Icon disambig
For the perk in Fallout 4, see Sneak (perk).
Quiet movement, and the ability to remain unnoticed. If successful, you will be much harder to locate. You cannot run and sneak at the same time.— In-game description

Sneak is a Fallout, Fallout 2, Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas, Fallout Tactics, Van Buren, J.E. Sawyer's Fallout Role-Playing Game and Lionheart skill.

Fallout, Fallout 2 and Fallout TacticsEdit

  • Fallout:
$ \text{Initial level}\%=25+\text{Agility} $
  • Fallout 2 and Fallout Tactics:
$ \text{Initial level}\%=5+\text{Agility}\times3 $

Sneak only covers sneaking as such, while pickpocketing is covered by the Steal skill. In Fallout and Fallout 2, one cannot run and sneak at the same time without the Silent Running perk.

How close one can sneak to a target before detected depends on a combination of several factors:

  • Target's Perception statistic
  • Sneaking character's Sneak skill
  • Sneaking character's stance plays a much smaller role than the above 2 factors (Fallout Tactics)
  • The light level from the day/night cycle plays a small factor too, but again a much smaller one than the Perception statistic and the Sneak skill

The facing of the target does not matter at all. The target character can detect equally well in all directions even directly behind him.

Fallout 3Edit

$ \text{Initial level}=2+(2\times\text{Agility})+\left\lceil\frac{\text{Luck}}{2}\right\rceil $

Example: A starting Agility of 5 and Luck of 5.

$ 2+(2\times5)+\left\lceil\frac{5}{2}\right\rceil=15 $

Sneaking may be one of the most important skills in Fallout 3 for certain characters. Sneaking up on a target allows the player character to get closer, allowing them to avoid taking damage for the longest time possible, and maximizing the damage potential through the use of "sneak-attacks." Sneaking increases the chance to loot and steal, and allows the ability to avoid some undesired confrontations, thus working as an offensive and defensive skill.

Unlike its predecessors, in Fallout 3 characters can both sneak and run at the same time (i.e. move faster while crouching) regardless of perks. However, without the Silent Running perk, they will suffer a detection penalty while running.

Sneak statesEdit

Bobblehead Sneak

"The safest distance between two points is a shadowy line."

The sneaking state is displayed while crouching, and alerts the player character to detection and possible detection.

  • [HIDDEN] means being undetected. In this state, attacking a target guarantees the sneak attack critical bonus, pickpocketing is available, and it is safe to steal, lockpick, or otherwise access "owned" property.
  • [DETECTED] means being in sight by one or more targets. Pickpocketing is enabled, but almost always fails. Attempting to steal, lockpick, or otherwise access "owned" property will fail, and may result in friendlies turning hostile or confiscating stolen goods. Sometimes an unfriendly target will see it and this will be shown instead of [CAUTION], because they haven't identified one as hostile or a target.
  • [CAUTION] means one or more unfriendly targets are suspicious of presence and are searching for the character. After a time the enemy will dismiss the disruption and the state will return to [HIDDEN]. Pickpocketing is disabled for the enemy searching for the PC. Attacking in this state will not cause a sneak-critical hit.
  • [DANGER] means hostile NPCs are aware of one's presence, but they do not know the current location. They will actively search at or around last known location. If [DANGER] is flashing, it means that the enemy has the PC in sight and will engage them. The state can be returned to [HIDDEN] by moving away and staying out of sight for a long period of time. Note: As soon as the conditions are satisfied for any state it replaces the one above it on the HUD even though the PC may still be in the [HIDDEN] state to several targets around them. Essentially, it reports the worst detection state towards the character of all potential targets. Once all targets that satisfy the most-elevated state are dead (as in killing everyone actively pursuing the target in [DANGER]), the state will revert to the highest remaining state amongst the remaining targets.

