Elder Scrolls
Elder Scrolls
For other uses, see Sneak.
"Hands to yourself, sneak thief."
Hold Guard[src]

Sneak is a skill in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and is one of the six skills that fall under the Thief adventuring style.

Changes from previous games[]

Sneak (Skyrim).jpg
"Sneaking is the art of moving unseen and unheard. Highly skilled sneaks can often hide in plain sight."
Skyrim loading screen[src]

The sneak system in Skyrim is slightly different from that of previous games. Visibility is depicted through use of an eye that remains closed while undetected, but opens more and more as the likelihood of being detected increases. If the word "Detected" appears on the screen, a creature or character can see the Dragonborn, or has just seen them and knows where they are. If the word "Hidden" appears on the screen, no one is aware of the Dragonborn's presence. Note that this means that the Dragonborn may still be hidden from one or more potential observers even if the eye is open as it will be open if even only one observer sees them.

People around the sneaker will also change "modes" depending on whether they view them sneaking. For instance, they will be passive if they are unaware, or cautious if they are aware someone is sneaking. Characters' and animals' ability to notice the Dragonborn is dependent on a large number of factors, including their Sneak skill, line of sight, the level of light on their current position, how heavy the sneaker's armor is, whether this armor is heavy or light, enchantments on the armor (muffle), spells cast (muffle), if weapons are drawn, if magic is equipped, how fast they are moving, and the effects of any active perks.

Sneaking now also depends on the hostility of opponents. Neutral or friendly characters will have a massively improved ability to detect, which can often make it difficult to sneak up on enemies who are technically not hostile yet.


The more the Dragonborn sneaks, the more their Sneak Skill increases. Successfully sneaking increases the amount the skill goes up by.


The following books provide a permanent one-time increase to the Dragonborn's Sneak Skill. See each book's page for a list of possible locations.


The following quests increase or help to increase the Sneak skill:



The following are the perks available to be taken as the skill is leveled up

Perk (Ranks) Requirements Description ID
Stealth (5) Sneak 0/20/40/60/80 You are 20% harder to detect when sneaking (+5% per additional rank, max 40% with 5/5) 000BE126
Muffled Movement Sneak 30, Stealth Noise from armor is reduced by 50% 00058213
Backstab Sneak 30, Stealth Sneak attacks with one-handed weapons now do six times damage. This bonus stacks with the Shrouded Gloves enchantment, giving 12 times normal damage. It can also apply to the Berserker Rage power, offering 12 times normal damage, or 24 times normal damage with both Shrouded Gloves and the race power active. 00058210
Light Foot Sneak 40, Muffled Movement You won't trigger pressure plates 0005820C
Deadly Aim Sneak 40, Backstab Sneak attacks with bows now do three times damage. Can apply to the Berserker Rage power, offering 6 times normal damage. 001036F0
Silent Roll Sneak 50, Light Foot Sprinting while sneaking executes a silent forward roll 00105F23
Assassin's Blade Sneak 50, Deadly Aim Sneak attacks with daggers now do a total of fifteen times normal damage. This bonus stacks with Shrouded Gloves enchantment, giving 30 times normal damage. It can also apply to the Berserker Rage power, offering 30 times normal damage, or 60 times normal damage with both Shrouded Gloves and the race power active. 00058211
Silence Sneak 70, Silent Roll Walking and running does not affect detection 00105f24
Shadow Warrior Sneak 100, Silence Crouching stops combat for a moment and forces distant opponents to search for a target 00058214

Not-quite-hidden theft[]

Main article: Random Encounters (Skyrim)

Sometimes, certain characters may discover, after the fact, the Dragonborn has stolen something. Unlike cases where the theft is detected immediately and guards are called to arrest the thief, here the Dragonborn does not receive a bounty; instead, the character will pay three hired thugs (one of which will have a Contract in their inventory) to "teach a lesson" to the perpetrator.

Encounters with hired thugs can happen in any public place, including towns and cities (for example, in Whiterun, the College of Winterhold, or Dawnstar). If Hold Guards are nearby, they may or may not come to the Dragonborn's defense against the thugs.

