Oh, you’re one of those types, aren’t ya? You’ve turned your gaze onto the grand world of Skyrim and all you can see is towns full of houses to raid and a sea of pockets to pick. Well, I agree! The Elder Scrolls games have always been (to me) about being able to acquire other peoples’ goods and distributing them to myself. With the introduction of Radiant AI, you’re also minding people on their daily routes and determining how best to steal their wares. So starting out, here’s a few good strategies for starting out!
Building Your Thief
While there’s no “Thief” archetype like in previous games, it’s not hard to make sure you pick the right traits to get your character to be as stealthy as possible. For starters, you’re going to want a Khajit (the cat) for a few good reasons: they have a starter bonus for Sneak and Lockpick skills, which you’ll need, and they have the Night Eye power which allows them to see in the dark for sixty seconds at a time (perfect for nighttime raids). After you escape from Helgen, you’ll come across Guardian stones, be sure to pick the Thief one for an early boost! Khajits also have bonuses to one-handed weapons so you can throw a spell in the opposing hand, but I found myself really rocking with two-handed weapons. You’re going to want to stick to light armor instead of heavy armor for two reasons: A) you’ll be louder with clanky metal plates and B) the stuff’s heavy, you’re going to want to reserve as much space for laundered good as possible!
Step One: Case A Town
Oh sure, you can just randomly jump from house to house, countryside to mountain terrain stealing stuff all kinds of stuff willy-nilly, but why? You’re just going to get frustrated by all the work you’re creating for yourself when you backtrack through houses you’ve already hit or when you don’t have a reliable place to sell a lot of those goods. Your first priority should be to find a town of a decent size to serve as your “target”, then begin casing the place. With an entire town under your thumb, you can systematically work from house to house, which is the best way for any thief to make a decent living. Get to know the layout, some of the people that meander, and high-priorities shops. Any decent town should have a General Goods outlet in which you can sell away the bulk of your stolen payload. You’re going to want to hit them first.
Step Two: Your First Raid
I mentioned that the General Goods vendor should be your first target. This was a bigger deal in previous games where you could inadvertently sell their goods back to them, but now those goods stay hidden from any trading windows until you find your first fence later on. You don’t want to be distracted by the owner’s daggers and elaborate bowls. You want them to be a pit stop and nothing more. Your stealing should come at night and only at night. While daytime presents a bunch of empty houses, your Sneak skill will be useless and there’s no telling when owners are going to roll back in to find you, especially since they have routines just like you. Rolling around your hamlet at night allowed for a frozen presence devoid of wandering souls, minus the guards of course. Don’t get caught in broad daylight like this: