Greetings, sera. Blackblood here with another Roleplay guide for all you happy people. A character that I'm keen to play atm is a thief, and as I thought of ways to make him fun and different than in vanilla, I began compiling a number of different points of importance for thieves. So I've decided to think of as many different common thief aspects, and use them to create as much of an in-depth guide to living life of unearned wealth in Skyrim. The goal of this guide it to give a basic ground on the mindset of a lawless thief, whilst allowing a little bit of wiggle room for Roleplay sake. This means that, while this is a basic guide to thievery, these are merely tips and you don't have to follow EVERY one of them. So with all that out of the way let's get into it shall we?
Tip #1 - Every location is a target, but make sure you chose them wisely
"Never done an honest day's work in your life for all that coin you're carrying. Eh, lass?"
I find the easiest thing for any thief-type character in Skyrim to do is walk right into someone's home and make off with everything that's not nailed down to the floorboards. You'll just go into some Hold, look left and right for any guards and make off with anything you can get away with stealing while the marker indicates that you're hidden. It's all too easy to clean out every place possible within an area, but that's no fun now is it? For starters, you could only realistically carry like, what, a few bits of Jewelry here and there, maybe a weapon or two, and a piece of armor if you're strong enough. And what about the surrounding guards? You'd think they'd pay more attention to someone skulking around in the shadows around some poor victim's house. Obviously they matter to your attempts at thievery, right?
That's why, before you even walk through the door or vanish into the shadows, you must scout out your mark first, in order to determine any potential dangers that may come from an attempt at stealing. Ain't no way in Oblivion you'll get anything of value within the Jarl's quarters, what with all the guards keeping watch and everything, but that farmhouse in the outskirts is a good start. Obviously, your skill in sneaking (and yes, maybe even Illusion) will determine how easy it is for you to get in and out of an area with your pockets crammed, but all the while, try to keep in mind the dangers standing in the way of you and your treasure..
Tip #2 - Steal Smart, Steal Safe, Steal Sound
Perhaps planning your heists out isn't exactly your style. Or maybe you're a little rough around the edges and need a bit of coin to start it up. Or maybe you don't give a damn about the first rule. Either way, you're gonna want to pay attention to what you're stealing and where. What I mean is, be careful what you take and try not to make it obvious. Sure, you can clean out an entire house of all their silverware, but that'll just make it easier to track it to the new guy. Try to make a conscientious effort to limit your stealing to items or coin that won't "immediately" be noticed gone. Small jewelry lying around here and there may not be noticed until it's too late, and valuables in dressers and end tables can go weeks before being discovered missing.
And once you've gotten your treasures, try not to sell them in the SAME CITY that you stole them from. "Oh gosh, you lost your Silver Jeweled Necklace the other day? Well, I hope the Divines give you better peace in the future. By the way, would you like to buy this Silver Jeweled Necklace? I've just suddenly got it in stock!" You get the idea. Don't sell your stolen goods in the same city, if it's possible to. Or even better, don't sell them in the same hold. The farther you get from your mark, the better it will be when you finally sell it.
Tip #3 - Nocturnal's gift to thieves is the shadows. Use it wisely
"The Agent of Stealth is the master of remaining unseen. They are able to manipulate the darkness and use it to their advantage.
On moonlit nights or in darkened rooms, this agent literally becomes invisible."
So now you've found yourself a tidy little mark. You know exactly what you're going in for (or maybe you don't, there's bound to be "something" of value in there). Guess now's the time to just walk in and take what you want right? WRONG!! In keeping with the first tip's advice, just obviously walking into someone's home, towards someone's stall, or heck even "towards" someone you're gonna steal for, can be a big nono. Especially during the day, when everyone that's not a vampire is active. Even if the owner of the home you're planning on hitting isn't there, there is still the threat of other people wandering around the area.
This is why it is critical that you take advantage of Nocturnal's greatest gift for the common thief: Nighttime and shadow. During the night, hardly anyone save for the guards who do their nightly patrols is ever out and about. This makes it easier (but not easy) to get to where you need to get to, and with few interruptions. However chances are, if you're targeting a home, the owner will be asleep during such time, so while it might be easier to get to your desired mark, it may not necessarily be easy to actually obtain it. Obviously, if you have a high enough Sneak skill (or Muffle), this becomes a non-issue, but just remember to keep it in mind. The sure mark of a fool is to disregard even the most basic of thievery rules.
Tip #4 - You're a thief, not a bandit, nor an assassin.
