Quick Look: Sneak
Your Sneak Skill Level lets you move undetected. This allows you to move through restricted areas, steal objects, pick locks and perform sneak attacks for massive damage boosts.
Sneak helps you sneak better, of course. It’s an essential skill for many quests, particularly involving the Thieve’s Guild and the Dark Brotherhood. On it’s own, it’s decent enough at helping you avoid detection so long as you stay out of the line of sight of your foes, are in darkness of some sort, are lightly equipped, and move slowly. Okay, the skill by itself can just barely get you through the quests you need it to, and even then, only with a lot of patience and bother. If you want sneaking to be truly effective, you’ll have to invest some perks.
Somehow stealth always seems seems over-powered in Bethesda games, and Skyrim is really no different. It does need some help to reach peak potency, however, as without perks you’re not going to be able to stay hidden as well, and you’re leaving lots of damage on the table. First up is the "Stealth" perk, which is an obligatory buy that fortunately also gives you a 20% bonus to sneaking. Later ranks have a much worse rate of return, though, so only invest one perk.
Continue up the perk tree by getting "Muffled Movement", which will make it easier to sneak by squelching sound. "Light Foot" isn’t terribly useful, but it’s on the way to "Silent Roll", which is a faster way to move while sneaking… although still not a great perk. "Silence", however, is, as it allows you to move as quickly as you please without suffering any penalties while sneaking… and getting up to foes or through areas quickly is one of the better ways to maintain your stealth.
On the damage end of things, you’re going to at least want to get "Deadly Aim", picking up "Backstab" along the way. Getting close to foes while sneaking can be a chore, so why not get that x3 damage bonus with bows so you don’t have to? If you really want to go the full assassin route, though, pick up the "Assassin’s Blade" perk, as its x15 damage multiplier with daggers is just obscene, especially if you can manage to sneak up to a foe and perform a power attack while dual wielding. But… if you just want to get things done as easily and quickly as possible, a highly enhanced Dragonbone Bow with the x3 multipler is all you really need.
Rejoice! Sneak is one of the easiest skills to level. In fact, it’s the best early grinding skilly in the game. You level up sneak by sneaking around other sentient beings (sneaking around in places where there’s nothing to detect you won’t work) and by performing sneak attacks. In the former case, find an area where it’s easy to sneak and where there are NPCs who don’t tend to move around too much, and just sneak while walking into a wall. Dragonsreach in Whiterun is a good place to do this, just go to one of the corners on the ground floor near the door and walk backwards into the corner. As long as there’s a guard or maid nearby, you should be able to reliably level Sneak.
Alternatively, while you’re going through Helgen at the beginning of the game (during the quest "Unbound" ) you’ll reach a chamber with a bear, where your companion (Ralof or Hadvar) will give you a bow. While he waits for you to deal with the bear, you can instead take advantage of the fact that you have an immortal ally who will never turn hostile while you’re in Helgen. Sneak behind Ralof/Hadvar and sneak attack him. The damage or weapon you use doesn’t really matter, just perform a sneak attack, wait for the commotion such an action causes to die down, and a few seconds later attack again. Repeat and you’ll quickly max out your Sneak skill. Turn it Legendary if you want to keep leveling, but be wary - if you level up in Helgen too much, everything outside will also level up. If this is the case, level up One Handed as well and consider turning the difficulty down to Novice until you get arms and armor capable of competing on high difficulties. Still, you have nothing to lose by ensuring your Sneak Skill Level is 100 by the time you leave Helgen.
|Khayla||Adept (Lv. 15 - 50)||Member of the wandering Khajiit caravan|
|Garvey||Expert (Lv. 51 - 75)||Markarth, The Warrens|
|Delvin Mallory||Master (Lv. 76 - 90)||Riften, Thieve's Guide (Ragged Flagon)|