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I've created a new save in Skyrim and now I want to increase my sneaking level as fast as possible.

What is the most efficient strategy for powerleveling sneaking as a new character?

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    I'm not exactly sure why an arbitrary time constraint deserves a different question. To that end, I have voted to close as a duplicate of a longstanding question. – Frank Jul 26 '17 at 13:44
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    @Frank these aren't dupes. This question is about the in game sneak skill, while the "dupe" is about the human in front of the screen learning how sneaking works – Dallium Jul 26 '17 at 13:54
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    I agree they are not duplicates. This one is asking about an efficient and fast way to increase the sneaking level, implying they do know how the sneak mechanic works. The other question comes across as "I don't know how sneaking works, please explain". – n_plum Jul 26 '17 at 13:59
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    @n_palum in which case the title of the other question should be rephrased, as it's not about learning sneaking effectively but rather asking what it is in the first place – Pierre Arlaud Jul 26 '17 at 15:00
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    @Kaizerwolf, eh? The proposal is modifying a question to disambiguate from a potential duplicate. That's the opposite of changing something to match. – Charles Duffy Jul 26 '17 at 17:10
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Perhaps not the most efficient method, but this can be done AFK.

In Whiterun, just next to the accessory shop, you can crouch in a corner, behind the Whiterun guard. Hold the movement stick back*, so that you are "sneaking" backwards into the corner of the building. Leave the Console run overnight, and you will have 100 sneak by the next morning.

This is one of many places that this can be done, but basically, you just want to set yourself up in a location where you are in sight of someone, but can't be seen (the "eye" indicator is closed), and walk backwards (this obviously won't work if there isn't someone to sneak past).

Again, while not the most efficient in terms of in-game-time, it is in terms of your time.

User Kallum Tanton points out that the PC version has an "auto run" key (default C). This can be used by facing toward the wall instead.

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    Just curious, how do you know they are using an Xbox? :p – Timmy Jim Jul 26 '17 at 12:15
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    @wizzwizz4 you need 25k reputation to view Google Analytic data for this site, but I fail to see how that matters anyway? – Timmy Jim Jul 26 '17 at 12:27
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    Well, actually I had no idea. Timmy Jim raises a good point. I just assumed. However, it can be applied to all consoles - just need to hold down the "backward" direction, whether it be a stick, or a key – Ben Jul 26 '17 at 12:31
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    @Ben On PC this is easier; the C key enables "auto move" which keeps the player moving forwards. I see no reason why facing towards the wall wouldn't have the same effect on the sneak skill. – Kallum Tanton Jul 26 '17 at 13:16
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    Personal Anecdote: I was on the second floor of Dragon's Reach, crouched in a corner and sneaking forward into a pillar (similar to the above situation). So forwards did work for me. Either the PC auto walk or the Console "hold down the movement stick with a rubberband". – Brian J Jul 26 '17 at 13:22
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The best way to level up your sneak skill is to successfully execute a sneak attack - the amount of damage doesn't matter, it's a flat amount of XP per attack. For some easy targets there's a small bandit camp just North of the cave where you exit Helgen Keep - there's 3 bandits there. Also Embershard Mine is good for sneak attacks, it's fairly easy to split up the bandits there individually to prevent them from ganging up on you. Before you leave the cave though, you can execute sneak attacks on whoever your chose to follow (Hadvar or Ralof) - there's no penalty for attacking them and you still get the XP.

Other than that just sneaking around undetected will build up your skills. The more NPC's around, the more XP you earn. Works better with shopkeepers and best with hostile NPC's. If you plan on going to Riften, Goldenglow Estate has up to 9 hostile NPC's roaming the grounds - sneaking around these will massively boost your sneak skill.

If you have some gold you can also use trainers - the most accessible one early in the game would be Khayla - she is a Khajiit with Ri'saad's caravan which travels between Whiterun and Markarth, so keep an eye out for their camp outside Whiterun.

And of course there's skill books, which can be bought or found. The closest one you can find somewhat easily in Whiterun is 2920, Last Seed found in Redoran's Retreat on a crate in the back cavern.

They're the (IMO) best options near the start of the game. For more ways to level up, see this WIKI page.