"With his fingers in the East Empire Company's pie, we'll make good use of that debt. If I'm not being clear enough, that means we don't want him killed."
It goes without saying. The reason why your character is even bothering breaking and entering, instead of robbing some poor sap on the roads or murdering some helpless old lady in her own home, is because they either can't do any of that, or they have a moral code (sometimes both). But it stands to reason, that if your character is a true thief, you'll be straying as far away from combat skills as possible. That isn't to say that you can't have "any" skill in combat (more on that later), but it will never be your priority. At most those skills will be throwaway points or something. Your main focus should be getting in and out of a situation, and with your pockets slightly heavier. If you've decided to go delving into some ancient ruin for the Nord's lost treasures, take a dungeon runner approach about it. Search the area for things and items you can quickly swipe before moving right along. And if you can't progress any further, run the hell on back!
Tip #5 - The best tool for any thief worth his Gold? A good alibi.
"Learn a whole library's worth of knowledge in moments, or grow back that missing limb..."
This one also ties in with the first tip. In order to do the actual scouting of your mark, you'll need a very good disguise. Something that says "There's no way in Oblivion that I could possibly be a thief!", which will let the people around you trust you more, thus allowing for more options on who to hit and when. A number of potential disguises include:
- A travelling mercenary (Because what seasoned warrior would ever need to resort to thievery?)
- A merchant selling a number of valuables (An honest merchant has no need to steal)
- A wandering pilgrim, on their way to [insert shrine here] (Most pilgrims promote low-cost lifestyles)
- A Thalmor Justiciar or guard (Only Altmer. Cuz no one would suspect the high elves of petty thievery)
- A noble in town for business (No one suspects the already rich of trying to get even richer)
- An Imperial Soldier or Stormcloak (Dependent on what Hold you're in Same reasons as the mercenary)
- A member of a unique faction (Depends on the faction, but generally ones like the Vigilants or the Companions, if you can manage it)
- And many more!
Whatever alibi you go with, stick with it for as long as it will hold up. Use potions, poisons and enchanted gear if necessary. Also, try not to immediately hit a town the moment you get there, because the first guy they're going to point their finger to when something important goes missing is going to be the new guy who just came into town. Take some time to worm your way into the people's hearts, so as to make it harder to suspect you when you actually do ply your trade.
Tip #6 - Always, always be prepared for the worst
"Yes. That's why we need to prepare ourselves and meet him on equal footing."
Let's just say that, in the worst case scenario, you as a thief are cornered by hold guards, bandits, etc., with no direct way out of the current situation. Or perhaps you really need to get somewhere, and sneaking is no longer an option. The only way you can progress is to go in with what little tools you have to ensure your survival, either that you've brought along with you or that you found in your journey there. In these situations, the difference between being caught, being killed, and living to steal another day, is as thin as a razor's edge. Especially if that razor is coated with a strong paralytic poison.
There are a number of ways to cover your rear when making an emergency exit or entrance. The most obvious is, of course, to invest in at least a little combat skill. One-Handed, Block, and Archery are your main offensives that you'll take (Two-Handed weapons are clunky, and way too big for a thief to wield). You'll always want to put some skill into your Light Armor, to help stave off enemy blades and spells. But if you're a good thief, you won't have to worry about taking, or dealing blows, so it is advisable to spend some gold on Stat Trainers to improve these skills. Your health will thank you.
Another method is using your brain. Poisons are a good way to make up for any lack of physical talent, and good potions can keep you alive long enough to get you to where you need to be. Illusion is the ultimate crowd control, and allows you to calm potential enemies so that you may pass safely without worry, or fury them so that they kill each other off, leaving you with fewer foes to deal with, or even cloak yourself in an Invisibility spell to vanish unharmed while they stumble about looking for you. Enchanted weapons can make up for the offense you never invested in, especially ones that drain life or even paralyze your enemies, but I generally advise against Frost Damage as too many enemies are resistant to it in the cold province. Finally, having a follower to fall back to can earn you a few extra seconds to escape, if not outright deal with the enemy altogether. Just make sure to keep them well-equipped for dangerous situations.
Well that's all I have at the moment for my guide. I'm pretty sure I'm forgetting something here and there... I hope you've enjoyed. Thievery is an interesting experience in Skyrim, and I aim to make it even more interesting. So please, do post your constructive criticisms here. I'm always looking for suggestions so that I can make this guide as great as possible for others to read. Take care, own the night, and thanks for giving this a read!