Factors in successful sneakingEdit

  • Sneak skill: The sneak skill applies whenever the player character crouches. The higher the Sneak skill, the easier it is to remain undetected while attacking, stealing, or picking someone’s pocket.
  • Cloaking fields: The Stealth Boy and Chinese stealth armor Gametitle-FO3 OA will wrap the user in a cloaking field that makes them more difficult to detect while sneaking, rendering the character virtually undetectable by visual sighting. The stealth field effect is extremely powerful, and its value matters very little, so the Chinese stealth armor's stealth field of 5 works almost (but not quite) as well as the Stealth Boy's 75. It should be noted that this field only increases one's sneaking ability, and the field will be negated if leaving sneak mode in any conventional manner, such as firing a loud gun, since the cloaking field does not mask sound-based detection. The stealth suit only has a +15 Sneak versus the Stealth Boy's +100, but its effects are not limited by time. Cloaking can also be stacked, so the stealth armor and Stealth Boy can give a PC a combined field of 80.
  • Enemy's Perception: Enemies with low Perception are easier to sneak around than enemies with high Perception. A target's Perception will be impaired (a -4 reduction) if they have a crippled head.
  • Line of sight: While out of sight an enemy can only detect the target through sound.
  • Light level: The target is more difficult to see in dark areas or at night if outdoors. If the Pip-Boy light is active, it will give away the position.
  • Distance: The farther away the target is from the seeker(s) the less likely they would be detected.
  • Movement: The player character is hardest to detect when motionless and easiest to detect when running. One can avoid the sound aspect of this by the Silent Running perk. Moving faster while within line of sight will still make it easier to be seen, but one will no longer get any penalty for movement speed to sound made. NOTE: Looking around counts as movement, but not as much as movement over ground. If standing in shadows with a direct line of sight to a target not aware of the location, looking around may very well make the target investigate, or immediately end with getting one found.
  • Contact: Touching or running into targets while crouched will immediately alert them of position. Regardless of how hidden one is, bumping into a target, friendly or otherwise, will immediately result in detection. This also applies to robots that have been deactivated using the Robotics Expert perk.
  • Equipped weight: The total weight of all equipped items (weapons count only if they are in your hands) makes footstep volume louder for non-player characters. Silent Running removes this penalty entirely, allowing full sneaking ability in any equipment. The footsteps are still audible while sneaking with the perk, but non-player characters will not hear it.
  • Sound: Most guns make noise. Louder guns makes one easier to detect. The silenced 10mm pistol, BB gun, dart gun, Infiltrator Gametitle-FO3 TP, Perforator Gametitle-FO3 TP, all melee weapons and all unarmed weapons are considered entirely silent, and thus will not break sneak mode. Grenades will also not break sneak mode, as they only make a noise at where they explode. Hitting but not killing an enemy with silent weapons still causes a [CAUTION] alert. All other weapons will most likely be heard, depending on one's distance from the target. Missile launchers and Fat Man units make noise at the location and then at the impact point as well. Oddly enough, the Pip-Boy's radio has no effect on sneaking.
  • Dead Bodies: When an enemy spots the dead body of another enemy, it will often enter the [CAUTION] state and move toward the dead body. This can often create a more or less perpetual [CAUTION] state while the player remains in the area. If a dead enemy can be grabbed and dragged out of the way before its friends find it, this can help the player retain the hidden state.

Sneak attackingEdit

Main article: Sneak attack critical
FoT SilentDeath

A Sneak Attack Critical occurs in Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas, Fallout 4, and Fallout 76 when attacking while [HIDDEN]. Successfully hitting the target will result in a guaranteed critical strike (unless the weapon does not allow critical hits), while at the same time doubling (ranged) or quintupling (melee/unarmed) total damage.

(Loud) silent killsEdit

  • It is possible to kill an enemy without alerting those around them if the "sneak" critical is also a one-hit-kill, even with loud weapons like the assault rifle.
  • Additional attacks after the first will not be treated as sneak attacks if queued in V.A.T.S. They will reveal the attacker's location to the target and possibly other enemies. This can happen with all weapons except silent weapons like the silenced 10mm pistol, dart gun, BB gun, Perforator or infiltrator which have a reduced chance to alert opponents.
  • Two weapons suggested for this kind of situation are the Victory rifle or the Gauss rifle. Because the hit was a critical, the opponent will be knocked down and immobilized for a few seconds, giving a chance to quickly deliver a few headshots or follow up with something powerful and then hide until the others stop searching.

