My character is a archer/sneak type of guy but I'm having a hard time playing the game. I can kill regular NPCs easily with sneak attack but as soon as I run into a more bad ass type of enemy I'm unable to kill them and I have to run by them like a coward...

One example is the first time you go to the Greybeards, up the 7000 step stairs. There were 2 trolls and an ice wolf that I wasn't even close to be able to kill. They regenerated life faster than I was able to damage them!

Is there something I'm missing in being an assassin type of player in Skyrim?

  • 9
    And a big hello to our friends over at the FBI! Commented Feb 8, 2014 at 10:14
  • Just (mostly) ignore them and make a run for High Hrothgar. You'll nail them in a single shot in a few levels later.
    – Gloweye
    Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 8:35

19 Answers 19


A sneak build cuts though 95% of the game like butter, but it requires some adjustment for the other 5%: dragons, surprise outdoor encounters, bosses that take you out of stealth for a dialogue when you enter their rooms, and some melee bosses with high armor and health and a location that makes it hard to sneak away in between attacks.

  1. Pick up a horse and a heavy armor follower, and consider putting points into conjuration, to provide lots of tankage when you need it. Make sure to keep your follower tank in good gear (in the latest version they now level up along with you.) In dungeons you'll want to leave your follower behind and go get them when you've cleared up to a boss, because the AI stinks for stealth support.

  2. Invest in a bit of stamina, wear light armor, and kite like crazy (sprint away and then shoot, using the unrelenting force shout to help keep enemies at a distance). This gets much stronger once you pick up stagger in the archery tree and max out unrelenting force.

  3. Get the 3x bow and 15x 1h damage perks in the stealth tree as soon as possible.

  4. Put points into smithing and stay at least a bit ahead of the gear curve, and do at least a little enchanting (+fire/frost weapon enchants in particular seem very strong out of the gate) and alchemy to stock up on poisons for your arrows. Because of this, right now I'm stealth one-shotting everything in dungeons but bosses. This lets me save up potions and scrolls for those few tough encounters.

  5. Look into going down the illusion path for muffle and invisibility. I haven't done this personally since you don't want to spread yourself too thin, it doesn't help with dragons like conjuration, and I like the occasional big messy surprise fight, but I hear it works well also.

  • 1
    nice answer. +1
    – Morgan T.
    Commented Nov 30, 2011 at 21:45
  • All good answers, but I felt this covered most aspects. There is a lot to get into when you play stealth, getting that huge first shot damage. Now I have some new things to train my character on the way to the perfect assassin! Thanks!
    – oskob
    Commented Dec 1, 2011 at 17:42
  • there is also the armor that lets you go into stealth mode.is there? hmm
    – jonleech
    Commented Dec 20, 2012 at 3:44
  • +1, Hit most of the points. Main thing missing is enchanting your gear for extra archery damage (helmet, gloves, ring, amulet).
    – DCShannon
    Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 18:52
  • Also, bringing along a follower that isn't sneaky can actually work pretty well. They are detected separately, so if you're really sneaky you can still get sneak attacks on someone engaged in hand-to-hand with your follower.
    – DCShannon
    Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 18:53

Usually when playing an assassin build, you need to be able to either kill or take a large chunk of health off of an enemy before they notice you, or get close to you.

In my stealth archer build, I've got a number of perks invested into archery and a number of bows do % more damage armour pieces. I may be level 36~, but I can do about 450 damage in a sneak shot.

Also, use poisons. The extra damage is really useful, although they do not benefit from sneak multipliers

If you meet a group of enemies, spells like Frenzy can be very useful.

Getting a companion or something similar (conjuration?) can also be good to tank for you. If you're sneaking, your follower won't ruin it by running in. I currently have Lydia + the Sanguine Rose (summons a Daedra to tank for you)

  • 2
    I would like to add that you complete the Thief's guild quests as doing it will appropriately increase the relevant skills. Get perks like 15x kill bonus with assassin's blade and bow damage, use spells like Muffle etc. If you are still at a small level then you can simply start a new game and try warrior. If you keep dying at a particular quest then give it up complete some other simple ones before coming back to it. Commented Nov 30, 2011 at 8:58
  • 3
    poisons are not multiplied by the sneak attack bonus.
    – l I
    Commented Nov 30, 2011 at 13:09

Make sure to stay undetected after the first hit, if it doesn't kill. That usually means being far away from the target, which can be hard for random encounters in the wild (or dungeons with lots of bends).

Also, if you find an enemy that you can't take down with a single hit, improve your chances: use poison, use the best arrows that you carry around (daedric arrows are great, but very rare) and if at all possible: improve (smithing) and enchant (enchanting) your bow for a better chance of one-hit kills.