Almost any character in Skyrim can send hired thugs after the thief, including generic characters such as bandits or Forsworn. This extends to characters who would have no logical way of contacting thugs (for example, Paarthurnax or a ghost), and even if the character was dead prior to the theft. Effectively, for any item owned by a character that is stolen from a location or pickpocketed from them, there is a chance of encountering hired thugs later. There is also no dialogue option to confront the person who hired thugs.

Not-quite-hidden murder[]

With a relatively high sneak, individuals standing just a foot or two away from a guard can kill them without receiving a bounty. The killer also can remain undetected as long as the guard is not looking directly at them. However, if they then walk past the guard and are detected, the guard may attack them. While fighting back gains no bounty, killing the guard results in the normal 1,000 Gold bounty for murder. Other guards throughout the Hold will not become hostile, so murdering the guard that witnessed their indiscretion may be a solution rather than leaving town for several days.

Also, if you possess the illusion spell Fury, you can cast it on any citizen as long as you are hidden, Quiet Casting is unnecessary, and killing them will not grant a bounty.confirmation needed

Leveling tips[]

  • One way of leveling this up is to find any of the Greybeards in High Hrothgar, sneak behind him, and start attacking him with a dagger of any kind (an iron dagger will be better as it does less damage). The Dragonborn can level to 100 Sneak very quickly, and also can level Restoration by healing the Greybeard with Healing Hands. This can be done regardless of the Dragonborn's level, but the Greybeards will become hostile towards the Dragonborn if the attacker is caught. After they give full access to High Hrothgar (which is after they all speak a few phrases in the dragon language to recognize the Dragonborn as Dovahkiin), they can be attacked until they kneel before they retaliate.
    • Alternatively, during the opening quest "Unbound," a similar tactic can be used to sneak attack Hadvar or Ralof to fast increase the sneak skill. As Hadvar or Ralof will not attack the Dragonborn whilst inside of Helgen, this method is safer than using the Greybeards, but leveling up too quickly at such an early point in the game could cause problems with difficulty during subsequent quests. As a result, level up additional skills during this point (such as One-Handed or Destruction) before leaving Helgen Keep.
  • Successful sneak attacks will raise the sneak skill more quickly than simple sneaking, especially when executed with a melee weapon. Archery sneak attacks grant sneak experience as well, but at a much lower rate: Melee sneak attacks provide twelve times more sneak experience than a ranged sneak attack. The amount of damage done, the Assassin's Blade perk, and shrouded gloves have no impact on the experience gained.
  • Another way of leveling is sneak killing sleeping draugr. With a sneak over 25, it should be possible to sneak past draugr undetected and sneak kill them to get a large skill raise. A sneak attack against a sleeping draugr may count as an assault under crime statistics.
  • Use Farkas during the quest "Proving Honor." In the room where he transforms to wolf form, how to do it is to sneak up and hit him before flipping the lever.
  • Sneak-running against a wall behind any character who is unlikely to detect the action. The Dragonborn will be harder to detect if sneaking backwards. Some potential targets include:
  • Find a non-hostile target and repeatedly sneak-attack it. Some potential targets include:
  • Use Raise Zombie on inactive draugr and attack them while sneaking. They will not attack because of the spell's effects.
  • The secluded courtyard outside of Dragonsreach in Whiterun is patrolled by a single guard who walks the front half of the perimeter. One can shadow this guard on their patrol route.
  • Enter Geirmund's Hall and drop through the hole to access the rest of the cave into a water-filled room with a closed door. Beyond this door are several Frostbite Spiders. While crouching, hit the door with a weapon to alert them. As spiders cannot open doors, they will be unable to attack, allowing sneaking with impunity. If the "detected" status is not fading, moving behind one of the rock walls on either side usually helps.
  • If Paarthurnax is not killed, he will be perched on the Word Wall at the Throat of the World. Hide behind his right wing and sneak-attack him for massive damage and Sneak experience.
  • Use the shout Throw Voice in a dungeon against enemies (best used if far away) and wait for the eye to close then use it again. Destruction spells cast at the environment with Quiet Casting also work.
  • Join the College of Winterhold and at night sneak attack the non-killable teachers while they are in their beds. Pick two and go back and forth between them. They will not attack or send hired thugs.
  • Attack giants. Use a bow or crossbowDG to shoot giants and then quickly hide.
  • Another fast way to level sneak is to go to Shrine of Mehrunes Dagon. Kill the two dremora there. Have the Revenant spell, and resurrect the Dremora Kynval while in Sneak position. Let him raise, then sneak attack him. He will not turn to a pile of ashes like most resurrected characters, so this can be repeated over and over again.
  • One effective way to level Sneak is to buy a horse. Sneak attacking the horse with an iron dagger will net considerable experience. Depending on how much gold you have, this method can be done very early on in the game. To increase experience acquisition, it is recommended to activate the Thief Stone and obtain the Well Rested bonus.
  • Frostflow Lighthouse is a great location to level up the Sneak skill. As long as the Dragonborn does not open the Cellar Door, they can continually trick the remaining Chaurus into endlessly searching for them, thus quickly leveling the skill at no danger to themselves.
  • One simple way to level up both illusion and sneak is to cast Calm on a foe and repeatedly sneak attack them, casting Calm every time you hit them.confirmation needed


