Marksman is the art of using bows and arrows. There are no crossbows or other ranged weapons in the game. While the trajectory of the arrow is predetermined and marksman skill doesn't change your accuracy, it significantly increases the damage of a ranged attack.
- A Novice suffers normal fatigue loss when drawing a bow.
- An Apprentice suffers no fatigue loss when drawing a bow.
- A Journeyman has the ability to zoom when drawing a bow by holding the block button.
- This can be particularly useful in dark environments, like caves or outdoors at night.
- An Expert's successful hit has a 5% chance of knockdown.*
- This is especially useful against melee fighters, since it will send them flying back, providing you more time to do some damage.
- A Master's successful hit has a 5% chance of paralysis. This Paralyze effect ignores Resist Paralysis.
- While the melee-oriented skills of Blade, Blunt, and Hand to Hand require a slower power attack to deliver knockdown/paralysis effects, an Expert/Master marksman simply uses their normal attack to deliver those same effects.
*While the expert marksman perk only has a base 5% chance of knockdown there are other factors that affect knockdown chances. Specifically if your target has a high agility you will be less likely to knock them down (this does not however alter the base 5% chance added by the perk) and if your weapon has a high damage you are more likely to achieve a knockdown. Therefore in effect the chance of knocking your target down can vary although it will never go below five percent.
Improving your marksman skill increases the damage that you do, as reflected in the damage shown for bows and arrows in your inventory.
The only way to increase your skill level is to successfully hit a living target. You gain 0.8 experience points per successful hit, regardless of damage inflicted. The archery targets found at most Fighters Guilds, the Imperial City Arena Bloodworks, and some wilderness inns can be useful to learn how to shoot more accurately, but do not give you experience points.
General tips on how to increase your marksman skill are provided at General Combat Strategies.
Some useful techniques specifically for marksmanship are:
- Summon a creature for target practice. Most creatures absorb the arrows, and you will not be able to loot them afterwards to get your shot arrows back. There are some notable exceptions of creature types where the arrows will bounce off or fly through the creature (if your bow is not enchanted). Skeletons, Ethereal Undead and Atronachs are good targets for this purpose.
- The horse Shadowmere, obtained through the Dark Brotherhood questline, can also be useful for target practice, as she is always essential and will never turn hostile towards you.
- Increasing Skills: Tips on how to improve your skills semi-naturally.
- Trainers: Pay for marksmanship lessons.
- Marksman Training: A master marksman wants your equipment to be up to scratch before she will train you.
- Skill Books: Books that provide lessons in marksman.
- Increasing Attributes: Tips on training skills to improve the Agility attribute.
- Free Skill Boosts: One free marksman skill boost (for 2 points) is available by completing the quest Whodunit?.
- Magic Items: There are multiple generic items with the fortify marksman enchantment.
- Unique Items: A list of unique bows, as well as several unique items that fortify the marksman skill. These do not include Leveled Items such as those received from quests, or Artifacts.
- Unique items include:
- Shrouded Armor, which is awarded upon joining the Dark Brotherhood after the quest A Knife in the Dark. Among other enchantments, the armor fortifies the marksman skill by 8, while the hood fortifies marksman skill by 2.
- Black Hand Armor is a unique set consisting of a robe and a hood. Among other things the robe fortifies your marksman skill by 11 points, while the Black Hand Hood fortifies your marksman skill by 4 points.
- Cowl of the Druid is a unique hood which can be obtained from Borba gra-Uzgash in Borba's Goods and Stores. Among other enchantments, the hood fortifies your marksman skill by 5 points.
- Ring of the Gray is a reward for completing the quest The Rosethorn Cache. Among other enchantments the ring fortifies your marksman skill by 5 points.
When your skill reaches 70 or higher, NPCs will start saying: "You have the eyes of a trained marksman."
The following races provide initial skill bonuses in marksman:
The following standard classes include Marksman as a major skill:
Archery requires both a bow and an arrow, both of which must be equipped in your inventory to be able to loose a shot. The total damage done is the sum of the damage due to the bow and the damage due to the arrow. Both bows and arrows can be enchanted, although custom enchantments are only possible for bows. Poison can also be used to increase archery damage; poison is only applied to the bow.
Enemies who are immune to normal weapons can be hurt with silver, daedric or magical arrows, or with any arrows shot from a silver, magical or daedric bow. Poison can also be used; note that even enemies who are immune both to poison and normal weapons (like ghosts) will be hurt by poisoned normal arrows (although the poison effect will be resisted).
Bows, like all other weapons, can be made of various materials ranging from Rusty Iron (the poorest quality and least damage) to Daedric (the best quality and most damage). A wide range of enchanted bows can be also be obtained; custom enchantments are also possible.
Here is a short list of some notable bows.
