The Elder Scrolls has always placed the dark underbelly of society on full display. And for many a player, there's always been something so appealing about joining that dark side, whether as trained assassins or stealthy thieves.

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And indeed, many of the Thieves Guild quest lines — Skyrim's included — are among the most unique, fun, and beloved by many a fan of the franchise. But when it comes to thieving, not every race players can be are suited for a life of larceny. And so, these are the best and worst races to play as a thief.


Avoid - Altmer/High Elf

As the most magically gifted race of Tamriel, High Elves can be surprisingly sneaky, given their high stats in Illusion magic, meaning they have access to spells like Muffle and Invisibility. But make no mistake — just because they can hide well it doesn't mean they're cut out for thievery. They have no skills when it comes to Pickpocketing or Lockpicking, meaning it'll be quite hard to steal without being caught. And to top it all off, their lacking Speech skills also mean that they'll have an equally hard time trying to talk their way out of sticky situations with the guards. So unless players are willing to risk the coin to earn some coin, best to avoid playing as an Altmer thief.


Play - Breton

What Altmer may lack when it comes to basic thievery, Bretons can hopefully compensate. Like their elven counterparts, this human race has fantastic skills in Illusion spells, which can compensate for their lack of natural stealth abilities. Of course, like many magical races, they still greatly lack in Pickpocket and Lockpicking, meaning there's still a good chance they'll be caught performing a five-finger discount.

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But where Altmer have the disadvantage of low Speech skills, Bretons have that advantage. So it may take a ton of effort, skill grinding, and speech checks on guards, but with enough work, any Breton character can rise to the greatest heights of thievery.


Avoid - Nord

When it comes to Nords, they're the inverse of Altmer when it comes to their poor thieving skills. While both lack the ability to Pickpocket or Lockpick, Nords have slightly better charisma and Speech, which can hopefully make up for their abysmal stealth skills. So at the very least, if or when they do get caught, at least they'll be able to smooth-talk their way out of fines or jail time. Of course, if players are patient enough, they can eventually grind up a Nord character to grander levels of larceny, like Brynjolf and many of the Thieves Guild members. But if they want an easier time thieving, it's best to skip Skyrim's native population and try for a better-suited race.


Play - Dunmer/Dark Elf

Dunmer are an interesting magical race in that they do have some natural stealthiness alongside their abilities in Illusion magic. This makes for double the ability to hide in the shadows, which can hopefully make up for their lacking skills in Pickpocket and Lockpicking.

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But if characters like Karliah prove anything, it's that any Dunmer with the right temperance for mischief and larceny can not only rise to the highest ranks of the Thieves Guild but ascend beyond to much greater heights. So definitely consider this elven race when playing as a thief.


Avoid - Imperial

Imperials have no skills in stealth, be it through Sneak or Illusion magic. Indeed, the majority of their skills lay either in physical combat or defensive magic. The only way they could ever be a successful thief is through their Enchanting skills, which can bolster all their weak thieving traits.

But the path of an enchanter can be tedious and/or expensive, as to find all the needed enchantments requires luck on random loot spawns on enemies or dungeons, purchasing them at high prices from vendors (if they even have them), or completing varying quests of varying lengths and difficulties. It'll be a long time before any Imperial character can become a fantastic thief, and that's time that can be saved by playing as better races.


Play - Bosmer/Wood Elf

Bosmers are a unique elven race, given the aptitude for all things stealth over warrior skills or magic. Though their skills do better prepare them for the path of the sniper archer or assassin, players who prefer a less bloody route can easily put their stealthy abilities to use as a plunderer. After all, aside from the fantastic Archery and Sneak skills, they still have decent stats when it comes to Pickpocket and Lockpicking, two skills that are essential for any basic thief.

And these elves will find some companionship among Skyrim's underworld, given characters like Niruin as a fellow thief, or among fences and other associates like Enthir or Galathil. So for those considering any thievery playthrough, definitely keep the Wood Elves in mind.


Avoid - Orsimer/Orc

Skyrim's Orcs share much in common with Imperials regarding their poor aptitude for thieving. All their skills are best built for pure warriors over sneaky thieves, and while they can circumvent this with their adept abilities in Enchanting, it'll be too long and tedious a path to pursue. But what should make them even more unappealing is the loneliness of the path. Indeed, there are no Orcish members of the guild, either as direct membership or its many associates and fences. Being an Orc thief is certainly unique, but uniqueness won't pay off for those aspiring to the heights of great thieves.


Play - Khajiit

The catfolk of Elsweyr have a bad reputation in Skyrim. Unfortunately, it's also a reputation well-earned given their aptitude for stealth. These beastfolk have the highest starting stat for Sneak of all Tamriel's peoples, along with decent stats for Lockpicking and Pickpocket to boot.

Their natural Nighteye ability also makes them better suited to life in the shadows, able to sneak and pluck goods from the dark unseen. And, of course, should players become amicable enough with a certain Khajiit caravan, then all these traveling merchants will be able to fence stolen goods that players have. Thieves are called "cat burglars" for a reason, and playing a Khajiit is a definite must for any pilfering playthrough.


Avoid - Redguard

Redguards are one of Tamriel's many races that lack any stealth abilities, be it from pure skill or magical Illusion. They have no Speech to talk their way out of being caught, and they have no Enchantment abilities to bolster any of these other skills.

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They are at a complete and stark disadvantage should players pursue the path of larceny, compared to all other races. It can be done, of course — Tonilia's membership in the Thieves Guild proves this — but ultimately, it's something that's best left undone compared to all other peoples available to play.


Play - Argonian

Tamriel's second major beastfolk race also faces plenty of hardships within Skyrim's borders. Given their frequent mistreatment, it would only make sense if one turned to crime to support themselves, right? And indeed, Argonians do appear to have a natural aptitude for thievery, given that, aside from their usual stealth stats, they have the highest starting stat in Lockpicking compared to all other races.

So not only will they be able to hide in the shadows to steal, they'll more than likely get away with it, too. And on the slight chance that they fail, their ability to breathe underwater will allow them more options for getaways from pursuing guards, who'd more than likely drown or succumb to slaughterfish before catching the offending Argonian. So definitely keep Tamriel's lizardfolk in mind. They make for some of Skyrim's best thieves.

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Olivia Titus

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Avid reader and passionate writer, with a bit of casual gaming thrown into the mix. Previously worked and/or interned in marketing, teaching, and copy editing, but is mostly educated in the latter and writing. Entering the first stepping stones of a professional writing career, and excited to do so.

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