(Silent) silent killsEdit


A Sneak Attack using a silenced weapon and a cloaking field.

  • It has been reported that all melee attacks are considered silent. However, in the intimate proximity required to deliver a melee attack, the transition to [CAUTION] almost instantly proceeds to [DANGER] as the opponent is programmed to turn around and start moving in the direction of where the attack came from, looking for the enemy in [CAUTION] mode. The instant the enemy spots the attacker, it goes directly into [DANGER] mode which alerts all nearby creatures, even its own enemies. Occasionally, this will result in the enemy that spotted the attacker being attacked by another that was formerly unaware of the first enemy's presence.
  • Still, it is possible to get in 2-3 melee attacks without alerting the whole room. If the stalker sneaks up in back of one of the more lumbering creatures, it is possible it will not turn around fast enough. Note: It will take a Stealth Boy, Chinese stealth armor or the Silent Running perk with maxed skill to get that close.
  • This is quite unlike sneak attacks with a dart gun, with which someone can dart an enemy three times in one use of V.A.T.S. and then just sit still, hiding in the dark a good distance away, only under a temporary [CAUTION] while the enemy searches (slowly, with crippled legs) and then hopefully drops dead from poison, its death setting the status back to [HIDDEN]. Enemies shot with a silent weapon still have some clue as to what direction the shot came from, and will search for the source.
  • The behavior of enemies seems to follow this pattern: if a noise is heard (e.g. dart impacting a wall), they will run to that location, patrol briefly then go back to [HIDDEN]. If the enemy is hit directly, they run to the attacker's location and briefly patrol the general area unless the location is quite a bit away, in which case they will go for a short jog in that direction then return to [HIDDEN]. There is only one exception to the noise-rule: if it is made by an approaching grenade, the enemy will be alerted unless V.A.T.S. is engaged, in which case the enemy in question will scream about the grenade but it WILL count as a sneak attack (this has no effect however as grenades do not have critical damage). Sometimes, enemies remain in [CAUTION] for quite long even if the offender vacates the area.
    • In Fallout: New Vegas, some of the enemies (mostly wildlife) can become repeatedly alerted by the presence of recently killed bodies in their sight, even if the kills are made with a silenced weapon, which renders repeated sneak attacks difficult.

Sneak Criticals & slow projectilesEdit

Certain weapons, like the microwave emitter, have relatively slow projectiles. Outside of V.A.T.S., this may sometimes give away the attacker's position before the shot reaches the target, nullifying the Sneak Attack Critical bonus. For that reason, it is important to be close to the target before trying to Sneak Attack Critical, if using these weapons.

Choice weaponsEdit

The best weapons for sneak attacks are the ones with the highest critical damage bonus (affected by +50% damage Better Criticals perk). Here is a number of weapons from Fallout 3 with big bonuses. The number marked in bold is the critical damage when the Better Criticals perk is taken.

^ Damage calculated with Xenotech Expert

" Damage calculated with the perks Pyromaniac/Xenotech Expert/Both

Damage calculated if the weapon is fired outside of V.A.T.S., and all pellets make contact. (See below).

Sneak Attack targeting in V.A.T.S.Edit

For most creatures in the game, a sneak attack headshot, along with the Better Criticals perk, can be an instant one-shot kill on Normal difficulty or lower. Even the low-damage dart gun can kill raiders with one sneak attack headshot. In some cases, however, it may not be possible to line up a headshot on a target, due to the target facing an unfavorable position or an obstructed line of fire.

In these cases, even a sneak attack critical on an arm or leg can prove fatal to the target. Though results may vary based on the player character's skills and perks, it is possible to shoot off a target's limb (an instant kill) with one shot from a sniper rifle.

