Contest Build: The Bowdancer


"Twin beacons shone before us unexpectedly, auguring death. Arrows fell upon us soon after, their enchantments parting the mine tunnel's gloom and breaking the eerie silence left by the last vampire's stilled brethren. Further darkness enveloped me as I fell to my knees. I remember no more.

The task at hand was a challenging one in more than one way; we knew that going in. All of the targets were dangerous and needed to be destroyed, yet I pitied them, as I would any who undertake noble pursuits and whom tragedy befalls. So it was with a conflicted heart that I later learned from my companion that my assailant had escaped.

Despite the seriousness of my wound, I listened intently as he described the events I was unable to witness. Aranalda was her name, a high-elf. He told me of their skirmish, of how she wielded her bow like a dagger, expertly parrying or evading wicked blows which would have caught most foes off guard, before striking suddenly from impossible angles. His eyes revealed admiration as he went on for some time, detailing a mesmerizing, dance-like spectacle where always the elf seemed to be everywhere and nowhere.

Whatever kingly blood or fiendish pact enabled these martial feats was not enough to allow her to escape that wretched mine unscathed. How exactly she managed to get away he wouldn't say, and his visage became sombre, so that I didn't press the issue.

Even now in my twilight years I wonder what exactly became of the bowdancer, as he called her. Also in my memory, now and always, are her fallen brethren. Theirs was a cruel fate, but perhaps kinder than Aranalda's should she be still bearing such a terrible curse."

-- undated manuscript by a former companion of the Champion of Cyrodiil.


Those of you who have never played Oblivion might be a little confused at this point. What you have just read is a fictionalized account of a rather sombre daedric quest by the companion of Oblivion's player character, who is tasked to mercy kill five former worshippers of Azura (the Afflicted Brethren) who were sent to slay a powerful vampire and sealed themselves in its lair once they realized they had been infected. 3903736683?profile=RESIZE_180x180The character which inspired this build is one of those five, the high-elf witchhunter Aranalda.

I was playing Oblivion a while ago and for the first time ever I did this quest at a high level (usually you want to do it early for Azura's Star), and Aranalda spawned with five or six different types of enchanted arrows which was badass and totally unexpected given Oblivion's samey NPCs. She also looked pretty awesome in her unassuming black robes. I knew then I had to make a Skyrim Aranalda, with a few changes to reflect the events beyond her escape.

Aranalda did not escape that mine unscathed. A wicked blade found its mark and cut her from her right cheek down to the elbow, leaving her unable to fend for herself and thus feed. She fell into a vampiric coma in a nondescript crypt where she languished for over two hundred years (more on that later).

Because Aranalda is a witchhunter, we will be making heavy use of Archery, Destruction, and Mysticism's closest match: Alteration. We will not be making use of Conjuration because Aranalda now abhors anything Daedric as she feels betrayed by Azura. We will also ignore Alchemy because part of the build's challenge is to not be able to use potions (we will be healing via absorb health), with the justification being that such items have no effect on the undead (I open an exception for vegetable soup to make the early game smoother), and she will also no longer wield a sword because of her wound. Finally, we will use Enchanting to emulate Aranalda's enchanted arrows.

One final note before we begin: although Aranalda was the inspiration for this build, you are of course free to imagine your own character. In a later section I give some pointers on what you need to watch out for if you want to make some changes, such as choosing another race.




Bash-draw and Back-bash

Bashing with a bow roots you for quite some time, which makes for a pretty mediocre escape tool. Fortunately, it is freely interruptible at any time by drawing your bow. If you wait until just after the bash hits your target, you'll get to draw and move whilst the target is staggered. With a very fast bow (longbow, Zephyr, Auriel's Bow), you'll have just enough time to get a fully drawn shot in whilst moving far enough away to be outside melee range of the target when it recovers from the stagger; I call it the bash-draw. You can do it with slightly slower bows such as the hunting or bound bows, but it's trickier and often you won't be able to fully draw the bow.

Not all bashes lead to staggers. For example, bashing a bandit who is in the middle of an attack will just parry said attack, which is not remotely a large enough window to fire a shot safely, but in almost all cases you'll be ready to perform more parries / bash attempts so long as you have stamina. Parrying multiple attacks in a row before nailing the stagger and putting an arrow in a bandit's face, and then doing it all over again until he is dead, is extremely satisfying. This is bowdancing and is the build's signature move.

