Skyrim Thief Guide – Lockpicking and Pickpocketing


Stealth is something that requires a great deal of patience and in Skyrim, it comes with good combination of skills/perks and knowing how to use them under certain conditions.

If your mind is a bit hazy about which skills you need to master and which perks you need to level up, read our Skills/Perks Tree Guide and take a look at Thief/Assassin Character Build.

These two guides will walk you through all the basics and given you insight into how you can become a smart thief or a silent assassin in Elder Scrolls V Skyrim. It isn’t easy but with practice and these tips, you will learn the tricks of the trade faster than you expect.

Skyrim HUD displays a Stealth meter, which will indicate the status of your visibility. It acts a warning and helps you cover your tracks or escape, when needed. It is indicated by an eye and state of that eye determines whether enemies around you are aware of your location.

If the eye is fully open, you have been detected by the enemies around so you should hustle and escape the area. If the eye is half-open, you are close to being detected by the enemy, so it’s time to stay hidden for a while and don’t do any action that will draw attention.

When you are completely hidden, sneak indicate will show a horizontal line. Perfect time to sneak/steal and get away with it, without getting detected. If you choose a good combination of Stealth Perks as explained in our Thief Character Build, you can perform wonders without being detected.

You can enter an area swarming with enemies, complete your objective, and leave without your enemy noticing your presence. So, at the end of the day, your choice of perks and skills to level up will determine your Stealth level.

There are few general rules you can follow when it comes to Stealth. Darkness provides a good cover, so it’s easy to steal, hide, and escape in dark areas. Try to avoid plain sight, keep yourself hidden .

It’s important to have a light armor that is good for movement and makes less noise. Avoid heavy armor because it makes noise and that is what you want to avoid. Also, you should take notice of our movement, walk slow, don’t run else you will detected.

When you want to sneak up on an enemy, you should use small weapons such as daggers and bows, which are silent. Sneak attack would work most effectively with a paralyze spell. Lock your enemy and finish it off with a stealth attack.

Even your footsteps make noise so make sure you have chosen good perks to lower the noise effect.

Lockpicking

There are lots of valuable items which you can get access to by looting the locked chests. You can either find the keys to unlock these chests or just lock pick them and get the item. The valuable the items are, harder it will be to lock pick that chest.

Moreover, you will come across several NPCs with very valuable loot in their possession, which they keep in their houses. You can steal these, but do know that it will result in a crime, if detected.

Basic Lock Picking will begin with the game and as you move towards more difficult quests and enhance your skills, difficulty to pick a lock will also increase. High level locks will require a great of understanding the mechanism and a good combination of skill level and perks.

You should stock a large quantity of Lock Picks to begin with, because during your initial lock picking adventure, you will end up breaking lots of lock picks. As you move, level up the Perks under the lock picking skill to enhance your skills.

When you will attempt to pick a lock, it will start lock picking mini-game. Your goal is to find the sweet spot and move the lock but don’t apply too much force else you will break the lock pick.

Find the sweet spot and adjust your lock pick accordingly. If the lock picks, turn the lock slowly because you may hit another pin that won’t move, at which point you should adjust the pick slightly to open the lock.

It will take practice and you will break few lock picks for sure but ultimately, you will become a master thief if you choose a good combination of perks and lock pick enough locks to level up the skill so that you can open more advanced locks later in the game.

If you are confused about which perks will suit you best, refer to our Thief Character Build.

How To Level Up Lockpicking Fast
Once you have found the key to the Dwemer Museum in Markarth, go to the main show room and try your luck on the high level locks, expert level display cases, and other pick-able locks.

This area has enough locks that you can pick to level up this skill up to 10 levels. Make sure you don’t run out of Lock Picks. If you patrolling guards bother you, level up Quick Handsperk and try to stay hidden – Closed Eye.

Pickpocketing

This is a bit harder than lock picking because it involves stealing from an active NPC. The most important aspect of pickpocketing is in knowing whether you should even attempt to pick pocket an NPC. Why ? because it would be wasted effort if you are trying to pick pocket an NPC that doesn’t have anything that you are looking for.

To make sure, you are pursuing the right target, always check the inventory of the target. You can check inventory of any NPC without being tagged as a criminal.

It would again require a good mix of perks to successfully pick pocket NPCs without being detected. If you are detected when picking a pocket, you will be tagged as criminal and a bounty will be placed on your head. Which will make things bitter for you.

Again, don’t forget to look at our Thief Character Build, if you want to become a successful thief in Skyrim. These may be general guidelines but following these simple guidelines will make you a smart and successful thief in Skyrim.

For more help on Skyrim, read our Dragon Shouts Locations, Daedric Artifacts Locations, and Standing Stones guide.

Don’t forget to add your own tips and strategies you follow for lockpicking and pickpocketing in Elder Scrolls V Skyrim.

By Afnan Mir

We've got a lot of guides and FAQs here, and you can thank Afnan for providing many of them. It's him who does the research and assembles our FAQs before we can publish them.


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    • Tahara

      To shane, lockpicking doesn’t really require perks, unless you get arrested and wish to break out, which is when a lockpick not breaking would be very useful, and for pickpocketing, it makes a huge difference! +100 carrying space, you can steal equipment (blade of woe from Astrid in the Brotherhood) and you can steal 3000 gold back from training with someone in any skill with ease! Though I suggest sneak be maxed with all perks. If you crouch while in a fight with the Shadow Warrior perk (100 sneak required) you become invisible to the enemy for a split second and they search for you. If you attack with a knife (doing 15x damage,also a sneak perk) you can slit the throat of your enemy, undetected DURRING a fight

    • Shane

      Lockpicking is super easy as is pickpocketing. There’s almost no need to waste perk points just to successfully do either.

    • Dee-Dee

      Is there a way to just force the locks like in Oblivion? I’ve never been able to figure out the minigame and so can spend all my picks and never get the stupid lock open.
      I’ve read in a few of these guides that you can still force a lock, but can’t find anything on HOW to force it…
      Thanks!