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I have a pair of unenchanted boots, assorted gems filled with souls of questionable origin, and a burning desire to go unnoticed (because I get a 30x bonus to sneak attacks I'm shy)

I can either put Muffle on my boots, or a bonus to Sneak. Muffle's magnitude is always 100% when the player uses it, but the bonus to Sneak depends on the player's Enchant skill and perks.

Let's assume that I don't have access to any other sources of the Muffle effect, and I don't have any of the perks or powers that make your armor weigh nothing (Unhindered, Conditioning, the Steed Stone). Further, let's assume I don't have the dual enchantment perk, so "¿por qué no los dos?" doesn't apply yet.

In what circumstances would I be sneakier with Muffle-enchanted boots, and when would I be more muffled with a bonus to Sneak?

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+1 for (because I'm shy) –  Coomie Feb 27 '13 at 3:42

2 Answers 2

up vote 17 down vote accepted

How Sneaking Works Internally in Skyrim

Internally, the game engine keeps track of a player's Stealth Points - you can think of this sort of like a regenerating health mechanic. Anytime an enemy has a chance to detect the player, the engine begins an ongoing series of opposed skill checks between the player Sneak skill and the enemy Detection Value. Any time the enemy wins, the player loses a certain amount of stealth points. When the player reaches zero stealth points, they are detected. Whenever the enemy loses, stealth points regenerate. When the player reaches full stealth points, the enemy is no longer aware of the player.

Detection Value


Detection Value is made up of:

  • Enemy Base Sneak +
  • Sound generated by the player * +
  • Visibility of the player * +
  • Enemy Sneak Skill *+
  • Player Sneak Level Bonus

(Starred items have range modifier. Greater distance reduces detection chance.)

Here's the relevant points for how the skill checks are made:

Sound is the sum of Movement Noise + Weapon Noise

  • Movement Noise is modified by how much weight you have equipped and what type of weight you have equipped. 5 pounds of Heavy Armor makes more noise than 5 pounds of Light Armor. Running makes more noise than walking. Sprinting makes more noise than either. Muffle enchantments you place on items eliminate Movement Noise completely (but loot which is pre-enchanted with Muffle does not!)
  • Weapon Noise is created when you swing any weapon other than a dagger. Since you'll be using daggers, you can disregard this, as daggers make no noise.

Using daggers with a Muffle enchantment on your boots, Sound will be 0.

Player Sneak Level Bonus is Player Sneak skill - Enemy Sneak skill

Player Sneak Skill is modified by the total value of the all of the sneak modifiers available, and then compared to Enemy sneak skill.

It doesn't matter how much the player's Sneak skill is, only how much the player's Sneak exceeds the Enemy sneak. That is to say, a player with 100 Sneak will be detected by an enemy with 90 Sneak exactly as often as a player with 20 Sneak will be detected by an enemy with 10 Sneak, all else being equal.

Therefore, enchanting your boots with Fortify Sneak will increase your Sneak skill by however much your Enchanting bonuses provide, which might or might not matter depending on the skill of the enemies you're up against.


So just answer my question.

Fine.

  • If you choose to equip items which weigh a lot or are classified as heavy armor, then take Muffle, to eliminate Movement Noise.
  • If you have a very high Sneak skill relative to your enemy already, take Muffle.
  • If you choose to equip items which do not weigh a lot or are not classified as armor, then choose Fortify Sneak.
  • If you have a Sneak skill which is equal to or slightly less than that of your enemy, then choose Fortify Sneak.
  • If you have a Sneak skill which is greatly less than your enemy, then you're screwed either way. Enchant the boots with Fortify Sneak, sell them, and use the gold to buy a carriage ride to a lower-level area where you can grind your Sneak skill up for a while.
  • If you want to make a sneaky archer rather than a stabby rogue, choose Fortify Sneak. Sound is reduced based on distance, but Sneak skill is not.

Sources:

Bethesda Creation Kit: Detection
Bethesda Creation Kit: Stealth Points

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Hmm, where does the actual sneaking player-state come into this? Does the player just have zero player sneak bonus when not actively sneaking? Also, how would I know what my enemy's sneak skill range is? –  Tacroy Feb 27 '13 at 5:29
    
@tacroy - Correct, when not sneaking, any enemy that can detect you will. There isn't a good way to know the enemy sneak skill without actually looking at the data files for the game, but you can estimate it - enemy skill increases proportionately to their level. –  Steve V. Feb 27 '13 at 5:39
    
Do you mean visually detect you? Because otherwise the Silence perk is written misleadingly ("Running will not affect your detectability") –  Tacroy Feb 27 '13 at 5:59
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Ohhhh it turns out I've been sneak-running this whole time! No wonder everyone can see me! –  Tacroy Feb 27 '13 at 6:39

Muffle is about the sound you make, sneak is about the whole skill set including all factors.

The muffle effect is normally depending on your armor, where heavier armor is more difficult to muffle. So people will be hearing you already around the corner in heavy armor if you are not muffled.

IMPORTANT: While the muffle spell makes you 100% silent, the muffle enchantment does not:

It appears that passive enchant bears half the effectiveness of the spell version -- 25% versus 50%, presumably corresponding to the 50% figure that is reduced by the Sneak perk, Muffled Movement. Source

The sneak skill enchantment however is much more complex to describe since the enchantment increases your skill of the whole package, which includes how easily you are seen AND heard.

So to answer your question: If you wear heavy armor, and/or already have a high sneak skill, muffle might be your better choice. If you have a light armor, it might be easier to increase your sneak skill further to avoid detection in more diverse situations.

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Not true. Enchantments you place on items provide 100% Muffle. Loot which is already enchanted when you find it does not. –  Steve V. Feb 27 '13 at 4:13
    
@SteveV. Someone has to fix the Wiki then it seems. –  uncovery Feb 27 '13 at 4:18

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