Note that the magnitude of the stagger can vary depending on several factors: the type of opponent (bears stagger very little), the opponent's weapon (two-handed bandits stagger less than the one-handed variety), and in some cases even where the bash landed (draugr and dwarven spheres stagger considerably more if you bash them from behind). You can cancel a bash-draw immediately to circle around a staggered opponent and bash them from behind: I call this the back-bash and it is the most effective way of defeating certain types of foes. Because it would be difficult to describe all these different tactics in text, I made a tactics video (see end of this post) where I go over the most common as well as the toughest dancing partners you'll face. And in case you're wondering, yes, you absolutely can dance with sabrecats at low levels, with zero archery perks.

What about multiple foes, I hear you ask? Surely you can't dance with three bandits on your arse. That's right, you cannot, not elegantly anyway. Aranalda is the ultimate duelist, but she's no tank. Thankfully, there is a reliable, balanced way to handle that.



Sometimes bow-bash will whiff the NPC and you'll get stabbed in the face, because reasons. No matter how good you are, you will get hit occasionally through no fault of your own, so keep yourself topped up. This also happens when you attempt to bash an already staggered NPC, but this is likely intentional.  Also, if your character wasn't fully finished with the bow shooting animation when you bash, you'll trigger the infamous bow-bash bug which results in a phantom arrow being fired instead of the bash stagger effect, and you'll get stabbed in the face.



Skills and Perks

For defense, Alteration will supplement our dancing. Ash Shell will be our main source of crowd control that will allow us to dance with an opponent without some creep trying to cut in. It is nearly perfect for our needs. It's fairly cheap, affects a great variety of foes and, unlike illusion spells, is hard to abuse. The only problem, and it's purely a roleplaying one, is having to travel to Solstheim early on to buy the tome and then return. Before then, the Ice Form shout is king. You'll only ever need two words although you can get away with just one, and they're all conveniently up north near the Shrine of Azura which we need to go to very early on anyway.

Alteration Perks:

  • Novice-Expert: novice should be the very first perk you get.
  • Alteration Dual Casting: low priority, as you'll need Alteration magicka-cost reduction first.
  • Magic Resistance (3/3): medium priority.
  • Stability: high priority (Ash Shell lasts longer).
  • Atronach: medium priority.

As for offense, Destruction coupled with Enchanting will emulate Aranalda's enchanted arrows. We can enchant multiple identical bows and 'pretend' that she really only has a single bow and simply switches enchanted arrows or enchants her bow on the fly with whatever effect she wants. I named all my bows as Arrow of <insert effect(s) description here>. You'll start out with an Arrow of Scorching and an Arrow of Soul Trapping, and you'll then want to pursue an absorb health weapon (Folgunthur boss has one) to disenchant for an Arrow of the Leech, as that will be Aranalda's main source of health replenishment. Anything beyond that is just a bonus.

Because bowdancing needs a very fast bow, and the long bow is the fastest enchantable weapon available to us, that was my weapon of choice. Believe me, I had to take great care not to let my damage go completely out of control later on, because Enchanting is just simply too OP. I had to balance many variables in an attempt to keep a consistent challenge throughout that wouldn't require the frequent switching of difficulty.

With that in mind, I highly recommend you only augment a single element in the Destruction tree and that it be fire (on a vampire? See RP section for justification). When you start placing dual enchantments on your bow, you'll notice that if one effect is boosted by a perk (even vampires' Illusion boost), the other will be too, and if both are boosted, they each get doubly boosted. I don't need to tell you what happens if you place a chaos enchantment on a fast firing weapon like the long bow with all three elements augmented. All right I'll tell you, it'll completely ruin your playthrough.

A bowdancer doesn't use Destruction magic just to boost shot damage, oh no! Single or dual-cast Fire Runes can be used preemptively or placed right on top of shelled opponents as an early warning system for when the shell expires. And if you're in the mood for a hot dance, Flame Cloak works great as supplemental damage. Frost Cloak can also help you if you're having trouble with a specific opponent; the slow isn't great, but it's something, and it'll sap their stamina as well. Finally, a bowdancer can lay down a hellish pool with the Wall of Flames spell and dance around it; combined with Flame Cloak, it makes short work of tough cookies, such as bears. It makes it hard to see anything though, and if that bothers you, use shock alternatives. Even without the relevant augment perks, it's free damage!

If you're in a very tough situation, such as dealing with multiple dwarven spheres (immune to Ash Shell), you can always pop Highborn and leave a trail of Wall of Flames while you're running for your life tactically retreating, interspersed with some dual-cast explosive droppings. Highborn is also useful when you need to cast a ton of Ash Shell spells in a row, such as in the next image (two other shelled bears rolled down the hill), and you don't yet have much Alteration magicka-cost reduction.


3968535113?profile=RESIZE_710xThere is no nut that Highborn and Destruction can't crack.


To make your run smoother I recommend passively leveling Smithing, at first by fletching a healthy supply of iron arrows (I made thousands of the things), and eventually by transmuting the iron ore and crafting jewelry for enchanting and selling. Just let it level naturally as you chance upon iron deposits and don't attempt to grind it, as it will do more harm than good if you do and it's boring as hell. Keep a set of smithing apparel on you and temper your long bow from time to time. It'll give you a balanced, gradual physical damage boost which will supplement your elemental damage nicely and eventually will make the overdraw perks worth investing in. No perks in Smithing needed. Remember, just fletching and jewelcrafting for a painless experience.

Archery Perks:

  • Overdraw (5/5): very low priority.
  • Critical Shot: optional, if you want Hunter's Discipline, but low priority.
  • Hunter's Discipline: optional, low priority.

Destruction Perks:

  • Novice-Expert: get Apprentice ASAP for Fire Rune.
  • Augmented Flames (2/2): get these ASAP.
  • Destruction Dual Casting: nice to have early on to pair with Highborn.

Enchanting Perks:

  • Enchanter (5/5)
  • Fire Enchanter: get this ASAP.
  • Frost Enchanter
  • Storm Enchanter
  • Insightful Enchanter
  • Corpus Enchanter
  • Soul Squeezer: high priority.
  • Soul Siphon: high priority.
  • Extra Effect

Attributes, Standing Stone and Difficulty Concerns

Let's face it, it's easy to break Skyrim. Many perks give you massive, sudden increases in power and it's difficult to account for that short of starting the game at a high difficulty and having a miserable old time until then. This was the case with me when I started this build on master. My enchanted long bow did pitiful damage up until I got the Extra Effect perk and then suddenly I was melting faces and still having a miserable old time because everything died before they could get to me. So I started over on Expert and tried to find a recipe which would give me the smoothest difficulty curve possible.

Because we're going toe-to-toe with monsters, we absolutely need to invest a lot in health to avoid getting kill-moved over and over at higher levels. This can make us very tanky if we're not careful. Hence, I opted out of Mage Armor. For standing stones, I went Mage Stone, and later the Lady Stone which fits the character well. Lord or Atronach stones make us too tanky against spells in conjuction with the Magic Resistance and Atronach perks so those are out as well. I also opted for a single elemental resistance enchantment on my gear, just to offset my vampiric vulnerability, and no more.

So how much health do we need? I went stamina for the first five levels, then 1:1 health:stamina, and have only once been kill-moved at nearly full health. There is no need to invest in magicka thanks to our racial bonus.

In the Destruction tree I chose to augment only fire, to avoid the ridiculous jump in damage I got on my first playthrough, and it worked out great. The boost in damage was very welcome, but didn't break the build.

You may be surprised to see such a barren Archery tree. First of all, Eagle Eye can add more bugginess to an already buggy bow-bash, Power Shot and Ranger help make bowdancing redundant, Quick Shot is buggy and will leave your draw animation and shot magnitude out of sync, which is annoying as hell when you need to time your shot precisely after a bash. Not that you'd ever get to that perk anyway because of the aforementioned issues with the Eagle Eye and Power Shot perks. The Critical Shot perks are crappy in the best of cases, making it hard to justify getting Hunter's Discipline which could be useful to preserve rare arrows. Even Overdraw will be left for much later, once we've smithed our long bow to where we can start outputting substantial physical damage. Until then, you'll get much more use out of your precious perk points elsewhere.