- Black Bows are the best bows easily obtainable at level 1. They can be looted from Black Bow Bandits in Rockmilk Cave with or without completing the related quest, Knights of the White Stallion.
- Bound bows can be acquired using spells or from Sidri-Ashak Rune Stones.
- Frostwyrm is the most powerful bow you can obtain at level 1 and is not surpassed as a frost bow until the Glass-base Bow of the Glacier appears at level 14.
- Hatreds Soul is the most powerful leveled bow in the game from level 8 on. Even when uncharged, the level 19+ version is stronger than a daedric bow and much lighter. Found in Random Oblivion World 2.
In order to use poison, you apply the poison to the bow. Therefore, the bow you wish to use must currently be your equipped weapon. Select the poison you wish to use from your inventory, and you will be asked whether you wish to poison the bow. Because the poison is applied to the bow, you can still switch arrows, and the poison effect will remain. It will be added only to the next arrow you shoot from that bow. If you miss your shot, the dose of poison is lost (the arrow on the ground is not poisoned anymore).
Have in mind, that every arrow shot from the bow (no matter if it hits or misses), damages the bow, making it less effective.
Arrows also come in many materials, ranging from Iron to Daedric. When you equip a quiver of arrows, those arrows stay equipped even if you use a melee weapon, so hotkeying your arrows is not necessary. If you wish to rapidly change arrows (i.e. from one enchantment to another), however, hotkeys can be useful. When you run out of the specific type of arrows that are equipped you will no longer be able to use your bow, until you select another type of arrow from your inventory.
Custom enchantments for arrows are not possible. However, you can find enchanted arrows in loot and purchase them from merchants (as with all items, the best quality ones can only be found in loot, not purchased). If you have the Mehrunes' Razor official plug-in many arrows can be found there. The fletcher, once purchased, in the Thieves Den official plug-in also sells a variety of enchanted arrows.
The best enchantments to use on your bows and arrows depend upon the desired effect.
- For maximum damage, Elemental Damage can be very effective, in particular if you choose an element for which your target has a natural weakness. When combined with arrows dealing damage with the same element, the effects are particularly pronounced.
- Absorb Health works with bows, but the Marksman must be within melee range for the Absorb effect to be successful. It appears the developers intended to limit the range of Absorb effects, but did not remove them from the list of possible "on Strike" effects for bow enchanting. Currently, further testing is required, and the exact maximum range is unknown.
- Try a Burden or Drain Strength enchantment, which if strong enough can freeze your target in place, allowing you to get in multiple easy shots.
- Soul trap for at least 1 sec is very useful for keeping your enchanted bow fully charged.
Proper use of magic may allow you to do more damage to an opponent. Ideally, you want to make a custom spell that weaken your target while strengthening yourself.
Here are some good effects you may want to consider using for your custom spell; make sure the effects last long enough for your arrow to find its target: Weakness to Magic, weakness to elemental damage, Drain Health , Paralyze, all on target. Fortify Marksman and Invisibility, both on self.
Tailor the spell for the bow you plan to use. Weakness to magic is an obvious choice for any enchanted bow while elemental damage needs to be tailored to your specific bow. Drain health gives a useful extra boost while paralyze can make sure your target remains in place long enough for you to hit him with an arrow. Fortify marksman makes your attack even deadlier (fortify agility and luck may also help here) while invisibility makes sure you remain undetected.
Using a Bow and Arrow
It is worth practicing using your bow and arrow on a practice target to learn how to aim; this will not improve your character's marksman skill, but will allow you to learn how to aim. Since arrows fly in a ballistic curve, you need to aim somewhat higher than your target (depending upon the distance). You should practice this at an archery range such as the one behind the Chorrol Fighters Guild. Since arrows only travel so quickly you will also need to give mobile targets some space between where you are shooting and where the target currently is. The idea is to shoot where your target is going to be, not where it is.
Position yourself a good distance from the target (e.g., the distance 3-4 seconds of running backwards takes you). Press and hold the attack button; a quick press and release will only drop the arrow immediately in front of you. Aim your crosshairs slightly above where you want to hit – for the target practice, this means about the top of the red circle. Against an actual person, depending on how far away you are you will aim for their head or above; remember that arrows will drop as they fly. Release the attack button, and watch the arrow fly!
Before you leave to check on where you hit, mark your location with a piece of dropped equipment. That way you can keep practicing from the same distance and improve your aim. Go and see where your arrow is. If it is stuck in low, aim higher and try again. If it's too high, aim lower. Keep practicing until you get it right, and try and remember how far the target is. When you're shooting at an enemy, knowing the distance and how high above your target you have to aim is essential. Keep on practicing farther and farther back, marking your place with equipment to aid you. The best part about this kind of practice is that you can retrieve your arrows afterwards, so you aren't wasting any.
