Hired Thugs are hostile characters which can appear in any random event location. This is only supposed to occur after the Dragonborn has stolen goods from a character, repeatedly trespassed, assaulted someone, or murdered someone. Some characters, such as Belethor, may consider knocking over items or using a shout inside their shop as sufficient reason.
This event can occur even if the Dragonborn employed stealth, or remained undetected throughout the incident in question. One of the thugs sent after the Dragonborn will carry a Contract signed by the offended party. Anyone can hire thugs—merchants, townsfolk, Jarls, town guards (who will sign the contract with "Whiterun Guard," for example) and even children or dogs (Garmr). In addition to children and dogs, Paarthurnax may send hired thugs after the Dragonborn should they steal from the Greybeards. It is also possible for Forsworn Briarhearts and bandits to send hired thugs if items are pickpocketed from them; the contract in these cases will be signed with the generic character's name. If the person who took out the contract is dead, the thugs will still appear. A hired thug may put out a contract if they have been successfully pickpocketed. Even the ghosts at the Abandoned Prison may hire thugs, in which case the contract will be signed "Ghost."
While the contracts say that they do not necessarily have to kill the Dragonborn, only teach them a lesson, they will always attempt to kill the player, regardless of whether they resist or not.
The thugs are exclusively melee fighters in groups of three, and wear heavy armor.
A hired thug can occasionally incur a bounty on themselves when attacking the Dragonborn, resulting in nearby guards attacking them; however, the reverse can also be true—Hold Guards and witnesses may register the player's self-defense as an assault, and bounties will be added accordingly.
- Garmr. It is quite common that the missive carried by one of the Hired Thugs may be signed by someone who the Dragonborn has not stolen from (in some cases not having even met them), or was dead at the time of both the theft and attack. This can occur with animals, such as
- Sometimes, the thugs will approach but only follow the Dragonborn around and not attack. If one of them is attacked, only the one attacked will fight back, and the other(s) will idly watch. When the thug is dead, the other(s) will look at the body and comment on how they "will find whoever did this."
- dragon attacks, they may become non-hostile and follow the Dragonborn. If hired thugs are around when a
- Riverwood, they are apparently unable to swim and will just stand on the shore and get pushed by the current if led into the water. If the thugs attack in
- Hold their shop is in) and will attack normally. Sometimes, the thugs may show up and the contract will be signed by a random merchant (even if the Dragonborn has not visited the
- The contract may be signed by a guard from one of the holds which have not been visited yet.
- Riften Jail. They will be hostile but unable to get out of the cell. Two of the thugs may appear inside of a jail cell if they spawned inside the