I would also recommend patience and perks. There are perks for 3x bow damage, able to draw faster and slowing time with the bow drawn. When first going up to see the greybeards, I was able to get off 3 shots on the troll before it reached me. The troll was running toward me, but I was kiting, was never seen, and all 3 shots received the 3x sneak bonus.

If you're playing with a mouse, you'll find that you can be much more accurate about your shots, and usually take on opponents from a much greater distance.

I've also spent a lot of time on Light Armor (currently mid-70s) and One Handed (currently mid-80s), because melee is inevitable. Plus, a high One Handed skill increases the amount of damage for my 30x backstabs.

  • 2
    then you critical and those x30 backstabs are x60. then you sneak powerattack and those x60 backstabs are x120 backstabs... oh and if you wanted to be an orc as well you could pop berzerker and get x240 backstabs Commented Nov 30, 2011 at 18:55
  • 4
    Sneak Critical Powerattack Berzerker Backstab? Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 23:05
  • Dagger sneak attacks are awesome, but melee is not inevitable. With the stagger from your bow and Unrelenting Force you can kite basically anything.
    – DCShannon
    Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 18:54

You should also look into doing the Dark Brotherhood quests, or at least the first few until you get the shrouded armor. The boots increase sneak, the gloves give double backstab damage (with the perk in one-handed that gives you x30 base), and the cowl/hood gives 20% damage to bows.

Not sure if you realized this, but you can also use bows to misdirect your targets. Fire an arrow where you want them to go and they'll investigate. So if you're in a confined area pick a box, rock, tree, dark corner, etc., and hide behind it, then fire off an arrow in a direction behind you. Your target will come to investigate, walk by you and have his back to you so you can quickly sneak up behind him and get the backstab. If you have trouble killing the enemy with a backstab make sure you're using a power attack. I'd recommend carrying invisibility potions, favoriting and keybinding them so you can quickly use one, then stealth roll (if you picked up the perk in the sneak tree) behind them and backstab again.

For groups of enemies I recommend firing from a distance until you can bring down several of them or isolate one. You can definitely try the shield/sword combo someone else mentioned, and I did this initially, but quickly realized it made me a lousy assassin. You should aim for being able to clear an entire dungeon without being attacked or detected. It's really hard at times, but you get a lot better at it. I like to RP when I'm doing this and imagine how an actual assassin might operate. If I get in, get out, am never seen and leave everyone dead, then I'm a true assassin. Always look for anything to use I your advantage to accomplish this goal. Misdirecting enemies to walk into traps and over pressure plates is fair game. A truly great assassin would do the same, as should you.

Other stuff will be challenging and you'll just have to deal with it. For instance, dragons still piss me off regularly, but you can use tricks on them too. minor spoiler I use the Dragonbane sword you can get from the main questline when fighting dragons, plus the marked for death shout. Combine that with a paralysis potion or a poison and you can down a dragon quicker than you might think, if you can get the bastard to land that is. I don't have the shout for it yet.


I know this is a somewhat old post, but this may help. I have been playing with the assassin build. Maybe it is "unfair play" but I leveled my sneak to 100 using Raelof in the Helgen keep to test this. I took every perk in the sneak tree, and maxed out any that were able to have more than one point.

On the xbox 360, I changed my left trigger to enter sneak (instead of LS) because it is easier to do what I am about to write.

Basically, leave your LEFT hand free of any weapon or spell. Right hand dagger. Use the shrouded gloves for the 30x back stab.

I have found sneaking to be somewhat of a waste. Instead, I walk right up to the enemy, or let them run to me. While walking toward them as soon as I get close, I press LT to sneak (with the 100 sneak perk, you go invisible for about 1 second) and immediately stab. You almost always get the 30x attack bonus and in my findings, if you have a good dagger, 75% instant kills.

I have taken down 3 dragons with instant kill shots. It is so sweet to see your assassin disappear in slow motion, jump up on the dragons back and stab it in the head until it dies. The best one I have done so far is the Elder dragon which guarded the ice-form shout. He landed, I one hit killed him with an ebony dagger.

Also, for fun, (save your game first) you can go into a place like the riverwood trader and lightly cut the owner. He is a loud mouth and within seconds you will have the whole town and guards in the shop. I literally slit 9 throats in a row (all instant kills) and left a massive pile of dead bodies. I did this in the Sleeping Giant Inn too and threw all of the bodies into the fire just for fun. Daphine is unkillable though.

WARNING with this tactic. It is VERY VERY easy to get one-hit killed by NPCs when using this tactic because if they stab you as you leave stealth, you seem to ... well, you will see lol.


EDIT: left hand must be empty to get all of the one hit kills. Left hand automatically grabs their neck and the right hand slices.


Use shouts to your advantage. Sometimes you run into enemies around a corner or you need to lure an enemy out to shoot a well placed arrow, but dont want to waste any of your arrows or need to weaken a boss.

