Planting items, also referred to as reverse-pickpocketing and the Shady Sands Shuffle, is the technique of giving items to NPCs through the usual pickpocket interface. This is performed by pickpocketing an NPC, then adding, rather than removing, from its inventory. As with pickpocketing, this action can be detected and prevented.
Fallout and Fallout 2
Item planting plays a minor role in these games, particularly in Adytum in Fallout. By planting items, the Adytowners (or any other non-hostile NPC) can be equipped with weapons to revolt against the Regulators. Certain NPCs are unable to use certain types of weapons (due to lacking sprites for specific weaponry), so it is necessary to plant appropriate weapon types. Arming NPCs via reverse-pickpocketing is possible in any area with non-hostile NPCs, but its usefulness is limited by the few areas with opposing NPCs.
Reverse-pickpocketing explosives will make an NPC explode according to the timer. This will turn nearby NPCs hostile, even if not having been caught doing anything. If the first explosion did not kill the NPC outright, it will turn hostile. Killing an NPC in this way can often make the game crash.
Reverse-pickpocketing is the only way to sneak-attack using explosives, as deploying and dropping armed bombs will cause hostility. If a bomb cannot be planted without being detected, it can be planted on another NPC near the target, or in a container, making sure the blast is lethal to the intended target, or that the NPC is standing in front of a wall.
When planting a bomb on an NPC, do not save the game before it explodes. Doing so will corrupt the file, making it impossible to load as a result.
In Fallout 3, pickpocketing and reverse-pickpocketing of non-Evil NPCs drains Karma, but the technique can be used to obtain weapons and armor currently equipped by essential or otherwise important NPCs.
Planting for exploding pants
An explosive device, such as a frag grenade, frag mine, plasma grenade or pulse variant, can be planted on an NPC via pickpocketing. The explosive will then appear as "Live," and cannot subsequently be removed or used by the NPC. Immediately after closing the inventory window, the target will become aware of the planted explosive and panic, slowing or stopping movement and sometimes looking around (possibly catching the pickpocket if nearby), before exploding. This will always kill the NPC, regardless of health or the Explosives skill. This action will gain some bad Karma, except for super mutants and other non-human NPCs. Once the explosive is in an NPCs pocket, anything in their inventory can be taken without being caught.
Reverse-pickpocketing explosives should be performed at a maximum possible distance to allow moving out of the blast radius, or by using a pulse explosive which does minimal damage to the player character. This technique is best performed on seated NPCs, as they will not have time to get up or run around, and it is easier to remain undetected so that friendly NPCs do not turn hostile.
Children cannot be injured or killed in Fallout 3, and reverse-pickpocketing an explosive will simply add it to their inventory.
The famous adventurer sidekick Argyle was adept at this maneuver. According to the "Daring" Dashwood radio plays on Galaxy News Radio, the ghoul once saved Dashwood and Penelope Chase by planting a grenade on a threatening super mutant. He referred to it as "the Shady Sands Shuffle" and claimed that it "takes me back," suggesting he had used it before.
Planting items to obtain gear
Some very powerful and unique gear can only be obtained by reverse-pickpocketing. To make an NPC switch armor, an item that occupies the same slot must be reverse-pickpocketed onto the NPC (e.g. metal helmet to obtain hat and glasses, or raider blastmaster helmet to obtain just the hat, not glasses). Upon the next cell reload, (which can be triggered by waiting a few in-game hours, exiting and entering an area, or otherwise passing through a load screen), they will equip the replacement item, putting the target item into their inventory. The desired item can then be pickpocketed as normal.
If the autosave option is on, a particularly easy way to trigger a cell reload is to leave the cell (area), forcing an autosave, immediately load that autosave and turn right back around and re-enter the original cell. This ensures that the character pickpocketed will be in the same spot as when last they were seen.
Reverse-pickpocketed armor must have a higher DR value than the target item for the AI to equip it. That means that NPCs cannot wear sexy sleepwear if they have armor with a higher DR value equipped. (PC users have console commands to get around this limitation. See Mesmetron for non-quest NPC alternatives.)
