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Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: How to Play a Thief

Updated on May 12, 2012

Starting a Thief

Thieves are very fun characters to play, whether you are assassinating a target from the dark brotherhood by shooting someone in the head with on arrow or sneaking into an imperial watchtower to steal information, thieves (sometimes called rogues) get the job done. When starting out as a thief there are three races that are best:


Skills: +10 Lockpicking
+5 Alteration, Light Armor, Pickpocket, Restoration, Sneak These starting skills and the argonian's hitskin (regenerate health faster for 60 seconds), resist disease (50%), and water breathing, they can easily jump in and out of a fight with ease. They are perfect for a defensive thief play style.


Skills: +10 Sneak
+5 Alchemy, Archery, Lockpicking, Pickpocket, One-Handed Khajiits are great thieves. Not only do all of their skills involve thieving but they also have night-eye which allows them to see in the dark for 60 seconds (unlimited uses). They also run faster than the other races and do +15 damage when they are not wielding a weapon (claws). This makes them the perfect character for an offensive thief.

Bosmer (Wood Elf)

+10 Archery +5 Alchemy, Light Armor, Lockpicking, Pickpocket, Sneak They have a resistance to both poison and disease (50%) and they can command the animals around them (once a day forces an animal to be an ally for 60 seconds). This makes bosmer perfect for ranged thieves. This race is suggested for anyone that wants to be an assassin.

Dunmer (dark elf) is the only race that was left out. They can be good thieves but they are more focused around magic than thief abilities so they are mentioned in the mage tutorial instead. While all of these races sound like a great start, there is much more to being a thief than just picking a race.

A picture released by Bethesda of an argonian sneaking (showing that they are a good race for thieves).
A picture released by Bethesda of an argonian sneaking (showing that they are a good race for thieves).

Playing as a Thief

Creating your thief is only the beginning. Once you are done creating your thief you need to choose the play style of your thief that fits you best (basically what skills are you going to focus on?). The first choice that needs to be made when beginning to play as a thief is what you are going to use for offense. You should pick something to fight with for the long-ranged and the short-ranged battles (a bow and a knife are suggested). Then you need to decide how you are going to defend yourself. Are you going to use alteration to increase your armor? Or upgrade restoration to heal when your health gets low? All of these things must be brought into question when playing as a thief. Also, playing as a vampire can improve thieves abilities by a lot but there are consequences to making that decision (see vampire page). Ultimately, you want to make your perfect play style and to do that just try out a lot of different fighting styles and choose the one that fits you best. Then move onto the battlefield.

Fighting as a Thief

I am going to keep this short and to the point, use sneak! Sneak is a thieves best friend so you should use it as much as possible. When you are sneaking up on an enemy camp or walking through a dungeon in which you hear voices, that bonus damage you get from sneak can mean the difference between the living or dying! When fighting as a thief you should always have a backup plan for in something goes wrong, carry around a few potions and poisons to heal yourself or give you a tactical edge if the battle gets ugly.

The most important thing when choosing your play style is to be yourself! Pick whatever fits you best and then have fun!

Want to make a mage or warrior? Check out the mage version or warrior version of this tutorial!


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      Rat 5 years ago

      You forgot Dunmer they are a great race for vampire assasins

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      JM 5 years ago


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      strycat777 5 years ago

      While your a theif you'll want to use short daggers or knives. Level up on your sneak often by pickpocketing people while they are sleeping to get the most benefits. The blade of Woe is a exelent dagger to use and it can be found by completing the dark brotherhood quests. Duel fighting with the blade of woe is better if you have a fast dagger like the ebony blade. And when you start out you'll want to become a theif from the beginning to maximize the perks and ranks. If you want even more sneak bonases you can get light sneak armor from the theives guild in riften or can become a vampire.

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      lolipop 5 years ago

      you're right thanks a lot