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. As certain NPCs are unable to use certain types of weapons (due to missing animation frames), 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 TNT will cause an NPC to explode according to the timer. This will turn nearby NPCs hostile, even if the player is not detected. If the first explosion did not kill the NPC outright, it will turn hostile. Killing an NPC in this way will often cause the game to crash.
Reverse-pickpocketing is the only way to sneak-attack using explosives, as deploying an armed bomb will cause hostility. If a bomb cannot be planted without being detected, try planting it on another NPC near the target, or in a container. Make 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, don't save the game before it goes off! The file will be corrupted, resulting in an inability to load it.
In Fallout 3, pickpocketing and reverse-pickpocketing of non-Evil NPCs causes karma loss, 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, or plasma 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 detecting the player if nearby), before exploding. This will always kill the NPC, regardless of health or the player's explosives skill. This action will gain player some bad karma, except super mutants and other non-human NPCs
Reverse-pickpocketing explosives should be performed at maximum possible distance to allow the player to move out of the blast radius, or by using a pulse explosive which does minimal damage to the player. 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 dubbed this maneuver "the Shady Sands Shuffle".
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 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 now be pickpocketed as normal.
If the autosave options are 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 you last saw them.
Reverse-pickpocketed armor must have a higher DR value than the target item for the AI to equip it. That means that it's not possible to make NPCs 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 DMG/DPR needs to be higher, although this may vary from NPC to NPC depending on their skill levels and other factors.
The NPC will switch armor/weapons upon the player 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 the unique headwear of Three Dog or Lucas Simms without giving them another piece of equipment or forcing them to wear other armor. The player can then pickpocket the Radiation Suit back for no Karma loss, making the NPC wear their original headgear again.
Items that are not available through other means:
- Elder Lyons' Robe
- Dad's Wasteland Outfit (can also be obtained via an exploit)
- Kid's Cave Rat Outfit
- If you plant an explosive on an NPC, then initiate dialogue, it will still converse as normal even while frantically searching for the explosive.
- Reverse-pickpocketing a friendly NPC will result in karma loss, even if the player's intent was beneficial (such as giving them stronger armor or a more powerful weapon).
- This technique can be used to make any NPC in the game (except those that cannot use armor, such as Super Mutants) to wear the most powerful armor, such as Power armor, since all characters, even children, have Power Armor Training (both Fallout 3 and New Vegas). This can be useful during the quest Big Trouble in Big Town and other quests where you have to protect an area or characters.
- When planting armor on a child, even Tesla Armor, it is adjusted to an appropriate size when equipped.
- The Paralyzing Palm perk can be used to pickpocket a character without alarming the other characters around.
Fallout: New Vegas
Planting for Exploding Pants
So long as the player remains hidden for the full duration of the reverse-pickpocket action and subsequent NPC panic, the attack is considered a stealth kill. 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 will award appropriate faction Infamy.
All Exploding Pants kills count as 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 setup 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
Some items such as the Cram Opener, La Longue Carabine and Caps can only be obtained by killing an NPC, However if you don't want that NPC to be dead you can reverse pick-pocket them to obtain the item.
- Pick pocketing La Longue Carabine is difficult (even with the sneak skill at 100 and an active steatlh boy).
Item planting is also possible in Fallout Tactics though its usefulness is questionable because players rarely level the Steal skill. Only explosives with a timer such as dynamite or plastique can be planted, but not the remote detonator trap which needs detonator (once the frequency is set, the trap automatically is laid on the ground). To plant an explosive, a player should take it in a hand, set the timer, then take it back to the inventory and plant it in the NPC's inventory via pickpocketing.