Note that while you are holding the attack button (i.e., have the string drawn on your bow), you can perform many actions (apply poisons, drink potions, open doors etc.). The list of things that cannot be done is much shorter:
- You cannot cast spells while in this position.
- Blocking is impossible with a drawn bow. Blocking with a bow is only possible if you don't have an arrow nocked on the string.
- A Novice of Acrobatics cannot jump while an arrow is nocked.
- If you have an arrow drawn on your bow, you can initiate conversations with an NPC but if it is the NPC that tries to start a conversation, the arrow is released and you may end up shooting the person if you're facing them.
- You cannot remove or equip new armor or weapons.
If you access the inventory just remember to hold the attack button while entering and leaving it; while in the inventory you can release the attack button. Since the game is paused while you are in your inventory, it is easy to apply poison to multiple successive rapid shots. Or you could simply hotbar poisons for quicker archery.
There are three ways you can remove a nocked arrow from a drawn bow, preserving the enchantment charge or poison on the weapon.
- First, you can initiate a conversation with an NPC: exiting from the conversation will return your bow to a resting state (be sure to release the attack button before exiting the conversation, or you'll nock the arrow again). The limitation of this technique is that you must first find an NPC who is willing to talk.
- Secondly, a Journeyman of Acrobatics can disarm their bow by using the Dodge feature. There is the sound of an arrow being shot off, but a look at your ammunition and/or enchantment charges should show that no shot was actually taken.
- Thirdly, when you are staggered or knocked down by a hit while an arrow is nocked. Generally, this will happen in a situation where you may have preferred shooting the arrow off rather than keeping it.
The bow is virtually useless underwater and against underwater enemies. Although you can fire a shot, the arrow drops almost immediately; even if you are close enough to make contact with your enemy, very little damage is inflicted. Using a bow while swimming is also unreliable and difficult. However, archery while Water Walking is perfectly possible and can be a powerful tactic. It can even be used to complete the Go Fish quest.
The ideal situation for an archer is: one arrow, one kill. Not only do you not waste any ammunition, but there is no worry about defending yourself from your target's retaliation. Early in the game, the sneak attack bonus can be sufficient to kill most creatures with one shot. Higher-level enemies can be much more difficult to kill however.
- Be patient: don't try and make a shot if the target is wandering about. Wait until you know their routine, how long they stop walking for, and what way they're facing.
- Remain undetected: wait until your target is far enough away from other enemies that loosing your shot will not attract anyone else's attention. If one enemy spots you, you can sometimes still get a sneak bonus on others in the room. If your Sneak skill is high or if you have Chameleon in effect, wait a moment before your second shot to give the enemy time to lose sight of you.
- Use enchantments: combine an elementally enchanted bow with damage-enchanted arrows for best effect.
- Use poisons: brew your own poisons to use on your arrows. Silence + damage health poisons prevent most opponents from immediately healing themselves.
- Remember that you can combine the sneak bonus, arrow enchantment, bow enchantment and multi-effect poison for a large amount of damage.
- A headshot does not do any additional damage to the target, so your priority should be simply hitting your enemy.
This can be the most difficult type of enemy to deal with as a marksman. Your best bet is to start off in sneak mode. Getting that extra 3x damage is essential for the long-range character. Try to position yourself with lots of obstacles between you and your targets to hinder their advance. Continue to shoot as they run towards you to cause as much damage as possible. For some enemies such as zombies and skeletons, you can rush forward, shoot, and rush back. They will pause to attack you each time you come into melee range and you will effectively halt their advance.
If you have enough room, especially against slow opponents, try kiting (running backwards while continuing to shoot), and train yourself to dodge and reverse direction. If your acrobatics skill is at least 50, you can hold block and press back and jump: you will backflip very quickly out of the way and put more distance between you and your enemies. If you are cornered, prepare to pull out a backup melee weapon (poison of paralysis on it helps). Hopefully, you will have done enough damage already that you can quickly finish them off.
If there are multiple melee enemies, there are two main options:
- Bows and arrows with area effect damage enchantments (e.g., Arrow of Immolation (65 fire damage in 10 feet), Stormcall Arrow, etc.) can be shot into a group, doing wonders to even the odds. After a couple of shots, any remaining enemies will be significantly weakened.
- Or, shoot a single arrow from the shadows at the closest enemy, then lure that one enemy to an out-of-the-way location so you can dispatch them at your leisure. Repeat until all enemies have been dispatched.
Occasionally, these tactics will lead to you getting swarmed by many large and intimidating foes. Should this occur, simply use every archer's fallback: Invisibility. For example, weak potions of invisibility are fairly priced; each one will give you 15 seconds of respite, allowing you to make your escape and come back to the battle on your own terms. Brewing your own restore health potions with invisibility added can save your life and get you out of trouble.
