Stealth is one of the three specializations in Morrowind, and contains the skills suitable for thief-type characters. Stealth provides a lot of opportunities to bypass face to face combat, and also ways to explore the world without the focus of combat or magic.
Like the other two specializations, nine skills fall under stealth.
All stealth skills and the attributes they fall under can be found on the Skills page.
Most of these skills fall under two main attributes: Speed and Agility. These attributes combined are extremely useful in avoiding damage from enemies and escaping rough situations. Agility affects your proficiency in both Security and Acrobatics, although neither skill is governed by Agility, and Sneak; your Speed only affects how fast you can move. Since only five of the nine stealth skills fall under Agility and Speed, picking these as your "favored" attributes for a stealthy character is not as necessary as with other specializations. Another attribute that could be considered stealth related is Personality, though all classes can benefit from this attribute.
Mechanics of Stealth
The skills governed by stealth aren't as straightforward as other skills. A variety of mechanics are used determine successfulness in these skills. Most of the mechanics apply Fatigue and Luck when performing these actions.
- Sneak: the Sneak skill allows players to move throughout the world undetected, and also allows one to pickpocket. Agility plays an important part in determining your detection when sneaking and pickpocketing, as well as fatigue. To be able to frequently and successfully pickpocket requires a high Sneak and Agility, and also a fair amount of Luck. Also unique to Sneak are sneak attacks. The critical damage that applies to a hit done while undetected is 4x damage with a melee weapon and 1.5x damage with a ranged weapon. The quirk to sneak attacks is that it is still possible to miss while striking undetected.
- Security: Security allows one to open locks and disarm traps. The factors that play into successfully opening a lock is your Security skill, Agility, difficulty of lock, and the quality of your lock pick. Traps work much the same way, except there is no varying difficulty when it comes to disarming a trap. Better thief tools allows for a higher chance at successfully opening/disarming a lock; it can also determine which locks you are able to attempt to pick (if your skill level + lock difficulty isn't high enough to open a certain lock difficulty at all then you will get a message telling you your skill isn't sufficient).
- Speechcraft: Speechcraft allows one to raise or lower an NPC's disposition towards the player. This is done through admiring, intimidating, or taunting. You can also raise an NPC's disposition through bribes. Factors that apply to this skill include your Speechcraft skill, Personality, target's disposition, and target's Speechcraft. Using this skill can be tricky, as if your attempts at persuasion fail, you could end up with a hostile NPC.
- Mercantile: the Mercantile skill improves the chances of getting better deals by bargaining with merchants. Although being a slightly difficult skill to raise, investing some time in Mercantile can net you a sizable profit. Factors that apply to this skill include your Mercantile skill, Personality, and target's disposition. Surprisingly, fatigue also affects how well you can barter.
Stealth in Combat
Mixing stealth with combat can be an effective way of dealing damage to your opponents while taking none yourself. The specialization gives four combat oriented skills: three weapon types and one armor type. More on these skills can be found on the combat page. Marksman allows for ranged combat with bows and throwing knives, giving your character the ability to strike from afar while you remain safe from harm. Hand-to-hand involves fighting with your fists, which damages an opponent's fatigue until he/she collapses; once your opponent is on the floor your attacks start to damage their health. Hand-to-hand combat is a useful disabling effect and eliminates the need for carrying heavy weapons. Short Blades are small and quick blades that attack faster than larger weapons, for the sake of dealing less damage per hit. Light Armor is not as durable as heavy armor, but its lightness offers good protection for half the weight of heavy armor.
These skills reinforce the key aspect of stealth: to kill quickly without getting killed. Using a sneak attack in the beginning of combat will cripple your foes, and with high enough Sneak you can ensure that the whole cave/dungeon won't be alerted to your presence.
Using Magic with Stealth
Magic and stealth can be a deadly combination if used correctly. A wide variety of spells can help a person avoid detection and escape sticky situations. Not all uses of magic are listed here, only some general tips and useful spell effects.
One of the most useful schools of magic for the aspiring thief is Illusion. Spells of this school include Invisibility and Chameleon: two spells which can make sneaking past enemies much easier. Calm spells stop your enemy from attacking you, which can make escaping a room full of enemies an easier task. Out of all these effects, Sanctuary is arguably the most useful in avoiding death: it makes you harder to hit by physical attacks.
Other spells of usefulness are Open spells for those with minimal investment in Security, and can be especially handy when complemented with a Telekinesis spell to not only open doors or chest from afar, but to set off traps away from yourself. Detect spells which detect animals, keys, and enchantments can also be helpful, as well as Summon spells which summons an ally to fight for you, potentially creating a diversion to take the focus off of you.
Stealth Outside of Combat
One of the perks of stealth is that it contains skills that can be used outside of combat. Mercantile and Speechcraft can aid you in getting information for quests and accumulating cash. Acrobatics is good for traversing steep cliffs and getting to your destination faster. Security can be used to get in places where you shouldn't be, possibly finding expensive loot.
Another part of life for those who pick stealth is what every thief does best: steal! Using sneak and security, one can enter a merchant's shop and pilfer all of their wares without being seen. Some establishments have guards that roam the halls, which makes staying undetected while stealing essential to avoiding arrest. Playing the life of a thief can be an exciting and profitable one, but Vvardenfell doesn't always take crime so lightly.