Stealing involves the use of stealth and is the art of taking someone else's objects for one's own, preferably without detection or bloodshed. Stealing is featured in The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
Since the dawn of civilization on Nirn, thievery has been an attractive business to desperate and downtrodden civilians seeking to become rich quickly, seeing thievery as a lucrative opportunity.
Notably, the Daedric Prince Nocturnal is the patron of thieves. She has been known to grant (or withhold) luck to or from thieves at her discretion. With her influence, a novice lockpick could suddenly be able to pick an impossible lock, or a master pickpocket's target could turn around at the worst possible time.
Eventually over the course of Tamriel's history, thievery became such a widespread profession that Thieves Guilds have spread throughout Tamriel's provinces, including Morrowind, Cyrodiil, and Skyrim. These guilds usually consist of fences, guild contacts, and several thieves serving under a Guild Master. The members are usually given jobs to do by senior members of the guild, or at times, by the Guild Master themself. Though the guild and its members often have a somewhat negative reputation among other citizens, particularly guards and nobility, the guild members often greatly respect each other, usually teaching each other the various skills they have acquired over their thieving careers.
A person's effectiveness in stealing is generally governed by their skill in Sneaking, and in Morrowind and Oblivion, their Agility skill as well. Depending on the job that is to be done, additional skills may be required, such as Lockpicking or Pickpocketing. For instance, burglary jobs require the thief to be skilled enough in Lockpicking to pick the lock of the target's home, while fishing jobs require the thief to be skilled in Pickpocketing in order to remain undetected.
If someone is witnessed stealing an item or pickpocketing another person, a bounty may be placed on them and all armed witnesses will become hostile. Otherwise, the victim may just comment on the theft, usually confronting the thief and asking for or taking the item back, or possibly notifying the local guard. If there are any Guards present, they may try to apprehend the thief. If the thief does not contest the arrest, either choosing to pay off his/her bounty or serve an appropriate jail sentence, the guard will confiscate all stolen items that the thief is carrying, regardless if the items were involved in the crime in question or not.
All Stolen items are marked with a red hand icon . In Skyrim, it is marked with "Stolen", in the Items menu and it's name is in red text when withdrawn from a container. Most merchants do not buy stolen goods, but fences and certain merchants (such as Manheim Maulhand) will, as well as merchants invested in by using the investor and fence perks.
Mixing stolen and normal itemsEdit
If an item is in inventory that was not stolen (such as arrows, potions, etc) and one of the same items is stolen, it appears that all of the itms in inventory are stolen. This occurs because stolen and normal items are generally stacked together, and stolen items are listed first. This prevents any of those items from being sold to a merchant, even though there are one or more that were not stolen.
This can be resolved by selling all the stolen items to a fence. Since the stolen items will be sold first, once they are all sold, then the "Stolen" flag will disappear. Also, each of the stolen items can be stored in a container - as soon as the stolen flag disappears, the rest can be sold anywhere.
Removing the Stolen Item FlagEdit
Permanently removing the stolen flag can be done several ways:
Placing stolen items in an empty container, then having a follower take what's inside.Edit
Place any stolen item in an empty container. Then command a follower to search it. The stolen tag should not appear anymore on the items. (Does not work with patched versions)
Sending a follower home, then re-recruiting/rehiring themEdit
Trading stolen items to a follower and then telling them to go home (to leave their service), then going back to their home and re-recruiting them, will clear all items in their inventory of stolen tags. (also does not work in patched versions of the game)
Have a follower pick it upEdit
If a follower is ordered to take an item, it will not appear in their inventory as stolen. However, if they are seen doing it, the Dragonborn will receive a bounty. This is a useful way to launder goods after stealing them, by going somewhere private, dropping any stolen goods, having a follower pick them up, and then taking them back. (also does not work in patched versions of the game)
Selling the item to a fenceEdit
When the item is sold to a fence, the flag is removed and the item can be bought back. However, the merchant will sell the item for a higher price than they bought it for, so this can become quite expensive. This also is not guaranteed to succeed.
Returning the item to the ownerEdit
Because taking an item from a body does not count as stealing, returning a stolen item to the dead body of the owner, then looting it back, should remove the flag. However, the owner's body must be available before using this method, limiting the cases in which it can be used. (also does not work in patched versions of the game)
Note: This method does not always work in houses where multiple NPCs live, because of how the interior area ownership is handled. Merchants have their items flagged as owned by 'someone else' (most likely the NPC accompanying them) to prevent them from being sold by the merchant, while multiple-resident housing has unclear ownership.
Placing and killingEdit
Similarly, since items looted off bodies are not stolen, it's possible to reverse-pickpocket stolen items into an NPC's inventory, kill the NPC, then take the item back with no Stolen flag. Dark Brotherhood quests are conducive to this method, as they offer several non-hostile targets who are easily pickpocketed. (also does not work in patched versions of the game)
Enchanting the itemEdit
By using a Sigil Stone or an Altar of Enchanting, the stolen item can be enchanted and it will become an entirely new item, clear of the stolen flag. This only works on armor, clothing, jewelry, and weapons. This does not work in Skyrim.
Create something from the itemEdit
Note: Items that are merely improved will NOT have their stolen flag removed. However, using a stolen material to repair a non-stolen weapon will NOT result in the weapon acquiring the Stolen flag.
- Having the Wax Key perk (requires Lockpicking level 50) makes copies of keys which are not classed as stolen.
- Books found laying around marked with a red "Open book" are directly read rather than placed into the inventory. Since the player is not actually taking the item in their possession, this does not count as theft. Intentionally taking the book after opening it, however, does.
- Note: if a book is inside a container, it can still be read safely by holding the SHIFT key before activating it. This will not work on spell tomes, as the tomes are consumed on use. (PC)
- There is a method of "laundering" stolen items in Skyrim. If an item is stolen, and then dropped in public (i.e. Whiterun), any witness may pick up the item and return it to the Dragonborn. Items "returned" in this way will not be marked as stolen. The act of stealing must be unwitnessed for this to work, however.
- In Skyrim, NPC line-of-sight will be broken by any object placed between them and the player. By placing a pot, basket, or any similar object over an NPCs head, they will be effectively blinded, allowing easy theft of objects around them.
- A stolen horse will still be considered "owned" if dismounted from, and will start walking away. Re-mounting a stolen horse within sight of an NPC will be recognized as normal theft.
- In Skyrim, any stolen items in a stack of the same item will result in the entire stack being flagged as stolen. However, the game will still register a difference between stolen and non-stolen items in the stack; removing items from the stack one-by-one will eventually reveal which are stolen, and removing those items, or removing the Stolen flag from them, will un-flag the stack.
- If arrested, any stolen items carried can be found in the "evidence" chest in prisons.