If you’ve been playing Skyrim for a while, and joined any sort of online community dedicated to the game, you’ve almost certainly come across the stealth archer meme.
For those unfamiliar with the meme, the gist of it is that no matter what intentions you hold going into a fresh Skyrim playthrough, one inevitably ends up becoming a stealth archer. Why? Probably because it’s a fun playstyle that allows you to take down enemies from a distance with large damage multipliers thanks to Sneak perks.
Perhaps because of these meme associations, I realised recently that I’ve written an “ultimate build guide” for almost every build you can think of in Skyrim (Mage, Spellsword, Two-Handed, Unarmed, Vampire, Illusion Dagger Assassin), except for an archer. This is funny because left to my own devices I’m probably most drawn to playing an archer in Skyrim and other RPGs.
I wanted to do something slightly different though, so what follows is not your standard sneak archer build. Instead, it’s a versatile combat archer, who can drop foes in one shot in sneak – but when all hell breaks loose – can also conjure powerful allies, slow time and take down enemies in the heat of battle. The short video below shows a mid to late game example of our archer build in action, taking down a group of tough bandits in mere seconds.
To make the guide easier to use for those searching for specific pieces of information found within, I’ve used clearly defined subheadings and a table of contents with jump links. But i’ve also laid out the sections below so that if you follow them in order, you will be guided from the very opening of your playthrough, to the late game.
Table of Contents
- The Best Race For Skyrim Archer Build
- Skyrim Archer Build Skills and Perks
- Skyrim Archery Build Attributes to Choose When Levelling Up
- Sneak Levelling for Skyrim Archer Build
- Skyrim Archer Build Standing Stones
- Skyrim Archery Trainer
- Good Early Game Bow for Skyrim Archer Build
- The Best Shouts For Skyrim Archer Build
- Slow Time
- How To Level Speech Fast in Skyrim
- Skyrim Speech Trainer
- How to Level Conjuration in Skyrim
- Enchanting for Skyrim Archer Build
- Smithing For Skyrim Archer Build
- Best Archer Armour in Skyrim
- Bound Bow: the Best Mid-Game Bow in Skyrim
- Auriel’s Bow: The Best Bow in Skyrim
- What Next?
The Best Race For Skyrim Archer Build
As I’ve mentioned in a lot of other guides, race selection in Skyrim is less crucial to your build than you might think. All races are able to learn all skills, so at the end of the day you really want to be prioritising the race that you most feel like playing. That being said the passive racial bonuses and active racial power that you get based on your choice can make a difference to your build.
In this build I’ve gone with the Bosmer (aka Wood Elf). You get a starting bonus to both Archery and Sneak, which are key skill trees for us. Your racial power is the ability to befriend an animal and have it fight for you once a day. This also fits in nicely to our strategy of using companions and summoned beings to take the brunt of melee attacks while we pick off enemies with our bow. There’s also a nice roleplay element to the fact that Bosmer are renowned as archers in the lore of the Elder Scrolls.
“Wood elves make good scouts and thieves, and there are no finer archers in all of Tamriel.”
A very close second pick would be an Orsimer, aka Orc. This might seem an odd choice thanks to the bulkier body size of most Orsimer characters. But thanks to the racial power Berserker Rage, which allows you to double your damage for a short duration once per day, an Orc archer can get some insane sneak hits in, doing 6 times damage if you have the Deadly Aim perk unlocked. As an Orc you also get starting skill buffs to Enchanting and Smithing, which are also part of our build.
Skyrim Archer Build Skills and Perks
- Sneak: For landing stealth hits on enemies from afar.
- Stealth: (You are 20% harder to detect when sneaking.) Take this once or twice in the early game and then wait until you really want to boost your sneak in the later game, after you’ve already unlocked some other key perks, before you sink more perk points into this one.
- Muffled Movement: (Noise from armor is reduced by 50%.) Helps you remain undetected and also needed to get to more important perks.
- Backstab: (Sneak attacks with one-handed weapons now do six times damage.) This is almost completely useless for our build because we’re not using melee at all. But we need to unlock it to get to Deadly Aim.
- Light Foot: (You won’t trigger pressure plates.) This is super useful in dungeons. Definitely a must have perk in a sneak build to prevent annoying and sudden trap deaths.
- Deadly Aim: (Sneak attacks with bows now do three times damage.) One of the key perks in our build. This is essential for the stealth portion of our playstyle.
- Silent Roll: (Sprinting while sneaking executes a silent forward roll.) Silent Roll is one of my favourite perks in the game and an absolute neccesity if you’re playing any sort of stealth based character. It totally revolutionises movement while crouched. So much so that you may find yourself staying in crouch mode at times that you wouldn’t otherwise, just to use the awesome roll mechanic.
- Archery: Your primary combat mechanic, you need these perks to do more damage, faster with your bow.