The throw voice shout will draw enemies out with out drawing them towards you.

The marked for death shout weakens them so you do more damage.

The aura whisper shout allows you to see any life force, even drauger and undeads, so you dont run into to anybody by accident.


Surprised nobody has mentioned Mehrunes Razor. Amazing daedric weapon for assassins. instant kill pretty much everything if you can get behind it. And for those tough melee bosses just grab your trusty daedric bow, jump on a perch where they can't find you and fire away! Any other enemies bothering you? Giants? Draugr Deathlords? Falmer? No problem for the old sneak n' slash technique!

  • That's because Astrid's Blade of Woe is a much better dagger. Don't have to reply on luck to get it's insta-kill.
    – Selonianth
    Commented May 31, 2013 at 0:40

Patience is the key. The way I do it is that I mostly use the daggers with 30x sneak attack bonus. This way I am able to destroy Blood dragon in one sneaky hit. Bows come in handy whenever you can not move out of your position without being noticed OR when fighting distant mobs that are hard to reach by sneaking (dragons mostly). Bosses are also quite easily killed with 3x shots with bows but I prefer dealing 30x damage with my two short bladed friends. With a little bit of stealthy patience you will be able to kill anything with one hit. Let us say the Morokei guy was single-shot without even noticing anyone was near.

About potions, they are a good advantage, but not necessary. Me, personally, never used any potion except of health ones... Still alive and kicking dragon asses. Unrelenting Force is extremely useful when you find yourself noticed by a group of enemies.

As I said in the beginning, the patience is your most powerful weapon as an assassin. When free roaming through the woods, feel free to stop and listen to your environment. It worked for me many times and saved my life.

Another good tip is playing as a Khajit, since they have the skill "Night Eye", which allows you to see well in the dark. With this little advantage, you will never have to differentiate between roaming through the woods in the daylight, or nighttime and therefore, you will never die.

It is as easy as that, but remember, this is MY way to play as an assassin. Yours may be completely different using whatever race or weaponry you want. You will be a good assassin just by willing to be one.. :)


I played an assassin/thief my very first time playing, and found that keeping a light sword and shield, preferably artifacts, and saving them for those types of fights helped me so much when dealing with bigger enemies. Since an assassin's armor weighs hardly anything, an extra sword and shield are not that hard to carry.

I agree poisons are amazing when dealing with big enemies, but Alchemy requires time-consuming runs to the river to get more fish and nirnroot. Most poisons you find in the world are useless magicka/stamina poisons, and so poisons can't be completely relied upon.

Early Conjuration spells conjure only very weak bodies, and the later spells take too long to cast. By the time you've done one, the Draugr Overlord has already killed you. Stick to a mage follower to do the Conjuration for you. Mage followers are usually ignored until the last minute, and have more powerful Atronachs than you. I recommend Eola, the follower you get after Namira's artifact. She enjoys Conjuration immensely.

My advice: Get a sword and shield, possibly a set of good light armor if you can carry it (Elven or Glass) and get a mage follower to summon minions for you. If quests are too difficult, that probably means you should go and explore! Wander down the road and explore caves to get more gear and potions.


Also, with those tough-to-beat bosses. If you have the Wabbajack, then try your luck and hope that Dragon Priest turns into a sweet roll.


Every one will tell you to do the Assassin quests or thief quests...of course you will...your an assassin. Even if you ask how to be an assassin with no magic, you will be recommended to take illusion or conjuration.

My advice is this:

Bow - damage perks only...don't worry about stagger or paralyze perks, nor the Ranger or the one that gets your arrows back.

1 hand - (I dual daggers) damage only..daggers do less damage but are faster..so any enchant will proc more. And...it looks cool

Block - if you want to...sometimes you need that torch to see. Bashing with the torch also does damage and fire damage. Don't take the block prevent damage..take the bashing perks...they stagger. Stagger helps when you have to melee those pesky dragons.

Sneak - All perks and max out...most will say ASAP, but I believe in learning as you go so you appreciate the shadow warrior perk.

Magic - any type...leave it at home...don't need it.

Alchemy - is your savoir(FYI, alchemy is considered a thief skill in Skyrim). You can make potions and poisons to deal with any situation. Yes it take work, but it is worth it. Paralyze/damage, that's why you don't need it on bows...15% chance for a few secs or 100% chance for 22 secs. There are not too many bosses you cant kill in 22 seconds while they are lying on the floor. I use damage/magic drains on mages. you can make Invis/health regen for the Oh Crap situations. And Dragons, damage/heath dot...especially when you get to use each poison TWICE with the perk.

Smithing - to enhance your weaps and armor.

Enchant - I waited till level 40 and above for this...this is an awesome skill, but if you want to make a non magic assassin I would opt against it. I am uber enough with out it.