"Walk always in shadows, so that you will see your foes before they see you."
  • When equipped with the Assassin's Blade perk, shrouded gloves (or shrouded hand wraps), and dual-wielding daggers, performing a successful sneak dual-power attack results in three consecutive sneak attacks, thus granting a possible ninety times damage multiplier in a single attack, which will kill most foes.
  • It is possible, though difficult, to sneak while in battle with Alduin, allowing a sneak attack for massive damage. This only seems to work with 90+ Sneak and all sneak perks up to that point.
  • If a shield or weapon is used to block (with the perks Block Runner and Shield Charge) while sneaking it is possible to double walking speed or perform a shield charge without breaking stealth. It will also allow an infinite run time.
  • With the Shadow Warrior perk, it is possible to stay invisible indefinitely during combat by quickly and repeatedly entering and leaving stealth. With third-person mode active the Dragonborn will look like black smoke flying through the air. However, this does not always work.
    • Also, with the Shadow Warrior perk, the invisibility effect, though lasting only one second, completely interrupts detection. If timed properly, it is possible to get a sneak attack critical even in a large group of enemies. This allows for more aggressive tactics of assassinations or clearing dungeons, or the ability to repeatedly get critical hits on stronger enemies, such as dragons, Dragon Priest, or draugr deathlords.
      • The above method may not work if the target is already in combat with a follower or another hostile.
      • If the Dragonborn has spell absorption from effects such as the Atronach Stone or Atronach perk, the invisibility effect has a proportionate chance to not trigger. If this happens, a small amount of Magicka will be regenerated.
  • Sometimes, with sufficient sneak skill and/or muffle active, after using a ranged sneak attack, the enemy may be unable to spot the attacker.
  • If the Dragonborn is in sneak mode and fires an arrow and an enemy notices it, the enemy will search for the arrow rather than the Dragonborn.
  • When attempting to score a melee sneak attack, the Silent Roll perk can be used to great effect. While a melee weapon is equipped and drawn, attacking during the roll itself will cause the Dragonborn to perform a rapidly advancing strike similar to a charging power attack. Due to the soundless nature of the Silent Roll and the rolling attack's swift travel speed, a character with a reasonably high Sneak skill can reliably sneak attack opponents head-on by ambushing them so suddenly that the strike lands before they are fully aware.
    • The rolling attack travels forward a bit before the weapon actually strikes, so this technique should be used from a short distance away, with preparation and careful aim.
    • Repeatedly tested with a variety of daggers and one-handed swords, in first-person view.
    • Without the roll perk, it is still possible to roll. Sneaking then moving forward and shouting at the same time, the shout will work and a roll forward will occur.
    • Another way to roll without the perk is by jumping then holding down the sprint button. Although not very stealthy due to the noise when landing, it still can be done.
    •  360   PS3   With the silent roll perk, it is possible to hold down roll to roll repeatedly, but only in 3rd person mode or with a weapon out.