If you absolutely must play on a higher difficulty, I'd jump straight to legendary, go for a hunting bow over the long bow, perk Steel Smithing, power level a bit, and that will hopefully carry you until Extra Effect, though it will be gruelling. You can bowdance just fine with a hunting bow as it's only marginally slower than the long bow. It would be totally overkill on master though, hence I suggest legendary. You'd then have a little more freedom with your perk choices, but I'd still be wary of the chaos enchantment. You'd also probably need more health over stamina so you'd need to stockpile veggie soups.


Other than my collection of long bows, I opted for Hooded Black Robes, of which there is a guaranteed copy in Fellglow Keep, but only during the quest Hitting the Books (College of Winterhold). Dawnguard's Traveler NPCs also wear them, but you have to be sided with the Dawnguard for them to spawn. Once I found Robes of Minor Destruction (the hooded version) I used those exclusively until I maxed Enchanting. 3903853217?profile=RESIZE_180x180The robes remind me of Oblivion's Dark Brotherhood robes, and suit the character perfectly. Because of its color and simplicity, most quivers match satisfactorily with it. And because it takes up both the body and head slots, it helps offset Extra Effect's power a little bit.

As mentioned in the previous section, I opted not to perk Mage Armor so I was free to use any armor I felt like. I thought the Vampire Gauntlets were a perfect fit. The Traveler also wears them, but if you side with the Volkihar you can find a couple of them in the castle.

My final apparel:

  • Bowdancer's Robes: Hooded Black Robes with Fortify Destruction and Fortify Alteration. Before this, I used Robes of Minor Destruction, and before that standard mage robes with a Novice Hood. I absolutely love the look of hooded robes, especially how they slightly cover the right side of the face, which I roleplayed as Aranalda's attempt to cover her scar.
  • Bowdancer's Gauntlets: Vampire Gauntlets with Fortify Archery and Fortify Magicka. Before then I just used regular cloth gloves enchanted with Fortify Magicka, as I found hooded Robes of Minor Destruction early and those also cover the head slot, so I had to ditch the Novice Hood.
  • Bowdancer's Boots: Black Mage Boots with Resist Fire and Regenerate Stamina. Before Extra Effect I prioritized the fire resistance.
  • Bowdancer's Ring: random ring enchanted with Fortify Archery and Fortify Destruction. Seeing as Fortify Archery won't do much for you in the early game, you should Fortify Destruction or Alteration before Extra Effect.
  • Bowdancer's Necklace: random necklace enchanted with Fortify Destruction and Fortify Alteration.

My final 'quiver':

  • Arrow of the Dynamo: fire and shock damage. This is your main damage dealer. Almost nothing resists shock damage. Even though we haven't augmented it in the Destruction tree, the way dual enchantments work ensure that our arrow will list as much shock as fire damage.
  • 3904055845?profile=RESIZE_710xArrow of Frostfire: fire and frost damage. This is the arrow of choice for melee opponents with stamina. It'll reduce the frequency of power attacks which are your biggest threats due to their gap-closing capabilities. Well worth the small damage hit compared to the previous arrow.
  • Arrow of the Leech: fire damage and Absorb Health. Your main source of healing. Still does good damage against anything which doesn't resist the absorb. Before Extra Effect, we'll have to make do with just the absorb component.
  • Arrow of the Damned: fire damage and Fiery Soul Trap. This is how your further corrupt the Black Star. Before Extra Effect, a simple Arrow of (Firey) Soul Trap will do just fine.
  • Arrow of Banishing: fire damage and Banish. A most welcome utility arrow. The fire augment will affect the level of daedra which can be banished. By the time you get the banish enchantment, you should have Extra Effect.

And also 100% Fortify Smithing gear.



As already mentioned, Ice Form is very useful as crowd control before Ash Spell. Even a single word can sometimes do the job because of the incredibly slow recovery animation. But there are other useful shouts at your disposal:

  • Marked for Death: as a bowdancer does not require shouts to function (once Ash Spell is acquired), she is free to use damage shouts, and this one is excellent for spongy opponents.
  • Become Ethereal: useful for any character. If you're in a tough situation and Highborn is on cooldown, using this shout to enable reading from a scroll or dealing free damage with a Flame Cloak can be a real life-saver. If you've run out of veggie soups, you can also use it to regenerate your stamina.
  • Unrelenting Force: a single word is all you need. I used it for those moments when bash whiffed my opponent or when I wanted to interrupt a caster's healing spell.


In the early game, there are some things that need to be taken care of ASAP. I'm not a fan of what I'm about to suggest, but we have no choice, and it'll only take five minutes. As soon as you leave the Helgen cave, point your compass perfectly westward and keep running straight over the mountains until you get to North Shriekwind Bastion. Conveniently, inside will be a single vampire all too happy to infect you. Let her, then fast travel back to Helgen, run back to the cave exit, wait a few days, and you're a vampire. Then shake your head violently to erase all memory of what you just did (don't actually do this), and that's it, you're done, you're Aranalda. Everything else can be done naturally and in-character.

Next thing on the agenda after grabbing the indispensable Mage Stone is to amass quite a bit of gold and level both Alteration and Destruction to 25. Grab everything you can in Embershard Mine and Bleak Falls Barrow, or whatever your favorite early game dungeons are, and check if Alvor has any weapons of flame or soul trap. We need to disenchant those ASAP, but we also need money left over for spells and soul gems. When you get to Whiterun, your Alteration and Destruction should both be at or above 25, so you can buy Fire Rune and Stoneflesh. Hopefully you'll still have enough gold to purchase a grand soul gem for enchanting a fire bow, and use whatever you can still afford for a soul trap bow. If you must, wait 48 hours to refresh merchants' inventories until you find both a flame and soul trap weapon. If you can achieve this, you'll never have any more troubles as you head to the Shrine of Azura to further Aranalda's plot.



"Old shadows over white peaks loom
In a land whose soul strife hollows
Salvation is repaid with doom
The voice that was silent now bellows

A twisted path aims eastward
Unseemly as a blighted scar
A cherished soul is martyred
Beneath a darkened star

Embraced by mists and shadow
There glimpse the coming of dawn
Cast out your long held sorrow
And the world on you will fawn"

-- Azura's parting words to Aranalda


No matter how good a build's combat is, you need something to fight for or boredom starts to creep in, as hunting mammoth tusks for Ysolda and the like can only go so far. In the case of Aranalda, it is her hatred of Azura which drives her. I'm going to detail the beginning and the end of her Skyrim tale, but of course you're free to change anything you like.

Azura must have prophesied what would happen to the brethren in the mine where the vampire Dratik made his lair, and Azura's prophecies always come true. Why then did she send them, and then task others to have them killed under the guise of compassion? So they too would be infected? For her amusement? These questions plagued her already ravaged mind, and would turn her profound love of Azura into a seething hatred.

Aranalda decided to try to decipher Azura's parting message so she could hopefully use it against her. She surmised that white peaks must be referring to Skyrim, and that is why she traveled there. But in Helgen she learned an important lesson: she could never again allow her thirst for revenge to place her in a vulnerable position, for she was severely weakened after her long coma, and needed to retrain and in some ways reinvent herself if she was to have any chance of success.

With that in mind, she traveled to Riverwood, learned all she could from its residents (learning the location of the Shrine of Azura, for one), and bought spells and supplies before heading to Bleak Falls Barrow. There a most peculiar thing happened to her which she had not foreseen: coming across a Word Wall stirred something inside her she could not explain. And so, eager to learn more, she traveled to Whiterun and proceeded with the first part of the main quest.

I decided that Aranalda was Dragonborn for several reasons:

  1. it paved the way for an epic conclusion to a chapter of her story when it dawns on Aranalda that Azura knew all along that she was Dragonborn, that she would be infected by vampirism and inadavertently rescued by the Champion of Cyrodiil, and that this very disease would allow her to still exist over two hundred years later when Alduin would reappear and threaten the very existence of the world, and that Aranalda alone would be capable of stopping him.
  2. it helps justify why a vampire is wielding fire magic, as according to Paarthurnax the Dragonborn has the primal power of fire, as do all dragons, even if it is inert. If casters were to avoid certain magic because of vulnerabilities, then altmer wouldn't be casters at all as traditionally they are weak against all the elements.
  3. having Ice Form early on can replace Ash Spell if you don't yet have the magicka to cast it.

