Do no see a lot of pages on being primarily an archer so thought I would throw some information out there...
Update Dec 1 after spending a ton of more hours in this...and wanted to make it easier to read.
I am nearly level 50 at this point.
One it is pretty fun. Once you level up a bit with the right equipment and perks you are pretty much the modern day equivalent of a sniper.
With the feedback I got and my own personal experience spreading out too much can make for an overall weaker character. I have found the balance below to work very well. Note that even though I talk about my high level character, it worked at lower levels for me - the best type of armor I had, taking the right perks, etc kept it all in balance. These are Sneak, Archery, One-handed (light emphasis), Light Armor (specific perk path), Smithing (specific perk path), and Enchanting (specific perk path).
Sneak - Leveling sneak is very easy - too easy in fact, see some of the comments about your character leveling too much (balance as indicated and should not be an issue). Just walk around in sneak mode the majority of the time, and take all the sneak perks, especially the weapon ones early (for the sneak attack bonus). You get 3x for bows, 6x for swords and the like, and 15x for daggers! (Dark brotherhood, have not joined, but I heard you can get your hands on a set of gloves or wraps that double your damage, for effective 30x on daggers, outrageous when you get daggers with high enough base damage). I now have a sneak of 100 and ALL the perks, one note...the top of the tree perk does not work as you would expect. See the tips and tricks section for more information.
One note about leveling in smithing and enchantment. I did it as I went along. If you level up to very high levels without keeping your combat skills up you are going to be fodder for the enemy. A few levels each time and kept it in pace with my main combat skill, archery, and you should not have any problems.
Smithing was more about getting better armor and upgrading it better. It is also VERY easy to level but time consuming. I currently have 100 in Smithing and stayed on the light armor side. I went Fur --> Elven --> Glass --> Dragonscale as my main armor sets. My Smithing skill is now 100 and I stayed away from the heavy armor side out of preference. There is a lot on the wiki about how to maximize your created armor and weapons in the Smithing section and I recommend that because the improvements can be very good, but with a twist. I never bothered with Alchemy but you can get very good potions from vendors that enhance Smithing and Enchanting. Doing that and I did not have to bother with the Alchemy tree (which would have spread me too thin). I do not waste a lot of time trying to get the very "best" since this is time consuming anyway and splitting hairs at a point.
To level, create loads of iron daggers, enchant if you want to level that as well, and sell. For making your own kit, look at the wiki Smithing guide, and create your "Smithing" kit of 4 items that enhance your ability. Note that it is not necessary when CREATING the armor or weapon, but when you IMPROVE the armor or weapon. Take your enhance smithing potion(s) (I find I can squeeze in three at a time) and improve wearing your kit and under the potion enhancement. To see when the potion wears off, note what the improvements are before starting, when it drops, time for the next potion. Don't bother with potions if you are leveling or getting quick cash.
Depending on where you are in the Light Armor skill tree, I was creating fine armor and weapons at the Elven level and legendary by the Glass Armor and weapon creation time (did not bother creating the one between Elven and Glass). For this type of character, note on the Smithing wiki page, bows and daggers in the glass tree have better base attributes than the daedric (heavy) side maximum. Just another reason not to bother with the heavy side, better weapons for this character type on the light side!
Enchanting - There are some really nice enhancements via enchantment. Since I stayed away from Alchemy, I just pick up enchanting potions to do enhancements. I only use the potions on my own kit. When you are trying to level or get some quick cash, do not bother. Pick up the black star (Azura star quest you can decide to make it black) and you have infinate grand souls to feed your personal stuff since bandits are EVERYWHERE and they are all grand souls. I find other grand souls to be a bother to track down and find, and I do not know how many grand soul stones I have accidentally slurped a lesser soul into. Make your bow enchanted with soul trap and your pipeline is basically complete. To quickly level, I carry around a lot of petty and lesser soul gems, easily found and cheap to buy if you have to and you have your assembly line for leveling up. Take all those daggers you find, or iron daggers you use to level up smithing, and add paralyze to them. Easy money and fast leveling. At higher levels I find I have to sweep nearly all the merchants to offload everything and am left with a pile of gold.
See tips and tricks section below for soul gems and potions in the Archmage quarters, nice benefit.
For the personal kit, it is whatever you like, but here is an example for you. I am only able to squeeze in two to maybe three items per potion duration, so make sure you have enough before you start. Since it is a hassle and time consuming, I ALWAYS check with the vendors as I pass through town and just squirrel them away as I find them. See tips section below for locations of some of the better enchantments. I have 100 enchantment at this point so I have the two enchantments per item and I followed the skill tree guide indicated below. Everything is Legendary...
Dragonscale Armor - Fortify Health and Fortify Stamina, +62 on each.
Dragonscale Gauntlets - Fortify Archery and Fortify One Handed, +40% on each.
Dragonscale Helmet - Fortify Archery and Fortify Magicka, +40% and +62 respectively.
Dragonscale Boots - Resist Fire and Resist Frost, +46% on each.
Dragonscale Shield - Fortify Health Regeneration and Resist Magic, +40% and +25% respectively.
Glass Bow - Fiery Soul Trap (Soul trap + fire damage) + Shock Damage, 15sec, 10(fire), and 31(shock).
Glass Dagger - Shock Damage and Paralyze, 31(shock) and 5sec paralyze.
Glass Sword - Absorb Health and Paralyze, 20(absorb) and 5sec paralyze.
Amulet - Fortify Archery and Resist Shock, +40%(Archery) and +46% shock.
Ring - Fortify One Handed and Fortify Archery, +40% on each.
Why? This ups your three base attributes substantially (health, magicka, and stamina). 4 Archery enhancements (+160%!!) virtually assures your bow is the equivalent of scoped rifle. One-handed (total +80%) for the sneak dagger kills and if you end up in battle, helps your sword. You get substantial fire, frost, and shock resistance to cover all those bases. My wood elf is already 50% resistant to disease and poison. Daggers and swords can paralyze so while it is not my strength to stand and tank, a sure way to level the playing field. Soul trap for feeding souls for my enchantment addiction. Magic resistance since my character seems vulnerable to them, and if I don't drop them first I need the help. If I am tanking away, my shield is regenerating my health faster, and my sword is taking it away from my enemies. Dagger and bow shock damage because very few enemies are resistant to that type of damage and it just adds to the deadly nature of the strength of this build. Covers nearly all the basis with emphasis on this type of character.
Not able to get two per yet? No worries, I ditched the resistances, stayed with the health, stamina, archery, and onehanded bonuses primarily.
Archery - Not a lot to say here, shoot everything with bows. With the sneak, it is very easy to walk through entire dungeons and rarely get hit back. Levels sort of slowly, but enough fights with dragons (which shooting with arrows is very handy versus other ways to get them) and it stays up ok. Put yourself in sneak for your 3x multiplier and there is not a lot out there that can sustain the whatever your current level hit (if you do not get a critical which gives even more), and if they do, not much more to put them away, and they have to find you first anyway. Like a said, medievil sniper. My near 50 level elf with the enchanted bow described above with ebony arrows strikes for 1240 base + 10 fire + 31 shock for 1,281 points of damage if nothing else happens. If I get the critical bonus, that is 30% chance at 50% bonus, so 1,860 + 10 fire + 31 shock for 1901 total points of damage on critical sneak. Finally, if I do not take them down, the top Archery perk gives a chance for 15 second Paralysis!
If they are up high and you do not kill them, I nearly always stagger them with the perk, so I have seen my fair share of plunging enemies that are killed by the following fall. Not much trouble with Dragons at all at any point, run and shoot (use your time slowdown perks while aiming and you can hit them in the air if you figure out the lead time). You also get to stay far enough away when they land to sidestep their breath and fill them with arrows.
