Before we begin – note that all numbers displayed in this thread are results of experiments. With over 1800 pickpockets, 300+ safeboxes and 3000+ items stolen from the container just for the purpose of this guide, I believe these numbers are fairly accurate. The exact item distribution might be slightly different in Zenimax code due to luck factor.
The reason I'm writing this guide is because I had no idea how Legerdemain skill affects item quality. I felt the items were a bit better with higher skill, but had no solid proof, so I begun a series of experiments with characters of different levels and legerdemain skill and marked everything down in my notebook. Note: I do not own Thieves guild DLC, so I do not know if this skill line affects loot.
Most people swear by daily crafting writs, and while that really is an extremely good money-making method (4600 gold in 5-10 minutes per character sounds nice), thieving can really match it, especially for newer players (since as you will see, most of the thievery depends only on Legerdemain, and not player levels), as low level players get very little gold from crafting quests.
There are 4 different levels of safeboxes: Simple, Intermediate, Advanced and Master. While higher ones are harder to open, I have not actually noticed any change in the items they drop.
Each safebox (unrelated to level of safebox) drops gold based on character level.
Fortune seeker) (passive champion skill, available at Rank 10 Shadow tree) increases gold received this way by 50%. Character with Fortune seeker will find 106 gold at level 50 in a safebox.
Aside from gold, each safebox contains a stolen item of green or blue quality (and maybe purple, but I haven't encountered it while making this guide).
There is another passive champion skill –
Treasure Hunter) which should increase the quality of all locked chests by 1 (simple chest awards you with intermediate loot; Intermediate chests award you with advanced loot, and so on). However, in my experiments this skill made absolutely no changes. Half of the safeboxes I opened were with this skill on, yet item quality percentages remained the same in all cases. This might have something to do with the following:
Safebox levels made no difference in item quality either! While I expected Master safebox to have better chance of getting blue items, this did not happen. From 304 safeboxes I opened, I have received 239 green items and 112 blue items. This puts us at following percentages:
- 68% chance of getting a green
- 32% chance of getting a blue
- about 15% chance of getting two items at once (any combination)
This percentage was true for all safebox levels individually (+/- 1-2 percent). I don't know if this was intentional, a bug, or simply bad luck on my part.
- At character level 4, safebox yields 194 gold on average.
- At character level 50, safebox yields 278 gold on average.
Note: Since pickpocketing increases Legerdemain skill quite rapidly, and with very low base chances of success at low Legerdemain levels, I could not reliably test this aspect of thievery with a low Legerdemain level character. I found out based on my results so far is that level of this skill DOES affect quality of items looted, but to what degree, I cannot say.
Level of character does not affect quality of pickpocketing loot. Level of Legerdemain skill does (see above). There is quite a noticeable difference in the quality of items dropped between different NPC difficulties at max level Legerdemain. Characters of all difficulties can drop white, green, blue quality items (and possibly purple, though I haven't encountered them either during making of this guide), as well as lockpicks, recipes, food, and a few additional things.
Something I have noticed is that each successive pickpocket on the same person has better chance of awarding you with higher quality loot. Blue items dropped on second or third attempt more often than on first. I have summed up all items dropped in each category and divided by number of said items to find the following:
Easy Difficulty (Laborers, Beggars, Artisians, Fishers,…)
- First pickpocket yields 68 gold on average
- Second pickpocket yields 77 gold on average
- Third pickpocket yields 80 gold on average*
Normal Difficulty (Commoners, Scholars, Warriors, Sailors,…)
- First pickpocket yields 68 gold on average
- Second pickpocket yields 83 gold on average
- Third pickpocket yields 117 gold on average
Hard difficulty (Guards, Outlaws, Smiths, Watchmen, Bards, Nobles, Priests,…)
- First pickpocket yields 99 gold on average
- Second pickpocket yields 113 gold on average
- Third pickpocket yields 130 gold on average
This particular number might be skewed – While I was doing Easy difficulty targets, I started off by doing Rob-Rob-Kill routine when I could, and going Rob-Rob-Rob when I couldn't kill the target for whatever reason. I noticed that I gained higher quality items on average when I robbed 3 times. I have not tested this further yet, so I continued tests with Rob-Rob-Rob (-kill) technique on Normal and Hard difficulty targets. Killing instead of robbing may or may not reduce loot quality.*
This puts us at following:
- Easy Target = 225 gold total on average
- Normal Target = 268 gold total on average
- Hard Target = 343 gold total on average
At Legerdemain level 20 and Character level 50, this means that Normal Target will yield almost as much gold as an average safebox! The advantage safebox has over pickpocketing is that 106 gold will be added to your inventory directly, and you will only receive 1 item to sell rather than 3. When given a choice, you should loot safeboxes if you have the time and nerves to compete with others (and only one character, thus limited fencing number), and just pickpocket people otherwise.