Multi-shot weaponsEdit

Weapons that fire several "shots" at the same time, such as combat shotguns (and The Terrible Shotgun), Metal Blaster (from The Pitt), Protectron's Gaze, the tri-beam laser rifle (from Broken Steel), and Paulson's revolver (from Mothership Zeta) are some of the most effective weapons for sneak attacks (when done outside of V.A.T.S.). This is due to the fact that outside of V.A.T.S., each of the weapons' shots' critical damage is calculated individually. This aspect makes these weapons very effective in sneak attacks (and regular critical hits). With the right addition of perks, such as Better Criticals and Finesse, these weapons will be able to deal large damage consistently.

Calculating the weapon's damageEdit

The Terrible Shotgun is the best example for this concept. While in perfect condition, and with a Small Guns skill of 100, the weapon deals 80 damage, with an extra 40 damage for critical hits. However, this weapon fires 9 pellets. Because of this, when the weapon is fired outside of V.A.T.S. and scores a critical hit, the critical hit for each pellet is counted individually. This means that (if all pellets make contact), the weapon will deal 440 damage (80 base damage, plus 9 extra 40 critical damages). While sneaking, this damage is doubled, increasing it to 880 points of damage. In addition, if the attacker has the Better Criticals perk, the damage will increase to 1,240. If the damage is further increased via a headshot, then that damage doubles again to 2,480. High enough to instantly kill almost anything in the game with a single shot.

In Fallout: New VegasEdit

In Fallout: New Vegas, most multi-shot weapons have had their crit damage significantly reduced. As mentioned, in Fallout 3, The Terrible Shotgun has a base damage of 80 and a crit damage of 40. Compare to the riot shotgun in Lonesome Road, base 75 damage, but only 10 crit damage. Thus, on a full 7-pellet-hit SAC, the total damage is 75 base + 70 critical = 145 total x 2 SAC multiplier = 290. This is still enough to kill most enemies outright, but is significantly less than the previously illustrated 880 from the Terrible Shotgun.

However, this also has the side-effect of lowering non-SAC critical damage, and more significantly V.A.T.S. criticals and SACs with multi-shot weapons. Because each pellet will only add 10 damage if it crits, in V.A.T.S., a regular crit will only do 75 + 10 = 85 for a normal crit, or 170 SAC damage. These changes make crit % increases somewhat under-valued for characters using multi-shot weaponry.


  • As long as a [HIDDEN] (or [HIDDEN], depending on the default color of the HUD) message is on the screen, any shot fired, in real time or in V.A.T.S., will result in a critical hit. Free-hand shots will result in criticals as well, which is especially useful with low-spread weapons like the sniper rifle or scoped .44 Magnum when targets are too far away to get a good percentage in V.A.T.S.
  • Even if the message does NOT state [HIDDEN] (i.e, it states [DETECTED], [CAUTION], [DANGER]), it will still count as a sneak attack critical as long as the target has not detected the attacker. This even applies when the target is engaged in combat with someone's companions.
  • CRIT DMG is actually the amount of damage added to the attack when scoring an "ordinary" critical strike. The more specialized ranged Sneak Attack Critical deals two times the total damage normally dealt with a critical strike. Example: If a Lincoln's repeater would deal 100 damage in a critical (50 regular DMG, +50 of the critical DMG), in a Sneak Attack Critical it would deal 200 DMG. This final 200 DMG considers an opponent with no DR.
  • The Sneak Attack Critical multiplier does not affect AoE damage.


While sneaking and [HIDDEN] using the "activate" function while facing a non-player character (when in touching range) will allow pickpocketing them; in other words, steal items that they are personally "holding." This will open the inventories of both the player character and the target. Items can be transferred either way, and thus items can also be planted on them (also known as reverse-pickpocketing, or the "Shady Sands Shuffle").