- Overdraw: (Bows do 20% more damage.) Overdraw is similiar to the Stealth perk in the Sneak tree – and most of the other opening perks – in that you can take it multiple times for an increased effect. Like the other perks of this type, we recommend only taking it once or twice initially, and waiting until you’ve unlocked some other key perks before coming back and investing more points.
- Critical Shot: (10% chance of a critical hit that does extra damage.) Not a bad perk at all. But mostly we’re unlocking it because we need it to get to Ranger further up the skill tree.
- Hunter’s Discipline: (Recover twice as many arrows from dead bodies.) Similiar to Critical Shot, probably not a priority perk if it wasn’t needed to unlock Ranger. Not a complete waste though.
- Ranger: (Able to move faster with a drawn bow.) This is the one we unlocked Critical Shot and Hunter’s Discipline for. Maybe not the most crucial perk if we were a pure stealth archer. But as a battle archer that wants to be able to move and fight fluidly in the midst of combat, Ranger makes a huge difference to our playstyle. A definite must have for our build.
- Eagle Eye: (Pressing Block while aiming will zoom in your view.) Needed to unlock the Steady Hand perks. Makes long distance shots a bit easier.
- Steady Hand (1 & 2): (Zooming in with a bow slows time by 25%/50%.) One of the key perks in the Archery skill tree. Once you have both of these perks unlocked you’ll be able to briefly slow down time in the midst of battle and land shots more effectively.
- Power Shot: (Arrows stagger all but the largest opponents 50% of the time.) Another perk that’s much more useful in a build like our’s that’s not just stealth based. Being able to momentarily knockback enemies every second shot often gives you a precious moment to think or redraw your next shot. A fantastic perk.
- Quick Shot: (Can draw a bow 30% faster.) My favourite Archery perk. 30% might not seem like a lot, but it’s enough of a speed boost that it makes all your archery combat feel a lot more fluid and responsive. A must have.
- Conjuration: For conjuring familiars to keep enemies at bay while you pick them off and filling soul gems for enchanting.
- Novice/Apprentice/Adept/Expert Conjuration: (Cast Novice level Conjuration spells for half magicka.) These perks are very useful when you’re regularly using a Conjuration spell in the matching expertise bracket. You want to unlock Apprentice Conjuration when you’re ready to power level the skill, so you can use Soul Trap for half mana. As you upgrade your Conjure Familiar/Atronach spells you will want to unlock the corresponding perk for that level when you can, to make casting the spell more efficient. For our build I wouldn’t make getting to Master level a priority. Getting to Expert level and learning Conjure Storm Atronach should be more than enough.
- Mystic Binding: (Bound weapons do more damage.) This perk significantly upgrades the damage of your Bound Bow when you get it (see the Get Bound Bow section in this guide). It’s also required to unlock the Soul Stealer perk which is important for our build.
- Soul Stealer: (Bound weapons cast Soul Trap on targets.) As you adventure through the dungeons of Skyrim you’ll find that there’s a ton of empty soul gems laying around for you to pilfer. These are pretty useless until they’re filled with some unfortunate’s soul. At which point they can be used for recharging your enchanted weapons and enchanting new gear. This is where Soul Stealer comes in. When you have this perk active and use your Bound Bow in battle (which will be the case throughout most of the mid game in this build), every time you kill a creature it will automatically fill one of your soul gems. This is incredibally useful for enchanting. One thing to be careful of though, is that if you only have an empty grand soul gem and you kill something small like a wolf, you will only get a lesser or petty soul in your grand soul gem, wasting it for higher level enchanting. You can get around this by giving your empty grand and black soul gems to a companion as you adventure, protecting them from this accidental partial filling. And then take one out before a fight with a significant enemy to fill it.
- Enchanting: For enchanting your bow and armour for better archery and related skills.
- Enchanter: (New enchantments are 20% stronger.) Another repeatable perk that you want to put one or two points into in the early to mid game, and then wait until the later game when you’ve unlocked other key perks before investing more.
- Insightful Enchanter: (Skill enchantments on armour are 25% stronger.) One of the key things we’re going to be doing with our enchantment is buffing skills such as Archery and Smithing. That makes Insightful Enchanter a very useful perk to unlock.
- Soul Squeezer: (Soul gems provide extra Magicka for recharging.) We’re going to be using enchanted bows throughout the entirety of our playthrough. To get the most out of these weapons we’ll need to be recharging them constantly. Soul Squeezer means you’ll get the most recharge juice possible out of your soul gems, so definitely a perk worth considering.
- Smithing: For making and improving bows and armour, and crafting arrows.
- Steel Smithing: (Can create Steel armor and weapons at forges, and improve them twice as much.) Not particularly relevant to our build but required for the other perks.
- Elven Smithing: (Can create Elven armor and weapons at forges, and improve them twice as much.) In the late game we’re going to be acquiring Auriel’s Bow, which can be improved using Refined Moonstone and the Elven Smithing perk. We can also use this perk to smith a set of Elven Armour for ourselves to improve and enchant.
