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When I see an NPC from a distance I'm uncertain of whether or not they will attack me on sight. What I've done up until now is save the game, go up to them, and if they're hostile I'll re-load my save and kill them using a bow.

Is there anyway to know if an NPC is hostile from a distance?

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I wish. I do the same as you. –  Kevin D Dec 14 '11 at 17:25
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If only it were more like real life! –  fluffy Dec 14 '11 at 19:50
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@fluffy - I think I would prefer real life be more like the game :) –  Chad Dec 14 '11 at 20:41
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I've wondered that as well. However so far (at level 32) 99% of encounters in the wild are with bandits, mages and otherwise animals that are very protective of their territory. Hunters typically live alone with a single tent and a campfire. Stormcloak camps... well this reminds me... if you sneak close enough you'll often hear a conversation which quickly hints you if you're dealing with bandits and other criminals. :) –  faB Dec 14 '11 at 21:42
    
quicksave and fire away! If you get bounty, then quick load. –  tylerl Dec 15 '11 at 7:29

3 Answers 3

up vote 90 down vote accepted

Shoot an arrow near the target while sneaking. If they are hostile to you, they'll start searching for you and you can see your stealth eye open a little bit. If they are not hostile, then they'll ignore your shot.

Courtesy of agent86:

A funny comic. Ha ha ha.

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Illusion spells near the target also generate sound on impact and would serve this purpose without consuming an arrow (best if you also have the silent casting perk to prevent sound at your location). –  David B Dec 14 '11 at 18:02
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Yes, throw voice is good too. It does not require the silent casting perk. –  David B Dec 14 '11 at 18:13
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That errant arrow must've been his imagination –  agent86 Dec 14 '11 at 19:17
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You can just shoot them directly with the arrow. If it's an important friendly NPC they won't die and since you are sneaking they won't know it was you who attacked them. I've had multiple conversations with smiling NPC's with an arrowhead protruding from their eyeball. –  dpatchery Dec 15 '11 at 13:36
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too bad the arrow wasn't in the knee –  Maksim Vi. Dec 15 '11 at 21:54

Try the PC console command getav

` -to enter console

target NPC with mouse, then:

getav aggression

will return 0-2 with 2 being hostile.

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The Detect Life spell conveniently color codes the creatures it detects. Red creatures are hostile, while creatures which appear blue will not attack you.

In my game, it has saved the life of the maid in Fort Greymoor. Also, it works through walls :)

The spell is available from merchants (at least in the College of Winterhold) once your Alteration skill is at least 50.

I think I read somewhere that there is an equivalent dragon shout, but I do not know what it is or if it also has the color-coding of Detect Life.

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The Aura Whisper is the name of the shout, it color enemies red, although I don't know if the color is different for allies. –  Jupotter Dec 14 '11 at 21:24
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Aura whisper definitely doesn't. But then it makes sense, everything that moves is deemed as food to a dragon, after all ;) –  z ' Dec 14 '11 at 22:18
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No, I've definitely had bandits appear blue (using detect life) before they alert to me. Walked right up to them and got jumped. Also the trigger for putting NPCs in the game is closer than Detect Life's range so sometimes an "empty" hut will not be empty if you get closer. –  Ben Jackson Dec 14 '11 at 23:24
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@Ben Jacson were the blue bandits technically hostile at a distance? Sometimes they have a 'gaurd' AI where they only turn hostile if you get within a certain range. –  Anon Dec 16 '11 at 19:14
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The maid isn't so peaceful when she's been singed, unfortunately. –  Stuart Pegg Jan 17 '12 at 13:19

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