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"Skyrim": A Guide to Archery

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I'm an avid "Skyrim" player that enjoys building unique characters.

The Bound Bow in action.

The Bound Bow in action.

Archery in Skyrim is probably the hardest combat type at the beginning of the game, being far less rewarding than close-quarters combat and magic. This is because, without the right perks, archery can be slow and weak, with the further disadvantage of requiring a constant supply of arrows. Also, you can’t dual wield, so restoring health or using a shield is out of the picture. Because of all this, many people give up on making a primarily bow and arrow-using character, though it’s actually one of the most satisfying ways to play the game.

Some of the most important skills for creating an archer in Skyrim are light armor, sneak, and of course, archery. There is a multitude of ways to build your character—you can be a pure archer, a tank archer, a sneak archer that also specializes in dual daggers—whatever you want. Here are some perks you may want to use.

Light armor is essential for an archer.

Light armor is essential for an archer.

Useful Perks

  • All of the Archery perks; get them as soon as possible. Damage increase is self-explanatory. Eagle Eye allows you to zoom. Critical hits, as well as staggering and paralyzing enemies, are some of the most fun things to do with an archer (usually, at the beginning of the game, archery isn’t as fun because the enemies just sprint at you and kill you. These perks stop that).
  • Light Armor is usually the better choice over heavy armor for archers because it facilitates speed and stealth. You need speed as an archer, to strafe, and light armor is always better than heavy sets for stealth purposes. You can walk just as quickly in Heavy Armor, but only after you get the Conditioning perk (Heavy Armor 70), which takes quite a while to get. Deft movement is also extremely useful (what level 100 perk isn’t useful?), letting you avoid 10% of all melee damage. For some info on armor, check out my article on Light Armor vs. Heavy Armor.
  • Sneak is important because, once you level up your archery and get stronger bows and arrows, you can kill people in one or two hits. This avoids a complete brawl, which will save you potions and arrows. Needless to say, close-quarter combat with a bow and arrow is less than optimal. Deadly aim, a level 40 sneak skill, multiplies sneak attack damage by three. Coupling that with a critical hit is extremely damaging.
  • Conjuration is a fun skill to couple with archery because of the Bound Bow skill (Level 50 Conjuration needed). With it, you get infinite arrows, and it overlaps with all your archery perks. At full potential, with everything unlocked, the Bound Bow is as strong as a Daedric Bow. Also, it doesn't hurt that it looks really cool!
  • Check out Skyrim's Most Useful and Useless Perks for more information on which perks are useful and which aren't.
With Faendal as your companion, you can learn archery for free.

With Faendal as your companion, you can learn archery for free.

Miscellaneous Tips

  • Wood Elves start off with +10 archery levels, and Khajiits and Redguards have +5. However, Bretons, Nords, and Dark Elves, with 25% magic resistance, 50% frost resistance, and 50% fire resistance, respectively, are probably the better choices. You can level archery up to 100 with anyone, so the initial +5 or +10 isn’t much of an advantage.
  • You can shoot a decoy arrow, and your targets will look at where the arrow hit (like a wall or the ground). Then, as your enemies turn their backs, you can sneak-shot them for the 3x extra damage.
  • Use Faendal as a companion, and have him train you in archery. Since he’s your companion, you can pay him for the training and just take back all the money from his inventory without penalty.
  • Go to Falkreath, to Angi’s house. It's south-ish of the town. She’ll let you shoot at targets for free archery experience.
  • Give your companion close-quarter combat weapons, so they can tank. Also, if you give them a staff that can conjure a familiar, they’ll automatically do it when they sense that enemies are nearby.
  • Even better, if you've invested into the conjuration tree yourself, you can summon atronachs and zombies. With skills like Flame/Frost/Storm Thrall, you can permanently summon them (until they die), and power them up with perks like Twin Souls (summon two at a time). These are some of the best tanks in the game, diverting most of the damage while you sit back and snipe your enemies from afar.


kianmehr on March 06, 2019:

also targeting is so important. if you are playing as first-person, nearby targets are above the up arrow. and aim downer for further enemies. if you are playing as third-person its different and depends on the distance your character is. a little distance: between down and left. i can't remember the other distances but you can test it yourself!

Daniel Smith on January 03, 2018:

A lot of these miscellaneous tips are things that I didn't know. thanks so much for sharing.

gabriel mills on December 11, 2017:

thanks alot, always played archer . lots of tips.

Tracy on June 28, 2017:

I feel really bad, now, since I always start as an archer and don't level up from level one till I beat Alduin. Skills still level, but I don't get any perks that way; still, last time my archery leveled, I think it was at level 60. (Yes, archery is MUCH more rewarding than other forms of attack.)

Bouge The Dude on May 21, 2016:

I went pretty unique with my character.

Sneak/Archery when far, Mace/Shield/Restoration when up close.

The only trouble I used to have was when I fight enemies with Heavy Armor or shields. Well, with Mace perks, I ignore armor. Aw yeaaaah.

Samuel Franklin on August 24, 2014:

@ilikegames I definitely recommend an archer playthrough, it was how I first played Skyrim and find it to be one of the best games to do an archer/rogue type gameplay and the tips here are excellent!