Take the armor type of your choice, but light armor has a regen stamina perk. regardless, take the time to get beat up so when you need protection, you armor skill is helping you to survive.

Now, do I win every fight? no, but it is rare that I loose and only if I get surprised.

Can I one hit Dragons, I used too until I downloaded Deadly Dragons, but yes.

Did i get my @$$ beat when i first started out, of course. Learning from the failures makes you succeed more often later on.

This is my opinion only, it is your game..play it the way you want.

  • -1 just for saying not to get the stagger perk. That's the best perk for a bow user in the whole game.
    – DCShannon
    Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 18:56

Playing as an agent of stealth requires a lot of skill. You also want to be leveling in a wide variety of skills such as smithing, conjuration, alchemy, and one-handed. Some cases won't allow you take advantage of your prowess as an archer and you'll need to be equally skilled in hand-to-hand combat. There's a perk within the archer branch called Ranger that allows you the ability to move much faster while your bow is drawn and that should give you some more time to gun down stronger level enemies.

Take advantage of conjuration as early as you can because at some point you want to be able to summon diversions when involved with enemies such as Bandit Marauders. Bound Bow is also an essential spell because this will allow you to conserve arrows on enemies that require a large pool of damage. Also, take advantage of getting married to someone who can serve as your life long companion and as a secondary tank.

  • That's where your secondary companion comes in! Luckily, Skyrim offers a number of notable followers to serve as an aide in combat. Commented Oct 26, 2012 at 23:46

I went for the 15x damage perks one handed damage alchemy and obviously the shrouded gloves for x30 sneak attacks. I also use detect life in the left hand as it still allows you to perform the instant kill animation and the utility is amazing for area awareness, knowing a markn is right around the corner in silence has kept me from being detected more than once.

I also used to play as an imperial and as a lycanthrope. Lycanthropy is nice not only for the 100% disease resistance but also for the fact that you can transform when outnumbered and I have not encountered a humanoid yet that has resisted howl of terror. Additionally voice of the emperor provides a free second chance if you really mess it up. The gold's nice too. I do use bows some but I certainly don't focus on it. It is best used in sticky situations and as a utility like others have said, say to draw enemies. That's just my two cents though, but I never have trouble with anything, even frost trolls.


Join the Dark Brotherhood, complete it doing all optional bits of the quest. Join the Thieves Guild and complete their quests, making you a Nightingale.

Combine all three sets of armour to get the perfect assassin suit, use Karliah's bow with glass arrows and have a spare Nightingale Blade, Mercer's Sword of Devouring and Blades sword enchanted with fire. This will make you a cut above the rest also become an agent of stealth and always keep invisibility and poisons to hand.


Max out sneak 100% get all the perks. From what I've seen my stealth is so on point, armor is not even needed. Roll with some enchanted clothing. Just focus on stealth, maybe focus on damage. I would personally recommend the pickpocket so you could put high level poison in them silently. Which flavor wise is badass...and who knows? Maybe steal a few things while you are at it.


I routinely play through using khajiit stealth/archers and I've found that focusing on sneak, archery and alchemy give you the maximum amount of damage per shot, which coupled with the zoom and slow time perks of archery, allow for truly awesome stealth one-shots. On the occasiona you need more than one shot to kill an enemy, having a tank companion really comes in handy.

Btw you didn't say whether you use mods, but one I really like is Amazing Follower Tweaks. It allows you to customize each follower to specific combat type to give you more flexibility in creating the perfect tank to fit your individual playstyle.

A ton of respect to other players/posters who have said similar. I didn't notice if anyone mentioned mods, and maybe I'm in the wrong forum to mention them(didn't read too thouroughly), but I just wanted to throw in my 2 cents as this is thoroughly relevant to my preferred playstyle.

Hope this helps someone reading this. Love this game.


Use the following steps

  1. light armor
  2. a bow with high damage
  3. potions thats very important you can make your damage with 60 % higher if you use potions and ability power need do rise up.
  • Welcome to Arqade! This answer brings nothing that have not already been said. Please avoid duplicating content and only provide answers that add something new.
    – Jupotter
    Commented Dec 17, 2012 at 6:25

well ime doing all right as an assassin but what i learnt early on is that bows are more use full than daggers. generally my strategy is to hide some where and take out the weaklings with a bow then use arrows to distract the rest and then sneak attack them. oh yeah and ime only lv 9

also check out this u tube vid: assasin:tutorial 1 & 2

  • Your youtube links seem to be missing, and your entire answer could use a serious edit pass for spelling, grammar and proper capitalization. On top of that, your answer doesn't really provide any useful information that isn't already in the already accepted answer. We appreciate your willingness to contribute to gaming.stackexchange.com, but this answer wasn't terribly helpful. Please try better in the future. Commented Feb 8, 2014 at 10:04

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