  • Isn't there some sort of glitch with the bear in those tutorial caves, where sneak-killing it awards a ridiculous amount of Sneak experience? – Kaizerwolf Jul 26 '17 at 12:33
  • @Kaizerwolf I'm not aware of this, this may have been a bug in an older version of the game. I almost always kill it and have never received an overly large amount of XP. A common glitch in that cave that is still usable is using Hadvar or Ralof to level up any offensive skill as they don't fight back, plus sneak, as I mentioned in my answer. – Kallum Tanton Jul 26 '17 at 12:45
  • Embershard Mine has a back entrance and I believe it was purposefully added to make the area a dagger sneak attack zone. – Carl Sep 18 '17 at 4:33
  • @Carl You can sneak through either way, both have their difficulties. Using the back entrance puts you in view of the blacksmith - he can be avoiding by dropping into the water, or, even better, onto the small ledge where the locked chest is, instead of going over the bridge. The toughest part is dealing with the guard to the treasure room. Best solution there is to fire an arrow into the wall opposite the guard (where the empty jail cell is) and, when they investigate, hit them from behind with dagger, arrow or spell. – Kallum Tanton Sep 18 '17 at 8:29
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The best way that got me to 100 really fast was the Greybeards. If you continue through the main story, you come across the Greybeards really fast. Here's how to increase your sneak level: The greybeards are meditating a lot. While they do, you can sneak and backstab them 4 times. don't stab them a fifth time, because they will kill you then. Just wait in-game until they are meditating again or find another meditating greybeard. Backstabbing them will increase your sneak level very fast.

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    Just as a clarification, backstabbing is not a mechanic in Skyrim specifically, but stabbing them in the back is ;) – Kaizerwolf Jul 26 '17 at 13:13
  • @Kaizerwolf You could have gone all the way and said that it was actually a sneak attack. Since attacking someones back alone gives you no direct bonuses to anything. The sneak attack however can be executed from any side, including the front, and does give you bonus damage and sneak xp. Backstabbing is just a convenient way to say attack their back, because their nonhostility means they wont turn around and see you, letting you get in more than one sneak attack. – Ryan Jul 26 '17 at 15:44
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Falmer are a great target for sneakattacks. They are blind, so only have hearing and collision to detect you. One set of muffled boots later, and you are nigh undetectable.

Once you rack up enough perks in sneaking, you should be able to one-hit any that come on your path, and level pretty quickly.

I leveled from 80 to 100 sneak in one specific area in the Dawnguard dlc:

During the pilgrimage for Auri-el's bow, you pass through a huge cave system and a valley, filled to the brim with Falmer. When going through this place for the quest, I leveled a bunch because of all the sneakattacks I was able to perform effortlessly.

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When you encounter the bear in the opening quest, you can carefully awaken the bear then immediately sneak away and wait for it to sleep again, repeating ad infinitum. In this way, you can leave the cave with a high sneak level. Obviously, this is not the most efficient use of your time ingame or in real life, but it is extremely early on.

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Since I have successfully played through Legendary difficulty from start to finish, I can tell you where to best level Sneak.

First, you need to get a bunch of arrows. Steal the Iron and Steel Ingots from the smith in Riverwood, chop a bunch of wood, and turn them all into arrows. I assume you kept your bow, but if you didn't, steal one.

Next, travel to Bleak Falls Barrow.

When to get to the area with the Wounded Frostbite Spider, turn up the difficulty to Legendary, sneak attack the spider, and retreat after each shot.

In addition to major Sneak skill increase per sneak attack, you also get experience when the enemy is searching for you.

After each shot, retreat to an area the spider cannot see you, and wait for the eye to go back to "Hidden". Each time this happens you'll easily get a level or two of Sneak until about 50ish.

At around 50ish, max out the basic sneak perk, reduce the difficulty, and just sneak attack every enemy you see and it'll naturally reach 100 in no time.

The reason you want to switch to Legendary difficulty is because you don't want to kill that spider by accident.

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If you are honestly just going to grind level 100 sneaking then you might want to consider using console commands. Time is precious and if you want to play with a character that is level 100 then don't waste hours level just console command it to 100.

If you can't abide the idea of using console commands or are actually interested in undertaking the leveling process then in order of most to least immersive (for all of these take the thief sign whilst leveling):

  • Play the game as you want, if you take the Thief sign and sneak attack enemies where possible you'll be surprised how fast you level up. Successful sneak attacks contribute a lot of xp.
  • Sneak permanently (except when in combat) The more you sneak the faster it will level
  • Weight your controller/keyboard or make a macro such that your character is permanently walking backwards in somewhere where people are nearby but you can't be seen. Unused rooms next to bed rooms and corners of dungeons near sleeping drauger seem to work best.
  • Repeatedly sneak attack your tutorial partner in Riverwood or the tutorial. They will not become hostile and cannot die.
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I would walk around in sneak around hostile characters and kill around with a bow in stealth. It should pick up quickly doing that.

  • 1
    Can you please put punctuation in your sentence? I can't understand what you mean. – Fabian Röling Aug 30 '17 at 11:41

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