Reverse-pickpocketed weapons usually must have higher DMG/DPR, although this may vary from NPC to NPC depending on their skill levels and other factors.
The NPC will switch armor/weapons after leaving the area for a long time, or leaving the area and saving, then returning to the area with the NPC again.
By reverse-pickpocketing a radiation suit, NPCs can be made to place masks, glasses, and other headgear in their inventory without changing their worn armor. This works even if the worn armor has a higher DR than the radiation suit, and usually works even if the DR is lower than the one of the radiation suit. This method is particularly useful for obtaining Three Dog's, Lucas Simms', or Sonora Cruz's unique headwear without giving them another piece of equipment or forcing them to wear other armor. The radiation suit can then be re-planted for no Karma loss, making the NPC wear their original headgear again.
Items that are not available through other means:
- Initiating dialogue while having planted an explosive on an NPC works even while they are frantically searching for the explosive.
- Reverse-pickpocketing a friendly NPC will drain in Karma, even if the intent may be beneficial (such as giving them stronger armor, a more powerful weapon, or caps).
- This technique can be used to make any NPC in the game (except those that cannot use armor, such as super mutants) wear the most powerful armor, such as power armor, since no characters, not even children, need Power Armor Training (Fallout 3 & New Vegas). This can be useful during the quest Big Trouble in Big Town and other quests where areas or characters have to be protected.
- When planting armor on a child, even Tesla armor, it adjusts to an appropriate size when equipped.
- The Paralyzing Palm perk can be used to pickpocket a character without alarming other characters around.
Fallout: New Vegas
Planting for exploding pants
By remaining hidden for the full duration of the reverse-pickpocket action and subsequent NPC panic, the attack is considered stealthy; no friendly NPCs will turn hostile and no infamy will be gained.
As in Fallout 3, there are some exceptions - killing important faction NPCs such as Caesar, Lucius, or Ambassador Crocker in this manner will always be considered murder and award appropriate faction Infamy.
All exploding pants kills count as normal kills with the currently-equipped weapon type, and count towards the associated weapon type achievements.
Planting for defense
This tactic is less useful than in Fallout 3 as none of the towns or wandering merchants are near particularly dangerous spawns.
However, it is sometimes useful to plant superior armor on Jerry the Punk, who wanders inside the Red Rock Canyon training arena set up by the Great Khans. His pathing often takes him near the generic Great Khan NPCs attacking the training dummies, sometimes getting hit and killed after repeated blows. This can cause some difficulty when attempting to complete Cry Me a River.
Planting to obtain gear
- Pick-pocketing La Longue Carabine is difficult, as any item with a value of 190 caps or more will only have a 5% chance of success, even with 100 Sneak or with using a Stealth Boy.
- Shooting their weapon in VATS then holstering before the NPC goes hostile helps. The less value their weapon has, the easier it is to pickpocket it (especially if it is broken).
Most NPCs, excluding companions (but not the NCR radio companions), will NOT consume consumables from their inventory when they should. This means that their regular ammo can be stolen, and have one max charge/magnum/AP round planted and they will fire improved ammo indefinitely. This also applies to automated healing items (auto-stim, auto-superstim, snakebite tourniquet). This can be used quite easily in favor if the need is to win a faction battle without fighting, or if the NCR emergency radio is available for use.
While reverse-pickpocketing is still allowed in Fallout 4, live explosives can only be planted on enemies once the Pickpocket perk has reached level 2. Other than that, the mechanics are similar to those of Fallout 3.
It is the only way to give items to junkyard dogs who, unlike Dogmeat, do not have a trading system similar to settlers and companions that can be used to equip items.
Item planting is also possible in Fallout Tactics. Only explosives with a timer such as dynamite or plastique can be planted, but not the remote detonator trap which needs a detonator (once the frequency is set, the trap is automatically laid on the ground). To plant an explosive, a player must take it in a hand, set the timer, then take it back to their inventory and plant it in the NPC's inventory via pickpocketing.
- Galaxy News Radio (radio)#Super Mutant Mayhem!
- fPickPocketMaxChance=85 and fPickPocketMinChance=5