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?

  • 1
    I wish. I do the same as you.
    – Kevin D
    Dec 14, 2011 at 17:25
  • 2
    If only it were more like real life!
    – fluffy
    Dec 14, 2011 at 19:50
  • 7
    @fluffy - I think I would prefer real life be more like the game :)
    – Chad
    Dec 14, 2011 at 20:41
  • 3
    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. :) Dec 14, 2011 at 21:42
  • quicksave and fire away! If you get bounty, then quick load.
    – tylerl
    Dec 15, 2011 at 7:29

4 Answers 4


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.

  • 4
    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).
    – Amy B
    Dec 14, 2011 at 18:02
  • 7
    Yes, throw voice is good too. It does not require the silent casting perk.
    – Amy B
    Dec 14, 2011 at 18:13
  • 8
    That errant arrow must've been his imagination
    – agent86
    Dec 14, 2011 at 19:17
  • 6
    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, 2011 at 13:36
  • 8
    too bad the arrow wasn't in the knee
    – Maksim Vi.
    Dec 15, 2011 at 21:54

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.

  • 7
    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, 2011 at 21:24
  • 9
    Aura whisper definitely doesn't. But then it makes sense, everything that moves is deemed as food to a dragon, after all ;)
    – l I
    Dec 14, 2011 at 22:18
  • 5
    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. Dec 14, 2011 at 23:24
  • 1
    @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.
    – Asdafgh
    Dec 16, 2011 at 19:14
  • 3
    The maid isn't so peaceful when she's been singed, unfortunately.
    – Stu Pegg
    Jan 17, 2012 at 13:19

Try the PC console command getav.

In the game, press the backtick key (`) to open the console.

Target an NPC with your mouse, then type this in the console:

getav aggression

It will return a value of 0-2, with 2 being hostile.


Look at the compass at the top of the screen. If you see a red dot, there is a hostile NPC. The red dot will only appear if the hostile NPC or creature detects you. Try to see if you're detected by looking a at the crosseye at the center to the screen. It will appear when you're sneaking. if the eye is wide, your detected. if it's slightly, It's searching for you. If the eye is shut, you're undetedcted.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .