Archery is awesome. From Robin Hood to Legolas, many of our favourite fictional characters like to use a bow instead of a sword.
You can also be that kind of hero in Skyrim, hitting your target from a long way away with poise and quiet confidence.
But what do you need to be the best archer you can be and the most respected marksman in all of Tamriel?
Let’s take a look at the best things for you to get, from your first step into Skyrim’s wilds to the last things that will make you a legend.
- 17. Zephyr
- 16. Poison Of Paralysis, Fear and Damage Health
- 15. Imperial Bow
- 14. (Supple) Ancient Nord Bow
- 13. Kyne’s Token
- 12. Shrouded Boots (Ancient)
- 11. Crossbow
- 10. Linwe’s Hood
- 09. Glass Bow of the Stag Prince
- 08. Gauntlets of the Old Gods
- 07. Shrouded Cowl
- 06. Krosis Mask
- 05. Enhanced Dwarven Crossbow
- 04. Ancient Shrouded Cowl
- 03. Nightingale Bow
- 02. Aurial’s Bow
- 01. Dragonbone Bow
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.
16. 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”.
15. Imperial Bow
How To Get: You can find this bow… well, pretty much everywhere. They’re often found in chests, you can buy them from blacksmiths and you can steal them from the armoury in Castle Dour or the counter in the Drunken Huntsman.
Alternatively, find an imperial soldier or hold guard, kill them, and loot their stuff. There’s a good chance they were using an Imperial Bow.
OK here’s the thing.
Big, powerful artifacts are all well and good for later-stage gamers.
But we all have to start somewhere.
So for those new archers out there, here is an item you should be able to get your hands on fairly sharpish – An Imperial Bow.
It’s nothing too special. But with a base damage of 9, a fairly good rate of fire, and pretty easy upgrades using steel ingots, it beats the Long Bow and Hunting Bow hands down.
14. (Supple) Ancient Nord Bow
How To Get: The Supple Ancient Nord Bow can technically be dropped by various lower-level enemies. However in my experience, you’re far more likely to get it from higher-level foes, such as Draugr Scourges or greater.
This is a slightly more serious bow, but it’s still accessible for new players, provided they are willing to delve into the deep places of Skyrim.
Ancient Nord Bows are carried by many Draugrs and most Skeletons, so they’re not hard to find.
The basic version only has base damage of 8… not great… but the SUPPLE Ancient Nord Bow packs more of a punch, with a base damage of 14!
13. Kyne’s Token
How To Get: Kyne’s Token can be earned through completing the quest Kyne’s Sacred Trials. The quest can be started by speaking to Froki Whetted-Blade at Froki’s Shack in the South-West of The Rift.
Moving away from weaponry, lets take a look at some jewelry.
Archery isn’t all about your bows and arrows. Your gear can also make a huge difference.
Kyne’s Token is an amulet with Ancient Nord visuals that reduces damage taken from animals by 10% and increases damage from bows by 5%.
This is an ideal item for early-game archers, although that 5% boost does become increasingly insignificant as your character progresses.
12. Shrouded Boots (Ancient)
How To Get: The normal boots can be acquired in a number of ways, the easiest of which is to join the Dark Brotherhood by completing the quest ‘With Friends Like These…’.
The Ancient Boots are slightly trickier, and can be found on a corpse during a Dark Brotherhood side quest called Locate the Assassin of Old.
For those with a more murderous disposition, the Dark Brotherhood has many great items to offer.
All of them designed to keep assassins hidden until they strike. Boots should be no exception.
And special boots can also be very helpful for an archer, as keeping your enemies far away and unaware of your presence is how you stay alive.
The Shrouded Boots help with that, muffling your movements by 50%.
The leveled-up version, the Ancient Shrouded Boots, allow you to move silently through Skyrim. Both are excellent gear for archers.
How To Get: You need to be a member of the Dawnguard to get hold of this weapon, and the only place you can find it or craft it is at Fort Dawnguard. So it’s a fairly niche item but it’s worth it.
You need to have the Dawnguard DLC for this one, but I think it’s worth it just for this weapon.
The basic crossbow does the same amount of damage as a Daedric Bow and has an in-built 50% stagger chance.
Plus, crossbow bow bolts fly straighter for longer than normal arrows, making it easier to hit far off moving targets.
10. Linwe’s Hood
How To Get: Linwe’s hood can be found during the Thieves Guild quest Summerset Shadows, one of the special assignments you get from Vex and Delvin whilst running jobs for them and rebuilding the Guild.
During the quest the hood can be found on Linwe’s corpse, so you don’t even have to kill him yourself.
This light armour hood is a great addition to any archer’s uniform, increasing bow damage by 15% and making your character look very cool and mysterious.
It has a fairly decent base armor of 16 and weighs almost nothing at just 2 units.
09. Glass Bow of the Stag Prince
How To Get: Can be acquired from Falas Selvayn at the Ramshackle Trading Post on Solstheim. Although the Dunmer merchant only appears between the hours of midnight and 6 am at the Post, so make sure you arrive at the right time!
With a base damage of 16 the Glass Bow of the Stag Prince is no toy. But it’s also not the most powerful bow out there.
However, it has an interesting enchantment that makes it worthy of this list.