Melee enemies could actually be the easiest enemies to deal with if you could take advantage of the terrain. Since their weapons have limited range, go to places where they would not be able to attack you while you can still shoot arrows at them. For example, you could jump on top of ledges, walls or big rocks. If a place like this is far away, you could lure the enemy to the place.
As before, your best bet is to begin in sneak mode and try to get in a good first strike. Mages rarely wear armor, so a one-hit kill is a definite possibility. It is often unnecessary to use poison on the first enemy.
Even though mages usually have a low amount of health you may not always be able to kill them before they spot you. Silence spells or arrows are particularly helpful, but beware that some mages are also quite adept at melee combat.
If you fail to silence them, just strafe or dodge (for a journeyman of Acrobatics) out of the way of their offensive spells and keep shooting. If a mage succeeds in summoning a creature, do your best to ignore the summon. Once the mage dies, the creature will vanish. If the creature gets close or is blocking your shot, use invisibility to reposition and get a better angle for your shot.
As always, the first arrow should be shot from sneak mode for the damage bonus. When the archer notices you, they will usually come a bit closer and then start shooting arrows at you. The general pattern of the archer is to nock and shoot an arrow, then move side to side so you can't get a bead on them before aiming and shooting again. You can waste a lot of arrows shooting at these jokers if you're not ready for their dodging tactics. The best option after they start this is often to rush them and shoot once at close distance which forces them to pull their dagger for melee combat. When that happens, kite backwards and fill them with arrows. Their weak dagger attack will help you build armor skill.
You can also stand back and shoot when they make ready an arrow. Draw your bow back and wait as they strafe. When they pull out an arrow, shoot and prepare to do some strafing of your own. Typically, archers won't shoot when you're strafing, so pause briefly and give them something to shoot at before sidestepping the arrow. If you are a journeyman in acrobatics, then you may be able to get two arrows away at them before their one arrow gets to where you are. When they stop moving and pull out an arrow, shoot the first arrow and immediately shoot the second. Then go into a side roll (hold block and hit strafe and jump) and avoid the arrow just in time. It takes good timing and lots of practice, but is incredibly satisfying to pull off.
Good enchantments for fighting archers (besides the standard damage enchantments) are hard to come by. Using a Calm enchantment will get them to put their bow away and stop dodging however, which can be very convenient.
The following table provides the messages that are displayed when your Marksman skill levels up.
|Apprentice||The twang of the bow and the scraping of arrow fletchings are quite familiar to you. As a new Apprentice Marksman, holding the bowstring with a nocked arrow no longer fatigues you.|
|Journeyman||The twang of the bow and the scraping of arrow fletchings are quite familiar to you. As a new Journeyman Marksman, your vision focuses in on the target if you hold block with an arrow nocked.|
|Expert||The twang of the bow and the scraping of arrow fletchings are quite familiar to you. As a new Expert Marksman, your arrows now have a chance to knock down your opponent.|
|Master||The twang of the bow and the scraping of arrow fletchings are quite familiar to you. As a new Master Marksman, your arrows now have a chance to paralyze your opponent.|
- Remember to pull the string all the way (hold attack button), the damage caused will be much stronger and range much greater, while the time increases only slightly. You can also time the attack more accurately (the arrow is released the moment you release the button.)
- Enemies can't jump! If you find a spot that can only be reached by jumping, enemies without ranged weapons/spell can be attacked with impunity. Before you attack, check if the spot is really available (some convenient sniper spots are surrounded with invisible walls).
- You can (poorly) block attacks with the bow.
- The sneak mode bonus is applied if you are in sneak mode and undetected at the moment that the arrow hits its mark. So if you have been spotted, firing an arrow, and then moving to cover in sneak mode can result in the enemy losing track of you and the arrow getting the sneak bonus anyway (this works best with high levels of sneak).
- This can also be used to make arrows fired from the regular standing position count as sneak attacks, just release the arrow, then go into sneak mode. Assuming you're undetected when the arrow hits its mark, you will get the bonus.
- Once your combined Fame and Infamy reaches 40, you can visit the Sithian Stone to receive the greater power Sithian Web. One of several benefits of this power is that it fortifies your marksman skill 20 points once a day for 120 seconds.
- After your enemy is dead, check its inventory for arrows you have shot at it, which you can retrieve for re-use. Enchanted arrows cannot be retrieved.
- Arrows will not stick into skeletons, ghosts or atronachs, and they will fall to the ground after damaging those enemies. These arrows can be retrieved.
- If you use a silver or daedric bow, then any kind of arrow will damage and pass through ghosts. If you are not using a silver or daedric bow, then you can use silver or daedric arrows to achieve the same effect.
- It is possible to retrieve a missed enchanted arrow, providing you can reach the arrow quickly enough. Otherwise, it will disappear and essentially be deleted.
- A handy way to get free arrows is to watch NPC archers practice, retrieve the arrows that the NPC shot and keep the arrows for yourself.