One exception to everything above are Guards. Guards are considered hard difficulty NPC's, therefore it's rather difficult to rob them without raising an alarm, plus you will have to flee if you fail, since they are immortal. However, guards are the most profitable targets, as they have a very large chance to replace white item with Polished Shilling (Abah's watch crafting ingredient, can be sold for ~100 gold on EU/PC instead of ordinary 40 gold white item), and they have a very small chance to drop a golden Wanted poster (worth between 3000-4000 gold on EU/PC).
Some other characters drop items based on their profession (you can get soul gem from a mage for example).
Failing a pickpocket will put your target on alert, preventing you from pickpocketing them again for around 60 seconds. Empty targets will automatically replenish in 15-30 minutes, or when they die.
Classic Thievery – Stealing items from containers
Quality of items is not dependent on character level. Loot quality found in containers differs A LOT between Legerdemain levels. Take a look at the following:
Legerdemain level 1
- White quality – 77.2% chance
- Green quality – 14.6% chance
- Blue quality – 0.45% chance
- Equipment – 6.4% chance (quality of equipment does not change with Legerdemain level, 20% to get green equipment at all times)
- Everything else – 1.35% chance
Legerdemain level 10
- White quality – 68.2% chance
- Green quality – 22% chance
- Blue quality – 2.2% chance
- Equipment – 6.2% chance
- Everything else – 1.4% chance
Legerdemain level 20
(I have not done final calculations for Level 20 Legerdemain yet. I have five more rounds of tests (300 more items to steal) to get it in tune with level 1 and 10 legerdemain, and my character bounty is waaaay too high to pay off. The rest of this section will be edited-in tomorrow. I have to post without it since pictures can't be saved in draft sadly).
There is a very small chance to get a high-quality recipe or motif / blueprint in containers you can steal from. This is because such containers are very diluted with huge amounts of stolen items. If you are after blueprints and such, you will have much better luck in containers that are available to you (aka non-owned, non-stealable).
At level 20 legerdemain, since your ability to get green and blue items surpasses appearance of white items, you can safely ignore white items and head for green / blue mix for a lot more cash, or full blue items if you have the time.
How to level up Legerdemain
Leveling this skill is quite fast in the beginning as you only need 40 experience to reach level 2. However, this turns into an awful grind as just getting from 19 to 20 takes 400 experience! I have no idea of the total amount of experience needed, but it can still technically be achieved in one day (although you really shouldn't try to).
- Fencing (selling) a stolen item = +1
- Laundering an item at fence = +1
- Pickpocketing an Easy target = +1
- Pickpocketing a Normal target = +2
- Pickpocketing a Hard target = +4
- Opening a Simple lock = +1
- Opening an Intermediate lock = +2
- Opening an Advanced lock = +4
- Opening a Master lock = +8 (I think, I will have to check this one again)
From my experience, the absolute fastest way to level up is to just keep running Safebox routes in cities. The link contains locations of every single safebox in all major cities. If you are lucky and there are no people around, you can take tons of safeboxes (look at Vulkhel Guard for example, there are 15 lootboxes that give up to 54 Legerdemain skill for simply opening, plus at least 15 more for selling all the loot in there; Pretty much any city works for this). Know that this is the absolute best scenario, in truth a lot of people are running these routes, so it is quite difficult to get a perfect safebox city run. Try picking cities that are unpopulated. It is possible to entirely level up Legerdemain to the max in one day by just using this.