After she learned she was Dragonborn, she wasn't remotely interested in what this meant other than the power it offered her, and how it could be leveraged  against Azura. She certainly couldn't care less about some hermits on a mountain, now that she knew how to absorb dragons' power. She felt strong enough to pursue her cold heart's desire and began her journey eastward, towards the Shrine of Azura.

But how does one stick it to a Daedric Prince? Well, in the case of Azura, we have built-in support for that. Aranalda corrupted Azura's Star, which would be nasty enough on its own, but that wasn't good enough for her. She killed and soul-trapped Aranea Ienith and burned her body at the shrine, then enchanted a ring with her soul, so she could soul-trap more Azura worshippers into the Black Star. She then traveled from town to town, blending in easily with the locals thanks to her Cyrodiilic strand of vampirism, trying to find more worshippers, sometimes doing menial tasks for them to gain their confidence. Anyone careless enough to reveal their worship of Azura was stalked, fed on when possible, and soul-trapped. For every worshipper she had a ring enchanted with their soul which I named Essence of <name>, using an effect that best matched their abilities in life; Fortify Destruction in the case of Essence of Aranea.

Once you're done with the province of Skyrim, it's redemption time, if you wish. Eventually, Aranalda became frustrated that Azura did not manifest herself, did not even hint at the anguish she must have felt at the horrors her former worshipper had wrought. No matter how dark the depths she plumbed, she could get no reaction. She then recalled Aranea's first words to her:

Azura has given me the gift of foresight. I had a vision of you walking up the steps to this altar long before you were born. You have been chosen to be her champion. I know it is unexpected, but do not worry. It will all unfold as she has predicted.

She then returned to the main quest, until it dawned on her just what was at stake, and the full meaning of Azura's parting words was finally revealed to her. She cured her vampirism, left all her essence rings and the Black Star inside a bowl on the altar at the Shrine of Azura, then went to save the world.


3968328914?profile=RESIZE_710xIt will all unfold as she predicted.


This is the core of Aranalda's tale of vengeance and redemption. What goes on inside her mind is up to you, though. Does she end up enjoying the killing, or does she just see it as a means to an end? Will she go out of her way to spite other Daedric Princes, such as Boethiah? Here are some factions and quests for your consideration.

  • Dark Brotherhood: if Aranalda's mind grows darker, she may eventually turn to Sithis, a true god, and join the Dark Brotherhood. She can then use her marks to grow her collection of essence rings. That last contract would make for quite the ring! And what better person to restore the Dark Brotherhood to its former glory than one who was alive back then?
  • Volkihar: this is a bit more challenging. How do you justify getting anywhere near the Dawnguard? Would she even want to consort with other vampires?
  • Dawnguard: if you didn't join the Volkihar and followed the redemption arc, you may want to join the Dawnguard prior to or after traveling to Solstheim.
  • Thieves Guild: according to the UESP, there is a vague reference to Nocturnal and Azura being enemies. Depending on how reliable you think this reference is, Aranalda could make an exception and join them to further spite Azura.
  • Namira's Merry Band of Diners: what could be darker than trapping a person's soul in a corrupted Daedric artifact, eating their corpse, then using their soul to enchant a ring? Recall that Aranalda's reason for not relearning Conjuration was because she now abhors everything Daedric, so this would be a hard sell. Also, it's really revolting.
  • Solstheim: she may want to further explore her gift of Akatosh. This is where I am now in my own playthrough.



Alternatives to Aranalda

Maybe you can't stand high-elves or, let's be honest, Aranalda's redundant vampirism but you just want to dance. It is possible to play as another race, but you'll have a considerably tougher time in the early game. You need a good stamina base early on so you don't have to consume veggie soup for every melee fight, but you also need magicka to cast spells to level Alteration and Destruction quickly. Those two schools really benefit from an early boost so you can buy important spells as soon as you hit Whiterun, but there is no other race with a boost in those schools as well as Enchanting. Best you can do is forego the Enchanting boost and go with a Dunmer or a Redguard. Alternatively, an Imperial will give you Enchanting and Destruction boosts, but your Alteration will lag a little behind meaning you'll have delayed access to Ash Spell; you can work around this with the Ice Form shout. In any case, I'd boost magicka for the first five levels to be on par with the high-elves, and as for the stamina, consider prioritizing an enchantment early on and make sure to stockpile on veggie soups.