This section contains bugs related to Sneak (Skyrim). Before adding a bug to this list, consider the following:

  1. Please reload an old save to confirm if the bug is still happening.
  2. If the bug is still occurring, please post the bug report with the appropriate system template  360  /  XB1  ,  PS3  /  PS4  ,  PC  /  MAC  ,  NX  /  PS5  ,  XS  , depending on which platform(s) the bug has been encountered on.
  3. Be descriptive when listing the bug and fixes, but avoid having conversations in the description and/or using first-person anecdotes: such discussions belong on the appropriate forum board.
Click to see the list of bugs encountered
  • The Shadow Warrior perk conflicts with Shadowcloak of Nocturnal. With Shadowcloak of Nocturnal active, crouching when seen will cause both Shadowcloak of Nocturnal and Shadow Warrior to activate, but when Shadow Warrior wears off, it erroneously removes both invisibility effects.
    • If playing the PC version of the game, the Shadow Warrior perk cam be removed using the console command "player.removeperk 00058214." After doing so, the Shadowcloak of Nocturnal will behave normally. Once the effect is finished, restore the perk with "player.addperk 00058214." Doing this once appears to resolve the bug in some cases.
  • Similar to the pickpocket bug, wearing equipment with Fortify Sneak enchantment may lower sneaking success when at or near the cap for this skill.
    • Fixed in patch 1.3.
  •  PC   360   PS3   Even without the silent roll perk, jumping while sneaking and sprinting may execute a silent roll.
  •  PC   360   Holding the sprint button may execute a silent roll when a weapon is sheathed or drawn. This can also be executed when switching spells.
  •  360   PS3   With the silent roll perk, it is possible to go into third-person mode and hold sprint, allowing continuous rolling until out of stamina.
  • Leaving stealth mode (even several rooms away from anyone) and then stealing something may result in a bounty.
  • With a one-handed weapon equipped in the right hand, and then sneaking and running, unsheathing the weapon and continuing to move may allow moving at the same speed as if not sneaking.
  • Most spouses will be able to see the Dragonborn when sneaking. The only spouses that seem to not be able to are housecarls and Companions.
    • This also applies to Barbas in the Daedric quest A Daedra's Best Friend.
    •  PC   PS3   It also seems to apply to Shadowmere.
    • Especially with Shadowmere, this will cause the sneak eye to open and say the Dragonborn is detected, even when hidden from legitimate opponents.
  • Some pressure plates may be triggered even if you have the light foot perk.
  • Executing a silent roll while unarmed (fists raised) may result in rolling in place. (Only bugged when in third person, first person still executes the roll normally.)
  •  360   If blocking and sprinting with a shield equipped and then releasing the block, the Dragonborn may do a silent roll without having the perk.
  •  PC   360   PS3   If a save is made while sneaking and then loaded, it is possible to be stuck in stealth mode. Actually, one is set as "standing," being stuck between modes, it will not allow switching.
    • To resolve this, use any interactable object (workbench, ore vein, cooking pot, or even a chair). This will cause the character model to be "reset," and allow switching from one mode to the other.
    • To resolve this on the Nintendo Switch, the Skyrim data must be deleted from the system. Interacting with an interactable object does not seem to reset the character model.
  •  PS3   If the game is saved with the Dragonborn in "sneak" mode, hidden, and close to a hostile NPC, then if discovered (the NPC becomes hostile), reloading the save file will return the Dragonborn to the original spot, but they have already been discovered by the NPC.
    • This can be fixed by loading the saved game a second time.
  • Sometimes when sneaking with a shield, holding it with the Block Runner perk, one will be able to walk at a normal speed while still sneaking.
  • When sneak attacking someone who is sleeping with a dagger, the body may disappear in the ground making it unable to loot the body.
  • Sometimes Hired Thugs will be sent even after successfully sneaking or using the cheat code ~tdetect.
  •  360  If sneaking while activating something like an ore vein or an alchemy lab, the Dragonborn may appear to remain sneaking after deactivating it (they will appear to be kept in sneak mode but will not actually be and can be readily detected). If an attempt is made to run in first person, then a silent roll will be done, even without the perk. If an attempt is made to run in third person view then the Dragonborn will run normally. Reactivating sneak or entering another location will fix this.
  •  PC   360   PS3   Sneaking while drawing a weapon and moving in third-person results in sneaking at regular walking speed until the Dragonborn stops moving, which causes them to sneak at regular speed.
  •  360   Some enemies, regardless of distance, Sneak skill and perks, time of day and equipment will still detect the Dragonborn. It may not be enough to open the "eye" by any noticeable amount, but as soon as they lose the Dragonborn, the game states that they are "hidden" again before the enemies "detect" that Dragonborn again almost instantly. However, sneak-attacks still work in this scenario, even though they are "detecting" the Dragonborn. No known cause.

See also[]