Since you sneak and shoot, leveling CAN be a problem since everything dies quickly. Up in the mountains (its in this wiki somewhere under Archery training) there is a woman who trains you for free by shooting at targets, 5 levels worth. For the ones you pay for, you can do that, use the money from your enchanting endeavors. Arrows cannot be crafted, so you have to buy them. I buy the best at every opportunity. You rarely find good arrows in the wild, just lower level ones. Make sure you pick up the arrows you use if you can and if you do all of that you should not run into arrow shortages. I keep the three best at my level at the time well stocked (strive for about 150 a set), and choose the arrow that fits the general situation (creeping through dungeon or bandit hideout, low level arrows, get to the boss or significant enemies, swap for the better ones). They do not weigh anything so no worries there.
Once you have the double arrows from bodies perk, you can almost stop worrying about getting arrows - I come out sometimes with more than I went in with.
One-Handed I just keep up the base damage perks, since with sneak and daggers you can lay out serious punishment. On the rare occasions I get caught on surprise or fights that are designed to eliminate your use of sneak I keep an improved sword and shield on hand for slashing away (and get the Sanguine Rose, below). Levels up slow as a result, but you can always train with all the money from enchanted iron daggers laying around from you enchanting flair.
Other skills - Speech levels on its own, and I find it not very useful in general. There are enough merchants to sell your loot, and even with bad prices I am never short on gold. I do not bother with any of the magic ones since I rarely use magic (healing, magelight, and conjuring, and sometimes on a lark laying traps in the destruction tree). If I were a mage it would be essential, for this character, not necessary. I do not use two handed or heavy armor so I do not bother with those. Light armor seems to level, even sneaking most of the time, on its own. Lockpicks are easy to find or cheap to buy and you will pick a ton of locks, so it will level up just fine. I do not bother with the perks because even with Master locks with about 3-5 picks I can get them open (right now I have about 300 lockpicks). Block not necessary at all with my type of character. Pickpocket sort of a pain IMHO but you need it a bit for the Thieves guild, but not necessary to spend any perks on it unless you like it. Alchemy I used early on for money but found enchanting much more lucrative, so no improvements there.
ITEMS YOU SHOULD NOT LIVE WITHOUT
Enchant your bow with Fiery Soul Trap . Feeds your enchanment skill easily. Do not need hardly any time (2 seconds is PLENTY) so do not worry about that since they drop first shot a lot anyway, and if you do have to use more, you still end up with it. Get that enchantment from an axe in Ironbind Barrow.
Get the Sanguine Rose . Drinking contest in Whiterun starts it. Have a lot of coin on hand if your speech is not very good. Your very own daedric warrior at the press of a button. I do not bring along companions since they always get in the way or get me discovered, or they die, so this is nice. Dragon fights? Draws a ton of fire from you. Fights with things hard to hit with arrows (like, ice wraith, etc)? Draws fire and you can practice your one handed. He seems to attract most of the attention as opposed to companions so basically any situation you are being overrun pop him out and fight or run.
The Black Star (Azura star quest) as I mentioned above. Infinate Grand Souls for enchanting. Note the quest to get this is HARD. I waited until I was a high level and paid the price with leveled daedric mages that mopped the floor with me. Without the Sanguine rose it would have been a long night.
Keep a pick on you for mining ore for smithing, keeps it cheaper than buying the high level stuff like malachite that costs a fortune and is hard to find.
Find potions that enhance enchanting or smithing as well and do not sell them - when you create armor and weapons for yourself, you want the best. Remember to keep your smithing "kit" handy (mentioned above) when you create your own stuff.
The Gaudur Amulet gives you +30 to health, magicka, and stamina, very nice. I find the "bug" associated with this does not work so I just wear this amulet (until I got to a high level). That quest is jumpstarted by joining up with College of Winterhold (like I said, which I did just for the quests and house, not because I am interested in using magic, and you do not need it).
Oghma Infinium is a skill book that gives you 5 levels in about 5 different areas. Totally awesome. It is in the Discerning the Transmundane quest. You can find Septimus Signus north of the College of Winterhold . There are some exploits with this book. I hate these types of exploits personally, but if you are into them for X360 the one with the YouTube video does work. I prefer to earn my keep personally but this book is great to use for its intended purpose. IT IS VERY HARD TO GET THIS BOOK. The underground area you have to go into is the largest in Skyrim (that I have seen). It spans half the distance from Solitude to Dawnstar. Then the second part is a pain.
