Bounty is a law enforcement game mechanic in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Bounty tracks the number and severity of crimes committed. From there, the offense is converted to a amount.
Comparison with previous releases
Separation 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, this does not necessarily translate to a Winterhold arrest based on the Falkreath Bounty.
Traditionally, three options for resolving a bounty exist across games: paying the bounty off in gold, resisting arrest, or serving in prison. Skyrim introduces two more options: 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. The fifth and last option for the Dragonborn, assuming they are part of the Thieves Guild, is to pay more septims (bribing the guard) but retain stolen goods in your inventory. It is also possible, if one's Speech is sufficient, to simply talk the guard out of apprehending the player.
Dealing with a bounty
When any bounty is accumulated, guards in Holds or cities intercept the offender with law enforcement intentions, forcing them to halt and engage in dialogue. Four options exist for resolving the bounty (five for Thieves Guild members).
These are the following bounties that can be acquired. The specific values may vary, depending on the crime and the severity of said crime. Generally speaking, the said bounty is not received if no one witnesses the Dragonborn committing it. However, if a bounty is acquired, killing all witnesses before they can report it will effectively remove the bounty. The crime bounty ratio is as follows: The more severe the crime, or the more crimes one has committed (even those with a low value), the higher the bounty. The higher the bounty, the longer the prison sentence, and the longer the sentence, the more skills that will be affected.
- Theft: Half of the stolen item's value†
- Lockpicking: 5 (Being caught attempting to pick the lock of an owned door or container results in a bounty, even if nothing was taken. The bounty is accumulated whether or not the lockpicking was successful.)
- Trespassing: 5 (When trespassing you will receive one warning and then be told to leave the area. If you linger and continue to trespass, you will receive a bounty after 30 seconds. At this point, NPCs will call for the guards or attack you, depending on their aggression. Certain areas in the game will immediately incur a bounty if you are caught trespassing.)
- Disturbing the Jarl's peace: 10 (This can occur when dropping a weapon on the ground, or when loitering in the vicinity of a dead body in a city, whoever killed the person. You will be confronted by a guard, and some of the possible responses can provoke them into fining you or attempting to arrest you.)
- Pickpocketing: 25 (Activating an NPC while sneaking will allow you to view their inventory, and take any unequipped items. The chance of being detected is determined by the total weight of the items stolen and your Sneak level. Gold, although weightless, also has a relatively high chance of being detected.)
- Assault: 40 ‡ (hand-to-hand brawls and fights in which the player provokes a victim are excluded. Be careful not to use weapons or spells in a sparring round. Also be careful not to use certain apparel, such as the Ebony Mail or the Targe of the Blooded during a brawl.)
- Horse Theft: 50 each time the horse is mounted
- Escaping Jail: 100 (Simply activating an escape route or unlocking the door to a jail cell is considered a crime, even if the door is already closed.)
- Forging a Business Ledger: 100
- Murder: 1,000 (self-defense excluded unless the attacker is a guard. Causing environmental deaths, such as drowning or falling to death, will not count as murder.)
- Transforming into a Werewolf or Vampire Lord: 1,000 (this includes reverting to your original form if you weren't seen transforming earlier. The bounty is only incurred for the first witnessed transformation and not for any subsequent ones. Being in either of these forms is not a crime in itself but will cause most NPCs to turn hostile.)
- † The bounty for theft is half of the stolen item's value. This means that if an item that's worth only 1 is stolen, the bounty will be 0 , but it must still be "paid" through conversation with the Guard. Paying the "0" bounty will also cause the guard to seize the stolen item(s).
- Taking an owned item is considered a crime, but reading an owned book or note is not. A stolen item will be permanently marked in the inventory with red text. Viewing items in an owned container, taking your own items out an owned container, and taking items from a dead NPC are not considered stealing.
- ‡ Feeding on people as a Vampire, Werewolf or with Namira's Ring will also count as assault.
Paying the fine
If is paid, the guards leave and is automatically subtracted from the inventory.
Should arrest be resisted, all guards in the immediate area, which even includes some bystanders and citizens, draw weapons and attempt to slay the criminal—only upon the criminal's escape or demise do they relent. During combat, the criminal can choose to make the guard "yield" their attacks by sheathing their weapon(s) and thus initiating dialogue. This brings the criminal back to the conversation menu, in which they can elect to pay off the bounty or serve jail time. If the criminal's bounty is high enough, Jarls employ Bounty Collectors who have an enforcement warrant to pursue and apprehend criminals or terminate non-complying law evaders. Unlike guards of each city, who are limited to their specific jurisdiction, bounty collectors can appear in any hold or other location, randomly.
Serving jail time
Criminals can alternatively 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. It should also be noted that serving prison time causes certain skills to decrease in level.
If the Dragonborn steals a low value object then some of the lower class may send Hired Thugs after them. For lower level characters they may be tough opponents.
Holding the title of Thane
Upon becoming Thane of a Hold, minor bounties can be expiated simply by stating one's title as Thane. Offenses exceeding 1,000 though, will be upheld and cannot be excused using this method. Unless the hold has been captured during the civil war and the new Jarl happens to promote the Dragonborn as Thane again, this only works once per hold.
In Markarth, citizens are sent to Cidhna Mine to pay off bounties. The sentence is served by mining ore or the character can elect to escape. Being imprisoned in the mine is part of the quest "No One Escapes Cidhna Mine."
The "Bribery" perk in the Speech skill tree allows criminals to persuade guards out of arresting or fining them. This method does not remove the entire bounty, but the guard who attempted to collect on the bounty ignores it. The remaining guards who were non-witnesses may still respond to the bounty.
An option to persuade a guard to grant the Dragonborn clemency may sometimes appear, provided that they have a sufficiently low bounty level. Input phrases include, "Any chance I could talk you into overlooking this?," "You're making a mistake...," and "I don't have time for this. Do you?" Success is partially determined by speech level. If done correctly, one's speech will gain experience, but this will not clear a bounty.
Should the Dragonborn have a speech level of at least 75, this option is always available as long as they are not trespassing anywhere, the bounty is relatively minor, and no guard has been previously persuaded to forget the bounty. To have it reappear and persuade the same guard, wait two days and it can be attempted again. Alternatively, one can resist arrest when a certain guard intercepts them and then surrender to a different character.
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.
It is worth remembering that animals also count as witnesses, so these must be slain to exonerate the criminal of all pending charges.
Taking a Hold
The owner of the item that witnesses the theft may simply take the item you picked up. In this case, you might not receive bounty.
| Master Criminal|
Bounty of 1000 gold in all nine holds
This section contains bugs related to Bounty (Skyrim). Before adding a bug to this list, consider the following:
- Individuals launched off cliffs by the Unrelenting Force shout do not accrue a bounty for murder even if the target dies upon impact. However, the Dragonborn will still receive a crime record for assault.
- Bounties can be accrued even if witnesses are absent. 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 "invisible" (i.e., no bounty was placed). They will not give the option of surrendering.
- 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 "
- random encounter against hostiles, like the Forsworn against Legion soldiers, will incur a bounty in the Hold that the encounter appeared in. Sometimes, intervening in a