I am, for various reasons, attempting to murder Ondolemar and his Thalmor Guards in Skyrim. I have also murdered multiple vampires disguised as normal merchants in the past.

However, I keep on running into problems. Even if I am completely undetected during the murder and gain no bounty, the guards turn violent against me if I approach them. They do not attempt to collect any bounties. Something like this is listed in the bug section of the wiki, but I am not completely sure that this is a bug/the same bug.

If I am slightly detected after killing someone (eyes slightly open), I get a bounty of 1000. This is the case even if no one detects me fully.

I understand there are ways to kill Ondolamar without getting too much of a bounty. I can cast frenzy on him, for example. However, I wish to kill him with sneak if possible. How does the murder detection system in Skyrim work?

  • May I ask why "Skyrim" is removed from the title? I thought that it would be better to state what game the question is about in the title. Would "How does detecting Murder/Crime work in Skyrim" be better since it is more grammatical than "Skyrim, How does detecting Murder/Crime work"? Feb 3, 2017 at 19:24
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    Because 'Skyrim' is already implied by the appropriate tagging. Avoid tags in question titles, they're redundant. May 19, 2017 at 14:25

1 Answer 1


The crime system in every ES game is a little....meh. In Oblivion, it was the Psychic Guards that could hear you rummaging in a house from 100 meters, and was patched away in mods (but nothing by Bethesda). In Skyrim, it's not so bad, but it's more complicated. The following is from observation and research.

  1. Any time the eye is even a little open, doing something criminal immediately gains that person's full attention and gets their response.

  2. There is a threshold by which guards determine if they will immediately arrest you, attack you, or just leave you alone unless you talk to them. This is tied to the bounty (also known as crimegold or fine) on your head.

  3. Once a witness sees a crime, unless they are a participant in combat they will usually flee and locate one of the guards or soldiers nearby. This guard will ignore the threshold for bounty and immediately attempt arrest.

  4. Killing all witnesses before they can report the crime resets your crimegold value to what it was before the crime was committed.

  5. One of the most irritating bugs in Skyrim, or at least vanilla Skyrim, is that goats, cows, horses, foxes, and other animals can report crimes. I think the Unofficial Patch for Skyrim and Skyrim SE resolve this; I haven't had this happen since I started using it.

  6. Peeking in someone's pockets is legal. Pickpocketing is not.

  7. Accidentally opening the "pick lock" screen is not a crime. Actually trying to pick the lock is.

  • Thanks for the help. What about the part where you are attacked by a guard even after you remained completely undetected murdering someone, and got no bounty? Feb 3, 2017 at 19:27
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    You were probably heard committing the crime, but not seen. Believe it or not, that matters. If they don't see you and noone reports it, then its a crime, but their hostility flag can be set if they hear it. At that point, they're using part of the AI that, from what I can tell, is used by most mob NPCs when they can't "see" you but are hostile anyway.
    – CDove
    Feb 3, 2017 at 21:25
  • That is super weird. I had muffle on my shoe and there was no reaction until I walked up to the guards. But it could be right. Feb 3, 2017 at 21:51

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