If you like Aranalda's character but not vampirism, you can easily work out some head canon to fix that; I never mentioned how she emerged from her coma, and that was deliberate. She need not be a vampire once the game starts. That would allow her to join the Dawnguard for selfish reasons, whilst keeping the rest of her plot intact.



I had forgotten how much hard work it takes to make non-trivial builds. This one was particularly hard to build as it's so easy to make bowdancing redundant, and that's a shame because going into melee with a bow is a lot of fun. My first playthrough, for example, also made use of fear enchantments. Yea... that didn't go down so well. For one, almost nothing resisted it because of vampires' 25% illusion boost (which affect enchantments), and later paired with augmented fire damage thanks to Extra Effect that's another 50% boost on top of that. On a longbow. With minimal charge expenditure. Who needs to bowdance when you're body-blocking a room full of bandits huddled in a corner sucking their thumbs?

If you follow my build suggestions, then at least you can be certain that your fun won't be short-lived. And what fun it was for me the second time around. I enjoyed the run so much that I will be giving it another go (once I'm done with Solstheim), possibly with Ordinator perks in the mix, which for someone who has avoided gameplay-altering mods all these years, should speak volumes. I understand that it's likely a bit niche and requires some practice, so it may be a little frustrating for some. Stick with it and you'll number among those few worthy of calling themselves bowdancers.

Thanks for reading.


Tactics Video



Cosmetic Mods Visible in Screenshots and Tactics Video

  • Breton Longbow: self-modded to replace the vanilla longbow model
  • SkyUI
  • Realistic Lighting Overhaul
  • Ethereal Elven Overhaul
  • Realistic Ragdolls and Force
  • Female Weapon Scale Fix


Credits and Thanks



Mar. 14:

  • polish pass

Feb. 29:

  • added the Shouts subsection.
  • added more images.
  • added the Frost and Storm Enchanter perks which were mistakenly ommitted.

Feb. 23:

  • a certain word does not mean what I thought it did.
  • added more images.

Feb. 22:

  • added  further details in the Gear subsection.
  • added pic of Aranalda in all her glorious Oblivionness.

Feb. 18:

  • grammar fixes.
  • Bowdancer's Necklace had the wrong enchantment.
  • changed title of Perks subsection.

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Email me when people reply –


  • I'm going to be very busy but I'll try to break up a few of the walls of text with some images before the deadline.

  • Bruh i am in love with this presentation style 

    • Thank you! I'm looking to improve it a little as time permits.


  • Looks like a fun build. I love that picture of the dead priestess of Azura with arrows sticking out of her.

    • Thanks! That pic was a PITA to shoot, and I'm still not happy with the arrows' placement. They simply don't stick where you aim them.

  • I'm a fan! Really cool to see this derivative combat style coming out of the contest. Looks like a real shake-up of the traditional archer formula. Even my closest-range archers often relied on attack speed and the Power Shot perk to keep opponents at bay but as we can see in the video you've definitely got something quite different here which is still very effective. I really liked your intro as well, it certainly sets up the fantasy that the player can expect to experience.

    Only real issue I have is that there are some quite long stretches of text, but as you said yourself you're looking to update those before the deadline. Good luck!

    Just wanted to add that I remember your Bow-Singer entry for the Mythic Dawn contest I ran way back in the day. Nice to see you're still going strong with the combat archer builds!

    • You're too kind! Thank you Ponty.

      Yes, that was me. What an epic contest that was. And this one is shaping up to be just as epic if these first builds are any indication.

  • Great build! The presentation style was really nice, with the combined screenshot/header standing out to me. I absolutely love the idea of having different "quivers." Never occurred to me to use multiple bows for a bunch of effects. Great work, and good luck on the contest!

    • Thank you! Other builds have done the 'single weapon' enchanting thing, but the 'quiver' bit I think is new.

  • As the deadline was pushed back a little, I may have time for a gameplay video where I go all out instead of drawing the fights out like I did in the rather clinical tactics video. Taking suggestions for the location. Ideally it should have a variety of melee opponents to showcase as many of the different tactics as possible. Honestly, I can't think of a good spot.

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