Archery is a popular pick among many Skyrim fans. Although the game was initially geared more towards one-handed and two-handed combat, it soon became clear that bows and archery were and continue to be wildly overpowered compared to just about any other character build out there. Not only can an archer deal insane amounts of damage, but it’s also one of the easiest builds to perfect.
If you’re only beginning your journey in the game, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with how much there is to do when it comes to developing skills. Archery is no different in that regard and there’s many ways to boost it, improve it, level it and manipulate it through various in-game mechanics. Here’s what you need to know on your archery skill.
The Strength Of Archery
If you’re relatively new to Skyrim, you might ask why archery is such a great pick over just about any other combat skill. The answer is the sheer damage you’re able to output at range, making you the ultimate sniper assassin in the Elder Scrolls universe. At high level, stealthy archers in particulars can easily take down enemies with a single arrow.
The stealth archer variant in particular is without a doubt the most popular build among Skyrim players, due to how much damage it outputs. Pair archery with skills like high stealth and high alchemy, and you’ll be able to evade your enemies and hit critical stealth shots, as well as craft deadly poisons to add on to your arrows. To find out how to create a powerful stealth archer, consult this comprehensive guide.
Basic Leveling Methods
Since archery is a combat ability, you won’t struggle leveling it up. Make sure that in every encounter right off the bat you use a bow instead of any other weapon, even if at first it might feel awkward to you.
- Any successful hit on a living or live target grants you experience, and counts towards your level progress.
- Shooting targets found around Skyrim will not grant you experience.
Like with any other skill, you can also consult a trainer, which we’ll get to further down the line in this guide. This requires a bit of gold, but some trainers early on can offer archery training after doing a small quest for them.
Finally, archery books are scattered all around Skyrim, and there’s a list provided further down below with easy locations to get your hands on them. It’s definitely the slow way to level up your archery, but if you happen to be nearby one, make sure to pick it up.
In order to get the most out of leveling your skills, you should maximize your experience gain by doing one of the following:
- Sleep in an owned bed for a 10% experience boost, or sleep next to a spouse for a 15% experience boost.
- Activate the Lover Stone standing stone for an additional 15% experience boost when learning skills.
- Activate the Thief Stone to gain a 20% experience boost towards learning archery.
Quests And Exploits
Some quests in Skyrim, when completed, will grant you with free training in a specific skill related to the guest giver or to the nature of the quest itself. There’s a whole range of such quests, and as one would expect there’s even two quests for archery.
- Archery Practice: head to Angi’s Camp, located southeast of Falkreath. Compete against her, and with every round you will gain one skill point in archery up to a total of 6.
- Dragonborn DLC: in Skaal Village, help Wulf Wild-Blood find his brother. After completing the quest, Wulf will boost several of your combat skills, including archery.
If you’re really looking to speed things up, there are some more exploitative or niche methods to leveling up archery. These usually require you to have access to an essential character or a horse that’s marked as essential.
- The Shadowmere method: after receiving Shadowmere from Astrid during the Dark Brotherhood quest line, turn the game difficulty up and practice your archery on the horse, who will never die.
- The giant camp method: many giant camps in Skyrim make for easy archery training spots due to nearby rocks and high ground where you can hide as you pelt the giants and mammoths with arrows, while they’re unable to reach you.
There’s a total of five archery books found in Skyrim, excluding the Oghma Infinium which can take on the role of any skill book. Here’s which locations are the easiest to find these following skill books.
- Oghma Infinium: get it during the main quest Discerning the Transmundane, and choose the Path of Might to increase your combat skills, and your archery.
- Father of the Niben: head west from the northern gates of Riften, and reach Autumnshade Clearing. After dealing with the enemies, you can loot this book from a dead hunter on the scene.
- The Black Arrow, v2: in Whiterun, on the top shelf behind the cashier’s counter at the Drunken Huntsman.
- The Marksmanship Lesson: walk south from Dragon Bridge and up on a cliff, find the Cliffside Retreat shack where this book is found on a shelf.
