The Life of a Thief in Skyrim

Skyrim-ThiefIt’s half past 2 a.m. on Middas and you’ve got a job to do. Your cloak, torn and stained, assists you in becoming invisible as you sneak through shadows of the Port District in Solitude. A pair of guards walk past as you flatten yourself against the stone walls of the port authority, they pass without noticing. You quickly run down the docks spotting your next challenge; the large locked door between you and your mission. You take your last lockpick from your pocket and begin to work your way through the lock, you hear it unlatch; you’re in.

Slyly sneaking through the house moving step-by-step up the staircase making not even the slightest noise. You’ve spotted your target, he’s sleeping soundly to your pair of Daedric daggers pointing at him. You call upon the Night Mother to assist you just before you dig your first dagger into his unprotected chest, without much of a peep the target has expired. It’s to run, his dog has been alerted and is now alerting the neighbors with its horrid barking. You escape through a second story window, jumping from roof to roof before you drop down and disappear into the shadows.

The life of a criminal in Skyrim is much more exciting than in previous Elder Scrolls titles. Lock picking, sneaking and assassination have been completely revamped. You’re no longer automatically reported for your crimes and guards from the other cities will not care about your diabolic actions. Witnesses can be extinguished if you spot them in time allowing you to completely avoid a bounty and being harassed by guards.

The new lock picking system now requires you to use the right joystick to turn the lock and the left to rotate the lock pick itself. The lock picking mini-game screen shows the inserted lock pick and the lock itself, you will no longer have to time up your button pressing in order to crack a lock. Picks will break if you turn the lock incorrectly.

The sneaking system has been improved and the sneak detector eye has been changed. There are now three stages to the eye detector which allows you to tell when your fully detected (The eye is completely open), when you’ve been noticed but can’t be spotted directly (The eye is half way shut) and when you’re completely invisible to anyone else (The eye is shut). The system is also more realistic as people won’t be able to spot you miles away like in previous Elder Scrolls titles.

Assassinating with the new finishing move animations takes assassination to a whole new level. It takes time to attain these stealthy finishing moves, but they are well worth the struggle. Taking an enemy from behind and slitting his throat is a great addition to The Elder Scrolls series and will not go unappreciated.

At the beginning of your criminal career there’s a good chance you’ll get caught. The jailing system is much the same as it has been in previous titles. There are minor tweaks like the witness system and your individual city reputations. Jail will still lower certain stats and there is the possibility of escape either with a lock pick or sometimes by tearing a wall down.

Whether you plan to be the leader of the Dark Brotherhood or a petty market district thief you will be ecstatic by the new systems. Bethesda has truly outdone themselves this time around.


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Phill is a long time Elder Scrolls enthusiast who decided to create a community of his own. He is the founder of both The Skyrim Guild and The Shadowed Mare -- two of the earliest Skyrim and Elder Scrolls Online websites.

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10 years ago

Hey Phill, I dont know much about the thief buisness and I have started a new game to see how it goes. I was just wondering, I know how you sneak behind someone, but is there any possible way you can kill the person with one blow, if so how dod you do it?

Reply to  nordicprince
10 years ago

Hi Bryan,

Killing someone with one blow is dependent on two factors that work together 1). How hard you swing. Performing a power attack by holding down the attack button will give you a little extra umph when it comes to your hit, making it more likely to kill them in one blow. 2). The damage of the weapon you are using. While sneaking, all damage is multiplied by two. So if you had a dagger that did 6 damage, using a sneak attack would equate to 12. Of course, there are perks in the sneak tree that increase damage of daggers while sneaking up to 15x normal damage.

Hopefully this helps you!