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I'm thinking of starting a new game in the last 3 Elder Scrolls games and thinking of doing something like an assassin this time round.

I would rather do the whole assassin thing properly and get my targets with a bow rather than getting a huge sword and charging in head on, however my experience with bows in The Elder Scrolls is that you only gain a damage bonus from sneak attacks. I would rather do a sneak attack with a bow and know that if it hits, it will kill the target.

So is there any spell I can add to a bow to cause instant death to enemies, or even if it has some adverse affect that would be the equivalent?

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In Oblivion, you have a chance on insta-kill on every hit with mehrunes razor. It's chance is 5% of the player's luck stat. –  Kevin Mar 22 '13 at 3:31

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I tend to play assassin-type characters often, so I can try to give some general advice while attempting to answer your questions.

First, there's no such thing as an instant-death enchantment. You can deal massive damage, which might be very similar, but there's always a chance that you'll run across something you can't kill with just one hit.

That said, there's a number of things you can do to increase those chances to near 100%.

In Morrowind, I'd suggest enchanting your bow with Drain Health + Weakness to Magicka as much as you can afford to. This is a potent combo that can significantly reduce enemy health, and drain health is a particularly cheap enchantment if it only lasts for a second (which is optimal in this case).

There's also a completely unpatched exploit that allows for infinitely powerful potions to be created. With this you can be effectively godlike, which means you can kill anything in one hit, regardless of sneak state. It's kind of cheesy, though.

In Oblivion, you can do something similar with Drain Health, although I tend to prefer using an elemental damage to go with it instead of the magicka weakness. There's a couple of suggestions on this UESP page for bow enchantments as well.

If you don't mind a bit of save scumming, you can pretty easily walk away from a few Oblivion Gates with Sigil Stones capable of enchanting a set of armor with 100% chameleon - this makes you effectively invisible, and all attacks are sneak attacks. (For bonus points, go piss off a guard and watch him run in circles trying to find you...)

In Skyrim, there's not really a terribly overpowered enchanting combo, in my experience. However, you can get some massive damage multipliers for daggers, if you're willing to get in close. Also, with enough Sneak you can hit enemies with arrows, not get a complete kill, but yet not get detected. Finally, there are many abilities and various alchemy recipes that yield a state of invisibility that keeps your sneak attacks flowing.

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the closest you can get to instant death in skyrim is a jarrin root poison –  z ' Mar 21 '13 at 22:06
    
@spartacus man, remind me not to piss you off... –  agent86 Mar 21 '13 at 22:09

In Skyrim, there is a way to make your bow incredibly overpowered. (Personal Experience) Working with the smithing, archery, sneak, and enchanting perk trees allows for you to not only increase the base damage of your weapon through smithing, archery, and enchantments but also multiply that damage (by x3 for me) for your sneak perks. Take all these into account and lets say your Dragon Bone Bow of Fire that does 60 damage (for demonstrations sake) is combined with a 25 fire damage as well as a 25 damage from the arrow, doing 110 damage overall, is multiplied because you are sneaking or undetected by 3 (again thats what I do) so you are dealing an immediate 330 damage. Then add your poisons and potions to increase bow damage and it only becomes more lethal. I have found that on my lvl61 Breton this works to perfection through almost every dungeon. Possibly the only ones I can't take out with one arrow are Deathlords and Master Vampires.

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