- The Gold Ribbon of Merit: found at Angi’s Camp on an end table.
- Vermaccus and Bourlor: two are found in Dragonsreach in Whiterun. One is within the Jarl’s Quarters and the other is located in the main hall inside a bookshelf.
Aside from books, if you have extra gold to spare it’s a good idea to visit an archery trainer to get a few easy extra points into your skill. While some will require you to join a specific faction, there are a few accessible at early levels as well.
- Aela the Huntress: found at Jorrvaskr, she’s a member of the Companions and an Expert level archery trainer.
- Niruin: a member of the Thieves Guild, she’s a Master level archery trainer in Riften.
- Sorine Jurard: only available in the Dawnguard DLC, you must join the Dawnguard and complete the quest A New Order before receiving training from her. She’s a Master level trainer.
- Angi: head to Angi’s camp near Falkreath, and she will not only train you for free for six levels, but after that provide extra training for some gold. She’s a Master level trainer.
- Faendal: found in Riverwood, he’s only an Adept level trainer, but accessible early on in the game.
Archery usually pairs well with alchemy, not just because of the poisons you can make to create deadly arrows, but because of the powerful fortifying potions you can craft for yourself to make your overall damage stronger. When looking for ingredients, prioritize these to create a Fortify Archery potion:
- Spider Egg
- Canis Root
- Elves Ear
- Juniper Berries
For those who have the Dawnguard DLC installed, make sure to grab the Blessing of Auriel as well, located in Darkfall Cave and within the Inner Sanctum of Auri-El’s Chantry. The blessing boosts your Archery by 10 points.
Best Unique Bows And Gear
There are 13 different unique bows found within Skyrim, but only a handful of them are actually worthwhile. If you’re looking to get a decent unique bow quickly, here’s where to find these enchanted pieces.
- Nightingale Bow: the best bow in terms of sheer damage (19 points) in the game, you need to finish the Thieves Guild quest line to get your hands on it.
- Glass Bow of the Stag Prince: while its enchantment isn’t great, it does decent damage (16 points) and can be bought from Falas Selvayn, located at the Ramshackle Trading Post in the Dragonborn DLC.
- Gauldur Blackbow: complete the Forbidden Legend quest and loot it from Sigdis Gauldursson’s corpse. With 14 base damage and the ability to absorb 30 Magicka from the target, it’s a solid bow for any archer, similar to the Drainspell Bow which is its weaker version.
- Firiniel’s End: during the Dark Brotherhood quest that involves the murder of Vittoria Vici, the bow can be found at the balcony of Castle Dour, opposite of the balcony where Vici will address her guests. It does a modest 13 damage, but also deals 20 points of Frost damage to Health and Stamina.
A good archer won’t simply rely on their bow. It’s important to ensure you have the right gear for the job, too. For some enchanted gear ideal for archers, look for these pieces.
- Shrouded Cowl: as soon as you’ve joined the Dark Brotherhood and entered the Falkreath sanctuary, a full set of their armor, including this cowl, can be found on a shelf. It increases damage from bows by 20%.
- Ancient Shrouded Cowl: this is a variant of the Shrouded Cowl, with a 35% damage boost to bows. To get it, make sure to consult Olava the Feeble after killing Gaius Marow. The cowl is inside a hidden room at Hag’s End.
- Gauntles of the Old Gods: these gauntlets grant the wearer an additional 20% damage boost with bows. To get them, complete the quest No One Escapes Cidhna Mine and side with Madanach.
- Krosis: one of the toughest dragon priests, Krosis can be fought at Shearpoint, a mountain top located between Whiterun and Windhelm on the southern side of the river. Defeat Krosis, and loot his mask, which grants you a 20% boost in alchemy, archery and lockpicking.
NEXT: Skyrim: 10 Of The Best Utility Mods, Ranked
Tea lover and video game obsessed writing enthusiast with her very own Overwatch team, Anastasia writes about games that leave an impression on her and make her come back time and time again.
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