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Archery Mechanics Guide

Discussion in 'Skyrim Guides and Tutorials' started by ShadowGambit, Jun 29, 2012.

  1. ShadowGambit

    ShadowGambit Active Member

    Jun 17, 2012
    Likes Received:
    Hello all.

    Because some people asked me for detail on archery, I decided to make a guide on ARCHERY MECHANICS to help my fellow archers.

    This is NOT a guide about how to build an archer character. If you want these, the site has some good build going around. You can even check this build that I posted some time ago.

    Sniper Mage Build | Skyrim Forums

    First, Archery is the combat skill that deals the least damage at the beginning of the game, compares to One-Handed or Two-Handed weapon skill. Or even Destruction spells. Now, at the end of the game, with the right equipment and the right skills, you can pretty much one shot everything with your bow, even a dragon.

    Archery is also going well with other skills, mainly Sneak, Illusion and Conjuration.

    Some people don’t like crafting and I can easily understand why. But I strongly advise to go for 100 Alchemy (with Alchemist 5/5 and Benefactor) and 100 Enchanting (with Enchanter 5/5, Insightful, Corpus and Extra Effects). The goal here is to get +29% smithing apparels; +47% archery apparel, +147% smithing and archery potions

    I also advise to go 100 Smithing, but depending on what type of bow you want to play with, I would stop at Elven Smithing for Light, and Daedric for Heavy. Arcane smithing can be useful. I will explain further the difference between light and heavy bows.


    Your arrow doesn’t fly in a straight line like a bullet would do. It will follow an ARC. This arc will depend on the weight of your bow and the speed of the arrow. It has nothing to do with your skill, perks or type of arrow used. Heavier bows give more speed to the arrow, so the arc would be longer than with lighter bows. The only thing that your skill increases is the amount of damage of your bow.

    Firing your bow has 3 phases:
    1. Nocking the arrow: No matter what bow you use, light or Heavy, the time necessary to nock you arrow is just under 0.5 seconds. You do it by holding your attack button.
    2. Draw the bow string back. This step is affected by the type of bow and perks like Quick Shot or Steady Hand. The heavier the bow, the longer it takes to fully draw the string back. It takes about 2s for a light bow and 3s with a heavy bow, without perks.
    3. Release the arrow.
    With your bow drawn, you can also “bash” your opponent in close combat by pushing the block button. That will stagger your enemy, but it is NOT a full bash, so it will not do much damage. It will give time to knock another arrow or get away from your attacker though.

    Trajectory and Aiming

    First, on should practice on dummies or target to have a grasp of the arrow trajectory. Second, the distance from the target doesn’t affect the amount of damage. Only how long you pull the string back will. If you pull the string and release it right away, the arrow will not fly far and will do minimum damage. Third, the game doesn’t register specific body part hits. It means a head shot will do the same damage as a torso shot or a leg shot. So, always aim for the torso.

    Now, arrow trajectory follows an upward arc. The arrow will go higher than your crosshair before falling down. That’s the case for Heavy or light bows. But the arc is different. Because heavy bows fire the arrow as a faster speed, the arc on the heavy bow will be LONGER. So with a light bow, the arc will be shorter, and the arrow will fall earlier.

    That said, at close range, you should aim with your crosshair a little under where you want the arrow to hit. The farther you go away, the lower you want to aim. At middle range, you should aim at the groin of your target.

    Now at long range and very long range, heavy and light bows will act differently. Because the arc is longer with a Heavy bow, you should keep aiming lower at Long Range (close to the knee). At very long range, this is the “best range” for a heavy bow, so you should shoot back to the groin or even the belly. For the light bows, because the arc is shorter, the arrow will be in its downward phase. You should target either the belly or center mass. At very long range, that is the most difficult shot for light bows because you have to aim HIGHER than where you want the arrow to land. Target the head.
    Note: there is a glitch that may appear for long and very long range shot: you see the arrow go to the target. You think it hits it, but actually it went THROUGH it and the game didn’t register the hit.

    When your target is moving, don’t try to shoot AT the target, aim before the target, where the target WILL BE.

    You should also train shooting when strafing or going sideways. When moving sideways, don’t aim at the center of the target but little on the side. The game register the movement and the arrow will be affected by your sideways movement and will also go sideways.

    Last but not least, try to train to shoot when you are BACKPEDALING. That can save your life when an enemy is charging you. By backpedaling, you will buy some time and be able shoot more arrows.

    Practice makes perfect, so PRACTICE.

    Choose your bow

    We will talk about crafted bows here. Heavy bows are more accurate at long and very long range do a bit more damage, but they take longer to draw.

    Now the damage difference between the fully upgraded Elven bow and a fully upgraded Deadric bow will be less than 20. So there is a slight difference, but not that much. Elven bow also has the 2nd best DPS in the game, only the Hunting bow is better. All in all, lighter bow or heavier bow will do about the same damage. Choose your bow depending on how comfortable you are at aiming with it.