The Thieves hood gives a 10% bonus to prices, and can be improved to 15% through the questline. Join the Thieves guild . Only weighs a pound so lugging around no problem.
For up close and personal combat, I prefer a sword with a paralysis enchantment since I do not do head to head battle well as I am not tailored to it, kicking them when they are down is much easier. I do carry a shield when I go into this mode.
For the dagger, I use a shock enchantment since it justs adds that much more damage to a sneak attack, you would not use a dagger in hand to hand anyway, just to kick it off. I seriously doubt you will need to hand to hand with a sneak dagger attack with the perks - I am betting once I get my hands on the gloves or wraps in the Dark Brotherhood I could seriously drop a dragon with one sneak shot. Without that item, I can easily take down Daugr Overlords for instance so it is a serious tool in the toolbox.
Archery fighting - As I alluded to, most fights with lower level creatures is pretty much one shot one kill in sneak. Boss fights are more interesting, if you want them to be that is. I became archmage early on not because I care about magic (other than healing and conjurinig) but because there are great quests available with good money, and very nice accomodations for the archmage once you are it. I have taken no magic perks and have not tried to level any magic skills at all so it is not a pre-requisite.
Archery glitches - A couple to be aware of. Invisible walls a really bad problem. Sometimes you can sneak an arrow through a hole, others you cannot even if they are larger. Walls extend out farther than you think, so do bridge handles, and anything else like that. A lot of arrows stuck in invisible walls. Next is the sudden drop in Archery skill when you get it pretty high. It shows up in red and you are not poisoned, sick, or otherwise. It is a bug. Level up one in Archery and it goes away. Causes a lot of heartburn though. Next is aim. Most of what I have read is about it hitting high, and this is true most of the time. I have also found that it at times fires low. Basically, aim center mass and do not get fancy trying to pick off a head or arm, and you will have no issues. Hitting a limb as opposed to something else makes no difference in the damage you cause, so just focus on HITTING them, not getting fancy.
Once you get the Ranger perk, firing in the air while moving is INFURIATING. You will see them launch BEHIND you by about 6 feet and be even farther behind the target you are shooting at. While it makes horizontal combat easier dodging things, it is really only accurate if you are moving forward or backward.
You can fire a LONG way away - I have found that you really do not have to compensate for the distance, aim center mass and you will hit. Dragons that have not ENGAGED you that are flying in the air are impossible to hit. Maybe you can but I know some that should have registered and they do not. Once they engage you, you can hit them in the air, do not know why. If you want to pick a fight with a dragon flying around I find going out of sneak and jumping around, and staying in the area where it is will eventually draw a fight to you. Finally, if you find your arrows dropping way short for no reason, it is probably due to disease. Check in the magic menu for active effects. If you have rockjaw for instance you can only shoot about 1/4 the distance. Took me a while to figure that out.
Base stats and perk taking when leveling up
Focus mainly on health, then stamina, then occasionally magicka since spells are expensive without the perks, but not overly concerned with them.
For perks, you get one for every level. I do not go out of my way to level up since it occurs pretty easily anyway and the creatures level with you in most cases. Remember the note about leveling smithing and enchanting because of that fact, or you will pay for it. Naturally progressing it with your primary attack skill should keep you from getting into trouble. So for this character, all the sneak perks, take them. All the archery perks. I only take one handed perks that add damage (first perk in the tree up to five times). Light armor for protection, I take improve armor rating (up to 5 times) called Agile Defender and the Custom Fit and Matching Set to get to the top one, do not bother with the other branch. Enchanting I take the Enchanter (first in the tree) up to 5 times and the center branch (Insightful Enchanter and Corpus Enchanter) up to the top one Extra effect and do not bother with the others. Smithing I focus on the light armor branch up to Dragon Armor and do not bother with improve magic items - you make your own if you are following this type of character.