Sarah Forester from Australia on February 01, 2014:

I've always wanted to do an archer playthrough, it seems so cool but I can just never pull it off. Maybe I'll have to try soon with the advice on this Hub, thanks!

ihpp on December 31, 2013:

I use daedric armor and armor is heavely enchanted with bow and one handed dooing 40percent ea so my bow does 300 dam

shameonyousir on May 17, 2013:

where are the enchanting and smithing perks

these are CRUCIAL for a deadly archer

11111111 on April 15, 2013:

runes are very effective also throw a frost rune next to your atronarch then summon your bow

Lady Bow on March 05, 2013:

I played two times in Skyrim as pure mage - on master level it just get quite boring after week or so. Yesterday I've started for the third time and now I'm playing pure archery with Nord Lady I've choosed as my character (two mages before were males). I have to write that I rediscovered this game for second time !! I'm excited and can't wait to seat to the game afternoon - I'm surpriesed because after two games with mages I was thinking that this game gave me all it could - and suddenly BOOOOM - yesterday I fell in love with TES V Skyrim once more :) Archery is so cool !!!

Caleb from Wichita, KS on November 28, 2012:

This is so true and awesome. Great article, rated up and interesting.

Dovahkiin on October 19, 2012:

well i am an assassin archer i use nightgale armor , but i was walkin on the secundas kiss , in the chest i found the daedric armor , i now using daedric armor masque of claviulus vile ebony gloves and orchis boots , i kill elder dragons with 5 arrows :D oh and i almos forget it .... Fus Roh Dah!!!

bassking31 on August 06, 2012:

I have a character that's a lvl 45 arcane archer, and it's so fun, but requires a bit of strategy at the beginning of a fight.

Once I got the Bound Bow spell, I tried using it as often as possible and soon realized that even with infinite arrows it creates a disadvantage at the beginning of a fight: the time it takes to pull out your hands, cast the spell, then wait for the bow to appear gives your enemies a TON of time to close in on you. So I came up with a combonation of spells to start a fight.

I'd start by casting Iron(Ebony once I got it)flesh and Ice(Storm once I got it) Atronach, then summoned my bow and finish what my atronach started. The atronach distracts your enemies long enough that you can effectively summon your bow without worry, and even if one of two enemies comes for you instead of your atronach, the Ironflesh spell will protect you a decent amount from the first few blows and give you time to knock them back with a bow-bash. I had no trouble fighting even large groups of difficult enemies with this tactic.

I hope this help any Arcane Archer hopefuls out there!

im not giving a computor my name on July 01, 2012:

I had no trouble with any of this people ataacking me I started with a bow and shutting of arrows from killing a whole bunch of enemies after that I sneaked around everywhere one hitting everything with a superior hunting bow till I found a dwarven bow then to a ebony and I'm still playing after that

Psiberzerker on June 23, 2012:

Sneak, and archery are potentially the only two skills you need for the whole game if you know how to use them. If you're serious about Archery, I respectfully suggest you go get a Forsworn Bow as soon as possible. 1 Sneak shot, and you can have a Dwarven tier weapon that's improved with Steel at level 1. Not as much of a Disk 1 Nuke as Bound Bow (Which you need an Altmer to cast at level 1) but it will get you through most of the game with Smithy. Also, their armor is improvable with Leather, which you can get from hunting.

No mining, take the Hadvar Door for access to his uncle's forge, and you can grab a stack of steel from him. Then, head out to Lost valley Redoubt for your bow, and armor, pick up as many hides on the way as you can. If you improve all the foresworn armor in the game, you can get your smithy up to a respectable near 50 (depending on racial bonuses) before you ever have to pick up a pickaxe.

Then, you can branch out however you want' I also highly recommend the Companions' early quests for access to Skyforge Steel (Not to mention lots of Cure Disease/Hawk Feathers.) If you like, you can get infected, for long range sprinting, and pick up the Savior's Hide. Matches real well with the feather bikini.

Archer on June 19, 2012:

Also smithing is good to have as an archer

wenomar on June 04, 2012:

Than you, that was really useful!!

Six Gun VIP on June 03, 2012:

Lol 680 with sneak? You can glitch the ancient assassins cowl and the krosis dragon mask to give you plus about 45 just on your headgear. Afterward its really your choice. (100 archery)

RCA on Dhii on May 23, 2012:

Got an arcane archer too

add Brelyna Maryon as a follower (you got to literally turn into a cow for this) and we have a small army of 3 atronarchs charging while I shoot with either bound bow or nightingale bow and she blasts off fireballs and wards

SKArch on May 22, 2012:

i use the daedric ebony armor dunno what its called but it gives u 5 poison damage when ur close to enemys plus when u crouch it shrouds u and i use the dragin priest mask +20% damage on bows, enchanted ring and necklace, each +24% damage on bows and daedric gauntlets and boots with the muffle enchantment. my bow has 222 damage with steel aroows so i can get around 680 dmg with a sneak shot

u just have to play the game and see what it comes out to

Archeron on April 24, 2012:

Waffle, lol, crack me up!

Stay Frosty on February 05, 2012:

My character is an Archer and uses a Triss Armor (Light Armor, Mod) and with Light Armor perks. It's great for Archery. Also, you can always switch between Bows and Spells just in case you need to heal or cast a buff.

Ben on January 07, 2012:

I use heavy armor as an archer, but I use the steed stone, so the heavy armor doesn't impede my movement while giving me better protection than light armor. Alternatively, if you are looking to use the warrior stone, I would strongly recommend the light armor option.

videogameviking from California on November 26, 2011:

Great hub and tips!