In The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim, the archer build is a fun one to play. This is partly because it requires a relatively high level of skill, and so is rewarding and satisfying to learn, and partly because archers get to take down charging enemies from a distance and gloat at their pincushion-esque corpses.
Many of the best items for archers in Skyrim are bows, obviously, but there’s more to playing as a sharpshooter than sheer bowstring power. It also helps to be able to slow, or even totally incapacitate, a target, and to be able to both attack and move quickly. Anything to maintain the distance between player and target, basically.
10 Kyne’s Token
This amulet is especially handy for those archers who also happen to be hunters. It grants protection against animal attacks on top of a modest bonus to the Archery skill. It’s ideal for a relative novice looking to refine their Archery skill by using live wolves as target practice.
Kyne’s Token is awarded to the player by Froki Whetted-Blade upon completion of his quest, “Kyne’s Sacred Trials”. Froki lives in a shack in the mountains of The Rift, southeast of Ivarstead, so go find him there.
9 Gauntlets Of The Old Gods
These enchanted Forsworn gauntlets might look primitive, but they grant the player a significant bonus to Archery. They’re part of the Armor of the Old Gods set, but there’s no bonus for wearing a matching set, and none of the other pieces is particularly good for an archer.
The full armor set is awarded to the player just before the climax of the “No One Escapes Cidhna Mine”. In order to trigger this quest, the player must first complete “The Forsworn Conspiracy”, which is triggered the first time they enter Markarth. After receiving the note from Eltrys, go to the Shrine Of Talos to start the quest.
8 Poison Of Paralysis, Fear and Damage Health
If there’s one thing more effective than a well-aimed arrow, it’s a well-aimed, poison-tipped arrow. There are a lot of different poisons that are effective in a lot of different situations, but this one is particularly well-suited to Archers, given that it does extra damage and makes the target a lot less likely to get into close quarters.
Brew it with:
- Imp Stool, which is common, but found in particular abundance in Tolvald’s Cave on the edge of the map, northeast of Shor’s Stone.
- Netch Jelly, which can be harvested from the bodies of Netch, commonly found near water in southern Solstheim.
- Poison Bloom, which only grows in Darkfall Passage, a location unlocked during the Dawnguard quest, “Touching The Sky”.
Zephyr is the fastest firing bow in the whole game, and that counts for a lot, especially when an Archer is being charged by angry melee enemies. Apart from this speed boost, it’s an ordinary Dwarven Bow.
This quickfire weapon can be found during the quest, “Lost To The Ages”. Look out for a copy of the book The Aetherium Wars and read it to be prompted to visit Arkngthamz, where the quest will start. Zephyr is on a log jutting out over Katria’s body.
6 Enchanted Dragonscale Armor, Boots, and Gauntlets
There are no unique armor, boots, or gauntlets with especially good benefits for archers, so players are better off crafting some Dragonscale armor for themselves. It’s excellent armor in itself, but it can be made even more archer-friendly with the help of an Arcane Enchanter.
The best enchantments for archers are:
- Archery, which increases damage inflicted with all bows.
- The Squire, which boosts the Light Armor skill.
- Conjuration, which allows the casting of the Bound Bow spell, a summoned weapon with many advantages over regular bows.
5 Ancient Shrouded Cowl
Not all archers are assassins (or vice versa), but there’s no doubt that the two disciplines go together very neatly. In order to get Skyrim’s best headgear for an archer though, players will have to at least moonlight as assassins for a while.
Follow the Dark Brotherhood main questline and earn a bonus (Olava’s Token) in the “Breaching Security” quest by killing Gaius Maro in one of the cities he visits. Take the token to Olava the Feeble in Whiterun, and the “Locate The Assassin of Old” quest will begin. Complete the quest to get the entire Ancient Shrouded Armor set.
4 Dragonbone Bow Of Petrifying
While there are some excellent unique bows in Skyrim, one of the most powerful bows in the game is “home-made”. The player will need high Smithing and Enchanting skills to craft it, but the result is well worth it.
A Dragonbone bow does heavy damage, and paralysis is a simple but effective way of ensuring that the archer wielding the bow doesn’t have to deal with a moving target. At the maximum enchantment level, a bow of Paralysis can root a target to the spot for 6 seconds, which ought to be enough time to finish it off.
3 Dwarven Black Bow Of Fate
This powerful Dwarven Bow is able to absorb Health, Stamina, and Magicka from its target, making it an extremely useful all-rounder, especially in tough situations where the player’s stats are running low.
The bow is locked up inside Kagrumez, a Dwemer Ruin south of the Temple Of Miraak on Solstheim, and in order to unlock it, the player must complete the miscellaneous quest, “The Kagrumez Gauntlet”, finding Resonance Gems around Solstheim, then completing a series of puzzles in the ruin itself.
This dragon priest mask doesn’t offer as huge of a bonus to Archery as the Ancient Shrouded Cowl, but it grants big bonuses to Lockpicking and Alchemy as well as to Archery, so it’s a more powerful item overall. And you can actually wear them both together, which results in a seriously heavy Archery bonus.
The player must defeat a powerful enemy to obtain Krosis too, namely the dragon priest of the same name, who will inevitably be accompanied by a dragon. Find them both at Shearpoint, a dragon lair high in the mountains south-southeast of Dawnstar.
1 Nightingale Bow
This awesome bow does both Frost and Shock damage, meaning it’s powerful against almost any kind of enemy and will slow its target slightly, which is always useful for an archer. Be warned though, it’s leveled, so it’s only at its most awesome when obtained by a player at level 46 or higher.
The Nightingale Bow is awarded to the player in return for completing “Blindsighted”, the penultimate quest in the Thieves Guild main questline, so even honest, law-abiding archers will need to flirt with crime in order to get hold of the very best gear.
The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim was released in 2011 and is available on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and Nintendo Switch.
Bethesda's The Elder Scrolls has a lot of lore and trivia Skyrim fans don't know. We explore the world of Wood Elves.