If you don't have patience to deal with others and don't want to deal with trespassing, head to Daggerfall, Glenumbra and find these ships:
Those ships are completely unguarded, you don't even have to sneak while inside. Each ship has 2 cabins, and a whole section in the middle (none of them are connected so you have to enter separately). Take EVERYTHING inside, including ingredients, lockpicks, and style materials. After you have completely looted those, just head to the Outlaws Refuge (just east of the ships) and launder 0-15 gold items, while fencing everything else. Repeat this after 15-20 minutes (it takes that long to respawn containers) until you fill up fencing and laundering slots.
At legerdemain 17 you gain +50% pickpocket chance, which makes pickpocketing the best way to move up to 20. You can get 12 legerdemain in 10 seconds by successfully pickpocketing any hard target.
How much money can you earn through thievery daily?
Maximum number of fenced items daily is 140 with maxed Legerdemain skill tree. At level 20 Legerdemain, you will find blue items quite often, and it is not uncommon for you to skip white and green items in favor of blue ones (if your time allows it). That means you can gain up to 35.000 gold daily per thieving character from fencing. This number can be vastly different if you hunt safeboxes instead, as a third of money gained from them does not affect fencing limit, or if you happen to find purple items (worth 1500 gold) or wanted posters (worth 3000-4000 gold).
This can be a bit time consuming of course depending on your luck, but at higher legerdemain levels you should ignore white items anyway and just head for green / blue combination. With green items alone, you will earn 14.000 gold per character daily.
Of course, the exact number will be somewhere in between, and will fluctuate every day. You should expect about 18000 daily for 40 minutes of work. Here is the run I usually do and have found to be effective:
If you prefer safebox hunting, bear in mind that most cities have at least 5-6 safeboxes, but can contain up to 26 safeboxes (Wayrest, Stormhaven)! If you do a perfect Wayrest run, you will net 7200 gold on average, at ANY level of Legerdemain.
By far the most profitable (and most luck-dependent) thing to do is to pickpocket guards. Since hard difficulty pickpocket targets are worth 343 gold on average, you'd have to pickpocket them 63 times to reach Wayrest level of safeboxes. Bear in mind that you are likely to find a gold Wanted poster worth 3000-4000 gold from doing this, and 40 gold white items are often replaced with Polished Shilling worth 100 gold, so average you get from a guard is far higher than that (probably around 400 gold on average)!
Of course, you shouldn't resort to a single method. There are many places in the world where you can do all three at the same time, and come out filthy rich.
How to create thieving character?
Best thieves are Khajiit and Wood Elves. Both gain 3 meter detection radius decrease with their passive racial abilities, and Khajiit also gain +5% pickpocket chance! This further helps with pickpocketing guards.
Best class by far is Nightblade. Your shadow cloak ability is a godsend and it's very, very difficult and time consuming to try and do this without it. Your
veiled strike upgrade, Concealed Weapon, makes you move faster when invisible and sneaking.
Best DLC to have is Dark Brotherhood. Thieves guild DLC adds nice repeatable quests which will increase your gold generation for sure, but
Blade of Woe is a must for any stealthy character as it considerably increases your clearing speed and reduces chance of detection. They can't detect you if they are dead hehe. Not only that, but you also get a
Shadowy Supplier who provides you with free daily Counterfeit Pardon Edicts (they instantly remove 500 bounty from you). Thieves guild dailies also provide Counterfeit Pardon Edicts.
I also recommend being a vampire for Dark Stalker and Unnatural Movement passive abilities. The first one (combined with previously mentioned concealed weapon) makes you pretty much move faster when invisible than when you can be seen, and the second one helps SO MUCH when you are being chased by guards. Just run in a straight line and you will become invisible plus outrun their visibility shot.
The best item sets for a thief are:
Night's Silence – if you cannot become a vampire, this will be very helpful.
Night Mother's Embrace – very useful for avoiding detection, especially when you are safebox hunting and invisibility can't help you.
- Night Terror) – same as above, but required effect needs only 3 items instead of 5!
Vesture of Darloc Brae – With this, nightblade can be permanently invisible without ever running out of mana. If you are going 3 piece Night Terror, get 4 piece Darloc for sneak bonus and you can fit in another full set.
I hope you enjoyed this guide and found it helpful! If you have any questions, or would like me to test something out, feel free to mention it in the comment and I'll do my best to reply.
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