- Arcane Blacksmith: (You can improve magical weapons and armor.) Auriel’s Bow is classified as magical, so you’ll also need this perk to improve it.
- Speech: You’ll be buying and selling lots of materials for smithing and enchanting, may as well make that easier and more profitable.
- Haggling: (Buying and selling prices are 10% better.) Unlock one level of this perk initially to gain access to more important later perks. Not a priority perk to put any more levels into as you’ll end up with so much loot throughout the game that building up gold won’t be an issue.
- Allure: (10% better prices with the opposite sex.) Needed to unlock Merchant, the most important Speech perk. Not a bad perk, especially if you’re playing as a female character, considering the predominance of male shopkeepers in the early game for shops that will be key to our build.
- Merchant: (Can sell any type of item to any kind of merchant.) This is one of the most useful perks in the game, and the main reason why we’ve even bothered to take Speech as one of our skill trees. The primary usefuleness here is the fact that you can now recoup money spent at specialty merchants by selling any of your loot. For example, if you’ve come back from adventuring with an inventory full of valuable loot, you can head to a blacksmith and purchase additional ingots and other supplies needed to level your Smithing. You can then get your money back from these purchases by selling the blacksmith a wide variety of loot that you would otherwise be locked out of selling them.
- Investor: (Can invest 500 gold with a shopkeeper to increase his available gold permanently.) This perk is on the borderline of usefulness in this build. If you’re happy to take advantage of the merchant gold reset glitch that we outline later in this guide, then you probably don’t need this perk. If you’re set on not using any hacks like this, then you probably want to get Investor. Even with using the gold reset trick, Investor isn’t a bad perk to get in the later game, as it will make the selling loop quicker.
You don’t need to unlock Light Armour perks because between sneak, the ranged combat of archery and keeping enemies at bay with conjured familiars and companions, you’re rarely going to get hit. That being said, if you want a bit more survivability in solo combat, this is an option you could consider.
Skyrim Archery Build Attributes to Choose When Levelling Up
Stamina: As a combat archer you will want good movement ability and to be able to make use of the bow’s zoomed in mode (which takes Stamina). A high Stamina attribute will also help increase your carry weight allowance, to haul around more Smithing and Enchanting supplies as well as loot to sell for levelling your Speech skill.
Magicka: You’ll want to equally prioritise Magicka, as this will be crucial for casting Conjuration spells so that you keep yourself protected in battle with atronach companions. You’ll also need Magicka to help power level Conjuration with the Soul Trap spell, which we’ll discuss later in this guide.
Health: Due to the nature of this build being focussed on ranged combat, and the fact that you will have conjured companions helping keep melee enemies at bay, your health is potentially less of a priority. That being said, these attribute recommendations are down to personal preference. If you find that you’re using your Conjuration less and don’t have a companion with you, then you may find your archer a bit too squishy and easily killed. If this is the case, putting some points into Health may be a wise move for you. In our run through of the build we prioritised Stamina and Magicka and thanks to our use of Conjuration and companions, didn’t have much trouble with our lower Health total.
Sneak Levelling for Skyrim Archer Build
Like many skills in Skyrim, your Sneak skill level will rise naturally as you play, by both successfully sneaking past enemies unnoticed and also by successfully landing stealth attacks on enemies while sneaking.
If you want to get a jump start on your sneak levelling though, you can power it up considerably while still in the opening of the game. To do so, follow either Ralof or Hadvar through the Helgen Keep. When they reach the large cave with a bear in it and tell you to sneak, instead of attacking the bear, start hitting your guide while in sneak with a melee weapon (daggers work best because they’re fast and you can get more hits in, but you can use anything really). This will allow you to trigger successful stealth attacks and level your Sneak as high as you want. You can read more of an explanation in the ‘How To Level Sneak’ section of our stealth assassin guide, or else just watch the video below which shows how it’s done.
Skyrim Archer Build Standing Stones
Once you’ve made it out of Helgen at the start of the game, one of the first landmarks you’ll come across are the three Guardian Stones. One of these three, the Thief Stone, is a good archery stone for our build because it gives a 20% boost to our Archery, Sneak and Speech levelling.
If you’re specifically power levelling Conjuration or Enchanting at a later stage, you’d do well to fast travel back and switch over to the Mage Stone, and likewise if you’re focussing on levelling Smithing, the Warrior Stone will give you a 20% boost. For the start of our build though, you’ll probably get most value out of the Thief Stone.
If you’re using the mod Unofficial Skyrim Special Edition Patch, Archery is boosted by the Warrior Stone, instead of the Thief Stone. If this effects you, you’re probably best off using the Lover Stone – see below.
Because we’re wanting to level skills across all three of the Guardian Stone archetypes, another option is to activate the Lover Stone. This stone can be reached early in the game, after you arrive at Whiterun, by taking a carriage ride to Markarth. Once you arrive head to the nearby location of the Lover Stone which you can see in the video below. With the Lover Stone activated, all skills are boosted by a slightly lower buff of 15%. While this isn’t as high as the 20% buff of the Guardian Stones, its versatility across all skills can make it worth it by not having to constantly switch between stones.
