Bounty is a game mechanic in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Bounty tracks the number and severity of crimes committed and converts it to a amount.
Compared with previous releases
Separated by hold
Unlike The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, where bounty was tracked and upheld across the cities of Cyrodiil, bounty in Skyrim is kept separate by Hold. For instance, when a crime is committed in Falkreath Hold, guards in Winterhold will not arrest criminals based on their Falkreath Bounty.
Traditionally, three options for resolving a bounty exist across games: paying the bounty off in gold, resisting arrest, or sitting in prison. Skyrim introduces a fourth option: evading bounty by flaunting a title. Jarls of Skyrim can grant the title of Thane to citizens, which allows the individual's menial crimes to be overlooked. Crimes such as murder or assault may not be overlooked, however it should be noted that evasion of a bounty via Thanehood can only be used once per hold. However, there is also another option for the Dragonborn if he/she is part of the Thieves Guild, in which you pay more septims (bribing the guard) but do not lose stolen goods in your inventory.
Dealing with a bounty
When any bounty is accumulated, guards in Holds or cities stop the offender, forcing them to halt and engage in dialogue. Four options exist for resolving the bounty (five for Thieves Guild members).
Paying the fine
If is paid, the guards leave and is automatically subtracted from the inventory. If arrest is resisted, all guards in the immediate area, including some bystanders and citizens, draw weapons and attempt to slay the criminal -- only upon the criminal's escape or the criminal's death do they relent. During combat, the criminal can choose to make the guard "yield" their attacks by initiating dialogue. This brings the criminal back to choice menu, in which they can choose to pay off the bounty or serve jail time. If the criminal's bounty is high enough, Jarls employ Bounty Collectors to chase down criminals and attack them. They can appear in any hold or location, randomly.
Serving jail time
Criminals can choose to spend time in jail for accumulated bounty. When selecting this option, the criminal is stripped of all items, weapons, and armor and placed in a cell. To wait the duration of the sentence, sleep in the bed. Upon release, all items are returned. If the criminal chooses to escape, bounty is removed, but their items must be manually obtained from an evidence locker somewhere in the prison. If caught, they will receive a new bounty.
If the Dragonborn steals a low value object then some of the lower class may send hired thugs. For lower level characters they may be tough opponents.
Upon becoming Thane of a Hold, small bounties can be overlooked simply by stating one's title as Thane. Bounties exceeding 1,000 cannot be forgiven using this method. This can only be done once per hold though.
The "Bribery" Perk in the Speech skill tree allows criminals to persuade guards out of arresting or fining them. This method does not remove bounty, simply the guard who attempted to collect on the bounty ignores it. Other guards may still respond to the bounty.
In the Illusion school of Magicka, a spell called Pacify calms hostile targets. Coupled with the "Kindred Mage" perk from the same skill tree, the spell has the potential of calming guards, when a criminal acquires a bounty, causing them to forget the bounty temporarily and walk away. This option allows criminals to run or Fast Travel to a safer location.
If in a remote or enclosed location, murdering witnesses to a theft, murder, or another crime annuls the bounty one acquires automatically for committing the crime. Alternatively, if no one witnesses the crime and the criminal is properly stealthed while committing it, a bounty may not even be acquired.
Taking a Hold
The owner of the item that witnesses the theft may simple take the item you picked up. In this case, you might not receive bounty.
| Master Criminal|
Bounty of 1000 gold in all nine holds
- Individuals launched off cliffs by the Unrelenting Force shouts do not accrue a bounty even if the subject dies from the impact of the fall.
- Bounties can be accrued even if witnesses are not present. Sometimes chickens, dogs, and other wild animals can be witnesses to a crime as they are considered entities.
- Guards may attack criminals without giving them the option to pay their bounty or yield.
- Guards will sometimes attack criminals even if the crime was unseen and no bounty was placed. They will not give the option of yielding.
- Sometimes, only a few guards will attack, while the rest go about their normal business.
- Guards may still attack you after you paid of your bounty, and don't give the option of yielding.
- Sometimes, the player may have a non-existent bounty to pay in a hold that the player has never entered or even discovered. No known reason for this.
- Contract: Kill Beitild, the Dragonborn may be attacked almost immediately by all the guards in Dawnstar even when the player has no bounty whatsoever. No known reason for this. During the quest