The wielder receives a blessing for each 20 animals killed with the bow, with the blessing getting grander and grander the more animals that are killed.
You start with +5 points to health and stamina while the bow is equipped, with the blessing maxing out at +25 points to each after 80 animal kills. Pretty crazy stuff!
08. Gauntlets of the Old Gods
How To Get: The armor and gauntlets are one of the two possible item rewards during the quest ‘No One Escapes Cidhna Mine’. Madanach awards the armor for helping him escape the mine, whereas the other item(Silver-Blood Family Ring) is awarded for killing him.
These unique gauntlets are a great piece of armor for any archer, making up for their lacking defence rating of just 7 with a significant 20% boost to bow damage.
The gauntlets are part of a set, the Armour of the Old Gods, and are of Forsworn design.
Nice setup and great for some smooth gear with some added defense.
07. Shrouded Cowl
How To Get: The cowl can be obtained as part of the Dark Brotherhood armour set when joining the Dark Brotherhood and completing the quest With Friends Like These…
It’s not just the Dark Brotherhood footwear that is worth an archer’s time, but their headgear is pretty epic as well.
With a base armour rating of 13 and a bow damage boost of 20%, the Shrouded Cowl is not to be sniffed at.
06. Krosis Mask
How To Get: The mask of Krosis can be acquired from Krosis himself. He can be found at the dragon lair at Shearpoint in The Pale. Once he is defeated, the mask can be looted from his body.
Dragon priest masks vary in their usefulness, but one in particular stands out for archers, especially the sneaky ones.
The mask of Krosis offers an impressive base armor of 21 and boasts enchantments that improve your lockpicking, archery, and alchemy by 20%!
Not only that, but unlike many unique items, Krosis does benefit from Smithing Perks. Meaning there is plenty of room for improvement.
05. Enhanced Dwarven Crossbow
How To Get: can be acquired from Sorine Jurard at Fort Dawnguard after completion of all six Ancient Technology quests.
You’ll need a normal Dwarven Crossbow to make this, as well as two Quicksilver Ingots.
But once you’ve smithed this beauty at the forge in Fort Dawnguard you will be the proud owner of the ranged weapon with highest base damage in the game – a whopping 22.
Not only that, but the Enhanced Dwarven Crossbow also ignored 50% of the targets armor, so you’ll be shooting down enemies effortlessly armed with this.
So, why isn’t it a number 1 on this list?
Well crossbows are fantastic, but they have their drawbacks. Namely they are loud, making it harder to execute sneak attacks and they tend to have higher reload times than bows.
04. Ancient Shrouded Cowl
How To Get: Like the Ancient Boots, the Ancient Shrouded Cowl can be found on a corpse during a Dark Brotherhood side quest called ‘Locate the Assassin of Old’, initiated by Olava the Feeble when you bring her Olava’s Token after completing the quest ‘Breaching Security’.
With the Shrouded Boots I rolled the normal and ancient version into one list entry, but not so for the Ancient Shrouded Cowl – this is a hood that deserves its own place.
Improving on the normal version, this cowl has an armor rating of 15 and gives the wearer an impressive 35% boost to bow damage.
That, in my opinion, is one hell of a boost. One that even the most seasoned players shouldn’t turn their noses up at.
03. Nightingale Bow
How To Get: The bow is awarded by Karliah after completion of the Thieves Guild quest Blindsighted.
Lots of cool things can come from the Thieves Guild questline, but this is by far my favorite.
The Nightingale Bow is not only beautiful, but it can be devastating.
The weapon is levelled, depending on when the player obtains it, with all stats maxing out at level 46 or above.
At its highest level this bow has base damage of 19 and hits targets with 30 points of frost damage and 15 points of shock.
Plus, it has one of the fastest firing rates in the whole game, matching the speed of the Daedric bow.
02. Aurial’s Bow
How To Get: This incredible bow can be acquired at the end of Touching the Sky, after battling and defeating Arch-Curate Vyrthur.
Full disclosure, I love this bow.
It has great enchantments, awesome unique effects and a very quick firing speed.
The bow has a base damage of just 13 but does 20 points of ‘sun damage’ and triple that to undead enemies.
Plus it’s the only bow that will trigger the unique effects of Sunhallowed Elven Arrows and Bloodcursed Elven Arrows.
When fired into the sun, the former will cause the sun to explode with light, raining powerful sunbeams down upon enemies, while the latter shrouds the sun in darkness and creates a day long false-night in which vampires can roam freely.
01. Dragonbone Bow
How To Get: This is not an easy item to find as it’s carried by one of the keepers in the Soul Cairn, which can only be looted when the player is level 45 or higher. Smithing it isn’t any easier, requiring a smithing level of 100 and the Dragon Armor perk.
Boasting the highest base damage of any in-game bow and the cool visuals you would expect from something made from dragon bones, this is just an epic weapon.
At its most basic, this bow does 20 damage. But can be upgraded beyond belief as it is not a unique item, provided you have enough dragon bones and ebony ingots to hand.
If you have all of your perks and enchantments in order, this bow will be able to take down even the hardiest of foes, often with only a couple of well-placed arrows.
Don’t get me wrong: this is tough to find. And there are some easier bows that still pack a punch.
All that being said, if you want to be the most feared archer in all of Tamriel, the Dragonbone Bow for you.