Skyrim Archery Trainer
Once you reach Riverwood, which you’ll do soon after escaping Helgen, you can get yourself a helpful companion and power level your Archery skill for free all in one fell swoop by doing a favour for Faendal. You’ll find the Riverwood local either in the Inn or helping out near the Mill.
Just chat to him about his one true love Camilla, and he’ll ask you to deliver a letter to her and tell a little white lie. If you deliver the letter and lie as Faendal has asked you, you’ll be able to take him with you on adventures.
Because you can trade with followers and take back any gold that you’ve given him, you can also train your Archery with him and then take back the money spent. Voila, free Archery training. See how it’s done in the video below:
Good Early Game Bow for Skyrim Archer Build
After befriending Faendal in Riverwood, your next port of call should be to continue on to Whiterun, where you’ll be able to find a very good early game bow. The bow we’re after is an Elven Bow. While nothing special compared to the weaponry we’ll be wielding later on in the game, at this point in the playthrough, it vastly ouclasses your other options of bows commonly found as loot such as the simple Long Bow.
To find the Elven Bow in question we are going to be giving ourselves a bit of a five finger discount – i.e. breaking into a private display case and stealing it – so you will want to stop off at Belethor’s General Goods in Whiterun to pick up some more lockpicks if you don’t already have a decent amount.
Then head up to the middle district of Whiterun (the area with the large tree in the centre) and to your right you will see steps leading up to a round building (Jorrvaskr, the hall used by the Companions). Head up to Jorrvaskr and enter the building. Ignore the fight going on (if it’s your first time entering this playthrough) and walk to your right, where you’ll find a set of stairs leading down to the living quarters.
Once in the living quarters, turn right and head up the hallway. Then turn left at the first opportunity and open the door on your left. Inside this room, in the back left hand corner of the room, you’ll find a display case with an Elven Bow inside, as well as a skill book to give you an extra point in Archery.
Save your game before attempting to pick the lock, so that if you lose all your lockpicks you can load that save and try again. You can see the above steps for acquiring the Elven Bow in the video below:
Once you have the bow, you can do what you want quest-wise. Although a good first step is to head up to the top of Whiterun, to Dragonsreach to speak to the Jarl and continue the main questline. The main questline isn’t important for our build, except for the first major quest that gets triggered by speaking to the Jarl (the one where you head down to the watchtower and defeat your first dragon.) You’ll want to complete this quest so that you unlock the ability to use shouts and trigger the appearance of dragons in the game world (who you’ll need to defeat to harvest the souls needed for shouts).
You might also want to buy a pickaxe from the blacksmith or the general store before leaving town, so that you can mine any ore veins you find while adventuring. These will be helpful for use later on when levelling your Smithing skill. While adventuring, also hold on to any enchanted loot items that you come across as we can use these to disenchant and learn new enchantments.
The Best Shouts For Skyrim Archer Build
Once you’ve killed your first dragon you’ll unlock the Unrelenting Force shout. This isn’t actually a bad shout for an archer as it can push back an enemy that’s gotten too close to you, giving you a precious few moments to act. For the time being you can use Unrelenting Force. But the next step in our strategy is to get an even better shout for our archer, Slow Time.
Slow Time does what it says on the packet. It slows down the world around you, and crucially, while you slow down as well, you’re not affected as much by the shout as other enemies are. This means that you can slow time and then unleash a full volley of arrows in a much shorter span of time than you would otherwise be able to, dropping whole groups of enemies in seconds. Think of it like bullet time, but with arrows instead of bullets.
Here’s how you get all three words of the shout:
Slow Time (Word 1 – TIID)
After killing your first dragon, head back to Dragonsreach in Whiterun to complete the quest with the Jarl. Then fast travel down to the Whiterun stables. Talk to the carriage driver at the stable and hitch a ride to Solitude. From there, follow the road west to Deepwood Redoubt. See the map below for the location of Deepwood Redoubt in relation to Solitude.
Fight your way through Deepwood Redoubt into Deepwood Vale (note: there’s a nice fishing spot here if you have your fishing rod with you). Then clear out the vale. At the other side of Deepwood Vale you’ll find a door leading into an area called Hag’s End. The first word wall of Slow Time is in here.
Instead of going in the front entrance of Hag’s End, you can skip the dungeon and go right to the word wall by climbing up to the back entrance, via rocks to the left of the door. See the video below for a demonstration of this shortcut:
Slow Time (Word 2 – KLO)
The second word wall for Slow Time is in Korvanjund. Which you can’t properly get into without going through The Jagged Crown questline. To do this you need to either side with the Imperial Legion or the Stormcloaks in the Civil War Questline. If you spoke to either Ralof or Hadvar after leaving Helgen you may find you already have one of these quests in your miscellaneous quests list. If not, try talking to either a Stormcloak or Imperial soldier, as they wander the roads of skyrim or in one of their camps.
Regardless of which side you choose, after completing the initial quests with that faction, you’ll be given the quest The Jagged Crown. This will have you fighting your way through Korvanjund, at which point you can get to the word wall and unlock the second word of the Slow Time shout.
At the end of Korvanjund you’ll enter Korvanjund Crypt where you fight a Draugr Scourge wearing the Jagged Crown. Once this Draugr and his henchmen are defeated, walk behind his throne to find the second Word Wall.
Slow Time (Word 3 – UL)
To get to the final word of the shout, we’re going to have to head to Labyrinthian. While this does require a fairly significant time investment in the College of Winterhold questline, which can be annoying, there are some positives from following this questline. One of which is that upon starting it you get your own bed and storage space in the College of Winterhold. So if you haven’t yet bought a house in a city, you can at least start storing some of your gear that you’re not planning on immediately selling or using rather than lugging it around with you. This is especially useful for crafting items for smithing, which can take up a fair bit of space in your inventory.
Head to Winterhold (you can fast travel to the Whiterun Stables and catch a ride from there to save you the trek, if you haven’t been there yet). Walk to the end of the town, to the bridge where you’ll have to pass an easy entry test to get inside. Then just follow the main questline of the College along until its conclusion.
How To Get Through Mzulft
When you get to the College of Winterhold quest that sends you to Mzulft, if you’re at a similar character level to I was when writing this guide (level 14), you’re going to find it tough to get through as an archer, if you try it without a companion and without conjuring. I would recommend buying Conjure Flame Atronarch off Phinis Gestor at the College, if you don’t have it already. Note: you will need to have levelled your Conjuration skill to at least 25 for this spell tome to be available for purchase. If you need help levelling your Conjuration, see the ‘How To Level Conjuration‘ section of this guide.
Faendal isn’t bad as a companion, even though he is one of the earlier ones. If you give him a bunch of dungeon loot to carry he’ll kit himself out. At this point in the playthrough, my Faendal was wearing heavy armour and wielding a two handed Dwarven Battleaxe. He seemed to be doing some decent damage, and held back the Dwarven machines and Falmer nightmares long enough for me to get a few arrows in. That along with the Conjure Flame Atronach and the use of the Slow Time shouts we’ve already unlocked (you should have two at this point) will make getting through the Dwarven ruin a lot easier.
While you’re adventuring through Mzulft, keep an eye out for the Soul Gems that are pretty much everywhere. Check every dwarven construct body lying around as lots of the machines will have soul gems (and regular gems too!) in them. These will be invaluable when you start power levelling Enchanting. Another good reason to take a companion with you into Mzulft is you can pick up a bunch of Dwarven scrap metal parts that can be smelted down into Dwarven Metal Ingots, for making dwarven arrows (and levelling your Smithing). See a list of smeltable metal items here. You’ll find a ton of these throughout Mzulft.
How To Get Through Labyrinthian
After finishing Mzulft, before going onto the next quest in the College questline, I recommend you do some Enchanting levelling and sell some of your loot. Make sure to keep at least one set of armour enchanted for yourself for the next dungeon. Read the next sections on Enchanting, Speech and Conjuration leveling now, and then scroll back up to this section to finish the journey for the third Slow Time shout.
If you haven’t already killed enough dragon souls to unlock the two Slow Time shouts you’ve learned, you should go looking for some. To get more dragon souls, fast travel back and forth between Winterhold and Dawnstar and run around for a bit in each place and you’ll likely trigger the appearance of a dragon.
When you get in to Labyrinthian, you’re going to find yourself in what amounts to a boss fight almost straight away in the dungeon. You’ll know when you’ve reached it because you’ll get to an iron gate that is raised with a lever next to the doorway.
Rather than opening this and running straight in. As a low health archer, you’re going to be better off picking off as many of the enemies as you can in sneak mode first. You can be clever about this by using the iron gate to protect yourself and stay hidden. It will close of it’s own accord a few seconds after opening.
A good way to pick off a whole bunch of the skeletons in the next room, is to pull the lever and open the gate, shoot a skeleton in the room in sneak (you should drop it in one hit if you’ve unlocked Deadly Aim), and then duck outside the doorway again as the gate closes, keeping the other skeletons at bay and keeping you hidden. Rinse and repeat.
Another potentially dificult enemy in Labyrtinhian is the Wispmother. The best method I found for defeating her was to keep conjuring up flame atronachs and walking backwards to stay out of her firing line, getting shots in while you can. Don’t try to just run in at her. Keep moving backwards, using health potions and conjuring up atronarchs to keep her at bay as you slowly ping down her health.
For the hallway of fireballs. Make your companion wait (or they’ll keep constantly triggering fireballs and kill you). Equip a bow and use the Slow Time shout. Run to the first shelter, taking out soul gems you can see with the bow. Cast a fire atronarch to set off the floor trap and hopefully it will finish off the other soul gems for you. If not, slow time again and jump out with a drawn bow to shoot them down. Here’s a video to show that strategy in action:
How To Level Speech Fast in Skyrim
There are a few ways to power level Speech in Skyrim. However you go about it, (unless you exploit a dialogue glitch), this levelling is going to involve you selling goods to a merchant. Aside from successfully passing Speech checks, buying and selling goods is the primary means to raise your Speech skill.
The first part of this equation – acquiring goods to sell – is easy. You’re going to collect a hell of a lot of loot pretty quickly as soon as you start adventuring through dungeons. One of the nice synergies in our build is that due to being a ranged combatant, we’re using a companion like Faendal to help keep enemies at bay. This means you now have an additional character to help you carry loot. You also have a buff to carry weight thanks to our prioritisation of Stamina.
If you pick up pretty much everything you find as you play, you’ll end up with a large amount of loot to sell after every mission. The next problem then becomes how to best sell this gear. This is where the “power” part of “power levelling” comes in. Selling this the usual way would involve moving between different merchants in a town to sell just the items that they accept (blacksmith for weapons and armour, alchemist for potions etc.). Or you could sell anything in your inventory to a general goods merchant. But only up to $750 gold, after which point they’ll be out of money to buy your stuff and you’ll have to either wait 2 in game days, or else fast travel to a different town’s general goods store.
That’s where the trick below becomes extremely useful. If you quick save after a merchant’s gold runs out. Then attack them. Then reload the quick save, you’ll find they have their gold refreshed. But the items you’ve sold will still be sold and you’ll still have the gold in your inventory. How does this work? No idea. Is it a glitch/hack? Perhaps, but it’s so damn useful that I do it anyway. Watch the video below to see how it’s done:
Remember, you can also buy potions and lockpicks to then have more merchant gold to sell back to them with your other gear. We won’t be focussing on Restoration or Alchemy in this build so will need to keep a supply of potions on hand. Also we’re not levelling the lockpick skill or focussing on the thieves guild walkthrough for the unbreakable lockpick (if you want to know how to get that check out this section in our Vampire Guide where we step through the Thieves Guild questline that leads to getting the lockpick), so we’ll need to keep a nice big stash of lockpicks on hand for picking Master locks.
Skyrim Speech Trainer
Another, more expensive, way to level any skill is to pay for the levels with a skill trainer. An easily accessible early game trainer for Speech who can train you as high as level 75 is Ogmund who you can find in Markarth. If you’ve activated the Lover Stone earlier in this guide you can just fast travel back there, if not, you can get there easily with a carriage ride from Whiterun. The video below shows his location:
How to Level Conjuration
Of all the magic schools in Skyrim, it’s arguable that Conjuration is the easiest to level. The Other contender for this title is the school of Illusion, which you can level simply by spamming the Muffle spell (which you can read about in our Illusion Assassin article). Likewise, to power level Conjuration, you simply need to spam the Soul Trap spell. The only difference with the Illusion/Muffle levelling method is that unlike Muffle, which can be cast without a target, Soul Trap needs to be cast on a dead enemy.
Here’s a video showing how it works:
Enchanting for Skyrim Archer Build
As you’re plundering your way through Skyrim, make sure to keep any enchanted weapon or armour that you find. Keep a special eye out for any Archery or Smithing enchanted items as these will be key for our build. As soon as you get back to town with some enchanted loot, head to your nearest Arcane Enchanter table to disenchant everything (a good early game location is the room to the right of the main throne room in Dragonsreach in Whiterun). Disenchanting like this will give you access to new enchantments for your own crafting and also help you level Enchanting.
Once you have access to it, enchant your bow with fire, sparks or frost. Do this the first chance you get with the largest soul gem you’ve got available. Then as you’re adventuring you’re getting extra damage with your archery, and also levelling Enchanting when you recharge your bow.
Save your Greater, Grand and Black Soul Gems for enchanting items and use the Lesser and Petty soul gems for recharging your bow. When available, you should also unlock the Conjuration perk Soul Squeezer to get the most juice out of these recharges as possible.
Remember to collect every soul gem you see, even empty ones. As later in the game we’ll be using the Bound Bow and unlocking the Soul Stealer perk to automatically fill these empty gems when we defeat enemies with our bow.
A nice synergy with our Enchanting skill levelling and Speech skill levelling is this: Head straight to an Arcane Enchanter after finishing a dungeon, especially one like Mzulft that has lots of soul gems inside it. You’ve hopefully also picked up some random jewellery and armour or weapons to enchant. Enchant everything you can, levelling up your Enchanting skill in the process. Then head to a merchant to sell all the enchanted gear, (which will give you better prices than if you just sold it plain, straight from the dungeon), in-turn helping you to level your Speech.
Smithing For Skyrim Archer Build
The main use for Smithing in our build is going to be for making and improving higher level bows and armour and refining bows that we find in the game. It’s also useful for securing a steady supply of high level arrows. You may have already found yourself running out of arrows at some point in your adventures so far and needing to purchase some from merchants. Either way, now that we’ve progressed a lot of our major skills like Sneak, Archery and Enchanting, and got all three levels of the Slow Time shout, it’s probably not a bad time to attend to our Smithing.
