This is an odd one. Up until the Thalmor Embassy, I was sneaking around happily, getting right up under peoples' noses, all the usual "Skyrim sneaking is broken as heck" stuff.

Then, while I was in the embassy, I noticed that the guards were spotting me easily. The guards inside the embassy spotted me the moment I was in their line of sight. The guards on the way to the interrogation chambers spotted me from clear across the snowy courtyard. Then I got through the next area without being spotted, and easily managed to evade detection while creeping up on people, so I didn't think much more about it.

I've now played a little further into the game, and I'm now absolutely certain that sneak mode is doing nothing to lower my visibility any more. I've done some testing standing at the edge of enemy characters' visibility/hostility ranges, watching them change stance as they see me, shouting insults at me to make me go away, that sort of stuff, and it's clear that my detection distance while sneaking is exactly the same as my detection distance when not sneaking.

I've read about an animation glitch that can lock players into standing mode and that sitting in a chair can break them out of an animation bug. That isn't happening as far as I can tell. Sneak is definitely engaging, the "Hidden" icon appears, the eye opens if I'm seen, my walking speed changes, all of that and if I can get a long bowshot to hit, I'll still get my sneak multiplier.

What I can't do is actually become less visible by sneaking.
I've tried clearing the state by standing, sitting, and using all kinds of interaction objects but no dice. The world of stealth is currently lost to me.

Is this a known bug? Does anyone know of a way to clear this status?

If not, I'm going to have to dump back to an older manual save and that's going o lose six hours of gameplay I'd rather not have to repeat.

EDIT: Actually, thinking back to the events in the Thalmor embassy, I suspect that I might've overflowed my sneak value, sending it to -255, or whatever.

I now remember a moment in the embassy, just after I'd gone through the kitchen and gotten my gear from Malborn, where I was sneaking around upstairs and almost ran into the Thalmor wizard who wanders around that building. I was within a foot or two of him, with him looking directly at me, and he still didn't see me. I wandered away and I think I remember my Sneak skill levelling up again at that point.

I next met the wizard as he was coming back up the stairs and he spotted me from a long way off; at that point, I hadn't started looking for sneaking problems and just shrugged it off, but that was actually a massive change in his behaviour, given that I'd almost smacked into him without being noticed only a minute or two earlier.
Similarly, the guards downstairs began spotting me the moment I walked into their lines of sight. The thing is, I had avoided their gazes completely up until that point, so it was the first time they could have seen me, so I assumed it was simply a feature of the mission (given that many points are made in conversation about the need for stealth and secrecy).

I'm off to work now, but I'll test things again when I get home.
I suspect that I'll find that night doesn't help me at all (because my sneak value will still be deep in the negatives), but throwing on a suit of heavy armour will probably reduce my sneaking skill enough that my effective sneaking value flows back under the overflow point and I'll start sneaking properly again.

I'll report back later.

  • Is this on PC or console?
    – Ben
    Commented Dec 3, 2018 at 23:29
  • Oh, PC. My bad. I mean, I'm running a shedload of mods so unless this is a known issue I'm not really hoping for much but I figured I should ask before trashing 6 hours of play.
    – Frosty840
    Commented Dec 3, 2018 at 23:31
  • All good :) it just helps to clarify, since now we can include commands in our answers!
    – Ben
    Commented Dec 3, 2018 at 23:33
  • When you were testing this, was it in broad daylight, or at night? Also, have you recently acquired heavier armor, or made other changes that affect detection?
    – Kevin
    Commented Dec 3, 2018 at 23:56
  • Do you have the mod Enhanced Lights and FX installed? Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 4:26

1 Answer 1


Sneaking is complicated. The following factors are considered:

  • Visibility
    • Line of sight
    • Invisibility (completely eliminates visibility penalty)
    • Light level
  • Noise
    • Movement (doubled for running)
      • Weight of armor
      • Muffle (halves or eliminates movement penalty)
    • Actions such as swinging a weapon (except all daggers) or casting a spell (except with the quiet casting perk)
    • Line of sight
  • Distance (falls off quadratically, detection cuts off outright at 2500 units)
  • Enemy skill level minus your sneak skill.
  • If in sneak mode, the Stealth perk bonus (detection is always active; you can be undetected even if you're not sneaking at all).

The weather is not on this list. Enemies can detect you just as easily in a blizzard as they could on a calm, overcast day (or night). Also, light level has an extremely large effect at the extremes (i.e. in very bright or very dim light), so bright sunlight is not an ideal test condition because you are likely to be detected as soon as you cross the 2500 unit distance threshold, even at very high skill levels. I recommend picking a dimmer location with more reproducible light levels, such as the main hall in Dragonsreach. You can then test detection against Balgruuf or whoever else is in the room, by just looking at the sneak indicator.

A couple of additional things to note about light:

  • Skyrim doesn't know or care about mods that change how light is rendered (e.g. most ENBs). It does know and care about mods that add or remove lightbulbs (e.g. Relighting Skyrim).
  • It may not look like it, but sunlight is far brighter than the brightest parts of most dungeons.

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