ESO Sneak Guide: A Beginner’s Guide to Thieving

ESO Sneak Guide: A Beginner’s Guide to Thieving

Whether you’re hoping to make some big gold or vying your way into the Thieves Guild, stealing does have its uses in Elder Scrolls Online. However, successfully making those big scores will depend on your ability and finesse when to comes to pickpocketing your unsuspected target. Here’s a guide to getting your ill gotten gains specially if you’re new to thieving in ESO.

ESO Sneak Guide: A Beginner’s Guide to Thieving

Successfully stealing treasures can be a little daunting for newer players or those who haven’t tried pickpocketing in ESO before. If you’re looking to to choose the life of crime here are some skills, potions and tips that can make the experience a little smoother.

There are 3 ways to steal items in ESO:

  • Pickpocketing from unsuspecting NPCs
  • Stealing items from wardrobes, chest of drawers or night stands etc. while no one is looking
  • Pick lock safe boxes

Note: If anyone detects you doing any these three actions you will gain a bounty. Running into a guards will force you to either pay up or flee. Paying up/being killed by a guard will mean you will forfeit any items you have stolen.

Stolen goods are marked with a red hand symbol, if caught by a guard you will forfeit these items.

How to Pickpocket

  • In order to pickpocket you will need to first crouch by pressing R3 (if you’re on console).
  • Then get close and personal to your target without them seeing you, this means creeping closer behind them.
  • You will also need to keep a lookout for the stealth signal, the eye. A closed eye indicates you are completely stealthed which is the most optimum time to commit devious acts. A semi-closed eye means you can still commit devious acts but it holds more risk of being discovered, maybe a witness is close by so be wary.

Semi-closed eye indicates that there are witnesses close by.

  • Wait for the pickpocket % to be as high as possible, which will be indicated by turning green and playing a ding sound effect, this will provide you with the best odds of lifting your treasures.

Green indicates a higher pickpocket success rate. Choosing laborers or drunkards will grant easier targets.

  • Aiming for labourers/drunkards are the easiest of targets but will most likely give lower valued items. Aiming for fighters/nobles will gain higher valued items but also hold greater risk of you being attacked if you’re caught out. This can result in your demise especially if you’re still leveling.
  • Remember crouching uses stamina, if you haven’t got a lot of stamina this will dwindle fast so watch out. Exhausting your stamina while crouching will automatically bring you out of stealth, which can cause you to get caught if you’re in the wrong place.
  • Once you are ready to sell/launder (items you wish to keep) head to a Fence at an Outlaw Refuge to earn your gold.

Useful Skills

There are skill lines that will make your thieving venture much easier, putting skill points into Legerdemain will help you with cracking those safe boxes or breaking and entering into NPC’s houses. To increase your success of pickpocketing putting some points into these passives Improved Hiding and Light Fingers will definitely help in getting greater success if you have the points to spare.

Improved Hiding

Light Fingers

The Thieves Guild skill line will help you with reducing the detection rates of witnesses and guards.

Veil of Shadows

If you’re a Vampire, you can invest your a point into the passive Dark Stalker which reduces the time it takes to get into crouch faster by 50% at night and will ignore the speed penalty, which is useful especially if your build isn’t stamina based.

Dark Stalker

Players should note that each skill line will require a certain amount of leveling in order to access that skill, also the more tiers the more effective it will be.

The Medium Armor skill line also has a passive that will help reduce the cost of sneaking well as the size of detection area for each piece of Medium Armor equipped.

Improved Sneak


If you’re wishing to prolong your crouch time, buying/making some Stamina potions using Alchemy could be what you need, especially if you don’t want to keep crouching and uncrouching. While not a required consumable, it could help if you are short on this resource.

Invisibility potions can make all the difference especially if you don’t have skill points to spend on the aforementioned skill lines. While the effects are only temporary, you can instantly gain cover when there are numerous witnesses that could readily reveal your sneaky ways. Simply pop a potion before stealing an item once the higher percentage is triggered (goes green) Be warned however, this does not keep you hidden when attempting to crack safe boxes or locked doors (similar to Nightblade skills) you will be exposed.

Extra Tips

  • If have joined the Dark Brotherhood you will need to be careful not to accidentally follow the on screen instructions for using the Blade of Woe. Same goes with those who have become Vampires, if you’re too far away from your target you could trigger the feed on screen instruction to show.
  • Get close as possible to targets as you will only get a certain window to pickpocket, if they move/start to walk as some NPCs do this will cause the % of chance of pickpocketing to change if can’t keep up. Having less space between you and your target will ensure you have enough time to leap into action.
  • Try to pick targets that have little to no witnesses around and be wary of guards as they will attack if you get caught.
  • If you are targeting safe boxes, try to pick ones that aren’t out in the open if you haven’t leveled your lockpicking skills. This will give you more time to tackle those locks before the wandering NPCs have a chance to return to the spot.
  • If things don’t go well as you planned, and you end up racking up a bounty that you rather not pay, try to port to wayshrines that are located close to fences. Alkir Desert or Rawl’kha in Reaper’s March are good goto spots as they are away from the prying eyes of guards and will let you slip away into the fence to sell off your goods.
  • If you really want a back up in case bounties are unvoidable, try stocking up on edicts which can be obtained by doing repeatable Thieves Guild quests. These are usually good for soaking up 500 gold of bounty a piece, and can come in handy especially when you are still practising your technique or haven’t leveled the recommended skills yet.

Edicts can be used to pay off bounties and are stored in your inventory.

Do you have a favourite thieving spot? Did we miss any tips that make your thieving easier? Let us know in the comments below.

If you want more ESO content be sure to read our latest Kvatch Gladiator: ESO Set Guide – Escalated Execution as well as ESO Set Guide: Ulfnor’s Favor Set – Fully-Charged Fun. For all your ESO needs, head to our Elder Scrolls Online wiki.


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