The first thing you should do is head back to the Guardian Stones, and activate the Warrior Stone, so that you get a boost to Smithing experience points. Then fast travel to wherever you’ve been storing the ore and ingots that you’ve collected so far and gather any iron ore or iron ingots that you’ve got stashed away. Then fast travel back to Whiterun and head to the blacksmith.
A good place to start is to talk to Adrianne Avenicci outside of the blacksmith and choose the dialogue option offering her help around the forge. This will be a good primer if you’ve never done any smithing in Skyrim before, showing you the basics of using each tool. It will also get you going with the start of your Smithing levelling.
The next thing you want to do is procure a set of gauntlets or bracers with a Fortify Smithing enchantment on them. One way to do this is to fast travel between a few cities. Checking the blacksmith at each one to see if they’ve got some for sale. As the blacksmith’s inventory refreshes every 48 hours, if you travel between at least 3 cities, by the time you loop back to the first, he will have refreshed his inventory. It took me about 10 minutes of fast travelling until I found a blacksmith with Gauntlets of Major Smithing.
If you get bracers or Gauntlets of Minor Smithing, you’re probably best off to disenchant them straight away and use a grand soul gem to make yourself a better pair. But if you can buy Gauntlets of Major Smithing, depending on your enchanting level and what perks you’ve unlocked, you may be better off just wearing those shop bought ones for the time being.
If you’ve levelled your Enchanting quite high, have the perk to increase the effectiveness of skill enchantments and have access to a grand or black soul gem, then you should probably try making yourself a set regardless. You can then also make yourself armour of Smithing, a necklace of Smithing and a ring of Smithing. You can always save before disenchanting and if it turns out that your best set of DIY enchanted gear gives less of a boost than the shop bought gauntlets you disenchanted, you can just load your save and use the shop bought ones.
Once you’ve got your enchanted gear it’s time to smith. To start with, make whatever iron gear you can and sell everything you make back to the blacksmith you bought the bracers/gauntlets off to try and recoup some of your gold. Remember you can also improve each piece you make to increase its value before selling back. In truth though, you will get back a very small proportion of the gold spent. Which is why it’s great when you’ve unlocked the Merchant Speech perk and can do this kind of Smithing levelling with a full inventory of loot to sell back to the blacksmith.
When you run out of gear, fast travel between blacksmiths. Buy all their iron ore and ingots and enough leather and/or leather strips for your smithing, smith everything you can and then sell it back to the blacksmith before moving on. As soon as you level up and get a perk point, unlock steel smithing and repeat the process. This time using steel ingots if you have them.
Another great way to level Smithing from quite early on in the game, and something useful to do with all the jewels you’ll inevitably find on your adventures, is to make jewellery. Check out the video below for a demonstration. You don’t need any particular perks to be able to do this:
When you come back to Smithing later in the game, it’s a good idea to unlock the Merchant perk in the Speech skill tree as soon as you can, so that you can sell anything to blacksmiths. Then you can repeat a loop of completing quests and loading you and your companion up with everything you can carry. Then returning to a blacksmith, buying all their relevant smithing supplies, making what you can with the supplies and selling the created gear plus other loot you’re holding back to them to earn back the money you just spent. Then you can fast travel to another blacksmith and repeat the process until you’re out of loot. Also if you have extra perk points you can always level up the first perk in Speech (Haggling) multiple times to get better prices. This will make your loot go further when selling back to the blacksmiths, allowing you to purchase more smithing supplies and level your Smithing faster. In this way, Speech and Smithing can be very synergistic skill trees.
Make sure you fast travel back to the Guardian Stones and activate either the Thief Stone or Mage Stone (depending on what you want to focus on in your levelling while adventuring) as the Warrior Stone is pretty useless in our build any time other than when levelling Smithing. Alternatively you could head to the Lover Stone to get an equal spread of XP buff across all skills.
Best Archer Armour in Skyrim
Because we have Smithing and Enchanting we don’t need to rely on finding unique armour. We can create our own armour and enchant it ourselves. Because we’re unlocking Elven Smithing to be able to improve Auriel’s Bow when we get it later in the game, you may as well make yourself a full set of Elven Armour and enchant it to boost Archery and other key aspects of the build.
That being said, if you’re after some found armour in the early game that looks badass and gives you some decent buffs, you can’t go past the Ancient Shrouded Armour. Usually you have to finish a long questline to get it, but there is a way to get it in the early game, which you can check out in this section of our Assassin Guide.
Bound Bow: the Best Mid-Game Bow in Skyrim
The Bound Bow is the best mid-game archery weapon in the game. With the Mystic Binding perk to increase its damage and the fact that it comes with it’s own endless supply of arrows, it’s arguably the best bow in the game overall – but we’ll come to that question in the next section.
