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 Tactics

Example: A starting Agility of 5.

Sneak only covers sneaking as such, while pickpocketing is covered by the steal skill. In Fallout and Fallout 2 you cannot run and sneak at the same time unless you have the Silent Running perk.

Fallout 3

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

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

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 a player can both sneak and run at the same time (i.e. move faster while crouching) regardless of perks. However, without the Silent Running perk, the player will suffer a detection penalty while running.

Sneak states

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

  • [HIDDEN] means you're 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 you've been detected by one or more friendly 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 you and this will be shown instead of [CAUTION], because they haven't identified you as hostile or a target.
  • [CAUTION] means one or more unfriendly targets are suspicious of your presence and are searching for you. 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 player. Attacking in this state will not cause a sneak-critical hit.
  • [DANGER] means your presence is made known to hostile NPCs, but they do not know your current location. They will actively seek you at or around your last known location. If [DANGER] is flashing, it means that the enemy can currently see you and will engage you. 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 player may still be in the [HIDDEN] state to several targets around them. Essentially, it reports the worst detection state towards the Player of all potential targets. Once all targets that satisfy the most-elevated state are killed (as in you kill everyone actively pursuing you in [DANGER]), the state will revert to the highest remaining state amongst the remaining targets.

Factors in successful sneaking

  • Sneak skill: The sneak skill applies whenever the player crouches. The higher the player's 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 will wrap the user in a cloaking field that makes him or her more difficult to detect while sneaking, rendering the player 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 the player breaks 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 player 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 player through sound.
  • Light level: The player is more difficult to see in dark areas or at night if outdoors. If the Pip-Boy light is active, it will make the player much more visible.
  • Distance: The farther away the player is from the target(s) the less likely he would be detected.
  • Movement: The player is hardest to detect when motionless and easiest to detect when running. You are able to avoid the sound aspect of this by getting the perk Silent Running. Moving faster while within line of sight will still make you easier to spot, but you will no longer get any penalty for movement speed to your sound made. NOTE: Moving the camera (and thus moving your body) counts as movement, but not as much as real movement. If you are in shadows with a direct line of sight to a target not aware of your location, moving the camera may very well cause the target to investigate, or immediately spot you.
  • Contact: Touching or running into targets whilst crouched will immediately alert them to your location. Regardless of how hidden you are, if you bump into a target, friendly or otherwise, you will immediately be detected. 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 your footstep noise louder for non-player characters. Silent Running removes this penalty entirely, allowing you full sneaking ability in any equipment. You will still hear your footsteps while sneaking with the perk, but non-player characters never will.
  • Sound: Most guns make noise. Louder guns make you easier to detect. The silenced 10mm pistol, BB gun, dart gun, Infiltrator, Perforator, 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 do not make a noise at your location. Hitting but not killing an enemy with silent weapons still causes a CAUTION alert. All other weapons will most likely be heard, depending on your distance from the target. Missile launchers and Fat Man units make noise at your location and then at the impact point as well. Oddly enough, your Pip-Boy's radio has no effect on sneaking.

Sneak attacking

Main article: Sneak attack critical
FoT SilentDeath.png

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 kills

  • With the exception of within Fallout: New Vegas, 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.

(Silent) silent kills

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 projectiles

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 weapons

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

¹Damage calculated with Xenotech Expert
²Damage calculated with the perks Pyromaniac/Xenotech Expert/Both
³Damage 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.

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 weapons

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 damage

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 Vegas

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", pressing the "activate" button while facing a non-player character (when in touching range) will allow you to pickpocket them; in other words, steal items that they are personally "holding." This will open the inventories of both you and your target. Items can be transferred either way, and thus items can also be planted on non-player characters (also known as reverse-pickpocketing).

For each item the player character steals or plants in a non-player character's inventory, there is a chance of being detected (presumably based on the player character's sneak skill, Luck, item weight/value and the non-player character's Perception). 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 he or she was 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 equip that weapon and unequip the melee weapon. Steal the melee weapon and the ammunition you gave them, 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 you to remain 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 you pickpocketing 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 laying in beds may appear to have their back to you and still detect you, this is because as far as the game is concerned they are not facing the way they are laying down, that is merely an animation. To get "behind" an non-player character laying in bed, go to the foot of the bed.

The player can also use pickpocketing offensively to plant a live explosive. This will detonate after a short time, automatically killing the target regardless of the player's explosive 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 he or she recovers.

Stealing Items

Picking up non-player character owned items (ie. items whose text name is red) in the game world while sneaking and [HIDDEN] will allow you to steal items undetected, though karma penalties may still apply.

Sneak-Based Perks

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

Ways to increase Sneak



  • You can use Paralyzing Palm to pickpocket non-player characters regardless of whether they have detected you 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 a player enters third-person perspective, they are able to peek around corners without being seen. This minor trick 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 you may accidentally step on a tripwire, pressure plate or landmine. This can be avoided with the Light Step perk, or having high enough sneak and a stealth field to counteract the effects of your pip-boy light being turned on.
  • The player can pickpocket in plain sight if the victim is fleeing.
  • It is not a hostile act to look in peoples pockets or look in an owned container and not take anything. This can be useful if the player changes their mind about pickpocketing or stealing.
  • You can use barrels, boxes and other objects to block npc 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 you steal from shop owners cannot be sold back to the original shop, but will not be removed from your inventory if you try to do so. The items can be sold to any other shop.
  • Stealing from "good" or "neutral" characters will always result in a karma loss. Stealing from "evil" characters will sometimes affect your karma, and sometimes it will not. An example of an evil character from which you can steal without losing karma is Smiling Jack in Evergreen Mills, and Eulogy Jones in Paradise Falls. Some examples of evil characters that will negatively affect your karma when stolen from are the cannibals of Andale and the Chinese soldiers of various rank found in the Operation: Anchorage DLC simulation.
  • You can create a stealth field in the console by using the command player.setAV Chameleon xx. This is the same way the player 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 player on-screen, but the effect persists.

Fallout: New Vegas

Sneak in quests and exploration

  • 25 Sneak can be used to convince Trudy to fight the Powder Gangers as an alternative to 25 Speech.
  • 50 Sneak is required to smuggle improved holdout weapons into New Vegas Casinos as well as the interrogation room at Camp McCarran.
  • 50 Sneak is required to convince Mr. Holdout to sell you improved holdout weapons.
  • 75 Sneak is needed to convince Father Elijah that hiding in the Sierra Madre is easy, and effectively get him to come down into the Sierra Madre Vault. Dead Money

Ways to increase Sneak


Sneak-based perks

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


  • When pickpocketing, any spent ammunition casings (e.g. Case 9mm, Drained microfusion cell, etc.) can be pickpocketed with no chance of failure and no karma loss. (Note: this does not count as a 'picked pocket' for any achievements)
  • You can pick up keys and cards easily, and stealing some of the keys will not make you lose karma.
  • A failed pickpocketing attempt is not guaranteed to reveal you to an enemy, but it can.
  • When hidden by a Stealth Boy in enemy territory you can pickpocket them.
  • Stealing ammunition will cause a non-player character to unequip their weapon, 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.) you can easily steal it by pressing the grab key and taking it somewhere out of sight. NPCs do not perceive grabbing as stealing so they will not react unless when you steal it you are still in their sight.
  • If you have more sneak than 100 it will cap at 100, but in subtotal it will be at your current skill level. Ex: The PC is at 109 - the environment, let's said 10, = 99. [verification needed]



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

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