For each item the player character steals or plants in a non-player character's inventory, there is a chance of being detected, with the formula being:

$ 40+(0.6\times\text{Player Sneak})-\left\lceil\frac{\text{Item Value}}{2}\right\rceil-(0.6\times\text{Target NPC Sneak})=\text{Success Chance} $[1]

Since item value affects the overall chance of pickpocketing, this can lead to unusual situations where a full set of power armor in nearly-broken condition may have a higher chance of being taken than a well-maintained 9mm pistol. Additionally, the maximum and minimum chance of a successful pickpocket attempt is capped at 85% and 5% respectively. This means any item with a value of 190 caps or more will only have a 5% chance of success, even with 100 Sneak skill or with using a Stealth Boy.[2]

If detected, the non-player character will automatically reclaim the item(s) taken and the player character will not be able to pickpocket that non-player character again (at least not straight away - leaving the area and returning 24 hours later should allow the player character to re-attempt this).

The player character cannot steal items a non-player character currently has equipped. To steal an item the non-player character is wearing or using (armor or weapon), the player character can reverse-pickpocket a better item (higher DR for armor, higher damage value for weapons) into their inventory and then leave and re-enter the area. The non-player character will equip the item with the highest stats and then the player character may try to steal the item they were using before. For melee weapons, reverse-pickpocket a better ranged weapon onto the non-player character along with the appropriate ammunition. When the non-player character is reloaded, it will instead equip that new weapon. Steal the melee weapon and the ammunition they were given, and reload the non-player character. The non-player character will be unarmed and the player character can steal the ranged weapon back. Keep in mind that just because the player character can do more damage with a specific ranged weapon doesn't mean that the non-player character will (usually but not always). Experiment to get the desired effect.

Successfully stealing the ammunition from an non-player character with a gun equipped will immediately render that non-player character unable to fire their gun. The amount of ammunition an non-player character is carrying will not match the amount they could fire if not pickpocketed (which is actually unlimited as long as they have 1 round for that weapon); this discrepancy can be attributed to gameplay purposes. This tactic can be used to influence the outcome of both non-player character/PC and non-player character/Non-player character conflicts. Concerning non-player character/Non-player character conflicts, this allows remaining non-hostile to non-player characters on both sides of a conflict (by not needing to intervene with gunfire) while still ensuring victory for one side or another. Mind that after some time, possibly the general respawn period of 72h game time, ammunition will be restored on NPCs.

Non-player characters will notice the pickpocketing of other non-player characters, hence the [DETECTED] sneak state, but in large open areas one can maneuver into gaps or around corners to avoid line-of-sight and return to [HIDDEN]. Non-player characters lying in beds may appear to have their back in one's direction, but still have one in sight, this is because as far as the game is concerned they are not facing the way they are lying down, that is merely an animation. To get "behind" an non-player character lying in bed, go to the foot or head of the bed.

The player character can also use pickpocketing offensively to plant a live explosive. This will detonate after a short time, automatically killing the target regardless of the PC's Explosives skill or the target's health or resistances.

The Mothership Zeta add-on added another way to pickpocket a friendly non-player character. Reverse-pickpocket a cryo mine or cryo grenade onto the non-player character. After exiting the pickpocket menu, the cryo charge will go off but only stun or knockdown the non-player character. The non-player character can then be pickpocketed like any disabled target, with the exception that the non-player character won't turn hostile when they recover.

Stealing itemsEdit

Picking up non-player character-owned items (i.e. items whose text name is red) in the game world while sneaking and [HIDDEN] will allow stealing items undetected, though Karma penalties may still apply.

