, although this is looked down upon by many players.
- Scout - A one-man vehicle, flies fast and fires rockets. Used for rapid flag snatching and "capping" (flag capturing). Difficult to master piloting, as expressed by Gabe of Penny Arcade: "I mean, you know how much concentration it takes to fly those scouts".
- LPC (Light Personnel Carrier) - An APC capable of carrying a pilot and two passengers, moving faster than the HPC. The passengers can fire from inside the vehicle, making them very dangerous to base defenders.
- HPC (Heavy Personnel Carrier) - An APC capable of carrying a pilot and four passengers, moving slower than the LPC. Like in the LPC, passengers can fire while in transit.
There are five kinds of permanent turrets. They can all be destroyed by mortar shells, but their shields can block attacks from any other weapon- but are drained by the ELF gun. Plasma - Fires slow-moving balls of energy at enemy targets. Indoor - Fires fast-moving balls of energy at moving enemies. It is sensitive to motion instead of energy, so it can't be jammed. Players can move slowly to confuse it, though. Rocket - Fires energy-seeking missiles that track vehicles or players using their jetpacks. ELF (Electron flux) - Like the ELF gun, drains the energy of enemies. Also deals a small amount of damage. Mortar - Fires green mortar shells like the portable version only with greater distance. Unlike the other turrets, it doesn't fire automatically and must be controlled at a command station.