By my count that is 5 for One handed, 16 for Archery, 8 for Light Armor, 13 for sneak, 8 for enchantment, and 5 for Smithing for a total of 55, which leaves you x to play with for whatever you like, like going up the heavy branch in smithing or whatever. I focus on core first (sneak, archery), then non combat (smithing, enchanting), and toss in the few one handed and light armor ones from time to time. Basically, you can max your perk set out very easily with this type of character with some left over for what interests you.
Quests and guilds - This type of character lends itself to the sneaky side, so Thieves and the Dark Brotherhood are good choices. They are fun too. I would join the College of Winterhold just to have access to the countless quests and house they have. You join the Thieves Guild by just going to Riften and talking to the tough guy outside. Have not joined the Dark Brotherhood yet but plan on it, in Oblivion it was very fun.
Not very interested in the Fighters (I think they are in Whiterun) mainly because I am not interested in being a werewolf and it is not my style. I have not chosen a side with the Stormcloaks or the Imperials mainly because it is not catching my interest and in any event being not aligned with either seems to make working with either side easy. Do not know if it makes a difference though. I am a book collector (especially the ones that give you levels) and so I read all the books I come across, and they give you quests to boot in some cases. You do not have to READ the book just open it up unless you have a lot of time on your hands. Just talking with Jarls and assistants gives you plenty, and talking with other characters gives you plenty of quests as well. I have more quests underway than I know what to do with.
Quest glitches - X360
I pretty much am cutting this out. I have ran into MANY of the bugs on the bug page. Save often.
Tips, Tricks, and Fun Things
I think horses SUCK. They fast travel with you everywhere, and if you go to some place with enemies, they immediately run off to fight. Not good for Mr. Sneaky Arrow in the back player. Better to not have them personally. Shadowmere is not quite as bad, since he cannot be killed, so I just let him run off. As a matter of fact, in the Stormcloak questline, storming the first hold was not necessary. He ran off, I got my popcorn and watched him kill every Imperial in the hold.
Being Archmage you get his quarters which if you take the filled soul gems and potions, they RESPAWN after a time. Very handy.
The top sneak skill is a bit misleading. If you are detected, you have to come OUT of sneak, run around a corner or to a dark area or whatever, and go back INTO sneak. A black smoke mist will come up around you, and the enemies start looking elsewhere for you and this works well.
Sneak dagger kills have a cutscene but you should not try to power attack to get it, just a light tap.
You can walk on mountain vertical surfaces by not looking down and keep moving to the side. Handy for mountain climbing which I do not like.
Blowing enemies off of cliffs, perches, and the like is quite fun with your shout.
Dragons come in towns. Dragons kill people. Dragons kill people with quests, and people you are doing quests for. I never understood why the blacksmith and his wife had to pull a dagger out to take on a dragon but whatever. Save in case this happens and you get stalled quests.
Not really related, but if you have Oblivion laying around, there was one thing I did that I could not stop laughing. The woman with the best sword and armor in the game is in a dungeon. She is also faster than anything in the game. I stripped down to my underwear and snuck down and sneak shot her in the foot. I then ran like hell for the nearest city. In third person this is funnier than you can imagine, her cursing and swiping at you as you run in your underwear. Once I got to the city she followed me in and proceeded to take out about 30 guards, captains, etc. She was literally a walking arrow target, she must have had 100 in her. That battle was epic, and I got the best armor and sword in that game. Looking to see if I can replicate that experience.
In the quest Discerning the Transmundane, you come out on top of a mountain. Bear left and there are some pillars and loot. Take the loot and hide from the Ice Wraiths. They draw the nearby Dragon from his stoop and they fight. I snuck to the base while this was going on, got the shout and waited for the Red Dragon to return. Very high on his perch, I stayed underneath and sneak shot him. One shot and one kill, the resulting fall was hilarious.
Well, have fun if you try this out. Never did the archery thing in Oblivion, but in Skyrim I have found this to be very fun, especially if you like being the sniper type of character which I tend to like in other games as well. I will update this if I come across any of my unanswered items above and will check from time to time if someone has a question, will try to answer it.