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I'm going to try to be as specific as possible (because I saw this question: Do the inventories of NPCs respawn with new goodies after you've pickpocketed them?):

I am talking only about Skyrim and I simply want to know if NPCs respawn pickpocketed items.

I am also not talking about pickpocketing new NPCs that have respawned in cleared dungeons and such. I'm just focused on the question of pickpocketing NPCs that I left alive after I robbed them and whether or not they respawn items.

I googled around and I can't get a straight answer:

  • Followers never respawn
  • Followers DO respawn (especially after waiting)
  • Named NPCs never respawn
  • The opposite of that.
  • Named NPCs respawn if you leave one item on them.
  • Named NPCs respawn if you take everything.
  • Generic NPCs do or don't respawn, if you do or don't leave an item on them.
  • Specific followers/named NPCs/generic NPCs respawn items according to hidden rules that Bethesda made up that no one can figure out.

I simply want to know which one of these statements is true.

I tried watching and it was very strange to me because early on in the game, it seemed like they never respawned items no matter how long I waited. Later on (I had leveled up to about 30) it seemed like they DID respawn items if I waited.

Please help? I am very confused.

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I was obsessing a little too much over this so I jettisoned my current playthrough and did a completely fresh install with no mods and experimented a little:

I stole everything off: generic NPCs, named NPCs, and followers both before and after I recruited them.

In all cases, if you steal everything off them, they will all respawn their clothes after 3 days. No one goes naked forever.

Both generic and named (non-follower) NPCs will not respawn anything other than clothes (as far as I can tell).

I tested this on Faendal both before and after he became a follower. Before he became a follower, he respawned clothes as well, but didn't respawn weapons. After he became a follower and we left the cell where I made him a follower (his house), he respawned his weapons again.

This is just a preliminary answer, I'll keep updating it as I find out more. I'd like to test it out for up to 30 days, and with a few other followers.

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This link, this link, and this link seem to imply that named NPCs do not have respawning inventories (Such as Jarl Balgruuf or Esbern), whereas generic NPCs (like bandits and guards) do reset their inventories after a long period. By stealing from a Whiterun Guard and Ysolda, stepping outside of Whiterun, waiting a week, then coming back in, my game seems to confirm this (I do have mods, although I shouldn't have any that affect this).

Assuming the above is true (EDIT: Which it doesn't seem to be, see comments), a simple answer is:

  • Named NPCs never respawn (except maybe in a quest scenario where their inventory is changed)
  • Followers never respawn (they are also Named NPCs)
  • Generic NPCs do respawn

EDIT: Perhaps there are more checks to refresh inventories of named NPCs than I thought, or there could just be other rules in play.

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  • Faendal will respawn his bow and i think other followers respawn their weapon as well – Ivar de Bruin Mar 5 '17 at 17:19
  • That's odd. Perhaps there is some hidden rule. – Dova Mar 5 '17 at 20:15
  • Sorry I took so long to reply! I was testing it out on Skyrim and wrote up my findings. – 7777 Mar 9 '17 at 23:58
  • It could be just the weapon that respawns, so that named NPCs aren't running around punching stuff. – DCShannon Mar 10 '17 at 0:06

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