You can get the Bound Bow a couple of ways. The first, slower and more expensive, way is to level up your Conjuration skill to at least level 50, at which point it will become available for purchase off some wizards, such as Phinis Gestor at the College of Winterhold. The second, quicker and cheaper, way is to head to Fort Amol, kill a few mages, and take it for free. See the video below for a demonstration:
You’ll still need to keep a decent bow with you in addition to your bound bow, as casting the Bound Bow spell to summon the weapon will make noise and break your stealth, if you’re going in for a sneak attack. Once you get into full battle mode you can swap over to the bound bow to trap souls and fill your soul gems. You can make the Bound Bow silent with a perk in the Illusion skill tree, but as that’s a level 50 perk, you would need to divert a fair way down the Illusion path. It’s not a bad skill tree at all, but we’ve purposefully kept the skill tree number as small as possible to make levelling more efficient.
While you’re using the Bound Bow through the mid-game, it’s a great opportunity to save up all the arrows you collect from fallen enemies and other sources of loot. By the time you have your non-magical late game bow, you’ll have a stockpile of arrows ready to use.
Auriel’s Bow: The Best Bow In Skyrim
There are a number of good candidates for the title of Best Bow in Skyrim, but in this archery build, our pick goes to Auriel’s Bow. Here are the reasons why:
- It’s one of the fastest bows in the game. This makes good use of our Slow Time shout as we can get more arrows in while time is slowed down.
- While it has a lower base damage than other top bows like Daedric, Dragonbone and Nightingale, it makes up for it by being fast, having 20 sun damage and doing triple damage against undead – plenty of draugrs, skeletons and vampires in skyrim to kill which will now be a total cakewalk.
- It has the added benefits of being able to use the special arrows to fire at the sun for the two different effects, which are totally badass.
- It can be refined using Elven Smithing which isn’t as high up the smithing perk tree as daedric or dragonbone, which is helpful, seeing as how Smithing can be slow to level up.
- There’s an achievement for getting it.
To get Auriel’s Bow you’ll need to head to Fort Dawnguard and play through the Dawnguard DLC on either the Fort Dawnguard side or the Vampire side. I’m going Dawnguard this time as I recently played through as a vampire. It won’t make any difference for getting the bow. You will get a boost to Sneak if you go the vampire side and become a vampire, but you’ll also get all the downsides and challenges of vampirism. If you were interested in becoming a vampire you might want to check out the ultimate vampirism guide here: Skyrim Vampire: The Ultimate Guide to Being a Vampire in Skyrim.
Before heading off on the Dawnguard questline, prepare yourself with the following:
- If you’re still using Conjure Flame Atronarch, go and buy Conjure Frost Atronarch off Phinis Gestor at the College of Winterhold. Even better, if you’ve levelled your Conjuration high enough, you can buy Conjure Storm Atronach off him. Remember, you need to reach certain thresholds to be able to buy certain spells. You’ll need to be at least level 25 to buy Conjure Flame Atronach, level 50 to buy Conjure Frost Atronach, and level 75 to buy Conjure Storm Atronach.
- Make sure you’ve got plenty of Health and Magicka potions.
- Keep a decent bow with you in addition to the bound bow for times when you want to make a sneak attack.
- Make sure you’ve got a stockpile of arrows for your non-bound bow.
- Make sure you’ve got enough lockpicks.
- At this point you want to be around level 20 roughly.
Even if you side with the Dawnguard you’ll still need to enter the Soul Cairn as part of the main Dawnguard questline, on your way to getting the bow. If you want to not become a vampire (as I did in this playthrough) you can just let Serena weaken you and then find reclaim your strength by finding your Soul Essence Gem after meeting Serena’s mum, Valerica. The video below demonstrates this:
While in the Soul Cairn, it’s always a good idea to find Arvak’s Skull and complete this small quest so that you get access to the summonable undead horse through the rest of your play through, you can read up on how to do this in our Vampire Guide.
Once you’ve made it through the Soul Cairn, keep playing through the Dawnguard questline. Eventually, right near the end of the questline, you’ll be given Auriel’s Bow. Once you have the bow, make sure to improve it at a blacksmith. To get the most out of this improvement, enchant yourself a set of armour, gauntlets, necklace and ring with Fortify Smithing and drink the strongest blacksmithing potion you have. Then improve the bow at a grindstone for a nice damage upgrade.
Remember to talk to the NPC who gives you the bow – Knight-Paladin Gelebor – and buy a good stack of Sunhallowed Elven Arrows off him. Shoot these into the sun before battle and you’ll get some raining fireballs from the sky to help you out.
- Get the unbreakable lockpick. See how in our Vampire Guide.
- Level up some extra skill trees to branch out with the build e.g. Light Armor to make yourself more resilient and allow for soloing dungeons rather than relying on conjured friends or companions.
- Become a vampire for a boost to your Sneak and some awesome Vampire Lord powers.
- Adventure and have fun!