Sneak-based perksEdit

Perk Requirement Level Additional Requirements
Mister Sandman 60 10 -
Silent Running 50 12 Agility 6
Ninja 80 20 Melee Weapons 80

Ways to increase SneakEdit



  • Using the Paralyzing Palm, one can pickpocket non-player characters regardless of whether being detected or not. Thus even an alert, attacking enemy can be paralyzed and robbed.
  • Pickpocketing from "good" or "neutral" characters will result in a karma loss.
  • Though silenced guns make no noise, if they impact near a target, they will investigate the impact site as if they're trying to figure out where it came from. Using this, one can easily lure enemies towards traps or other dangers or away from places they're guarding.
  • It should be noted that when entering third-person perspective, one can peek around corners without being seen. This minor exploit can be useful sometimes when sneaking to see what type of enemies are around corners or if there are any traps.
  • Be careful when sneaking in dark areas or at night, as it is possible to accidentally step on a tripwire, pressure plate or landmine. This can be avoided with the Light Step perk, or having a high enough Sneak skill and a stealth field to counteract the effects of the Pip-Boy light being turned on.
  • The player character can pickpocket in plain sight if the victim is "fleeing."
  • It is not a hostile act to look in people's pockets or look in an owned container and not take anything. This can be useful if having second thoughts about pickpocketing or stealing.
  • Barrels, boxes and other objects can be used to block NPC's line of sight. This is particularly effective in Megaton due to its numerous barrels.
  • The PC can "grab" an item (gun, chem, food, etc.) by clicking the right thumb stick (Z key on the PC) and then carry it to a secluded area and then steal it.
  • Items stolen from shop owners cannot be sold back to the original shop, but will not be removed from inventory if trying to do so. The items can be sold at any other shop.
  • Stealing from "good" or "neutral" characters will always result in a Karma loss. Stealing from "evil" characters will sometimes affect karma, and sometimes not. An example of an evil character from which one can steal from without losing karma is Smiling Jack in Evergreen Mills, and Eulogy Jones in Paradise Falls. Some examples of evil characters that will negatively affect karma when stolen from are the cannibals of Andale and the Chinese soldiers of various rank found in the Operation: Anchorage DLC simulation.
  • A stealth field can be created through the console by using the command player.setAV Chameleon xx. This is the same way the character is cloaked in the Elder Scrolls series, which also uses the Gamebryo engine. Unlike in the Elder Scrolls, Chameleon does not create any visual effect on the PC on-screen, but the effect persists.

Fallout: New VegasEdit

Most aspects of the Sneak skill are the same as for Fallout 3 above. This includes the initial statistic, the sneak meter, stealing and pickpocketing, and Sneak Attack Criticals. Exceptions and new aspects are described below.

Sneak in quests and explorationEdit

Sneak-based perksEdit

Perk Requirement Level Additional Requirements
Friend of the Night 30 2 Perception 6
The Professional 70 6
Mister Sandman 60 10
Silent Running 50 12 Agility 6
Ninja 80 20 Melee Weapons 80

Ways to improve SneakEdit



  • Items without weight or value, such as spent ammunition casings (e.g. Case 9mm, Drained microfusion cell, etc.) can be pickpocketed without a chance of failure or karma loss, although this does not count as a "Picked Pocket" for any achievements. Many keys and cards also fall in this category.
  • For items with weight or value, a pickpocket attempt has a minimum chance to succeed of 5% and a maximum chance of 85%.
  • A failed pickpocketing attempt is not guaranteed to turn NPCs hostile, but it is possible.
  • When hidden by a Stealth Boy in enemy territory, they can be pickpocketed.
  • Stealing ammunition will make a non-player character unequip their weapon due to not having the ammunition for it, allowing even that to be stolen.
  • If an item is in a difficult spot to steal but is not in an inventory of some kind (wardrobe, desk, person, etc.), one can easily steal it by the "Grab" function and taking it somewhere out of sight. NPCs do not perceive grabbing as stealing so they will not react unless when stealing the item the player character is still in their sight.
  • With a high enough sneak, Ranger Ghost at the Mojave Outpost will comment that she didn't hear you come up the ramp.


The "Sneak" skill has no difference in effect from 50 - 100. Only factors are the amount of light, running (pre-perk), stepping on some obstacles, and line of sight. [verified]


Lionheart Sneak

Sneak determines your character's ability to sneak around without being detected.


  1. Breakdown of Pickpocketing in Fallout 3 and New Vegas
  2. fPickPocketMaxChance=85 and fPickPocketMinChance=5
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