    Bound bow will follow the Heavy Bow trajectory, as it is designed following the Deadric Bow.

    Don’t forget that the Elven Bow, the first bow you can craft, requires only 2 perks, when Daedric bow requires 6 perks.


    A lot of people are hunting for Deadric Arrows. Yes they are the best arrows in term of damage.

    Here is the thing: An iron arrow does 10 damage, so 14pts less than the Deadric arrow. That’s a big difference in the early game, but you cannot find Daedric arrows in the early game.

    Because arrow damage is added only at the very end in the damage calculation formula, it doesn't benefit from the different multiplier like Overdraw or Sneak Attack, or even potions.

    So, in the end game, when your bow is doing 3K+ damage, firing a Daedric arrow will only add 14 damage compares to an iron arrow. LESS THAN 0,5% differential. At the end, I don't see the point of hunting for Deadric arrows. Finding some is great, but not necessary. I'd rather pickpocket any arrows I can find, regardless of their quality.

    Note: in patch 1.5, the arrow damage is calculated BEFORE the multiplier. So in patch 1.5, archery damage is now higher and it is worth it to hunt for Daedric arrows. But in patch 1.6 it has been corrected back to the old formula where arrow damage are not multiplied.

    • Overdraw 5/5 is a must. It is what makes your damage multiply by 2.
    • Eagle Eye is good for long shot range, as it zooms in on your target. But it uses stamina, so you may want to invest in more stamina points or put some Absorb stamina on your bow. Also, zooming in adds 0,5s to your shot, so my take is to use it only for the first sneak shot at longer range. For short range and Mid range shot, you don’t really need this.
    • Steady Hand slows time (25% and 50%), both for you and your enemies. That means that you will aim slower and also DRAW YOUR STRING SLOWER. If you are using Steady Hand 2, you have to count at least 4s for a light bow to fully pull your string, 5s for a heavy bow. To gain time, you should nock your arrow first, begin pulling the string THEN zoom in.
    • Power Shot: it is the BEST perk in the tree. It staggers your opponent (outside of dragons) 50% of the time, define by random number generation. That means that you can have streaks where Power Shot will be triggered all the time. But in the other hand, It may not triggered in a combat at all. But it is still a powerful perks. Also, you don’t need to fully pull your sting to being able to activate the perk. Even arrows fired right away can stagger your opponent, even if its damage is minimal. It makes it a powerful weapon against caster or power attacks.
    • Quick shot allows you to draw the string of your bow faster. Useful for heavy bow, the difference is not really noticeable for Light bow, EXCEPT WHEN USING STEADY HAND.
    • Bulleye: 15% chance to trigger. Paralyze your target for a full 10s. I don’t really like it myself because when paralyzed, your target falls on the ground, making it harder to hit at long range.
    • Critical Shot: As I posted one of my earlier post, I find that Critical damage are a joke.
    Critical damage bonus are a joke. | Skyrim Forums

    I would only take Critical 1/3 in the Archery tree, just because it is necessary to take other perks after. I usually don't even touch the right side of the archery tree though.
    • Hunter Discipline: recover twice as many arrows from the body of your target. You don’t recover THAT many arrows form the body anyway, so twice of not many is still not a lot. Not very useful in my point of view.
    • Ranger: moving faster with your bow drawn. You are going close to run speed, even while aiming. This is great to dodge attacks. It is also great because it affects Steady Hand. With both abilities, it makes dodging arrows and spells pretty easy. You don’t even need to fire the bow, just zoom in with it The only useful perk in this side of the tree in my point of view, but at the cost of 2 useless perks for me.

    Always carry Potion of Fortify Archery with you. The max potion you can get +147% potion. That will more than DOUBLE your damage output.

    I hope that helps my fellow archers out here.

    More details on Crossbows will be added when I will be able to get my hand on Dawnguard. I know those Dawnguard archers are waiting for that.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  2. Duon

    Duon Graphic Designer

    Jun 15, 2012
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    A nice place to practice with different angles and elevations at long range is the archery targets in Solitude, just go through the Temple of the Eight so you can walk along the walls above the targets.
  3. Auxilium

    Auxilium In my opinion..

    Nov 16, 2011
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    Very nice information! I'm sure many people will find this helpful, I knew some of this but there were a few areas I did not know of, so thank you for that.
  4. Squirrel_killer-

    Squirrel_killer- The blade in the dark and the hand at your throat

    Jul 2, 2012
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    Since I personally use daedric bows which you put in the "heavy bow" category (something I never noticed all that much but is interesting) I am very familiar with the heavy bow arc. the arc reaches its peak at a point that is roughly 2.5 times the length of the upper arm of the aiming courser.
  5. Moonshiner12

    Moonshiner12 New Member

    Mar 22, 2018
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    Arrow choice does matter an example of this is the rieklingspears from the dragon born dlc there trajectory is 2 feet no mater the bow

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